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 – Strawberries

Produce Pointers – Strawberries

Strawberries

Strawberries from Fresh off the Farm event. Taken 04-12-2019 (Photo Source: UF/IFAS Camila Guillen)

Choose locally- grown strawberries during the harvesting season; they will be the freshest and the most flavorful. When picking strawberries, try to pick early in the morning or later in the day when the fruit is cool.  Strawberries are best used within 2-3 days of picking.

 

Uses & Preparation

Freezing Whole Strawberries;  Spread a single layer of prepared fruit on shallow trays and freeze.  When frozen, promptly package (to avoid freezer burn) and return to freezer.  The fruit pieces remain loose and can be used as needed.

Freezing Sliced or Crushed Strawberries;  Prepare berries: Using ripe berries, wash gently and remove caps.  Slice or crush partially or completely.  To 1 quart berries add 3/4 cup sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved or let stand 15 minutes.  Pack into containers, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Seal and freeze.

Storage

Sort and remove any bruised or damaged berries as soon as possible and use in sauces, purees or jams. Place the berries in cool, well-ventilated containers.  The moisture content of fresh strawberries is high, so store them unwashed and uncovered, or loosely covered.

Quantities

1 pint = about 3 1/4 cups whole berries (12-36 depending on size of berries) or about 2 1/4 cups sliced berries.  1 cup sliced fresh berries = One 10-oz. pkg frozen, sweetened berries.

MERRY FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

1 9- inch pie crust, baked

1 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons strawberry flavored gelatin mix

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

1cup boiling water

2 pints strawberries, cleaned and stemmed

2 cups whipped topping (optional)

Combine sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Stir in boiling water. Boil mixture for 3 minutes over high heat, stirring constantly. Cool completely.

Arrange whole strawberries in pastry shell. Pour gelatin mixture over berries.  Chill before serving. Top with whipped topping, if desired.

Nutrition Information:  Low in calories – High in Vitamin C – Good source of folate, potassium & fiber
Available Fresh:  April – May

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

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

 

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.

Holiday Leftovers: Keep Them Safe and Delicious

Holiday Leftovers: Keep Them Safe and Delicious

Cooked turkey with green peas and roll

Safe and delicious holiday leftovers
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

For some of us, the best part of holiday eating is snacking on the leftovers. There’s just nothing better for a post-holiday lunch than a turkey sandwich with some cranberry dressing. With a little care and attention to detail, holiday foods can be safe and delicious for several days after the big event.

So, what do we all need to know about holiday food safety? Take a look below for some quick and easy tips.

Reheating foods in the oven: Set your oven temperature no lower than 325˚F and reheat to 165˚F for turkey or chicken. Reheat ham to 145˚F. You will need a meat thermometer to check the temperature. If you don’t already have one, they’re easy to find and fairly inexpensive. To keep your meat moist, add a little broth or water and cover it with foil or an oven-proof lid.

Reheating foods in the microwave: To keep your turkey or chicken moist, sprinkle a little broth or water and cover it. You won’t need a lot of extra moisture for microwave cooking. If your microwave doesn’t have a revolving tray, be sure to rotate the meat for even heating. Let it stand for a minute or two after heating, as it will continue to cook for a bit. Just like with oven reheating, use a meat thermometer and heat poultry to 165˚F, ham to 145˚F.

Storing your turkey: It may be a painful thought, but if any turkey, stuffing, or gravy gets left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it needs to be thrown away. It’s better to waste food than to risk getting sick, especially over the holidays! Divide leftovers into small portions so they will quickly and evenly cool. Store in the refrigerator or freeze in appropriate containers.

Important Tips: Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing and gravy within four days. If you freeze your leftovers, use them within six months for best taste and quality. Not sure how long something’s been in the refrigerator or freezer? The old maxim still holds true: When in doubt, throw it out.

Best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday season!

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