Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty! Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 What to do with that Garden Produce Fri, 12 Jul 2019 08:31:00 +0000 While your plants in the garden are coming to fruition, it's time to start thinking about harvest. When the bounty is ready, there's not much time to waste. Loads of produce can come ready all at once, and without a plan in place, they sadly could go to waste.

Giving it away is one approach to decreasing food waste. Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers will likely be thrilled to get fresh crop. However, consider also donating to those in need. Many food pantries or food rescue organizations will accept fresh produce. In fact, many "Grow a Row" campaigns encourage gardeners to plant a row designated specifically for donation.

Another method is to preserve your produce. Whether it's in the form of canning, freezing or drying, preserving allows you to enjoy your fresh produce all year long. Since most people have a freezer unit already, freezing is likely the easiest and less costly of the three; you just have to come up with the space in the freezer! Most vegetables need to be blanched (boiled for a short time) to preserve flavor, color and texture before being cooled and packaged for freezing. Dehydrating is another form of food preservation, but generally requires a food dehydrator, which dries food efficiently at 140°F. Canning is probably the most complex of the three, but it may yield the most desirable results. Canning does present some risk of dangerous foodborne bacteria if not done properly. However, once you know how to follow safe procedures, seeing all of your jars of produce lined up is like pure happiness. Learn the most-up-to-date steps to home canning and get a ton of tested recipes by visiting National Center for Home Food Preservation. Also, check out these University of Illinois Extension videos on food preservation at University of Illinois Extension Food Preservation Resources.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (Printable PDF)

Cherry tomatoes

Olive oil

Seasonings, if desired (salt, pepper, garlic, Italian seasoning, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash tomatoes, discarding overripe or damaged tomatoes. Place a layer of tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil. Top with seasonings, if desired. Roast for 20 minutes until tomatoes are soft and flagrant. Allow to cool. Pack into containers, leaving headspace; seal and freeze no longer than 10-12 months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight.

Yield and nutrition analysis depends on amount and type of ingredients used.

What to do with Summer Squash Wed, 03 Jul 2019 12:27:00 +0000 Most grocery stores keep one variety of yellow squash and one variety of zucchini on their produce shelves year round. However, the farmers market is a probable summer spot to find a bigger variety of summer squash, varying in different shapes, sizes and colors.

Zucchini can come in the traditional green color, but you may also find yellow zucchini. Not to be confused with yellow squash, this zucchini is yellow with a green stem and tastes a bit sweeter than the green version. Eight ball zucchini is in a ball shape, rather than cylindrical and are ideal for stuffing. Yellow squash can have a straight neck or a crookneck, which curves. Both varieties have a fatter bottom than zucchini. If you've seen a squash shaped like a green, yellow or white flying saucer, you were looking at a pattypan squash. Similar to the eight ball zucchini, they make a nice edible decoration and are delicious stuffed with grains, veggies and cheese.

Unlike their winter squash counterparts, summer squash have soft, thin skin that is edible. However, older, oversized squash will have tough skins that need to be peeled. Summer squash can be eaten raw or cooked by way of roasting, steaming, sautéing, grilling or frying. Use a julienne peeler or a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, dice zucchini to put in egg dishes, or slice them thin, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, and bake them in the oven. Store raw, unwashed summer squash in the refrigerator's crisper drawer for about a week. Similar to cucumbers, summer squash are 95 percent water. This yields a low-calorie vegetable (1 cup raw zucchini is only 20 calories). They're also a good source of vitamin C and potassium. What's not to love about summer squash?

Lemon and Rosemary Zucchini (Printable PDF)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced

2 cups zucchini, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and rosemary; sauté for 2 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté for another 4-5 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein

How to Cut a Pineapple Thu, 27 Jun 2019 09:42:00 +0000 While pineapple is delicious canned, many people agree that fresh pineapple takes the prize in flavor. This tropical fruit is generally available year round in the United States, with the majority imported from Costa Rica. Its scales on the thick outer skin are actually the fruit's flowers. One pineapple is made up of a cluster of individual flowerets that fuse together to form the entire fruit. Contrary to popular belief, pineapples do not grow on trees, but rather they come from a flowering plant.

A pineapple's scaly skin can be intimidating to cut. Practice these steps:

  1. Cut off crown and bottom ends with a large knife and discard.
  2. Stand the pineapple upright and shave off the outer skin, including eyes that may be left behind, by holding the knife parallel to the pineapple and slicing down.
  3. Cut pineapple in half from top to bottom.
  4. Halve each piece again to make four pieces.
  5. Slice off the core from each piece. (Feel to find where the firm core is and where the softer flesh is to avoid losing too much fruit.)
  6. Halve each piece again to make 8 pieces.
  7. Cut each piece into ½-inch triangles.

Check out this 30 second video from Utah State Extension to see for yourself!

Use fresh pineapple to make salsa, to put in a fresh fruit salad or to top a lettuce salad. Bromelain, a mixture of enzymes in pineapple, helps to break down collagen fibers in meats, making them juicy and tender. While it works great with tough meats, do not use fresh pineapple in gelatin. The bromelain will breakdown the gelatin and restrict if from setting (canned fruit is fine). Enjoy the fresh taste of a fresh pineapple!

Pineapple Barbecue Chicken (Printable PDF)

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 ½ cups, fresh pineapple, chopped

1 cup favorite barbecue sauce

Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Spread into prepared dish. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reads at least 165°F measured by a food thermometer. Stir, and spoon sauce and juices over chicken and vegetables. May serve over rice or in a flour tortilla.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 300 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 35 grams protein

All About Olives Fri, 21 Jun 2019 08:28:00 +0000 Olives have been a part of the Mediterranean region since biblical times. Here in the United States, California takes the prize of olive production, producing 95% of the olives grown in the nation. Table varieties include Manzanilla, or black "California-style," Sevillano and Ascolano. Mission and Arbequina varieties are generally best suited for olive oil. The average consumer may not care so much about the variety, but rather the color and processing treatment. Green olives are simply unripe olives, while naturally black olives are picked fully ripe. Slight color variations may also depend on how they are processed. Green olives are cured, and some may be fermented as well. Different curing treatments may produce different type of olives, such as Kalamata or Spanish-style. Whether green or black, olives are too bitter to enjoy without processing. Therefore, black olives are cured as well, and they are exposed to air to oxidize and gain a deep dark color.

While olives are botanically a fruit, the culinary world treats them as a vegetable. We eat them in savory dishes and hors d'oeuvres. Enjoy olives in egg dishes, casseroles, pasta, or on top of pizza, baked potatoes or salads. Process them into a tapenade for a spread on crackers. Olives are low in calories, are good source of monounsaturated fats, but high in sodium. Nutrition composition may vary slightly depending upon brand and type of olive. Just five Manzanilla olives are 25 calories but 330 milligrams of sodium. Rinse olives to remove some of the sodium.

So which olive do you like? Olive them! (Sorry…bad olive joke).

Greek Salad (Printable PDF)

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ fresh lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

14 oz. quartered artichoke hearts, drained

4 oz. pitted Kalamata olives

½ red bell pepper, chopped

½ green bell pepper, chopped

½ red onion, chopped

½ pint grape tomatoes

4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

4 oz. spring mix salad greens

In a large bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and oregano. Add artichokes, olives, red pepper, green pepper, onion, tomatoes and feta cheese. Toss gently to combine. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Serve Greek Salad over a bed of fresh salad greens.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 230 calories, 16 grams fat, 960 milligrams sodium, 15 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams protein

The Diversity of Pasta Salad Fri, 14 Jun 2019 14:03:00 +0000 The school year has come to a close, which means now is the perfect time for picnics and barbeques. This kickoff to the unofficial start of the summer is also the debut of summer foods, including the ever-loving pasta salad. The best part about pasta salad is its diversity. Do you want a creamy white dressing or a vinaigrette? Olives or no olives? Meat or no meat? Cheese or no cheese? Macaroni, penne, bowtie or other shape of pasta? And what type of veggies? The options are endless.

Pasta salad is an easy way to get in your vegetables and whole grains. Try using whole grain noodles to pack in more nutrients, such as B-vitamins, dietary fiber, folate and magnesium. Vary your veggies and therefore, nutrient intake, with tomatoes, carrots, squash, broccoli, onion, bell pepper, asparagus and more. A creamy dressing made with mayonnaise is generally going to drive up the calories; substitute plain non-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt for a lighter, healthier version. Of course, a dressing made with oil and vinegar is a great choice as it includes healthy unsaturated fats. Skip the cheese and meat to force down the unhealthy saturated fats. If the bold tasting olive is not your thing, try sundried tomatoes or roasted piquillo peppers. Give your taste buds the power to make decisions on swapping out ingredients!

Pasta salad tastes the best when it's had time to sit and allow the flavors to develop. Make it several hours ahead of time, or even overnight, cover and place in the refrigerator. Use it within three to five days. Pasta does not freeze well because it becomes limp and mushy once thawed. I guess that means you'll just have to have a party so that it gets eaten!

Easy Pasta Salad (Printable PDF)

1 lb. whole wheat pasta, such as penne or macaroni noodles

¾ cup fat-free ranch dressing

½ cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 Tablespoon dried dill weed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 baby zucchini squash, diced

1 cup shredded carrots

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool. In a large bowl, stir the ranch dressing, yogurt and dill weed until blended. Add the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and pasta. Stir until coated. Serve chilled.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 170 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 130 milligrams sodium, 31 grams total carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 7 grams protein

Source: University of Illinois Extension- Illinois Junior Chef program

Tired of the Same Foods? Try Jicama! Fri, 07 Jun 2019 15:00:00 +0000 Jicama (pronounced Hee-kah-ma) may also be referred to as a Mexican Turnip. Native to Latin America, this vegetable is the root of a plant that produces seeds or "beans." However, these beans are not for eating. Other than the flesh of the jicama, the stems, leaves and seeds are toxic, which naturally wards off hungry insects. Peel the thick, brown skin with a sharp knife to get to the white flesh inside, which is safe to consume!

Jicama has a potato-like flesh that is best described as a savory apple. Many Central Americans will eat this taproot raw, seasoned with lime juice and chili powder. With it's unique crunch, jicama can be used as a substitute for water chestnuts, and it makes an excellent addition to a veggie tray. Try it cooked, as well, and use it in soups, stews or stir-fries.

You may find jicama year round in most supermarkets and specialty markets, including Mexican, Latin American and Asian markets. Most jicamas will range from three to five pounds, and though some will grow much larger, smaller jicamas are preferred for most dishes. Refrigerate unpeeled jicama in a tightly closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two-three weeks. Once peeled, store jicama up to one week. Unlike an apple or potato, a jicama will not brown once cut. Jicama is good for gut health, as it's packed with inulin, a prebiotic that feeds probiotics, or the good bacteria, in our gut. Jicama is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of dietary fiber. Try it today!

Jicama and Black Bean Dip (Printable PDF)

1 small jicama, peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

½ medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about ½ cup)

½ medium onion, diced (about ½ cup)
⅓ cup light Italian dressing

Salt and black pepper

Optional: 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro

In large bowl, combine jicama, beans, corn, pepper, onion, and dressing. If desired, add cilantro. Stir to coat all vegetables with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate several hours for flavors to blend.

Yield: 10 servings, ½ cup each

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 1 gram fat, 160 milligrams sodium, 12 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

What are Curds and Whey? Fri, 24 May 2019 08:45:00 +0000 "Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey…" Wait. What are curds and whey? If you answered cottage cheese, you're right. The curd is the lumps and the whey is the liquid. While it may not sound very appetizing, cottage cheese has some health benefits to consider.

Cottage cheese starts out with pasteurized nonfat milk. Cultures and enzymes are added, which starts the fermentation process. This acidification makes some of the proteins in milk clump together (curds separate from the whey). Once the curds are formed, they are cut into small, medium or large pieces, cooked and blended with a salty cream dressing. Besides the size of the curd, cottage cheese is sold in varying fat levels. Creamed cottage cheese is made by containing nonfat cottage cheese with a light cream dressing. It contains at least four percent milkfat. Lowfat cottage cheese is also made with a cream dressing but contains no more than two percent milkfat. Nonfat cottage cheese does not contain any cream dressing and contains no more than 0.5 grams milkfat per serving. It's important to understand that even full-fat cottage cheese is only 4% fat; most cheeses hover around 30%.

Cottage cheese has a team of nutrients for good bone health, including protein, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The caveat is that cottage cheese is high in sodium. Compare labels, as sodium content will differ by brand, and try to avoid other high sodium foods that day. While many people eat cottage cheese right out of the container, consider other uses, such as in scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, potato dishes, fruit parfaits, or smoothies. So go sit on your tuffet, and eat curds and whey. Wait. What's a tuffet?

Cottage Cheese Fettuccini Alfredo (Printable PDF)

8 oz. fettuccini noodles

1 cup skim milk

½ cup 2% milkfat cottage cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Cook noodles according to package directions. In a food processor or blender, add remaining ingredients except parsley. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally. Cook until slightly thickened and heated through. Add cooked pasta and toss. Serve garnished with parsley if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 300 calories, 5 grams fat, 380 milligrams sodium, 49 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 16 grams protein