Time for Spring Cleaning

With spring right around the corner, you may be contemplating spring cleaning. Maybe you’ll steam clean the carpets or clean out your closets or wash all the linens. But have you ever considered spring cleaning your diet?

The majority of food we buy at the grocery store is packed with preservatives, loaded with chemicals, or raised on antibiotics. None of these things sounds very “clean.” Open up your pantry or cabinet, grab a box of just about anything, and read down the ingredient list. See things you can’t pronounce, let alone have any idea what they might be? Just like our houses need to be cleaned, scrubbed, and organized every so often, so does our diet.

Step One: Start by eliminating many packaged or processed foods from your grocery list. Things that can stay? Organic whole wheat pastas, brown and wild rices, and dried beans. Things to get rid of? Chips, cookies, even some cereals, fruits and dressings that are laden with preservatives, sugars, and chemicals. It’s incredibly easy to make your own salad dressings with no preservatives and fresh ingredients. See my garlic vinaigrette recipe below, which goes great with the fresh salad greens that are available locally during spring. And garlic is one of the most powerful antioxidants, which means this dressing is also doing a good spring cleaning on your internal system.

Step Two: Start buying fresh and local. Farmers’ markets are opening back up, and several year-round markets, retail outlets, and co-ops have fresh, local food even in the off season. Coastal Farms Co-op offers its members year-round online ordering of local products from 50+ Hampton Roads producers. Order anything from vegetables to cheese to seafood and meats (www.coastalfarms.luluslocalfood.com).     

March is also the beginning of asparagus season, and many local farmers will be selling this lovely vegetable at their farms. Some even offer “cut your own” asparagus, which is an experience not to be missed. See the recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup below, which is the perfect dish for the in-between, early spring weather.

Finally, consider preserving food while it’s in season. Much of the reason we run to the grocery store for what we “need” is because it’s convenient. We still want to eat asparagus in September, so we compromise quality for convenience. Instead of buying out of season vegetables that were shipped from the other side of the globe, buy in bulk when products are available locally and preserve them through freezing, canning, jarring, or jamming. Asparagus can be quickly blanched, dried and frozen on a sheet pan, then stored in freezer bags for several months. Just take what you need from the freezer and steam, roast, or boil.

So this spring, do more than dust off the cabinets and wax the hardwood, give your diet a spring cleaning makeover and reap the benefits all year long. You can find lots of clean, seasonal recipes on the new and improved Buy Fresh Buy Local website: www.buylocalhamptonroads.org/recipes

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
2 heads of garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. honey

Cut the pointy top off of the heads of garlic. Brush them with olive oil, wrap them in aluminum foil, and roast them in a pan in the oven at 400°F for about 25 minutes, until the cloves start to turn golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Once the garlic is cool, peel the skin off. The cloves should easily pop out of their skins at this point. Discard the skins, and add the garlic along with the other ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Note: The salad dressing can be vegan if you sub the honey for agave, and it is dairy free.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
2 pounds green asparagus
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cut tips from asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 min. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, then return to pan. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter. Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips.
Recipe courtesy of Jane Cullipher, Cullipher Farms.

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.

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