Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Snacks on the Go Fri, 08 Sep 2017 11:05:00 +0000  

This time of year finds families scrambling into the chaotic fall school activity and sport schedules. In addition to making sure your young athletes have the necessary sport gear, it is also important that you make sure they are fueled up for their game or match.

Many young athletes have nothing to eat from their 11:00 lunch time until after the game or practice. This leaves them hungry and not able to play up to their potential. They need a snack but, how can you avoid the drive-through?

As with many stressful situations this can be handled with a little organization. Plan ahead. What can you pack that requires little prep and is still safe and nutritious? Instead of the standard granola bar—that may be nutrient void—or the bag of chips that most certainly is---try one of these suggestions.

Make your own snack mix of dried fruit, whole grain cereal, unsalted nuts and pretzels. Mix up a large batch and then put a serving (1/2 cup) into a snack bag.

According to the USDA's children should have 1 ½ -2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. An afterschool snack is the perfect opportunity to get more fruits and veggies into your child's diet.

Fresh fruit requires no refrigeration and is the perfect energy source for a game or workout. You could also send cut up carrots and celery with some peanut butter for a protein packed energy boost.

My favorite recipe, included at the end of this article, using the super food pumpkin, is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Just mix it up the night before, toss it into a lunch box with a stay cool pack along with some whole grain crackers, cut up fruit and or veggies and it will disappear!

So, breathe deeply the crisp fall air, enjoy your children and tame the chaos with some simple steps toward good health.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip


¾ cup peanut butter

1-4 Tbsp. brown sugar, to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

  1. 1. Mix peanut butter and brown sugar.
  2. Add vanilla and stir.
  3. Add pumpkin and stir until well blended.
  4. Serve with graham crackers, bread, apple slices, celery sticks, etc.

Nutrition Facts (per 1 Tablespoon) - Calories50~ fat2.5g~ calories from fat20~ sodium25mg~ total carbohydrate7g~ fiber0g ~total 40 TBS

Salsa, Salsa, Salsa! Fri, 04 Aug 2017 11:54:00 +0000  

No, I'm not talking about learning to dance! I'm talking tomatoes! Are you up to your elbows in tomatoes? Are they lining up on your kitchen counter like an army of red soldiers? Are you using baskets of tomatoes as doorstops? What are you going to do with all those tomatoes? Relax, here are a few easy recipes that you can make in a snap. Tomatoes are such a versatile food—you can cook them, bake them, put them in a pie—you can even eat them plain, unadorned, straight from the garden!

And, they are good for you! They are a super food loaded with lycopene, antioxidants, fiber and vitamins! The carotenoid antioxidants protect against prostate, digestive, and pancreatic cancers. Recent studies show that a diet rich in tomatoes lowers the levels of inflammatory stress markers noted in the development of cardiovascular disease. In addition to these health benefits, in a German study, participants who consumed tomato products 2 to 3 times per week showed less likelihood of sunburn when exposed to UV light.

Source: Penn State Extension

Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, refrigeration renders them tasteless and turns the flesh to mealy mush. Flavor and texture begin to deteriorate when the temperature drops below 54°F. Temperatures above 80°F cause tomatoes to spoil quickly. Store tomatoes at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, away from direct sunlight until ready to use (sunlight hastens ripening).

To ripen tomatoes, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process.

Once cut, tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator. Ideally cut tomatoes just prior to serving and use any leftovers in a cooked tomato recipe to avoid the mushy, tasteless result mentioned above.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

If you would like to preserve tomatoes, you can easily freeze them. Simply, wash core and cut into halves or quarters. Place in a freezer container or bag, leaving an inch of headspace. Use them in sauces and soups. The skin comes off easily as you thaw them by running cool water over the surface. Canning information can be found at

So, don't say "no thanks" when someone offers you a sack of tomatoes—embrace them—but not too hard—they will squish….

Corn and Tomato Sauté

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 pound tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or basil

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add corn and onion. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, tarragon (or basil), and salt.

University of Delaware Extension

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

4 tomatoes, halved horizontally

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450° F. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

University of Delaware Extension

Grilled Zucchini-Tomato Toastie(Serves 4)


1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise or softened cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper


1 medium zucchini
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
8 slices bread or roll, preferably whole-grain
softened butter or oil

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.
3. Wash and cut both ends off zucchini. With a grater, shred zucchini into small pieces.
4. To assemble sandwiches, spread mayonnaise mixture evenly on 4 slices of bread. Top each slice with shredded zucchini, one tomato slice, and one slice of cheese. Top sandwiches with remaining bread slices.
5. Spread a small amount ofsoftened butteron both sides of each sandwich. Add to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes or until lightly brown. Flip sandwiches and grill on second side about 2 minutes or until lightly brown and cheese is melted.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 280 calories, 13g fat, 540mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 13g protein

Source: Kirby's Kitchen, University of Illinois Extension

Green Tomato Crisp(serves 9)

4 cups chopped green tomatoes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled or quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp cooking oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl, stirring to coat all tomato pieces. Spread into a greased 9x9-inch baking dish.
3. Combine flour, oats, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Drizzle oil over flour mixture and toss until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.
4. Bake uncovered 30-45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 180 calories, 5g fat, 140mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2g protein

Source: Kirby's Kitchen, University of Illinois Extension

Fresh Garden Salsa

2 large ripe, red slicing tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 green onion, top included, chopped
1 to 3 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
Juice of lime
Salt to taste

Using a serrated knife, chop tomatoes. If using plum tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons water. In a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over the mixture and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest 30 minutes before serving to allow salt to draw juice from the tomatoes. Stir again just before serving

University of Illinois Extension

Tomato Corn Pesto Pizza

3 plum or Roma tomatoes

¼ teaspoon onion powder teaspoon freshly ground or seasoned pepper

½ cup basil pesto 1 (14-16 ounce)

whole wheat or regular packaged pre-baked thin pizza crust

1 cup fresh corn kernels

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon honey

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons fresh whole or torn basil leaves, (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice tomatoes into ¼ inch slices; place tomato slices on paper towels; sprinkle with onion powder and pepper; let stand 20 minutes. Spread pizza crust with pesto. Stir together corn kernels, Parmesan cheese and honey. Top pizza with corn mixture, tomato slices and mozzarella cheese. Place pizza directly on middle oven rack; bake approximately 12-14 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil leaves, if desired. Cut into 8 slices.

Nutritional Analysis(1 slice): 290 calories, 13 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 14 g protein

Corn Dogs and Cotton Candy! Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:31:00 +0000 Corn dogs and cotton candy---what trip to the fair would be complete without them? Ask anyone what they enjoy most about the fair and many will say ---THE FOOD! The once a year treat can pack some big calories into your regular diet, so here are a few tips.

Most of us know that the "Doughnut Burger" is probably a bad choice (1500 calories). However, we might be surprised by the better choices. Are you a sweet tooth person ? Or is it the salty snacks that you crave? Either way be prepared to amp up your exercise routine to "pay" for fair food. So, just what are we talking about? What's a few fair treats going to hurt?

Well, for example, the fried onion blossom will set you back 1320 calories! You can have one and then walk around the fairgrounds for 4 hours and 25 minutes to burn it off! Are funnel cakes your weakness? A plain one with powdered sugar topping has 760 calories; a measly 2 hours and 50 minutes will take care of its calories. At this rate the 620 calorie curly fries seem almost like health food! Pizza on a stick, fried butter, chocolate covered bacon, the list is endless.

What is a better choice at the fair? Remember anything you eat at the fair is classified as a "Sometimes" food, rather than an "Everyday" food—so know that you will consume some extra calories and fat. That being said you might opt for cotton candy at 171 calories or a chocolate covered banana with the benefit of a serving of fruit and 240 calories. Actually in the deep fried category, corn dogs weigh in at 250 calories—that's much better than a doughnut burger!

Am I saying that you shouldn't eat at the fair?---Absolutely NOT! The fair comes once a year, treat yourself to your favorite. Just remember to plan the days around your fair trip accordingly---increase your fruits and veggies along with exercise. When you go to the fair, walk around the grounds, visit the livestock and then the memory of your trip to the fair will not be a bigger pant size, rather a mental picture of a time well spent.

Canning your Garden Produce Fri, 14 Jul 2017 15:26:00 +0000 How does your garden grow? Are you struggling with baskets of green beans and bushels of cucumbers? You could give the excess away and that is a great idea. Or you could preserve the produce so your family can enjoy your garden long after the first frost of winter.

Yes, You Can! ! Everyone is doing it from Paula Deen to Alton Brown---canning is trendy. Eat local; reduce your carbon footprint is the battle cry from the home canning sector—and they are right.

Food is better when you grow it yourself or know who did. But, before you dust off Grandma's canner let's talk about safety. Make sure your canner has the UL seal of approval and follow the manufacturer's directions exactly.

Never use the open kettle or oven methods of canning---these methods are not safe! Do not "make up" recipes or add extra ingredients. Only use recipes from USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, name brand canning supply companies or Extension. Canning is a scientific process that can safely preserve the taste of summer, if you follow some basic guidelines.

Begin with wholesome, unblemished fruits and vegetables. Wash both the produce and your hands after coming in from the garden; it's best to use warm water. The deadly microbe Clostridium botulinum lives in the soil and on most fresh food surfaces—it really does not pose a threat until it is exposed to its favorite environment—the moist, low acid, no oxygen atmosphere inside a canning jar full of food. This deadly germ can be killed by using an approved canner and following research based recipes.

For more info go to:

Or call your local Extension office to register for "hands on" workshops!

Happy Canning!

Quick Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles

8 lbs. of 3- to 5- inch pickling cucumbers

2 gals. water

1 ¼ cups canning or pickling salt (divided)

1 ½ qts. vinegar (5%)

¼ cup sugar

2 qts. water

2 Tbsp whole mixed pickling spice

About 3 Tbsp whole mustard seed (1 tsp per pint jar)

About 14 heads of fresh dill (1 ½ heads per pint jar) or 4 ½ Tbsp dill seed (1 ½ tsp per pint jar)

Yield: About 7 to 9 pints

Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16 inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave ¼ inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gallons water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill hot jars with cucumbers. Add 1 tsp mustard seed and 1 ½ heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process as below.

At altitude 0-1,000 feet process pints for 10 minutes and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Herbs Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:28:00 +0000 Did you bring some herb plants home from the garden center this spring? Herbs are wonderful plants, hardy, fragrant and beautiful. Many of us, me included, often bring herbs home, plant them and then rarely use them in cooking. Why not?

It's thyme, (pun intended), to cook with herbs. As a rule, use twice the amount of fresh as you would dry herbs in a recipe. Add herbs toward the end of cooking time to ensure a bright flavor. You can cut back on the salt in a recipe by using herbs to enhance flavor.

Try lemon balm with asparagus, or chives with cooked beet greens. Mint is good with any fruit and it even pairs well with sweet peas. Snip some tarragon into cooked rice and next time you cook eggs try adding parsley, thyme or marjoram.

Lay bunches of fresh herbs directly on hot coals when grilling to give meat a boost of flavor. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Preserve herbs by chopping and freezing them in ice cube trays, pop out the frozen blocks and store in freezer bags. If you have used them in cooking and frozen all you will need for next winter, you can always make a fresh bouquet—it will make your house smell great!


Fresh Herb Butter

1 cup margarine or butter 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh green basil 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives Salt and pepper (optional)

Chop herbs fairly fine. Blend all herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper into margarine or butter with a spoon. Form into a roll and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze. Best prepared a day ahead to blend flavors. Use on baked potatoes, grilled or broiled steak, tossed with hot pasta, or spread on bread and enjoy.

Yield: 16 tablespoons.

Nutrient analysis per 1 tablespoon serving (approximately as analysis varies with type of low-fat margarine used): 51 calories, 0grams protein, trace carbohydrate, 6 grams fat, 0milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium.

Lemon Balm Vinaigrette Dressing

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons wine vinegar

6-8 lemon balm leaves, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients. Stir or shake ingredients before serving. Store dressing in the refrigerator. Serve over lettuce salad, steamed vegetables, or use as a marinade for fish or chicken.

Vary dressing by choosing different oils, vinegars and herbs. Oils: Grapeseed, olive or peanut;

Vinegar: white, red wine or herb; Other herbs: tarragon, basil, thyme, marjoram.

Nutrient analysis per 1 Tablespoon Serving: 48 calories, 0 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0 milligrams sodium

Outdoor Cooking Thu, 08 Jun 2017 14:13:00 +0000 Ah, the smell of a campfire. Roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, fruit cobbler, foil packets of hobo stew…. there is nothing as good as simple food cooked over fire. I can almost taste it now! Whether it's a day at the park or a weekend camping trip, preparing and eating food outdoors takes some special consideration. Even if you are taking a dish to a family reunion, you need to follow some basic food safety steps.

We all know to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If you are only going to be gone a few hours you can keep hot foods hot in an insulated container made for that purpose. It is unrealistic to expect foods to stay warm for more than two hours, so if you are planning to eat later in the day it is best to cook the food at the campsite or park. In order to ensure safe food, keep the food as cold as possible before you cook it. Freeze meat patties or steaks and wrap them tightly or place in freezer bags before putting them into your insulated cooler. A good idea is to pour marinade or dry rub over the meat before you put it into the cooler, that way the meat will absorb the flavors as it slowly thaws in the cooler. Place large blocks of ice in the cooler as they melt more slowly than cubes. You can make ice blocks by freezing water in clean plastic food grade containers leftover from ice cream, cottage cheese or other food items. This will slow the thawing process and ensure that even hours later, the temperature will not have risen over the 40 ° danger zone mark.

Use two coolers, one for meats and vegetables (wrapped separately) that will be cooked and another for fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw, dairy products and beverages. When handling raw meat at the campsite make sure your hands and all surfaces touched by the meat are washed prior to and after preparation. It is very important that you do not cross contaminate other surfaces by simply wiping the raw meat juices with a dry towel. Wash everything with hot soapy water.

If there is not hot running water nearby make a hand washing station with an insulated drink cooler (heat the water before putting it in the cooler), some liquid soap and a roll of paper towels. After you have made sure everything is clean, it is time to cook. Bring a thermometer along—it is the only sure way to tell if the meat is "done" and always use a clean platter to serve the cooked meat.

Food borne illness is never a good thing and it is worse when it occurs away from home. Keep your family safe by keeping your campsite and your hands clean!


Safe cooking temperatures:

Poultry Products

165° F

Ground Meat

160° F

Prime Rib

130° F

Steak, roast, chops

140° F

USDA safe minimum cooking temperatures

To Safely Marinate Foods:

�� Marinate in a non-metal container in the refrigerator.

�� Do not marinate more than 24 hours. (Meat will become mushy if left too long.)

�� Save some unused marinade to baste food during cooking.

�� Throw away any leftover marinade.


Marinated Lemon Thyme Chicken or Pork

4 skinned chicken pieces (pork chops)

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix oil, lemon juice, thyme and garlic. Place chicken/pork in shallow container and

cover with mixture. Let sit in refrigerator 30 minutes. Preheat grill or broiler. Cook

chicken/pork until tender and reaches an internal temperature of 165o F (chicken) or

140o F (pork). Serves 4.

Mexicali Marinade

1/3 cup oil 1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup apple juice 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan, heat oil and cook garlic 2-3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients

and heat through, stirring until smooth. Cool in refrigerator. Excellent for tenderizing

less expensive cuts of meat, pork or veal. Marinate strips/cubes of meat 2 hours, chops

or ribs 3 hours, and steaks at least 4 hours prior to cooking. Always marinate foods in

the refrigerator turning meat occasionally.

*recipes from Wellness Ways, University of Illinois Extension

School's Out! Fri, 19 May 2017 08:58:00 +0000 SCHOOLS…OUT…FOR…SUMMER…. Now what? The children are home and they need to be fed. Let's build those healthy food habits so our children can be the generation that changes the health of America! There is a common misconception that children (and others who are not overweight) do not need to make careful choices when eating. I have heard people say—"I can't believe my kids are eating my whole grain crackers—I told them to eat their chips—the crackers are for me because I need to lose weight". Nothing could be further from the truth. None of us need the chips! Chips and other fried salty snacks should be reserved for occasional consumption regardless of your position on the BMI chart. Just because children are not overweight does not mean that we should encourage them to eat unhealthy foods. "Eating behaviors evolve during the first years of life; children learn what, when, and how much to eat through direct experiences with food and by observing the eating behaviors of others. The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), which provided data on the dietary patterns of 3022 infants and toddlers, revealed that 4 to 24 month old children typically consumed significant amounts of developmentally inappropriate, energy-dense, nutrient poor foods. Of particular concern was the finding that 18% to 33% of infants and toddlers consumed no distinct servings of vegetables on a typical day."

Everyday matters, everyone needs to eat healthy, every day.

What does that mean? It means planning ahead, making choices in the grocery store that reflect MyPlate. Having fruits and vegetables, ready to eat, in convenient places for easy snacking. I know you have heard it all before, but with a little planning, eating a healthy snack can be as easy as opening a bag of chips. Keep apples in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Mix up some humus (recipe below). Prep vegetables once a week so they are snack ready. Cut whole grain tortillas into 6 wedges, spray lightly with vegetable oil spray and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes for homemade chips. Make snack mix by combining whole grain cereals with dried fruit and lightly salted nuts. All of these suggestions can be made in advance in large enough quantities to last several days; simply place a single serving into a plastic bag and store.

Easy Humus Dip

1can (15 ounces)garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drain and save liquid, rinse beans

1.5tsp.minced garlic

1Tbsp.ground cumin

2Tbsp.olive oil

3Tbsp.reserved bean liquid


  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender.
  2. Process together until a smoother consistency.
  3. Serve with whole wheat pita bread, pretzels, or veggie sticks.

Nutrition Facts:6 servings: Calories 100,Fat 6g,Sodium 140mg,Total Carbohydrates 10g,Fiber 3g,Protein 3g

Watch this video from to see what one family does to stay healthy!

source: National Center for Biotechnology Information,U.S. National Library of Medicine