Asparagus Is Awesome

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Asparagus is popping up, and I do mean popping up, this interesting vegetable grows straight up, and can pop up to almost a foot. Most asparagus you will see is green, but there are two other varieties you may sometimes see, white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier in flavor. No matter the type you choose, asparagus is a tasty, versatile vegetable that can be cooked in lots of ways or enjoyed raw in salads.

Why awesome?

Besides taste and versatility, Asparagus is loaded with nutrients. It is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Research shows that asparagus aids in the fight against cancer, is loaded with natural antioxidants, and is a natural diuretic.

Chicken, Mushroom, and Asparagus Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1-pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups cooked brown or whole grain rice
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • ¼ cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion, cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 9 – 10 minutes. Stir in flour, cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually add milk, cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt, and ¼ cup Parmesan until melted. Stir in asparagus, rice, and chicken. Remove from heat.
  2. Pour chicken mixture instead a casserole dish. Toss the panko with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons oil and ¼ cup Parmesan in a small bowl, sprinkle over the chicken mixture. Bake until the mixture is bubbly and the topping is golden, about 15 minutes.

Serves 6, each serving contains; Calories 329, Protein 26 g., Fiber 4 g., Carbohydrates 30 g., Fat 4 g., Cholesterol 55 mg., Sodium 412 mg.

Roasted Asparagus with Caper Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons capers, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup small basil leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. I like to spray a cooking sheet, and place in the oven while it is preheating, it will give a sear to the asparagus when you place it on the pan once preheated.
  2. Place asparagus in a low bowl, add 1 tablespoon oil and ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss well to coat. Once oven is preheated, put asparagus on pan, and roast for 20 minutes or longer for additional browning.
  3. Combine remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, vinegar, and next three ingredients (through the garlic), stir with a whisk. Slowly pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into vinegar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in capers.
  4. Arrange cooked asparagus on a serving platter, drizzle with vinaigrette, and sprinkle with the fresh basil.

Serves 6, each serving contains; Calories 91, Protein 3 g., Fiber 2.5 g., Carbohydrates 5 g., Fat 5 g., Sodium 198 mg.

Super Spring Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups unsalted chicken stock, or the equivalent in bouillon cubes and water
  • 1 pound very small new potatoes, quartered (if you are searching for a low carb version, leave these out and add additional other vegetables)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced in pieces
  • 1 can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • ½ ounce Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved

Directions

(Of course, I made this into a slow cooker version, adding spinach towards the last 30 minutes, but following is the actual recipe)

  1. Heat in a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil, swirl to coat the pan. Add carrots, onions, and celery, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, and garlic, cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add stock, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, reduce heat to medium and simmer 8 minutes or until potatoes start to soften.
  2. Add peas, asparagus and beans, simmer 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add spinach, and basil and cook 1 minute. Ladle into bowls and top with the cheese.

Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 340, Protein 19 g., Fiber 11 g., Carbohydrates 48 g., Fat 1 g., Cholesterol 3 mg., Sodium 616 mg.

Asparagus Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes, you may substitute 2 cups chopped cauliflower to cut the carbs
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 4 cups chopped fresh asparagus, cooked and drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped fresh tomato

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven, sauté onions and celery in butter until tender. Add garlic, cook 1 minute longer. Stir in flour. Add the potato (or cauliflower), milk, broth, and thyme, cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until potato (or cauliflower) is tender and soup is thickened, about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Add the asparagus, salt, and pepper, heat through. To serve, sprinkle with cheese, and the chopped tomato.

Each 1 cup serving, contains; Calories 187, Protein 7 g., Fiber 8 g., Carbohydrates 23 g., Fat 4 g., Cholesterol 26 mg., Sodium 491 mg.