Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Picnic Food Safety

A summer picnic is a great way to change up the scenery from your home dining table to eating with your friends and family in the great outdoors.  Picnics can be at a local park or even in your own backyard!  Whether your picnic is steps from your home or miles away, there are some important food safety tips to keep you and your family happy, healthy and safe!

Picnic Basics 101
Here are a few things you may always want to keep on hand for any and all picnics.
  • Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site.  Pack clean, wet, disposable or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
  • Bring hand sanitizer if soap and drinkable water is not available at the site.  (Cleaning is different than sanitizing). 
  • Bring plenty of ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Bring clean plates, utensils, and serving utensils.
What I Need to Think about for Picnic Day
  • Pack foods that will not spoil as quickly during Maryland's hot summers.  Examples of food that would spoil are hard boiled eggs, deli meats, and peeled and cut fruits and vegetables.   Examples of some foods that would NOT spoil as fast are nuts, dried fruit, whole fruits and veggies, and crackers.
  • If you do packs foods that can spoil, pack only enough food so that there will be no leftovers.
  • If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within one hour of purchase when the temperature is above 90 degrees.
  • Buy an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs that you can keep foods in that easily spoil.  Your family may want to have two coolers, one for food and one for drinks.
  • Do not leave foods out in the sun.  Keep the cooler in the shade.  Serve food quickly from the cooler and return it fast.  Food should not sit out of the cooler over an hour in 90 degree weather.
  • If you are planning to grill, visit our previous blog on grilling food safety.
  • Do not forget to unpack the cooler as soon as you return home.  Refrigerate leftover meats and salads which have stayed cold (40 degrees and lower).  Discard the food if they have become warm.
Do not forget to bring a garbage bag to clean up after your awesome picnic!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Healthy Eating While on Vacation

It's vacation time!  Time to relax, time to get away from your daily routine and enjoy a new adventure.  Whether your family is going to visit grandma, to the beach or to a special destination, you do not need to leave your healthy eating habits at home.  Plan ahead and follow these tips for healthy travels.
  • Pack your own healthy snacks to go.  Have pretzels, trail mix, popcorn, chopped veggies, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds in the car for those family snack breaks as you travel.  These filling snacks will keep everyone happy and save you time and money.
  • Be water friendly.  Staying hydrated is important!  Make water your main drink while you are on the go.  Keep your cooler packed with ice cold water instead of the sugary juice drinks and teas with added sugar.
  • Find a farmers' market or grocery store.  Once you have reached your destination, pick up fresh fruits and veggies, dairy foods, whole grains, nuts and seeds that can be enjoyed as a snack or as a breakfast alternative during your stay.
  • Choose a sit-down restaurant instead of fast food.  Even though this takes more time, the menu will allow for healthier food choices.  You will be able to order your food broiled rather than fried.  Ask for salad dressing on the side and choose salads, fruits, and vegetables instead of fried side dishes.

Try our Trail Mix recipe to take on your next traveling adventure!

Trail Mix
serves 8      serving size - 1/2 cup

1 1/2 cups unsweetened breakfast cereal  (cheerios, chex, corn flakes)
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/3 cup sunflower kernels

  1. Measure and mix ingredients together.
  2. Serve in a small bag or cup.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Water for Healthy Bodies

Warm temperatures are here to stay for a while, so it's important to remember to give our bodies plenty of water to help stay cool and hydrated during these busy summer days.

Why do we need to drink water?
Every single cell in our body has water in it.  It is an essential building block for everything our body does.  Our brains and hearts are made up of 70% water, and our muscles are 80% water.  All of our body fluids, such as blood, saliva, and spinal fluids, contain water.  Even our bones have water in them -- about 30% of our skeleton is water!

Our bodies need water for sweating to keep us cool, acting as a transport to deliver nutrients, helping to flush out body wasted through urination, and lubricating our joints so we can move around easily.

How do I get water?
All of us can meet our bodies' water needs through drinking fluids.  Luckily, our body lets us know when it needs more water by giving us a feeling of thirst.  We can also get water from the foods that we eat.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are about 85% water, plus they have important nutrients that our body needs.

Water is a delicious drink on its own, and it is what our body needs most often.  Create your own refreshing drink by adding sliced fruit such as lemon, lime, oranges, strawberries, and even watermelon, or fresh herbs like spearmint to a glass of water.  Slices of fruit and herbs add very few calories, keeping this a very healthy drink.

If you like soda but know you should limit sugary drinks,  create your own using the recipe Fizzy and Fruity Water.  It's a fun one to make with the kids because they get to see lots of bubbles, while having a healthy drink.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Peaches are a Perfect Summer Fruit

Peaches are a sweet, juicy fruit that tastes the best during the summer months.  Peaches are known for their fuzzy skin!  Peaches have a yellow or white flesh and a pit in the middle.  Peaches are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.

How to select:
  • Smell the fruit.  Peaches have a sweet smell when they are ripe.
  • Look for a creamy gold to yellow color.  The red or "blush" of a peach is an indication of the type of peach, now how ripe it is.
  • Touch the fruit.  Peaches should be soft to the touch but not mushy.  Do not squeeze the peach as they bruise very easily.
How to store:
  • Place firm peaches on the counter at room temperature and they will ripen within a few days.
  • Refrigerate ripe peaches and eat within a week of buying them.  Remove from the refrigerator for 1 hour before eating for the best flavor.
How to prepare:
  • The skin of the peach is safe to eat! Wash the peach with water before eating.
  • To peel a peach, dip into boiling water for 30 seconds and then place in cold water.  The peel will come off easily.
  • To keep sliced peaches from getting dark, mix with a small amount of lemon juice.
How to serve:
  • Add peaches to low-fat yogurt or top your cereal for added flavor.
  • Grill peaches for a fun twist to your summer meals!  Cut the peach in half, remove the pit and place on the grill for 3-5 minutes.
  • Use in muffins.  Try our Peach Muffins with Oatmeal Topping!
  • For a healthy treat for gatherings, try the Rise and Shine Cobbler that everyone will love!
Peaches can be found at the farmers' market now!  Use your EBT card at the farmers' market to pick up peaches for your family this week!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Recipe Spotlight: Confetti Apple Slaw


Are you looking for a healthy side dish to bring to a picnic this summer?  Then this Confetti Apple Slaw is the perfect dish for you.  Whether you are meeting friends for an outside gathering or sitting down at the table with your family, Confetti Apple Slaw is a healthy option everyone will love!

By using fruits, vegetables, and other simple ingredients, this recipe puts a healthy twist on an old classic.  Try out this recipe and add more fruits and vegetables to your meals!

Confetti Apple Slaw
Serves: 6

2 Tablespoons orange concentrate, defrosted
1 apple, washed, unpeeled, cored and diced
1/2 head cabbage, washed, cored and diced
1 small red onion, washed and finely chopped
1 red or green sweet bell pepper, washed, seeds removed and chopped
3 Tablespoons raisins
1 Tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  1. In a large bowl, stir together juice concentrate and diced apple.
  2. Add cabbage, onion, pepper, and raisins.
  3. In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, paprika, and pepper to make dressing.
  4. Add vegetable mixture to dressing and mix well.  
  5. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Gather all of your ingredients.

Wash and dice all fruits and vegetables.

In a large bowl, stir together juice concentrate and diced apple.

Add cabbage, onion, pepper, and raisins to apple mixture.

In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, yogurt,
mustard, paprika, and pepper to make dressing.

Add dressing to vegetable mixture and mix well. 
Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Simple Summertime Dinners

It's summertime and the livin' is the lyrics say.  With the hustle and bustle of summer activities, getting a healthy family dinner on the table sometimes is not that easy.  Beat the heat this summer and save time with these stress-free tips!

Make it Easy
Consider meals that do not take a lot of time to prepare.  Serve a protein with a vegetable and fruit for a healthy and light summer dinner. Prepare your meal outside on the grill where time can be saved on cooking and cleaning up.  Follow recipes like the Vegetable Variety Pack below.  Your children will enjoy helping you prepare meals!   Use your crock-pot or slow cooker for ease in preparing food.  This time saving device will have food ready at the end of the day with little clean up and added heat in your kitchen. 

Make it Fresh 
Hot days call for cool meals.  Use fresh fruits and vegetables in salads, sandwiches, chilled soups, and smoothies.  Visit your local farmers' market or your local grocery for fresh produce.  Invite your youngest family members to choose a new fruit or vegetable for the family to try.  This can be a fun experience for the whole family.

Make it Ahead
When grilling, roasting or using your crock-pot, prepare enough for a second meal to freeze.  This will allow you that "vacation day" from the kitchen. Try to do this as often as you can.  Almost any food can be frozen.  Label the food container with the name  of the food (example: Vegetable Variety Pack), date the container (example  June 29, 2015) and serving portion (example: serves 5).  Writing the name, date, and serving size will help you to use the food in a timely manner.

 Try this healthy veggie side dish this summer!

Vegetable Variety Pack
Serves:  5

2 small zucchini, washed and sliced
2 small yellow squash, washed and sliced
4 small potatoes, scrubbed, washed and sliced
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, washed, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup light Italian salad dressing

  1. Preheat oven or grill to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir vegetables and dressing together in a large bowl.
  3. Spread vegetables in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil.  Bring foil edges together and seal to make a packet.  Individuals packets may also be made.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes or cook on the grill until veggies are tender.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Learn, Play and Grow with the Summer Meals Program

Photo courtesy of Share our Strength

No need to worry about your kids missing lunch once school gets out.  The summer meals program helps bridge the gap in the summer when kids are not receiving school lunch.

WHAT:  The summer meals program, provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to all children. 

WHO:  All children 18 and younger.   Individuals with disabilities over the age of 18 are also eligible.

WHERE:  The summer meals program can be found at schools, community or recreation centers, summer camps, churches, or libraries.  To find a site near you click on the link and enter your zip code:  Maryland Summer Meals Search.

For more information on meal sites call:  National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE

The summer meals program is FREE and no paperwork is needed to get a meal.  Just come to the location listed during meal time and the kids will get  get a free breakfast, lunch, or snack.  The meals meet federal nutrition guidelines by providing fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  The healthy foods help children learn, play and grow over the summer.

To learn more about summer meals in Maryland, visit:

Photo courtesy of Share our Strength