Save Money, Cook in Season

Spring VegOne of the best ways to save money on groceries (and to liven up your menu routine) is to take advantage of seasonal produce and dishes.

While you may have been enjoying frozen fruits and vegetables for the past several months, simply because the fresh produce doesn’t seem as, well, fresh during the deep dark winter, you may be pleased at what you find now (or in the coming weeks).

Seasonal Means Savings

Simply put, that food which is in season has to travel less far (usually) or there is more of it available, pushing the cost down, and passing the savings along to your plate (and you, of course).

Pasta Primavera

Primavera means spring in Italian. This is an easy, economical dish that takes advantage of a number of seasonal spring items (spinach, peas and baby carrots).

Chop and combine several cups (3 or 4) of your favourite variety of spring veggies.  For larger veggies (like carrots) chop finely so that they cook evenly.

Boil pasta (angel hair or spaghettini is nice for this dish). In the last three to five minutes of cooking time, add veggies to pot. Drain altogether.

For the sauce, melt a container of cream cheese (herb and garlic is yummy) and a half cup of milk, stirring until melted.

Toss pasta/veggie mixture and top with grated Parmesan.

Asparagus

This spearheaded green, whose season peaks in April through May, is jam-packed with nutritional power. High in a host of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin K, Vitamin B1 and B2, this veggie also is flavourful and easy to enjoy. You will also notice it prominently displayed when you enter your grocery store and gracing the pages of your local flyers, most likely on sale. Trim ends and prepare how you like.

To serve as a side dish, simply blanch in salted boiling water for a couple of minutes (I like mine a bit crunchy, so I only leave in for about 30-45 seconds).  Season with salt, butter and pepper.

Or, if you prefer, lay asparagus stalks out on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 in the oven. Finish with a dusting of parmesan cheese.

I even like asparagus as a snack. Dip asparagus pieces in horseradish and sour cream mixed together- really tasty.

Artichokes

Low in calories and fat, but high in fibre and folic acid, artichokes are a tasty inclusion to a spring menu.

Cut the stem off at the base, and trim tips. Steam the whole artichoke, and then peel away leaves. They are yummy dipped in a little melted butter or garlic aioli.

Artichokes are a great add on into a number of dishes (like salads) – but are perhaps best known for their appetizer/snack quality- in the form of a dip. You’ve more than likely enjoyed a warm artichoke dip out at a restaurant.

There are numerous artichoke recipes out there, but it can be as simple as combining sour cream, mayo, garlic, chopped cooked artichokes and a variety of cheese (like parmesan or grated cheddar or asiago).

Cherries

Cherries are a fun fruit. They are colourful, flavourful, convenient and portable.  Cherries are high in anti-oxidants, and provide anti-inflammatory qualities, which can be helpful in preventing heart disease.

Beyond a yummy snack all on their own, use cherries in other areas of your menu- like on top of pork chops or chicken cutlets, for instance.

Brown chicken cutlets or pork chops (seasoned with salt and pepper). Meanwhile, in saucepan, combine about a pound of pitted cherries, a half cup of chicken broth, a tsp of mustard, fresh thyme leaves, and a couple of tsp of honey.

Boil cherry mixture over low heat for about 10-15 mins and then smash the cherries. Boil until sauce is of good consistency, adding water (or more broth) if necessary.