Monday, November 17, 2014

Where Does Food Go? Food Storage Tips for Your Home!



Do you ever find yourself wondering where to keep certain foods?  While it may seem easy to figure out which foods should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer, some foods may not be so easy to figure out.  Check out the details below for more information on how and where to store your foods!


Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and veggies can be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  A few fruits and veggies taste best when stored on the kitchen counter at room temperature.


Fruit or Vegetable
Storage Location
Shelf-Life
Potatoes
Kitchen counter, or other cool, dark place
Use within 3 weeks
Tomatoes
Kitchen counter
Use within 1 week
Onions
Kitchen counter, or other cool, dry place
Use within 2 weeks
Melon
Once ripe on the counter, store in the refrigerator until ready to eat
Use within 1 week
Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, Pears
Once ripe on the counter, store in the refrigerator until ready to eat
Use within 1-2 weeks


Meat/Fish/Poultry
Store these items in the refrigerator.  Keep them in their own drawer or on the lowest shelf if your refrigerator to keep any raw juices from coming into contact with other foods.  Be sure to freeze meat, fish and poultry by the date on the outside of the packaging.


Dairy and Eggs
Store these items in the back of the refrigerator where it is the coldest.  Use by the date on the outside of the package.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall produce Picks

It's that time of the year.....the leaves are almost finished changing colors, the air is getting cooler, and the nights are getting shorter.  But, fall vegetables are not just for display.  There are many fall fruits and veggies that are waiting to be on your dinner table. These include:  apples, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.  Let's talk about four fall produce foods:
  1. Brussels Sprouts
  2. Brussels sprouts
    • These look like miniature cabbage and are packed with vitamins like vitamin K, vitamin C and folate.  They also contain fiber, which keeps you fuller longer. 
    • Brussels sprouts can be steamed, roasted, and sautéed.  You can even grill them.  Just add a little olive oil and your favorite spices to them and you're set for a quick and easy dinner side dish.
  3. Spaghetti Squash
    • This squash is lots of fun because it looks like spaghetti once it's cooked and scraped out
      with a fork.  The yellow  flesh inside gives you lots
      of beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C.
    • Spaghetti squash
    • You can use spaghetti squash just like you use regular pasta. Drizzle the strands with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, or add your favorite sauce.  Try our easy Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan recipe.
  4. Butternut Squash
    • Like spaghetti squash, butternut squash also contains beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber.  It has a rich nutty flavor which can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.
    • Butternut Squash

    • You can roast butternut squash and then puree to make a hearty soup, or mix chunks of it with other roasted fall veggies.  Don't forget about the seeds, which are packed with vitamin E and other minerals.  Roast them for a healthy snack.
  5. Apples
    • They don't say that apples keep the doctor away for nothing!  Apples contain vitamin C,
      Apples
      fiber, and antioxidants. 
    • Send a whole apple in your child's lunch box, bake them in a crisp, or dice them up and use them as toppings for oatmeal and yogurt. 
You are probably wondering where you can find fall produce.  Stop by your local farmers' market for in-season produce that is low in cost.   Find your local farmers' market here

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recipe Spotlight: Spicy Apple-Filled Squash




Fall is upon us.  With the changing leaves and cool breezes, cozy up this fall with a hearty squash dish.  Acorn squash and apples are in season this time of year and are easy to find at your local farmers' market.  This flavorful dish would be a delicious addition to your favorite holiday meals.  Plus, acorn squash and apples are filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber!

Spicy Apple-Filled Squash
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 acorn squash, washed
1 apple, washed, cut in half, cored, and chopped
2 teaspoons margarine, melted
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg, optional
Dash of ground cloves, optional
Cooking oil spray

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Spray a 1-quart baking dish with cooking oil spray.
  3. Cut squash in half.  Remove squash seeds from each half with a spoon.
  4. Place squash (skin side up) in baking dish, cover with foil and put baking dish in oven for 30 minutes.
  5. In a medium bowl, add apple, margarine, brown sugar, and spices.
  6. Remove squash from oven.  Flip squash over, and fill with apple mixture.
  7. Re-cover squash with foil, and bake 30 minutes more.
Try serving this recipe with whole grains like brown rice or barley.  

Gather all of your ingredients!


 Cut the acorn squash in half.  If you are having trouble cutting 
this safely, try piercing the squash skin with a fork and placing
it in the microwave on high heat for 1-2 minutes.


Remove the squash seeds with a spoon.


 
Place squash skin side up in a pan, cover with foil and place
in the oven too cook for 30 minutes.




While the squash is in the oven, measure out the brown sugar and spices.


After measuring out the butter and spices, combine these 
ingredients with the diced apples in a medium bowl.

 

Take squash out of the oven and flip over. Fill the cavity 
of the squash with the apple mixture.  Place back in oven for 30 minutes. 


Let cool for 10 minutes, then enjoy!





Monday, November 3, 2014

Navigating the Grocery Store

Unplanned trips to the grocery store can end up taking extra time out of your day and costing more money.  Follow these four tips to make grocery shopping easier!
  1. Avoid shopping when hungry.   If you are hungry, it's easy to pick up extra food items and unhealthy snacks.  Try having a healthy snack like nuts or a piece of fruit before heading to the store.
  2. Make a list before you go.  Before you go to the grocery store, create a list of food items you need. Put the list in your bag so you don't forget to take it with you.  Try and stick to your list to help you save time and money at the grocery store.
  3. Plan meals ahead of time. When you are making your list, try to plan meals ahead of time.  Choose recipes that you can use food items in more than one dish.  For example, buy a larger can of tuna fish.  You can make sandwiches for lunch and a tuna casserole for dinner the following day!
  4. Shop the perimeter of the store.   When you get to the grocery store try to shop the outside aisles around the store.  Healthy food items, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are on the outside aisles.  Processed and unhealthy foods are usually found in the inside aisles.
Don't forget there are a ton of ways to shop healthy on a budget!
  • Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season.  They are often cheaper and delicious!  For example, butternut squash and cauliflower are some vegetables that are in season during the fall.
  • Look for store brands and compare labels.  They usually have the same nutrients and ingredients but just different packaging.  For example, look for a known cereal brand find the same type of cereal in the store brand and compare prices.
  • Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are a great option.  They are filled with vitamins and nutrients but have a longer shelf life and are lower in cost than fresh fruits and veggies.  When you do purchase canned fruits and veggies remember to rinse them off.  This helps to get rid of added sugar in the fruits and salt in the veggies.
  • Look for weekly coupons and bonus cards!  Some grocery stores even give gas points with bonus cards.
  • Buy foods that are shelf stable in larger quantities.  Foods that are shelf stable will not go bad as quickly so they will keep longer.  Buying family sized packages can often save money.  Examples of shelf stable foods include canned beans and dried rice. 
Next time you go to the grocery store remember these tips to make your experience a breeze!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time Savers in the Kitchen


Do you ever feel too busy with your daily routine to think about preparing meals?  Planning and preparing dinner after a long day can feel overwhelming.   Here are a few easy ways to help you shorten your time in the kitchen.


  1. Cook once, eat twice.  Plan to have leftovers when making dinner for the family.  By doubling your recipes, you can prepare more than one meal for the week in half the time!  Try freezing half of the meal and warm it up on another night when you are too busy to cook.
  2. Grocery shop with a plan.  Make a grocery list and stick to it.  This will help prevent you from being stressed at dinner time.  If you have an idea of what you will need from the store, doing a weekly shopping trip is much faster than going to the grocery on the way home from work every night.
  3. Wash and reuse equipment as you go.  Cleaning the kitchen as you go can help save a lot of time in the kitchen.  It is quicker to wash and rinse a bowl or spoon that you already have in your hand rather than reaching in the pantry or cabinet for a new one.  This will help cut down on the number of dishes to clean after dinner is finished.
  4. Prep your foods in advance.  Try washing and cutting your fruits and veggies after coming home from the grocery.  Washing and cutting your produce in advance will help to prepare meals faster.  It also provides you with healthy grab-and-go snack options for the week.
What are your favorite time savers in the kitchen?  Please share your ideas with us!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall is Pumpkin Time!

Fall is pumpkin season!  Pumpkins are not just fun to carve, but also great to eat.

Pumpkins are a member of the squash family.  This vegetable can be cooked, pureed, and used in a variety of dishes including soups, breads, and desserts.  Pumpkin is a low calorie food, and a very good source of dietary fiber and Vitamins A and C.  Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack adding fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins to our diet.

When selecting pumpkins, consider the variety, size and shape you will need.  Select a "pie pumpkin" or "sweet pumpkin" for cooking.  These are smaller than the large jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and the flesh is sweeter and less watery.  Look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem, and free of blemishes and soft spots.  It should be heavy; shape is usually unimportant.  One pound of raw pumpkin will provide about 1 cup pumpkin puree.

Below are some great ways to use locally-grown pumpkins to make hearty and delicious treats.  Look for a "Cinderella" or bowl shaped pumpkin to serve as your soup bowl when preparing the soup.  Save seeds from a bigger pumpkin for roasting.  Enjoy!

Hearty Soup in a Pumpkin
Serves 8

Ingredients:
Medium-sized pumpkin ("Cinderella" or bowl shape)
4 chicken breasts
3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 large carrots
2 celery stalks
1/2 cup of scallions
1 can low-sodium cream of chicken soup
1 can low-sodium cream of celery soup
1 can low-sodium chicken alphabet or noodle soup
1 can of water
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:
  1. Wash the outside of the pumpkin with water.
  2. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and clean out the inside of the pumpkin with a spoon.  (You can put the seeds aside for roasting later).
  3. Cut up the chicken into small pieces and cook in 2 Tablespoons of butter in a pan on the stovetop until golden brown.
  4. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
  5. Wash and cut carrots and celery into small bite-sized pieces.
  6. Wash and chop 1/2 cup scallions.
  7. Cook the carrots, celery and scallions in 1 Tablespoons of melted butter using a large frying pan until tender.
  8. Add 1 can each of cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, and chicken alphabet or noodle soup. Stir.
  9. Stir in 1 can of water, 1/3 cup sour cream and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.
  10. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and pour the mixture into the hollow pumpkin and add the cooked chicken.
  11. Stir and place the pumpkin top over the pumpkin.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
  13. Carefully  remove and serve.  Scrape the side of the pumpkin when serving. 


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
Seeds of hollowed out pumpkin -- rinsed and dried
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Rinse and remove pumpkin from seeds and place on paper towel to dry.
  2. Spread dry seeds out in a single layer across a cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to mix.
  5. Baked at 325 degrees for 7 minutes or until light brown and crisp.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Get in the Game with School Lunch




October 13-17 is National School Lunch Week!  School lunch provides a daily nutritious meal for school-age children, which includes healthy foods from each MyPlate food group:  whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.  Schools participating in the National School Lunch week celebration may have special menu items, colorful signs posted in the cafeteria, and even lunchroom staff dressed in costumes!  Many students are eligible to receive free or reduced school breakfast, lunch, and some schools offer a late-afternoon supper meal.  Contact your child's school to ask about the free and reduced school meal program. 

Schools may feature locally grown and harvested fruit and vegetables like apples, cauliflower, broccoli, and squash on the school lunch menu this week.  It is a great opportunity to taste fresh produce at its very best!

Ask your child to read the school menu with you.  Circle healthy foods on the menu that your child already likes.  Then circle some new healthy foods to try!  Children need to try new foods many times, prepared in different ways, to decide whether they really like these foods. Encourage children to try these healthy foods by being a role model yourself.  Eat these foods together with children to show how much you enjoy eating them.  They are more likely to try these foods when they see you eating them too! 

Get in the game with school lunch and enjoy healthy and nutritious foods this week, and every week!