May 21, 2013
Illinois official spring hunting season is here. No, I am not talking about wild turkeys....I am talking about mushroom. THE mushroom....the great MOREL mushroom.
The timing of the spongy fungus' appearance, instead, is the most unusual aspect, with the dry and earliest-ever season last year has been followed this year by one of the latest and wettest in memory.
While the height of the season is typically April, a few can also be found in late March in southern Illinois and the last of the harvest disappears in northern Illinois in early May. Then it's over. This year however, the season is at least two to three weeks behind average, possibly lasting beyond the month of May. So, for the avid 'shroom hunters out there, grab your walking stick, a compass, and a sack and head into the woods to search for this fungal delicacy!
Over the past week I have received numerous phone calls asking about morel prep, storage, and preservation, so I thought this was a timely topic to blog about. So, Ill speak a bit on these topics incase anyone else has similar wonders in the world of mushrooms.
Although many edible species of fungi can be found year-around in Illinois, the morel mushroom is clearly the most popular and sought-after of all wild mushrooms in the state. These mushrooms have a distinctive appearance – a long, tube-shaped stem topped by a honeycomb-pitted cone. These should be easily distinguishable; however, you can never be too safe! There are roughly 250 species of wild mushrooms that can cause illness or death. If you ingest one of these dangerous counterparts, you may experience mild stomachache to severe physical distress-including vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and loss of coordination. Notify your doctor immediately if you suspect mushroom poisoning of any kind.
To avoid mushroom poisoning take these safety tips:
For appropriate storage, maintaining freshness and flavor, refer to these storage tips from University of Alaska Cooperative Extension:
Not only delicious seasonal treat, but a nutritious one as well! A fat free, cholesterol free, low sodium food, these 'shrooms are also an excellent source of vitamin D, copper and iron. These nutrients aid in calcium retention and energy metabolism in the body, not to mention red blood cell function.
A cup of fresh morel meats contains a little more than 59 g of water, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Calories for a cup of fresh morels total 20. That cup of morels contains about 3.4 g of carbohydrate and 2.1 g of protein.
So many tummy tickling recipes exist for morels. Their flavor pairs well with spring things, like peas, asparagus, spinach, and sweet onions. The most common preparation method for this fungi food is also the simplest: After soaking them in lightly salted water for 10 minutes to remove any insects, simply slice and fry them in melted butter until browned. Another version involves draining the browned mushrooms, dipping them in milk and flour or an egg-milk mixture and cracker crumbs, and frying them.
May 13, 2013
A nationally recognized observance created by the League of American Bicyclists, May is National Bike Month and this week, May 16-20, is Bike to Work Week; May 17th is Bike-to-Work Day. Whether you have a classic Huffy or a fancy Trek, there is no better time to dust off the ole' two-seater and use it to get to work. And you'll kill two birds with one stone; as you side step the carpool you'll be getting some low-impact, high-result cardio exercise. A win-win situation if I've ever heard one!
As we all know, regular exercise is a major factor in reducing/preventing the occurrence of obesity and obesity related chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. The USDA suggests that adults get at least two and a half hours each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level or one hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level. Either of these are achievable through cycling! Cycling is a great form of exercise for many reasons. One of the many advantages about riding a bike (or taking a spin class) is that you can, for the most part, go at your own pace. You control the gears on your bike and can push yourself to what makes sense for you on a particular ride. So whether you are casually commuting or if you are vigorously training for a race, cycling is a customizable activity.
In regards to health benefits, cycling has incredible positive benefits for burning calories and improving heart health. Some of most beneficial relate to heart health, including improved blood flow to the heart, lowered blood pressure, and increased muscle strength. The British Medical Association found that riding your bike only 20 miles a week could reduce your chance of coronary heart disease by as much as 50 percent. Not to mention those concerned with weight/body composition, cycling aids in energy expenditure (calorie burning), bone strengthening, and stress level reducing.
And for those who may be concerned about the rewards-vs.-risks of cycling, research found that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the potential risks associated with air pollution and accidents. Furthermore, the study suggested that if you switched from driving your car to work to cycling, you would add between three and 14 months to your life. The most important health benefit of the activity is that it increases overall life expectancy, so the more you bike, the longer you'll live!
May 8, 2013
Stress relief: Researchers found that just 30 minutes of gardening fought stress better than other leisure activities.
Time for self: Trade your iPhone for I-Time! Gardening can enhance your mood and make you feel happier – it's therapeutic.
Brain health: Researchers found a 36 percent to 47 percent lower risk for dementia in 60- to 70-year-olds who gardened regularly for years.
Healthy food: When you plant fruits and vegetables, you will likely eat more of them. Eating meals that are filled with fruits and vegetables contributes to a healthier life. We see how gardening with kids enhances their intake; it will for adults, too.
Get active: Gardening allows you to stretch your body and provides a regular time to get outside to tend to your garden – purposeful exercise.
Family time: Time spent planting and maintaining a garden promotes family bonding. Learning together or from one another increases communication. Also, children are taught the taught the value of hard work and responsibility, healthy eating, as well as physical activity. Not to mention the fun skills they will learn!
If you don't have a yard or area to plant in ground, make a container garden out of a large plastic bin, or plant in hanging baskets. A basket or pot of strawberries or lettuce will produce through the season and remind her of you. It is a perfect way to help her improve her health.
Other gardening gift ideas include:
• A whimsical watering can
• A garden hat, gloves
• Seed packets
• Zum soap
Here is a recipe to treat the mother in your life-a light and refreshing parfait made from GARDENED ingredients. Or, after planting all Sunday long, let her kick back and enjoy this yummy delight.
Serves 4. Active time: 30 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes
3/4 cup sweet white wine, such as sauterne or sweet Riesling
1/2 cup honey
2 ripe but firm nectarines, thinly sliced
2 cups quartered hulled strawberries
1/2 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1. Combine wine and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 6 to 10 minutes.
2. Combine nectarines and strawberries in a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of the wine syrup. Refrigerate the remaining 1/4 cup syrup for at least 10 minutes to cool.
3. Beat cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold or beat in yogurt and the cooled wine syrup just until combined.
4. Spoon a scant 1/4 cup yogurt cream into each of 4 dessert glasses or bowls and top with about 1/2 cup of the fruit mixture. Repeat with another layer of each. Cover and refrigerate the fruit and yogurt cream in separate containers for up to 4 hours.
Nutrition facts per serving: 352 calories; 12g fat (7g sat, 3g mono); 41mg cholesterol; 53g carbohydrate; 34g added sugars; 7g protein; 3g fiber; 35mg sodium; 303mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (82% daily value).
Source: Adapted from Eating Well Inc.
April 23, 2013
In a world where everything is operating via technology and face to face contact is less and less, its important to get back to basics and step a ways from time to time. Next week is Screen Free Week, a week when students and their parents turn off the TV, video games, computers, smart phones, and tablets and find healthier ways to have fun.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf), kids ages 8–18 now spend, on average, a whopping 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV. Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun. That's just the time they spend in front of a screen for entertainment. It doesn't include the time they spend on the computer at school for educational purposes or at home for homework.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. That doesn't have to mean joining a sports team. Walking the dog, riding a bike around the block, and dancing in the living room all count as physical activity.
CDC created an interactive infographic (http://makinghealtheasier.org/getmoving) to inform parents about how much screen time kids are experiencing on average each day. This infographic also offers physical activity ideas and tips for parents on limiting entertainment screen time.
If we cut back on entertainment screen time for our kids – and for ourselves – we can make more time for physical activity and help reduce both childhood and adult obesity.
Get back to the "old days" and spend some extra quality time in the yard playing catch, or climbing on the play ground. Heck, even walking to the local Tastee Freeze to get an ice cream is a fun spring alternative (with a brisk walk, you earned that ice cream!) I don't have any children of my own, but my fiance and will support this practice, no matter how much we are determined to finish Desperate Housewives on our Netflix. Time away from the screen, interacting with your family is time well spent!
April 8, 2013
I for one have feared the technology revolution. From seeing children constantly connected to a screen of a sort, to not knowing how to drive without a satellite directing me, to knowing people's credentials, family tree, and what they ate for breakfast without even meeting them...it's all just a little outrageous to me. Yet, while I live dreading the day face to face conversations are obsolete, I also value the benefit social networking offers. I mean, how else am I going to meet people on the other side of the world?! I can't afford to travel the globe.
Whether a website, blog, app, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter account, people and organizations are connecting online. This makes social media a great source of keeping in touch whether for business or pleasure, and can even serve as a great tool to help manage your health.
One such way is that social media can helps you stay informed on the latest health, nutrition, and exercise information – many health professionals and organizations regularly update their sites with links to articles, videos, and more. By "following" or "liking" pages, you can get new tips and tricks to try. Simply seeing updates also helps keep health goals on the brain. As a bonus, these sites often have contests and sweepstakes for prizes, which further serves to boost motivation. You can even go mobile, with many sites having apps for smartphones.
Another way social media supports healthy efforts is the camaraderie it offers. Research shows that changing one's lifestyle is easier when a person has social support. Hello, has anyone heard of Weight Watchers? That's a prime example. Consider joining online health forums if you haven't already; these are a great way to connect with others in similar situations and compare notes. Many times you can also get in touch with doctors, nurses, dietitians, and other professionals to get questions answered. Another way to use social media to meet health goals is to create a sense of accountability. No one wants to look like a "failure" when people are watching. Update your Facebook status, send out a few tweets, or write a blog entry with your plans for the day – it might not be so easy to plop down on the couch if you know someone will ask about your after-dinner walk.
WARNING: social media is highly addictive. Enjoy its benefits, yet, be careful not to spend too much time online. Keep personal interactions a part of your healthy lifestyle too...workout with others, discuss your struggles and success, and make dinner dates to try healthy recipes.So, like I said, I have conformed to keep plugged in to the world, along with the masses, I can be found on:
March 11, 2013
March is National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created by the American Dietetic Association. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This is a great time to take responsibility for one's own health and wellbeing by feeding yourself right! These days it's hard to separate food, diet and nutrition fact and fiction; all the marketing ploys, clever phrases, wishful thinking, pseudo-science, media hype and celebrity testimonials don't help. To help you take control of your own nutritional peace of mind, here are some common and enduring food myths debunked:
Myth: Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than frozen or canned.
Fact: Research shows frozen and canned foods are as nutritious as fresh. In fact,
since lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body after it has been processed,
canned tomatoes, corn and carrots are sometimes better nutrition choices.
Myth: Body weight is a reliable indicator of a healthful diet.
Fact: No two people have the same body composition. The measure of a
person's diet and your overall health is a combination of factors, including weight.
Myth: Eating carbohydrates causes weight gain.
Fact: Calories cause weight gain. Excess carbohydrates are no more fattening than calories from
any source. Despite the claims of low-carb diet books, a high-carbohydrate diet does not promote
fat storage by enhancing insulin resistance.
Myth: Eating just before bedtime is fattening.
Fact: What you eat, not when, makes the difference; calories have the same effect on the body
no matter when they are consumed. Evidence does suggest that eating regular meals, especially
breakfast, helps promote weight loss by reducing fat intake and minimizing impulsive snacking.
Myth: Eating sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin in the body. Since foods that are high in sugar are often
high in calories, overeating those foods can lead to weight gain. Research shows people who are
overweight and obese are at increased risk for diabetes.
Myth: Occasionally following a fad diet is a safe way to quickly lose weight.
Fact: Many fad diets are developed by people with no science or health background so some fad
diets can even be considered harmful to people with certain health problems. When trying to lose
weight, consult a registered dietitian.
Nutrition: It's a Matter of Fact
February 15, 2013
Last week's entry began the discussion about assuming responsibility for one's own health. In lieu of Heart Health Month, I acknowledged the impact that heart related conditions have on the lives of Americans. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are two things in OUR control that contribute to cardiac related deaths.
So when it comes to cholesterol, reports from the CDC find:
So, what does this mean to YOU? It means, find out your numbers to see if YOU are a statistic.
The National Institute of Health suggests everyone age 20 and older should have his or her cholesterol measured at least once every five years. A blood test will reveal levels of the following:
Total Cholesterol Level
|Less than 200mg/dL||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|240mg/dL and above||High|
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level
LDL Cholesterol Category
|Less than 100mg/dL||Optimal|
|100-129mg/dL||Near optimal/above optimal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very High|
HDL (Good) Cholesterol Level
HDL Cholesterol Category
|Less than 40 mg/dL||A major risk factor for heart disease|
|40–59 mg/dL||The higher, the better|
|60 mg/dL and higher||Considered protective against heart disease|
A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels that YOU can control! That's the good news!
February 8, 2013
|Blood Pressure Level (mmHg)|
|Normal||< 120||and||< 80|
|High Blood Pressure|
|Stage 1 Hypertension||140–159||or||90–99|
|Stage 2 Hypertension||160||or||100|
Also, I am hosting a program, Meals for a Healthy Heart, through the Pekin Park District on February 19th and 26th. Sign up here! http://web.extension.illinois.edu/units/event.cfm?UnitID=476&EventID=60473
To view the video "CDC Vital Signs: Getting Blood Pressure Under Control," visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOxQyO-Sw-g.
February 1, 2013
February already? Seems like just yesterday it was January...
For the people that immediately think Valentine's Day when they think of February, you may also think chocolate and candy when you think Valentine's. I know I do! It's hard not to when the store shelves are piled high with these festively packaged sweets. Additionally, February is also heart health month! Read this great article from my colleague, highlighting the importance of heart health http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/news/news28658.html.
How does this all tie together? Chocolate actually supports heart health! How can this be? This article from The Cleveland Clinic explains this good news.
Chocolate has gotten a lot of media coverage in recent years because it's believed that it may help protect your cardiovascular system. The reasoning being that the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids.
Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power.
Antioxidants are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke. If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals. For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls.
Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.
These plant chemicals aren't only found in chocolate. In fact, a wide variety of foods and beverages are rich in flavonols. These include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine.
Are all types of chocolate healthy?
Before you grab a chocolate candy bar or slice of chocolate cake, it's important to understand that not all forms of chocolate contain high levels of flavanols.
Cocoa naturally has a very strong, pungent taste, which comes from the flavanols. When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste. The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost.
Most commercial chocolates are highly processed. Although it was once believed that dark chocolate contained the highest levels flavanols, recent research indicates that, depending on how the dark chocolate was processed, this may not be true. The good news is that most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates. But for now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).
What about all of the fat in chocolate?
You may be surprised to learn that chocolate isn't as bad for you as once believed.
The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. You may know that saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
But, research shows that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Although palmitic acid does affect cholesterol levels, it only makes up one-third of the fat calories in chocolate. Still, this does not mean you can eat all the dark chocolate you'd like.
First, be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. Watch out for those extra ingredients that can add lots of extra fat and calories. Second, there is currently no established serving size of chocolate to help you reap the cardiovascular benefits it may offer, and more research is needed in this area. However, we do know that you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in a while.
So, for now, enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e.g., 1 ounce) a few times per week, and don't forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.
January 25, 2013
1/29 Maximizing Kitchen Appliances-Slow Cookers! – 2-3 pm Tazewell County Extension Office –1505 Valle Vista Blvd Pekin, IL. Cost: $2.
1/30 Maximizing Kitchen Appliances-Slow Cookers! – 6 pm at McDonough County Extension Office –3022 W Jackson, Macomb, IL. Cost: $2.
1/31 Maximizing Kitchen Appliances-Slow Cookers!- 1-2 pm Peoria County Extension Office- 4810 N Sheridan Rd Peoria, IL . Cost: $2
2/4 and 2/7 Meals for A Healthy Heart- 8:30-10:30 am Greater Peoria YMCA- 700 N Fleming Ln Peoria, IL. Cost: $15 individual or $20/couple (includes both sessions.)
2/6 and 2/13 Meals for A Healthy Heart- 11am-1pm at Galesburg Public Library- 40 East Simmons Street
Galesburg, IL . Cost: $14 individual or $20/couple (includes both sessions.)
2/19 and 2/26 Meals for A Healthy Heart- 11am-1pm at the Soldwedel Program Center, adjacent to McNaughton Park off of Route 98. Cost: $15 individual or $20/couple (includes both sessions.)
If you would like further information or marketing material about any of these programs, or if you are interested in hosting a program similar to these, please contact me!
Attached you will find a list of all the programs I currently provide. If you or anyone you know would be interested in any such programs, please let me know!
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