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Herbs and spices – part II

August 6th, 2013

Last week we talked about the distinctive flavor of spices and herbs. Here’s some information on how to use them when cooking fruits and veggies and details on how to substitute fresh for dry or vice versa.

Can I substitute fresh for dry herbs and spices?

  • ¼ teaspoon powdered = ¼ to 1 teaspoon dried crumbled = 2 to 3 teaspoon fresh
  • Chop fresh herbs fine to allow for more flavor to be released.
If you are cooking: Try flavoring it with:
Asparagus Caraway, mustard, nutmeg, tarragon
Beets Bay leaf, caraway, cloves, ginger
Berries Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla
Broccoli Mustard, nutmeg, oregano, tarragon
Cabbage Caraway, celery seed, cumin, curry, fennel
Carrots Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram
Cauliflower Cayenne, celery seed, chili powder, nutmeg
Corn Celery seed, cumin, curry powder, onion, parsley
Cucumbers Chives, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, vinegar
Green Beans Dill, curry powder, oregano, tarragon, thyme
Greens Onion, pepper
Melons Cardamom, ginger, mint, pepper
Peaches Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Pears Anise, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg
Peas Dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage
Rhubarb Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
Spinach Cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme
Summer Squash Cloves, curry powder, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
Tomatoes Basil, bay leaf, dill, onion, oregano, parsley

How long should I keep spices and herbs?

As a general rule, keep herbs or ground spices for 1 year; keep whole spices 2 years.

  • Buy a smaller container until you know how fast you’ll use a spice or herb. If it smells strong and flavorful, it’s probably still potent.
  • Rub a small amount of an herb or ground spice in your hand. If the aroma is fresh, rich, and immediate, it can still flavor foods.
  • Check a whole spice—such as a clove or cinnamon stick—by breaking, crushing, or scraping it before smelling it. Avoid smelling pepper or chili powder as they can irritate your nose.
  • Label date of purchase on container with a permanent marking pen and store away from any sources of heat (e.g., oven, stove top) to maintain their quality.

Source: University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Iowa Launches Healthy and Happy Outdoors

July 23rd, 2013

Healthy and Happy OutdoorsHealthy and Happy Outdoors (H2O) is a new initiative designed to connect Iowans with the outdoors as a means to reduce stress and improve health.

The H2O website provides information on more than 30 types of outdoor activities at over 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas. Each time you complete an outdoor activity, you can have your name entered into a drawing for recreational prizes, including bikes, binoculars, and vacation getaways.

This is a great way for families to enjoy Iowa outdoors while being physically active.

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USDA Standards that Define Food Terms on Packaging

July 5th, 2013

Packaging for foods, like meat, poultry,and eggs may contain terms such as “free range,” “natural,” and “cage free,” but these USDA terms do not imply a level of nutrition or health. They simply describe how the animal or plant is raised and/or grown prior to market, and in the case of “natural,” how it is processed for sale.  Each of the terms explained …

Term Definition
Grass Fed Grass fed animals have constant access to pasture during the growing seasons and are not given grain or grain byproducts. Grass fed animals also can eat hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources.
Free Range This USDA designation means the poultry (raised for meat) has been allowed some access to the outdoors.
Cage Free These laying hens live uncaged, typically within a barn, warehouse building, or other enclosed area. These hens are given continuous access to food and water and the freedom to roam within the enclosed area during their egg-production cycle.
Natural Food with this definition does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or other artificial or synthetic ingredient, and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed.
Organic Foods that are classified as “organic” are produced by farmers using renewable resources and conservation efforts for soil and water, as a means to maintain the environment. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that were not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. In order for a food product to be classified as “organic,” the farm must be inspected to ensure it is meeting the government regulations. Companies that handle the foods also must be certified that they meet the USDA’s organic standards.

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Brown Bagging It! Lunches to Go

April 11th, 2013

When you’re packing a lunch bag, creativity and smart planning are keys to eating food that fits a healthy lifestyle. lunchSack lunches don’t need to be boring. Create a more flexible, nutritious pattern by basing your food choices on MyPlate.

Use whole grains and lean proteins

To break away from the traditional peanut butter/jelly or luncheon meat sandwich on white bread, look at other possibilities. Perhaps make your bread whole grain or opt for a whole wheat tortilla, flat bread, pita, Kaiser roll, or English muffin. Use cuts from lean meats left over from dinner the night before or pack other prepared, left over food.

Add color and crunch with fruits and vegetables

Vary your fruit and vegetables, selecting what’s in season that can be packed whole or sliced and packed in plastic bags or cups. Add a healthy dip like hummus to enjoy with vegetables. Also consider low fat or skim milk, or 100% fruits juices if you pack a drink.

Follow food safety measures

Be sure to wash whole, fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before packing. Make meat sandwiches the night before and refrigerate or freeze overnight. Put prepared, left over food in a well-sealed container and refrigerate. Pack food in an insulated bag with two ice packs lining the container. Use gel packs, frozen juice boxes, or frozen fruit items in the insulated bag.

For more information, download “What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag!”.

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Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

March 28th, 2013

Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Food prices likely will increase two to four percent in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is in addition to the two to three percent increase in prices you already saw in 2012. Since 2002, the world food commodity price index has increased approximately 60 percent. According to the University of New Hampshire, using four strategies can save you 15 percent at the grocery store.

They are:

  1. Use grocery store ads when planning to shop,
  2. Complete a menu plan,
  3. Write a grocery list, and
  4. Use unit pricing to select the best buys.

If a family spends $500 a month on groceries, these strategies would result in a $75 monthly savings!

To help you put these four strategies into practice, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach created Spend Smart. Eat Smart. This site provides resources for families to:

You also can connect with Spend Smart. Eat Smart. through social media sites like:

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Storing Whole Grains Safely

February 19th, 2013

Because whole grains retain their healthful oils, they are more susceptible to oxidation and need to be stored to prevent deterioration. Heat, light, and air can trigger storing grainsoxidation of the oil in the germ of whole grains.

If you’re shopping in the bulk section, don’t be afraid to sniff the grains, which should have a light sweet scent or no scent at all. If the bin smells oily or moldy, the grains may be rancid.

Once you bring your whole grain home, store it directly in the refrigerator or freezer. You can either keep it in its unopened package or transfer it into an airtight container or plastic zip-top bag.

Since different grains vary in fat content (from about 1.7% for wheat to about 6.9% for oats), the shelf life of the flours made from them varies. In general, most whole grain flours keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 months, and in the freezer for 6-8 months. It is recommended to keep flour in a sealed container to prevent picking up stray odors and tastes from the refrigerator or freezer.

Grains, because their oil is sealed in the original grain kernel and cannot easily oxidize, can keep much longer than flour. Most will keep for several months in a room- temperature cupboard, and for a year in the freezer. Commercially processed whole grain products such as breads, crackers, and pasta are commercially processed to be shelf stable and can be stored in the same manner as those that are not whole grain. General advice on grains and flour: try to buy what you’ll use in 2-3 months.

Safe Storage, Grain by Grain

Whole Wheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Oats – airtight seal, freezer, 3 months
Oat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Cornmeal – airtight seal, freezer 4-6 months Kernels or Popcorn – airtight seal, freezer, 1 year Rye Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Spelt Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months Buckwheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Barley Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 4 months
Brown Rice – airtight seal, cupboard, 5-6 months; freezer, up to a year
Brown Rice Flour – airtight seal, refrigerator, 4-5 months; freezer, up to a year

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Whole Grains: Give Them the 3-step Test

February 11th, 2013

Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the minimum recommended amount of whole grains. Although Americans generally eat enough total grains, most of the grains consumed are refined grains rather than whole grains. Unfortunately, many refined grain foods also are high in solid fats and added sugars. There is evidence that suggests whole grain intake may reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (e.g., colon) as well as help control body weight. Whole grains are a source of nutrients such as iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. At least half of recommended total grain intake should be whole grains, which for many is about 3 ounce equivalents per day.

Not sure if a food is actually a whole grain? Use these three steps to help you decide:

  1. Front of package—Check the front of the package for key terms such as “100% whole grain,” “whole oats,” “made with whole wheat.”
  2. Ingredients—Read the list of ingredients; one of the first three should contain key terms such as “100% whole wheat,” “whole wheat flour,” “whole oats,” or “brown rice.”
  3. Extra claims and logos—Examine the other panels for extra whole grain health claims or whole grain stamps/symbols that will support your decision.

A new publication Whole Grains is now available. Whole Grains includes a wide variety of information about whole grains including how to use some of the newer whole grains such as quinoa, teef, and steel cut oats. An extensive whole grain chart includes nutritional and cooking information on many whole grains.

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Tips for Healthier Holiday Meals

December 12th, 2012
Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Select a variety of vegetables for a great way to add color to the meal. Dish up smaller portions of meat on your plate.
Cut back on sugar. Use non-nutritive sweeteners in place of sugar for pie fillings, puddings, and cranberry sauces. You can usually reduce the amount of sugar by 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in recipes that are high in sugar.
Lower the fat.
  • Use egg whites or a nonfat egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
  • Substitute a nutty cereal for half the amount of pecans in pecan pie.
  • Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the bread in stuffing.
  • Omit butter and margarine from stuffing recipes.

Be dessert smart. Cut pies in smaller pieces. Serve a large platter of fresh fruit along with traditional desserts. Try the Hurry-up Baked Apples for dessert. Bake fewer varieties of
cookies and bars and make them smaller. Use fat free whipped topping.

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Take Your Cycling Indoors

November 26th, 2012

When the weather is too cold and the roads are snowy and icy, try indoor cyclincyclingg. Many gyms and fitness clubs offer indoor cycling classes that are free with a gym membership or can be paid for per class. A benefit of indoor cycling is that, although you have an instructor guiding you through a workout, you can go at your own intensity and won’t be left behind. With indoor cycling you can keep the resistance low and go for an easy ride or increase the resistance and practice “climbing hills.”

If you like to work out at home, you can purchase a stationary bike or a bike trainer to set your road bike on to do indoor cycling. There are also indoor cycling DVD’s available that take you through workouts, just like at the gym.

For information on bike trainers and indoor cycling DVD’s, visit CycleOps or SPINeRVALS.

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Save Money and Calories on Thanksgiving Dinner

November 6th, 2012

With rising food prices, preparing Thanks­giving dinner can be expensive. In addition, large holiday meals with high calorie foods cause people to overeat. Here are some helpful tips to save both money and calories on the Thanksgiving meal.

Do not go overboard with variety. Do you serve mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes? Do you serve two meats? Remember, you do not have to have everyone’s favorite holiday food at one meal. Choose one meat, one starchy vegetable (mashed potatoes OR sweet potatoes), and one green vegetable that appeals to everyone. Doing so will help you save money and eat less.

Take guests up on their offer to bring a dish. Some of your guests would love to show off their cooking skills with a salad or dessert. Others with less time or ability could be asked to bring a dozen rolls from the bakery, a purchased dessert, or some type of beverage.

Simplify your recipes. Every dish does not have to be fancy. Try fresh or frozen green beans with a touch of olive oil instead of green bean casserole. Have a fruit salad with a mixture of canned and fresh seasonal fruits without lots of whipped topping or sweetened condensed milk.

Watch for sales. Many grocery stores put items frequently used for the Thanksgiv­ing meal on sale a few weeks before hand. Plan your meal ahead of time so that
you can buy items when they are on sale. Consider stocking up on some of these items that can be stored on the shelf or in the freezer and used throughout the year (e.g., fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin, turkey, brown sugar).

Know how many people are attending dinner. This is important so you do not end up making too much food and spending extra money. Make only as much as you need for the people who are attending unless you are deliberately planning for leftovers.

For more tips on saving money at the grocery store and budget friendly recipes, visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website

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