by Kate Heyhoe
What if New Year's Day was celebrated on April 1?
Think about it: "Eating healthy" resolutions would be so much more inspiring, given the wealth of spring greens and abundance of crisp, young vegetables. Ditto for "Exercise more." Who wouldn't want to get outside and walk or run in sunshine, fresh air, amid flowers and budding trees? Or would you prefer to slave on cold, repetitive machines in a sterile indoor gym?
Instead of reluctantly avoiding the comfort foods of winter, like hearty stews, lasagna, and creamy, cheesy casseroles, we could shamelessly enjoy them, much like we do holiday indulgences, and segue sensibly into the lighter, fresher foods of spring. Then, when winter rolls around again, we just might have a fighting chance at maintaining a newly developed way of eating and more active lifestyle. Besides, instead of snoozing through an enormous illuminated ball dropping in a concrete jungle, I'd much rather watch a dazzling tangerine sun rise brilliantly over the horizon, and then imbibe in a festive breakfast or brunch with friends and family.
Sadly, by the time April comes about, many of us have already ditched our New Year resolutions. But if we were to start our resolutions in spring, knowing that summer and bathing-suit season was just around the corner, perhaps we'd all be more inspired to plan out true behavior modifications and stick with them.
Spring, after all, is the hallmark of rebirth, so why not make it the official commencement to the new year? Trust me on this, April is a far more enjoyable month to celebrate the coming year than dreary old January. My birthday falls in April, so my new year is a naturally happy period, when birds chirp, bulbs bloom, and chartreuse blades of grass shimmer in the morning dew. For those of us who hibernate in hard winter states, spring is also the first time in months that we wave to our neighbors across the way (without either of us shoveling snow!).
Some people reaffirm their marriage vows. Perhaps now's the time to reaffirm your New Year resolutions. It's the easiest time of year to make 'em and stick with 'em. So whether you're going low-fat, low-carb, or simply on goal to eat healthy, consider how easy it is to sensibly indulge in the following health-giving foods of spring. Keep in mind that farmers' markets offer heirlooms, organics, and more exotic produce varieties, and even traditional grocery stores are expanding their repertoire.
Fresh herbs—Now's the time to buy those little four-inch pots of herbs. Snip off what you need and keep some growing. The cost of a small potted herb plant is close to that of a cut bunch of herbs in the market, so exercise your green thumb and make the most of your shopping dollar.
Greens—Markets burst with these delicate little creatures right now. And for more ready access, there's no need to till a whole garden to pick your own greens. Years ago, I spotted a hanging basket of mixed baby greens in the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. Make your own basket lined with sphagnum moss, or just fill a planter with soil. Mesclun seed mixes grow rapidly, as does arugula (which sprouts like a weed, completely independent of special care). Pick them when they're young and tender and make a whole salad, or add them to store-bought lettuce or escarole to create a $10 salad plate.
Vegetables—You can buy many vegetables year-round, but these are at their best in spring: artichokes (tiny ones are tender enough to be sliced thin and served raw), asparagus, beets, carrots, cauliflower, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach.
Fruits—Apricots, which bruise easily and have a short season, are best found in farmers' markets or fruit stands. Open wide for cherries (try the sweet giant varieties), strawberries, and later in the spring, blueberries.
Fresh goat cheeses—Sure, you can find fresh goat cheeses year-round, but they pair so well with spring salads and vegetables that they deserve a prominent spot on your shopping list. And keep in mind that a little goat cheese goes a long way in flavor, without much fat content.
Legumes—Spring has just enough nip in the air to keep hot beans and legumes on the menu, and as the weather warms up, serve them chilled with salads and seafood. A few green lentils with fresh herbs as a side dish or a black bean salsa add meatless protein and plenty of nutrients.
Nuts—Anti-oxidant laden nuts are year round food, but they pair so well with salads and vegetables that it's a great idea to keep them on hand. Toast them in an oven or in a pan on the stove for more flavor. Dress your baby greens with nut oils (such as walnut and hazelnut), and add toasted nuts, goat cheese and fruit for simple, delectable elegance.
Here's my idea of a new year's celebration—in a springtime setting, preferably on a patio, in a park, or in some other outdoor milieu if the weather allows:
Start with mint ice tea, a sparkling wine cocktail, or a fresh fruit drink, with or without alcohol. Nibble on baby carrots and other crunchy crudités, with a garlicky aioli sauce for dipping. Sip on a bit of warm or cold soup, like a creamy vichyssoise with chives, served in a mug or cup that can be carried outdoors. Then serve yourself from a casual buffet blooming with the foods of spring: salads, a salmon platter or sliced turkey or ham, endless vegetable dishes, and rustic breads with cheese and fresh fruit.
Whether your mission is for a new-you makeover or simply celebrating spring, Easter, or Passover, the recipes below are geared to give you freshest satisfaction of the season. Happy new year!
Salads and Vegetables
Arugula Salad with White Beans and Shrimp
Fontina and Roasted Yellow Pepper Salad
Sugar Snap Pea and Mint Salad
Three-Layer Vegetable Loaf
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This page created April 2005
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