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    No matter what holidays you celebrate, there is bound to be food around the table. Some of that food may have even come from your garden or local farmer. What cool season crops can you locally source for your holiday gathering?

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    To make a good cheese sauce or gravy, you need a thickening agent. Cornstarch and flour are two common thickening agents in the home kitchen. Both are cereal starches and when they’re mixed with a liquid and then heated, they gelatinize.

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    Most of us know at least one person who has been affected by cancer. As we age, the risk of getting cancer increases. In fact, eighty percent of those diagnosed with cancer are 55 years of age or older. While we may not be able to prevent every cancer, we can help lower our risk. Our diet and food choices are a protective factor, along with physical activity, breastfeeding, HPV and Hepatitis B vaccines, and limited exposures to smoking, alcohol and the sun.

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    Do you typically lean for salty or sweet? Salt cravers might get their salty kick from potato chips, fries, or popcorn. These savory snacks are an obvious source of sodium. However, even sweet lovers get more sodium than they think when considering their meals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 percent of the sodium we eat each day comes from just 10 types of foods: breads, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts, soups, tacos/burritos, savory snacks, chicken, cheese, and eggs/omelets.

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    Casseroles are the essence of comfort food. They’re warmth on a cold autumn day, solace in time of mourning or sickness, and simplicity when needing to feed the family. Loosely defined, a casserole can be any food prepared in a casserole dish. A casserole dish is a deep, oven-safe dish, such as a 13x9-inch baking pan or stoneware of any shape or size. Most people, however, would conclude that a casserole contains at least three or four of these elements: protein, vegetable, a binding element, grain, and cheese. 

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    Butternut squash is a favorite fall food of mine. However, I must admit that it’s odd shape and hard surface can sometimes make it frustrating to deal with. Here’s how I handle this rock-hard squash.

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    Bruschetta (pronounced ‘broo skeh tuh’) is a classic appetizer that will impress the guests with it’s beautiful color and fresh taste. Originating in Italy, this popular starter dish is straight out of the garden. Fresh tomato, basil and garlic are the stars, served on a toasty baguette.

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    National Hispanic Heritage Month runs September 15 through October 15. It’s a special time to recognize and celebrate the cultures, traditions, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino/a/x individuals. While Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, they have two different meanings. Hispanic refers to those whose descendants are from a Spanish-speaking country, while Latino refers to those from Latin America. Latino can include males or all genders, Latina includes females and Latinx is a gender-neutral term.

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    These time-savers will get you where you need to be with a satisfied belly of good-for-you food.
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    Back when I was living on my own with my first big job, my confidence in the kitchen grew and my food repertoire became bigger. It was then that I realized my love for Asian cuisine revolves around one main ingredient: sesame oil. If you’ve cooked with sesame oil, you know of its distinct aroma and flavor, offering a nutty, toasty profile. A little goes a long way, so many recipes may only use a teaspoon or less and combine it with other oils.

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    Rosemary is an herb I always have growing in my herb garden. Native to the Mediterranean region, it makes a beautiful addition to the landscape. It’s green needle-like leaves have a hint of evergreen taste. Its strong assertive flavor may not work well with other strong flavored herbs, such as mint or cilantro, as they may compete against each other. Therefore, start with a small amount of fresh rosemary and add more as needed. If using fresh rosemary instead of dried in a recipe, use 1 Tablespoon fresh for every 1 teaspoon dried.

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    Yogurt is a cold, creamy treat that’s delicious anytime of the day. It’s a fermented food made by heating milk, combining it with a culture of bacteria, specifically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, and letting it sit at a warm temperature for several hours. As the cultures grow, the milk thickens leaving a tangy, smooth texture that so many enjoy.

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    Red raspberries give most any dish a pop of color, generally causing my mouth to water. Buy raspberries all summer long, but don’t let them sit in your fridge for long! Freshly picked raspberries should be consumed soon after harvest and stored in the refrigerator for only 1-2 days. These highly perishable berries should not be washed until you’re ready to eat them. Freeze them for longer storage by simply placing washed berries on a tray and freezing until hard. Then pack into freezer containers or bags, seal, label and freeze for 10-12 months.

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    Barbecue sauce is a classic condiment for summertime grilling. If you’re asking others for the best barbecue sauce recipe, the answers will likely differ depending on what part of the U.S. they’re from. There are different styles of barbecue sauce, often associated with different regions, but most fall into either a tomato, vinegar, or mustard base.

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    Burrito bowls are fresh, nutritious, and easily customizable for all who partake. In fact, it’s probably my favorite thing to serve when having company over for dinner because with a little prep work, it’s easy to lay everything out for the guests to assemble themselves.

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    By this time, I’m sure you already know that food prices have gone up, yet it can still be a shock to the system as the grocery store clerk tells you what you owe. How can we lower our food bill without sacrificing good nutrition?

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    Firing up the grill is one of my favorite ways to enjoy delicious meals in the summer. Grilling allows you to experience the outdoors, and it pairs well with summer activities, such as swimming, camping, and picnics with friends. Outdoor grilling can use gas or charcoal, both of which has pros and cons.

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    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.

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    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.