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 A New Way to Fry Fri, 15 Mar 2019 16:29:00 +0000 If you're a kitchen gadget guru, or just a person who wants to put quick, delicious meals on the table, you must be in love with all the new modern kitchen gadgets and appliances on the market. The air fryer is just one of the ways you can enjoy delicious food with a little help from modern science.

The air fryer was first released in 2010 where it got it's start in Europe and Australia before emerging in Japan and North America. The air fryer is a convection appliance, which works by circulating hot air that contains fine oil droplets around the food. The advantage is that it produces food with crispy and crunchy exteriors, much like fried food, but with 75-85% less oil than traditional frying! Plus, it operates at a high speed, cooking foods faster than an oven; French fries, for example, can be ready in less than 10 minutes in an air fryer.

Don't think of an air fryer as just a way to cook convenience foods that may already be fried and flash frozen. Rather use it to cook from scratch making your own breaded chicken fingers, sweet potato fries or other delicious vegetables, seafood, steak, chicken or desserts. If purchasing an air fryer, choose the size that fits for your family. Three quarts may be appropriate for one-two people, but it is generally too small to cook for additional guests. Four-six quarts will serve four or more persons. Move over deep fryer; it's time to make room for the air fryer and still enjoy the crunch of each bite.

Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts (Printable PDF)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons panko bread crumbs

Cooking spray

Preheat air fryer to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and pepper. Gently toss Brussel sprouts in mixture until covered with seasonings. Place Brussel sprouts in the air fryer basket; spray with cooking spray. Cook 5-6 minutes and stir. Cook additional 4-5 minutes. Mix grated parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs in a small bowl; sprinkle over Brussel sprouts.

Cook 1-2 minutes until cheese and breadcrumbs are browned.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 78 calories, 3 grams fat, 109 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein

Source: Susan Glassman, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2018

Top 3 Green Foods Fri, 08 Mar 2019 08:47:00 +0000 In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we eat or drink green food. Why? I'm sure there is tale to tell, but my eyes are too fixed on all the green to care. Green food is generally associated with optimal nutrition and good health, but I'm not talking about beer or eggs that's been dyed green. Natural green foods, colored by the pigment chlorophyll, are foods we should eat more than just one day a year. Here are my top three green foods:

  1. Dark leafy greens: It's too hard to single out one over the other. Kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and turnip greens are just a few examples of dark leafy greens. They're packed with iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K. Simmer greens in water or other liquid, such as broth or wine. Try adding them straight to soups or stews, or steam greens and add them to pasta dishes.
  2. Avocado: Avocados contain monounsaturated fats, which can improve blood cholesterol levels. Plus, they're packed with folate, vitamins E, C and B6, potassium and fiber. Slice avocado and top sandwiches, salads, tacos or toast. Blend into smoothies or hummus.
  3. Broccoli: Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and contains phytonutrients, which have significant anti-cancer effects. Broccoli is also a good source of beta-carotene (converts to vitamin A), vitamin C, calcium, potassium, folate, and iron. Steam or roast in the oven, use in a stir-fry, egg dish or pasta.

Choose a natural green food for St. Patrick's Day, and enjoy all of it's health benefits and deliciousness!

Crustless Swiss Chard Quiche (Printable PDF)

Non-stick cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups fresh Swiss chard, torn or chopped
1 cup chopped, yellow onion
1 bell pepper, chopped
½ cup low fat milk
4 eggs
2 cups reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground peppe

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare a glass 9" pie plate with nonstick spray. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil; sauté Swiss chard, onions, and bell pepper until tender. In medium bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Add in cheese, garlic powder, and pepper. Fold the chard, onion and pepper mixture into the egg mixture and pour into pie plate. Bake until set, about 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Yield:8 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 110 calories, 3 grams fat, 350 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 grams fiber, 13 grams protein

The Bright Colors of Bell Peppers Fri, 01 Mar 2019 08:40:00 +0000 While it may not feel like it now, spring is just around the corner. The avid gardener is already thinking about what type of produce they will plant in the garden. Bell peppers are a given for many, but what color?

Mature bell peppers can be red, orange, yellow or green. However, all peppers start out green before turning color as they mature. The rate at which they will turn color and mature is dependent upon the variety. For instance, the Gypsy variety takes just 65 days to mature and will go from green to pale yellow to orange to red. Different colors will yield a slightly different taste, price and nutrient profile. Since green peppers are immature, they're harvested sooner, yielding a pepper that is less sweet, a bit lower in nutrients (less vitamin A and vitamin C than in red mature peppers), but less pricey. Yellow will be slightly sweet, orange mildly sweet and red the sweetest.

With all the beautiful bright colors, bell peppers make it easy to add color to the plate. They can be eaten raw as a snack or in a salad. Try them in a stir-fry or fajitas. Throw them in soups, omelets or on top of pizzas. Stuff them with brown rice, vegetables, beans and seasonings. Choose peppers with firm skin without wrinkles. Store whole peppers in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to one week. Once cut, place peppers in a sealed plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Choose your garden pepper and marvel in the many ways to use them!

Stuffed Pepper Soup (Printable PDF)

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 cans (8 oz.) no added salt tomato sauce

4 cups tomato, chopped

2 cans (14 oz.) low-sodium beef broth

2 cups green pepper, chopped

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ cups long grain brown rice, cooked

Shredded mozzarella cheese, if desired

Cook beef and onion in large stewpot until beef is no longer pink. Drain well. Add remaining ingredients, except rice and cheese. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked rice and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Serve topped with mozzarella cheese, if desired.

Yield: 10 servings, 1 cup each

Nutrition Facts (per serving) without cheese: 170 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 65 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 13 grams protein

Grab a Spork for Ramen Noodles Fri, 22 Feb 2019 11:55:00 +0000 Ramen noodles: You are so much more than the rectangular block of noodles and seasoning packet that lay in most college dorm rooms, waiting to be microwaved and eaten. You deserve the accolades that come with being the rich, intricate bowl of goodness that you are.

Ramen is a noodle soup that originated in China and replicated in Japan. It consists of Chinese wheat noodles served in a flavored broth, and customized with toppings, such as sliced pork, soft-boiled eggs or scallions. Typical ramen noodles are long, thin, and wavy. Ramen bowls are often classified by their flavorings: Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), Miso (soybean paste), or Tonkotsu (pork bone). When eating at an Asian restaurant, gyoza, or potstickers, which are pan-fried dumplings, are typically ordered to accompany the ramen bowl.

While a broth-based soup is generally low in saturated fat, it is also high in sodium. Both ramen's broth and it's flavorings add lots of sodium to the dish. When making a ramen noodle bowl, buy low sodium broth, and if using the dry packaged noodles with the seasoning packet, discard the packet.

Ramen can be a bit of challenge to get in your belly. Traditionally, it is eaten with chopsticks, and the broth is slurped directly from the bowl. However, if you're not a whiz at managing chops, or you're too embarrassed to slurp, a fork will help you twirl the noodles but not do anything to grab the broth. A spoon will help you sip the broth, but the noodles will simply fall off. Finally! A use for the spork!

Ramen Noodle Bowl (Printable PDF)

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 carrot, sliced thin

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ cup chopped green onions, divided

3 cups low sodium vegetable broth or stock

2 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets removed

2 Tablespoons red curry paste

Optional ingredients: shitake mushrooms, chopped broccoli, soft-boiled egg

In a large stewpot, sauté bell pepper and carrots in sesame oil for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and ¼ cup green onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Pour in broth; bring to boil. Add noodles and curry paste, and simmer until they soften and break apart. Garnish with remaining ¼ cup green onions.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 160 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 420 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams protein

Cooking with Coconut Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:39:00 +0000 Most people have never cut into a coconut, but have still eaten coconut in at least one of its many forms. The most profitable product of the coconut is coconut oil, which is used in many beauty care products and recently, it has gained momentum as a popular oil to use in cooking. But it's the actual "meat" of the coconut that many people still gravitate towards to get the most coconut flavor.

The "meat" of the coconut is a white fleshy layer about one inch thick with watery liquid surrounding it, known as raw coconut water. The flesh is boiled, grated and dried and either immediately packaged as unsweetened coconut or soaked in a sugar solution, dried again and sold as sweetened coconut. Unsweetened coconut tends to be a bit drier and chewier, and may work well in savory dishes where sweet is not the goal. Sweetened coconut works well in baked goods, but the sugar in the recipe may need to be adjusted to avoid too much sweetness. Two tablespoons of sweetened coconut have 6 grams of sugars versus zero in unsweetened.

Saturated fats make up approximately 90% of the fat in coconut. Saturated fats have been found to increase LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk for heart disease. Saturated fats can be made of different fatty acids. Coconut oil is made of primarily lauric acid, which in some studies has shown to increase HDL (healthy) cholesterol in the blood. However, further studies are needed to warrant any type of heart-healthy effects, and the American Heart Association still recommends against its use. Enjoy the taste of coconut, but consume in moderation!

Coconut Cream Pie Dip (Printable PDF)

¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut, divided

8 oz. Greek cream cheese or Neufchatel cream cheese

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 cup canned lite coconut milk

Assorted fruit for dipping

Preheat oven to 325°F. Measure ¼ cup coconut and spread flakes in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes or until slightly browned. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and coconut milk; mix until smooth. Stir in remaining ½ cup coconut. Spread into a serving dish and top with toasted coconut. Serve with assorted fruit.

Yield: 1 cup, or 8 (2-Tablespoon) servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 140 calories, 11 grams fat, 150 milligrams sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

Have a Sweet Valentine's Day Without the Sugar Fri, 08 Feb 2019 13:42:00 +0000 As the bucket of leftover candy still sits in my cabinet from last year's Halloween, I'm secretly hoping that my children do not bring home any more of the sweet stuff for Valentine's Day. Candy is one food that contributes to high intakes of added sugars in children's diets.

According to the American Heart Association children, ages 2-18, should have less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, while those under two should not have any. However, the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that children actually consume 82 grams, or 19 teaspoons of added sugars per day! What's the big deal? A high intake of sugar is directly related to tooth decay, and there's a growing amount of evidence suggesting a relationship between added sugars and obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Although the relationship isn't entirely clear, it's enough of a concern to start honing in on that sweet tooth.

Cut back on added sugars by swapping out soda, juice, sports drinks and other sugary beverages for water. Occasionally add in a few zero calorie drinks to switch things up. Compare labels on cereal and choose the one that is not coated in high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, maltose, or other common names for sugar. Sweeten it yourself with fresh fruit, or stir in a low sugar yogurt. Mash strawberries or blueberries to top waffles and pancakes; a fourth cup of maple syrup is 50 grams (12 teaspoons) of sugar!

I'm not saying that you should ban candy for Valentine's Day or any other holiday. All food fits in moderation! But a non-candy valentine might actually be a bigger hit with the kids. There are hundreds of DIY valentines online, or simply purchase those with stickers, pencils, erasers or nothing. Change the environment, and slowly decrease the added sugars in you and your family's diet. You'll teach your children the value of a healthy body and a healthy image of food.

Frozen Yogurt Covered Strawberry Hearts (Printable PDF)

2 cups non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt

1 quart strawberries

Wash and rinse strawberries. Cut the stems off making a V-shaped divot. Dip whole strawberries in yogurt and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze overnight. Then, cut in half to reveal a heart shape. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 100 calories, 0 grams fat, 25 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams protein

Going Bananas for Bananas! Fri, 01 Feb 2019 11:22:00 +0000 One of the most familiar fruits to children and adults alike is the banana. It's no wonder it winds up on most people's grocery list trip after trip; with a peel that can come off in a matter of seconds, it serves as a convenient and quick snack option for those at home or on the go.

Bananas are picked before they are ripe, which means they'll be Kermit the Frog green. Depending upon when you plan to use them, select slightly green bananas at the store, as they will continue to ripen at room temperature at home. As they ripen, the peel turns yellow and develops brown speckles producing a sweeter taste. While the amount of total carbohydrates in an unripe and ripe banana are the same, an unripe banana contains more resistant starch, which is absorbed slowly and promotes fullness. Once fully ripe, you may store bananas in their peel in the refrigerator for 5-7 days to extend shelf life or freeze 2-3 months. The peel will turn black, but the fruit will not be harmed. Use very ripe bananas in quick breads, muffins, cookies, pancakes, smoothies or oatmeal. Bananas can even reduce or replace the fat and added sugars in many baked goods!

Bananas are packed with nutrients, including 20% of the daily value for vitamin B6, 17% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 12% of the daily value for potassium. One medium banana also provides three grams of dietary fiber, considered a high fiber source. For those who have diabetes or use the carbohydrate counting method, one medium banana has 27 grams of carbohydrate, which is two carbohydrate servings. Keep bananas on the grocery list; their versatility and nutrient density make them an outstanding choice!

Flourless Chocolate Banana Cookies (Printable PDF)

2 very ripe bananas, peeled

1 cup instant oats

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking oil. In a medium bowl, mash bananas with a fork until mostly smooth. Add oats, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Gently fold in mini chocolate chips. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture onto cookie sheet. Flatten mounds with a fork. Bake 15-18 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 12 cookies

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 60 calories, 1 gram fat, 50 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein