Friday, May 7, 2010

Cook for Mom ~ Asparagus

As Mother's Day approaches (It's Sunday - don't forget), I wanted to share a couple of delicious and healthy recipes that can be easily whipped up this weekend and served for brunch, lunch or dinner. Both dishes are full of fresh asparagus, the veggie of choice this week, and ingredients that are all gluten-free, of course and would please even Mom.

This Mother's Day, I'll be running in a 10K race sponsored by Mom's on the Run, that benefits Breast Cancer awareness. I've also convinced my own mom and dad to participate in the 5K walk-n-talk event - it's all about getting out there and staying fit and active, no matter your age. It will be a fun way to celebrate the gift of health and exercise with my parents and a sweet way to honor our mom, who is so special.

I've been thinking a lot this week about how fortunate and blessed my brother and I are to still have our parents in our lives and to have parents who are so young-acting, looking and so vibrant. I can only hope for their energy when I'm in my 60's! It's also a great time to stop and reflect on the sacrifices that mothers make, day in and out, for all the important people and children in their lives. I've been taking into consideration lately, just how much our beautiful mother did sacrifice or "give up" in the name of love for her husband and children...and it's a lot. I am sure she would respond with some words or thoughts similar to, "but the gift of having you all in my life makes everything worth it"...and she would sincerely and selflessly mean it. I'm also learning the value of the many lessons that mothers in days past and even now, I'm sure, were not able to know or recognize in themselves; The value of making choices for yourself and choosing a life that is the best life for you. This is a lesson not passed down or on to many young women. So as I mature and continue to grow in the direction of my authentic self, I am bundling up the valuable gifts and information and lessons I see, feel and have found along the way, and therefore want to say thank my amazing mother, to her mother and my dad's mother and to all of the exceptional women in my life before me, who have set such powerful examples for me to appreciate. And appreciate, I do.

With this baby-stepping into my new found present awareness, I decided a few months back to begin training for a half-marathon in June, purposely choosing a race in one of the most beautiful and spiritual least for me, Sun Valley, ID. The training is going well, as well as intense, but I am so loving this commitment I've made to "self" and to my body. Last year was so rough, filled with gluten poisoning and illness. I set new intentions in 2010 for renewed health and so this race is simply part of that intention and me.

In addition to having sore legs every day, my appetite has spiked and I'm craving really healthy, fresh foods that serve a purpose. Sugar doesn't mean much to me, though Kettle chips do! We'll save those for after the race. Well tonight, maybe just a few!

Creating wonderful food is truly a gift that's intended to be shared with others - so on Sunday, Mother's Day, I really look forward to cooking for my mom and letting her know how much I love her through the little things that I can share with her, through heart and stomach. Food is one of those things. I also have my grandmother to thank. You see...the woman could flat out cook ...and BAKE! She was truly gifted and looking back, I so wish she could have created the right opportunity for her own catering business or restaurant. Instead, she whipped up outstanding holiday meals in her tiny kitchen for her entire family each year, creating a dessert table that was fit for the Four Seasons' finest of restaurants. Alice Waters would have even been proud. I draw on my Nani's creative juices when I'm in the kitchen and if there's such a thing as a genetic "cooking gene"...then I can thank her on Mother's Day for that blessing, as well.

We celebrate mother's all over the world and in our country this weekend - but truly, the gifts that our mothers have been bestowed upon each and every one of us are alive each and every day within us. I look forward to the day when I'm a mother and can finally experience what that perspective is like; to look at my child and know that I will have such a profound influence upon his or her life, causing me to feel the true weight of being responsible for what I share and teach that little person.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms and many blessings ~

Pasta with Asparagus and Toasted Walnuts:
Serves 4

- 1 Bag of Tinkyada brown rice elbows

- 1 Bunch of fresh asparagus

- 10 Medium size fresh shrimp with tails

- 2 Small fresh onions

- 1 Meyer lemon

- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill

- 3-4 Tbsp. Semi-chopped walnuts

- Sea salt to taste

- Extra-virgin olive oil

Start cooking the pasta, which usually takes about 12-13 minutes. Clean the asparagus and cut off the woody parts of the stalks before cutting them into pieces. If you want to speed up the cooking, you can chop them now instead of later, then chop the onions finely and start sauteing the asparagus gently in a skillet with the olive oil. After 5 minutes, add the marinated shrimp, add salt and cook until the asparagus is soft but still got a bite to them and the shrimp have turned pink and are cooked through.

After you finish sauteing the veggies, remove and place them in the serving bowl you will use, then toast the walnuts in the same hot skillet until they are warm. As soon as the pasta is ready, mix it with the asparagus and shrimp, and sprinkle the walnuts over before serving. Then top off with your favorite graded parmigiana cheese.

**The shrimp marinate is easy - in a small bowl mix 2 tbsp of olive oil, squeezed lemon juice, dab of mayonnaise, chopped dill and salt/pepper to taste. Whisk together and brush over both sides of the shrimp. Allow to marinate in fridge for one hour before cooking.

Continuing with Asparagus and its bone-building vitamin K, immune-boosting vitamin C, and heart-healthy folic acid...this pizza is fantastic and great for those of us searching for some healthy carbs to support our long runs, or anyone wanting a meal that's good for you and tastes as pretty as the picture.

Serves 4

- 1 Nature's Hilights brown rice pizza crust

- 1/3 Cup part-skim ricotta cheese

- 1/4 Cub prepared pesto

- 8 Asparagus spears (bottom ends snapped off and discarded) Cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

- 1 Tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

- Salt and ground black pepper to taste

- 3 Slices Canadian bacon/ham, cut into thin strips

- 2/3 cup (or about 2 oz) grated fontina cheese

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat over to 450 degrees F
After thawing out your pizza crust for 30 minutes, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes or until it becomes lightly crisp. Then pull out of oven allow to cool while preparing toppings.

Mix ricotta and pesto and dollop evenly onto the crust. Toss asparagus with oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Evenly distribute asparagus spears, along with Canadian ham, over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green. Remove from oven; divide the fontina equally over the pizza. Return pizza to the oven and continue to bake until crust is crisp and cheese has melted, about 5-10 minutes longer. Cut the pizza into quarters, serving each person with two slices.


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