Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Should you wash raw meat before cooking? Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:02:00 +0000 Spring is here! As our days are getting longer we want to grill out. Nothing tastes better than a juicy steak or pork chop hot off the grill. Should you wash the raw meat before grilling? For years, it was customary and even recommended to wash raw meat prior to cooking. The idea was that bone chips and bacteria could be washed safely down the drain.

The USDA no longer recommends washing raw meats:

" Some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed. However, there are other types of bacteria that could splash onto the surfaces of your kitchen. Failure to clean these contaminated areas (sinks, counter tops, cabinets, etc.) can lead to foodborne illness. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing food is not necessary."

Always observe these food safety rules when handling raw meat:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
  • Cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 teaspoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

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

EGGS—zactly Right! Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:48:00 +0000  

Eggs! The wonderful protein –cheap, easy to prepare and versatile! You can poach, boil, coddle, bake or fry them. Fold them into an omelet or bake them in a casserole. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, eggs are a perfect addition to anyone's diet. Why not eggs?

Here are some tips/facts about eggs:

  • Eggs are an important source of protein, vitamins, antioxidants and essential amino acids.
  • Each egg contains six grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fat, (1.5 grams saturated /2 grams mono-unsaturated fat).
  • A large egg contains 185mg cholesterol (in the yolk). To eliminate cholesterol, replace each whole egg with two egg whites.
    (Recent studies have shown that the cholesterol in eggs does not always effect cholesterol in our blood)
  • Fertile eggs are no more nutritious than non-fertile eggs.
  • Eggs are very economical! About 18 cents each!
  • To store keep eggs in carton and place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator (can be kept 4-5 weeks after the date on the carton)
  • To crack: tap egg firmly on flat surface (kitchen counter).
  • Hitting egg on the edge of a bowl will drive bits of shell into the egg.
  • Cracked/shelled eggs can be frozen, in an airtight container, for up to 1 year.
  • Egg substitute or egg product can be purchased chilled or frozen. These are pasteurized, flavored, egg whites with added color. They do not contain cholesterol.
  • The color of the shell means nothing---it is actually associated with breed of chicken—all egg are nutritionally identical.
  • Food safety concerns: assume all eggs are infected with Salmonella
  • Cook all eggs to 160 degrees
  • Wash all countertops, utensils with hot soapy water
  • Never use the same utensils for raw eggs and ready to eat foods without washing
  • NEVER allow anyone to eat products containing raw eggs, e.g. cookie dough, uncooked eggnog, protein drinks made with raw eggs, etc.
  • Cook eggs on low to medium heat for best results.
  • Do not add salt to eggs prior to cooking as it may cause watery eggs.

This time of year many families like to dye or color eggs. Be sure to follow food safety guidelines when using boiled eggs. Colored eggs must be refrigerated promptly after the color dries. If using real eggs for an Easter egg hunt make sure the eggs are not out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Or simply discard the eggs when the hunt is complete.

Here are some recommendations for dyeing eggs naturally from the American Egg Board:

Making your own natural colors

Simmer uncooked eggs in water for up to 20 minutes with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per cup of water and one of the following materials.

Material Color

Fresh beets or cranberries, frozen raspberries Pinkish red

Yellow onion skins Orange

Ground turmeric Yellow

Spinach leaves Pale green

Yellow Delicious apple peels Green-gold

Canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves Blue

Strong brewed coffee Beige to brown

  • Ever wonder why your boiled eggs have that green ring around the yolk? This is caused by the suphur in the egg white reacting with the iron in the yolk. This chemical reaction is exaggerated when eggs are cooked too long or at too high a temperature or cooled too slowly. Avoid the green ring by following these directions:

The perfect boiled egg

Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with 1 inch of cold water. Cover, bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Let stand 11-13 minutes. Remove eggs from water. Chill by immersing eggs in ice water before peeling.

Healthier Deviled Eggs

  • 12 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions (optional)


Combine yogurt and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Discard 3 yolks. Add remaining yolks; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Spoon about 1 tablespoon yolk mixture into each egg white half. Cover and chill 1 hour. Sprinkle with paprika and black pepper. Garnish with green onions, if desired.

Find more recipes and how to videos on our website:

Just click on the youtube icon!

Cook Frozen Vegetables Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:43:00 +0000 April 6, 2017: Recall Frozen Peas, possible Listeria contamination…..

Another recall on frozen vegetables? What does this mean? Do I have to cook the peas for my pea salad recipe? It means that the vegetables were contaminated with Listeria bacteria at some point in processing. Does it indicate that all vegetables have been contaminated? No, but Listeria is a serious pathogen and can cause illness.

According to : "Pregnant women are approximately 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis." According to the CDC: "Pregnant women typically experience fever and other non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue and aches. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn"34 For the rest of us symptoms can include" headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches."

Listeria has long been associated with raw milk and unpasteurized soft cheeses. It can also be present in ready to eat deli meats and cheeses and most recently frozen vegetables. Listeria is unusual in that it can grow in refrigerated temperatures that would inhibit growth of other bacteria. It can also live in a biofilm layer on surfaces such as drains and processing equipment.

So, what are we to do? The good news is that Listeria is killed by heat, that means you need to cook those peas (or any other frozen vegetable) before adding them to a salad. Heating foods to 155 degrees F will kill the bacteria and render the food safe.

For more information, contact your local Extension office.


Let's Hear it for Potatoes! Thu, 09 Mar 2017 15:45:00 +0000 March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than by debunking the great potato myth! In honor of all the Irish, or those who wish they were, we will talk about the lowly, much maligned potato.

Myth #1: potatoes are fattening. In fact, potatoes are delicious and nutritious! Potatoes are fat-free, cholesterol-free and a good source of Vitamin B6 and dietary fiber. They are also high in Potassium and Vitamin C.

Myth #2: Potatoes are just starch. These mighty tubers are much more than "starch". A medium baked potato provides us with 620 mg of Potassium (that's more than a banana) and 45% of your RDA of Vitamin C. How's that for you "dieters"? If that's not enough, they are gluten free. They also contain iron!

The French were on to something when they called potatoes, pomme de terre or "apple of the earth". These wonderful gifts of the soil are a nutritional powerhouse when cooked properly and eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Now for the bad news—frying potatoes cancels out nearly all of the good. So, fries are for "sometimes" and baked potatoes are for "everyday". Baked potatoes give you all of the aforementioned nutrients with the added bonus of filling you up, the satiety factor. If you eat your baked potato with low-fat sour cream you are eating a 155 calorie healthy side dish. Next time you tell the waitress to "skip the potato", think again and do yourself a favor by ordering the potato!

Nutritional data from:

Here is a healthy low-fat version of a popular potato recipe: Garlicky Roasted Potatoes with Herbs


  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds quartered Yukon gold or red potatoes (about 4 cups)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 475°.
  2. Combine garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon; set aside. Drizzle remaining oil evenly over potatoes in a large bowl, tossing well to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 475° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are golden. Combine reserved garlic, parsley, and lemon rind in a small bowl; sprinkle garlic mixture evenly over potatoes.

Recipe from: Cooking Light

Good Nutrition: Make the Better Choice Thu, 23 Feb 2017 09:32:00 +0000 Give up gluten, go sugar free, watch those carbs, put butter in your coffee and drink apple cider vinegar. Sound confusing? Yes, it is. There is so much "diet advice' "out there" that it makes your head spin. How can we make sense of all this? Our society is quick to jump on trends and myths looking for a cure all. There is no quick fix. The short answer to the nutrition question is to eat a variety of foods. Each food group provides nutrients necessary for good health. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats,transfats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

So, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal. Need a snack? Have some fruit. Do not be afraid of frozen or canned. Mix it up a little—there are so many options for healthy eating. Just remember to make better choices —potatoes rather than chips, chicken breasts instead of nuggets, carrots more often than cookies. You get the picture. Why fruits and vegetables? Eating more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet may help you reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and some forms of cancer.

  1. The fiber in fruits and vegetables may help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
  2. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help reduce your chance of Type 2 diabetes.
  3. Foods that are rich in potassium like oranges, bananas and baked potatoes may help you maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  4. Almost all fruits and many vegetables are low in fat and sodium. Also, fruits and vegetables are naturally cholesterol free.
  5. Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals (plant compounds) that may help prevent or delay disease and help you maintain good health

Nature creates foods so that they nourish our bodies. We have simply been ignoring nature for far too long, it is time to get back to the basics—Eat Real Food!

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy!


Lighter Fried Fish Fillets

1 pound fish fillets
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1½ tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1½ tablespoons whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon Hungarian paprika (optional)
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
Cooking spray


  1. Spray baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°.
  3. Rinse fillets under cold water, pat dry.
  4. Combine Parmesan cheese, cornmeal, flour, pepper and paprika in plastic bag.
  5. Shake fillets one at a time in bag to coat with cheese mixture.
  6. Place fillets in baking dish. Drizzle oil over fillets. Bake about 10 minutes per inch thickness of fish or until fish is opaque when flaked. Fillets may need to be turned half-way through baking.

See the how-to video:

Apple-Berry Crisp

1 large apple
¾ cup fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries
4 packets Equal
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup uncooked oats
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
1½ tablespoons low-fat (not non-fat) margarine
Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Coat inside of 1-quart heat-proof baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Peel and slice apple into dish. Add fresh or frozen blueberries and toss lightly.
  4. Combine cinnamon and sweeteners in mixing bowl. Sprinkle over fruit.
  5. In same mixing bowl combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and pecans. Add margarine and mix with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit in baking dish.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or just until fruit juices bubble up on sides and in the middle of the dish.

From Recipes for Diabetes by University of Illinois Extension

Spring Cleaning your Pantry Wed, 01 Feb 2017 13:19:00 +0000 February—the month where we learn if Spring is around the corner. Whether you believe in the prophetic wisdom of a hibernating rodent (aka, Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog) or in the reality that the earth is beginning to tip more towards the sun, Spring is coming! It is a great time to look ahead. Everyone gets a little restless in the Spring---the sap begins to flow, new babies are in the barnyard, even houseplants put on new growth. There is promise in the air of new things to come.

One thing I like to do with the energy of impending Spring is to clean house. An area we often neglect is our food storage. I teach a lesson on food budgeting where I suggest that you shop at home first. By that I mean look into those deep dark corners of your pantry, bend down into the caverness deep freeze and commit to using what you find. This year, instead of merely rearranging the items in your food storage, why not use them? Experiment with some new recipes, try new food combinations. Surprise yourself! Try it for a week or two.

I pledge to buy only milk, eggs and a few fresh fruits and vegetables this month. How am I going to do that? 1. I will take inventory of what is in my pantry and freezer and make a list. 2. I will systematically use the oldest things first. 3. I will use my slow cooker to have savory soups and stews ready for my family's evening meals. I think it will make me feel good that I am decreasing my grocery bill while using things that I might otherwise have to throw out.

Remember to look at the dates on your packages. Most of them will have a "Best if used by" date—that means exactly what it says. The product contained therein will be best by that date. It will not be spoiled. It will not make you sick. The items in your freezer, if not stored in an airtight manner might have some freezer burn. The food might have absorbed some flavors of other foods, this will not hurt you. But if the package is torn or if it smells "off" toss it. When in doubt, throw it out! When using items from your freezer, remember to thaw them in your refrigerator or under cool running water; NOT on your counter!

By month's end, I hope you have an empty freezer and pantry. This is a perfect time to wipe down the shelves and wash the inside of the freezer with a mild detergent. And when you replenish your freezer, make sure you double wrap items in foil or freezer paper. Another great tip is to label foods on the side of the package with the type of food and the date it was prepared, so you can see it clearly when the foods are stacked on the shelves. Organize your dry goods by kind to encourage regular use and always place the newer items in back of older ones. FIFO is a term used in the restaurant industry; it means first in first out. Food is an investment –take care of it!

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy

Use this Create- a -Dish chart from the University of Nebraska to produce tasty meals for your family!

Here is a video that shows you how to freeze foods.


Fresh, Frozen or Canned? Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:58:00 +0000 Eat more veggies! Eat more fruits! Isn't that what we've been told? We usually hear the adjective "fresh" in front of those words, as in "fresh fruits and vegetables". But it's winter in central Illinois and fresh is a relative term. Just how fresh is that bunch of broccoli from California or the grapes from Chile? Is "fresh" always best? Not necessarily, according to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, frozen food is more nutritious than "fresh" if the produce has been transported over several miles. Most of our "fresh" produce travels 1500 miles before it reaches our grocers' shelves! From the moment the produce is harvested, decay begins. As the fruit or vegetable decays, it loses nutrients. Studies have shown that some "fresh' vegetables on the grocery shelf are actually void of nutrients—you are getting colorful, expensive fiber, but nothing else. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables out of season has never been budget friendly, so don't do it. Frozen (without sauce) and low sodium canned are the way to eat vegetables in the winter. Of course, some things have to be eaten fresh, lettuce, for example is only served fresh. And root vegetables are always a good buy and are stored to retain nutrients. As for fruit, go for canned in juice (not syrup), frozen or for a different texture try dried. I love serving canned peaches or pears with dried cranberries---heat it to enhance the flavor. You can feed your family well on a budget if you remember: " frozen and canned when the weather is bland"!


Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder


2cupsfrozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1can (10.75 ounces)reduced sodium cream of potato soup*

1cupcooked chicken breast, chopped

1/4teaspoondried basil

1/8teaspoonblack pepper

1cuplow fat milk


  1. Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan.
  2. Stir and heat until hot.
  3. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

*Choose reduced-sodium soups when available

Nutrition Facts: 4 servings

Amount Per Serving

Calories250; Fat10g;Sodium590mg; Total Carbohydrate28g; Fiber3g; Protein12g

University of Illinois Extension recipe