April 29, 2010 at 9:01 a.m.

What's low in calories and is nutritious? Asparagus of course

What's low in calories and is nutritious? Asparagus of course
What's low in calories and is nutritious? Asparagus of course

What is green and sometimes whitish, has no leaves, is growing right now, is picked before it's too tough at the end of the stalk, is nutritionally good for us, is one of your favorite spring veggies? If you like it as I do, it is used in many recipes combined with other foods or can be eaten just by itself with a bit of melted butter drizzled over it. Well, of course, it's asparagus, otherwise know asper-gas, as our children would say. Nutritionally, it is low in calories (2/3 c. cooked = 20 calories), has a fair amount of vitamin C and an excellent amount of the drug rutin. This drug is important in the body for strengthening the walls of the small blood vessels and so it is important in reducing the possibility of hemorrhaging.

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Let's use this veggie in some recipes today.

ASPARAGUS MOZZARELLA SALAD

1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 10-12 spears)

8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1 c. grape tomatoes

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 T. fresh minced basil or 1 t. dried basil leaves (fresh is better)

Dressing:

2 T. olive oil

1 T. balsamic vinegar (could use red wine or cider vinegar)

1/2 medium clove garlic, minced

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. Dijon mustard

1/8 t. pepper (or can use white pepper, using a few sprinkles)

1 T. lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, cook asparagus in just enough water to cover. Add asparagus and boil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Drain and immediately put asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry. (I use a Turkish towel). Turn into a medium bowl. Add cheese, tomato and basil.

For dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad; gently mix to coat. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.

Makes 6-7 servings.

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PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS

2 lbs., asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 18 spears)

1 lb. angel hair pasta

6 slices bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/3 c. sliced green onion

1/4 t. pepper

1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted

1/2 c. half and half or light cream

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese or 2/3 c. shredded Parmesan

In a saucepan, cook asparagus for 3 minutes in just enough water to almost cover; Drain. Cook spaghetti according to pkg. directions; drain and return to kettle. Cook bacon in a large frying pan until crisp, stirring often. Drain off fat; stir in onions, pepper and asparagus and toss to coat. Add butter and cream to spaghetti; toss to coat evenly. Add Parmesan; toss well. Add asparagus mixture and toss gently to distribute evenly. Serve with additional cheese, if you wish.

Makes 6 servings. (Did you get all of the instructions? You're not the only one. I read it over a couple of times!)

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ASPARAGUS CHEESE

STRATA

1-1/2 lbs. asparagus (about 15 spears), cut in 2-inch pieces

3 T. butter or margarine, melted

1 loaf (one pound) sliced bread, crust removed

3/4 c. shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

2 c. cubed ham

6 eggs, slightly beaten

3 c. milk

2 T. minced onion

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. mustard

In a saucepan, cook asparagus for about 3 minutes, in just enough water to almost cover; drain and set aside. Lightly brush butter over one side of bread slices. Put half of the bread, buttered side up, in a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. cheese. Layer with asparagus and ham. Cover with rest of bread, buttered side up. In a bowl, beat together, eggs, milk, onion, salt and mustard; pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Sprinkle with rest of cheese. Return to oven for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Note: How about entertaining some of your friends on a Sunday, for brunch and serve this dish. Go to church, come home, turn on the oven and bake. Serve it with muffins and fresh fruit. Top it off with sherbet and a cookie and you'll have a great meal!

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TFD: Don't forget, Saturday is May Day. None of us are too old to have a little fun, right? Why not fix up a little container with a few flowers in it for a neighbor. It can be a small plastic pot, a small box (take the flaps off and cover it with wrapping paper), a coffee mug or small glass that you'd like to get rid of. Pick a few dandelions, or violets, if you have them in your yard...or a friends yard and fix up a May Day sort of basket. Put a note on it that days, "Happy May Day...may this day be a memory for you". Do it early in the morning so you're sure to get someone out of bed. Remember, ring the doorbell or knock on the door, then run like the dickens, if you can, so no one sees you. Me? I walk away, taking as large steps as possible. I'm done with running!

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