Remember in early winter how you resolved to eat better? And then winter laughed at your resolve, tossing not one but several Bad-Eating Holidays onto your calendar—days that celebrate gorging-on-nachos-while-watching-a-game; heart-shaped candy; green beer and Irish stout cakes; and even one day that’s actually called Fat Tuesday? And all of this took place in a season that’s not exactly known for long, warm, exercise-friendly days and a bevy of fresh produce from which to choose?
Yeah, you never stood a chance. But worry not! Spring is officially here, the days are getting longer, and more varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables are hitting the markets every day. As far as we’re concerned, you get to hit reset on your resolutions and start again right now. Here are some tips from our team and our friends at Whole Foods Market to get you going in the right direction (again).
- Let winter’s heavy sauces and deep spices take a backseat to lighter flavors. A smattering of chopped or snipped fresh herbs or a squeeze of citrus are easy additions that boost flavor.
- Young spring greens are a treat this time of year. Add them by the handful to dishes whenever you can, like salads, soups, braises, stir-fries, pasta dishes and even smoothies.
- The delicate flavors of spring vegetables don’t need much dressing up. A light, homemade vinaigrette will do the trick.
- For most of us, spring is the time for taking stock and freshening up (spring cleaning, anyone?). Let this surge of DIY energy carry over to your kitchen, too—try making a few of the things you normally buy, like nut milk, kombucha or treats for your pup; take a cooking class to kick up your creativity; or find new uses for old things you don’t need anymore.
Stock your kitchen with a few of these cookware items and gadgets, and you’ll have the healthy-cooking tools you need at the ready.
Grill pans for indoor grilling: Even if the weather is getting better, it might not be grilling season where you are (oh hi, Seattle). Grab a grill pan and you can easily cook low-fat, high-flavor meals in your kitchen, even if it’s raining.
Steamers: Steam-cooking is a dead-simple way to quickly cook tender, flavorful meals that retain more of their nutrients. And there’s a steamer for every kitchen — choose from high-tech models with timers to traditional bamboo baskets and more.
Woks and skillets for stir-frying: Stir-frying is an excellent way to create light meals that are heavy on spring vegetables. Brush up on your stir-fry technique with tips from one of our Resident Chefs here.
Nonstick cookware: If you’re trying to cut out unnecessary fats, nonstick cookware is a smart choice, letting you sauté, sear and grill without added oils or butter. We really love the new GreenPan Diamond Clad Ceramic Nonstick collection.
Spiralize! Making noodles and ribbons out of vegetables is one of the hottest food trends we’ve seen in a while — and for good reason. If you’re trying to get more vegetables into your diet, subbing veggie noodles for pasta is an easy, tasty fix. Check out these recipes and tutorials.
Selecting and Prepping Spring Produce
We checked in with our friends at Whole Foods Market for their tips on selecting and prepping the best of the best when it comes to this season’s produce. You can find more tips and recipes on their blog.
Asparagus. Forget the idea that the thinnest asparagus spears taste best. You want the freshest spears—either thick or thin—that feel firm and have straight stalks with tightly closed tips. Asparagus should be a consistent color from top to bottom. And make sure that if you’re buying several bunches, you choose ones that are similarly thick or thin to ensure even cooking times for your recipe.
Eat fresh asparagus as soon as possible, though it can be kept in the refrigerator for three or four days. For best results, stand the spears in an inch or so of water in the bottom of a container, and cover with a plastic bag. Alternately, wrap the stem ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag.
Peas. Sugar snap peas and snow peas have edible pods, so you want to look for pods that are saturated in color and firm, not bendy. For garden peas sold in the pod, choose pods that are medium-size and not overly plump. Peas that are too large will be lacking in sweet flavor and have a denser texture. Store snap peas and snow peas in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Use shelled garden peas immediately, or blanch and freeze for later use.
To enjoy peas to their fullest, they only need a quick steam until vibrantly green, for 5 to 8 minutes max. They only need a little salt and pepper, and maybe a bit of butter or olive oil to make them completely delectable bites of springtime.
Artichokes. If cooking whole, tear off the tough petals around the outside of the artichoke until you get to lighter-colored petals. Cut off the very top of the artichoke, cutting just below the prickly tips of the petals. Clip off the prickly tips lower on the artichoke with kitchen scissors. Remove the tough skin from the stem with a paring knife and trim the bottom. If you need the artichokes to sit level, cut off the stem entirely, but don’t discard this tasty tidbit — cook it along with the artichokes.
If using just the hearts, run a paring knife around the base of the artichoke, removing dark petals until you get to tender ones with yellow-green bottoms. Slice off all but one inch of the top of the artichoke. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to carefully scoop out the papery petals and hairy choke at the center of the artichoke, exposing the heart. Peel the stem and leave it on, or separate it from the base of the heart.
The cut edges of the artichokes will turn brown quickly, so drop cleaned ones in a bowl of acidulated water (water to which you’ve added the juice of half a lemon) while you prep the others.
So that’s it from us and the Whole Foods Market team — do you have any healthy tips to share? What are you really excited about cooking (or eating) this season? Let us know in the comments!