Saturday, April 14, 2018

Leader Enterprise - April 11, 2018 - Asparagus




When I think of springtime, I can't help but think of asparagus.  We oftentimes purchase a 5 gallon bucket of the green spears from a local farm. My husband loves to share with the neighbors and family. Did you know Oceana County, Michigan is the self-proclaimed asparagus capital of the world? It might be worth a trip to check it out. 

Asparagus is a tasty, versatile vegetable that can be cooked in myriad ways or enjoyed raw in salads. From the Eating well website, here are some interesting facts about this springtime veggie. 

Asparagus is packed with nutrition. One cup of cooked asparagus has 40 calories, 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and lots of potassium. Potassium is good for blood pressure and asparagus also contains asparaptine, which helps improve blood flow and in turn helps lower blood pressure. 

Asparagus is a brain booster - it can help fight cognitive decline and has anti-aging properties. It's also packed with nutrients. Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. That's good news if you're watching your blood sugar.  

This spear-like vegetable can help fight cancer and is also a natural diuretic. So eat up and get ready to enjoy the nutritional benefits of asparagus!

I've been making this favorite dish for many years. 

ASPARAGUS CASSEROLE
1 long sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
4 Tb. butter or margarine,melted
2- (15 ozs) cans asparagus spears, drained 
(or 2 - 3 c. fresh cooked asparagus)
1 - (8 ozs) can sliced water chestnuts, optional
2 - 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 c. evaporated or 2% milk
1- (10.75 ozs) can cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9" x 9" baking dish. In small bowl, mix cracker crumbs with butter; place half in bottom of dish. Layer asparagus, water chestnuts and chopped eggs on top of crumbs. In small bowl, mix milk and soup; pour over top. Sprinkle with remaining cracker crumbs on top. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. May sprinkle asparagus with shredded cheese before topping with crumbs prior to baking if desired. 

I love to order quiche at a favorite restaurant in Florida, the Garden Grille.  They serve it with a side of fresh fruit, which they slice in spears and stand them upright in a pretty glass.  One of my favorite meals! I love that this recipe makes two. 

ASPARAGUS & BACON QUICHE
1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
10 slices bacon
2 (8") unbaked pie shells
1 egg white, lightly beaten
4 eggs
1-1/2 c. half and half cream
dash or two of ground nutmeg 
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. shredded swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Steam asparagus over 1" of boiling water; cover.  Cook until it reaches the el dente stage (tender but still firm), about 5 minutes.  Drain and cool. Place bacon in large skillet.  Cook over medium high heat until brown.  Drain, crumble and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in bacon grease if desired. Brush pie shells with a beaten egg white.  Sprinkle crumbled bacon, onion mixture and chopped asparagus into pie shells. In a bowl, beat together eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle cheese over bacon and asparagus.  Pour the egg mixture over the cheese.  Bake uncovered in a preheated oven until firm, about 35 - 38 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before serving. 

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