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Celebrate Spring with Asparagus

Make the most of this year's cream of the asparagus crop.

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Springtime is asparagus time. The slender, delicately flavored stalks have captured the imagination of inventive cooks for centuries. Keep a watchful eye on your garden, nearby farmer's market, or the supermarket produce aisle for the first signs of the new crop. Then, swing into action and try the delectable asparagus wonders offered here.

Toss your way to a great meal with pasta, asparagus and this creamy sauce that's accented with a selection of fresh herbs.

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  • 10 oz. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8-oz. pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp. white or black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh thyme, tarragon, basil, or chives
  • Hot cooked pasta (such as bow ties, rigatoni, or rotini)
  • Fresh snipped thyme, tarragon, basil, or chives (optional
  • Cracked pink peppercorns or toasted sliced almonds (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan cook asparagus, covered, in a small amount of lightly salted boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat the cream cheese, milk, and white or black pepper over low heat until cream cheese is softened. Stir in Parmesan cheese and the 2 teaspoons desired herb; heat through. (If mixture seems too thick, stir in additional milk to make desired consistency.) Toss the hot cooked pasta with cooked asparagus and sauce. Garnish with additional herb and pink peppercorns or almonds, if desired. Makes about 1-1/2 cups of sauce.

Nutrition facts per 1/4 cup sauce: 130 cal., 10 g total fat (6 g sat. fat), 33 mg chol., 220 mg sodium, 3 g carbo., 1 g fiber, 6 g pro. Daily Value: 17% vit. A. 12% vit. C.

Build a memorable brunch around this captivating asparagus-laden dish. Just add your favorite crusty bread and mixed fresh fruit.

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces, or one 10 oz. pkg. frozen cut asparagus
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon, basil, or thyme, crushed
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (4 ounces)

1. In a saucepan cook asparagus, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 4 to 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. (For frozen asparagus, cook according to package directions.) Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet cook turkey, onion, and sweet pepper until vegetables are just tender and no pink remains in turkey. Remove from heat; drain. Set aside. Grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange meat mixture in dish; top with cooked asparagus.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, flour, Parmesan cheese, lemon-pepper seasoning, and tarragon; beat till smooth with a wire whisk or rotary beater. Or, combine these ingredients in a blender container; cover and blend for 20 seconds.

4. Pour egg mixture evenly over layers in baking dish. Bake at 350 F. until egg is firm.

Here is some handy information to help you purchase and use asparagus.

Types: Asparagus can be either green, white, or purple. The green is a rich, dark color with buds that are tinged with purple. Green asparagus spears are available fresh, frozen, and canned. Supplies of fresh green asparagus peak from April to May. For white asparagus, the soil is mounded over the plants to prevent the sun from producing chlorophyll as the asparagus grows. The lack of chlorophyll creates white asparagus. When the tips start to poke through the soil, the white asparagus is harvested. You may also see a purple asparagus variety. Don't be surprised! It will turn green when cooked.

Selecting: Choose crisp, straight fresh spears with good color and tightly closed buds. Wilted spears or those with thin or very thick stalks may be tough and stringy.

Storing: Wrap the bases of the fresh spears in a wet paper towel and keep them tightly sealed in a plastic bag. The spears should last for up to 4 days.

Preparation: Just before using, cut or break off the stem ends and wash the spears. If you like, remove the scales by using a vegetable peeler to clean the stalks.

How to Cook Asparagus

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