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 Look at Nectarines Thu, 12 Jul 2018 16:33:00 +0000 Nectarines are often confused with peaches, but when given a second look nectarines are easy to spot because they don't have the fuzzy outside that peaches have. Nectarines are similar in taste to the peach and both exhibit a pit on the inside. A clingstone does just that: the flesh clings to the stone-like pit, while a freestone separates easily from the pit.

Nectarines may be purchased year round, but they're typically best during their peak season in July and August. When buying nectarines, avoid rock-hard or green tinted fruit. Nectarines may be slightly firmer than peaches, but they should still give a little when pressed. If not, store them in a paper bag with a banana or apple and place on the counter until ripe. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Wash nectarines with cool running water before slicing or eating.

Nectarines are a good source of vitamin C, and one large nectarine contains almost 3 grams of dietary fiber. You can use nectarines just as you would peaches, which means this stone fruit is so versatile. Add to fresh lettuce greens, turn it into a salsa, make it into a fruit salad, or grill it and serve with chicken, fish or pork. Nectarines can make a divine crumble or crisp, or grill it and serve over ice cream. Whether it's a nectarine or a peach, just make sure to bite into at least one of them this summer. They are a great addition to the usual fruit options.

Grilled Pork and Nectarine Kabobs (Printable PDF)

3 Tablespoons lite soy sauce

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 lb. boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large nectarines, cut into wedges

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

1 medium green pepper, cut into thick slices

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Pour in a gallon size plastic bag. Add pork and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-12 hours. Discard excess marinade. Thread pork, nectarines, onion and green pepper onto pre-soaked wooden skewers. Grill over high heat for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until pork reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.

Yield 6 servings, about 2 kabobs each

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 200 calories, 9 grams fat, 360 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 20 grams protein

The Dangers of Sun Tea Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:41:00 +0000 Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Here in the U.S., about 85% of tea consumed is black tea and iced. The heat of the summer is the perfect time to enjoy a tall glass of refreshing iced tea, but how you brew it is an important step to keeping you safe.

When exactly "sun tea" appeared is a bit of a mystery, but I certainly have fond memories of this practice on the porch of our family farmhouse. However, come to find out, this practice can come with some risks. Tea that is made with cold or room temperature water and left to brew out on the counter all day or kept in a jar under the sun, is at a higher risk for bacterial growth. The water simply doesn't get hot enough to kill potential microorganisms that can be found in tea leaves, leaving a petri dish of tiny microbes just waiting to get you sick.

When brewing tea, heat water to 195°F and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes. Pour in a pitcher over ice and refrigerate after brewing. Be sure not to store brewed tea at room temperature for more than 8 hours. Tea can have many health benefits, including a protective role against heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers, such as colon. This largely comes from teas antioxidants, called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect the body from free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to chronic diseases. All forms of tea, whether black, green, white or oolong have different health benefits to them. Of course, you'll need to avoid the southerner's sweet tea by adding no to very little sugar. And brew safely without the use of the sun!

Minty Green Tea Lemonade (Printable PDF)

4 cups water

3 tea bags green tea

1 can (12 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate

2 ½ cups water

½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

Heat 4 cups water to 195°F; remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for about 4 minutes until the strength you like. In 2-quart pitcher, combine all ingredients; chill at least 2 hours. Strain, if desired. Serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 0 grams fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams protein

Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension, "Summer Equals Time for Tea" by Dee Decker

Picnic Potato Salad Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:08:00 +0000 Need a Fourth of July side dish? Potato salad is a popular item at a picnic or potluck, but it is also the first to blame when foodborne illness comes to play. Homemade mayonnaise made with eggs is typically the true danger, but most potato salads nowadays are made with commercial mayonnaise, which contains pasteurized eggs to destroy any harmful bacteria. Nevertheless, this isn't to say that your potato salad made with commercial mayonnaise is automatically safe. When combined with cooked potatoes and left at room temperature for more than two hours or in the hot summer heat for more than one hour, bacteria is likely to grow, leading to potential illness. Protect you and your guests by ensuring your potato salad is always kept below 41°F. Where refrigerators are lacking, pack potato salad in an insulated cooler with frozen gel packs. Keep the cooler in the shade, and avoid opening it as much as possible.

The new (or red) potato, Yukon gold or yellow Finn are the best potatoes for potato salad because they hold their shape well. Potatoes are typically boiled, but try them roasted for more potato flavor. Potato salad doesn't have to be completely covered in mayonnaise. Consider decreasing the mayo to truly taste and see the star ingredients. Substituting half the mayo for light sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt can also cut down the calories while still providing the creaminess. Pack the potato salad for your summer picnic, but don't forget the ice packs!

Herbed Potato Salad (Printable PDF)

2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

⅓ cup light mayonnaise

¼ cup light sour cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped green onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup diced celery

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread over rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and golden. Let cool slightly before transferring to a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, green onions, garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. Gently add the dressing and celery to the potatoes and stir to coat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 190 calories, 8 grams fat, 240 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams protein

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy? Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:21:00 +0000 This week's blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Samantha Concha!

You may be aware of the current vegan craze that has been circulating around social media and probably some of your favorite weekly magazines and newspapers. But are you still a little confused of what defines someone as a "vegan?" In short, veganism can be defined as a diet excluding all forms of animals and animal by-products. Sound a little familiar? If you are contemplating whether this is vegetarianism in itself, then you are correct. If it makes it easier to mentally digest, veganism can be seen as an extreme form of vegetarianism where both dairy products and eggs are excluded from the diet.

You might also be wondering why a growing number of the population is beginning to take part in veganism. Sustainability is often a topic of discussion. Reduction of the carbon footprint, eradicating exploitation of animals and reducing land degradation are all motivations for why one may choose the path of veganism. And although far more research is needed, recent studies have examined the potential health benefits of following a vegan diet. For example, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowering serum cholesterol. It is important to note that although many of these aspects are beneficial, veganism is not for everyone. But, if you are interested in a vegan side dish, I present to you the recipe below:

Loaded Vegan Sweet Potato Fries

1 (15 oz.) bag of frozen sweet potato fries or 2 sweet potatoes, cut into match sticks

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

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

½ (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen corn

2 avocados, sliced

2 Tablespoons chopped green onion

2 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped

½ cup shredded vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly lay out frozen/fresh sweet potato fries. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper over fries and combine well. Bake for 15 minutes. The fries should be sizzling, but not caramelizing quite yet. Top fries with rinsed beans and sweet corn.

Reduce heat to 250°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Finish by topping fries with diced tomatoes, chopped green onion, pieces of avocado and favorite vegan cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 280 calories, 18 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 7 grams protein

Spring into Summer with Salmon Fri, 25 May 2018 08:12:00 +0000 Today's blog post and recipe are written by Illinois State University students and dietetic interns, Amanda Dieugenio and Samantha Concha!

Salmon is a fish that tastes delicious during any time of year, but for some reason it tastes just a little better when warm weather approaches and summer begins to hit. Salmon is best known for its anti-inflammatory effects and the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. Whenever we hear the word "fat," we are generally inclined to believe that those foods are bad or unhealthy for us. However, there are many healthy types of fat that are essential to our health and well-being, and omega-3 fatty acids are one of them!

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A majority of the health benefits come from consuming adequate amounts of EPA and DHA, so that's what our main focus should be! By consuming 1-2 servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, per week we can ensure that we are consuming enough of these fatty acids to provide us with some major health benefits.

Omega-3s, found in salmon, protect the heart and play a huge factor in the prevention of coronary heart disease. In addition to its heart healthy benefits, salmon can also lower inflammation in the body and help to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs for people suffering from arthritis. Can you imagine receiving all those health benefits just from consuming fish, like salmon, 1-2 times per week? If salmon isn't your cup of tea, you can also receive these same benefits from fish like tuna, anchovies, sardines, herring, and lake trout! Give it a shot this Memorial Day weekend with the recipe below and your body will thank you!

Quinoa-Salmon Salad (Printable PDF)

4 (4 oz.) salmon fillets

2 Tablespoons salt-free seasoning blend

1 ½ cups jasmine rice & quinoa blend

4 cups chopped leafy greens

1 cup chopped red onion

½ pint cherry tomatoes

1 avocado, sliced

8 Tablespoons favorite vinaigrette dressing

2 Tablespoons hemp seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place salmon on lined baking sheet. Evenly coat salmon with salt-free seasoning blend and place into oven. Once salmon has reached internal temperature of 145°, about 8-12 minutes, remove from oven. Cook jasmine rice & quinoa blend according to directions on package. Evenly divide salmon, rice blend, lettuce, onion, tomatoes and avocado into four bowls. Toss each with your favorite vinaigrette and garnish with hemp seeds.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 500 calories, 23 grams fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 38 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 33 grams protein

What's in Your Bowl? Mon, 21 May 2018 16:42:00 +0000 Meals in bowls are trending. There are bowls called burrito bowls, noodle bowls, power bowls, smoothie bowls and so much more. For whatever reason, it's just more interesting to eat a meal out of a bowl than on a plate.

Meals in bowls can offer a variety of important nutrients, while including a bowl full of flavor. Most are packed with lean protein, whole grains and colorful vegetables. In fact, the bowl is typically absent of processed food. You may serve bowls with each ingredient piled high right next to each other, allowing your guests to see exactly what is included in their bowl. It's an attractive sight!

There are no rules, but you may start with the greens. A cup of fresh spinach, kale, arugula or Romaine will pack potassium and Vitamin A. Next, choose your grain, such as quinoa, brown rice, barley or whole grain spaghetti noodles, which provide many B vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Add raw or cooked vegetables or fruit, like sweet potatoes, asparagus, avocado or tomatoes, and don't forget the lean protein, such as chicken, tuna, beans or boiled eggs. Finally, if desired, top it off with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or cheese, and keep a small dish of dressing nearby to drizzle as needed. Just remember to use a small bowl, or you may unnoticeably eat more than you bargained for.

Orange Shrimp Quinoa Bowl (Printable PDF)

1 Tablespoon orange zest

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

¾ cup dry quinoa

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

Juice from 1 ½ limes

2 Tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup chopped red onion

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large oranges, segmented

1 large avocado, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, combine orange zest, oil, garlic, pepper, cayenne and shrimp. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Preheat grill over medium heat. Grill shrimp using grill pan or skewers, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, onion, cilantro, salt and oranges. Divide quinoa, shrimp, orange salad and avocado slices among 4 bowls.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 480 calories, 26 grams fat, 310 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams dietary fiber, 31 grams protein

Try Agua Fresca for your Cinco de Mayo Celebrations Wed, 02 May 2018 16:31:00 +0000 This Saturday is Cinco de Mayo (fifth of May), and many will be celebrating Mexico's victory over the French forces with a "fiesta" full of Hispanic cuisine. With so many mouth-watering foods to choose from, including quesadillas, chips and guacamole, and churros, the food is easy to plan. However, it's the drinks, or should I say non-alcoholic drinks, that may have your head spinning on what to serve.

Agua Fresca, meaning fresh water, is a refreshing drink that most every roadside vendor in Mexico is sure to have. It's a healthy way to enjoy fresh fruit, and a simple beverage to make up ahead of time before guests arrive at the party. Agua Fresca is typically made with fresh pureed fruit, water, a hint of sugar and fresh lime juice. Fresh herbs, such as mint or rosemary, may also be added for additional flavor.

Most any ripe fruit is fine to use, including watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, mangoes, peaches or pineapple. All you need is a blender or food processor to puree the fruit. With only a small amount of sugar added, this low-calorie beverage is an excellent way to meet daily fruit needs. Aside from traditional fruit juice, drinking your fruit is a nice change of pace from eating whole fruit as a side dish. However, a balance of both is preferred as fruit juice and Agua Fresca will not have as much dietary fiber as whole or cut fruit.

As the weather is finally getting warmer, throw some fruit in the blender and serve yourself a tall refreshing glass of Agua Fresca!

Agua Fresca (Printable PDF)

4 cups stemmed strawberries (or other fruit, such as cantaloupe or watermelon)

3 cups cold water, divided

1 Tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Add strawberries (or other fruit), 1 ½ cups water, sugar and lime juice to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a strainer into a large pitcher. Stir in the remaining 1 ½ cups water. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve in glasses over ice.

Yield: 4 (1 cup) servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 0 grams fat, 25 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein