Cheese tortellini cooked gently in chicken broth and decorated with spring-colored vegetables shares the table with maple syrup-laced muffins. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Here we are at the first week of May and one can only hope that spring has finally sprung. On a recent socially distant backyard visit with my daughter, I became ecstatically hopeful when she revealed that her trickster-y hens were once again laying eggs. As a matter of fact, on that rare sunny morning, the chickens were in particularly good form as they pecked at my sneakers before making themselves comfortable in the asparagus patch. My daughter exerted a great deal of energy shooing them away from the tender green shoots while she regaled me with all the dreams and plans she had for the prolific garden plot that is expanded a bit more each year.

In spite of our cold April and the naughty hens, Shannon and the rest of the family have begun the annual planting. I am the lucky recipient of some of this bounty. It will be wonderful to have a cascade of homemade vegetables in my life again, along with fresh eggs for breakfast and baking.

Besides keeping up with their schoolwork and household chores, the three tween and teen grandchildren have been assisting their granddad next door with his maple sugaring business. The syrup seems to be especially good this year and if you haven’t purchased any yet from a local producer, you must. You can buy it from most Maine sugar houses online to be shipped or for curbside pickup. You can also find it at the farmers market or roadside stands throughout the area.

My lovely outdoor visit with my daughter inspired me to stop at the little grocery store on the corner on the return trip home. It pleased me tremendously to prepare this “ode to the garden” supper in anticipation of all the wonderfulness to come. Yes, it was a very good day.

Chicken Tortellini Soup with Green Things

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
12-15 ounces cheese tortellini (dry, fresh or frozen)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup basil pesto
1 cup frozen peas or peas and carrots (optional)
1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach, julienned
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan

In a stock pot, heat oil and cook onion, celery and carrot until softened. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions. Reduce heat to low and add chicken, pesto and peas. Heat through then add spinach. Turn off heat and cover for 3 minutes. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with pepper and Parmesan. Yield: 4 servings


Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

20 stalks asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 head Bibb or butter lettuce

Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain quickly and immediately transfer to the ice.

In a small bowl, whisk together all other ingredients until emulsified. Drain asparagus and blot dry with paper towels. Toss asparagus with vinaigrette and chill for at least 30 minutes. Season and serve on individual salad plates lined with lettuce. Yield: 4 servings

Banana Maple Muffins with Walnuts

1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in the oven

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter regular-sized muffin cups or use paper liners. Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream together sugar, 1/4 cup maple syrup and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in dry ingredients and bananas, beating until blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.

Combine toasted walnuts in a small bowl with remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Spoon onto the top of batter in the muffin cups and press down slightly. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins test done by inserting a toothpick. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove and cool on baking rack. Yield: 8 muffins or 1 loaf

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