Asparagus with Gremolata Sauce

Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 6

Asparagus with gremolata sauce is a great side dish to serve with fish. Gremolata is a dressing or a type of garnish that is made with chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh asparagus (washed and trimmed)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and minced)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Parsley to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook asparagus in a large pot of boiling water until tender—about 4 minutes.
  2. Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly and drain again.
  3. Pat dry.
  4. Melt margarine or butter in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat.
  5. Add lemon peel and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Add asparagus and toss to coat.
  7. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Sauté asparagus until heated through—about 3 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Nutrition information per serving:

49 calories, 4g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 3mg sodium, 3g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein

 

Recipe courtesy of the USDA Mixing Bowl.

Eating Fish Protects Your Heart

salmon and asparagusAccording to the American Heart Association, eating fish twice a week will lower your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. The best fish for heart health are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna. These fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.

So many people have heard about the benefits of omega-3s that fish oil is the most popular nutrition supplement in the United States. However, the latest research shows fish oil isn’t as beneficial as actually eating fish. Whole fish offers a wealth of nutrients besides omega-3 oil, such as protein and selenium. For reasons scientists do not yet fully understand, nutrients often provide the most benefit when they are combined with other nutrients—in the form of food!

Eating fish is both healthy and delicious! Here are a few tips for including fish in your meal plan:

  • Keep seafood on hand. Seafood doesn’t need to be fresh to give you health benefits. Canned and frozen seafood varieties are just as healthy.
  • Be creative. Try different ways to enjoy seafood like seafood salads, tacos, stir-fry, or with pasta.
  • Cook it safely. Make sure you follow safe food handling practices and cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145oF.

ChooseMyPlate.gov offers tips on how to get more heart-healthy seafood on your plate.

Sources:  American Heart Association and Harvard Health

 

Fresh Produce Safety

Bag of lettuceWhen preparing any fresh produce, start with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation. Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating. This includes produce grown at home, purchased from a grocery store, or bought at a farmers’ market.

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not needed. It is important to wash the surface of the produce, even if you do not plan to eat the skin. Dirt and bacteria can be transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

  • Many precut, bagged, or packaged produce items are prewashed and ready to eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging and you can use the produce without further washing.Spinach label
  • Cut away any damaged, discolored, or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating.
  • Make sure all cutting boards and knives used to cut fresh produce are washed in soapy water and rinsed before using again.

 

Source: Food Safety.gov

Berry Banana Popsicles

Serving Size: 1 popsicle | Serves: 8Berry Banana Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1 medium banana, diced
  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour mixture into popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Run molds under hot running water until popsicles can pull out easily to serve.

 

Nutrition information per serving:  50 calories, 0g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25g sodium, 10g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 6g 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 spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Boxty (Potato Pancakes)

Serving Size: 2 pancakes | Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose baking mix
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded hash browns
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions:

  1. In a nonstick skillet, cook bacon and onions until browned. Remove from skillet, reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl stir together has browns, potatoes, baking mix, cheese, bacon, and onions. Stir in milk and eggs until mixture is moistened.
  3. Heat bacon grease in skillet over medium heat. Measure a generous 1/4 c. of potato mixture into a skillet and add three more 1/4 c. helpings into the skillet. Flatten into pancakes, and cook each side 2 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

These pancakes freeze well once prepared. To freeze, let pancakes cool completely, put in a single layer on a baking sheet, place in the freezer, and transfer to heavy-duty freezer bags when frozen.

Nutrition Information per Serving:

161 calories, 8g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 38mg cholesterol, 412mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 1.5g fiber, 2g sugar, 6g protein

 

Source: Allrecipes.com  Irish potato pancakes 

Frozen Food Facts

March is National Frozen Food Month! To celebrate, try these nutritious and delicious options from and helpful tips for the frozen food section:

  • Frozen Produce–Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option when purchasing out of season produce. Frozen varieties are packed with nutrients, sometimes more than fresh items, because they are packaged at the peak of harvest season. Frozen produce is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.
  • Frozen Meat, Poultry, Seafood–Fresh animal protein can be expensive behind the counter, but frozen options can be just as nutritious and delicious when carefully selected. Proteins not breaded or fried are the best options. The frozen section is also a terrific place to find several meat alternatives, such as plant-based burgers or tofu meatballs.
  • Check the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content on the Nutrition Facts Label; try to purchase products with less than 10% of the Daily Value.
  • Save frozen entrées and pizzas for busy nights; add other items to these meals and snacks, such as steamed vegetables, sliced apples with nut butter, or a side salad, to increase nutrient density.

To start stocking your freezer, here is a chart with recommended storage times for common frozen food items:

Food Storage:  Time in Freezer (0° or below)

Ground Meats:  3–4 months
Fresh Meat (steaks, chops, roasts):  4–12 months
Fresh Poultry:  9 months (pieces), 1 year (whole)
Cooked Meat or Poultry:  2–6 months
Soups and Stews:  2–3 months
Breaded Poultry (chicken nuggets/patties):  1–3 months
Pizza:  1–2 months
Frozen Dinners or Entrées:  2–3 months
Leftovers (casseroles, pasta):  2–3 months

 

Sources: Frozen food: Convenient and nutritious. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; McDonald, L. (2012). Freezer foods. Supermarket savvy: Aisle-by-aisle teaching modules; Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer

Food for Thought: The Gut-brain Axis

Ogut-brain connectionne of the biggest buzzwords in current media refers to the smallest subject: the human gut microbiome. This microbiome is a collection of microorganisms living in the human intestinal tract; aka the “good gut bugs.” These good gut bugs help our gut produce compounds needed for digestion and absorption of other nutrients. They also provide protection against harmful “bugs” and support our immune system. These good gut bugs have also been shown to promote brain health.

There is communication between the human microbiome and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. This means the health of your gut microbiome may impact the health of your brain—a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain.

The best way to take care of your gut microbiome is to focus on your overall eating pattern.

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Choose fiber-rich foods because increasing fiber can promote abundance of gut bugs.
  • Try fermented foods and foods with pre- and probiotics to improve the variety of your good gut bugs.
  • Prebiotics are plant fibers that promote the growth of healthy bacteria. They are found in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including apples, asparagus, bananas, barley, flaxseed, garlic, jicama, leeks, oats, and onion.
  • Probiotics contain specific strains of healthy bacteria. The most common probiotic food is yogurt; other sources include bacteria-fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.

Sources:

  • Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015;31(1):69–75. doi:10.1097/MOG.0000000000000139.
  • Foster JA, Lyte M, Meyer E, Cryan JF. Gut microbiota and brain function: An evolving field in neuroscience. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016;19(5):1–7. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyv114.
  • Jandhyala S, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Reddy D. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29):8787–8803.

Is Your Fruit-infused Water Safe?

Fruit-infused water

Fruit-infused water has become popular in recent years. It’s a great way to drink more and stay hydrated. With no added sugar, it’s a good alternative to juice or soda. The endless flavor combinations are tasty and refreshing. There are some important food safety tips to remember, however. To avoid increased bacteria growth and foodborne illness, follow these tips:

  • Start with clean hands; wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Wash produce thoroughly under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush on firm items such as oranges or lemons.
  • Use clean cutting boards and utensils to avoid crosscontamination.
  • Store infused water in the refrigerator at 40°F or below in a sealed pitcher.
  • If you are taking your infused water on the go, make sure to drink it within four hours. Infused water at room  temperature must be used or discarded after four hours to prevent bacteria growth.
  • For best results, drain fruit solids within 24 hours and refrigerate water up to three days.
  • Always start with clean equipment for new batches; avoid refilling the same pitcher.

 

Source: Michigan State University Extension

Adapting Recipes with Raw Eggs

EggsDoes your favorite holiday recipe include raw eggs as an ingredient? Raw eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria cause food poisoning, especially if consumed by pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those who may have a weakened immune system.

To safely adapt recipes containing raw eggs, try one of the following options:

  • Add the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heat the mixture until it reaches 160°F on a food thermometer.
  • Use store-bought versions of the home-prepared item. Check the label to be sure items are already cooked or pasteurized.
  • Purchase eggs labeled “pasteurized.” Options include the following:
    — Fresh, pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section)
    — Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the refrigerator section)
    — Frozen, pasteurized egg products (found in the frozen food section)
    — Powdered egg whites (found in the baking section)

 

Source: Food Facts, FDA, January 2017

Vegetable Pasta Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8

Ingredients:

• 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
• 4 cups vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini) (chopped or sliced)
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
• 2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
• 6 cups fresh spinach leaves (about 1/2 pound)

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook until they are softened. Stir often. This should take about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3–4 minutes.
3. Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
4. Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
5. Cook until the pasta is tender using the time on the package for a guide.

 

Nutrition information per serving:
130 calories, 16g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 100mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 21g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 35g protein Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site.

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