Spring usually means tackling cluttered closets and disorderly drawers as we finally admit that "they still close" doesn’t really count as being organized. But this is also a great time of year to “spring clean” our approach to eating and overall diet as well. Seasonal produce, lighter meals and a shift in cooking methods are just some of the ways we can adjust our menu as the days get warmer and longer.
Your grill is back
You knew it was there -- it was just buried by three feet of snow. With your grill (and patio) finally uncovered, it's time to give your pots and pans a break and grill again. Kick off your grilling season by returning to your favorite spice blends and marinades. While it may not be warm enough for al fresco dining, you can enjoy some time outside with simple recipes and relish the warmth of the late-day sun. Take advantage of the cooking space offered on your grill by preparing enough for more than one meal so that you can pack food for work, the baseball field and wherever else your day takes you.
Our yearning for hearty vegetable soups and stews may be waning, but our desire for vegetables certainly isn't. Seasonal, and in some cases local, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli and Vidalia onions are just some of the spring vegetables that will soon be available in your produce section. Roast these veggies for the perfect "bridge" to summer cooking and use them for a warm dinner salad, a unique pasta dish or even a soup for those spring days that still end with cool evenings.
Goodbye, casserole. Hello, light spring dish
Time-consuming casseroles are perfect for cold days when you aren't in a rush to go anywhere. But when the outdoors is calling, you don't want to be stuck inside cooking an involved dish that requires a lot of prep and cook time. Move on to cool pasta salads (think whole-wheat penne with cubed mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil) rather than ziti. Or keep it light and simple with a "salad bar" setup that allows your family to pretty much make their own meal while you tend to your yard and get your garden going again.
The popularity of ancient grains continued to soar this winter. Keep the trend going in your home by adding cooked grains to vegetable dishes and salads, or delight in an array of unique grain recipes that pack serious nutrition into one convenient, versatile dish. Make enough to have as a warm grain dish today and as a cool meal tomorrow -- another way to spend more time outside instead of in the kitchen.
Sure, smoothies and juices are year-round drinks, but as spring sets in, look around the produce section for ways of making your smoothie a bit more seasonal and more nutritious too. Strawberries, spinach, pineapples and carrots are just some of the seasonal fruits and vegetables that add an antioxidant punch to your day.
No doubt that as the warmer weather sets in you want to be outside enjoying it, not inside preparing complicated, time-consuming meals. Find the best moments to cut up vegetables, marinate meat or fish or cook some grains so that your dishes come together in the quickest, most convenient (and still healthful) way possible. The spring weather is just too good to pass on. Maybe those closets can wait after all.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you change the meals you cook and foods you cook with when the seasons change? Do you "spring-clean" your kitchen? If so, how? What are some of your favorite spring recipes and foods? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Allison Stowell, M.S., RD, CDN, is the registered dietitian for the Guiding Stars Licensing Company, a company devoted to helping people find the good, better and best choices at the supermarket. Visit Allison's blog to read more, and connect with her on Twitter.