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Published April 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Recipes serve up a little sunshine: Citrus-infused meal plan offers light, bright pairing with seasonal vegetables

As we wait patiently for May flowers, let the sunshine in with citrus fruit and other seasonal foods. Between their bright color and refreshing flavors, lemons, oranges and grapefruit are like edible sunshine.

By: MealsMatter.org , INFORUM

They say March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb; leaving April showers in many parts of the country. As we wait patiently for May flowers, let the sunshine in with citrus fruit and other seasonal foods.

Between their bright color and refreshing flavors, lemons, oranges and grapefruit are like edible sunshine. Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, citrus fruits are also functional foods that can provide health benefits as part of a balanced diet.

Enjoy a seasonal family meal of Tortellini Primavera, Freckled Lemonade and Citrus Salad with Ginger Yogurt. Enjoy citrus and other seasonal fruits and vegetables all week long with recipes like Chicken with Artichoke and Melted Lemons, Roasted Pears with Cheddar Crumble, Strawberry and Stilton Salad and Asparagus Pesto Lasagna.

TORTELLINI PRIMAVERA

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 cup shredded fontina cheese or three-quarters cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, dill or chives or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon

One-eighth teaspoon Salt

4 cups chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and snap peas, or 16-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables

1 16-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini

Preparation

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Meanwhile, whisk broth and flour in a small bowl. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth mixture to the pan, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese, tarragon (or dill or chives) and salt.

Add vegetables and tortellini to the boiling water; return the water to a simmer and cook until the vegetables and tortellini are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain; add to the pan with the sauce and stir to coat.

FRECKLED LEMONADE

2/3 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)

2 quarts cold water

1 cup sliced strawberries (fresh)

1 cup smashed strawberries (fresh)

Preparation

To smash strawberries: place in pitcher, and mash with potato masher. Add remaining ingredients. Mix all together, and let chill for 2-3 hours. Stir before serving. Very refreshing for a Summer barbecue, or a day at the beach.

CITRUS SALAD WITH GINGER YOGURT

1 pink grapefruit, peeled

2 large tangerines or minneolas, peeled

3 navel oranges

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 16- or 17.6-ounce container Greek yogurt

2/3 cup minced crystallized ginger

1/4 cup golden brown sugar

Additional dried cranberries

Preparation

1. Break grapefruit and tangerines into sections. Cut grapefruit sections into thirds; cut tangerine sections in half. Transfer grapefruit, tangerines, and all juices to deep serving bowl. Using small sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from oranges. Slice oranges into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, then cut slices into quarters. Add oranges and all juices to same bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup dried cranberries, honey, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Mix yogurt and ginger in bowl.

Spoon yogurt atop fruit. Sprinkle with brown sugar and dried cranberries.

Tip: Fruit and yogurt can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately; chill.

CHICKEN WITH ARTICHOKES AND MELTED LEMONS

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup chicken stock (low/no sodium)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons capers with juice

14 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is heated, swirl it to cover the bottom of pan. Add the chicken breasts and sear them until browned. Turn the chicken breasts and brown them on the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate and increase the heat to high. Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits into the sauce.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the lemon slices to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and place the chicken breasts on top of the lemon slices. Add the capers, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the drained artichoke hearts. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the breasts are cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a warm plate. Increase the temperature and reduce the sauce to a glaze. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Cook’s notes: Just a little salt will reduce the acidity of the lemons, capers and artichokes and balance the flavors. Serve the chicken with the artichoke hearts, capers, and melted lemons drizzles with the glaze.

ASPARAGUS PESTO LASAGNA

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided

6 tablespoons pesto, or more to taste

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish, optional

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/4 pounds asparagus spears, tips cut off and reserved, spears trimmed and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1 clove Garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

16 no-cook lasagna noodles (9 oz.)

2 cups shredded Fontina or part-skim mozzarella cheese (8 oz.), divided

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour and 1/2 cup milk in saucepan until smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in pesto, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup white sauce.

Warm oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped asparagus (not tips) and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 1 minute, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Coat 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place layer of noodles in dish, overlapping slightly. Layer with half of cooked asparagus, 3/4 cup Fontina and half of sauce. Add another layer of pasta, remaining sauce, remaining cooked asparagus and 3/4 cup Fontina. Top with layer of noodles, then with reserved 1 cup white sauce. Arrange reserved asparagus tips over top and sprinkle with remaining Fontina.

Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes, or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes; serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

STRAWBERRY AND STILTON SALAD

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 Tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon water

4 cups mixed salad greens

1 ounce crumbled Stilton cheese or feta cheese

French bread (optional)

Preparation

Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Strain mixture through a sieve into a jar, reserving liquid. Set aside strawberries. Add oil and water to jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously. Arrange 1 cup greens onto four individual salad plates. Top with 1/2 cup berries, 2 teaspoons dressing and 1 Tablespoon cheese. Serve with French bread, if desired. Makes four servings.

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