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 No Matter How You Spell It, It's Time To BBQ! Fri, 17 May 2019 08:46:00 +0000 Barbecue, BBQ, barbeque. Talk about confusing! Not only does the word "barbecue" have multiple spellings, but it also has multiple meanings. "Throw it on the barbecue." This implies a cooking method where food is cooked outdoors, generally on a grill. "We're having a Memorial Day barbecue." In this instance, barbecue is a gathering where food is cooked outside over a fire, on the grill, or in the smoker. "Let's have barbeque pork sandwiches." Here, barbecue refers to a type of food, usually a meat covered in a sweet or tangy sauce. However, you spell it or use it, Memorial Day often starts the barbecue season, and it's important to keep food safety in mind.

Before marinating raw meats, read the recipe to see if part of it is to be used as a sauce. If so, save a portion before letting it come into contact with raw meats. When taking food off the heat source, use a clean platter, not one that held raw meat. Always use a food thermometer and cook to safe temperatures ( Enjoy the season of barbecue!

Grilled Steak and Peppers Salad with Pears (Printable PDF)


2 cups (4 oz.) whole grain rotini pasta, uncooked

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

½ teaspoon olive oil

12 oz. boneless choice beef top sirloin

2 pears, cored and sliced thin

3 cups arugula

¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese


1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 Tablespoons white distilled vinegar

¼ cup 100% white grape juice or apple juice

¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

1 Tablespoon salt-free Italian herb blend

In a small bowl, whisk all vinaigrette ingredients; set aside. Boil water and cook pasta according to package instructions; drain. Heat grill. Rub peppers with ½ teaspoon olive oil. Grill whole peppers, turning as needed, until skin begins to brown and bubble. At the same time, grill beef sirloin to 145°F, turning once. Remove from grill, let cool slightly. Slice peppers into strips, discarding seeds and stem. Cut sirloin across the grain into thin slices. Slice pears into thin wedges. Toss arugula and pasta in large bowl. To serve, evenly divide pasta-arugula onto four plates, arrange beef, peppers, and pears on top, drizzle with vinaigrette, and sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 360 calories, 12 grams fat, 330 milligrams sodium, 44 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 27 grams protein

Source: USDA Mixing Bowl

Parsley: More Than a Garnish Wed, 08 May 2019 10:24:00 +0000 I grow parsley in my garden year after year. There are so many uses for this herb that I can't imagine having to constantly buy it at the store. To me, parsley is so much more than just a garnish!

The most common type of parsley is curly parsley. It has tightly curled or ruffled leaves and is a bit tougher than the second most common type of parsley, Italian flat-leaf. Italian flat-leaf parsley looks more like cilantro, another green flat-leaf herb, but don't confuse the two, as their tastes are widely different! While curly leaf is the most common parsley found in home kitchens, it's the Italian flat-leaf parsley that rules the restaurant industry. Many chefs will tell you that Italian flat-leaf parsley is more robust in flavor. Either type, however, may be used in cooking. When substituting one for another, take texture and flavor adjustments into account.

It's best to use fresh parsley immediately after harvesting from the garden, but when that is not an option, trim the ends and place in a glass containing about an inch of fresh water. Cover with a loose plastic bag, and change the water when it becomes cloudy. This will extend the life of parsley for about 10 days. Wash before use under cool running water. Shake to remove excess water and dry on paper towels. Parsley is a popular herb in many Mediterranean dishes. It pairs well with many grains, beans, tomatoes, lemon, fish and seafood. Parsley is a source of iron, potassium, vitamin A, K and C. It deserves to be the food, not as a decoration near the food!

Bean Salad with Parsley (Printable PDF)

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

1 can (15 oz.) no added salt black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped red onion

1 ½ cups chopped tomato

1 cup chopped parsley

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

Fresh black pepper, to taste

¼ cup olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, black beans, red onion, tomato and parsley; stir. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Pour dressing over vegetable bean mixture, and stir to coat all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 220 calories, 11 grams fat, 210 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 8 grams protein

Are Tomatillos Tomatoes? Thu, 02 May 2019 13:19:00 +0000 When Cinco de Mayo rolls around, the cravings of Mexican cuisine are in full force. Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cooking, bringing a zesty tart flavor to many classic dishes.

Despite the meaning of the name (tomatillo means "little tomato" in Spanish), tomatillos are not tomatoes, but rather a member of the solanaceae, or nightshade family. However, they are relatives of the tomato, pepper and eggplant, which all thrive in hot, humid weather. Tomatillos have a papery husk on the outside and a green firm fruit on the inside.

The husk is a good indication of freshness, which should be light brown, and not shriveled. Keep the husks on the tomatillos and place in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up two weeks. For longer storage, remove the husks and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Once you detach the husk, you'll notice a sticky residue on the surface of the fruit. Simply wash under water to remove.

Tomatillos are a good source of vitamin C. They're popular for their use in making salsa verde (green salsa). Although you likely won't find fresh tomatillos right now, as they don't peak until the summer, you can still enjoy the taste of this lemony-tomato fruit by buying a jar of salsa verde.

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas (Printable PDF)

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 lime, juiced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cups salsa verde

10 corn tortillas

2 cups shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese

½ cup chopped tomatoes

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large saucepan, fill two-thirds full of water and heat to boiling. Add chicken. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reads at least 165°F as read by a food thermometer. Drain and shred chicken with two forks or electric mixer. Add lime juice, cumin, garlic powder and chili powder; set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Warm corn tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds to soften them. In a 2-quart or 13x9-inch pan assemble enchiladas by spooning chicken in each tortilla; roll up and place seam-side down. Continue until all tortillas are filled. Pour salsa verde evenly over tortillas. Top with shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with chopped tomatoes and cilantro.

Yield: 10 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 200 calories, 8 grams fat, 470 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams protein

Spring Clean Your Kitchen Thu, 25 Apr 2019 08:48:00 +0000 For whatever reason, spring is the time to clean. (Let's just hope that it's not the only time you clean!) A deep scrubbing is necessary, particularly in the refrigerators of home kitchens, where bacteria can thrive. Spoilage bacteria (bacteria that causes deterioration in foods) slows down but can still grow at refrigeration temperatures (think moldy or slimy food). Pathogenic bacteria (bacteria that can lead to serious illness and death) can actually thrive in refrigerators; the scary thing is, you can't even see it.

Unplug the refrigerator and clean the condenser coil with a brush or vacuum to remove lint and allow airflow. The next step is to clean out the refrigerator and discard what is deteriorating or past it's prime. Don't leave food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours; if needed, prepare a cooler with ice packs or ice. Take note to what foods need to be used, and plan meals accordingly. Remove shelves and bins as able, and wash them with warm soapy water in the sink. If you have glass shelves, let them come to room temperature before exposing them to hot water, which may cause the glass to break. Let them air dry, or dry with a clean towel.

When putting items back in the refrigerator, consider placement. Don't store perishable foods, such as milk or eggs, in the door, which is the warmest area. Place a refrigerator thermometer on the shelves, even if your refrigerator has a built-in thermometer; you'll know what the temperature is in case of an outage. If a spill happens, don't let it sit there and allow bacteria to grow; clean it up immediately. Cleaning the refrigerator shouldn't be a once a year job; make it a habit!

Quick Tomato Vegetable Soup (Printable PDF)

2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (or whatever leftover vegetables you have)

1 can (about 2 cups) tomato basil soup

1 can (12.5 oz.) chicken, drained and rinsed (optional)

2 teaspoons dried oregano

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Cook frozen vegetables in the microwave according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings (1 ¼ cup each)

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 170 calories, 3 grams fat, 490 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 13 grams protein

Source: University of Illinois Extension website- Eat.Move.Save. Making Healthier Choices on a Budget]]>
The Bold Flavor of Capers Fri, 19 Apr 2019 10:52:00 +0000 Power to the flower. Capers may not look like a beautiful flower, but they are in fact the flower buds of the wild bush, Capparis spinosa. They're actually picked before they bloom into white or pink flowers. Like olives, the caper bush is native to the Mediterranean region, and thus capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

Picked off the bush, capers are extremely bitter, which is why capers are dried and then pickled in a salty brine solution. There's no hiding a caper. One bite of this green pellet-shaped bud, and you'll get a burst of tangy salty flavor with a bit of a lemon taste. Chefs like to use capers in fish dishes, pastas, and sauces. Capers are best known in the Italian recipes, chicken piccata and pasta puttanesca. Use capers in ways that you would add pickles, olives or lemon juice, such as in tuna salad or a homemade vinaigrette.

Find capers in a jar near the jars of pickles at the local grocery store. They tend to be a bit expensive since the buds are picked by hand. Once opened, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one year for best quality. Capers are no doubt, full of sodium. Rinse them with water to remove excess salt/brine. Behold the power of the flower, and use it sparingly to not overpower or oversalt the dish!

Chicken Piccata (Printable PDF)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

⅓ cup flour

3 Tablespoons margarine

3 Tablespoons olive oil

½ cup unsalted chicken stock

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons drained capers

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place chicken breast in a gallon-size plastic bag and pound with a meat mallet until ¼-inch thickness. Add flour to the bag of chicken; seal and shake to coat. Heat 1 Tablespoon margarine and 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shake off excess flour from chicken and cook 3-4 minutes on both sides until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Transfer to a plate; cover to keep warm. In the same skillet, add remaining, oil, chicken stock, lemon juice, shallots and garlic. Boil until sauce slightly thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in capers and remaining margarine. Plate the chicken and pour sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 360 calories, 22 grams fat, 300 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 29 grams protein

Is it Scalloped or Au Gratin Potatoes? Thu, 11 Apr 2019 16:22:00 +0000 The Easter Sunday meal most notably includes a delicious ham with a heaping scoop of scalloped potatoes on the side. Or is it au gratin potatoes? Both of these rich, creamy dishes consist of round thinly sliced potatoes layered in a casserole dish. It's no surprise they often get confused for one another.

Scalloped potatoes are baked in a cream sauce, which is generally a roux made of milk or heavy cream, flour and butter. Garlic, onions and fresh herbs may be added to heighten the flavors. Au gratin potatoes, on the other hand, are still made with the same cream sauce, but they have grated cheese sprinkled among the layers of potatoes. Some versions will also have breadcrumbs on top.

As such, anything made with a cream sauce and cheese is probably not going to scream healthy. However, using non-fat milk instead of heavy cream or whole milk, omitting the cheese and cutting back on the salt are easy modifications that can lower the calories, sodium and saturated fats. While you can buy the boxed versions, they are loaded in sodium and other preservatives.

Since there are no police trolling the internet and enforcing the proper classification of this classic casserole, some scalloped potatoes will call for cheese and others will not. In my family, we just make a rendition of the au gratin potatoes, call it hash brown casserole, and scrape the dish clean. In reality, it's too good to be nitpicky on what you call it!

Scalloped Potatoes II (Printable PDF)

2 Tablespoons margarine

4 Tablespoons flour

2 cups non-fat milk

½ teaspoon salt

dash black pepper

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch slices

1 cup chopped onion

Prepare a large casserole dish by coating lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Make a white sauce by melting margarine in a small saucepan. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper. Place a layer of potatoes and onion in a prepared casserole pan, using 1/4 of the potatoes and 1/4 cup onion. Spread with 1/2 cup of the sauce. Repeat layers, making a total of 4. Bake at 350°F for one hour. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 190 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 270 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 6 grams protein

Source: Adapted from What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Pass the Peas, Please Fri, 05 Apr 2019 14:27:00 +0000 Springtime is the perfect time to enjoy fresh peas. Experience the flavors of the three most common type of peas: English peas (also called garden or sweet peas), snow peas, and snap peas.

The pods of English peas are firm and rounded. The little round green peas inside need to be removed and the pod discarded. The peas are sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked. Most store-bought peas that are sold frozen or shelled are English peas. They get starchy if they're harvested too late or if they're not cooked or frozen quickly after picking. They're delicious raw in a cold salad or mashed into a hummus. My kids will even eat them frozen straight from the freezer! Of course, they're also delicious cooked in chicken pot pie, fried rice or vegetable soup.

Snow peas have flat pods with tiny round peas inside. The pod is edible, but best when the tough string along the edge is removed. Snow peas are slightly sweet. Enjoy raw with cold dips or in a salad. The most common use of snow peas is in stir-fry dishes. Snap peas, on the other hand, are a cross between English peas and snow peas. They're sweet with a rounded, crunchy edible pod. Like snow peas, the string along the edge of a snap pea is generally discarded. Snap peas are so sweet and crunchy, that they compete with carrots as being the best raw veggie for snacking. Sauté, steam, grill or roast snap peas; just don't overcook them or they'll wind up losing their prized crunch.

Store peas in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer for 3-5 days. Once peas are shelled, cook or blanch and freeze immediately. Peas are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of vitamin A, folate and fiber. Spring into the sweet flavor of peas!

Pea Mint Salad (Printable PDF)

1 fresh lemon (1 Tablespoon lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)

2 Tablespoons chopped red onion

2 Tablespoons olive oil

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

1 lb. fresh, shelled English peas or frozen peas, thawed and drained

3-4 mint leaves, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk the grated lemon zest, lemon juice, red onion, oil, salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and mint. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 100 calories, 5 grams fat, 120 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams protein