Robin's Healthy Take: 20-Minute Spring Dinners

These simple ring-in-spring meals celebrate the freshest produce, and are on the table in just 20 minutes!

Even though temps are still pretty low in some parts of the country, there’s no doubt we all have spring fever. After harsh winters, we long for sunny days and the floral aroma of spring. And we crave spring produce -- I'm ready for a bounty of fresh apricots, artichokes, asparagus, chives, fennel, leeks, scallions, peas, strawberries, rhubarb and watercress.  These simple ring-in-spring meals celebrate the freshest produce, and are on the table in just 20 minutes!

Chicken Fried Rice with Pine Nuts and Apricots

Fresh spring onions (scallions) and apricots take this family-friendly meal over the top (as does the nutty crunch of pine nuts). Try adding fresh green peas, or substitute leeks for the scallions if desired. If apricots are not available, substitute nectarines.

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups cubed cooked chicken (from a rotisserie chicken or leftover roasted or grilled chicken)

2 cups cooked brown or white rice (to save time, use the rice pouch that cooks in 90 seconds in the microwave)

2 cups diced fresh apricots
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Directions

Heat peanut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add scallions and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chicken and cook 2 minutes, until golden brown. Add remaining ingredients and cook 2 minutes to heat through, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pizza with Shrimp and Roasted Asparagus

This pizza boasts fresh asparagus and tender shrimp coupled with pesto-enriched cream cheese and pungent feta cheese. For an extra shot of spring greens, add 1/2 cup chopped fresh watercress to the cream cheese mixture.

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed according to package directions
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/2 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Immerse asparagus in boiling water and cook 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Roll dough out into a large circle or rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick; transfer to a baking sheet. Combine cream cheese and pesto and mix well; spread mixture all over crust, to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Top with shrimp, asparagus and feta. Bake 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Spaghetti with Roasted Fennel, Grape Tomatoes and Chives

This pasta dish marries the anise flavor of fennel with sweet grape tomatoes and fresh chives.You can serve this dish warm or chilled, making it the perfect meal for dining al fresco.

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
12 ounces spaghetti

1 bulb fennel, chopped (reserve the feathery green fronds for garnish if desired)

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine fennel, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and oregano and toss to coat. Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet; roast 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and soft. Transfer to a bowl, add spaghetti, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and chives; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with parmesan cheese just before serving.

TELL US: What are your favorite quick spring meals?

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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