9 sweet and savory pumpkin recipes

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.

Use leeks in your autumn meals: with tips on recipes, shopping, and storage. Background includes leek tops and ends on light blue wood background

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.

Nutritious, delicious black walnuts

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.

More Tricks than Treats this Halloween

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.

Get the 411 on Bone Health, Cute Halloween ghost, skeleton, black cat, bones and cobweb

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.

Acorn Squash Are Not for Squirrels: With Tips on Eating, Shopping, and Storage

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.

Image of jars of whole grain pastas and grains

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.

A bunch of citrus fruit cut in half

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

Cooking with Squash Blossoms; open blossom on squash plant on right side, three cut squash blossoms on wood background on right

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.

Title text of 10 Recipes for the Zucchini and Summer Squash Overflow, with photo of young Caucasian boy holding very large zucchini in kitchen

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.

Older women sitting outside eating blueberries

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.  

Summer Food Safety image of chicken, corn, grilled veggies, watermelon

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.

farmers market vendors and produce

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?

Make Meals and Messes with Kids in the Kitchen this Summer

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.

LINK accepted here sign next to farm fresh produce

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.

May is Mediterranean Diet Month: Golden retriever puppy saying Time to Explore the world's healthiest eating plan

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.

Eat a Radish from Top to Bottom

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.

Text says "Get your fruits and vegetables in by sampling the seasons" and image is of carrots.

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.

Puppy chewing on a rope. Chew on this... Practice self-care to manage stress

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.

Turn strawberries into jam and fruit leather and salsa

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.

trashcan full of food next to the text, reduce food waste at home

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!

What Onions (and Alliums) to Use When

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.

Increasing Broccoli's Appeal

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.

animated hearts and smiley face emojis

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

5 heart healthy breakfast items including oatmeal, protein smoothies, avocado salad on toast and egg scramble wraps

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.

Getting quality sleep and be ruff - puppy sleeping

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.