Mar 20, 2017

The Best - and Cheapest! - Produce to Buy in Spring

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When I tell people about my success with the keto diet - how I reversed my diabetes, normalized my cholesterol, and have lost oodles of weight - the first thing I hear is something congratulatory. The second thing I hear is that they are shocked I can loose weight and get healthy on a high fat diet. And the third thing I hear is how expensive my grocery bill must be. I will no doubt address #2 sometime soon, but today I want to address #3, to which my normal response is: "Au contraire!"

My grocery budget has not gone up since going keto (or even since going whole foods, which is what I did for years before being diagnosed with diabetes). Good, healthy food does not have to be more expensive!

Sure, it helps that a keto diet is high in good fats. Fats, among other things, are filling, so I eat less now than I used to. But I'm also a sales watcher, a price book keeper...and I shop for produce seasonally.

There are a lot of good reasons to buy in-season fruits and vegetables: Better nutrition (some studies show that growing produce out of season reduces their nutritional value); energy saving (out of season produce is usually flown or trucked into your area from a warmer clime); and, yes, saving money (in season produce is less expensive than fresh produce that's out of season).

The problem is, Americans are so used to seeing all their fruit and veggie favorites in the grocery store all year long, most don't know which ones are naturally in season at any given time of the year.

So let me help you out.

Produce that's in Season in Spring
(March, April, May)

Throughout this post, I offer recipes to try with each vegetable or fruit. If a recipe is mentioned, but there's no link to the recipe, you'll find it in my cookbook A Vegetable for Every Season (available in both paperback and ebook format). It's only $2.99 for devices, folks!

http://amzn.to/2nAHakd

Carrots
Carrots are a veggie that take months to grow from seed to store, and the cool months are when they are usually pulled from the ground. They are high versatile - a good snack or salad fixing when raw, sweet and wonderful when roasted, and easy to toss into a savory pie, soup, or stew. And - happy dance! - they are kid-friendly.

Some of my family's favorite carrot recipes:
Fermented Pickled Carrots
Carrot Fries
Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
Carrot Chips
Glazed Carrots (pictured)


Radishes
Don't skip past this one because you hate those peppery red balls. First of all, there's more than one kind of radish, and they aren't all strongly flavored. Secondly, people are doing some creative things with radishes - including using them as a low carb potato substitute! (I haven't tried that yet myself, but here's a link.)

Some of my family's favorite radish recipes:
Radish Chips
Pickled Radishes (pictured)

Peas
These family-friendly veggies are at their sweetest and best at this time of year.
Some of my family's favorite pea recipes:
Easy Garden Snap Peas
Roasted Peas
Green Peas, Mint, and Tomatoes





Beets

As a cool season crop, beets will be out of their prime soon! Grab 'em while you can!
Some of my family's favorite beet recipes:
Easy Refrigerated Pickled Beets
Russian Borscht with Beets
Beet Cake (pictured)

Asparagus
Spring is the time to eat asparagus. The later in the year it gets, the thicker and more woody asparagus gets. (It may seem counter-intuitive, but thinner asparagus is more tender.) We eat it often roasted, but it's also wonderful a myriad of ways.

Some of my family's favorite asparagus recipes:
Cheesy Baked Asparagus
Asparagus Chicken Stir Fry (pictured)
Smokey Grilled Asparagus

Cabbage
There's a reason cabbage is connected to St. Patrick's Day; it's cheap at this time of year! It also goes a long way at the table, and lasts a long time in the fridge.
Some of my family's favorite cabbage recipes:
Bubble and Squeak (pictured)
Small Batch Fermented Sauerkraut 
Borscht (Russian cabbage stew)Braised Red Cabbage

Greens
All types of greens, including lettuce, collards, kale, beet greens, radish greens, chard...They are highly versatile. Eat baby greens fresh in salads, or stir them into stir fries, casseroles, and egg dishes, or saute them on the stove top.
Some of my family's favorite greens recipes:
Sauteed Greens (works with any type; pictured)
Kale and Roasted Garbanzo Salad


Broccoli
If you love it, now's a great time to eat it. At the grocery store, be picky and choose only broccoli with tightly packed florets and beautiful color.
Some of my family's favorite broccoli recipes:
Chicken and Broccoli and Stuffing
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (pictured)
Broccoli Tots


Cauliflower
The great cauliflower shortage seems to be over, and prices for this versatile veggie are inexpensive again. Eat it, well, like cauliflower, or use it to mimic pizza dough, garlic bread, rice...
Some of my family's favorite cauliflower recipes:
Cauliflower Chowder (pictured)
Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cheddar Pasta Salad
Mashed CauliflowerCauliflower Tots
Healthier Cauliflower Alfredo
Better-Than-Twice-Baked-Potato Cauliflower






Avocado
Here's a fruit that is an excellent source of good-for-you fats. My kids love to eat it plain; I just cut it up into chunks for them.
Some recipes I want to try:
Avocado Greek Salad
Creamy Avocado Pesto


Brussels Sprouts
A lot of people think they hate Brussels sprouts. I think they are nuts :)  But, truly, if you hate them, try eating them fresh from the garden. Store bought Brussels sprouts, by comparison, are bitter. Our favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts are steamed, roasted in the oven, or cut in half and cooked in a skillet.
Some of my family's favorite Brussels sprouts recipes:
Skillet Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Parmesan Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (pictured)

Leeks
If you've never cooked with leeks, don't be intimidated. They are basically a weird looking onion, and can be used just like one. They do, however, have a more mild flavor than the spherical onions you're probably used to.
Some of my family's favorite leek recipes:
Cock-a-Leekie Soup (a Scottish Chicken and Leek soup)
Potato Leek Soup

Mushrooms
Mushrooms sprout up when the weather is wet, so spring is their last hurrah.
One of my family's favorite mushroom recipes:
Roasted Lobster Mushrooms (pictured)

A recipe I want to try:
Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms

Parsnips
They may look like anemic carrots, but parsnips are better, in my opinion! They have a unique flavor that is excellent roasted or added to stews.
Some of my family's favorite parsnip recipes:
Parsnip Fries (pictured)
Parsnip Cupcakes

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