Choosing and storing your produce, it’s easier said than done

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Spring has sprung! Mark Hagen from Taste of Home joined the WakeUp News team to make sure you are choosing and storing your produce correctly.

Tuscan Roasted Asparagus

This is a speedy side dish that’s prefect for spring! Try it with grilled meats or even baked chicken! —Christina Hitchcock, Itisakeeper.com

Prep/Total Time: 40 min.

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound asparagus, cleaned and trimmed

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

1/2 teaspoon basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350° and melt butter in a 13×9 baking dish. Place asparagus in bottom of dish with melted butter. Sprinkle with onion and celery. Arrange tomato slices on top. Sprinkle with basil, thyme, pepper and cheese. Roast for 30 minutes or until asparagus is fork tender. Yield: 4 servings

Grilled Honey Balsamic-Glazed Fruit

One summer, my mother-in-law made us grilled peaches basted with a sweet and tangy sauce. These are so good, I'm always tempted to eat the whole batch.. —Kristin Van Dyken, West Richland, Washington

Prep/Total Time: 25 min.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
Dash salt
6 medium peaches or nectarines, halved and pitted
Vanilla ice cream, optional

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, honey and salt; cook and stir over low heat 2-3 minutes or until blended. Reserve 1/3 cup mixture for brushing peaches.
Bring remaining mixture to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir 4-6 minutes or just until mixture begins to thicken slightly (do not overcook). Remove from heat.
Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, rub on grill rack to coat lightly. Brush peaches with some of the reserved balsamic mixture.
Grill peaches, covered, over medium heat 6-8 minutes on each side or until caramelized, brushing occasionally with remaining reserved balsamic mixture. Serve with glaze and, if desired, ice cream. Yield: 6 servings (1/2 cup glaze).

Chocolate Lover's Strawberry Shortcakes

As a mom of four, I appreciate shortcut recipes. This one uses refrigerated biscuits, giving me time for special touches, like adding homemade whipped cream and hot fudge. —Melissa Haines, Valparaiso, Indiana

Prep: 20 min. Bake: 15 min.

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon baking cocoa
1 tube (16.3 ounces) large refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
ASSEMBLY:
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries or frozen sliced strawberries, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
Hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed

Preheat oven to 350°. In a shallow bowl, mix confectioners' sugar and cocoa until blended. Dip biscuits in cocoa mixture to coat; shake off excess.
Place 2 in. apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, toss strawberries with sugar. In another bowl, beat cream and cocoa until cream begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar; beat until soft peaks form.
To serve, split shortcakes in half. Fill with strawberries and half of the whipped cream. Serve with fudge topping and remaining whipped cream. Yield: 8 shortcakes.

Choosing and Storing Spring Produce

Asparagus

  • Peak season is April through May.
  • Purchase straight, firm, stalks with tightly closed, compact tips.
  • Small stalks cook quicker and often offer more flavor.
  • Look for bright green stalks. The tips might be a slight lavender tint.
  • Store unwashed asparagus in a sealed storage bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to 4 days.
  • When preparing, snap off the bottom end of the stalk where it will easily break when gently bent.
  • ON-AIR DEMO: Mark and anchor to snap a few stalks.
  • See recipe for Tuscan Roasted Asparagus from Taste of Home.

Artichokes

  • (Loaded with the B-vitamin Folate)
  • Peak seasons is March through May
  • Look for artichokes that are heavy for their size and have tightly closed leaves.
  • Frost can turn some of the leaves slightly brown, but that won’t affect the flavor. If the majority of the artichoke is brown, however, select another.
  • Store unwashed artichoke in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Brussels Sprouts

  • Very popular right now.
  • Available September through May.
  • Purchase small Brussels sprouts that are tightly closed.
  • Look for those with a bright green color.
  • Store in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer for 3 days.
  • When preparing whole, trim off the stem end. Using a small knife to cut an “X” in the bottom of the sprout so it cooks quickly and evenly.
  • ON-AIR DEMO: Mark to “X” a few sprouts with a pairing knife.

Peaches

  • Available late April or early May.
  • Look for plump fruit without bruises or soft spots.
  • Avoid those with slightly green skin as they’re not ripe yet.
  • Ripe peaches will give a bit with lightly pressed and will have a sweet aroma.
  • To ripen a peach quickly, set it in a paper bag at room temperature.
  • Store peaches in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • See recipe for Grilled Honey Balsamic-Glazed Fruit (3rd Place Winner in Taste of Home’s latest contest – Grilling!)

Rhubarb

  • Great source of calcium.
  • Peak season is April through June.
  • Vary in color from pink to cherry red.
  • Look for firm, crisp stalks.
  • Always trim and discard the leaves
  • If stalks are too thick, peel with a vegetable peeler to get rid of tough fibers and strings.
  • Store in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze sliced rhubarb for 9 months.

Strawberries

  • Available year round but peak season is April through June.
  • Avoid packages that have juice-stained paper-lined bottoms
  • Avoid those that are bruised or “mushy.”
  • Strawberries appear pale red or whitish they are not ripe
  • Store in a paper-lined, moisture-proof container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  • You can freeze fresh strawberries for up to 1 year.
  • See recipe for Chocolate Lover’s Strawberry Shortcakes

For more information, please visit www.tasteofhome.com or pick up the April/May issue of Taste of Home – available on newsstands now

Additional Questions/Talking Points:

Q1: What is Taste of Home?

A1: Taste of Home is the No. 1 food and entertaining magazine in the world and a go-to resource for the holidays and any time of the year for tried-and-tested information on food, cooking and entertaining.

Q2: How are recipes selected to be in the magazine or in TOH cookbooks?

A2: Each year, Taste of Home receives more than 12,000 ideas and recipes from real home cooks. Of these, 2,000 recipes are chosen for testing in the Taste of Home test kitchen and featured in the magazine, cookbooks and on the web.

Q3: Where can readers purchase Taste of Home magazines or cookbooks?

A3: Taste of Home is available on stands now or you can purchase them through our website at http://www.TasteofHome.com. Subscriptions are also available on your e-reader and iPad.