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What’s Up Wednesday: Early Spring Menu Plan

Asparagus ready for risotto!

Spring here is a mash-up of sunny clear days mixed with the typical “50’s and drizzle” weather that western Washington is infamous for. That means a menu plan for this time of year needs to be flexible and have quite a variety of opportunities to fit the weather. Soups or warming foods for the drizzly days, and some options that can go on the grill outside when the chance arrives!

Dinner 1

Small baked potato
Either of these two recipes, maybe combined! Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms or Asparagus with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Making a menu plan makes me hungry! I could eat nicely prepared veggies almost any time of the day, and looking at pictures of beautiful asparagus just whets my appetite!

Dinner 2

Small “chef salad” style starter: mixed greens including spinach and chopped fresh parsley, Roma tomato wedges, boiled egg wedges, diced ham and turkey, olives, shredded or shaved aged Monterey Jack (or cheese of choice)
Asparagus Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus-Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus is one of my favorite early spring vegetables. I lived in southwestern Washington for a few years of my life, where large amounts of asparagus are grown. Driving to or from college for spring break or Mother’s Day had me passing field-side stands where mounds of freshly cut asparagus were heaped under layers of burlap with sprinklers running on top. I didn’t like asparagus at that time, or so I thought.

Dinner 3

Stir fry of shrimp with brilliant red bell peppers, asparagus (or baby bok choy or broccoli,) mushrooms, onions and/or whatever your favorite stir fry choices are. Be sure to add plenty of garlic, chili flakes and fresh ginger for good flavors! (Tip: We look for grocery store sales on bags of frozen 31-40 count unpeeled shrimp and keep them on hand. Let them thaw in frig then peel. Best flavor outside of fresh!)

The first time I stopped and brought some of this freshly cut asparagus home for my mom for Mother’s Day was the first time I recall there being fresh asparagus in my otherwise-veggie-centric house! Since I was doing the cooking, I asked how I should prepare the asparagus and mom told me just to blanch it in a frying pan in a little bit of water. It looked so different from what I was expecting it to look like — all bright green and fresh instead of olive drab and limp — I got the courage to try it again. My love of fresh asparagus was born and I have never looked back! 

Dinner 4

Veggie Paninis: oven-roast these veggies and make the sandwiches while they are hot — eggplant slices seasoned with garlic and Italian herbs, salted tomato slices, balsamic marinated portabello mushroom caps. Assemble sandwiches with your choices of arugula or spinach leaves, fresh or packaged mozzarella or a ricotta spread, and my bread will be a whole wheat blend sourdough French! 
You could also  prepare the eggplant for the sandwich this way — YUM! Quinoa Crusted Eggplant Parmiaga
Serve with panko-breaded chicken breast (from frozen) sliced into fingers for dipping into honey mustard OR if the weather’s nice, grilled chicken from the BBQ!

Needless to say, fresh asparagus season is a short season, so I like to have asparagus once or twice a week during that time. Often I just roast it in the oven with olive oil and salt, maybe some garlic. A 400F oven is a go-to veggie cooking method for me, just vary the timing to what the vegetables need! Non-stick foil is my best friend ;) Other times I toss it in a wide pan with 1/4″ of boiling water and blanch/boil it until it barely starts to become limp, stirring and rearranging it often. Yum!  Another option for nice weather: treat it with some olive oil then toss it into a grill basket and roast it on the BBQ — delicious!

Dinner 5

Curry using Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce with cubes of sweet potato, pineapple, red bell pepper, Granny Smith apple, onion, and chicken
Brown rice

However, you can’t eat asparagus ever day of the week. Well, I can for a while anyway, but other people might not be on board with that ;)  So let’s be sure to plan in another early spring favorite fresh vegetable, the artichoke!

Dinner 6

Roasted turkey breast
Artichokes, steamed and served plain and simple  
Quinoa + grain pilaf including blanched chopped kale, or a cold grain salad from my mega-list! Polenta with garlic and parmesan would also be good.

Dinner 7

This dinner is more by way of suggestion, and a “probable” on my future menu. I just picked up these crusts at World Market and MIGHT take the time to slice down some fresh artichokes to make a pizza to feature them. I’m thinking goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and who knows what else … mmmm!

Bonus: An extra recipe that I want to try is this Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad — keeping it simple and celebrating the veggies!

Enjoy your Spring and your veggies!


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