The Produce Lady Offers Healthy, Economical Options for Easter Eating

The Produce Lady, an effort of N.C. MarketReady, is encouraging North Carolinians to invest more of their holiday food budgets in local foods and healthy eating this Easter. Americans spent nearly $13 billion on Easter in 2009, more than Halloween, Father’s Day and the Super Bowl. Of that sum, the majority was spent on food, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Easter is an opportunity to showcase a community’s local foods with family and friends while supporting the local economy,” says The Produce Lady, also known as Brenda Sutton with N.C. Cooperative Extension.

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion reports that the average weekly food budget for a family of four on a moderate cost plan is $219. If two percent of North Carolinians allocated 10 percent of the average weekly food budget to local produce this Easter, it could generate over $4 million in state revenue.

“When it comes to preparing holiday meals, you’ll find the freshest, most delicious produce at local farmers markets. Investing food budgets into local produce is a win-win for everyone: farmers keep the money local, and consumers eat the best produce available for the holiday,” adds The Produce Lady.

Fresh produce items typically in season or available during Easter include:

Greens, such as asparagus, broccoli and lettuce – great for salads;
Herbs, like rosemary and thyme – use to season ham, roast lamb or a savory spring soup;
Other vegetables, including beets, carrots, radishes and sweet potatoes, a perennial N.C. favorite.

Here are a few ideas for adding seasonal local foods – including protein items such as meat and eggs – to Easter meals:

Purchase produce and other food items for Easter holiday meals at a local farmers market.
Meat – like ham or beef – and eggs are great for main courses as well as appetizers like deviled eggs.
Try these recipes for Broccoli Frittata and Roasted Asparagus this Easter:

Broccoli Frittata

  • 1 cup chopped, fresh broccoli florets (you may mix other seasonal veggies like asparagus, sugar snap peas,
  • spinach or peppers)
  • ½ cup chopped cooked chicken or salmon (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped onions
  • ¼ tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. reduced-fat margarine or butter spray
  • 4 farm-fresh eggs, lightly beaten
  • Fresh goat cheese, also known as chevre (optional)

Sauté broccoli, chicken, tomato, onion and tarragon in margarine in a medium saucepan or electric frying pan over medium heat until broccoli is tender-crisp. Pour eggs evenly over all ingredients. Sprinkle with cheese if desired. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until firm on bottom and almost set on top. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 4.

Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 lb asparagus spears (thick spears are best for roasting)
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • Lemon juice

Roasted AsparagusPreheat oven to 400°F. Rinse and clean the asparagus. Break the tough ends off of the asparagus and discard. Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the spears; roll the asparagus back and forth until they are all covered with a thin layer of olive oil. (Alternatively, you can put the asparagus and oil in a plastic bag and rub the bag so the oil is evenly distributed.) Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Rub over the asparagus so that they are evenly distributed. Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes – depending on how thick the asparagus spears are – until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice before serving. Serves 4.

“We are fortunate to live in North Carolina where there are so many wonderful local produce options available,” says The Produce Lady. “The economic impact it can have on our communities is amazing.”

The Produce Lady is Brenda Sutton, director of Rockingham County Cooperative Extension. Find more fresh produce recipes, tips for preparation and storage, and videos at www.theproducelady.org.

N.C. MarketReady, formerly known as the Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture, is a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension, which is an educational outreach of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T; State University. N.C. MarketReady’s multidisciplinary team builds partnerships and educational resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable. N.C. MarketReady is a partner of the Plants for Human Health Institute at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Learn more at www.ces.ncsu.edu.

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