Archive for May, 2012

Local fresh strawberries are here!  These delicious fruit annually welcome the arrival of summer with its grand entrance. Eating locally grown fruit in season provides the assurance that the berries are picked fully ripe and will get to the consumer within a day.

Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants and fiber.  A cup of fresh strawberries contains only 50 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein. Strawberries contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium.

Choose plump and firm strawberries with a bright red color and natural shine.  The size of the berry is not important as the color of the berry. The fragrance is the best indicator of flavor.  Caps should be fresh, green and intact.  Avoid strawberries with a green or white color, wilted, bruised or soft berry.  Strawberries do not ripen after picking. Store immediately in the refrigerator and pick as close to consumption time as possible.

When purchasing strawberries, check the carton for stains, which indicates over ripeness of the berries. Remove the strawberries from the original container and store in a shallow container on a paper towel in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Do not wash the strawberries or remove the caps until you’re ready to eat them or use them in a recipe.   Handle the berries gently as they bruise easily. Immediately before serving, swish in a bowl of cold water.  Do not soak.

Strawberries are a versatile fruit with many options to serve.  Halve, quarter or slice fresh berries and let stand 5-10 minutes to allow juices to form and enjoy.  Mix in a fruit cup, with other berries or add to a fresh garden salad.

Several of the local restaurants are serving delicious seasonal salads with fresh strawberries, roasted chicken, blueberries, and toasted pecans.  Not only are these salads beautiful, they are healthy as well.  For a nice summer dinner, prepare a salad with greens, grilled or roasted chicken, add vegetables of your choice including fresh strawberries and serve with a whole wheat crusty roll and dinner is ready.

Visit a local farm market or grower to pick your own or purchase fresh local grown strawberries this weekend and enjoy!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Serves 4

4 cups spinach or other mixed greens

1 cup fresh strawberries or combination of peaches, blueberries, and kiwi fruit (sliced)

Topping options:

2 green onions, chopped

1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings

½ cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, blanched and chilled

½ cup toasted almonds or walnuts

2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, toasted

½ cup cheese, goat or blue, crumbled

1 cup cooked turkey, chopped

Combine with selected toppings.  Top with your favorite salad dressing.

Source:  Edible, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Author:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension


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Are you planning a cookout or family picnic for this weekend or a summer holiday? You probably heard the same data I did that almost 75% of us grill out on Memorial Day and up to 90% on 4th of July. Of course the survey was done by Weber-Stephen Products, so they love for us to grill out. A plus of grilling foods as it heats up outside, is that using a grill instead of your oven will help keep your home cooler and save on energy costs. Unfortunately with these cooked out foods we often also see an increase in food borne illnesses, so basic food safety practices are an important part of any cookout. Some of these food safety grilling guidelines include:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before, during, and after food prep – especially after touching raw meats or hot dogs.
  • Start with a clean grill; make sure you remove any charred food debris from the last time you cooked out.
  • Check the expiration date on any meat product, especially hot dogs or brat type meats, to ensure you are starting with a safe product.
  • Grill completely thawed meats to ensure even cooking.
  • If you are using a marinade on grilled meats, never use the marinade that has raw meat drippings in it on top of partially or fully cooked meats. Either save some of the mixture before adding meat to it, or make a new batch to add during grilling.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is completely cooked – ground meats like burgers should reach 160 degrees, poultry 165 degrees, and pork or beef 145 degrees.
  • Place cooked meats on a fresh platter, rather than the one you brought it out to the grill with.
  • Remember the old saying “Keep Cold Foods Cold, and Hot Foods Hot”, if it is over 90 degrees foods shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour – rather than the typical 2 hours.
  • If you are transporting foods to your cookout, ensure proper storage with coolers or warmers for already cooked foods.

In addition to safely preparing grilled foods, it is also a good idea to keep in mind the research on grilled meats and cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research char grilled foods and those that are high fat have been shown to produce the cancer causing compounds heterocyclic amines or HCAs, and PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Meats cooked at high temperatures, especially those that are charred, have been linked to high levels of HCAs. The PAHs are formed from the fat of grilled meats flaming up, so by selecting lower fat cuts of meat, you can reduce this risk. Marinating meat has been shown to reduce the risk of HCAs forming by over 90% – even marinating for less than 30 minutes. If you are planning to marinade your meats or vegetables before you grill consider your recipe before you start. While grilled foods are often more healthful than fried, marinades frequently contain ingredients that are high in sodium. Check the label on commercially prepared grilling or barbecue sauces for hidden sodium or fat. To make your own, add herbs and a drop of olive oil to fruit juices and toss in a little balsamic vinegar. Try the following: lemon or lime juice, low-sodium soy sauce, honey, garlic, vinegar, wines, mixed with your favorite herb.  Fruit or vegetable salsa is also a tasty and easy choice as a marinade. You may want to grill your vegetables in addition to meats, good choices are: peppers, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, asparagus, eggplant, corn on the cob, tomatoes, and summer squash. Beets, carrots, and even radishes can be grilled too.

To grill safe choose vegetables or low-fat meat cuts that you marinade with juice and herbs and slow cook to prevent flare ups; use the proper grill tools; wash your hands and utensils; keep a water bottle handy to prevent flare ups; use a meat thermometer; and “Keep Hot Foods Hot, and Cold Foods Cold”. The University of Illinois Extension has a few easy grilling recipes for vegetable kabob, roasted corn, and banana boats at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/grilling/recipes.html.



American Institute for Cancer Research, AICR: http://www.aicr.org.

USDA, Food Safety & Inspection Service: http://www.foodsafety.gov/.

University of Illinois Extension, Carol Schlitt, “Keep Food Safe When Grilling” and Marjorie LaFont, “Outdoor Grilling Recipes”: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/.

WebMD, A Healthier Way to Grill: http://webmd.com.

Weber-Stephen Products: http://weber.mediaroom.com/.

Written by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross & Vinton Counties.

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Salads aren’t always diet food . . . the salad bar, where croutons and creamy dressings are abundant, can be a dietary minefield.  However, if you choose the rights ingredients, a salad can make a perfect meal.  Salads don’t have to be boring!  Salads can be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Dress up an everyday salad with mixed greens; they will add texture and flavor and you’ll save money buying whole heads instead of pre-packaged bags.

Greens – Choose arugula, butter leaf lettuce, chicory, spinach, romaine, or watercress for the best nutritional value.

Spinach is your best choice.  It contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin for healthy vision, beta-carotene to prevent cancer and vitamin C to prevent bruising.

Fruits and Vegetables – Choose beets, red/yellow/orange peppers, red cabbage, broccoli flowerets, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, cranberries, tangerines, strawberries, apples, jicama, and red grapes.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may help prevent prostate cancer and reduce your risk of heart-disease, and Vitamin C which lowers blood pressure.

Flavorful Topping Extras – Choose 1 tablespoon chopped almonds or walnuts, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, 1/8 avocado or 1 tablespoon chopped olives. (Use cautions with flavorful extras – choose just one, because these toppings can add considerable calories and fat.)

Nuts are packed with protein, fiber and healthy unsaturated fats that may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Dressings – Low-fat dressings with 100 calories or less per 2-tablespoon serving.  Try to keep fat less than 6 grams per serving, but this is tough with creamy varieties – if you can’t, just use a little less.

Protein – Choose 3 ounces grilled chicken, shrimp or salmon; 3-ounces turkey breast, tofu, egg whites or water-packed tuna; or 1 cup lentils, garbanzo or black beans.

Here are some of the worst choices at the salad bar, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.  Remember to use caution.

Bacon Bits – 64 calories, 3 grams of fat per ounce

Blue Cheese – 100 calories, 8 grams of fat per ounce

Croutons – 93 calories, 4 grams of fat per ounce

Honey-Roasted Pecans – 202 calories, 21 grams of fat per ounce

Ranch Dressing – 73 calories, 8 grams of fat per tablespoon

Sunflower Seeds – 165 calories, 14.1 grams of fat per 1 oz.

Potato Salad – 179 calories, 11 grams of fat per ½ cup serving

Macaroni Salad – 232 calories, 9.6 grams of fat per ½ cup serving

As you experiment with building a better salad, here’s a healthy, nutritious Strawberry Arugula salad recipe for you to try.


Strawberry Arugula Salad Recipe


  • 2 cups      torn fresh arugula or baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup quartered fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2      tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2      tablespoons olive oil
  • 1      tablespoon thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 1      tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/2      teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1/8      teaspoon ground ginger


  • In a salad bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, orange juice concentrate, vinegar, orange peel and ginger. Pour over salad; toss gently to coat. Yield: 2 servings.

Nutritional Facts –  1 ¼ cups equals 295 calories, 25 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 13 mg cholesterol, 199 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Originally published as Strawberry Arugula Salad in Cooking for 2 Spring 2009, p56


Writer:  Cindy Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County or http://perry.osu.edu.

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As the bright sun is shining you put on sunglasses to protect your eyes.   Are you eating to protect your vision?  With age-related macular degeneration the major cause of blindness in older people did you know, what you eat may help lower your risk?

Eating a variety of colorful plant foods and fish can help your eyes, as well as, the rest of you.  Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard top the list for being rich in lutein and its cousin, zeaxanthin.  Other green vegetables like peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, zucchini and asparagus have lower amounts of lutein.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and retina of your eye, helping you to see clearly.

Having a significant cataract between the ages of 65 to 74 is the number one cause of poor vision.  At least half of us will one or have had one removed by age 75.   Those who consume more lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to have a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration.   It is believed that it is the lutein and zeaxanthin providing the protection, but it could be something else in the leafy greens that explain the link to healthy eyes.  Those dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  In one study of women who had high doses of B vitamins lowered the risk of macular degeneration.

Another group of foods that may provide protection for your eyes are oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel.  Many studies have indicated that people who eat oily fish are less likely to have macular degeneration.  Some think it is the omega-3s but it maybe the Vitamin D or selenium or both in the fish.

Be sure to avoid smoking, excess sunlight, and refined sugar and starches.  The refined sugar and starches usually indicate a poor diet which means empty calories are replacing nutrient-rich foods.  For example, if you have a 500 calorie cupcake, bagel, or muffin in place of nutrient dense foods (like vegetables and fruits) you will reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals you would get from the healthier foods.  In this case, you could reduce the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin everyday by as much as 75% of what you otherwise would get from the healthy foods.

Keeping your weight under control will also help your eyes.  An increase in inflammation and oxidative stress is seen in those who are obese increasing the risk of eye disease.

To help protect your eyes eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and oily fish.  Also keep the sunglasses on when out in the sun.


Mayo Clinic Staff, (2012). Macular Degeneration:  Prevention Downloaded at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/macular-degeneration/DS00284/DSECTION=prevention

Nutrition Action Health Letter, (2011).  Eat Smart, Which Foods are Good for What, Center for Science in the Public Interest, December 2011, Vol. 38 (10), p.4-5,7

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Did you know that the average American family throws away approximately $1600 worth of food each year?  If you’re like most people, you probably buy things you don’t need at the grocery store, or you may end up with leftovers that don’t appeal to family members.  However, just by following a few simple tips, your family can eat healthy AND save money at the same time!

  • Plan and buy only what you need:  Saving money begins at the supermarket.  Always plan and make a list before you go grocery shopping.  Be sure to check your foods on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Buy just what you need.
  • Stock up:  By having a well-stocked pantry, you can create delicious meals from foods that might otherwise go to waste.  Toss cooked vegetables with whole grain pasta and salad dressing for a refreshing meal on a hot day.  Mix canned beans with rice, toss with a salad, or mash and spread on a tortilla for a tasty burrito.
  • Buy fresh produce every week:  Fresh fruits and vegetables are great any time of day, including snacks.  Don’t purchase produce in bulk, however, if it will go bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Before you toss bruised or discolored fruit, cut off the bad spots and cook it in cobblers, pies, muffins, pancakes or breads.
  • Add vegetables to soups or stews, or casseroles.  You’ll add nutrients, color and texture to your meal while stretching your food dollar!
  • Freeze foods, such as bread or baked goods if you won’t use them right away.  Use it later in casseroles or for breading on poultry or fish.  Leftover vegetables can be added to stir fries, sauces, pasta or omelettes.
  • Cook with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables:  Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a healthy alternative to fresh since they’re flash frozen when harvested.  They are often more affordable and may be more nutritious, depending on several factors.
  • Adjust your recipes to meet your family needs.  Make changes according to your preferences and what foods you have on hand.  Mix it up with different meats, vegetables or beans, seasonings or spices.  Add nuts,  rice or a whole-grain to stretch your food dollar.  Substitute low-fat cheese in place of regular full-fat cheese.

Source:  Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, Top 10 Tips to Waste Less Food.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Hamilton County


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When the weather warms my thoughts turn to fresh fruits and vegetables.  They can be fresh from the garden, farmer’s market or produce department in your local grocery store.  Here are some tips for selecting the best product and keeping it safe.

  • When purchasing fruits and vegetables, select items that are not bruised or damaged.  A damaged spot is a great place for microorganisms to hide and grow.  Your item will spoil quickly if it is damaged.  If you notice a spot once you have the product at home, cut away the damaged area and use right away.
  • If you are choosing fruits and vegetables which are already cut-up for you make sure they are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.  Cut produce should never be left out of refrigeration.  Items such as a half of cantaloupe or bagged lettuce should be refrigerated when you purchase them.  Grocery stores will sell items already cut-up.  Farmer’s markets and roadside stands should never sell their fruits and vegetables already cut unless they have facilities to keep them refrigerated.
  • For the longest storage, keep perishable item like strawberries, lettuce, and herbs in your refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees F or lower.
  • Items such as potatoes and onions can be kept in a cool, dry area.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before you start preparing your fresh produce.
  • And, wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. It is not necessary to use commercial produce washes.

The first farmer’s market of the season will be here soon!

Source:  http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/fruits/tipsfreshprodsafety.html

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Ohio State University Extension.

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dinner with chicken and vegetableThose who have parents or other relatives with Diabetes are doomed to have the disease too right? According to a recent study done by a research team at the National Institute of Health led by Dr. Jared Reis, not necessarily so.
The team looked at five lifestyle factors. Those were healthy diet, keeping an ideal body weight, being physically active, not smoking and minimizing alcohol use. The group started in the mid-1990’s and used a group of 200,000 older adults as their research group. They examined their lifestyle and these five factors. They examined whether or not the group developed diabetes over the next decade.
Results were remarkable. When a healthy lifestyle was adopted lowering the diabetic risk, men had a 72% lower risk of developing diabetes. These were men who adopted all five of these lifestyle factors. This was even stronger in women who adopted all five lifestyle factors at 84% of those at lower risk.
The greatest effect of those lifestyle changes was for those who maintained an ideal body weight, but all the factors seemed to improve the risk of developing diabetes. Therefore, even those adults who are overweight or obese can benefit from a healthy diet, increasing activity, not smoking or using less alcohol.

Source: NIH News in Health, October 2011.
Author: Liz Smith, OSU Extension Educator.

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