All posts by Alyssa McDowell

December Vegetable of the Month: Leek

The December Vegetable of the Month is Leek!

Leeks aren’t getting the credit they deserve! Did you know they are actually loaded with health benefits? They contain antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer properties. Plus their mild, sweet flavor makes them perfect for soups or any recipe that calls for onion or garlic!

A Leek is a Good Source of:

  • Vitamin A—for cell heath
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Folate—healthy cell growth and function
  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health

Did You Know?

  • Leeks look like a giant green onion, but have a milder taste.
  • Leeks contain folate, which is key in healthy pregnancies.
  • In addition to probiotics, your body needs beneficial bacteria called prebiotics, which are in leeks!

How to Choose and Store Leeks

Leeks are in-season during the winter and early spring, but can generally be found year-round. Ready-to-eat leeks should be firm and crisp with quite a bit of white and light green coloring. Those with yellow or withered tops should be avoided. Unwashed leeks can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. Be sure to always wash them after cutting and before eating, as they often have dirt within the layers. 

Tips to Get Children to Eat Leeks

  • Chop into small pieces, then cook and mix them into mashed potatoes!
  • Add to their favorite cheesy casserole.
  • Let kids build their own salad using a variety of good-for-you ingredients, leeks included!

Ways to Prepare Leeks

  • Raw
  • Sauté
  • Roast
  • Boil

Let’s Get Cooking

Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sliced leeks
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • ½ cup + ⅓ cup chicken or vegetable broth, low sodium
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons instant potato flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or ½ tablespoon dried)

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the leeks and onion in the butter for 5 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Pour in the broth and the milk and mix well.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in potato flakes, salt, celery salt, and parsley.
  6. Allow to thicken and heat through.
  7. Top with green onion and low-fat cheese.

Leek and Potato Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups leeks, sliced
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 cups red potatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup fat-free milk
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, reduced fat

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add oil to a sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Add leeks to the sauté pan and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and potatoes; and cook for 2 minutes or until the spinach wilts.
  5. Combine the milk, seasoning, salt, pepper, 4 egg whites, 4 eggs in a separate bowl and whisk well.
  6. Pour the contents from the sauté pan into the egg mixture.
  7. Coat a 9.5-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and pour the entire mixture within.
  8. Sprinkle the top with cheese and breadcrumbs.
  9. Bake at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for 20–25 minutes.
  10. For a golden brown top, broil for 4 minutes after baking.

For more creative leek-based recipes visit Eating Well! With so many possibilities, like Cheesy Zucchini Quiche, Slow-Cooker Citrus Salmon with Melted Leeks, and Vegan Lentil Stew you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, Dr. Axe, Eating Well

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

Healthy Snacks on the Go

Convenience stores are stocked with lots of quick and easy sweet treats. While it might be tempting to grab a surgery snack when you’re in a hurry, you won’t get much nutrition from it. The high sugar content in some processed sweets or candy can actually make you more hungry and even drain your energy. 

So, how can you avoid the dreaded sugar crash? Choose snack options that are less processed and don’t include artificial sugars or salt. Keep reading for healthy snack ideas for your next quick trip to the grocery store or when you’re in the car and on the go.

Before You Buy

Think about what you want from your snack. Healthy snacks may seem boring or might not be exactly what you are craving. When you need a little pick-me-up, more energy, or something filling and nutritious, we have a few tips to keep in mind before you walk through the aisles:

Snacks that crunch keep the munchies away

Fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, rice cakes, or popcorn (a good-for-you whole grain) are all options that provide a nice dose of fiber and help satisfy your cravings.

Rethink your drink

Soda and energy drinks can contain tons of sugar and artificial flavors and colors that work against your healthy intentions. Plain or sparkling water with a twist of fruit can quench your thirst and satisfy your craving for bubbles. Unsweetened tea or coffee will give you a small dose of caffeine to help give you a short energy boost. Go easy on fruit and vegetable juice—choose options that are 100% juice and grab smaller sizes to avoid sugar overload.

Hunger busters

There are plenty of nutritious snack options that can fill you up like hummus or peanut or other nut butters. Pair with carrots, celery, snow peas, tomatoes, or pretzels for a satisfying snack. Crackers with cheese, tuna or salmon are also great options to curb your hunger. Low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit or fruit and veggie smoothies are a refreshing and filling option—just watch the sugar content and enjoy in smaller doses!

Sweet-tooth tested

Sometimes we just need a sweet treat. Before you reach for the candy bar try a handful of dried fruit or single-serving of canned fruit in natural juice or light syrup. If a cookie, cupcake, or baked treat is what you are craving, limit the number you eat and add a side of fresh fruit or nuts for a little extra dose of fiber and some crunch.

On-the-Go Snack Shortlist

Here are a few great go-to snacks you can find in most grocery stores and even in many convenience stores. When you pre-plan and try to balance your snack cravings with healthy options you will feel more satisfied. And as a bonus, you’ll get the nutritional benefits too!

Jerky or Meat Sticks

Jerky and meat sticks are easy to grab when you’re headed out the door—and they travel easily! Just three ounces of beef, chicken, or turkey jerky can give you a protein boost of over 25 grams. Pair it with some fruit or cheese and you have a tasty and filling snack that will keep the munchies at bay.

Tip: Be sure to choose low-sodium options. Varieties with lots of spices can contain hidden salt and sugar.

Roasted Chickpeas, Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds

Roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds are a fun, crunchy, bite-sized snack that are tasty and packed with protein and fiber which will help you feel fuller longer. They’re also gluten-free and full of healthy fats for energy and brain health! Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral we often don’t get enough of and helps with hydration and bowel and brain health.

Tip: If you can’t find roasted chickpeas in the store—make your own! Drain a can or two, spread them on a clean kitchen towel and gently dry them with a paper towel. Transfer to a baking sheet, spread evenly, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 425-degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Mixed Nuts

Mixed nuts often include peanuts, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans and are a great source of protein. Be careful not to confuse mixed nuts with trail mix. Trail mixes can have high sugar content and added artificial ingredients. Your best nutritional bet is to go with the simple nut and dried fruit combinations—just as nature intended!

Tip: Watch out for varieties with extra flavorings or heavy amounts of sweetened ingredients like candy-coated nuts or chocolate. A little is okay, but short and simple ingredient lists are always better!

Celery or Carrots with Peanut or Almond Butter

This combination is great for sneaking in veggies without feeling like you’re missing out on a treat. Peanut or other nut butters add a nice little dose of protein. Pop on a few dried raisins or cranberries for a little extra zing!

Storage Tip: Save used baby food jars and use them as storage containers. It’s the perfect size to store snack-sized peanut butter portions. Then dip your celery without leaving a mess behind!

Mandarin Oranges

Cute little mandarin oranges are perfect for throwing in a bag of any kind as their peel will protect the delicious fruit inside. Plus, these little sweeties are packed with beta-carotene. Your body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A which helps with growth and development, and vision, and boosts your immune system! 

Serving Suggestion: pair a mandarin orange with a handful of nuts to satisfy the salty-sweet craving. Or have them with a slice of cheese or cheese stick for a fill-you-up snack.

String Cheese

The perfect snack that’s low on calories and full of protein. Take a bite with an apple slice, a grape or a cocktail tomato for a fresh flavor burst, added fiber, and a dose of vitamin C.

Remember: Make sure to store string cheese in a lunch box with an ice pack so it can remain cold.

Apple Slices

The old saying of “an apple a day” still rings true. Apples are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Their high fiber and low-calorie content can make them a weight-loss- friendly food. Whole or sliced varieties are easy to find all year round.

Tip: Need to slice ahead of time? Brush 100% lemon juice on the apple slices to keep them from turning brown. 

Hummus

Hummus is a high-protein option and a great replacement for ranch dressing. You can find it in single-serve containers, often with pretzels. Add a few carrots, celery, or some vitamin-packed bell pepper slices and you’ve got a crunchy, tasty, and filling treat that’s a healthy alternative to potato chips.

Tip: Cut bell peppers (also called sweet peppers) into slices or chunks for easy access when traveling. Or grab a bag of mini-peppers for bite-size snacks. Bell peppers are a great source of fiber and vitamin C to keep your immune and digestive systems running smoothly!

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs are a nutrient-dense, protein-packed snack that’s under 100 calories! When served with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a little cheese—it can almost feel like a quick and easy meal. 

Serving Suggestion: Place eggs in saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a rolling boil. Turn heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 15 minutes. Run eggs under cold water and store for 4-5 days. If you peel them they should be eaten within a day or two. Make sure to store eggs in a lunch box with an ice pack so they can remain cold. 

Rice Cakes

Rice cakes can satisfy your crunchy cravings and are a good source of protein and manganese (especially brown rice versions). Stick with plain unflavored variations and top with your favorite peanut or nut butter and berries for a delicious treat!

Tip: Use caution with flavored rice cakes like chocolate, caramel corn or white cheddar. They can contain added ingredients that bump up the sugar and salt content. 

Whole-Grain Crackers and Tuna

Tuna’s list of nutritional benefits is long. It’s heart-healthy, reduces blood-pressure, boosts the immune system and circulation, contains tons of antioxidants, helps strengthen your bones, improves your skin, and is good for your eyes. Plus it’s a yummy and filling snack when you need more than a treat but don’t have time for a full meal.

Tip: Single-serve canned or tuna in pouches make this snack easier and more accessible when you’re on the go.

 

Processed sugary snacks aren’t your only option while on the go. Take the time to look for healthier options at the convenience store or when you’re shopping in a hurry. Grab and go with the healthier snacks to avoid a sugar crash. With a little bit more planning, you can make snack choices that lead to long-term healthy habits!

Sources: Eat This, Not That!, American Heart Association

Get the Dirt on Vegetables You Can Grow without a Garden

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to stay healthy, save money, and get your whole family excited about nutritious food. But what if you don’t have a yard or space for a garden? Container gardens, or growing your vegetables in pots, is the perfect solution! Grow your favorite vegetables or test out your green thumb with something you’ve never tried before.

Using Pots as Garden Containers

Many vegetables can be as successful in pots as they are in the ground. Be sure to select a container or pot with holes in the bottom. This will allow excess water to drain. Generally, potted plants will dry out faster than they would in the ground, so be ready to water often! Check out SDSU Extension’s Container Garden Tips for more great tips.

When choosing containers, don’t forget to have some fun and get creative. Let kids pick their own containers and their own vegetables. Recycle, upcycle and let the ideas grow! Here’s a short list to get you started:

Old rain boots. When your kids outgrow their colorful boots, poke a small hole in the bottom. Fill with potting soil and drop in a few seeds. Line them up in a playful row, hang them or stash them between other pots.

Used garden tools or kitchen items. Watering cans, wheelbarrows, teapots, or coffee cans can all make great vegetable containers.

Old tires. Paint the outside bright colors and fill the inside with potting soil. You can even stack to create a container garden with varying heights.Vegetables that Grow Well in Pots

Tomatoes

It’s impossible to think about gardening without thinking about tomatoes! If you notice your tomato plants growing quickly, consider finding a cage that fits your pot so the plant can climb. This will reduce rot and ensure you have larger fruit!

How to tell when it’s time to harvest:
Between bloom and when the tomato starts to ripen is about 30 days. They’re ending color when ripe will vary depending on the variety you planted. They may be red, yellow, pink, purple-black, white, or green! Also, depending on the variety, the fully ripened size can vary between the size of a blueberry and a grapefruit.

Salad Greens & Herbs

An easy home-grown addition to your meals is salad greens or herbs. There are many varieties that are perfect to use as a staple ingredient in your dish or for an extra burst of flavor. An added bonus is the cost savings! Some salad greens and herbs that do well in pots are:

  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Spinach

How to tell when it’s time to harvest:
From seed to harvest, timing can range between 35–45 days, depending on what green you’re growing. Reference the seed packet you used to find the exact timing.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a crisp and crunchy addition to salads, sandwiches, and much more! They are a refreshing, cool compliment to almost any summer meal.

How to tell when it’s time to harvest:
From seed to harvest, timing can range from 50–70 days. Pick your vegetable from the vine when it’s reached its desired size. Make sure to harvest them from the vine before they get too large, or you’ll the other cucumbers on the vine will suffer.

Radishes

Don’t let their bitter taste when raw fool you. The flavor changes completely when cooked! Radishes love shade, so they’re ideal if you don’t have a lot of direct sunlight.

How to tell when it’s time to harvest:
From seed to harvest, timing can range from 21-29 days, which is pretty fast. To tell if the radish is ready to eat, simply pull one out of your pot. If it’s about 1” wide, it’s ready!

Peppers

Grow sweet or hot peppers (or even both!) to suit your palette. Plus, the color variety will look inspirational in your potted garden! They can be eaten raw, grilled, baked, or stir fried. You can find a place for peppers in nearly every recipe!

How to tell when it’s time to harvest:
From seed to harvest, timing can range from 65–85 days—so be sure to plant your peppers early in the season! When your peppers reach the desired color and size, cut the fruit from the plants.

Use gloves if you are harvesting a hot variety and be cautious in the kitchen when preparing them. The “hot” in peppers comes from capsaicin, a colorless, odorless, oil-like compound found in the flesh that holds the seeds. Use gloves and wash your hands thoroughly.

Bring Out Your Inner Farmer

Don’t let the absence of a yard hold you back from growing your own food! You can channel your gardening skills with a few pots on your front step, windowsill, deck, or patio. Choose your favorite vegetables or herbs, get creative with the containers, and invite the whole family to take part.

 

For more gardening and healthy food inspiration check out Garden Hour, Gardening with Kids and Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets!

Sources: SDSU Extension, The Spruce, Gardening Know How

November Fruit of the Month: Pear

The November Fruit of the Month is Pear!

The fruit that comes in second place as the most popular fruit in the US is pears (apples take first place)! Because of their many varieties and growing seasons, pears are available fresh and in abundance for most of the year including winter, when many other fruits are out of season. Keep reading for fun facts and ideas for how to include yummy pears in your diet!

A Pear is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Copper—combats inflammation and keeps nerve cells healthy

Did You Know?

  • Pears grow on trees and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, including green, golden yellow, and red.
  • The peel is good to eat and has many nutrients, but do not eat the seeds.
  • Pears have an antioxidant called “glutathione” that is known to help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke!
  • The first pear tree originated in present-day western China.

How to Choose and Store Pears

When purchasing fresh pears, choose ones that are firm with no soft spots, and then let them ripen at home. When the pear has reached peak ripeness the flesh next to the stem will yield gently to pressure. Store at room temperature in a paper bag until ripe. After the pears are ripe, store them in the refrigerator and eat within 5–7 days. Be careful! Pears bruise easily, and their bruises lead to rapid decay—so handle with care. Don’t forget that frozen and canned pears are healthy too!

Ways to Prepare Pears

  • Raw
  • Poach
  • Bake
  • Sauté
  • Pickle

Let’s Get Cooking

Breakfast Pear Parfait

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cooked oatmeal
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Directions

  1. Put 1 cup of oatmeal into 2 small bowls.
  2. Add half of the chopped pears on top of the oats
  3. Top each bowl with ½ cup of low-fat yogurt.
  4. Mix if desired. 

Cobb Salad with Pears

Ingredients

  • 2 canned pear halves
  • 6 cups mixed baby salad greens
  • ½ tablespoon parmesan cheese
  • 1 ⅓ cup carrots, grated
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts

Dressing

  • ¼ cup pear juice
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 dash salt and black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. For the dressing, mix pear juice, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a blender.
  2. Put mixed greens in a large mixing bowl and mix the dressing in thoroughly.
  3. Add the chopped pears, walnuts, and grated carrots and toss lightly.
  4. Portion out 1 cup of salad for each serving, and top with ½ teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese.

For more creative pear-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Pear Quesadillas, Pear Party Salsa, and Pear PB&J Bouquet you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

October Veggie of the Month: Broccoli

The October Vegetable of the Month is Broccoli!

You might know broccoli for its strong taste and smell when cooked. This is because it’s considered a cruciferous vegetable—meaning it has sulfur-containing compounds. Not only does this create a boost for your senses, but it’s also a powerhouse for cancer prevention, lowering cholesterol, eye health, and more!

Broccoli is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function

Did You Know?

  • Compared to most vegetables, broccoli’s protein content is quite high—making up 29% of its weight!
  • Broccoli is part of the cabbage family.
  • Broccoli wasn’t well known in the United States until the 1920s.
  • One cup of broccoli only contains 55 calories!
  • If you have a lot of fresh broccoli and can’t get it eaten before it goes bad, blanch it and then freeze it! Blanch broccoli by boiling for 3 minutes or steaming for 5 minutes and then placing it in ice water immediately after. Blanching vegetables before freezing them is one of the best ways to preserve flavor, color, and nutrients.

When to Harvest and How to Store Broccoli

Broccoli is ready to eat when the buds are bright, tight, and compact. A sign the vegetable is going bad is when the buds start to appear yellow or brown, and take on a limp. Store broccoli in the refrigerator wrapped in damp paper towels or with the stem submerged in water. Never store in a sealed container, as it prefers air circulation!

Tips to Get Children to Eat Broccoli

  • Let them dip raw broccoli in their favorite condiment, like ranch dressing
  • Cut florets into small pieces and add to their favorite pasta sauce
  • Use a grater to shred into small piece and add to hamburger patties, meatballs, casserole-like dishes, or soups
  • Top roasted or steamed broccoli with melted cheese
  • Keep trying! Offer broccoli in different ways multiple times. It takes time for kids to warm up to certain foods. But the more you offer it the better the chance they will find a variation they like.

Ways to Prepare Broccoli

  • Raw
  • Steam
  • Sauté
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Steamed Broccoli with Dill Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch broccoli, about 2 pounds
  • 3 carrots
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or 3 teaspoons fresh dill

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients for the dill dressing and set aside (olive oil, black pepper, dill weed)
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil while preparing vegetables
  3. Rinse the broccoli, then trim and peel the stems. Cut the stem into 2-inch strips, then cut the florets into small uniform pieces and set aside
  4. Peel and cut the carrots into 2-inch strips
  5. When water is boiling, add carrots and broccoli stems to the water. Cook for 1 minute
  6. Add broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook
  7. Drain the water and rinse vegetables in cold water. Draining the vegetables again until all excess water is gone
  8. Place vegetables in a large bowl and gently toss with the dressing. Serve immediately

Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of broccoli (chopped)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 red onion (medium, peeled, and diced)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 bacon slices (cooked and crumbled)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, low-fat

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well
  2. Chill for 1–2 hours before serving

For more creative broccoli-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Cream of Broccoli Soup, Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, and a Broccoli Omelet you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Healthline, Dr. Axe

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

September Vegetable of the Month: Beet

Beets are the September Vegetable of the Month! Beets are a nutritious root vegetable that are flavorful, nutritious, and vibrant in color. When adding beets to your diet, get adventurous with it! From pickling, to adding to smoothies, or adding to salads, this powerhouse does it all!

A Beet is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Folate—important for red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function

Did You Know?

  • The leaves and root (the beet) are all edible raw or cooked!
  • Young or small beets are best raw, while medium and large-sized beets taste better when cooked.
  • Red beets can stain your skin! They even use beets to make red food coloring. When peeling beets, wear disposable gloves to avoid staining.
  • You can cook and eat beet greens like you would spinach!

How to Harvest and Store Beets

Pull the beets from the ground as soon as 45 days from planting. If you harvest “thinnings” or the beets before they are fully mature, they can be eaten raw and whole! Trim the leaves until they are about 1-inch from the root. The beetroot can be refrigerated for several weeks, while the leaves will only last for a few days. Store the root and leaves separately.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Beets

  • Make a beet kabob, including other fruits and veggies, with your kids!
  • Add to a smoothie, which will turn it a bright red/pink color!
  • Sprinkle roasted beets with cinnamon for a kid-friendly flavor.

Ways to Prepare Beets

  • Raw
  • Bake
  • Sauté
  • Steamed
  • Pickled
  • Microwave
  • Juice

Let’s Get Cooking

Beets with Dijon Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs beets
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard (or yellow prepared mustard)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash, trim, and dry beets, leaving ½-inch stem and root intact.
  3. Put beets in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the contents of the bowl with clean hands.
  4. Arrange beets in a single layer roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until the beets are tender.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.
  6. Make the dressing while the beets are cooling. To make dressing, whisk mustard, orange juice, sugar, and vinegar together.
  7. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil and rosemary. Set aside. 
  8. Rub skins off beets and cut into quarters.
  9. Combine with dressing and let sit for 30 minutes before eating.

Red Beet and Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large red beet or 2 small red beets
  • 4 apples
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Directions

  1. Wash the beet and peel if desired. If you peel the beet, it will taste less earthy.
  2. Grate the beet and the apples into a large bowl.
  3. For the dressing, mix the lemon juice, honey, and salt. Pour the dressing over the grated beet and apples.
  4. Mix well. Serve chilled.

For more creative beet-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Sautéed Beet Greens, Beet and White Bean Salad, and Pink Party Salad you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Gardening Know How

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!
Explore
more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

August Fruit of the Month: Eggplant

The August Fruit of the Month is Eggplant!

Did you know eggplants grow on short vines, similar to tomato plants? But as you might have guessed, they do feel, look, and taste different! Eggplants have a soft, spongy flesh, with a pleasant bitter taste. When paired with other strong-flavored ingredients, eggplants can help balance the overall flavor of the entire dish. Keep reading to learn all about eggplants!

An Eggplant is a Good Source of:

  • Nasunin—fights free radical damage in the body
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Vitamin B1—for helping create a healthy metabolism
  • Vitamin B6—helps carry oxygen to the blood

Did You Know?

  • Most people think eggplants are a vegetable, however, because the plant has seeds it’s technically a fruit!
  • Eggplants are related to tomatoes and peppers—and are in the nightshade family.
  • Hundreds of years ago, eggplants were often white or yellow and resembled goose eggs—which is where the name came from!
  • Eggplants are in season during the late summer months or early fall.
  • There are lots of important nutrients, like nasunin, found in the dark purple skin!

How to Harvest and Store Eggplant

Eggplants are mature when the flesh is firm, and has a slight bounce to it when you touch it. If, when touched, a dent is left behind, the eggplant is too mature and should not be eaten. Eggplants can remain at room temperature for several days after harvesting.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Eggplant

  • Chop the eggplant into small pieces and incorporate into mixed dishes like a casserole
  • Cut the eggplant into long rectangular shapes so they resemble fries
  • Coat with breadcrumbs or batter before frying for a crispy exterior

Ways to Eat Eggplant

  • Sauté
  • Grill
  • Steam
  • Roast
  • Fry

Let’s Get Cooking

Easy Eggplant Stirfry

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green bell paper, cut into strips
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp Italian salad dressing, low fat
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked

Directions

  1. Place the eggplant, zucchini, green bell pepper, onions, and salad dressing into a skillet.
  2. Stir lightly to combine and cook over low heat until tender.
  3. Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook for an additional 3–5 minutes.
  4. Serve over cooked brown rice.

Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (15 ounces)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan and sauté onion, garlic, bell peppers, and eggplant until tender—about 15 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil, cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add pepper and parsley right before serving.

For more creative eggplant-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Italian Style Summer Squash, Veggie Quesadillas, and Fall Veggie Casserole you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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Are Frozen and Canned Produce Just as Healthy as Fresh Produce?

Yikes! Americans aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. An easy way to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy meal options is to add frozen and canned produce to your pantry. This can also ensure you always have nutritious options available—on a budget!

A question we often hear is, “Are frozen and canned foods as healthy as fresh produce?” The short answer: yes!

Frozen and canned products have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, are just as tasty, and can be used in many ways. The nutritional content doesn’t change much with frozen and canned produce, but they may cook a little differently because the water content changes.

Let’s compare the difference between fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Produce

The advantage to fresh produce is that you can cook and eat the produce any way you like best! You can eat them raw (fresh), baked, sautéed, steamed or even blended in a smoothie. Plus, fresh produce is more portable—making easy snacking a breeze!

TIP! Try new-to-you fresh produce according to what’s in season! This will ensure you’re always getting a wide range of yummy nutrients all year long.

Shelf Life:

The shelf life for fresh produce can be tricky to calculate. It varies for each produce item and depends on if it’s stored properly. There are guides to help you determine the best time to enjoy fresh produce and how and where to store fresh foods.

Frozen Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed at peak freshness. This means all the nutrients are locked in at the time of freezing and packaging.

Shelf Life:

  • Frozen vegetables should be eaten within 8 months of purchase.
  • Frozen fruit should be eaten within 12 months of purchase (4–6 months for citrus fruits).

Canned Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Canning fruits and vegetables locks in the nutrients at the peak of freshness—or at the time of canning, if you’re canning yourself. Canning produce can even make the nutrients easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. This is the case with canned beans and tomatoes. Plus, canned produce can help families who are on a budget!

Shelf Life

  • High acidic foods like tomatoes are best within 18 months
  • Low acidic foods like meat or vegetables are best within 2–5 years
  • Home-canned foods should be used within 1 year

For healthier options, make sure to choose canned fruit that is stored in 100% juice. Avoid options canned in light or heavy syrup—that’s code for extra sugar!

Safety tip! Never eat food from cans that are leaking, bulging, badly dented, have a foul odor, or spurt liquid when opening. This can be a sign of a bacteria that causes botulism, which can make you extremely sick.

Remember—fruit and vegetables are always a good idea. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, whether they are fresh, frozen, or canned! Don’t be afraid to try something new and change up what you’re eating day-to-day. The more variety the better your chance of getting all the nutrients you need!

Sources: Have a Plant, Have a Plant, USDA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association

July Fruit of the Month: Okra

The July Fruit of the Month is Okra!

Okra isn’t native to the midwest, but it’s still a yummy fruit we all get to enjoy. Okra is a flowering plant that is almost entirely edible—really! You can eat almost the entire plant! If you’ve ever had gumbo before, you’ve likely tried this delicious food. If not, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate okra into your meals. Keep reading to learn more about okra and how to enjoy it at home.

An Okra is a Great Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Vitamin B6—essential for a healthy nervous system, skin, muscles, and blood
  • Zinc—for an optimal immune system, wound healing, thyroid function (and more!)
  • Antioxidants—for a boost to the immune system
  • Vitamin K—known to help decrease the risk of certain cancers

Did You Know?

  • Okra has an aroma that smells like cloves!
  • The leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems, and seeds of okra are all edible.
  • Okra is recognized most widely as a vegetable, but since it has seeds it’s actually a fruit!
  • It can be found in grocery stores year-round, but it is in season in late summer/early fall.

How to Harvest and Store Okra

Okra is ready to eat when it’s firm and brightly colored. Unwashed and whole, store okra in the fridge for up to 5 days in a container that is not airtight. Once the ridges and tip of the okra start to turn dark in color, it should be thrown out. Okra can also be frozen for long-term storage.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Okra

  • Eat it raw with their favorite condiment, like ranch!
  • Add it to a fruit smoothie!
  • Okra can be pickled and can be a fun (and yummy!) experience for both children and adults.
  • Cook in an air fryer for a crispier texture!
  • The inside of a raw okra can be slimy if you slice it and leave it to sit. To eliminate this, serve cooked! Sautéing okra in a pan coated in oil will eliminate the slimy texture. 

Ways to Eat Okra

  • Raw
  • Sauté
  • Fry
  • Boil
  • Steam

Let’s Get Cooking

Okra with Corn and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp basil
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups corn, fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 2 cups small okra pods (2-inch pods), whole or in ¼-inch thick rounds
  • ½ cup water or chicken stock
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Directions

  1. In a 10-inch iron skillet or heavy pan, heat olive oil. Add onions, bay leaves, thyme, basil, and red pepper flakes.
  2. Sauté and stir until onions are limp. Add bell pepper and continue cooking until onions are translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes, okra, water, salt, and pepper.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add corn and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Season to taste if needed. 
  7. Serve hot on top of rice or pasta if desired.

Lite Fried Okra

Ingredients

  • 2 cups okra, fresh and sliced
  • ¾ tsp vegetable oil
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix sliced okra, oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Coat a large iron skillet or heavy pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat and add okra mixture.
  3. Turn the contents of the pan often with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook until the okra is browned, about 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with hot sauce or favorite relish.

For more creative okra-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Spicy Okra, Veggie Stir-Fry with Turkey, and Okra and Greens you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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June Fruit of the Month: Strawberry

The June Fruit of the Month is Strawberry!

It’s hard to imagine someone who doesn’t love strawberries, but in case you need convincing, this information is for you! The strawberry fruit is a versatile berry that can be eaten raw or cooked—though it’s eaten raw most often. Talk about an easy snack! They’re low-carb and rich in fiber and antioxidants (among many other goodies!), making them a nutritional haven for both adults and children!

A Strawberry is a Great Source of:

  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Folate—important for red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Fiber—essential for healthy gut bacteria and digestive health

Did You Know?

  • Studies show that eating strawberries increases heart health!
  • Strawberries are related to roses.
  • Because the strawberry plant doesn’t have a woody stem, they are classified as an herb.

How to Harvest and Store Strawberries

Strawberries should be shiny and bright red when ready to eat. Avoid eating if they are moldy or wrinkled. Before eating, wash, drain, and dry your strawberries. Refrigerate strawberries for up to one week. You can also freeze strawberries for long-term storage.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Strawberries

  • Let them help you harvest
  • Make a kabob with other fruit and veggies
  • Add to blended smoothies
  • Top your oatmeal or yogurt with strawberries

Ways to Prepare Strawberries

  • Raw
  • Blend or Purée
  • Bake
  • Sauté

Let’s Get Cooking

Berries with Banana Cream

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup yogurt, low-fat plain
  • ½ ripe banana
  • ½ ounce orange juice
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Combine yogurt, banana, and juice. Mash with a fork until most chunks are gone.
  2. Place strawberries in a bowl and top with the yogurt banana mixture.
  3. Top with honey and cinnamon and enjoy!

Fruit and Yogurt Breakfast Shake

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup yogurt, low-fat vanilla
  • ½ cup strawberries, stems removed

Directions

  1. Blend the banana, pineapple juice, yogurt, and strawberries in a blender until smooth.
  2. Divide between 2 glasses and serve immediately.

For more creative strawberry-based recipes and information visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Broccoli Strawberry Orzo Salad, Strawberry S’Mores, and Whole Grain Strawberry Pancakes you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Healthline, StrawberryPlants.org

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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May Vegetable of the Month: Artichoke

The May Vegetable of the Month is Artichoke!

Artichokes may feel a bit alien at first, but they can be fun and delicious! Not to mention, it’s one of the top vegetables containing the most antioxidants, keeping the whole family strong and healthy.

Artichoke is a Great Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function
  • Antioxidants—for a boost to the immune system
  • Vitamin A—for cell health
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health

Did You Know?

  • Artichokes are a staple health food within the Mediterranean diet.
  • The artichoke plant can grow to be six feet in diameter and up to four feet tall!
  • There are 140 different species of artichokes, but only 40 are grown commercially as food.
  • The edible part of the artichoke is a flower bud before it begins to bloom!

How to Harvest and Store Artichoke

Ready-to-eat artichokes should be firm, compact, and heavy with an even, bright green color. You want to avoid black bruises or a purple tint. To safely store, cut off the bottom stem from the artichoke, sprinkle with water and place in an airtight bag for 5-7 days. Before cooking, cut off the thorny leaf tips with a kitchen scissors and remove any dry leaves completely.

How to Eat Artichoke

Remove the individual leaves and use your teeth to remove (and eat!) the softer flesh. Discard the leaves after you have removed the soft flesh.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Artichoke

  • Under a guardian’s supervision, have your child help prepare the artichoke before cooking. They can help peel off dry leaves or even cut off the thorny leaf tips with safety scissors!
  • Let them dip the artichoke in their favorite dips or condiments like butter, cheese, or ranch.
  • Because you use your teeth to remove the soft flesh of the artichoke, they are generally more fun for kids to eat. Make it an adventure!

Ways to Eat Artichoke

  • Boil
  • Steam
  • Microwave
  • Sauté
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Spring Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2.5 cups vegetable juice, low-sodium
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the cabbage, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and peas for 10 minutes.
  2. Add vegetable juice and water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and add basil. Let simmer for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  4. Serve in individual serving bowls and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 4 large artichokes
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Directions

  1. Cut 1” off the top of the artichoke with a serrated knife and snap off any dry or tough leaves. Use a kitchen scissors to trim off any thorny leaf tips. Remove the stems.
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, parmesan, pecorino, parsley and olive oil in a bowl.
  3. Separate the leaves on the artichoke to give them some breathing room. Stuff the crumb mixture between each leaf.
  4. Stand upright in a steamer basket over simmering water. Cover and steam over medium-low heat until tender (add more water if needed), about 1 hour 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove from basket and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  6. Serve while warm.

For more creative artichoke-based recipes and information visit this Pick it! Try it! article from South Dakota State University Extension.

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Nutrition and You

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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April Vegetable of the Month: Asparagus

The April Vegetable of the Month is Asparagus!

Asparagus is a stalk-y vegetable that is both nutritious and delicious! It has the potential to grow super fast—up to 10 inches a day—and with all its nutrients, your children may just have a healthy growth-spurt of their own! Once they experience the crunchy, subtly-sweet taste of asparagus, they’ll be coming back for seconds!

Asparagus is a Great Source of:

  • Iron—to make red blood cells, muscles, and carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Fiber—a needed nutrient to stay “regular.”
  • Antioxidants—for a boost to the immune system!
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Copper—for healthy red blood cells and nerve cells.

Did You Know?

  • Asparagus is a vegetable that grows wild. You just have to know which ditch or other grassy area to look in!
  • Asparagus is a perennial, which means, when taken care of, it will continue to come back year after year!
  • The asparagus was once a delicacy for the Greeks and Romans.
  • Asparagus is part of the Asparagaceae family, making it a cousin to onions, garlic, tulips, and even daffodils!”
  • After you eat asparagus, it has the potential to make your urine smell a little strange! Don’t worry, it’s completely normal and the odor will go away!

How to Harvest and Store Asparagus

When harvesting or shopping, choose asparagus stalks that are firm and even in color—avoid stalks that are wilted and dry. Both thick and thin stems of asparagus are okay to eat! Whether you picked your own asparagus or bought it from the store, you’ll want to rinse it with water when you get home. To store, trim the bottom of the stalks (optional) and set inside a glass with 1–2 inches of fresh water. Cover with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Asparagus

  • Make finding asparagus an adventure! If you grow asparagus in your garden or know a local spot where it grows in the wild, let your children help harvest! They’ll be much more excited to try the veggie once it’s cooked if they’ve lent a helpful hand!
  • The flavor and texture is most liked when asparagus is cooked briefly and still has a little bit of a crunch to it!

Ways to Eat Asparagus

  • Sauté
  • Steam
  • Boil
  • Grill
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Sautéed Asparagus with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tbps. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped (or ½ tsp dried)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Ice water

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, bring 2 inches of water to boil with salt. Prepare ice water, set aside.
  2. Add asparagus to boiling water, cook for 4–5 minutes, until barely tender.
  3. Remove spears from the water, and place in ice water to cool. Once cool, drain the water, and set the asparagus aside.
  4. Heat oil over medium-high heat in the skillet. Add mushrooms, asparagus, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook until mushrooms are wilted and asparagus is heated through (about 3–4 minutes). Serve warm or chilled.

Asparagus with Gremolata Souce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. lemon peel, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, large, minced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, fresh

Directions

  1. Cook asparagus in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 4 minutes
  2. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool quickly
  3. Pat dry and wrap asparagus in a paper towel, then plastic wrap and refrigerate
  4. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  5. Add lemon peel and garlic and stir for 30 seconds
  6. Add asparagus and toss to coat
  7. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Sauté until asparagus is heated through and coated with the Gremolata sauce (butter, lemon peel, garlic, and lemon juice), about 3 minutes
  8. Transfer to a plater and serve.

 

For more creative asparagus-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Grilled Asparagus and Shrimp Quinoa Salad, Pasta Primavera, and Spring Vegetable Sauté, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Nutrition and You

 

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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March Vegetable of the Month: Cooked Greens

The March Vegetable of the Month is Cooked Greens!

Cooked greens can include a variety of (green!) leafy vegetables like collard, mustard, kale, swiss chard, spinach, and bok choy! Their super power is that they are rich in antioxidants, which help fight aging and disease. The darker the color, the higher levels of antioxidants the vegetable has!

While each nutrient make-up is different for each type of green, leafy cooked greens are often rich in:

  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system.
  • Vitamin E—great for eye health.
  • Vitamin A—for cell health.
  • Vitamin K—known to help decrease the risk of certain cancers.

Did You Know?

  • When you cook leafy greens, the taste of the vegetable changes and more of the nutrients become available to your digestive system!
  • Cooked greens are low in sugar, carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol!
  • Dandelion greens are edible (yes the weed) and enhance heart and liver health! If you’re picking dandelion greens from the lawn, make sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that can make you sick!

How to Harvest and Store Cooked Greens

Keep unwashed greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for 3 days, or 5 days if wrapped in a wet paper towel. Edible greens will have fresh, green leaves. Do not eat leaves that appear wilted or yellow in color to avoid rot.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Cooked Greens

  • Add to sandwiches and wraps
  • Toss into a green smoothie
  • Make a fun kabob stick with their favorite foods
  • Add to a breakfast omelet

Ways to Eat Cooked Greens

  • Steam
  • Sauté
  • Bake
  • Boil

Let’s Get Cooking

Wilted Swiss Chard with Garlic

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. swiss chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice, optional

Directions

  1. Rinse the greens in several changes of cold water
  2. Remove the stems and chop them into 1-inch pieces, set aside
  3. Stack the leaves and roll them into a tube shape
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut across each tube until all the greens are chopped
  5. Heat a skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat with olive oil and minced garlic. Add the wet swiss chard, one handful at a time and stir after each addition
  6. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook the greens for about 5 minutes, keeping the bright color
  7. Remove the lid and cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid has evaporated (about 2-3 minutes)
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired

Garlic Bok Choy

Ingredients

  • 1 bok choy (1 pound)
  • 5 cloves garlic (use 4-6 cloves, minced or 1–1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder)
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Cut the bok choy crosswise into easy-to-eat pieces
  2. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, saute garlic in oil until fragrant. If using garlic powder, add with salt in the next step
  3. Add bok choy and stir quickly, add salt, and stir until greens are wilted and stem pieces are tender-crisp
  4. Serve hot

For more creative parsnip-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Collard Green Gumbo, Seared Greens, and Smothered Greens, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

 

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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February Vegetable of the Month: Parsnip

The February Vegetable of the Month is Parsnip!

Parsnips can be used much like any root vegetable (think carrots and potatoes). They actually look a lot like creamy colored carrots, but they do taste a little different. Parsnips have a naturally sweet, nutty, and peppery flavor—and they smell more like celery. You can cook them in lots of different ways, add them to soups, casseroles, or prepare as an easy side dish kids will love. If you’re ready to experiment with parsnips, a good rule of thumb is to use them the same way you would normally prepare potatoes or carrots.

A Parsnip is a Great Source of:

  • Manganese—great for healthy bones.
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system.
  • Vitamin K—known to help decrease the risk of certain cancers.
  • Vitamin B9—can help with mental and emotional disorders like anxiety and depression.

Did You Know?

  • Parsnips were used as a sweetening agent before cane sugar became a major import.
  • Like potatoes, parsnips can be stored for long periods of time—making them a handy go-to pantry item.
  • They naturally increase your ability to produce serotonin—which is known as the “happy” hormone.
  • Parsnips have powerful anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and antifungal qualities.
  • They are packed with different minerals and vitamins—perfect if you are looking for nutrient-rich foods to add to your diet.
  • In Britain and Ireland, parsnips are used to make beer and wine.

How to Harvest and Store Parsnips

Consider adding parsnips to your vegetable garden mix. Pick when firm and dry. If you wait to harvest after the parsnips have been in the cold (after the first frost) for 2-4 weeks, the flavor will be sweeter. Store in the refrigerator in an unsealed bag for 3+ weeks. 

If a raw parsnip becomes soft and squishy, this is a sign of rot and it should no longer be eaten. For better flavor, cook the parsnip with the skin on—after cooking, you have the option to eat the skin or not!

Tips to Get Children to Eat Parsnips

  • Cook and mash, then mix with potatoes for an extra flavorful mashed potato and parsnip blend
  • Cut into sticks, and fry or roast as french fries
  • Chop and blend in your preferred soup or stew

Ways to Eat Parsnips

  • Raw
  • Boiled
  • Sautéd 
  • Fried
  • Roasted

Let’s Get Cooking

Mashed Parsnips and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups parsnips
  • 3 medium potatoes (1 pound)
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Scrub parsnips and potatoes under running water and peel
  2. Cut into similar sized pieces
  3. In a medium saucepan, cover the vegetable pieces with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 15–20 minutes.
  4. Drain the vegetables and mash.
  5. Stir in milk, salt, garlic powder, and butter.
  6. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours

Harvest Vegetable Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce (washed)
  • 1 cup cilantro (washed)
  • 1 cup parsnips (peeled)
  • 1 cup carrot (peeled)
  • 1 cup turnips (peeled)

Dressing Ingredients

  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ tsp lime zest (grated)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine romaine lettuce and cilantro, and divide on four plates
  2. Place parsnips, carrots, and turnips into 1 quart of boiling water. Return water to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Strain the water and vegetable mixture in a colander
  4. Mix the ingredients for the dressing right before serving
  5. Place hot vegetables on top of the greens and top with the dressing

 

For more creative parsnip-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Parsnip Soup, Roasted Root Vegetable blend, and a Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Potato, and Chicken dish, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, Health Benefits Times, MyPlate Kitchen

 

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

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January Vegetable of the Month: Spinach

The January Vegetable of the Month is Spinach!

Spinach is one of the few vegetables that are available year-round. It can be prepared and eaten in many different ways, but it has the most nutrients when eaten fresh! Spinach is a versatile vegetable that accounts for 100% of the daily value of vitamin A, which helps the health of your eyes, skin, and hair.

Spinach is a Great Source of:

  • Vitamin A—great for your eyes, skin, and hair
  • Vitamin K—builds strong bones by helping calcium adhere to your bones
  • Vitamin C—helps heal wounds and bruises and controls cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin E—helps keep your tissues healthy and supports immune system
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6—helps reduce stress and depression, and promotes healthy brain cells

Did You Know?

  • Popeye was on to something! Ounce for ounce—there’s more iron in spinach than there is in ground beef.
  • Spinach is one of the few vegetables that is available year-round. It grows best in cool, not freezing, moist conditions, especially during spring and autumn. It grows well in sandy soils.
  • March 26th is National Spinach Day. Celebrate with your favorite spinach recipe!
  • For many years in the 1930s and 1940s, spinach was ranked as the third most popular children’s food after turkey and ice cream.
  • California is the number 1 U.S. grower/supplier of fresh and processed spinach, accounting for almost 75% of the national production. You can find processed spinach frozen, puréed, canned, and in baby food!

How to Prepare and Store Spinach

Tear off the stem and separate the leaves. Place in a large bowl of water; let any sand drift to the bottom of the bowl and remove the leaves from the water. Repeat until the leaves are clean. To keep it fresh, store the spinach in an open bag in the refrigerator vegetable tray/drawer.

Realistic Ways to Get Children to Eat Spinach

There’s a reason why children prefer sweet-tasting foods over vegetables. Until late adolescence our taste receptors are more sensitive to bitter tasting foods, meaning many vegetables can taste unpleasant to children. So how do we get children to eat nutritious spinach?

Two strategies to try are:

  • Introduce spinach in small amounts continuously. Repetition is key. The more your child sees spinach, the more likely they’ll get curious and adventurous with the vegetable. Example: use a small amount in a homemade soup or salsa!
  • Hide spinach in other foods that generously help eliminate the natural bitter flavor. Example: use it in a fun fruit-based smoothie!

Ways to Eat Spinach

  1. Raw
  2. Steamed
  3. Microwaved
  4. Sautéed
  5. Stir fried

Let’s Get Cooking

Orange Sunrise Smoothie

Ingredients

  • ½ ripe banana
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup spinach leaves, rinsed
  • ½ cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions

  1. Blend all the ingredients until smooth
  2. Serve and enjoy!

 

Spinach Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1 tsp tabasco (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all the ingredients and serve with whole wheat tortilla chips

For more creative spinach-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Lemon Spinach, Grapefruit Spinach Salad (double dose of vitamins), and Spinach Stuffed Potatoes, there’s sure to be a recipe or two that will make any family smile.

 

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, South Dakota Harvest of the Month, Science 2.0, Famlii

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

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