Thursday, April 17, 2014

Like a Pack of Wolves on Jell-O

I made Jell-O yesterday with my 5 year old. It is an easy and fascinating cooking science experiment that you can do with your kids. The only help they need is with the boiling water and that part is over pretty fast, while the stirring and waiting to set can take a while and engage their interest. We, of course, ended up with some finger prints in ours as he had to keep "testing it" to see if it was done yet.

Another really great thing about Jell-O is that you can sneak a lot of fruit in there and kids will still eat it like crazy. We currently have a lot of canned fruit here at our house, so we used some unsweetened pears, but you can use any canned fruit that you have on hand. If you are buying some at the store look for unsweetened or fruit that is store in it's own juice instead of in sugar syrup.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try some fresh fruits keep in mind that not all fresh fruit will allow your gelatin to set and you will end up with fruit floating around in flavored water. Pineapple, guava, mango and kiwi are just some examples of fruits that should never be mixed with Jello-O because of the proteases they contain. Stick with fruits that do not contain proteases to ensure that the Jello-O is able to solidify.

Apples, strawberries and oranges as fruits that make excellent additions to Jello-O. Berries like cherries, blueberries and blackberries are also good choices. Lemons, peaches and plums work well in lemon-flavored Jell-O. Raspberries and cranberries make colorful options. Add bananas or coconut to give your Jell-O a tropical flavor.

Some fruits can be placed directly into Jello-O as whole pieces. For example, grapes and blueberries do not need to be prepared in any way before being added to the dessert. Other fruits like strawberries, apples, oranges and lemons should be cut or sliced. If you want to use fresh fruits such as kiwi, guava or pineapple that contain proteases, make your Jello-O dessert and let it solidify before placing the fruit on top of the Jello-O as a garnish. You can also make a sauce out of figs or papaya which can be spread on top of the dessert.

So get out there and experiment and see what you like, see what your family likes. You could be creating an amazing creation that will become a family tradition and that will have everyone begging you to make it more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Food $ense at Home Lessons

Did you know that you can learn some of the amazing Food $ense lessons right on your own computer? The first basic Food $ense lessons are all available right here on this website.   It is just like going to your local extension of having an agent come to your house! It is a great place to get started and start thinking about how Food $ense can help you improve your life and the health of your family.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Eat Lots More Veggies

I was reading at article this weekend about boosting the recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies from 5 up to 7. If you are having a hard time getting your 5 servings, 7 is going to seem like a Mount Everest climb of vegetable eating. Something that is almost too daunting to even think about.

That has gotten me thinking about ways we can get more vegetables into our day, Perhaps here are a few ways that you might not have thought about yet.

Eat your Veggies for Breakfast- put some spinach into your omelet or toss in some peppers for a southwestern style breakfast burrito. The first meal of the daily can be the first place you are eating veggies.

Don't let Mid-Morning sneak by- You know that 10am slump we all feel? This is the perfect time to pick ourselves up with some veggies. A crispy snack of snap peas or carrots sticks can be just that cool zip to power you through to lunch time.

Stack up your Sandwich- Loading your sandwich with veggies can not only help stave off lunch time boredom, but really pack a punch of nutrition and energy into your mid-day meal. You can load up a sandwich with not just lettuce and tomatoes, but sliced avocado, sliced cucumbers, strips of asparagus, or slices of bell peppers. The only limit here is your imagination.

Snack Time is the Perfect Time -  Don't let any snack time pass without taking this opportunity to eat some veggies.  You can dip them into hummus, peanut butter, or mashed avocados. Try one of the fashionable new greek yogurt dips for some added protein ( you can even chop some veggies up and hide them in your dip!)

Half your plate - Don't forget dinner time. My Plate recommends that you fill half your plate with veggies. If you find this hard, always make a green salad and then a vegetable side dish. Or let two of your kids each pick out a vegetable for dinner.

With a little planning and forethought, we can not only be reaching the recommended 5 servings a day but the super extra healthy 7 servings!  Can you imagine all the extra health benefits we would be getting with those two extra servings a day. So let's get out there and go get 'em!  Yay Veggies!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Greek Salad - My Style

I have been craving Greek Salad for the better part of this week. So we picked up the ingredients that we needed and decided to make it for dinner tonight.  I haven been so excited for dinner in a while. I couldn't wait to eat this. ( I really had been craving it for a while). 

Greek Salad is super easy to make once you find the right olives. Kalamata olives are the onces called for in the recipe and most super markets carry them nowadays.  Be sure to buy them pitted, because spending a lot of time pitting the olives makes this toss together salad much much harder to make. 

I also add lettuce to mine, while it is not traditional it makes the expensive ingredients like the cheese and the specialty olives go a lot further while using them as ingredients that contribute to taste as well as bulk. 

1 head Romaine Lettuce, Chopped
4 whole Ripe Tomatoes, Cut Into Six Wedges Each, Then Each Wedge Cut In Half
1 whole (large) Cucumber, Peeled, Cut Into Fourths Lengthwise, And Diced Into Large Chunks
1/2 whole Red Onion, Sliced Very Thin
30 whole Pitted Kalamata Olives, Cut In Half Lengthwise
6 ounces, weight Crumbled Feta Cheese
 Fresh Parsley, Roughly Chopped
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar (more To Taste)
1 clove Garlic, Minced
6 whole Kalamata Olives (extra), Chopped Fine
1/4 teaspoon Salt
 Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 whole Lemon, For Squeezing

Preparation Instructions
Add chopped lettuce, tomato wedges, cucumber chunks, onion slices, halved Kalamata olives, half the feta, and parsley to a large bowl.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, and chopped olives in a bowl. Whisk together until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings (I almost always add a little sugar.)
Pour dressing over salad ingredients, then add salt and pepper. Toss with tongs or clean hands. Just before serving, top with additional feta and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top.

 Adding the extra diced olives to the dressing makes all the difference in the world and makes every single bite extra zingy and special.

You can also wrap all this deliciousness into a pita and make a wrap with it. 

Enjoy! This is something that you can eat and crave all summer long.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strawberry Avocado Salsa with Talapia

One of the April spotlight fruits is Strawberries. We bought a whole case of them this weekend and we have been putting them in everything. Several of us here have red stained fingers and lips from eating them as fast as we can. Strawberries are one of those amazing foods that taste like absolute heaven when they are fresh and taste less good when they are frozen. So we are getting all the strawberries we can while the gettin' is good. 

One of the more interesting Food $ense strawberry recipes is for a Strawberry tostada. You see lots and lots of recipes for strawberry desserts, there are actually very few savory recipes out there, so I just had to try it. I did a little bit of web research and found a very similar recipe for Strawberry Salsa. 

We ate it plain, tried it with chips and then topped some tilapia with the stuff. It was delicious! The strawberries add a really fun and surprising sweetness to traditional salsa ingredients. This experiment was a wild success.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Create a Salad - the Basics

April is a great month to spotlight Salad Greens! They are one of the first crops that come up in the spring time and there are lots of different types readily available at the local markets and one of the first things that you will find welcoming you at your local farmer's market.

Creating a salad can be one of the easiest and best for you meals to prepare (just be sure you are too heavy handed with the dressing).

Start with your greens. There are so many to choose from ranging from mild to bitter with quite a bite depending on your mood.

Here are some ideas to get your started: 

Romaine -
Red leaf
Green leaf
Spring mix
Dandelion greens
Baby beet greens

Next add your veggies - anything goes here! The more the merrier. 

Bell pepper 

Then brighten it up and add some zest with fruit.

Dried cranberries

If you are feeling it, add a little bit of cheese. 

Blue Cheese 
Cottage cheese 

Keep it healthy and help yourself stay fuller longer with some protein. 

Kidney beans 
Black beans 
Pinto beans 
Garbanzo beans 
Pine nuts 
Chicken or turkey 
Beef or pork 
Tuna or salmon 
Sunflower seeds 
Pumpkin seeds 
Hard-boiled eggs

And top it all off with some Crunch!

Tortilla chips 
Small crackers

Happy Salad Adventuring! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Simple Swaps for a Better Life

 Cook instead of eating out. Even if you try to eat healthy at a restaurant, that pesky bread bowl or sneaky salad may pack more calories than you planned for. Trust your inner Top Chef skills, and turn on the (skillet) heat. Cooking at home will more likely result in a healthier meal, not to mention a happier wallet.

Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. A glass of O.J. contains very little of the pulp or skin from an orange—and none of the fiber content. Skip the glass, and go with the whole piece of fruit to reap the full nutritional benefits of this sweet, healthy snack (and save some calories while you’re at it).

Pan-fry food instead of deep-frying it. Obvious news flash: Deep-fried food is unhealthy. Keep things crispy by pan-frying lean protein or veggies in the skillet with some cooking oil. We promise it'll be just as tasty!

Buy local produce instead of supermarket veggies. Take a trip to the farmer's market instead of Walmart's produce aisle. According to the USDA, locally produced fruits and veggies that are in-season may be more nutritious. And it supports local farmers, too!

Use oil and balsamic instead of processed dressings. Ever flip that dressing bottle around and see a million ingredients listed? Think "less is more," and lightly dress a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar—no additives included!

Eat raw spinach instead of iceberg lettuce. Let's be real, iceberg lettuce is boring. Besides, spinach is full of vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, and iron. Plus, Popeye loves it. Can't go wrong!

Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Crave sour cream in your burrito? To get that same creamy coolness, add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. You'll amp up the protein and slash the fat.

Sprinkle cinnamon instead of sugar. Here's a spicy suggestion: Use cinnamon instead of sugar packets to heighten the flavor of coffee without adding extra calories. Try it in oatmeal, too!

Choose salsa instead of cream-based dips. Dip chips into this fiery, flavorful alternative to cheesy spreads to get extra nutrients for fewer calories.

Eat frozen grapes instead of a Popsicle. It's like eating bite-sized Popsicles with no added sugar!

Drink sparkling water instead of soda. Try a fun flavor like lemon-lime or even vanilla if you don't like straight soda water.

Top pancakes with fresh fruit instead of syrup. There's nothing like a good stack of pancakes every now and then. Cut calories by skipping the maple syrup.

Snack on air-popped popcorn instead of chips. Craving something salty? Air-pop some popcorn, and add a dash of salt—three whole cups is only about 100 calories. That's way more satisfying than six greasy chips.

Choose brown rice over white. White rice is stripped of many essential nutrients (like fiber).

Choose whole-wheat pasta. Unlike regular pasta, whole-wheat pasta has a nutty flavor that’s filled with antioxidants and fiber.

Eat oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. Options like Cap'n Crunch and Frosted Flakes are filled with sugar, while oatmeal boasts heart-healthy benefits.

Bike to work instead of driving. Obviously this won't work for everyone, but if your office is only a few miles away, bike to work to boost endorphins before the workday starts! (Paying for gas is no fun anyway.)

Pack a lunch instead of eating out. Bonus: That vending machine will look far less appetizing after you eat the meal you pack.

Eat at least three times a day instead of skipping meals. When you don't make the time to squeeze in a midday meal, you end up feeling tired and grouchy—and you set yourself up for overeating later.

Use mustard instead of mayo. For tomorrow's turkey sandwich, skip the fat-filled mayo and spread some tasty (and naturally fat-free) mustard on the bread.

Spread avocado on bread instead of butter. Add a dash of sea salt and some sliced tomato for a great midday snack.

Choose lean meats instead of fatty ones. For a boost of protein without the fat, choose lean meats like turkey and chicken over pork and beef.

Opt for marinara sauce instead of white sauce. We doubt penne a la vodka is made with Grey Goose, so the extra calories in white sauce aren't worth it.

Get a doggy bag instead of overeating. To avoid eating more than planned, ask the waiter to wrap half of it up before it even gets to your table.

Chew slowly instead of quickly. What's the rush? Studies show people who eat faster consume more calories.

Eat at the table instead of in front of the TV. Dining in front of the television can lead to serious overeating.

Eat breakfast instead of sleeping in. It may be temping to hit the snooze button more than once in the morning, but allow some time for breakfast—it may help jumpstart your metabolism and wake you up before you head to work.

Choose toast instead of a bagel. A single bagel can be the caloric equivalent of five slices of toast, so fight that craving and enjoy a slice or two of whole-wheat bread instead.

Use a medium plate instead of a large one. Smaller plates (about eight to 10 inches in diameter) can save you more than 20 percent of the calories you'd eat in a larger-plate-sized serving.

Eat cereal from a bowl instead of a box. A few mindless handfuls of cereal can turn into more than a bowl-sized serving.

Eat hard-boiled eggs instead of fried eggs. Who needs extra grease in the morning? Drop some eggs in boiling water, and cook them up for a protein-packed breakfast.

Eat with chopsticks instead of a fork. It may be a challenge, but it'll stop you from speed-slurping those noodles.

Go grocery shopping when you're full instead of when you're hungry. People spend more when they shop hungry—and choose less healthy foods.

Stop when you're full instead of when you clean the plate. A plate half-full means more leftovers and fewer calories!

Eat raw nuts instead of nut butter. Nut butters contain more fat and sugar than raw nuts. Plus, it's easy to overeat peanut butter.

Nap instead of sipping on an energy drink. Energy drinks can pack as much sugar as six doughnuts, while catnaps are always calorie-free.