Spring: Bringing a Fresh Perspective to Healthy Eating

Many foods are most flavorful and nutritious during the spring and summer seasons, like berries, tomatoes, melons, bell peppers, citrus fruits, spinach and other leafy green vegetables. An added bonus is that these are also functional foods, meaning they offer some health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value, such as disease prevention. Enjoying a berry smoothie for breakfast offers antioxidants as well as protection against muscular degeneration (a cause of blindness in aging eyes). Tomatoes add color to your salads, sandwiches or pasta dishes and also provide lycopene, an important defense against certain cancers. Why not try mango salsa with your baked tortilla chips? As a source of vitamins A and C, mangos contribute to healthy immune function as well as protection against free radicals that damage cells.

Now that I reminded you where to get fresh, local ingredients, for dinner tonight try wild salmon with balsamic grilled vegetables and brown rice, with dark chocolate mousse for dessert. This delicious meal is full of nutrients that lower blood pressure, maintain heart health, support brain and vision function and contribute to a healthy immune system.

Wild Salmon

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) wild salmon steaks or fillets
2 teaspoons honey
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
8 cups spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced peeled garlic
2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup dry red wine

  1. Combine salt, mustard, thyme and pepper; mix well. Rub salmon fillets with honey and sprinkle with half the seasoning mixture.

  2. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet; brown both sides of salmon fillets. Toss spinach and garlic with remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Place salmon on spinach, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 300°F for 10 minutes.

  3. Sauté grapes in skillet used to brown salmon. Add wine bring to a boil, season to taste with remaining seasoning mixture; reduce by half. Serve salmon on spinach; top with grape sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: (4 oz fillet) Calories: 207; Fat: 9.2g; Sat. fat: 1.4g; Protein: 28.9g

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables

1 medium yellow squash, sliced on bias

1 medium zucchini, sliced on bias

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles

1 red onion, sliced in 1/2-inch thick circles

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered

2 portobello mushroom caps, gilled and peeled

3 green onions

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat grill to high.

  2. Prepare all vegetables. Place vegetables in a roasting pan with the mushroom caps and green onions. Season vegetables generously with salt and pepper and toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

  3. Place vegetables, cut side down, on the hot grill and cook for a couple minutes on each side or until tender and sporting nice grill nicely marks.

  4. Remove from grill and toss with an additional 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Calories 81

Fat 5 g

Saturated Fat 1 g

Carbohydrates 9 g

Fiber 3 g

Dark Chocolate Mousse

1 (12.3-ounce) package silken tofu, drained

3 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon brandy

1/2 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/4 teaspoons shaved chocolate

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until it is smooth.

  2. Put the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, 1/4 cup water and brandy in a saucepan or heat-proof bowl fitted over a pot containing 1-inch barely simmering water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Mix in 1/2 cup of sugar, a little at a time, until smooth.

  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the tofu and puree until smooth and well blended. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  4. Whip the cream with a beater. When the cream is almost completely whipped, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and finish whipping. Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings and serve.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size 1/2 cup of mousse, 1 tablespoon whipped cream and 1/4 teaspoon shaved chocolate)

Nutrition Information:

Calories 278

Total Fat 13 g

Saturated Fat 6 g

Protein 6 g

Carbohydrates 35 g

Fiber 3 g

Article by Kylie Lafferty, Dietetic Intern, West Chester University

Sources: www.ific.org; www.cooksrecipes.com; www.foodnetwork.com

Shopping the Seasons

With the incredible wealth of produce available year-round, it’s easy to forget that fruits and vegetables have peak seasons. The West Chester Grower’s Market, which opened this month, is an excellent way to buy fresh, local ingredients that are seasonal and inexpensive. Remember, the more colorful your plate is the more nutrients you get. Don’t be afraid to try new foods or new combinations of foods, and, as always, watch your portion sizes!

Take a peek at what’s coming to a Farmer’s Market near you:

Beets: Choose fresh, lovely-looking greens and moist, fresh-looking roots. Refrigerate tops in plastic and use within several days; refrigerate beets separately up to 2 weeks in a loose plastic bag.

Artichokes: Buy firm, closed artichokes with thick stalks (which means large hearts). Keep loose in the refrigerator for up to several days.

Tangelos: This mandarin orange-pomelo hybrid is fragrant and sweet-tart. Opt for plump fruit with smooth, richly colored skin. Keep on the counter for a splash of color for 1 week, or chill for up to two. Serve at room temperature.

Asparagus: Whether pencil-slim or thick, spears are sweetest now, especially purple varieties, which turn deep green when cooked. Choose firm stalks with tightly closed heads. Store heads up, with cut ends in water for up to several days.

Strawberries: Although available year-round, spring is strawberries’ true season. Small- to medium-size fruit yields concentrated flavor. Look for totally red and bright with no white shoulders or soft spots.

Bon Appetite!