How many of you feel like your days are go, go, go and feel tired and uninspired by the time you get home to make dinner? I am in the same boat and have decided my fast, go to dinners are now sheet pan meals. Add protein(s) (of your choice) and vegetables (of your choice) tossed in oil and spices (of your choice) and place it in the oven to cook, and you have dinner ready in less than an hour. My favorite part of these meals is that you and your family choose the foods you like and make them your own. This makes it easy to please everyone – even picky eaters – and you can mix it up with different proteins and vegetables to keep it from getting boring.
These meals are great for introducing new vegetables and proteins to children and adults. Why is it important to eat vegetables? Eating a diet rich in vegetables provides your body with important nutrients for proper health and maintenance, protects against certain types of cancers, and helps reduce your risk for heart disease, including heart attacks and stroke.
Be sure to check out the MyPlate Vegetable Group table for more information. The Vegetable Group is divided into five subgroups: Dark-Green Vegetables, Red and Orange Vegetables, Starchy Vegetables, Beans, Peas, and Lentils, and Other Vegetables. When you click on each subgroup it gives you a list of vegetables. Be sure to eat a variety of different vegetables for the most health benefit. It is recommended for us to eat many types of vegetables in a variety of colors to get the proper amount of nutrients we need.
These balanced sheet pan meals are also very easy for cleanup. You use one sheet pan for the entire meal. I highly recommend putting parchment paper down on your sheet pan before adding any ingredients. It will make the cleanup so much easier. There may still be some oil that needs to be washed off the pan, but nothing will get stuck or will need to soak before cleaning it.
As a busy, working adult I highly recommend the sheet pan meals to make your evenings easier and to diversify your meals and types of foods you enjoy at dinner. Happy Easy Meal Prep/Cleanup! Enjoy your delicious, nutritious sheet pan meal.
Since I can recall, I’ve liked to read cookbooks. Old cookbooks, famous cookbooks, church cookbooks, regional and seasonal cookbooks, and cookbooks hot off the press! I read the forward and the preface (… if there is one). I don’t just look at the pictures, but I read the recipe for yield (number of servings), ingredients and amounts, and the way the ingredients are combined. I read about the equipment required to prepare the recipe and the amount of time it takes to complete the task.
A narrative format is common with many older or handwritten recipes. Photo credit: Heidi Copeland
Generally, I have found that old cookbook recipes often seem different and that handwritten, handed-down recipes tend to be vague. I also have found that the product does not always turn out like the picture. Yields – the amount a recipe feeds – has certainly changed over time and recipe ingredients have become more and more varied, as has their use. Who knew toasting spices completely changes their flavor profile and that umami is important?
It used to be that people learned to cook by watching someone else. However, that seriously changed as more and more folks became literate. In fact, the first cookbook published in the United States, American Cookery (Hartford Connecticut 1796), has been designated by The Library of Congress as one of the 88 books that shaped America. This first cookbook used uniquely American ingredients of the time and provided American cooks with quite a litany of receipts, the old-world way of documenting what we now call a recipe.
Recently, I listened to a radio interview with Adrien Miller, a cookbook author who has been on a quest to document uniquely African American cooking histories.
I chuckled to hear Adrien Miller describe a handwritten recipe from a friend or a relative as a lesserpe… his terminology for the unexacting nature of a recipe given from someone who really doesn’t need an exact rendition because they know what they are doing and assume you do, too.
Recipes are a great way to hand down our own historical traditions. However, having been charged with giving out a lesserpe…, I find it is critically important to be as exacting as possible when sharing recipes with friends or family.
A good, standard format for a recipe includes:
Name of product
Yield of product (how many it serves)
Ingredients in exact amounts (in order of use is helpful)
Step-by-step instructions, in detail
Time and temperature specifics
Important information about pan size, etc.
Remember, too, that a recipe is a history. History evolves. Aunt Margaret might have written a narrative format (paragraph) recipe but today that form might be seen as hard to follow.
Here is an example from Aunt Margaret:
Apple Pie (2 crust)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie pan with your favorite crust. Combine and sift together 1/2 – 2/3 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Combine and sift over apples (about 3#, cut up). Stir apples gently until well coated. Place in pie shell and dot with butter. Cover pie, slit or prick crust. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until done.
The typically formatted recipe:
Apple Pie (Aunt Margaret)
Serves 8 to 10
2 pie crusts, purchased or homemade
3 pounds Granny Smith apples, approximately 8 large apples
1/2 cup white sugar, more if you like it sweeter
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, firm, sliced thin
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cream
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Wash, peel, core, and slice the apples thinly.
In a large bowl, toss sliced apples with sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Line 9” pie pan with 1 piecrust
Mound the apple mixture in the center of the pie crust.
Dot the apple mixture with sliced butter.
Cover apples with 2nd pie crust.
Crimp edges of the pie crust. (Press the top and bottom dough rounds together as you flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.)
Mix egg yolk and cream, brush all over the pie crust top.
Stick with fork tines in a dozen places or vent with small knife-made slits.
Bake 15 minutes in the preheated 425°oven.
Reduce the temperature to 375°. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft and the crust is golden brown.
Transfer the apple pie to a rack to cool for at least 1 hour.
Serve warm or cold.
Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips before you bake it.
At any point during the baking, if the top of the pie begins to brown too much, just tent it with aluminum foil.
Your dad does not like nutmeg. I add a splash of vanilla, a bit more cinnamon, and omit the nutmeg.
Don’t forget the vanilla bean ice-cream. It adds a nice touch!
This holiday season, don’t be blamed for sharing less than the whole recipe. Recipes can be a valuable tool for passing on important family food traditions, now and into the distant future. Learn to write a good recipe with details. You might just be the talk of the table for eons.
Stock up on canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and heat-and-eat soups for your hurricane food supply kit. Photo source: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.
Now that we are officially in Hurricane Season (June1-November 30) and named storms are paying a call to the Sunshine State, it’s time to make sure we are prepared.
At the top of the list is planning meals for you and your family. Many people grab snack-type foods, such as crackers, cookies, and chips, or whatever is available on store shelves when the storm is approaching without having a meal plan in mind. Use MyPlate as a guide to plan meals to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products. Foods from each food group provide important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to properly fuel your body so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges and stresses that accompany hurricanes and other disasters.
Plan a two-week supply of nonperishable or canned food and juices that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration. Include healthy snacks and any special foods for infants, senior adults, or persons with specific dietary needs. Select foods your family likes and will eat. Plan meals and shop early before a storm is on the horizon so you have a greater food selection and can take advantage of sales to stock up at a reduced cost. Keep planned written menus that have worked well for you and your family inside your hurricane food supply kit in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Brenda Marty-Jimenez, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Broward County, offers the following menu suggestions:
Apple juice • ready-to-eat cereal • small boxes of raisins • breakfast bars with fruit • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Orange juice • hot cereal/instant oatmeal • banana • muffin • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Grape juice •ready-to-eat cereal • canned peaches • yogurt • bread with jam or jelly • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Chunky beef soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • crackers • carrot and celery sticks • nuts • fruit cups packed in water • vanilla wafers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned cream soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread • tomato slices • unsweetened applesauce • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned chili with beans (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • broccoli florets • canned fruit • animal crackers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned meat or cheese ravioli • three-bean salad (canned) • fresh yellow apples • bread with margarine or butter • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread • canned green beans • canned fruit • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Mac and cheese • canned vegetable • fresh pears • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Remember the four key food safety principles: Cook, Clean, Chill, and Separate.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods.
Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Sanitize food preparation and cooking surfaces regularly.
Put leftovers in sealed bags or shallow containers and pack on ice or store in the refrigerator if it is running on a generator. Dispose of food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is 90oF or above) or has an off-odor, color, or texture.
Toss out food that has come in contact with contaminated flood water. Do not eat foods from dented, swollen, or corroded cans, even though the food may appear safe to eat.
I have just wrapped up my three-day Kitchen Creations camp and am happy to report that it was a big hit with the campers. Each day had a different country theme. Day 1 was Italian, Day 2 was Mexican, and Day 3 was American. All the dishes the kids made, including dessert, represented that day’s country.
The recipes ranged from simple to more complex, allowing the kids to build on basic skills to learn more advanced ones. For some campers, boiling a pot of water was a daunting task. For others, they learned how to caramelize and julienne. The campers worked in teams to create two main dishes, a salad, and a dessert each day, which was shared with the entire group.
I am pleased to announce there were no leftovers. The kids either ate it all, or wanted to take their culinary creations home to share with their families. If that is not a testimony to the camp’s success, I do not know what is.
I also was impressed with the campers’ willingness to try new things. Many of them were skeptical about the vegetable lasagna we made on Day 1, but nearly all the kids were willing to at least give it a try. And just like the baked ziti, Caesar salad, and chocolate biscotti we made that day, there was nothing left at the end of the day.
Kids can be eager helpers in the kitchen, even when it comes to cleaning up. Photo source: Samantha Kennedy, UF/IFAS Extension
Kids are eager learners in the kitchen. All the campers in Kitchen Creations were enthusiastic and ready to learn. They were proud of their creations, wanted to learn new skills, and were excited to use new tools and practice using familiar ones.
It is understandable that some parents may be reluctant to have younger kids in the kitchen. Maybe they are wary of possible injury. Maybe they are just so busy they do not have time to teach and supervise their children in the kitchen. It is a hectic world out there! But I know from personal experience with Kitchen Creations camp that kids, especially those interested in cooking, are more trustworthy and less accident-prone in the kitchen than some might expect.
The campers in my cooking camp are between the ages of 10 and 12 and in the four summers I have offered it, I have had only a few minor mishaps. The campers are aware of possible dangers in the kitchen. Things are hot. Things are sharp. Things are heavy. They are very conscientious about safety and handling things the correct way.
Kids who cook grow into adults who cook. Cooking is an important life skill that will be useful through someone’s entire life. Whether it is a student putting together quick, healthy meals and snacks to help them study, a busy parent trying to balance the responsibilities of everyday life while planning and making nutritious meals for their family, or a doting grandparent making something special for their grandkids, cooking is vital and brings people together.
Cooking is life.
I encourage you to support the budding chefs in your life. Instead of turning them away, allow them to help. Taking the time to prepare a meal together and then sharing that meal with loved ones builds stronger relationships while teaching important skills for a successful life.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have turned to cooking more meals at home. Cooking meals and eating at home has many benefits. When preparing meals, you can select the ingredients and choose healthy recipes lower in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. When eating out, we tend to eat more food. You can more easily control your portion sizes when eating at home. Remember to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your main dishes and side dishes. Finally, preparing and eating meals together is not only a fun way to teach healthy eating habits and cooking skills, but it is also a great way to connect with each other at the end of the day.
We invite you to join us for A Healthy Table: Virtual Cooking School. In our virtual cooking school, you will learn how to prepare healthy meals for your family through self-paced online lessons and hands-on cooking activities. You will have opportunities to engage in monthly live virtual cooking demonstrations and interactive learning experiences.
Register before February 9th and save 20% off the ticket price. Early registrants gain access to a bonus class and kick-off event. Tickets are on sale for $19.99 until February 9th and $25 thereafter. Registration will close on February 23. Once registered, you will receive the Zoom class link and the link to the class website. Register here: http://bit.ly/ahealthytable.
The monthly Zoom class events will be held from 6:30-7:30 pm CT/ 7:30-8:30 pm ET on:
Tuesday, February 9th: Kickoff Event Available for Early Birds only Program introduction and a sweet, healthy treat demonstration.
Tuesday, February 23rd: Lesson 1, Kitchen skills primer
2020 has been a year of many changes and challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which unfortunately will continue into our holiday season. To protect our friends, family and community members we must continue following the science-based guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local guidelines to prevent exposure and the spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic numbers are rising again. Gatherings of any kind, both small and large, are contributing to the rise in positive cases. We can all make choices based on the scientific research that can protect us and others by making small changes in our 2020 holiday celebrations. Limiting the risk and being diligent in our actions should be our main goal until a vaccine is approved and dispersed throughout the country.
Holiday Dinner Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Some unique and easy ways to celebrate the holidays this year are to “gather virtually” with those not in your immediate household or to gather in-person only with members of your own household. These two types of gatherings offer the lowest risk for spreading the virus. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your home. People who do not currently live in your home, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including those college students returning home, offer varying levels of risk. The level of risk is difficult to determine because people may have been exposed and/or are a carrier and may not be aware of it.
Here are some specific things to consider when deciding how to celebrate your holidays.
Number of cases in your community – Be sure to know the number of positive Covid cases in your community. If the numbers are rising or are already high you should take precautions based on the data. You can check your specific county or city Covid rates at your local health departments website.
Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, rest stops and hotels are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. Be aware if you will be traveling or if you have guests traveling to your home.
Location of your gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation, expose your family to more risk than outdoor gatherings.
How long will your gathering last? – Time is an important factor to consider. The longer the gathering lasts the more risk those attendees will have of being exposed. Being within 6 feet of someone who has Covid for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people bring more risk than gatherings with fewer people. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations.
Behaviors of attendees before the gathering – People who do not consistently follow social distancing, wearing masks, regular handwashing and other prevention behaviors cause more risk than those who consistently practice the recommended safety measures.
Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing, offer less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and may make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.
Be sure your technology is charged and ready for your virtual holiday visit. Photo Source: Kendra Zamojski
Other high-risk holiday related activities to avoid to help prevent the spread of the virus:
Going shopping in crowded stores.
Participating or being a spectator at a crowded parade, race or other holiday celebration.
Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.
Things to consider before your gatherings:
To make the holiday less stressful be sure to practice a virtual session before the virtual holiday gathering. Make sure everyone involved knows how to connect to the virtual holiday celebration so the gathering will go more smoothly and hopefully experience less technical problems on that day.
We all had to adapt to many unexpected changes this year and the holidays will be no different. Just remember being diligent now will protect family and friends and help control the spread of the virus in our communities. Be sure to enjoy your unique holiday season this year, but here’s hoping for a less challenging 2021.
Stay safe! Enjoy your family and friends from a safe distance! Happy Holidays!