February—the month where we learn if Spring is around the corner. Whether you believe in the prophetic wisdom of a hibernating rodent (aka, Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog) or in the reality that the earth is beginning to tip more towards the sun, Spring is coming! It is a great time to look ahead. Everyone gets a little restless in the Spring---the sap begins to flow, new babies are in the barnyard, even houseplants put on new growth. There is promise in the air of new things to come.

 

New Years' resolutions ---lose 20 pounds by Feb. 4th. Run a marathon in May. Bench press 200 pounds by April. Each year we set ourselves up for failure. How many times have you put yourself on a "diet" only to fall off the wagon a few days later?

Did you bring some herb plants home from the garden center this spring? Herbs are wonderful plants, hardy, fragrant and beautiful. Many of us, me included, often bring herbs home, plant them and then rarely use them in cooking. Why not?

It's thyme, (pun intended), to cook with herbs. As a rule, use twice the amount of fresh as you would dry herbs in a recipe. Add herbs toward the end of cooking time to ensure a bright flavor. You can cut back on the salt in a recipe by using herbs to enhance flavor.

How does your garden grow? Are you struggling with baskets of green beans and bushels of cucumbers? You could give the excess away and that is a great idea. Or you could preserve the produce so your family can enjoy your garden long after the first frost of winter.

Yes, You Can! ! Everyone is doing it from Paula Deen to Alton Brown---canning is trendy. Eat local; reduce your carbon footprint is the battle cry from the home canning sector—and they are right.

March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than by debunking the great potato myth! In honor of all the Irish, or those who wish they were, we will talk about the lowly, much maligned potato.

Myth #1: potatoes are fattening. In fact, potatoes are delicious and nutritious! Potatoes are fat-free, cholesterol-free and a good source of Vitamin B6 and dietary fiber. They are also high in Potassium and Vitamin C.

Eat more veggies! Eat more fruits! Isn't that what we've been told? We usually hear the adjective "fresh" in front of those words, as in "fresh fruits and vegetables". But it's winter in central Illinois and fresh is a relative term. Just how fresh is that bunch of broccoli from California or the grapes from Chile? Is "fresh" always best? Not necessarily, according to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, frozen food is more nutritious than "fresh" if the produce has been transported over several miles.

 

This time of year finds families scrambling into the chaotic fall school activity and sport schedules. In addition to making sure your young athletes have the necessary sport gear, it is also important that you make sure they are fueled up for their game or match.

Many young athletes have nothing to eat from their 11:00 lunch time until after the game or practice. This leaves them hungry and not able to play up to their potential. They need a snack but, how can you avoid the drive-through?

Pumpkins—everyone loves them! We smash them from catapults—carve intricate designs into their flesh—tell stories about them in folklore—Cinderella even rode in one—and Peter-Peter Pumpkin eater put his wife into one---but that's a whole other story…it's pumpkin season. We see them heaped into huge boxes at the grocery store—piled into wagons at roadside stands and growing in the fields as we drive along our country roads. Illinois is pumpkin country. In fact, we raise more pumpkins than any other state—yes, here where corn is king the lowly pumpkin would surely be a prince!

Spring is here and the May showers will soon bring flowers …..and fruits and vegetables. According to MyPlate.gov half of our plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. How can we make that happen?

Here in central Illinois we have rich soils that will produce wonderful fruits and vegetables with a minimal amount of work. Let's plant a garden. Or toss a few seeds into a pot on your patio. The benefits of gardening are twofold; great exercise and healthy food!

Corn dogs and cotton candy---what trip to the fair would be complete without them? Ask anyone what they enjoy most about the fair and many will say ---THE FOOD! The once a year treat can pack some big calories into your regular diet, so here are a few tips.

Visons of sugarplums dancing in your head? Or are you Yule-tired? Think just one more cookie with that cup of eggnog is just what you need before your long winter's nap? Maybe not—maybe the yule-tiredness comes from too much of everything. We all want to enjoy the holidays but I often hear people say—I just want it to be over! We work and stress and make ourselves sick.

Let's not—let's take these next three precious days and enjoy our holiday. How you ask? Well, maybe ….

It's all about the presents……

Last night while I was surfing FaceBook, a story on the evening news caught my attention: "Sugarless Wednesdays." What was that? Sugar free? No sugar? No sugar added? Since I only caught half of the story I looked it up. The American Heart Association is encouraging people to give up sugar one day per week. Some sources indicate that churches are asking their congregations to make Sunday a sugarless day while the Illinois legislature is declaring Wednesday sugarless. (January 4-March 29) Whatever day you choose, choosing to be sugarless is a good thing.

 

Eggs! The wonderful protein –cheap, easy to prepare and versatile! You can poach, boil, coddle, bake or fry them. Fold them into an omelet or bake them in a casserole. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, eggs are a perfect addition to anyone's diet. Why not eggs?

Here are some tips/facts about eggs:

I discovered something at our family's Thanksgiving feast…. we made nearly twice as much food as we needed. Many of us are strapped for cash this time of year (insert editorial comment about buying too many presents) and we could use some extra money. Where can we find a few extra dollars? Let's look at our grocery list. Below are some tips for saving at the grocery store during the holidays.

Give up gluten, go sugar free, watch those carbs, put butter in your coffee and drink apple cider vinegar. Sound confusing? Yes, it is. There is so much "diet advice' "out there" that it makes your head spin. How can we make sense of all this? Our society is quick to jump on trends and myths looking for a cure all. There is no quick fix. The short answer to the nutrition question is to eat a variety of foods. Each food group provides nutrients necessary for good health. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, a healthy eating plan:

April 6, 2017: Recall Frozen Peas, possible Listeria contamination…..

Another recall on frozen vegetables? What does this mean? Do I have to cook the peas for my pea salad recipe? It means that the vegetables were contaminated with Listeria bacteria at some point in processing. Does it indicate that all vegetables have been contaminated? No, but Listeria is a serious pathogen and can cause illness.

Spring is here! As our days are getting longer we want to grill out. Nothing tastes better than a juicy steak or pork chop hot off the grill. Should you wash the raw meat before grilling? For years, it was customary and even recommended to wash raw meat prior to cooking. The idea was that bone chips and bacteria could be washed safely down the drain.

The USDA no longer recommends washing raw meats:

Have you always wanted to garden but need space or knowledge or tools? Come join the gardeners in the Bee Well Community Gardens where we learn and grow!

We have 3 locations this year--Paris, Kansas and Hume!

Informational meetings:
Saturday, April 29, 10:00am, Kansas Village Hall
Thursday, May 4, 6:00pm, Paris Bee Well Garden (behind Lake Ridge Church) * seedlings will be available
Hume garden site-contact Joanie at Front Street Market

Here is your chance to grow your own food--it's free, it's fun, it's awesome!!!!

SCHOOLS…OUT…FOR…SUMMER…. Now what? The children are home and they need to be fed. Let's build those healthy food habits so our children can be the generation that changes the health of America! There is a common misconception that children (and others who are not overweight) do not need to make careful choices when eating. I have heard people say—"I can't believe my kids are eating my whole grain crackers—I told them to eat their chips—the crackers are for me because I need to lose weight". Nothing could be further from the truth. None of us need the chips!