Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Spring! Shop Your Pantry First Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:36:00 +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.


Eat More Salads! Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:12:00 +0000 Was your resolution to eat more veggies? Are you eating more salads to get healthy?

Me too, I often eat salads and have struggled with the dressing dilemma. I tried the low fat bottled dressings and did not like them; in fact, I quit salads altogether back in the low fat diet craze days. Now there is new research suggesting that in order to get all the nutrients from the veggies in your salad, you need to use dressing that contains oil. This is great news for me—I love a good vinegar and oil dressing.

An article, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cited research done by Wendy White, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. White's study suggests eating salad greens and vegetables with added fat—in the form of soybean oil—enhances the absorption of various micronutrients that promote human health.

The study indicated that salad vegetables dressed with oil aided in the absorption of several micronutrients: alpha and beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene; two forms of vitamin E and vitamin K; and vitamin A. White said better absorption of these nutrients promotes a range of health benefits,including cancer prevention and eyesight preservation.

This is great news for salad lovers, but be careful not to overdue a good thing. The average adult needs approximately 2 tablespoons of fat each day—so enjoy your salad dressed with vinegar and oil—but do not make the lettuce float!

Try this homemade dressing:

Serving Size: 1 tablespoon | Serves: 12

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup acid (such as red winevinegar, lemon juice or ½ apple cider vinegar ½ balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or sugar substitute
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground blackpepper
  1. Put all ingredients into an airtight container.
  2. Secure the lid and shake until the ingredients are combined.
  3. Salad dressing can be storedin the airtight container in the refrigerator for up to oneweek.

Tip: The size of this recipe can be adjusted up or down by keeping the same ratio of three parts oil to one part acid.

Instead of a New Year's Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:10:00 +0000  

New Years' resolutions ---lose 20 pounds by Feb. 4th. Run a marathon in May. Bench press 200 pounds by April. Each year we set ourselves up for failure. How many times have you put yourself on a "diet" only to fall off the wagon a few days later?

I know in my lifetime I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds by doing just that. Starving myself, eating only cabbage soup, sitting in a sauna with a sweat suit on----and I did lose weight, at first. There are many different and credible diet programs available, many of them are nutritionally legitimate, most of them work; if you stay with the program. But how many of us can stay on a regimented series of prescribed food choices and recipes?

We lead busy lives, we are in a hurry---we do not have time to DIET. Mark Sturgell,, suggests that instead of a "die-it" we go on a "live-it". Have you ever thought about the word diet? Why would we want to commit ourselves to something that has the word die in it? We want to live—and live well. Let that be our resolution and our theme for the year. How can we "live-it" this day, this week, this month?

Try to do one thing that will make your life better. Choose just one thing: make an extra trip up the stairs, park in the very last spot in the parking lot, use whole wheat bread to make your sandwich, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at supper, include a vegetable with your breakfast, EAT breakfast---you know what to do---just pick one.

Do not overwhelm yourself and sabotage your good intent. Do one good thing and be proud of yourself .David Horsager, author of The Daily Edge, suggests that 90 days is the amount of time necessary to make or break a habit. He also suggests asking yourself, How? How do you plan to achieve this goal? He states that asking How? three times will get to the crux of the matter. I am making a pledge to make ½ my plate vegetables at lunch and supper for 90 days.

How am I going to do that? #1 how: I will pack my lunch. #2 how: I will stock the freezer and cabinet both at work and at home with frozen and low sodium canned vegetables. #3 how: I will make sure I have a few raw veggies washed and ready to pop in my mouth in those first few "hungry" minutes after I arrive home from work.

What are you going to do? For more good information, recipes, articles, Pinterest and videos to help you achieve your goal visit: the University of Illinois Extension site:

Crustless Spinach Quiche (watch the video by clicking on the youtube icon on the U of I Extension webpage)

5 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
4 ounces feta cheese
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons margarine
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 box (10-ounce) frozen spinach, thawed and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Spray a quiche or 10-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except spinach.
  4. Stir in spinach.
  5. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until slightly browned on top.

FromRecipes for Diabetesby University of Illinois Extension

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy

Presents! Fri, 22 Dec 2017 12:03:00 +0000 Visons of sugarplums dancing in your head? Or are you Yule-tired? Think just one more cookie with that cup of eggnog is just what you need before your long winter's nap? Maybe not—maybe the yule-tiredness comes from too much of everything. We all want to enjoy the holidays but I often hear people say—I just want it to be over! We work and stress and make ourselves sick.

Let's not—let's take these next three precious days and enjoy our holiday. How you ask? Well, maybe ….

It's all about the presents……

Give yourself a present. Sit by your tree for 10 minutes each morning before everyone else wakes up. Breathe deeply, let it out slowly and count your blessings.

Be present to the service folks you encounter throughout your day. Smile and thank the harried delivery person. Leave a note for your mail carrier—and maybe a cookie or two.

Forget the last minute presents. Do not be tempted to run out and buy more presents because your tree looks "skimpy" or to "even up" the gifts. Five years from now they won't remember who got what.

Present healthy alternatives at your meals. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies—every time you eat.

Live in the present moment. Watch your favorite Christmas movie, go for a walk, read a children's Christmas storybook, listen to the laughter of your family home for the Holidays.

Present yourself with a glass of water every hour or so—it will do wonders for your mood and your waistline.

Give a present to the person behind you at the drive-thru by paying for their order.

Remember that this present, this day ,will not occur again. Make it count, enjoy it, find one thing to help make someone else's day better—and it will make yours better also!

Save on Holiday Groceries Mon, 27 Nov 2017 15:28:00 +0000 I discovered something at our family's Thanksgiving feast…. we made nearly twice as much food as we needed. Many of us are strapped for cash this time of year (insert editorial comment about buying too many presents) and we could use some extra money. Where can we find a few extra dollars? Let's look at our grocery list. Below are some tips for saving at the grocery store during the holidays.

  • Make less—think about what was left at Thanksgiving and plan accordingly for your holiday meals, for example: if you had half of a 13 x 9 pan of dressing left—make a 9 x 9 for Christmas—using only half of the ingredients will save you money
  • Check your pantry and freezer, you might have ingredients left from last year (canned and frozen items will be safe), if spices are fragrant they are fine
  • Swap ingredients, use half margarine and half butter were the recipe calls for either, using half butter will provide ample flavor and half margarine will save money
  • Use less expensive versions of ingredients, for example: nuts pieces rather than halves, canned fruits rather than fresh, chicken rather than veal
  • Try store brands—no one will know the difference
  • Watch for sales on meats and other specialty ingredients either shortly before or after holidays, planning ahead for the weeks after a holiday can save money on regular meals
  • Plan wisely during December—have a meatless day each week, cook breakfast for supper on a busy night, use your slow cooker to avoid the drive through on nights when you are pressed for time

Just a few of these tips can make a difference in your budget—and a healthy budget can reduce stress!

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy!

Pumpkins! Fri, 20 Oct 2017 11:08:00 +0000 Pumpkins—everyone loves them! We smash them from catapults—carve intricate designs into their flesh—tell stories about them in folklore—Cinderella even rode in one—and Peter-Peter Pumpkin eater put his wife into one---but that's a whole other story…it's pumpkin season. We see them heaped into huge boxes at the grocery store—piled into wagons at roadside stands and growing in the fields as we drive along our country roads. Illinois is pumpkin country. In fact, we raise more pumpkins than any other state—yes, here where corn is king the lowly pumpkin would surely be a prince!

We love their unique shapes vibrant or dusty colors—they make beautiful decorations. But their beauty is more than skin deep. Pumpkins are a "super food"—low calorie and packed with nutrition. I cup of cooked pumpkin contains 49 calories and is a major source of an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body.

Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protect against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.

Wow—if that isn't enough to make you want to try it then consider how versatile it is. Way beyond pumpkin pie, the pulp of this fleshy squash can be used in sloppy joes and savory soups, dried for fruit leather and cut into chunks and roasted. If you don't want to scoop out the stringy seeds and cut up the shell simply buy canned pumpkin. It is just as healthy and chances are it came from Illinois, in fact Morton Illinois is the "Pumpkin Capital of the World",

Impress your friends with these fun facts:

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.

Find more info, recipes and more at:

Why use your slow cooker? Sat, 30 Sep 2017 10:52:00 +0000  

Ah, Fall—it's finally here! Crisp bright days followed by cool nights—football, leaves, pumpkins, slow cookers. Slow cookers? Yes—cool days make us crave comfort foods—warm stews, roasts, and casseroles. It is so nice to walk into the house after a long day to the fragrant smells of supper!

Do you use your slow cooker? Why not? Afraid it's not safe? Too much trouble to drag it out of the cabinet and find a recipe?

You really should try using your slow cooker, here's why:

  • One pot –less prep, less mess
  • Use cheaper cuts of meat—slow cooking tenderizes otherwise tough cuts
  • Food cooks without fats and oil
  • Rely less on prepackaged convenience foods

Here are a few tips to help make your slow cooker one of your favorite kitchen appliances:

  • For easy clean up, spray the inside of the crock with a non-stick cooking spray, before adding ingredients.
  • When cooking meat or poultry, the water or stock level should almost cover the ingredients to ensure effective heat transfer throughout the crock. Water or liquid is necessary to create steam.
  • Place vegetables on the bottom the slow cooker.
  • Fill the crock to a minimum of 1/2 full and a maximum of 2/3 full.

Food safety

  • Thaw frozen meat, poultry, and other ingredients in the refrigerator before adding to the slow cooker.
  • New research conducted by USDA FSIS indicates it is safe to cook large cuts of meat and poultry in a slow cooker. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and safety guidelines.
  • Preheating the crock before adding ingredients or cooking on the highest setting for the first hour, will ensure a rapid heat start. Either will shorten the time foods are in the temperature danger zone.
  • Do not lift the lid or cover unnecessarily during the cooking cycle. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10–15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
  • Use an accurately calibrated food thermometer to test food doneness. The thermometer should be inserted in the thickest part away from bone. Safe internal temperatures: USDA FSIS
  • Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the crock. Either consume it immediately or place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately. It is not recommended or safe to reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Heat leftovers in the oven, microwave, or stovetop, until it reaches 165°F and then add to a preheated slow cooker. In the slow cooker, food should remain hot for serving, 140°F or above, as measured by a calibrated food thermometer.


  • Most cookers have two or more settings. Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. Certainly, foods will cook faster on high than on low. However, for all-day cooking or for less-tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting.
  • If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it's safe to cook foods on low the entire time — if you're leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited.
  • While food is cooking and once it's done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.

Power Outage

  • If you are not at home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw away the food even if it looks done.
  • If you are at home, finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on.
  • When you are at home, and if the food was completely cooked before the power went out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.

Slow Cooker Test for Safety

A safe slow cooker, cooks slow enough for unattended cooking, yet fast enough to keep food out of the bacterial danger zone (above 40◦F to below 140◦F). In the danger zone, bacteria grows very rapidly. Food left in the danger zone too long can cause food borne illness. To determine if a slow cooker is safe to use:

1. Fill the slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full of tap water.

2. Heat on a low setting for 8 hours with the lid on.

3. Check the water temperature with an accurate food thermometer. Do this quickly because the temperature drops 10–15 degrees when the lid is raised or removed.

4. The temperature of the water should be 185°F. Temperatures below 185°F would indicate the slow cooker does not heat food high enough or fast enough to avoid potential food safety problems; the slow cooker is unsafe and should be replaced.

USDA slow cooker safety.htm


Try these recieps: