Monday, September 22, 2014

Vegetable of the Month: Squash!

The weather is getting cooler outside, which means fall is right around the corner.  There are many different varieties of squash that you can buy, but some are in season in the fall and winter months.  The most popular fall and winter squash are: acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash.  Squash comes in a variety of shapes and colors and is a great source of potassium, fiber, and Vitamin A.

How to select:
  • Choose squash with glossy skin that does not have any spots or cuts.
  • Whole winter squash can be store at room temperature for 1-3 months depending on the variety.
  • Store cut pieces of squash in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Types of squash:
  • Acorn squash -- usually shaped like an acorn. To prepare rinse the outside, slice into halves and can be baked, microwaved, sautéed or steamed. Acorn squash can be filled with different ingredients for added flavor.  Try our Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash for a quick and easy side dish!
  • Butternut squash -- has yellow skin and orange flesh inside.  As butternut squash gets ripe, it becomes sweeter.  To prepare, rinse the outside, peel off the skin, carefully cut down the middle, and chop into pieces.  Butternut squash is usually baked or roasted and great in soups!  Try the Butternut Squash Soup recipe below!
  • Spaghetti squash:  is oblong and has a ivory to yellow or orange color.  Spaghetti squash when cooked looks like spaghetti!  Spaghetti squash can be prepared by rinsing off the spaghetti squash and poke holes on the outside.  Spaghetti squash can be cooked in the microwave, baked or steamed.  Once they are cooked, cut in half and scoop out the insides.  Try this Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan recipe.  Kids will love that it looks like spaghetti!

There are many ways to enjoy squash.  What is your favorite squash recipe?


Butternut Squash Soup
1 red onion
2 medium butternut squash, chopped (or 2 packages of precut)
3-4 celery stalks, with leaves, chopped
1 potato, chopped
3-4 large carrots, chopped
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Sprinkle with black pepper
Add to taste:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup half n half
  1. Cook all of the above ingredients in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.
  2. Once cooked and soft, place in a blender and blend for 2-3 minutes until well blended.
  3. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and half n half to taste.
  4. Enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Erin Braunscheidel Duru

Monday, September 15, 2014

Recipe Spotlight: Fruit Salad with Jicama

Fruit salad make the perfect addition to a late-summer barbeque.  The sweet, juicy flavors of fresh fruit can be eaten as a side dish, a dessert, and even part of breakfast in the morning.  Creating fruit salad in the kitchen is a great way to let kids try new fruits.

Try a tropical fruit salad with jicama, mango, kiwi, papaya, and watermelon. Some of these fruits may not be familiar to your children.  Let your child help prepare them in the kitchen and they are more likely to give the new fruits a try.  Let your child help wash and mix the fruit together, checking out the different textures and smells.

Fruit Salad with Jicama
Serves: 6

1 jicama, washed and sliced in thin strips
2 cups watermelon or cantaloupe, cut in cubes
1 mango, washed, peeled and cut in cubes
1 papaya, washed, peeled and seeded, cut in cubes
1 kiwi, washed, peeled and cut in cubes
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

  1. Add fruit to large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the lime juice over the fruit.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the salt and chili powder.  Sprinkle mixture over fruit.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Gather all of your ingredients!
Peel the jicama and then cut into thin strips.

Peel the kiwi and cut into cubes.

Remove the seeds from the papaya, peel and cut into cube pieces.

Cut watermelon in half and then cut cube pieces.
Cut mango in half, remove the pit and cut into cube pieces.

Add cut up fruit into one large bowl.
 Now it's time to add the additional ingredients to the salad.
Squeeze juice from 1/2 lime onto fruit.
In a small bowl, mix together salt and chili powder.  Sprinkle on bowl of fruit.
Place in the refrigerator until chilled!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to School: Stay Active!

School has started!  Your children will be catching up with old friends and will be busy with homework.  You might need to help your child remember one more important part of the back to school routine:  Being physically active!

At School
  • Encourage your child to be active during recess.  Ask them what their favorite games are when they go to PE each week.  You might even be able to do the same activity as a family at home!
  • Physical education in schools is a great way for children to try different sports.  Ask them to tell you about what they did in PE class each week.
  • Group sports and after schools activities might be available.  Check with your school to see what they offer.
At Home
  • Have the kids take "brain breaks" after school and before homework.  Let your child do something active after a long day spent sitting in class.  Is there a basketball hoop or playground in the neighborhood?  Have the kids dance to some music around the house for a while if the weather is bad.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the TV, playing video games, or using the phone.  Time spent in front of a screen is time they should be up and moving! 
  • Give age-appropriate tasks to your child that allow them to move.  Have older children take out the garbage or help clean the house.  Let smaller children pick up sticks that have fallen in the yard and make a pile.  Send children up and down the stairs with tasks one at a time instead of all together - bring dirty laundry downstairs on one trip and take clean laundry up on another!
  • Go for a walk as a family!  This is a great way to spend some time together while getting a bit of physical activity.
  • Be a good role model.  Be active with your children and they will see that it is important.
Whatever your family enjoys doing to stay active, do it all year long.  Let's keep our kids moving!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Meal Planning During School

Not sure how to have healthy, family meals now that school has started?  Don't worry -- we can help!  Try a few of these tips to help make meal planning easier during the busy week.
  1. Plan ahead.  Have a day off?  Sit down and plan what you will fix each night for dinner for the next week.  Think about nights that you may get home a little later and plan to have leftovers for a quick meal.  This will also help when going to the grocery store and gathering all ingredients for the week ahead.  For more quick and easy meal tips, visit our previous blog post on quick and easy meals
  2. Use a slow cooker.  Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and let them simmer all day.  When you come home in the evening, dinner is ready!  Check out our previous blog post on Slow Cooker Meals for recipes and ideas. 
  3. Food pantry staples.  There are several food items to keep on hand for quick dinner ideas.  Keep these items on hand in case you are running short on time to prepare a quick, healthy dinner.
  4. Canned food.  Canned foods can be very helpful when looking for quick meal ideas.  Use canned meats such as chicken or tuna, beans, and vegetables with no salt added or reduced salt.  Try these canned food meal ideas to prepare a healthy dinner for your family?
Do you have tips on preparing quick and easy dinner ideas during the school year?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Starting the School Year Off on the Right Foot

School is starting very soon!  As the kids are getting back to school, start the year off on the right foot by making healthy choices that can last all year long.  Follow these ideas for healthy choices to help your child be more focused and get the most out of their school day. 
  1. Eat Breakfast!  Eating breakfast each morning helps your child start the day ready to learn.  Whether at home or school, breakfast is important.   Breakfast will help your child feel less
    hungry throughout the school day.  Try our breakfast ideas during the school year. 
  2. Add fruits and veggies to your plate.  Fruits and veggies have many vitamins and minerals that help keep our bodies healthy.  Encourage your child to eat a fruit and veggie at lunch each day.  Look at the school lunch menu the night before to guide your child to choose a fruit and veggie that they may like or want to try.
  3. Snack healthy.  Children are working hard all day as they are learning, so they are often hungry when they get home.  Have healthy snacks on hand to eat before dinner is ready.  Need quick and easy snack ideas?  Check out our previous blog post on 5 Types of Healthy Snacks for a Busy Lifestyle. 
  4. Be Active Everyday!  As school starts and schedules fill up, it can sometimes be tough to get physical activity.  Set aside time each night with your family to take a walk, play a game of catch or get creative by making up a new game inside.  Physical activity also helps children use the energy they stored up from sitting in class all day.
  5. Get enough sleep.  Is it is important that your child gets enough sleep to feel well-rested in the morning.  A well-rested student stays healthy and is ready to learn!
Have a great school year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Stop Wasting Food!

Most people don't have extra money to throw away, but many of us end up throwing food away.  That's just money lost! Here are some tips to get the most from your food dollars and ways to stop wasting food:
  1. Don't buy more food than you can eat before it goes bad.
    • This is especially true for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Eating fresh fruits and veggies is great for a healthy diet, but fresh foods won't last forever. Many fruits can be frozen and eaten later.  Try keeping a zipper-sealed plastic freezer bag in your freezer for fruit than can be used to make smoothies.
    • If you know you can't eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, consider buying bagged frozen or canned ones instead; these will last much longer. 
  2. Take advantage of leftovers!
    • Left-over main dishes are a great way to stretch your food dollars, but you need to remember to eat them!  Be sure to keep left-overs in the front of the refrigerator (not pushed to the back, where they can get lost).  Put left-overs in containers that are easy to take for lunches. 
    • Freeze extra main dishes if you know you aren't going to eat them in a day or two.
    • Remember to throw left-overs out after four days.
  3. Don't buy more than you need.
    • Even though many foods are cheaper when you buy in bulk or in larger packages, they aren't really saving you any money if you end up throwing part of it away.  Pay attention to how much your family really does eat of certain foods and buy accordingly.  Don't be tempted by buy-on-get-one offers, if the product isn't something your family will eat before it goes bad.
    • Consider freezing part of your loaf of bread, too, if you know your family won't go through a whole loaf before it starts to mold.  Be sure to use freezer bags and don't just toss the loaf into your freezer in the plastic bread bad that it comes in -- those plastic bags are not meant to keep freezers from drying out your bread.
  4. Treat meat right!
    • Buying meat on sale is a great way to save money, but you need to either use it or freeze it within a few days of buying it.  Again, be sure to use freezer bags for your meat to avoid freezer burn.  Meat that is only wrapped in plastic is not ready to toss in the freezer!
  5. Eat up the oldest foods first.
    • Watch those expiration dates!  A good grocery store will rotate its stock, so that the oldest foods are up front and the newest foods are at the back.  You should do the same thing in your pantry so that your family eats up older foods first.  And always try to buy foods with an expiration date well in the future so you have plenty of time to eat it up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Any Way You Slice It, Watermelons Are a Treat!

May to August is the perfect time to enjoy a family favorite treat:  watermelon!  Since it is the peak season, grocery stores and farmers' markets will have a huge supply of this delicious, juicy fruit at a low cost.  Watermelon is also a tasty, low-calorie way to stay hydrated in the summer heat and is full of nutrition that is important for your family's health.

How to Select:
  • Look for a watermelon with bright skin, firm, and free of cuts
  • Choose one that feels heavy for it's size.  "Water" melons contain more than 90% water and the ripest ones have the most water.
  • The underside should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground to ripen.
  • Cut watermelon will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How to Prepare:
  • Wash watermelon thoroughly.
  • Cut watermelon in half and remove the rind to eat.
How to Serve:
  • Cut watermelon for a refreshing snack in the summer.
  • Let kids use a melon baller to scoop watermelon out and make melon kabobs.
  • Make homemade Watermelon Pops
  • Try cooling down with a Cool Melon Slushie