1. Published

    Keeping our bodies hydrated is important for our overall health and wellness. Dehydration can lead to both physical problems (headache, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite) and mental/emotional problems (confusion or delirium, irritation, and anxiety). It can be scary, dangerous, and it won’t always be signaled by thirst—especially in the winter.

  2. Published

    What is a food you never grew up eating, but now enjoy as an adult? There are several for me, including pears, asparagus, cauliflower, and kiwi fruit. I've had strawberry-kiwi flavored drinks, but never a fresh kiwi fruit until several years ago. I'm so glad I tried them, with their soft, sweet, and a little tart fruit with crunchy little black seeds.

  3. Published

    Fun fact I think many people have started to learn over the years: the cans of pumpkin puree on grocery store shelves are from "processing pumpkins" or "canning pumpkins," while the pumpkins we decorate with and carve are "ornamental pumpkins."

    Fun fact number two: Illinois is a top state for processing of edible pumpkins. Curious about how pumpkin farming impacts Illinois? Check out this article from the Illinois Farm Bureau.

  4. Published

    Leeks aren't an ingredient I use much at all myself, probably because I don't see them in my rural grocery store. When I shop bigger stores or farmers markets where leeks might be available, I'll keep an eye out. Particularly in autumn because leeks pair so well with many fall-inspired recipes.

  5. Published

    When I was growing up, we had an old black walnut tree next to our driveway that would drop walnuts, causing me to trip over them while chasing my brother. I loathed this tree, especially when it was my turn to mow the grass, as I had to first rake the walnuts, wasting more of my precious time. Little did I know that we could have used these annoying nuts for delicious food. However, they’re a hard nut to crack.

  6. Published

    Often a day of candy, treats, and sugar, a "healthy" Halloween might well be an oxymoron. By focusing more on getting dressed up and the fun of playing games and tricks, kids and adults can focus less on food and more on the festivities.

  7. Published

    Did you know throughout life, you are continually losing and rebuilding bone tissue? It's true. Now, children do make new bone at a substantially greater rate than adults because much more bone is being built than lost during childhood and adolescence, as their bones are growing in both size and density. However, adults are still rebuilding bone tissue throughout their lifespan. Unfortunately, the rate at which adults' bodies can rebuild bone tissue gradually decreases with age, often leading to the development of osteoporosis.

  8. Published

    The main winter squashes I see sold in grocery stores - and interestingly from a pumpkin patch near me selling both edible and ornamental varieties - are butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squashes.

    Acorn squash are typically small, and if winter squash is new to you, they are a great one to try first. Plus they are packed with a variety of nutrients.

  9. Published

    Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. They provide fiber and vital nutrients our bodies need, such as B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals like iron and zinc.

  10. Published

    Avoiding illness has been on our minds lately, especially over the last 18 months. A healthy immune system helps protect us from becoming ill, but the question is: Can we strengthen our own immune system? The short answer is yes. However, it’s important to note that no single food or healthy lifestyle behavior can prevent illness. Rather you can only support your immune system by engaging in a variety of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

    How our immune system works

  11. Published

    Just about every year I've been working, Sandy, one of our Master Gardeners, brings in squash blossoms around the office. He has offered them to me in the past, but I've never cooked with them before and never took him up the offer. This year, I was ready to explore how to clean, prepare, and cook with these edible flowers from Sandy's cushaw squash plant.

  12. Published

    Who has made the "mistake" of planting too many zucchini or summer squash plants, and then scrambled to find doorsteps to drop off extras? Take them please! There are too many! Or is it just time to eat a whole LOT of summer squash in the next month?

    Nutritionally, 1 cup of chopped zucchini contains around 20 calories, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, and is a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and potassium. Like other veggies, zucchini are not a significant source of fat, protein, or sodium.

  13. Published

    Canning

  14. Published

    I got to spend some time a few weeks ago picking blueberries! Put on my hat and UV shirt, brought a bottle of water, and got to pickin'. Thanks goodness for taller blueberry bushes so I could take a break from crouching down. Now the question is: what to do with all the fresh blueberries?

    Nutritionally, a 1/2-cup of blueberries contains around 40 calories, 10g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K. Blueberries do not have significant amounts of fat, sodium, or protein.  

  15. Published

    Summer is officially here! If you haven’t already gotten your grill out, you should consider doing so.

    Grilling is a great way to keep the kitchen cool and enjoy many of your favorite summer foods. Whether you are grilling meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, it is important to food safety at the forefront. Perhaps you haven’t thought much about food safety lately. However, during our warm summer months, there is an increase in the number of foodborne-related illnesses.

  16. Published

    There is nothing in this world like eating truly ripe fruit, picked at the peak of nutritional freshness. You know when you bite into a truly ripe, locally grown strawberry that you are eating something special.  Oh my, I can almost taste one now! There is no comparison between a fully ripe local berry and the big hollow tasteless orbs found in our supermarkets year-round. Where can you find these luscious gems of early summer?

  17. Published

    School is out for the year and kids everywhere are excited to start their summers! Whatever the kids are doing, let them practice making meals and snacks for themselves this summer. This gives them autonomy with their food choices, lets them develop self-sufficiency, and may encourage them to explore new foods.

  18. Published

    Every year, Illinoisans all over the state take advantage of farmers markets for local, fresh, in-season produce. Illinois is ranked #3 in the nation for having the highest number of farmers' markets. Farmers markets are a great place to enjoy the outdoors while shopping for good deals on local fruit, vegetables, and other specialty items like fresh bread, local meats and cheese, baked goods, and jam. It's also a great way to spend active leisure time with family and friends, as there is often entertainment and sometimes kid-friendly activities.

  19. Published

    If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed when trying to maintain a healthy diet, you are not alone. We all know a healthy diet is vital to our overall health, especially if you are attempting to slim down or manage a chronic health condition.

  20. Published

    Radishes come in quite the variety: spicy to mild, small to long, round to straight, red to white to multicolored. This photo of a watermelon radish from University of California Cooperative Extension is a fun one.

    Nutrition

    A half cup of sliced raw radishes contains around 10 calories, 2g carbohydrates, and 1g fiber. While radishes do not contain much protein, fat, or sodium, they do have vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium, and calcium.