1. Published

    This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Kelsey Smith.

    Whether you are a savory or sweet person, make fresh salsa your go-to snack this summer! Salsa is a versatile and nutritious condiment that offers many health benefits and hydration for your body. When it comes to salsa, most people think of tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and lime juice, but I challenge you to think outside the box and add your own flare using your favorite fruits and vegetables.

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    During a long bike ride with my son on a warm sunny day, we used smoothies as the motivating factor to pedal home even though our legs were tired. Smoothies are the perfect summer snack to cool you off but can also be a good on-the-go breakfast for the busy adult. However, not every smoothie is a healthy choice. Here’s how to pack your smoothie with vital nutrients without all the added sugars.

  3. Published

    This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Hope Rasmussen. 

    Spring is here, which means that the fresh produce from the garden is ready or on the way. Growing up, my mom would send us kids outside to pick the produce before mealtime. My favorite to do (because it was the easiest) was pull out the stalks of rhubarb.

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    Bubble tea cafes have popped up in many cities across America. If you’re not familiar with this fun drink, you may be wondering why there are black looking marbles in the bottom of people’s drinks!  Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, originated in Taiwan in the 1980’s. Those black beads at the bottom are normally tapioca pearls, a chewy prize at the end of the drink. There are so many flavors and variations that it can be a bit overwhelming to look at a boba café menu.

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    I recently noticed while looking through my recipe apps that I tend to save a lot of recipes involving tortillas. I credit that toward the versatility of tortillas and the fact that the kid in me still loves hand-held foods.

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    I can’t say that I ever tasted an avocado as a child, nor did I even know what it was. However, a lot has changed over the last forty years! The demand for avocados has certainly increased, and in fact, avocados are now frequently a babies first food! This unique fruit is often consumed more like a vegetable, as it’s not sweet like most other fruits. An avocado has a buttery flavor and creamy texture that when perfectly ripe, enhances the food it accompanies.

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    Are you a prune lover like me but feel you must eat them in secret for fear of people assuming you have digestive issues going on? Prunes are so good at what they do (preventing constipation) that they get a bad rap for it, because let’s face it, no one wants to talk about that. They are often associated with the older generation and in fact, most young people have never even had a prune. As a result, some plum farmers and manufacturers of prunes prefer to label their product as “dried plums” to avoid the stereotype.

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    Do you like hard boiled eggs? Do you like pickles? Then why not try pickled eggs? When there is an abundance of eggs and you’re not sure what to do with them, pickling will help them last for several weeks. However, it’s important to note that the only safe method for storing your pickled eggs is in the refrigerator. While you may come across recipes for canning eggs, or you spot a jar of pickled eggs for sale, there is no safe, research-tested method to canning eggs at home.

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    Sugar snap peas hold true to their name; they are both sweet and crunchy. Sugar snap peas are members of the legume family. While all beans, including peas, grow in pods, sugar snap peas do not naturally split open when ripe. They are harvested when their pods reach full length, and their peas are about the size of a BB. They should be sweet, juicy, and tender; left on the vine too long and they’ll become too tough to eat. Like snow peas, we eat the entire pod. However, snow peas differ from sugar snap peas in that they are flat with much smaller peas inside the pod.

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    As part of Mediterranean cuisine, feta cheese is used in a wide variety of dishes. Originally from Greece, feta cheese is made with sheep’s milk, but may also contain up to 30% goat’s milk. However, most of the feta cheese made and sold here in the United States is made from cow’s milk, certainly giving it a different, often milder, flavor than authentic feta. Feta cheese has a creamy white color and crumbly texture. Depending on the age of the cheese, it’s either a soft or semi-hard cheese that crumbles when pressed and is sold as either blocks or crumbles.  

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    Bulgur wheat may not be the most common grain in the grocery store, but it’s about time we gave this whole grain a try. Bulgur starts with wheat berries, the raw, simplest form of wheat. These kernels are then hulled, partially cooked, and dried before packaging. Unlike wheat berries, which may take an hour or more to soften, bulgur is much more convenient since it has already been parboiled. In fact, prepare bulgur much like you would instant rice: bring bulgur and water to a boil, cover and simmer about ten to twelve minutes, fluff with a fork, and voila!

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    When serving a meal to a child, you may have heard them demand that their foods not touch each other. This mantra of “don’t let my foods touch!” is one to live by when storing and preparing raw animal foods, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs, which must be kept separate from ready-to eat-foods. This is very important to remember, as raw animal products can carry harmful pathogens that can cross-contaminate or spread onto other foods or surfaces, potentially leading to foodborne illness. When should you keep them separated?

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    As a registered dietitian nutritionist, we often tell people to “eat the rainbow.” There is good reason for this as it’s a reminder to include a variety of foods in our diet, especially produce that is deep and dark in color. It is true that many darkly colored foods, offer a large amount of antioxidants, substances that prevent damage to our cells. Hence collard greens, kale, spinach and even romaine lettuce all have more antioxidants than iceberg lettuce.

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    Cinnamon is my absolute favorite spice; it’s my go-to candle scent, my favorite flavor of gum, and it’s generally the largest spice container in my spice cabinet. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of various species of Cinnamomum trees. Ceylon cinnamon is known as “true cinnamon” but the cinnamon that we buy at the grocery store is almost always Cassia cinnamon. The inner bark of the tree is dried until it curls up into rolls known as “quills,” which are sold as cinnamon sticks. It can also be ground into powder or made into an extract.

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    Buying a whole chicken, rather than its individual parts, offers many potential benefits. However, to some people, even the mere thought of reaching into a dead bird’s carcass to pull out the liver, heart and gizzards is enough to put the brakes on and reach for the more convenient, less “icky” option of purchasing separate pieces.

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    Most self-proclaimed foodies, like myself, will collect all sorts of kitchen gadgets. Over the years, I’ve learned which kitchen tools are indispensable, and which kitchen tools sit in the drawer unused.

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    By now, you’ve likely heard of the somewhat peculiar fruit, the pomegranate. It’s beautiful red color, round shape and distinctive crown make an attractive display in the grocery store. Pomegranates are only in season during the early winter months, which means you’d better grab them now before they disappear!

  18. Published

    This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Kristi Brougher. 

    Have you ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat”? Well, this can be true. What you eat can play a role in the health of your body. Now more than ever, we are all looking for ways to improve our health and boost our immune systems. Fortunately, certain foods can help to achieve this goal.

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    What’s a non-coffee drinker to drink from the local café? Chai has become a popular beverage for those looking for an alternative to coffee. While our western culture refers to it as “chai tea,” in India we are drinking masala chai. “Chai” is the Hindi word for tea, while “masala” refers to spice. This hot drink is made by brewing black tea with milk, sugar, and spices.

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    While oranges are a citrus fruit that can be found all year long, they peak over the winter months. This is a time where you can usually find more variety of oranges and at a lower cost than in off season months.