Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Add Some ZIP to your Winter Meals Fri, 15 Feb 2019 10:03:00 +0000 In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

From: In the bleak midwinter by Christina Rossetti

February is dull and dark and cold…..but at the same time full of promise. The earth is beginning to tilt toward the sun and every day the sun shines in February the snow and ice melt---it's true---there are more icicles in February than any other winter month—that is because the ice/snow is melting. Hurray!

Let's turn our attention towards the sun and the promise of warm days ahead. February is American Heart month and with heart disease the leading cause of death in the US, we need to take care of our hearts.

We know we need to eat more fruits and veggies—but this time of year the "fresh" isn't so—and we might be tired of the canned and frozen. How can we add a little zip to our meals?

How about citrus? It is in season right now—the grapefruits and oranges are at their peak in the winter. Yes, I know I always talk about the miles on our produce, but citrus is a bit different. #1—We can't grow citrus here. #2. The thick skin of the fruit protects it from the degradation that we see in other produce. So buy the grapefruit from Texas and the oranges from Florida—great sources of vitamins A & C, folate, potassium and fiber---they are super foods! Some recent studies indicate that citrus can be a good source of cancer fighting phytochemicals.

Think savory—try this:

Grapefruit Vinaigrette: Whisk together 1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons honey mustard and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or parsley; season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over salad, fish or chicken. Use as a marinade, toss over roasted beets and feta cheese in a salad,

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy

For more ideas go to:

Too Much! Mon, 12 Nov 2018 15:25:00 +0000
Food waste is a problem in America, in fact, according to USDA we throw out 40% of the food we bring into our houses. And the perfect example is our holiday table. Laden with twice as much as we need—buckling under the weight of enormous serving platters. Our overindulgence; our thankful abundance is straining both our waistlines and our landfills!

The home cook's mantra is, "I don't want to run out"---well, running out and making twice the amount needed are two very different things. Let's think about this before we cook, before we shop, before we make our grocery lists.
  • Shop your freezer and pantry first; if stored properly frozen and canned foods are good for a year
    • Did you buy cranberries or nuts after the holidays and freeze them?
    • Do you have chicken or turkey broth in your freezer or pantry?
  • Think about portions: do NOT over buy(click on the picture)
Thanksgiving is a Great Time to Start Reducing Food Waste with Friends & Family]]>
FALL is for…foraging? Fri, 26 Oct 2018 17:48:00 +0000  

We often think of springtime when we hear the word, foraging. But actually, fall is a great time to eat nature's bounty! Look around—fall is the harvest season. Trees bear fruit, grains yield seeds, and plants produce starchy tubers. Nature is providing food for the winter, not only to plants and animals but also to us---if we train our eyes. What is "out there"?

Here are some common fall wild foods to try:

  1. Wild Grapes –make jam or juice or eat them raw—look for curly tendrils at the end of the vines
  2. Rose Hips: the fruit of the rose—look for a berry-like fruit on rose bushes---eat them raw or steep for tea, high in vitamin C
  3. Persimmons—best after a frost—hard to separate the pulp from the seeds but so worth it—use in place of pumpkin in recipes
  4. Sumac—fuzzy red berries on the branches of the sumac bush make a lemonade type drink when steeped in water
  5. Wild garlic and onions—taste just like their commercial counterparts—make sure you've harvested the real deal by noting the trademark smell
  6. Sassafras—look for the tree that has 3 distinct types of leaves (oval, mitten, 3 lobed)—the roots make good tea, twigs when steeped yield a citrus type drink and dried leaves are an ingredient in Cajun recipes
  7. Hickory nuts and black walnuts---an acquired taste, a challenge to harvest but many fans will tell you worth the effort
  8. Acorns—yes—the squirrels are on to something—soak and re-soak to diminish bitterness caused by tannin—then roast or add to stews, or eat raw
  9. Hedgehog Mushroom ,Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Lions Mane Mushrooms—please go with an expert, do the research before eating any wild fungus!

So, go outside, tromp in the woods and gather yourself an interesting feast!

Try this recipe—Let me know how you liked it!

Acorn Pancakes

  • One egg
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. honey or sugar
  • ½ cup leached and ground acorns
  • ½cupcornmeal
  • ½ cup whole wheat or white flour
  • 2 tsp. double action baking powder
  • ½ tsp.salt
  • ½cupmilk

Break egg into bowl and add all ingredients, beating to create a batter. If batter is too thick, thin with additional milk. Pour batter onto hot, greased griddle and cook slowly until brown. Flip to brown opposite side. Serve with butter and syrup or jam—and enjoy!

Source:Texas A&M University AgriLifeExtension

Pumpkins! Mon, 08 Oct 2018 17:34:00 +0000 What is a sure sign of fall? You might think: leaves, bonfires, football? No! It's pumpkin spice! The flavoring is everywhere: cereals, cookies, tea, syrup and even cheese and dog treats! Just what is this mixture that America has fallen in love with? A combination of common spices; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves. Sometimes it does not even include pumpkin!

Now, I like pumpkin and I like the spicy scent of pumpkin spice, but I'm not ready to have it mixed in with my cheese. I do, however, like soup, pie, cookies, dip, pudding—you get the picture. This humble squash is high in Vitamins A & C, Potassium and fiber and has no fat or sodium. This super food can be served sweet or savory. You can buy it canned (probably grown right here in Illinois—the country's largest producer of pumpkins) or cook your own.

To cook your own, it's best to buy a "pie pumpkin", my current favorite, thanks to Ken Brooks from Papa's Produce, is Winter's Luxury. It is the best tasting pumpkin I've ever eaten. Jack o lanterns are great for carving (Native Americans dried the flesh and wove them into floor mats), not so much for eating.

Visit your Farmers Market or local pumpkin patch to purchase a cooking pumpkin and get ready for a treat! The taste will be much more subtle and sweeter than the canned variety. When purchasing pumpkins estimate 1 pound of raw pumpkin to yield 1 cup cooked pulp.

To make your own pumpkin puree:

  1. Wash the pumpkin
  2. Cut around the pumpkin top to bottom, leaving you with 2 halves
  3. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp (save the seeds to plant next year and roast a few for snacks)
  4. Cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces
  5. Place cut side down on a parchment or tin foil covered baking pan
  6. Cook 45-60 minutes at 350° or until fork tender
  7. Remove from oven, cool and scrape out pulp, process in a blender or food processor
  8. Use immediately or label and freeze in freezer bags

For more info, recipes and interesting facts go to:

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip

¾ cup canned pumpkin

¾ cup peanut butter

1-4 Tbsp. brown sugar, to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients until well blended and serve with graham crackers, bread, apple slices, celery sticks, etc.

Nutrition Facts (per 1 Tablespoon) - Calories 50 ~ fat 2.5 g ~ calories from fat 20 ~ sodium 25 mg ~ total carbohydrate 7 g ~ fiber 0 g

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Boil seeds in water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt. Place a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250.

Stir after 30 minutes. Bake 1/2 - 1 hour more or until crunchy.

*Squash seeds may also be used.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1 cup whole wheat or oat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt (optional)

2 TBLSP brown sugar

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

¾ cup canned pumpkin

1 ¾ cups skim milk

1 tsp. vanilla

3 TBLSP vegetable oil

4 egg whites slightly beaten

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. In another bowl mix together pumpkin, milk, vanilla, oil and eggs
  3. Add liquid ingredients to dry, mixing only until all dry ingredients are moistened
  4. Spoon batter, by ¼ cup, onto greased preheated skillet
  5. Cook pancakes until bubbly, turn and continue cooking until golden brown
  6. Serve warm with sugar free syrup or warm canned fruit

Nutrition facts ( per 2 pancakes)-calories 210~fat 7g~sodium 300mg~total carbohydrate 30g~ fiber 3 g

Pumpkin Maple Sauce

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1 1/4 cups pumpkin

Mix together until well blended. Heat and serve over pancakes.

Pumpkin Pudding

1 large (5.1 ounces) package instant vanilla pudding mix, sugar free

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

Mix together, then add 1 cup skim milk

Serve with apple slices or whole grain crackers

Pumpkin Soup

1 cup onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 TBSP vegetable oil

2 cups chicken broth

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp ground nutmeg

2 cups evaporated milk (fat free)

2 cups (1 15 oz can of pumpkin)

Saute' onion and garlic in oil

Add broth and seasoning, bring to a boil

Cover and reduce heat, simmer for 15 minutes

Combine evaporated milk and pumpkin then add to soup

Cook stirring constantly until heated—DO NOT BOIL

150 calories, 4.5g fat, 930 mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate

recipes for meals in the field Wed, 19 Sep 2018 15:30:00 +0000 CINNAMON APPLES

1 tablespoon butter

4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch slices 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup maple syrup

Melt butter in large skillet.

Add apples and cinnamon. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until apples are tender.

Stir in syrup and heat through before serving.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving) - Calories 80 ~ fat 2 g ~ calories from fat 18 ~ sodium 15 mg ~ total carbohydrate 17 g ~ fiber 1 g

Presented at Kirby's Kitchen (Piatt Co) for UI Extension, 2014


1 pound ground beef or turkey

1 (28-ounce) jar of spaghetti sauce 1-1/2 cups water

8-ounce spaghetti pasta, broken in half, uncooked 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a 12-inch skillet, cook meat until brown. Drain fat and return meat to pan.

2. Add spaghetti sauce and water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

2. Add spaghetti and stir into sauce.

3. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring

frequently. (Add more water if the mixture appears too dry.)

4. Serve with cheese.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving) - Calories 280 ~ fat 6 g ~ calories from fat 50 ~ sodium 620 mg ~ total carbohydrate 45 g

~ fiber 4 g


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast 1/2 cup prepared pesto

1 large tomato, sliced

1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish.

2. Cut each chicken breast in half. Place in a bowl and toss with pesto. Place chicken into baking dish and cover with foil.

3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chicken reaches a minimum temperature of 165°F.

4. Remove foil. Top chicken evenly with tomato slices and

cheese. Bake uncovered 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving) - Calories 320 ~ fat 16 g ~ calories from fat 144 ~ sodium 500 mg ~ total carbohydrate 5 g ~ fiber 1 g

Presented at Kirby's Kitchen (Piatt Co) for UI Extension, 2015


2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 1/4 cup Fresh Salsa (or bottled)

1 cup black bean dip

4 (8­inch) multigrain flour tortillas

1/2 cup (2 ounces) reduced­fat shredded Monterey Jack cheese Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Combine chicken and salsa in a medium bowl.

3. Spread 1/4 cup black bean dip over each tortilla. Top each evenly with chicken mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese. Stack tortillas in bottom of a 9­inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts.

4. Remove sides of pan. Cut pie into 4 wedges. Serve immediately.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving) - Calories 380 ~ fat 11 g ~

calories from fat 99 ~ sodium 660 mg ~ total carbohydrate 29 g ~

fiber 12 g

Adapted from Cooking Light


6 ounces turkey breakfast sausage

2 1/2 cups frozen bell pepper stir-fry 2 cups water

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped

1/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from heat.

2. Place stir-fry and 2 cups water in a blender; process until smooth.

3. Add stir-fry puree, tomatoes, and barley to sausage in pan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer 10 minutes.

4. Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving) - Calories 145 ~ fat 4 g ~ calories from fat 36 ~ sodium 493 mg ~ total carbohydrate 18 g ~ fiber 3 g


1/4 cup sugar substitute

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup low-fat baking mix

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1 Tbsp. melted trans fat-free


2/3 cup low-fat milk

2 cups peach slices

1 tsp. cinnamon

Nonstick cooking spray

1.Spray slow cooker insert with non-stick cooking spray.

2.Combine sugar substitute, brown sugar, and baking mix.

3.Stir in eggs and extract.

4.Blend in melted margarine and milk.

5.Add peaches and cinnamon.

6.Pour into slow cooker.

7.Cook on Low for 6 hours.

Nutrition Facts: (Amount Per Serving) 180 calories, 4.5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 32g total carbohydrate, 1g dietary fiber.


4 cups small whole wheat bread cubes

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (can use sugar substitute)

1 can apple pie filling (lite)


Mix bread cubes with butter, spices and brown sugar. Chop apples into 1 inch pieces. Grease slow cooker crock. Place bread cube mixture on bottom of crock, top with apples. Cover and cook on high 1-1 ½ hours. Or until apples are tender. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Meals in the Field Wed, 19 Sep 2018 13:40:00 +0000 Combines are beginning to roll and that means long hours and irregular mealtimes for farm families. For generations farm women have packed food into their cars and loaded up the children to share a meal with those working in the field. We must remember that just as we need to fuel and tune up the equipment, the same thing is true for our bodies. We want to make sure we are giving our bodies what they need---no junk in our gas tanks—this time of year we need the high octane super charged stuff!

Here are a few tips to help you keep your family well fed in this hectic season:

  • Food safety
  • Bring hand sanitizer and baby wipes for pre-meal hand "washing"
  • Keep cold things cold (41°) and hot things hot (135°)–use separate coolers
  • Convenience
  • Simple recipes: (see booklet attached)
  • The slow cooker is your friend, one with a locking lid is golden!
  • Think easy to eat, hand held or drinkable soups
  • Semi-homemade is OK—the deli is a quick fix or lunchmeat sandwiches paired with a hot soup
  • Prepackage snacks for in between meals (granola bars, trail mix, washed fruits and hard boiled eggs, string cheese in a cooler)
  • It's ok to use paper plates— the Styrofoam clamshells work really well if you are pre-portioning
  • Nutrition
  • Think high octane—oatmeal cookie rather than pound cake, trail mix rather than chips
  • Try for a couple of servings of fruits & veggies—carrots sticks with sandwiches, apples and peanut butter, broccoli/cauliflower salad, vegetable soup
  • Whole grain breads and crackers
  • Water—lots of it! Tea or coffee for caffeine, try to avoid sugary soda

With a little organization you can feed your family well—so load up the SUV—head to the field and participate in the time honored tradition of meals in the field…….

Bring Summer Back this Winter! Fri, 24 Aug 2018 09:24:00 +0000  

The days are beginning to shorten, I can hear the locusts calling –fall is in the air. Our gardens know it too. The plants are offering their last fruits before they succumb to frost. Will we be ants or grasshoppers? How will we prepare for the winter? Perhaps you have thought of preserving your harvest. You walked through the exhibit hall at your county fair and thought the canned goods were beautiful. They are and the taste is unparalleled. Home grown, home canned produce tastes better. There is a great satisfaction knowing that you planted a seed and ended with jars full of spaghetti sauce or pickles. How can you do that?

I often hear that "canning is scary", " Aunt Martha's pressure canner blew peaches all over her ceiling" from my food preservation workshop participants. And, although accidents can happen, with proper knowledge and up to date instructions canning is not only enjoyable it is easy. Food preservation is science, however, it is not rocket science.

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. Canning is a scientific process that can preserve the taste of summer for your family to enjoy in those long cold months of winter, 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 is 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, low oxygen atmosphere inside a canning jar full of food. This deadly germ can be destroyed by using an approved canner and following recipes exactly to ensure proper acid levels of foods. Follow instructions and recipes from approved sources (USDA, Extension, Ball, Kerr, Mrs. Wages). Please go to or call your local Extension office for more information.
Below are the most frequently asked questions :

  1. Must I process jars in a boiling water bath?

Yes, all foods must be processed. High acid foods (fruits, jams, jellies, pickled products and tomatoes that have been acidified) can all be processed in a boiling water bath—follow recipe instructions for times.

  1. Am I allowed to "process" foods like my grandmother?

No, the following methods are not considered safe!

  • Open-kettle method; no processing is done, and thus is unsafe
  • Sealing jams, jellies, preserves, and butters with wax or paraffin; often allows harmful mold growth.
  • Do not use recipes from celebrity chefs and unreliable internet sources; they often use unsafe, outdated, non-research based methods
  • Do not invert hot jars of jam, jelly, etc.
  • Steam canning; inadequate research for processing times
  • Do not use a microwave oven, electric oven, slow cooker, crock pot, convection oven, dishwasher, sun canning, or other methods besides a Boiling Water Bath Canner or Pressure Canner
  1. Can I process green beans in a boiling water bath if I boil it for 3 hours?

No, low acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner to kill clostridium botulinum,

a deadly form of food poisoning.

Low-acid foods include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods are also low acid, unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods.

Botulinum spores are very hard to destroy at boiling-water temperatures; the higher the canner temperature, the more easily they are destroyed. Therefore, all low-acid foods should be sterilized at temperatures of 240° to 250°F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 PSIG.

  1. Must I add lemon juice to my tomatoes?
    1. Yes. To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.
  2. Can food be re-canned if the lid does not seal?
    1. Yes, if discovered within 24 hours. To re-can, remove the lid and check the jar rim for nicks. Change the jar, if nicks are present, add a new lid and reprocess using the original processing time.
  3. Do I really need to leave a certain amount of head space?
    1. Yes, leaving the specified amount of head space in a jar is important to assure a vacuum seal. If too little headspace is allowed the food may expand and bubble out when air is being forced out from under the lid during processing. The bubbling food may leave a deposit on the rim of the jar or the seal of the lid and prevent the jar from sealing properly. If too much head space is allowed, the food at the top is likely to discolor. Also, the jar may not seal properly because there will not be enough processing time to drive all the air out of the jar.
  4. How long will canned food keep?
    1. For best quality, use within a year.
  5. Is it necessary to sterilize jars before canning?
    1. Only if the jars are to be processed in a water bath and only if the processing time is less than 10 minutes.
  6. Is it safe to can foods without salt?
    1. Yes. Salt is used for flavor only and is not necessary to prevent spoilage. If salt is used, it must be canning salt. Table salt may make the contents of the jar cloudy.
  7. Can I can my own salsa recipe?
    1. NO! Salsas are usually mixtures of acid and low-acid ingredients. The specific recipe, and sometimes preparation method, will determine how the salsa should be processed. The process must be scientifically determined for each recipe. You must use a tested recipe! Contact your local Extension office for a recipe. If you want to customize your salsa, do it after it has been processed, just before you serve it!

  1. Can I can bread or cake in a jar?
    1. These items are not really "canned". Rather the batter is baked in the jar and then a lid is placed on the jar while still hot. Cakes and breads are low acid foods that have the potential for supporting the growth of bacteria like Clostridium botulinum.
  2. Can I use artificial sweeteners when canning fruit?
    1. It is best to add these types of sweeteners just prior to serving. Saccharin-based sweeteners can turn bitter and Aspartame-based sweeteners can lose their sweetening power during processing.

Sugar is added to improve flavor, help stabilize color, and retain the shape of the fruit. It is not added as a preservative.

  1. How do I can oil with herbs? Can I can pesto?
    1. No, canning this mixture is not safe, freeze it.