Spring vegetable recipes: Three sauces for steamed or roasted asparagus

Fresh Asparagus

Although vegetables have their own fabulous goodness on their own, when you tire of the same ‘ole thing, a simple sauce goes a long way to renewed or increased deliciousness. My favorite spring vegetable is asparagus, a perennial plant related to garlic and onions and native to Asia, Europe and North Africa. It’s super high in fiber and nutrients like vitamins B1 and 2, C, E, K as well as folate, copper and manganese. Enjoy with abandon.

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Hail Kale Caesar Salad Recipe

Kale Caesar Salad

I have become a massive fan of kale… I do feel like I’m in a herd of sheep following the trend, but it is pretty healthy and can be incredibly tasty. Up until recently, I roasted kale as well as tossed it into soups but Kale Caesar Salad was the first raw recipe I embraced. This version originally came from Alton Brown but I’ve altered it generously to make it a bit more healthy and more pungent.

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Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (mmm, bacon)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Even as a adult, Roasted Brussels SproutsI hated these little cabbages. Until a friend brought a batch of roasted brussels sprouts over to our house. Now I’m addicted. The act of roasting concentrates the flavor and natural sugars in any vegetables so they emerge from the oven crusty and full of goodness. Recipes works well with broccoli and cauliflower too. Leftovers reheat really well too. And, well, bacon makes everything better!

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Warming winter (or summer) stew: Simmered rosemary-scented lentils


Lentils, a dried legume loaded with nutrition, come in a variety of forms. The most commonly found are the brown ones but you can also find them in pink and green. Oddly enough, the humble brown ones have the most to offer the human body — 18 grams of protein and boat loads of fiber. They’re super easy to cook too– not requiring an overnight soak like most other dried beans. This lentil recipe — ideally cooked using brown lentils — can be made vegetarian by substituting a rich vegetable broth instead of chicken. About 5 minutes before they’re fully cooked, you can add all sorts of ingredients like 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs (try arugula!), 1 cup of chopped, cooked chicken sausage (like Aidell’s), bite-sized pieces of rotisserie chicken and any other leftovers. But you don’t need to add anything at all.

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Vegetable Recipe: Curry scented roasted cauliflower

Roasted curry cauliflower

For the past five years, I’ve been on a crusade. Not of a violent nature but one a little more serene – incorporating a wider variety of vegetables onto my daily plate. I say crusade since, at the beginning, it was a forceful act. Like many Americans, eating vegetables didn’t always come naturally to me. My parents were (and continue to be) explorers of new food, so when I was kid we grew tomatoes, made yogurt and sprouted mung beans at our house. It wasn’t always pretty – think scrambled eggs with bean sprouts which remain truly disgusting to me – but they instilled a hunger for novel fare. When I became a chef, that exploration continued but I confess my personal veggie repertoire remained fairly limited. It wasn’t until I had to change my diet to fit into my clothes that I truly started traveling the greener side of the protein. And so it began. The bi-weekly co-op veggie box nudged me to beets, bok choy, Swiss chard and the humble cauliflower. I loathed this white wonder every time Mom dropped it in front of me. I stayed for an hour at the table, pushing it around in the hopes that I might appear as if I’d snacked on tidbits. In rare instances I had but Mom usually caved when I whined enough. I was a pain in the ass. If I could take it back…

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Healthy veggie recipe: Green beans with tomato garlic vinaigrette

Green beans with tomato vinaigrette

The other day, I met someone who doesn’t like green beans. Once I picked my jaw off the ground — generally, this vegetable is beloved by most Americans — I asked her why she thought this was so. Turns out, her mom force fed her canned green beans as a child and she hasn’t recovered from the taste trauma. Such a shame since fresh green beans are simply magical and so versatile… roasted with a bit of olive oil and garlic salt or in a quasi salad like this recipe tossed with tomato garlic vinaigrette. Perhaps it could change her mind?

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Best potato chip substitute ever: Roasted Kale Recipe

Delicious Roasted Kale

I’ve become a strident evangelist for the oddest thing: a little, leafy vegetable called kale. It has become a darling of many a yuppie (if that word still exists) and added depth to many a “green” drink. But its mere humbleness is what makes it endearing. A few years ago, kale wasn’t nearing the top of the veggie pile but things have turned in the garden. And I’m following this trend like a Miley Cyrus groupie (post twerking). Two or three years ago, kale arrived into my life through my Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) box. When strange vegetables are thrust upon me, I have to cook them… my sense of waste takes over like a wave of guilt. And so it began.

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Easy salad dressing recipe: Garlicky Lemony Vinaigrette

Salad with Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette

Sure, bottled salad dressings are quicker and more convenient. But homemade salad dressing tastes SO much better and fresher. This one takes 5 minutes to assemble, uses heart healthy condiments most people have on hand, and isn’t full of the scary preservatives found lurking in most bottles. This tart, lemony vinaigrette keeps for about a week in the refrigerator and can be tossed with salad greens, drizzled over steamed green beans, or even used as a marinade for meat.

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Healthy side recipe: Fennel salad with mustard dressing

I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t like licorice. Black or Red. Groan. No… it goes beyond that. It makes me nauseous… unhappy and desirous of fleeing. So it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that my love affair with the fennel bulb began. Before I discovered this root vegetable, I assumed fennel arose from the same family as anise, which is the base flavoring of licorice (or, at least, it’s supposed to be but today’s chemical candy is anyone’s guess). It’s certainly related to anise but fennel bulb is the milder-flavored underground portion of an herb, which, coincidentally, is the basis for the controversial grog Absinthe. I’ve already posted a main dish using this root veggie, Spicy Shrimp with Sauteed Fennel, but this super-fast side can give you all the mild, delicious flavor without the hassle of cooking. I re-created this salad recipe after enjoying it at a Tampa restaurant and now it’s a staple in my salad arsenal.

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Thanksgiving cranberry: A chutney alternative to the dreaded canned sauce

Growing up, our poor excuse for a Thanksgiving cranberry side was opening up a chilled can of cranberry sauce. I was never a fan… tasted like (and I imagine it still does) aluminum flavored, jellied cough syrup. It was one of the items I pushed around the plate until no one could notice I didn’t eat any. This recipe is nothing like that horrible memory.

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