Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Once known as star berries because of the pointy flower calyxes on top, blueberries have grown wild in North America for thousands of years. They were a staple among Native Americans, who dried and smoked the berries, and pounded them into venison to flavor the meat.

Berries such as blueberries are rich in vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants and can be delicious additions to yogurt, salads, and smoothies. (Photo source: UF/IFAS file photo)

Uses & Preparation
Wash blueberries just before using.  Add to yogurt or cottage cheese or any fruit and mild cheese platter.  For color and great taste, add to salads; or sweeten pancakes, cakes, and muffins.

Selection
Look for firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned berries with a light grayish bloom.  Ripe berries should be deep-purple blue to blue-black.

Storage
Cover and refrigerate fresh berries for up to 10 days.  Blueberries are easily frozen for later use.  Freeze unwashed blueberries in airtight, resealable plastic bags.  If thawed, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days.

Blueberry Pancake Stacks

Vegetable Oil for cooking
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Dash of nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to the milk, and stir just until mixed (batter should be slightly lumpy).  Gently fold in the berries.  Spoon the batter onto a griddle or pan greased with vegetable oil and heated to medium-hot (dollops should be about the size of a silver dollar).  Let the batter cook until the tops of the pancakes begin to bubble, then flip and cook until done.  Stack and serve immediately with softened margarine and warm syrup.  Makes about eighteen 2 1/2″ pancakes.

Blueberry Syrup

Combine 1 pint of blueberries and 1 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer until most of the fruit has burst.  Remove from heat and use a fork to mash the berries.  The syrup will thicken as it cools.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:  Good source of vitamin C.  High in fiber.  Low in calories.

Available Fresh:  April – June

To learn about fresh Florida strawberries, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Blueberries.

.For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Produce Pointers – Greens

Produce Pointers – Greens

Spring showers not only bring flowers, but beautiful fresh produce from the garden.

March in National Nutrition Month. Celebrate with nutritious delicious GREENS.

 

washing kale in the sink

Be sure to carefully wash greens before preparing to ensure a safe and delicious product. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

The dark leafy vegetable we refer to as “greens” range from earthy to peppery in flavor. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale are often grouped together because of their texture, pronounced flavor, and general uses. They actually come from several vegetable families. In general, these tart greens are cooked before eating. The season for some varieties peak November through March.

Choose leafy greens with fresh full leaves. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow spotted, wilted, or have slimy leaves.  Wash greens before use. Cut stems from leafy greens before cooking.  Sauté collard greens with garlic, onions, and tomatoes a little bit of olive oil. Simmer greens in low-sodium chicken broth until greens are wilted and tender. Store greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to five days.

NUTRITION TIPS: A 1/4 cup of cooked greens is about the size of one cupped handful.

 

 Beans and Greens

 1 can white kidney beans or cannellini beans rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh kale, stemmed and chopped into large pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

  Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add greens to the skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoon of water. Cook, tossing often, until greens are bright green and slightly wilted. Remove from heat.   Drain and heat beans and add to green mixture. Toss mixture, season and serve. Serves four; 1 cup serving

 

Savory Greens

3 cups water
1/4 pound skinless turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 green ground ginger
2 pounds mixed greens (collards, turnips, mustard, and kale)

Place all ingredients except greens into large pot and bring to a boil. Wash greens and remove stems. Chop greens into small pieces and add to stock. Cook 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Serves six; 1 cup serving

 

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Cooked greens are excellent sources of Vitamins A, C, K, and Calcium.

AVAILABLE FRESH: March – June & October – December

 

To learn about fresh Florida greens, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Greens.

For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

 

February is National Snack Food Month

February is National Snack Food Month

My favorite time – snack time!  For February, National Snack Food Month, let’s celebrate these tasty morsels for a whole month.

Go Beyond the Snack Aisle

Snacks often have a bad reputation, at least in terms of health.  It’s true that snack food aisles are often filled with high fat, high calorie, high sodium, and high sugar choices.  But snacks can be great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthier fats and carbohydrates.  You may just have to wander to other parts of the store next time you shop.

Think Mini Meal

When you snack, think of it as a mini meal.  Though you could plan tomorrow’s dinner to be a plate of snack cakes with a side of potato chips, hopefully you come up with something more satisfying than that – both in taste and nutrition.  Additionally, when we snack on healthier foods in between meals, it gives our bodies the sustainable energy it needs to make it to that next meal.

Plate and skewer of healthy, fun snacks

Snacks – Fun, Tasty, and Healthy
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

Snack MyPlate

Try snacking from all five food groups this month.

  • Whole grains – popcorn, granola, whole grain crackers
  • Fruits – apples, bananas, oranges, raisins
  • Veggies – pea pods, cucumber slices, carrots
  • Dairy – string cheese, yogurt cups, individual shelf stable cartons of milk
  • Protein – hard-boiled eggs, mixed nuts, healthy beef jerky

Make Homemade Mixed-Up Food Group Snacks

  • Whole grain pita or multi-colored pepper slices dipped in guacamole or hummus
  • Apple slices or carrots with peanut butter dip
  • Cherry tomatoes with mozzarella and basil
  • Fruit smoothies or protein shakes
  • Yogurt with granola and mixed berries
  • Banana Sushi – smear a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, put a banana in the middle, roll it up, then cut it into “sushi” slices

For more great snacking ideas, check out 10 Snack Tips for Parents, MyPlate Snack Tips for Kids, and 25 Healthy Snacks for Kids

Delicious, healthy, on-the-go snacks.  Be creative and keep it healthy this February – National Snack Food month.

Don’t Let Rice or Pasta Ruin Your Day!

Don’t Let Rice or Pasta Ruin Your Day!

Photo credit: UF/IFAS NW District

Rice and pasta are a staple of most family meals. But did you know these simple grains can lead to a foodborne illness? Uncooked rice and pasta can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause foodborne illness. These spores can survive even when rice or pasta is cooked. If the rice or pasta is left standing at room temperature, like in a pot on the stove, these spores can grow into bacteria. These bacteria will then multiply and produce toxins (poisons) that can cause foodborne illness. Bacillus cereus, sometimes called B. cereus, can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

Preventing Contamination by B. Cereus
Because B. cereus endospores are heat resistant, they are likely to survive cooking at temperatures that would destroy other foodborne pathogens. Bacillus cereus spores can grow when exposed to heat or improper handling.

Recommendations for Proper Handling of Rice and Pasta:

  • Cook rice and pasta at 135ºF or above and maintain at that temperature outside of the refrigerator.
    Serve rice or pasta as soon as it is cooked.
  • Cool in the refrigerator at 41ºF or below within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Store rice or pasta in the fridge using a shallow container or resealable bags.
  • Cooked rice or pasta can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for 3 – 5 days.
  • Do not reheat rice or pasta more than once.

During the holidays, celebrations usually center around family and good food, and, therefore, our refrigerators easily can become full. We tend to leave rice or pasta out on the stove when there isn’t any room in the fridge. This is where the problem occurs. By following proper food handling techniques, you can ensure that everyone enjoys the holidays and the fabulous foods that are part of the festivities.

To learn more about Bacillus cereus or other foodborne illnesses, contact your UF/IFAS County Extension Office.

Resources:
UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS), Preventing Foodborne Illness: Bacillus cereus

The Number of Food Poisoning Cases Caused by Bacillus cereus is on the Rise. (2015, April 1). Infection Control Today. Retrieved from https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/food-safety/number-food-poisoning-cases-caused-bacillus-cereus-rise

 

Dine In for Better Health

Dine In for Better Health

Make the pledge Tuesday, December 3rd to Dine In for better health – physical, social, and cultural.

Why

Most of us eat every day without thinking about it.  We need to eat to nourish our body, so it’s just a regular thing we do.  But eating also can be an important social and cultural way for families to come together.

FCS Dine In Day circle logo

FCS Dine In Day

When we eat together as a family, it gives us the opportunity to practice cultural traditions and share food histories.  We get the chance to explore new foods and learn new skills – like eating with chopsticks.  We may get the chance to learn and practice table manners and learn literary and conversation skills.  Paul Fieldhouse of the Vanier Institute of the Family says, “For young children, ‘table talk’ may be the main source of exposure to family conversation and the expression of thoughts, ideas, and emotions.”  Eating the family meal also can help us de-stress by setting a reassuring rhythm and structure to our day.

Eating family meals at home has additional benefits.  The University of Washington found that families who cook and eat more often at home tend to eat a healthier diet.  Their Healthy Eating Index is high – meaning they eat more fruits and vegetables and less calories, sugar, and fat.  They eat smaller portions helping to regulate weight.  Some research suggests we eat smaller portions at home because we eat more slowly and talk more.  This, however, does not equate to a higher cost.  Meals cooked at home generally cost less than those eaten out.

How

So, how can your family eat more meals together at home?

  • Try making and eating meals at home a priority for your family. Think about how important it is spending time together.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t worry about making a big, fancy meal.
  • Start with just a few meals a week. Then slowly add more meals together as you find your “family meal groove.”
  • Let the whole family help plan meals. Think about foods your family likes and build around those ideas.  Try to get all the MyPlate healthy food groups in – whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors, shapes, and textures, lean plant and animal proteins, and low- and no-fat dairy.  Make your grocery list together.
  • Let everyone be involved in planning, preparing, table setting, and cleaning up afterwards.
  • Make it a goal to start this December 3rd to Dine In for better health.

 

Resources:

(Still) Eating Together: The Culture of the Family Meal.  Retrieved November 16, 2019 from https://vanierinstitute.ca/eating-culture-family-meal/

Cooking at Home Tonight?  It’s Likely Cheaper and Healthier.  Retrieved November 15, 2019 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314150926.htm

What’s For Dinner? Make Your Own Freezer Meals

What’s For Dinner? Make Your Own Freezer Meals

photo of pancakes cooking in a pan

Most foods freeze well. Pancakes are easy to make ahead and freeze for later use. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski

You get home after a busy day and now it’s time to figure out what to make for dinner. You open the pantry and the refrigerator in a search for something to make for dinner. Maybe you can’t find the right ingredients or you don’t feel like cooking, so you pick up the phone to order delivery. A little planning ahead, could help you save money and make healthier choices.

Meals that you can make ahead and freeze are great to have on hand for use on busy days. According to the USDA, most foods can be frozen. Canned foods and shell eggs should not be frozen. This is because liquid expands when frozen and can cause shelled eggs and metal cans or glass jars to crack or break. Instead, remove canned foods from metal cans before freezing. To freeze eggs, beat together yolk and whites for better quality; egg whites can be frozen separately. Some foods don’t freeze well like mayonnaise, cream sauces, and lettuce. These exceptions aside, make ahead meals are easy to freeze and convenient to have on hand.

Cooking ahead doesn’t need to be complicated. Start freezing leftovers for later use or try doubling recipes when you are already cooking. Soups, stews, chili, casseroles, sloppy joes, and taco filling are easy recipes to experiment with batch cooking. Freeze in airtight plastic or glass containers or freezer safe bags or packaging. If you freeze foods in glass or plastic containers, leave 1-2 inches of head space between the food and the lid to allow room for expansion. Use labels to identify the frozen products, including the date and any cooking instructions. Store food in the quantities that you want to use for later. For example, whole casseroles can be reheated for family meals or soups and stews can be stored in single-serving quantities for quick and easy lunches. Freeze quickly for the best quality and to reduce freezer burn.

When it’s time to thaw, plan ahead. Do not thaw foods on the counter. Cook frozen foods immediately after thawing. Use one of the following recommended methods:

  1. Refrigerator: Small quantities can thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Larger quantities may take a day or two.
  2. Water method: Place in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, until thawed.
  3. Microwave defrosting: Defrosting in the microwave can cause some parts of the food to start cooking. Be sure to cook foods immediately after thawing.
  4. Cooking from a frozen state: Casseroles and other prepared foods can be cooked from a frozen state. Plan for extra cooking time by adding 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time. Use a food thermometer to be sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Never place a frozen dish in a hot, pre-heated oven.This could cause the dish to crack or break.

If you enjoy experimenting with batch cooking, there are a lot of great resources for make ahead recipes and weekly meal plans. For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/

Sources:

Freezing and Food Safety: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/cce745c9-0fc9-4ce6-a50c-84363e5b5a48/Freezing_and_Food_Safety.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Make Ahead Freezer Meals to the Rescue: https://extension.psu.edu/make-ahead-freezer-meals-to-the-rescue

Freezing Food for Multiple Meals: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/nutrition-topics/eatingwell-budget/makeaheadmeals.html