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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Color Your Family's Plate

Our world is surrounded by color: the blue sky, green grass, white clouds, and red fire trucks. Everywhere you look there is color! Think of your favorite grocery store. What department has the most color? Why, the produce department of course! No matter what time of year, the produce department is filled with vibrant reds, greens, oranges, purples, and yellows.

These vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables are bursting with health benefits. Encourage your family to make half of their plates fruits and vegetables. Adding fruits and vegetables to your plate will give it color and also help make half the plate fruits and vegetables.

Pancakes for breakfast are just brown. Topping the pancakes with strawberries and adding a glass of 100% grape juice will jazz up the color and increase the vitamins and minerals.

Does your family have sandwiches for lunch? If so, add color and nutrients to the sandwich by adding a dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, and tomatoes. Challenge your taste buds and try new combinations. Shredded carrots are delicious on a tuna salad and sliced red grapes add a sweet taste to a chicken salad sandwich.

When serving white meats such as chicken, turkey or pork, try topping the meats with a warm cranberry sauce rather than a gravy. Serve sweet potatoes as a side instead of white potatoes for added color and taste.

So the next time you are planning a family meal, think about what you can do to add color to the plate with fruits and vegetables. It's a simple, yet fun way to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Goal for this month:
  • Add a blue or red fruit or vegetable to breakfast.
  • Add a dark green vegetable for lunch.
  • Add an orange vegetable for dinner.
  • Purchase a new colorful fruit or vegetable the next time you go shopping.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Power Up with Breakfast

 Power Up with Breakfast

Is your child tired, hungry, or grumpy?  Are you tired, hungry, and grumpy?  Many children and adults do not eat breakfast
in the morning leaving them tired and possibly grumpy. This makes it hard for children to learn in
school and adults to concentrate. Breakfast
is a great way "power up" and get your morning off to a great start.

Let's look at some of the common reasons people may not eat breakfast and some easy solutions.

"I don't have enough time in the morning"
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier. You may want to start by just getting up 5
    minutes earlier each day and by the end of the week, you will have gained 15
    minutes - enough time for breakfast.
  • Plan what you are going to have for breakfast the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Students who don't have enough time to
    eat breakfast at home can eat breakfast at school (many schools now serve
  • Keep quick breakfast foods available to eat on the run. Here are some examples.
- Small yogurt container
- Granola bars or fruit bars
- Fruit
- Cheese stick

"I'm not hungry first thing in the morning"
  • Rather than skipping breakfast, try
    waiting 30 minutes or so after you get up to eat breakfast.
  • Try a lighter breakfast such as yogurt
    and fruit or a slice of toast with peanut butter.
  • Try eating breakfast every morning for a week - you may start to get hungry in the morning once your body
    adapts to a new eating schedule
"I'm trying to lose weight"
  • Research indicates that eating
    breakfast can actually help a person lose or maintain weight.
  • Include a protein source, such as milk, cheese or peanut butter as part of your breakfast. This will help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
"Breakfast foods are boring"

Breakfast doesn't need to be boring! Here are some great ideas:

Quick and easy
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Granola bars or breakfast bars
  • Fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Whole wheat toast
  • Cheese stick
  • Nuts
  • Whole grain muffins 
A bit more preparation, but worth the wait
  • Oatmeal
  • Hard cooked egg
  • Whole grain pancakes
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
This month's challenge (pick one of the following)
  • If you or your children are currently not eating breakfast, try eating breakfast for a week.
  • If you currently eat breakfast, try to vary your breakfast with different fruits.
Breakfast is important so make time for it each day. Share your favorite breakfast idea in the comment section below. For simple breakfast recipes, visit The Recipe Box.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Quick Meals for Busy Families

Monday's To-Do List:
  • Pick up Josh from football practice
  • Bring Emma to piano lessons
  • Stop at the store to buy more school notebooks
  • Attend a parent volunteer meeting
  • Help children with homework
  • Make dinner???
School is back in session and families are on the go! Having time to prepare an evening meal may seem like an impossible task. However, taking a few minutes now, will make it easier to fit healthy and tasty meals into your family's busy schedule.

Step One: Plan

Writing a week's menu is a great help for busy families. It allows family members to shop ahead of time to ensure the foods needed are in the kitchen at mealtime. It helps prevents the frustration of "what are we going to have for dinner tonight."

One way to start planning a menu is to write a list of foods your family likes to eat. Take a few minutes and ask family members what foods they would like included on the list. Use your list to complete the Meal Planning Guide (556 K PDF).

Step Two: Shop

Using your menu planning sheet, make a shopping list. Having a shopping list (and sticking to it) will save you time in the grocery store and prevent extra trips to the grocery store for one or two items.

Step Three: Prepare

Look at your weekly menu and see what items you can prepare ahead of time. For example, if you need browned ground beef for several meals during the week, brown it all at once and put the extra in the freezer for later in the week. You can also cut enough fresh vegetables to last a few days. Because recipes such as soup, lasagna, and casseroles freeze well, make a double recipe. Enjoy one recipe now and freeze the other recipe for when it is on your menu again.

Helpful Tips

  • Keep ingredients in your pantry for your favorite quick meals such spaghetti, stir-fry, or tuna salad sandwiches?
  • Use instant rice to save time.
  • Try the Make Your Own Casserole or Make Your Own Pasta recipes. These recipes help you to mix and match the ingredients you have in your pantry and refrigerator to make a casserole or salad.
  • Save your weekly menus. You can use them again as is or make revisions.
  • Remember meal preparation doesn't need to be the responsibility of just one person. Involve other family members in planning, shopping, preparing and cleaning up after a meal.
Goals for this Month (choose one or more):
  • Have each family member write down five entrees and side dishes they enjoy.
  • Make a one week menu
  • Make a list of your family's favorite quick meals. Keep the ingredients for these foods in your pantry/refrigerator so you can have a "meal in minutes" when needed.
What are your favorite quick meal ideas? Please share in the comment section.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Enjoying Minnesota Berries

Summer in Minnesota would not be complete without enjoying delicious berries. Minnesota-grown strawberries are at their peak in June, but are often still available the first part of July. Blueberries and raspberries are at their peak in July. Because of the cool spring, many berries are a few weeks late this year.

In addition to tasting good, berries are good for you. Berries are naturally low in fat and sodium. That's great for your heart. Blueberries are high in phytonutrients that are good for your eyes and brain.

Keep berries fresh

Nothing is more frustrating to buy fresh berries and have them mold or go bad before you can enjoy them.

Remember that berries are delicate fruits that require careful handling from the time you purchase them until you eat them.

Whether you purchase berries from a farmers market or the store, look for berries that are plump, firm, and bright in color. Avoid berries that are dried out or moldy.

Berries should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator.

The amount of time berries keep varies depending on how fresh they are when you buy them and how you store them. Unwashed berries usually last as follows:
  • Raspberries: 1-2 days
  • Strawberries: 1-3 days
  • Blueberries: up to 7 days.
Wash berries when you are ready to eat them. To wash, place berries in a colander and run cool water over the berries. Gently toss the berries around in the colander so all berries get washed well. Pat dry with paper towels if desired.

Once berries are washed, they need to be used in the next day for peak quality and freshness. If you are unable to use berries in a day or two, freeze them.

Freeze berries and save

If you see a great deal on berries, buy extra! You can easily freeze berries to preserve what you don't eat right away. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. When berries are frozen, put them in a bag or container. Because they are individually frozen, you can take them out as needed. You can eat the berries frozen or let them thaw.

8 ways to enjoy berries 

Here are some easy ways you can enjoy berries this summer:
  1. Start the morning with a yogurt parfait.
  2. Top your favorite hot or cold cereal with fresh or frozen berries.
  3. Enjoy a fresh berries in a bowl for a snack or dessert.
  4. Add to berries to salads. Try a Spinach and Strawberry Salad for starters.
  5. Cool off with a Fruit Smoothie.
  6. Use a variety of berries to make a fruit kabob.
  7. Be creative. There are endless ways you can add these berries to foods and meals you already eat.
  8. Be adventurous. If you have only eaten blueberries, try strawberries or raspberries.
More ideas

If you are looking for a fun summer outing this summer, go to a berry farm and pick your own berries. You can find a list of berry farms in your area on the Minnesota Grown website. Or if you prefer to let someone else do the picking, the Minnesota Grown website will also give you a listing of local farmers markets where you can buy berries.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency

A blizzard or loss of power from weather-related causes could put the safety of food in your home at risk. Learn the "ABCDs" of emergency food safety to reduce possible food loss and the risk of foodborne illness.

ABCDs of Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency
  • Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40°F and frozen food at or below 0°F. When the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. This will maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if the door stays closed. A full freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours if the door stays closed (24 hours if it's half full).
  • Be prepared for an emergency by having items on hand that don't require refrigeration and can be eaten cold.
  • Consider what you can do ahead of time to store your food safely in an emergency. Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours. Have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When your freezer is not full, keep items close together. This helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Digital, dial, or instant-read food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures.
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