Seasonal Meals

With Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Available in Late Winter and Early Spring

Although the weather this time of year may be a bit unpredictable, a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is still available. Some areas have farmers' markets that are open all year or almost all of the year. If there isn't one nearby, well-stocked supermarkets offer a generous variety of fresh produce. Look for seasonal produce you haven't tried before, and give it a go. You may come away with a few new favorites.

One of the greatest joys of cooking is inventing and trying new recipes with new combinations of foods. No, not everything you invent will work, nor should it. If it did, you wouldn't be stretching enough. So, go ahead - stretch! Along the way, as you have your own culinary adventures, you will discover many wonderful combinations. Just be sure to write down what you do as you go so you can duplicate the dish.


(Serves 4 as a side dish or 6 as a topping for vegan cake or vegan ice cream)

  • 2 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, and sliced tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 1/3 cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the margarine in a 1 ½-quart saucepan. Add the apples and sauté, stirring often, until almost tender. Mix together the sugar and nutmeg, and stir into the apples. Continue cooking and stirring often until apples are tender.

Total calories per serving: 167 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 60 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram


(Serves 6)

If limes are unavailable, lemons work well, too.

  • Juice and grated zest of 2 fresh limes
  • 6 cups cored, cubed, unpeeled firm pears
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • Vanilla vegan ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ungreased 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan, blend together all ingredients except the vegan ice cream. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until pears are tender. Serve warm and top with the vegan ice cream, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 131 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams


(Serves 4)

Refreshing and delicious, the ginger adds a little heat and a lot of flavor.

  • 2 cups fresh grapefruit sections
  • 2 cups fresh orange sections
  • 1/3 cup diced crystallized ginger

Gently stir grapefruit and orange sections to combine. Garnish with ginger.

Total calories per serving: 118 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 29 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 8 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams


(Serves 4)

This is an elegant, simple dessert with no added fat. Serve in crystal sherbet glasses, garnished with fresh mint, if desired.

  • ¼ cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 4 seedless oranges, peeled (including white pith removed) and sliced crosswise into ½-inch slices

In a 1-quart mixing bowl, blend together the sugar and cardamom. Stir in the orange extract and water. Gently fold in the orange slices just so all the slices are coated with the sugar mixture. Cover and chill thoroughly.

Total calories per serving: 111 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 28 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: <1 milligram Fiber: 3 grams


(Serves 8)

  • 1/3 cup light rum
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 6 cups bite-sized cantaloupe cubes
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, packed

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the rum, lime juice, and sugar until sugar is almost completely dissolved. Place cantaloupe cubes in a blender cup and blend until smooth. Add blended cantaloupe to other ingredients and stir. Cover and chill mixture well. Just before serving gently stir again, adding the mint. Serve over ice.

Total calories per serving: 89 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 17 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 20 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram


(Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish)

Here"s an excellent way to use up leftover rice.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • ¼ cup slivered fresh garlic
  • 2/3 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups diced fresh curly kale, rinsed well, stems removed
  • ¾ cup seeded unpeeled fresh tomatoes
  • One 15 ¼-ounce can black beans, undrained
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup water
  • Generous dash ground red chipotle
  • Salt to taste

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until half tender. Stir in the kale and continue to stir-fry until it is about half tender.

Add the tomatoes, beans, rice, water, chipotle, and salt. Cook over medium heat, covered, and stir often until kale is tender and flavors have blended.

Total calories per serving: 337 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 62 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 441 milligrams Fiber: 12 grams


(Serves approximately 8 as a side dish or over rice as a main dish)

*Pictured on the cover. This dish is beautiful and full of flavor. Once the chopping is done, it"s an easy supper to prepare, too.

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups diced yellow onions
  • 1 ½-2 Tablespoons slivered fresh garlic
  • One 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained, no salt added
  • 1 teaspoon dried sweet basil, coarsely crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, and onions. Sauté vegetables for approximately 10 minutes or until almost tender-crisp.

Blend in the garlic, tomatoes, basil, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are just tender.

Total calories per serving: 159 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 344 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams


(Serves 4)

A slightly different way to enjoy lentils, this salad has lots of crunch, flavor, and eye appeal.

  • 1 cup lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onions
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash cayenne

Cook the lentils in the water until almost tender. Add the salt and continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain. Cool slightly; then, stir in the garlic, carrots, celery, red onions, and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over lentil mixture and toss well. Cover and chill thoroughly. (Overnight is fine.) Serve over salad greens, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 249 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 33 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 758 milligrams Fiber: 16 grams


(Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish)

The colors, textures, and flavors of this dish complement each other well.

  • 1 ½ Tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
  • 3 ½ cups broccoli florets and sliced stems cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup diced yellow onions
  • 1 ½ cups unpeeled, diced tomatoes
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons slivered fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • Approximately ¼ cup water

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add the broccoli and sauté for approximately 10 minutes or until it just begins to soften a bit.

Add the onions and continue to sauté another 3 minutes or so until onions, too, begin to soften a bit. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until broccoli is almost tender-crisp.

Blend in the salt, pepper, cooked rice, and water, a Tablespoon or two at a time, as needed to keep mixture from sticking.

Cook, stirring frequently, until broccoli is tender-crisp and rice is hot.

Total calories per serving: 271 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams Protein: 7 gram
Sodium: 330 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams


(Serves 6 as a side dish on its own or 6 as a main dish with the rice)

This dish is a beautiful blend of colors, flavors, and textures.

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 5 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets
  • Water as needed
  • 1 cup diced yellow onions
  • 2 Tablespoons slivered garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups frozen green peas

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add the cauliflower and sauté until about half-tender, adding water a Tablespoon at a time as needed.

Add the onions and garlic and continue to sauté until onions are almost tender.

While the vegetables cook, blend together in a small bowl the cayenne, turmeric, and salt. Sprinkle over the cauliflower mixture and stir to blend.

When the cauliflower is almost tender, stir in the peas and cover. Continue to cook, adding a little water as needed, until cauliflower and peas are both done. Serve over hot basmati or other rice, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 113 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 15 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 468 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Peggy Rynk is a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal.