Summer is here and that means many fruits and vegetables are now in season. I have recently started growing my own fruits and vegetables to try and cut back on grocery costs and I am quickly learning that I will have more than I know what to do with! I will have an abundance of berries so Yogurt Parfaits will be a staple breakfast before work and Mini Berry Pies will be a wonderful treat for dessert. Summer Bounty Salad is a great recipe to use up any vegetables you may have on hand as any vegetable can go into this and it will taste great.
Now what to do with all the extras that I have on hand? There are many ways fruits and vegetables can be stored: on the counter, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer. Storing fruits and vegetables properly keeps them tasting better for longer. Adopt the “first in, first out” method -use the oldest fruits and vegetables first to prevent them from spoiling before they are used. When stored properly, most fruits and vegetables will keep for 3-5 days or longer after being purchased from the grocery store or picked from the garden. There are 3 different ways to store fresh fruits and vegetables:
Refrigerate: store grapes, apples, berries, cherries, broccoli, carrots, celery, leafy greens, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower to keep them fresh. Anything that has been cut up also needs to be kept in the refrigerator to prevent foodborne illness.
On the counter: melons, tomatoes, and squash should be kept on the counter away from direct light to keep fresh. Potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes should also be kept out of the refrigerator but in a dark place such as a pantry or cupboard.
Ripen on counter and then store in refrigerator: avocados, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be kept on the counter until they are ripe and then moved to the refrigerator to prevent further ripening.
Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months if the freezer is kept at 0°F or colder. I love freezing excess fruit in individual containers to add to smoothies or as a quick topper to desserts.
One of my favorite things about summer is going to my local farmers market for delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables. I grow some of my own tomatoes and herbs on my patio, but I don’t have the space to do much more than that. The farmers market has a huge variety and the food is as fresh as if I had grown it myself. Shopping at the farmers market is different than the grocery store so here are some tips for readers who may not have given it a try before or found it to be overwhelming.
Bring your own bag. The farmers will appreciate it and having a bag that can go on your shoulder will help keep your hands free. I use a backpack!
Get to know your local farmers. They will help you choose the best they have to offer and will have good suggestions for cooking and preparing the fruits and veggies as well.
Beware the “health halo”. Many vendors sell delicious baked goods like donuts and pies. My market has vendors that sell fabulous international foods like Salvadoran Pupusas and Vietnamese spring rolls. Yum! Indulging in these treats can be a fun part of going to the farmers market, but keep in mind that just because they are sold at the farmers market doesn’t mean they are as healthy as the fruits and veggies at the neighboring vendors.
Try something new! My farmers market sells some fruits and vegetables that I can’t find at the grocery store. I try a few new things each summer like different types of tomatoes, beets, greens and squash.
Learn about what forms of payment are accepted. Many farmers accept food assistance EBT as well as WIC benefits. You may see a sign at the farmer’s booth indicating they accept these forms of payment. In Iowa the signs will look like this.
Enjoy your farmers market this summer and share your finds with us on Facebook!
Fresh watermelon, cherries, and blueberries…sure signs that summer is here. My 22 month old daughter loves eating these summer fruits. I’m glad she likes them but oh boy does she create a sticky mess when she eats them; watermelon juice running down her chin, her hands sticky with cherries. The blueberries aren’t usually too messy, except when she drops one in her seat and sits on it!
I like purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season because they have the best flavor and are usually the least expensive. My husband really likes fresh asparagus and would like to eat it year-round. However, I won’t buy it fresh unless it is spring when asparagus is in season. When fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, consider buying them canned or frozen for a better buy.
In the summer in Iowa, I enjoy going to farmers markets to look for seasonal and locally grown fruits and vegetables. At the farmers market I can talk with the grower about their produce and get their recommendations for selecting and preparing the produce.
Many fruits and vegetables are available at a low cost from the grocery store year-round like bananas, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. To find out when different fruits and vegetables are in season, check out the list on Produce for Better Health.
My children are at an age when they need to eat two snacks every day. Just last week I skipped the morning snack one day because we went to the library and on a bike ride. By lunch time both of them were laying on the couch crying. I made a quick lunch, got them fed, and all was good again, but it reminded me how important snack time is for young children. Their bodies are growing, but their stomachs are still small, so they need their food spaced evenly throughout the day.
If you are looking for a new snack for your family, try out our July recipe – Peanut Butter Balls. They have peanut butter, beans, and oatmeal – all of which will give you energy and fill you up until your next meal. After I make this recipe, I lay the peanut butter balls out on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Once they are frozen, I put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. When snack time comes around, I grab two out of the freezer for each person, let them thaw for a few minutes, and then we enjoy them.
I hope you enjoy this Peanut Butter Ball recipe too!
Peanut Butter Balls
Serving Size: 2 balls | Serves: 25
1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
Mash the great northern beans with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
Add the honey and vanilla. Stir.
Add peanut butter. Stir until blended.
Stir in the oatmeal.
Wash hands. Use a tablespoon to scoop up some of the peanut butter mixture. Shape the mixture into balls (makes 50 balls).
Store leftover balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This recipe is not for children under age 1 because it contains honey and peanut butter.
You can use a blender or food processor to mix ingredients before shaping into balls.
You can store peanut butter balls in the freezer. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag. Thaw for 5 minutes before serving.
Make fruit kebabs using a toothpick or kebab stick. Add washed fresh fruit pieces that will not brown such as kiwi slices, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices.
If you are looking for a delicious, yet healthy dessert for your Fourth of July celebration, try homemade popsicles. My family enjoys popsicles this time of year (or any other time of year for that matter).
I am excited to share our tasty apricot pop recipe! Simply pour a can of apricots (drained) and two cartons of vanilla yogurt into a blender. Blend the mixture together and then pour into popsicle molds or into paper cups with wooden sticks.
For festive, patriotic pops, you can switch up the color by replacing the apricots with another fruit:
Red: 2 cups strawberries, finely chopped
White: 2 medium bananas, finely chopped
Blue: 2 cups blueberries
Just like with the apricot pops, combine the fruit and the yogurt in the blender and blend until smooth then pour into popsicle molds. If you do not have a blender that is no problem, simply stir the fruit and yogurt together and pour into the molds – the color and texture will be different, but the flavor will still be great.
Summer is in full swing and my children love spending time at the swimming pool. My son really likes getting a treat at the pool snack bar. I let him get a treat every once in a while but I balance that by bringing our own snacks the other times. Depending on how often you go to the pool, the cost of getting treats can add up. And the options are not always very healthy. My son and daughter really need an afternoon snack, but if they are swimming actively in the hot sun, I don’t want to give them heavy foods. Here are some snacks I like to take from home.
Frozen fruit-For a sweet treat, freeze grapes, blueberries, or individual containers of unsweetened applesauce. Put in a cooler or an insulated bag and let thaw slightly while playing in the water.
Whole grain crackers-These are a good option in place of chips and can provide more fiber.
String cheese-Along with the whole grain crackers, enjoy some string cheese for added calcium. Keep them cold in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack.
Trail Mix-This is a breeze to make. Here are a couple of options Popcorn Trail Mix and Take-along Trail Mix. For children under age 3, it is best to make without peanuts and dried fruit to reduce choking.
Muffins-Make a batch of muffins and freeze them. Then thaw out when you need a quick snack. With strawberries that are in season, try these Super Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins. Put these in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack to keep them from getting too hot and sticky at the pool.
To stay hydrated, fill reusable water bottles with water and ice cubes made out of 100% juice. (Check out the June 8 blog for more tips on hydration.)
Summer is right around the corner. The days are getting longer, and kids are out of school. The warm weather is perfect for spending time outside with your kids. There are so many ways to get active in the summer – I love to hit the pool and go for walks in the evening. But with all this fun activity comes the need for yummy snacks!
Every kid loves taking an evening trip out for ice cream. But these days, one treat costs $2-5. These Apricot Pops are just as tasty as a treat from an ice cream shop, but they are much cheaper. They are made with real fruit and yogurt so they are healthier too!
Another cool treat to try is the Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast. Smoothies are so easy to make and are ready in seconds. These taste delicious and pack a punch of vitamins and minerals that healthy kids need.
Fresh fruit is so tasty this time of year that it makes a fine snack on its own. Want to get the freshest produce at the best price? Check out this video to learn to shop for seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The weather is heating up and our humid Iowa summer is just around the corner. It’s easy to turn to sugary drink mixes, sports drinks and juice boxes in the summer because they’re convenient and tasty. The problem with these is that they can be really expensive and also high in sugar. Ads would have us think that whenever we sweat we need to have a sports drink to recover. Thirst is a sign that your body needs to be hydrated, but water will do the trick unless you are doing a super intense workout!
If you’re like me, plain old water may not be for you. I like to improve it a bit and add a little flavor! Here are some Water 2.0 ideas to try out this summer.
Freeze 100% juice in ice cube trays. Add it to plain water for a kick of fruit juice flavor for less sugar and calories than a full glass of juice.
Put cut up fruit in a large pitcher of water in the refrigerator – it only takes a small amount of fruit (think one sliced lemon or lime) to flavor a large container of water.
Make water as easy to grab as a juice box by keeping reusable bottles in the fridge where little hands can reach them.
My family and I love pasta with alfredo sauce, but I am not a fan of the fat and calories that go along with traditional alfredo sauce recipes. Our recipe for June is Chicken Alfredo Pasta and it is an alfredo sauce makeover that you will enjoy. It has all the creamy cheesiness of a traditional recipe with fewer calories and less fat.
The goal of a meal makeover is to improve the nutrition of a recipe. This can be done by adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by reducing or replacing ingredients that are high in fat, sodium, or added sugar. In this alfredo sauce makeover, nonfat milk and low fat cream cheese are used in place of cream and butter. This switch reduces both the fat and calories. Combine the alfredo sauce with whole wheat noodles, broccoli, and chicken then add some fruit on the side and you have a complete meal.
Put this recipe on your menu soon, and you will have your whole family asking for more!
Chicken Alfredo Pasta
Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups
1 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
1 cup nonfat milk
8 ounces low fat cream cheese, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Remove fat from chicken and cut meat into bite sized pieces on a cutting board. Wash hands.
Begin heating water to boiling in a large pot for pasta.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet when oil is hot and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken for 20 seconds before stirring again. Cook the chicken for 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the chicken cubes every 20 to 30 seconds.
Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and is 165ºF. Cover it to keep it warm.
Cook the pasta using directions on package. Add the frozen broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot. Do not cover.
Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
Add the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.
• You can use boneless chicken thighs and legs or leftover chicken instead of chicken breasts.
• You can use other vegetables instead of broccoli.
• Add a few red pepper flakes for color and spice.
• Be sure to use a clean cutting board. Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
It is important to me that my family eat well, but being active matters too. As a working mom of two daughters I am always looking for more energy! The cheapest and easiest way for me is by adding physical activity into my day. It feels great to get the blood pumping through my body. Afterwards I always think I’m so glad I did that. But being a mom with limited time requires creativity. Currently my three favorite ways to get active are:
Take a neighborhood walk. My daughters love a good ride in the stroller. We talk about our days, and my two-year old loves to point out what she sees – birds, school buses, other kids, dogs, trees, flowers, rabbits, lawn mowers, bicycles, etc.
Walk to run errands. Sometimes I need to grab a sandwich at lunch, or return a book to the library or mail a letter at the post office. I love when it is just a few blocks away and I can walk there. A 15-minute walk to and from the store means I have completed my activity for the day and I didn’t have to find any additional time (or load kids into car seats)!
Watch you tube videos. There are so many free exercise videos out there. My daughter thinks it is so much fun to hop alongside me doing jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place, and dancing. Being silly together is a real treat for both of us.
Sarah Taylor Watts
Physical Activity Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health