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Creamy Asparagus with Penne Pasta

April 5, 2011
Wendy Monro - Food Writer , The Journal

Spring is finally here! What an amazing season. Thawing begins, the snow melts, green sprouts grow from the ends of branches, the birds sing more, and the sun warms the earth. It has been an incredibly harsh winter this past season. I wasn't in Minnesota to experience it this year.

However, I have heard from all of my friends that they are more than ready to be rid of the snow.

I'll bet there were many cold nights this winter when no one felt like doing anything but laying under a blanket on the couch and eating rich winter foods.

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I know I like to eat casseroles and hearty stews when the days are so cold. I suppose there was a lot of hibernating going on during all of those snowstorms.

Well, those days are officially over. It's time for some spring-cleaning. I don't mean just cleaning out the closets and organizing the junk drawers (yes, I have several).

I am talking about spring-cleaning your entire life: home, mind, soul, and body.

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Creamy Asparagus Pasta

Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 2

4 ounces cooked penne pasta (try whole wheat)

1 bunch of asparagus

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

salt and pepper to taste

cup milk

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

2 teaspoons flour

  • teaspoon salt

teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons minced garlic

cup sun dried tomatoes

teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

cup Parmesan cheese

a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the thick ends off of the asparagus. Place the asparagus on a cookie sheet and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over them. Roll them around in the oil to completely cover each piece. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Place them in the oven for ten minutes. Then take them out to cool.

Cook the penne pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the milk, mustard, flour, teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

In a saut pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat on medium heat. Saut the garlic in the oil until slightly browned. Then add in the milk mixture and whisk together for about five minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese, sun dried tomatoes, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix together. Cut up the asparagus into inch pieces. Add them into the creamy mixture. Pour the penne into the sauce and mix well. Serve with a sprig of cilantro.

I believe that spring is a much more natural time for resolutions. It is easier to stick to a fitness routine when the sun is shining and you don't have to drive through a blizzard to get to the gym. People want to get out in the sunshine and take long walks or a jog because it is so beautiful outside.

So, if you didn't keep your resolutions since last January, maybe you can make a fresh start right now.

Spring-cleaning your home makes your house not only cleaner and uncluttered; but, it is actually healthier for you.

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Opening all of the windows and getting rid of the dust will benefit everyone who lives there.

You will feel happier and healthier by getting rid of unnecessary items and dusting off the ones you wish to keep. Give some things away too. Giving away nice things that you don't need anymore can really help someone else out and you will benefit by the joy you feel in giving.

Spring cleaning your mind and soul is also easy.

One way to cleanse your mind is to reconnect with friends and family. Enough time has passed since the holidays that you might just feel good about getting together with your family again.

Call some old friends too.

I recommend writing an actual letter on a note card and mailing it to them with a stamp. They will really be surprised.

You can perk up your soul by writing a list of things you want to accomplish this year.

Then, whenever you are feeling stressed or down, you just think about one item on the list. Really think about it and visualize it with your eyes closed. Imagine it is happening right now. You won't believe how quickly this will pick up your spirits.

I have a feeling there has been a lot of eating going on and not a whole lot of exercising.

Also, the meals people usually eat in the winter are high fat foods like red meat.

Bathing suit season is right around the corner and that is usually a good motivator for people to get their body in shape.

There are a lot of expensive detoxification diets out there which can be purchased to cleanse the body.

However, I believe if you think about what you put into your body, you can create a cleansing on your own.

One of my favorite things about spring is the abundance of asparagus.

I love asparagus in almost anything. My favorite way to eat asparagus is with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then baked for a few minutes in the oven. Asparagus is a member of the lily family.

It is rich in protein and low in calories. Asparagus is also rich in dietary fiber. It contains an amino acid called asparagines, which cleanses the body of waste material. Adding asparagus to your meal helps to spring-clean your body.

Since it is just the beginning of spring, I made a dish that will still be satisfying on a cool evening (it is creamy, rich and warm); but, which contains asparagus to begin thinking about cleansing your body and getting back into shape. It is not an extremely low fat dish. I like to ease into healthy gently.

We don't need to shock our systems.

However, if you eliminate the milk and Parmesan cheese and substitute a little chicken stock, it would be very low fat. I didn't want to do that because I am a sucker for creamy pasta.



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