Autumn Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 6


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups sliced apples
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, cubed


  1. Prick squash skin 6–8 times. Microwave for 5 minutes.
  2. When the skin is cool enough to touch, cut off the top and bottom of the squash. Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Cut squash into cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add squash, apples, and chicken broth. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 25 minutes until squash and apples are tender.
  5. Blend soup until smooth using a blender.
  6. Return soup to saucepan and add cheese. Cook and whisk until cheese is smooth.

Nutrient information per serving:

210 calories, 7 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 440 mg sodium, 35 g total carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 6 g protein

Bowl of soup with vegetables, fruit, and milk

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (

Herbs and Spices Have an Expiration Date

Herbs and spices do not spoil; however, they do lose their flavor and potency over time. Next time you go through your spice cabinet, look at the expiration dates!

Rows of spices

Typically spices last 2–3 years, but make sure to check the “best by” date. Try the fresh test:

  • Smell: aroma should be strong
  • Taste: flavor should be potent
  • Color: should look vibrant and not dull

Average Shelf Life of Common Fresh, Ground, and Dried Household Spices

Allspice2-3 Years2-3 Years
Basil5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Bay Leaves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Black Pepper2-3 Years2-3 Years5-6 Years
5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Celery Seed5-7 Days2-3 Years1-2 Years2-3 Years
Chili Powder2-3 Years2-3 Years
Chives7-10 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cilantro5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cinnamon2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cloves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Coriander5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cumin2-3 Years


Eat by Date (

McCormick (


Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 6


  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut bread into one inch cubes.
  3. Stir bread and oil together in a medium bowl.
  4. Sprinkle garlic powder and dried basil on top of bread cubes. Stir until the bread is evenly coated with garlic and basil.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread croutons evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for up to 5 minutes more or until croutons are golden brown.
  6. Let croutons cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

These croutons are wonderful on top of your favorite soup or salad. To add extra tang to your salad, add some fresh herbs to the mix like basil or mint. They add extra flavor and are a great way to use up those herbs!

Nutrition information per serving:

70 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 8g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit

Smartphones in the Kitchen

washing handsA 2016 FDA survey showed 49% of consumers use their smartphones while preparing food. However, only one-third washed their hands with soap after touching the devices! Why is this a big deal? Whenever you touch a phone, the bacteria on that phone travel to your hands. If your unwashed hands then touch food, you transfer those bacteria to the food. This can cause foodborne illness.

Here are three tips to keep your phone from contaminating your food:

  • Clean and sanitize your phone regularly with a lint-free cloth.
  • Avoid taking your phone into the bathroom.
  • Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after touching a phone and before handling food.

Sources: FDA, National Institutes of Health,

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

Basket of cleaning suppliesWith spring cleaning right around the corner, it’s important to prioritize what needs cleaning in our homes. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the household. This place where meals and snacks are prepared and served daily tends to have the most germs. The “germiest” area in the kitchen as well as the second “germiest” item in the household is the sink. This spring, clean everything and the kitchen sink to reduce germs in your home. Wash and sanitize the sides and bottom of the sink once or twice a week with disinfecting cleaner or in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. Clean kitchen drains and disposals every month by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water down them.

Sources: Germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (; Cleaning the germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (

Staying Active Benefits Mental Health

Being active benefits you in many ways besides helping control weight. Exercise can improve chances of living longer, the strength of your bones and muscles, and your mental health. In addition, exercise decreases risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.Wellness

Just one hour of exercise a week is related to lower levels of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Making physical activity part of your daily routine means you are less likely to have depression, panic disorder, and phobias (extreme fears). One study found that for people with anxiety, exercise had similar effects to cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing symptoms.

It is recommended adults get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise. That can be broken down into ten minutes at a time, fifteen times a week. Daily small changes can create huge gains for overall fitness and mental health.

Source: University of Arkansas

Prevent Cross-contact at Home

Salad barFollowing safe food handling practices is not only important to avoid foodborne illness, but it is critical to avoid cross-contact with allergens in food.

Cross-contamination and cross-contact are different. Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria are transferred to a food from another food or surface. Most bacteria can be killed through cooking. Cross-contact is when the food allergen is transferred to a food meant to be allergen free. This food allergen is still dangerous after cooking.


To avoid cross-contact:

  • When shopping, avoid foods from bulk bins, salad bars, and the deli counter, which are common sites for cross-contact. Read ingredient labels every time you shop.
  • When storing, dedicate shelves to allergen-free foods. Place allergen-containing foods on shelves below allergen-free foods in the pantry as well as in the refrigerator and freezer.
  • When cooking, use separate sets of utensils and small appliances. Wash and sanitize everything that comes in contact with the allergen-free food being prepared.

Source: Preventing Cross-contact at Home

Confetti Rice and Bean Salad

Serving Size: 3/4 cup | Serves: 6


  • 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped (1 medium)
  • 2 carrots (finely chopped or grated)
  • 2 tablespoons onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup oil (canola, vegetable, or olive)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool.
  2. Wash and cut up tomatoes, carrots, and onion while rice is cooling and put into a large bowl.
  3. Add corn and drained and rinsed black beans to the bowl.
  4. Add cooled rice to the bowl.
  5. Whisk together lime juice, oil, salt, and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over rice and veggie mixture. Stir gently to combine.
  6. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to let flavors mingle.

Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories, 11g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 36g total carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 3g sugar, 7g protein

Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit

Reduce Food Waste at Home

trash on fork





“Waste not, want not” is a saying used in tight times—a reminder that what we save today we will have tomorrow. That holds true for food as well as money. Food waste is a big problem in the United States. According to Feeding America, nearly half of the food grown, processed, and transported in the United States goes to waste. Much of this food waste (43%) comes from our homes. We can fix that!

Reduce food waste in planning, shopping, and cooking.Meal Planning Worksheet

  • Plan meals so you know what you need to buy. Check for foods that need to be used up and include them in your menus. Plan for ways to use the same dish twice—roast chicken for one meal and use cooked chicken in a salad the next day. Use the 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. to help you plan meals.
  • Buy only what you need and can use in a reasonable time. If you buy extra food that is on sale, ha
  • ve a plan for how you will use it or store it for future use.
  • Use the food you buy creatively. Have ripe fruit? Make a smoothie. Have bits and pieces of cut-up v
    egetables? Create a ready-for-soup container and add chopped broccoli stems, cauliflower pieces, and leftover cooked vegetables. Have leftover meat or beans? Add them to a rice or pasta dish or to soup.
  • Properly store foods to extend their shelf life. Store bread in the freezer that you won’t be using soon. Eggs will keep in the refrigerator for three weeks after their sell-by date.

Sources: Let’s Talk Trash and Reducing Food Waste at Home

Is There Treasure Hiding Near You?

Geocaching is an electronic treasure hunt. It is a great low-cost activity and can be fun year-round. It is easy to catch on to and caches are literally around the world—in two million places, to be exact.

To get started, set up a free account at, then download the free app to your smartphone or purchase a GPS unit. Search near you for a cache, use your app, or plug the coordinates into the GPS to start hunting.

Many geocaches are found in safe places like rest areas, parks, and cemeteries, or near landmarks. What you will find may be very small like a pill fob or larger like an ammo box. Some will be harder to find than others, but they are never buried. Inside will be a log to sign. There may also be “swag” like geodes, stickers, patches, pins, marbles, keychains, lanyards, and geocoins.

Here are some tips for successful geocaching:

  • Dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Let someone know where you are going or enjoy navigating with someone like a grandchild.
  • The caches are secret so don’t let passersby know what you are doing!
  • If you take something, you should leave something of equal or greater value.
  • Always return the cache to its hiding place.
  • Bring your own pen to sign the log, then enter your find at

Discover what is hiding near you today! How many will you find?

two people geocaching

Submitted by Sandra McKinnon, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach family finance specialist and geocacher since 2009.

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