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    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    There’s something about going to the farmers market that just feels right. Maybe it’s the cool breeze and peek of sunshine in the morning, the calm gathering of people with their adorable babies and furry dogs, or the colorful array of foods that stand in front of the hard-working farmers. Supporting local agriculture and entrepreneurs is supporting the community you live and work in, and that is why your heart feels good after every purchase.

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    The strawberries are coming! The strawberries are coming! May is National Strawberry Month so you might start seeing sales or promotions in grocery stores and locally grown strawberries will be available soon at local farmers markets and pick-your-own sites.

    Like other berries, a wonderfully ripe strawberry just bursts with juice and flavor. You can find strawberries year-round in stores, but the best quality and lowest prices will be in late spring and summer months when the berries are in-season.

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    April is national stress awareness month. As we continue to face new seasons in life, let's take a few minutes to talk about stress and how we can better manage it. Everyone experiences stress. However, each of us experiences stress differently. Stress is how our brain and body respond to any challenge. When most people think of stress, they typically think of significant life changes, such as the birth of a child, moving to a new home, starting a new job, or a traumatic event, such as an unwanted diagnosis or losing a loved one.

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    Food is a valuable resource and it’s often the center of our celebrations and life events so why do we let so much go to waste? The average person tosses about one pound of food per day. Small amounts of food waste may go unnoticed over time but households account for 38% of all food waste, which is more than grocery stores, restaurants, or any other sector!

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    Onions can serve as the star in a recipe like onion soup or play a supporting role. For today's post, I'll talk about more common bulb and spring onions, and others in the allium genus, including leeks, shallots, and chives.

    Nutritionally, a single medium raw bulb onion contains around 60 calories, 14g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, and is a source of vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus. Like many non-starchy veggies, onions are not a significant source of fat, protein, or sodium.

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    Along with green peas, broccoli might be tied as the most unpopular veggie with kids. I was an exception. As a kid and adult, broccoli is one of my favorite veggies - cooked at least. Raw broccoli doesn't appeal to me. Even a dietitian has food preferences, so this is a reminder that how food is presented changes its flavor, texture, and acceptability to kids and adults alike. If broccoli hasn't been a favorite veggie, try out some of the different recipes in this post. You might find one you enjoy.

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    “Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” - Ron Hall

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    Do you feel pressed for time in the morning but still want to enjoy a heart-healthy breakfast? Well I’m here to help!

    Breakfast is an important part of the day and an opportunity to fill your body with the fuel it needs to accomplish goals and complete daily tasks. The foods you choose influence your health so it’s wise to make smart choices early on. One healthy choice will surely lead to another.

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    Adequate, quality sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. Sleep helps the body to heal and restore itself. It is vital for brain and heart health, mood and physical function, and a healthy immune system. 

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    Dr.

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    When I think about the holidays, I think about getting crafty in the kitchen. Making food-related gifts for friends and family is a fun way to share your creative side and put a personal touch on the holiday season. In the past I have gifted home-preserved cranberry-orange chutney, herb ornaments, limoncello and my famous homemade chocolate-dipped peppermint-orange marshmallows.

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    Have you always brought dessert to the holiday gathering? Maybe you are not used to preparing a full meal, but this year may be different. Enjoy the holidays with a new twist this year. If you are cooking a full meal for the first time – You can do it!

    This can be a daunting task. Plan and strategize and pull this dinner off without a fuss. Have fun cooking with members of your household and enjoy the leftovers (or planned overs).

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    Oats can be found in many cultural dishes such as Scotland’s haggis and Muesli from the Swiss. Oats have been a popular addition to many recipes and a staple food source for centuries.

    Oats are an extremely versatile whole grain and can be added to many recipes, from breakfast to beverages. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate oats:

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    Whether used in a savory soup, added to quick breads, or your beloved family pie, pumpkins are a fall favorite for many, and very versatile.

    This fruit is packed full of key nutrients our bodies need. Yes, I said fruit. Fun fact, although pumpkins have a nutritional profile like that of a vegetable, they are botanically a fruit since they contain seeds.

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    It’s apple season! The leaves are changing colors, and your local orchards are filled with apples. Drying apples for chips, freezing apples, and canning apple pie filling are all great ways to enjoy fall flavors all year round! Extension offices have received numerous calls asking for safe canning recipes for pie filling. One of the main ingredients in canning pie filling is Clear Jel®, a flavorless modified corn starch that works as a thickener for canning pie filling. Clear Jel® doesn’t break down through the canning and eventual baking process.