Know How, Know More Connecting You with Your Food, Farmers and Community Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Sodium: Beyond the Basics Wed, 14 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000

The DASH Diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

High blood pressure (or hypertension) increases risk of heart events, such as heart attack and stroke. Learn more about the DASH Diet from the National Institutes of Health. There are also phone apps to help you follow and track your progress with the recommended daily foods.

Sodium v. Salt

Learn more about sodium in this video, and ways to reduce sodium in the diet. 

Sodium Trivia

Reading food labels is the best way to know how much sodium is in a serving of different foods.  Think you know how much are in foods?  Try your hand at Sodium Trivia.

Lower Sodium Meal Plan

Simple swaps can reduce sodium to the recommended amount, below 2,300mg per day.  Download the handout for the post to see an example menu, and read about ways to meal plan, shop, and cook to reduce sodium.

Recipe Ideas

Try these lower-sodium recipes!  Watch the recipe videos with step-by-step instructions, and find the recipes for printing in the handout.

Be Reminded Of New "Know How, Know More"

At the top right of our blog, enter your email to get notifications when a new post is out.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Orchids: Give Them a Try! Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:25:00 +0000 There really is no more beautiful indoor plant than the orchid in my opinion, but I hear from many gardeners that they are scared to grow orchids, which is a shame! In reality, they shouldn't be scared. Orchids are long-lasting flowering plants that make great houseplants and they're really not that hard to grow!

First off, let's explain the various orchid types that you could grow indoors:

Phalaenopsis species-The moth orchid is really the most adapted for growing in your home. This orchid has long arching sprays of colorful flowers that begin flowering in winter or early spring and remain showy for several months. These require less light that some of the other orchids and flower in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from pink to white. Don't be confused by the new "blue" Phalaenopsis orchid. It is not really blue, but simply has blue dye in the rooting media that is taken up by the plant.

Cattleya species: Cattleyas are known for their use in corsages and for having a flower that can last from two to six weeks. They generally flower only once per year during the spring or fall. They require twice the amount of light of moth orchids to perform well in the home, so they're not necessarily you're easiest choice.

Dendrobium species: Dendrobium orchids produce long, graceful sprays of flowers that are typically white, lavender or a combination of the two during the fall and winter. Flowers may remain open three to four weeks.

Growing Requirements

Most orchids require the same temperature range as other houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70's, and nighttime lows of 55-65 degrees F will keep orchids growing perfectly happily. A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal.

In terms of watering, once a week is about right for most orchids. Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill an orchid, so only water orchids once the potting media has dried out slightly. Orchids are typically planted in a well-drained media, like a bark mixture, that allows water to easily drain away. Don't forget the check the container though to make sure excess water is not building up at the bottom. Many orchid containers do not have a drainage hole. For many gardeners, a few ice cubes placed on top of the bark media once a week does the job well for many orchids.

Re-blooming Orchids

Getting the orchid to rebloom is the area many gardeners have questions about. Providing orchids with warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night (about a 10-15 degree difference is ideal) helps to simulate seasonal cues that the plant needs to start blooming again. If the temperature in your home stays relatively consistent, you will likely have difficulty in re-blooming orchids.

I typically put my orchids out on my deck for the summer in a bright, but still slightly shaded location, so that they naturally get that fluctuation of night and day temperatures. Then before the temperature dips below 40 degrees, I bring them inside for the winter. The pots I brought inside this October were loaded with flower spikes starting!

Some resources will also suggest that during the month or so that you're trying to get the plant to re-bloom, you should restrict watering to just once every two weeks and allow the top 2 inches of growing medium to dry thoroughly before watering again.

Though a little extra manipulation is needed to get your orchids to rebloom, that moment of pure excitement when you realize a new flower is on its way is definitely worth it!

Watch more about tips and tricks for growing orchids here!

Winter Feeding of Your Bees Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:56:00 +0000 With the recent long period of below normal temperatures, have you thought about whether your hive of honey bees is needing food? Now may be a great time to give your bees supplemental food or a winter feeding.

Honey bees do not hibernate during the winter, but instead consume food reserves to stay warm throughout the winter months. When temperatures within the hive drop below 50 deg. F, honey bees form a cluster with the bees at the center consuming honey and vibrating their muscles to generate heat for the cluster. As these bees tire, fresh bees move into the center to replace them. The is a constant process for the cluster of bees until the hive temperature reaches that magic number of 50. When bees are in their cluster, they only move up and down within the hive, so a cluster can starve to death even though there maybe frames of honey off to the side of them. This is an important reason for having a supplemental source of food at the top of the hive for the bees to find during long periods of very cold temperatures.

I like to use bee candy to winter feed my bee hives. Bee candy can be placed on the top of the frames in the top of the hive or it can be poured into the inside of an inner cover (without a central hole) and placed on the uppermost hive body. For me, bee candy is a sugar candy with pollen substitute added. This mixture is a complete nutritional food source for the bees - energy, protein, minerals and vitamins.

Bee candy is rather easy to make. You need the following equipment: two wax paper lined cookie pans, a candy thermometer, a pot, mixing spoon, kitchen scales and stove. The ingredients are: water, granulated sugar, and dry pollen substitute. Any dry pollen substitute may be used - BeePro, FeedBee, MegaBee, or UltraBee.

Here is the recipe that I use-


  • 4.5 pounds of granulated sugar (4 lbs granulated sugar = 9 cups)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 pound of dry pollen substitute


  • Add sugar and water to a pot with a candy thermometer attached to the side (keep the thermometer off the bottom of the pot).
  • Place the pot on the stove.
  • Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, while stirring constantly until it reaches the temperature of 225 deg. F. (It is OK if the mixture temperature gets a little above 225 deg. F)
  • Remove pot from the heat and quickly stir in the dry pollen substitute. Stir till thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour bee candy mixture into the lined cookie pans.
  • Cool overnight.
  • Place in hives or store in Ziploc bags in refrigerator for later use.

Only open your bee hive to install the bee candy on days when the outside temperature is about 50 deg. F.


Gimme Green! Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:17:00 +0000 Are you pining to grow something green, smell something green, see something green or taste something green- as if it were already spring?

The green scratch for all those cravings is within your reach! Microgreens are a super easy solution to help alleviate winter blues. Have you tried growing or eating them before?

Microgreens are like a toddler plant- somewhere between the infant sprout stage and the preschooler 'baby green' stage readily found in most salad sections of supermarkets. Sprouts need dark, wet conditions to grow, and daily rinsing to remain edible. They are the newly germinated seeds, and the entire plant, roots and all, are eaten. On the other hand, microgreens have been growing for 7 to 21 days since first germinating; and already have true leaves on their small stems. The stems and leaves are eaten, tender and packed with flavor!

A gardener will grow anything just to see something green, (which in my book is reason enough; is there a problem with that?) but others often suppose there should be common sense when gardening- a rationale- a purpose if you will……

So, despite being a handy excuse for gardeners to plant seeds in January, microgreens are actually practical too. They are delicious little burst of flavor, tender, versatile and packed with vitamins and nutrients.

It's almost too good to be true, but they happen to be easy to grow, also! Here are simple steps for success:


A growing container. A truly great one is the plastic clamshell containers with lids that the spinach or strawberries purchased at the store come in. Container should have drainage in bottom.

Good potting soil (do not use garden soil, it is too heavy)

Seeds- many, many kinds work. Radish, cabbage, beet, arugula, mustard green, chia, broccoli, cilantro, basil…. all great! Only three things to remember here

-germination rate should be about the same for seeds grown in same container

-larger seeds like sunflower or peas work better when pre-soaked

-specialty microgreen seeds are found in catalogs, on-line, health food stores or some super markets. Regular seed packets work also, but stick with organic versions of those to eliminate possible exposure to anti-fungal agents.

Here are the steps- easy as one-two–three-


  1. Place 1 ½ to 2 inches of soil in container
  2. Pre-moisten soil- should be damp but not soggy
  3. Sow seeds generously- larger seeds should be almost touching
  4. Sprinkle with soil to cover- press lightly for soil contact
  5. Mist lightly using water bottle
  6. Cover


  1. Place in sunny location
  2. Keep cover on and mist two times daily to keep moist
  3. When seedlings are about ½ inch high, remove cover. Cover can now be re-purposed to place under container.
  4. Water from bottom, once a day or so- keep soil moist
  5. Re-position trays as needed. If location receives strong sunrays, may need to use burlap, screen or other material to create light shade


  1. 10-21 days later, when plant has developed first true set of leaves
  2. Use scissors to cut plant just above soil level
  3. Rinse

Now- enjoy! They can be used in salads, tuna sandwiches, fancy sandwiches, dressings, pastas, omelets, soups, cheese dishes…your imagination will guide you. Eaten just alone is a treat honestly- the flavor of the adult veggie or herb really comes through in surprising and delightful ways.

Green is good, oh so literally!

Recipe Rehab: Healthier Soups Sun, 31 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 January is Soup Month, and a great time of year to warm up with a bowl of your favorite soup. Or try a new recipe this month. Many soups are packed with protein, veggies, and grains, making them a great one-pot meal option on a busy night. You can easily adapt your recipes to make a healthier soup too.

1. Choose reduced-sodium or salt-free broth or stocks. Broths and stocks in soups add a flavorful base liquid, but can also add a lot of sodium. Starting with a lower-sodium liquid is helpful in making a healthier soup. Using more herbs and spices in the soup adds flavor without salt.

2. Add more vegetables. Some recipes for soup may say to use a certain amount of vegetables, such as one cup of chopped carrots or one stalk of celery. If you feel comfortable going off the recipe, add more. Maybe three stalks of celery, instead of one. Not only does this add more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, it fills up the soup and makes it feel heartier.

3. Use evaporated milk in place of cream. Whereas broth-based soups tend to be high in sodium, creamy soups tend to be high in fat. With less water, evaporated milk provides a familiar flavor and thickness to soups with less fat.

Zesty Tomato Soup (serves 4)

1 can (14.5 ounces) no-salt added diced tomatoes
1 cup roasted red peppers, drained
1 cup evaporated milk, fat-free
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, rinsed and chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1. Combine tomatoes and red peppers in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
2. Put tomato mixture in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. Add evaporated milk, garlic powder and pepper. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add basil and serve.

Nutritional analysis per 1 cup: 94 calories, 0g fat, 231mg sodium, 5g protein

Recipe from University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, Zesty Tomato Soup
Source: SNAP-Ed Connection

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth,MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Recyling Your Real Christmas Tree Fri, 29 Dec 2017 09:07:00 +0000
In the Champaign County area, you have two choices for tree recycling: the Urbana Landscape Recycling Center and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District will take your undecorated trees at three of their preserves. For more information, call the Champaign County Forest Preserve at (217) 586-3360.

In the Macon County area, people can drop off their undecorated trees at the Macon County Composting Facility. For more information, call the Facility at (217) 425-4505.

Another option every year is the Christmas tree recycling effort at Lake Shelbyville, which is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Iillinois Dept. of Natural Resources and area volunteers. The collected trees are used for fish breeding structures at the Lake. For more information on the Corps of Engineers fish habitat project, contact Cory Donnel at (217) 774-3951, ext 7001.

If you are the Do-It-Yourself type and want it recycle it on your own property, you have options as well.
  1. You can cut the branches off the tree and use them for mulch around perennials in your landscaping. The remaining trunk can be use for firewood in an OUTDOOR fire pit, or chipped for mulch.
  2. The undecorated tree can set up in the backyard and decorated with strings of popcorn or berries and suet to be used as a winter feeder for the birds.This is a great activity for families with children.
  3. If you are a landowner with a fishing pond, you can sink the undecorated tree as a breeding site for fish in your pond.
Give your old fresh cut Christmas tree a new use - recycle it. Don't put it in the landfill.]]>
Growing Succulents: Beyond the Basics Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:27:00 +0000 I'll admit it. I have a succulent addiction! They're everywhere at my house and I think you'll enjoy them just as much as I do. If you've never grown succulents before, I'll walk you through how to plant a succulent container garden here.

By definition, a succulent is a plant that has thick fleshy leaves or stems adapted to storing water. Succulent is a very broad term that can include many, many plants. Some of the common succulent plants you may be familiar with are hens and chicks, jade plants, aloe plants, or holiday cacti, just to name a few.

Why Grow Succulents?

  • They need minimal watering. For a gardener that works or travels a lot, succulents are a great choice. They thrive on neglect and dry soil. In fact, the easiest way to kill a succulent plant is by watering too much.
  • They have few disease and pest problems. Besides the occasional mealybug problem, there are usually very problems that pop up on succulents.
  • Containers can be taken outdoors for the summer and kept as houseplants for the winter. My deck is full of succulent container pots for the summer and then before the temperatures dip below freezing, I bring those pots in and keep them as houseplants.
  • They have interesting flowers and plant forms. The variety of colors, shapes, and patterns that are available in succulent plants is like nothing else.

Succulent Container Maintenance

Succulents are very low maintenance plants, but there are a few factors to consider.


If growing succulents indoors, a southern or western facing window would have the most ideal bright light for these plants that prefer a high light location. Many succulents will thrive under incandescent or fluorescent supplemental lighting if the ideal lighting situation is not available.

When temperatures are above freezing, these container gardens can be enjoyed outdoors in a full sun location.


Most cacti and succulents can adapt to wide fluctuations of temperature because that is what occurs in their native dessert habitats. It is naturally very warm in the day and cold at night in the desert.

Exposure to temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees F for long periods is not harmful to succulent plants. In fact, many desert plants will initiate flower buds when grown in a cool, dry, well-lit location. Nighttime temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees F are suitable to stimulate flower bud formation.


The amount of water needed for a container garden really depends on the following:

1) the time of year

2) the size of the plant

3) the type of potting soil

4) the size of pot

As a result, these plants can't be watered on a set schedule because of those varying factors. In other words, you can't set an alarm to water your succulent containers every Monday. Watering no matter what the conditions are, can lead to easily overwatering the container.

A few tips for watering:

  • Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill a succulent or cacti plant, so prior to watering, check the soil with your finger to judge the amount of moisture still left.
  • If the soil still feels moist, don't water yet. Wait until the soil completely dries out before watering again. •When watering, soak the container thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain away.
  • Your container should provide adequate drainage so that the roots are not standing in water.


Feed plants monthly with a standard houseplant fertilizer, only during the active growing season which is usually between March and October.

Watch it!

For a more in-depth look at how to plant a succulent container garden, click on the image above to check out this video tutorial.

Learn More!
Read all about Succulent Containers in this printable two page sheet.]]>