Spring Forward with Bright Recipes

By Ann Foster Thelen

Chase away the winter blues with flavor-packed recipes featuring wholesome proteins and bright vegetables.

The arrival of March provides a promise that spring is near. Soon, landscapes will come alive with bursts of color, and Mother Nature will work her beautiful magic. Tastebuds will transition from feasting on comfort foods to craving fresh new recipes.

With winter soon in the rearview mirror, it’s time to chase away those cold-weather blues and bring bright food pairings back to the center of the table. Anchored with wholesome proteins, crisp vegetables and juicy fruits will brighten the day.

As you search for beautiful, fresh food during Iowa’s changing seasons, consider cultivating your green thumb by growing your own garden! You can also turn to Iowa’s farmers for local and high-quality items. Not only are farm-fresh foods found at farmers’ markets they are also at the meat counters and in the aisles of grocery stores across the state. As the top-producing state of many foods, such as pork, eggs, corn and soybeans, and strong in beef, turkey and dairy production, Iowans have access to many fresh, homegrown choices!

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Photo Credit: Iowa Egg Council

Mixed Vegetable Frittata | Iowa Egg Council

Wake up with a sunshine-inspired breakfast packed with a bouquet of essential nutrients. Eating a balanced breakfast gives the body’s metabolism a kick-start and provides our brains and bodies with much-needed fuel after a night of fasting. And research shows that protein at breakfast can help energize the body and curb hunger all day. A breakfast frittata is an easy and delicious way to reach optimal daily protein goals. Filled with eggs and vegetables, including asparagus, spinach, zucchini and tomatoes, it’s hearty and nutritious. Thyme, basil, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses provide mouthwatering flavors. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: Nearly half of an egg’s protein and most of its vitamins and minerals – including those essential for supporting our brains and bodies – are found in the yolk.


Grilled Shrimp with Yogurt Cilantro Salsa | Midwest Dairy

Photo Credit: Midwest Dairy

There’s no surer sign of warm weather on the horizon than when the wonderful aromas of grilling waft through the air. For many Iowans, grilling is a must in every season. This recipe is perfect for grilling loyalists or indoor grilling aficionados. Shrimp is skewered and served with a salsa base, combining yogurt with coconut milk, and then takes on a savory and spicy flavor combination with mint, cucumber, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, hot sauce and salsa. It’s finished with pineapple juice, creating a salsa that’s a dream for the senses. This recipe is extra special for those who add seafood to the weekly menu on Fridays during the Lenten season. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: Dairy foods like yogurt are filled with essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium and protein, fueling your body for springtime activities. Most yogurts are made with live and active cultures, and some also provide probiotics (or good bacteria), which help maintain digestive health. Those good bacteria can offer many health benefits by aiding in the digestion of lactose, making it easier to digest if you have lactose intolerance. And strained yogurts like Greek-style have even less lactose.




Farmers Market Beef Brown Rice Salad | Iowa Beef Industry Council

Photo Credit: Iowa Beef Industry Council

Craving farmers market fare but know it’s a tad too early for the seasonal events here in Iowa? You’re in luck! Create an inspiring salad that makes it seem like you just brought home a bounty of locally grown foods.

In this recipe, beef top round steak is marinated in olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, honey and thyme. The flavorful combination will undoubtedly put a spring in your step! It’s served with asparagus, yellow squash, tomatoes, basil, brown rice and garbanzo beans.

Packed with nutrition – 36 grams of protein and 60% of the recommended daily value of zinc in every serving – it’s delightful for your eyes and healthy eating goals. If you love asparagus and want to plant your own, early spring is the best time for planting. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: When you’re looking for ways to improve your health, manage your weight or satisfy your appetite, protein can provide many benefits. Research shows that people who eat a higher-protein diet (about 30% of daily calories from protein) feel more satisfied, which may help prevent overeating.


Photo Credit: Iowa Pork Producers Association

Easy Pork Ramen Bowl | Iowa Pork Producers Association

A ramen bowl is a perfect bridge between Iowa’s changing seasons. If comfort food married a salad, this dish might result from the pairing. Vegetable stock and hot chili sauce create a savory broth for the mushrooms, bok choy, pepper, noodles and carrots. Topped with thinly sliced pork, cilantro and lime, it’s fresh, flavorful and satisfying. Once you serve this recipe to your family, you can count on making homemade ramen bowls time and time again. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: Both the pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast meet the criteria for the American Heart Association Heart Checkmark, which means they contain less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams or less of saturated fat, and 480 milligrams or less of sodium per label serving. Pork is also packed with protein, making it easy to include in a health-forward and balanced diet.



Photo Credit: The Soyfoods Council

Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas with Edamame Salad Topping | The Soyfoods Council

There is “soy” much to love about soyfoods, including the numerous health and nutritional benefits of this legume. Soyfoods have long been a staple in Asian cuisine and are now popular among American consumers. Soy is a nutritional powerhouse, fitting into every diet preference and stage of life. The quesadillas are filled with chicken (buy a rotisserie chicken to make prep a breeze), corn and a Mexican cheese blend. An edamame salad tops the dish and includes tomatoes, fresh lime juice and cilantro. It’s a meal both kids and adults will love. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: There are abundant reasons to eat soyfoods! Filled with B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium and an array of antioxidants, soyfoods pack a nutritional punch. Soyfoods contain healthy fats and have been linked to lowering cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease.


Photo Credit: Iowa Turkey Federation

Turkey Romaine Tacos with Jicama Slaw | Iowa Turkey Federation

Ditch the taco shell and go for a fresh crunch with turkey romaine tacos! Mexican-spiced ground turkey pairs with a tangy, sweet jicama slaw to create a balanced dish packed with flavor. Fresh romaine lettuce provides the perfect crunch with enough stability to keep everything in place. Your taste buds will thank you for trying these tacos. Find the recipe here.

Bright Bites: Tasty, versatile and available in a variety of cuts, turkey is naturally low in fat and provides immune-boosting nutrients like iron, zinc and potassium. Turkey is loaded with flavor, no matter how it’s prepared. Turkey also drinks in whatever seasonings or marinades it’s cooked with, making it a versatile choice in any cuisine.