Let banana liqueur brighten up your basic espresso martini. Photo by Emmy Smith

Winter has its merits, its cold, dark days conjuring the urge for comfort food and moody cocktails that warm you from the inside, but spring’s arrival is always a welcome sight — a time of rejuvenation and renewal. As the weather gets warmer, our household craves lighter meals packed with fresh produce and beverages that are bursting with bright flavors. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a few homemade food and cocktail recipes that are sure to put a spring in your step. Both dishes are great vegetarian options, but feel free to add grilled chicken or roasted salmon for added protein.


Banana Coconut Curry

If spring has you dreaming of a tropical vacation, give this savory banana and coconut curry a try. Curry may not seem to go with warmer weather, but this light dish is satisfying without weighing you down. Curry originated in some of the warmest climates on earth, after all. The combination of ripe bananas, coconut milk, and lots of Southeast Asian spices creates a creamy and flavorful sauce that pairs perfectly with rice or even naan.




To serve: rice

1 cup sugar snap peas

2 tbsp oil divided

3 bananas

½ cup diced onion

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

1 14-oz can coconut milk

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbsp soy sauce 15 mL

1 tbsp chili garlic sauce



Prepare rice according to instructions on the packaging. Clean sugar snap peas and set aside. Slice bananas into half-inch-thick rounds. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat and add the bananas. Cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove bananas and set aside. To the same wok, add remaining tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, and curry paste, cooking until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add coconut milk, broth, soy sauce, and chile garlic paste. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for another 5 minutes. To serve, spoon rice into serving bowls, followed by curry. Top with sugar snaps and a few banana slices.

Enjoy a taste of the tropics with a savory sweet banana and coconut curry.
Photo by Emmy Smith


Banana Espresso Martini

Have bananas left over? Whip up a fun, fruity take on the most on-trend cocktail of the year, the espresso martini. The sweetness of banana liqueur complements the bitterness of the espresso, creating a perfect balance. Garnish with a slice of fresh banana for added freshness.



2 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

1 ounce espresso, freshly brewed, or cold brew concentrate

1/2 ounce crème de banana liqueur

Banana slices for garnish



Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake then strain into coupe glass. Garnish with fresh banana slice.

Let banana liqueur brighten up your basic espresso martini.
Photo by Emmy Smith


Mushroom and Asparagus Oven Risotto

Folks shy away from risotto because, like that bad boyfriend from your past, it’s too needy. The constant stirring and adding of broth required to achieve the ideal creamy yet al dente texture can be a literal pain in the neck. Cooking risotto in the oven can achieve the same results while letting you get on with your life as it cooks.

This spring vegetable risotto is loaded with seasonal items that are likely already in your fridge this time of year, like fresh asparagus, spring onions, basil, lemon, and chives. The asparagus brings its unique flavor, the mushrooms provide a meaty texture, and the basil, chives, and lemon zest sprinkled on top ramp up the freshness even more.



4 tbsp salted butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 bunch asparagus, sliced into rounds, keeping tips whole

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, grated

2 bunches green onions, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

4 ounces goat cheese

1/4 cup thinly shaved red onion

6 to 8 fresh basil leaves

Zest of 1 lemon



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an ovenproof skillet with a tight-fitting lid (important!), add 2 tablespoons butter, a drizzle of olive oil, and the asparagus. Cook over medium heat until bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet and another drizzle of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and green onions. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Stir in the thyme followed by the chives, then add the rice and stir until it is well coated in the butter and mushrooms. Add the white wine and broth. Stir. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, between 35 and 40 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and remove the lid. Add 3 ounces of goat cheese and all but a quarter cup of the reserved asparagus, then stir until creamy. Top with the remaining ounce of goat cheese, the asparagus, red onion, torn basil leaves, and lemon zest.

Roasted chicken is the perfect accompaniment to asparagus and mushroom risotto.
Photo by Emmy Smith


Alaska Cocktail

To go along with the risotto, how about a light and vegetal three-ingredient cocktail that packs a punch? The Alaska is an herbaceous twist on the standard martini that will pair well with the asparagus and spring onions in the dish.



1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse (or any herbal liqueur)

1 1/2 ounce gin

Dash orange bitters



Combine all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and give it a good stir until the sides of the glass are frosty. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Read about more cocktail recipes in Spring Spirits in Living Local.

With just three ingredients, the Alaska is simple but potent.
Photo by Emmy Smith