This week's blog post is written by ISU dietetic intern and graduate student, Nikki Zintak!

Many people in the U.S. enjoy eating apricots, albeit its generally in the dried fruit form. But fresh apricots are equally delicious. Native to Asia, they are widely popular in the Middle Eastern countries with Turkey and Iran being the top producers. In the United States, California grows nearly 85% of all apricot production.

Rutabagas can be an intimidating root vegetable due to its ugly looks and unfamiliarity. However, it should sit proudly in your kitchen's root cellar right next to the more popular roots, like sweet potatoes and carrots. And here's why.

Today's blog post is written by Illinois State University dietetic student, Allyson Weier!

Switch up your usual side dish with one that is bursting with nutrients and flavor; try quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)!

Cinco de Mayo (fifth of May) is often celebrated with delicious Mexican fare, including tostadas, enchiladas and margaritas! Mexico has many cuisine influences, including the popular Latin American dish, ceviche. But is ceviche safe to include in your celebratory meal?

I think the cold wet spring is finally behind us. And when the weather starts getting warmer, the desire for light and airy foods get stronger. Raspberries, among all berries, are just the pop of spring our meals and snacks need.

This week's blog post is written by ISU dietetic intern and graduate student, Nikki Zintak!

Bring on the green! With St. Patty's Day just around the corner, what better way to celebrate than with some festive green smoothies! Smoothies are commonly made with fruit, but why not add some other healthful ingredients to get more bang for your buck? Let's pick apart a smoothie and give some good reasons to let your smoothie go green this St. Patty's Day!

Tis the season of summer cookouts, where family and friends gather for an outdoor meal. Whether you're the host or the guest, you'll need an outstanding side dish to accompany the usual grilled entrée. A pot full of baked beans will round out your meal and keep your friends happy and well fed.

It's funny how memories of our loved ones are often linked with food. I fondly remember my Grandmother making the best fried chicken, but I also remember her always dishing up my least favorite dish: lima beans. It's true. I wasn't a lima bean lover. However, I've learned that they are actually delicious when prepared in different ways.

Each year leading up to Mother's Day I see numerous advertisements of local restaurants taking reservations for Mother's Day brunch. Many families take part in honoring their mother by treating her to a meal that she doesn't have to cook or clean up. Whether it's eating out with family and friends or served at home after sleeping in, your mother will be sure to enjoy the pampering.

It's that time of year where we try to forget about all the high-calorie goodies we stuffed into our mouths during the holidays and start anew. It's the season of trying out new diets, some of which yield success on the scale but hunger pains in the stomach. Many try to drastically restrict calories to lose weight, but research has shown that this merely slows metabolic rate, making it harder to lose the pounds. Instead of concentrating on what not to eat, focus on foods that are nutritious and appetizing.

Maple syrup is the true essence of eating from nature. It's made with just one simple ingredient: the sap from a maple tree. Maple trees are tapped by drilling a hole and inserting a tube to collect the sap as it slowly drips out onto a bucket or storage tank. The clearer the sap, the richer in taste it will be.

According to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, currently only 1 in 10 Americans follow the 2015 Dietary Guidelines to eat seafood twice per week. Tuna can be a low-cost option to help you meet these recommendations. In 2014, canned tuna was the third most widely consumed seafood in America, behind shrimp and salmon. However, overall seafood consumption has slowly been decreasing each year.

Visiting an apple orchard on a beautiful fall day is a lasting memory for many people, including myself. Besides a peck or two of apples, I always remember bringing home a half-gallon or more of apple cider. And it's about this time of year when I get the question: what's the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Everyone has their favorite mug, and on days that the mug is actually clean, it gets filled to the rim with coffee or tea. However, this favorite mug wants to be used for more than just a warm jolt in the morning. Microwave mug meals are the latest craze to hit the kitchen.

As you read a recipe, you see it calls for canola oil, but all you have is olive oil. Do you reach for the canola or put on your shoes and head to the store? I'm sure that many of us have substituted one oil for another at some point, and in many cases it doesn't make a big difference. However, there are instances when it would be better not to deviate from the original recipe.

If you're going for a traditional holiday meal this season, oysters must be on the menu. The early colonists found oysters to be abundant along the coastal shores, and they were a popular addition to the holiday feast. With oysters being plentiful, they really weren't considered much of a delicacy like in today's world.

If you've never tried orzo, now is the time. I know; there are so many different types of grains and grain products it's difficult to try them all. You've been told to try barley, couscous, quinoa and bulgur, but the product that makes it to the plate the most is pasta. Did you know that orzo is simply a form of pasta?

The sales of eggs notably increases around the Easter holiday. After all, the Easter bunny needs colorful eggs to hide for all boys and girls. However, eggs aren't just for springtime; they are a year-round staple in most people's refrigerators.

Like Mickey and Minnie, there are certain foods that just simply belong together. Tomato and basil are the perfect match. The slightly sweet aromatic flavor of basil complements the savory juiciness of a tomato. And the world has taken notice; there are countless dishes that highlight these two stars. Tomato basil soup, margarita pizza, bruschetta and caprese salad are just a few of my favorites.

The holiday season is a magical time of year. The lights are twinkling, snowflakes are falling, and Santa's sleigh is soaring through the sky. The love of a child and the joy of watching their eyes light up is the reason many families choose to participate in holiday traditions. One such tradition is laying out cookies for Santa to eat as he stacks presents under the tree. However, we must not forget that his reindeer need something to munch on, too!

Parsnips are a winter root vegetable and valued for their long, white root resembling a white carrot. Parsnips have a complex taste; they are sweet like a carrot, but have more starch and an earthy, nut-like flavor. Large roots tend to be more fibrous with a tough woody core, while smaller roots are sweeter and tenderer. Like other root vegetables, parsnips have a lengthy shelf life. To store, trim off any green tops and refrigerate the roots for up to three weeks.

I used to always think that Neufchatel cheese was simply the reduced-fat version of cream cheese. However, as my knowledge in food and nutrition grew I found out that they are actually two different types of cheese.

Unbelievably, wild rice is not actually rice at all. It's a seed of a wild water grass found around the Great Lakes region. Every September, during the Wild Rice Moon, Anishinaabeg people, and other Great Lakes Native American tribes, harvest wild rice in canoes using wooden ricing sticks to knock the rice grains into the boat. It's a long, labor-intensive process, but it is a tradition that has continued for more than 400 years.

Many baked goods, such as pumpkin pie or gooey butter cake, taste even better with a hefty dollop of whipped cream, or as my grandpa used to call it: snowbanks. The slightly sweet and airy fluff makes any dessert just a little more decadent. But have you ever wondered what to actually buy for better health? Should you go for whipped cream in an aerosol can, frozen whipped topping, or make it yourself with either whipping cream or heavy whipping cream?

Most kids would pass up a lobster or steak dinner for a chance to eat a bowl full of spaghetti, and in fact, many adults would too. There's something about this age-old dish that's screams comfort.

In the heat of the summer, "busy" tends to take on a whole new meaning. Aside from the everyday chores, there are now baseball games to attend, swimming lessons to pack bags for, and summer camps to chauffer the kids to. Putting a healthy meal on the table is just another "chore" that can seem daunting, even for a super hero parent. However, with a little prep work, a freezer, and the magic of a slow cooker, nutritious family meals can fall onto the table in a flash.

Soba noodles are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. They're found in many Asian dishes served either hot or cold. If you've ever passed up a recipe because you didn't know what soba noodles were or didn't know where to find them, you must try it again!

Your eyes may have skimmed past it. The canned beans and canned vegetable aisle in the supermarket usually houses the small, medium and very large cans of hominy. With the look of wet mini marshmallows, you may wonder what exactly this stuff is.

Step into the tropics by enjoying a sweet juicy papaya. A papaya resembles a melon on the inside, but it is botanically a berry. It has a green to yellow outer skin but is orange to pink on the inside. The cavity is filled with black, edible seeds with a peppery taste. Papaya is native to Mexico and Southern America, and may be found in the early summer and fall. Most of the papayas sold in the U.S. are imported but they may be found growing in Hawaii, Florida, California and Texas.

Thanksgiving is a holiday where food and family come together: A big feast for a big family. However, not everyone will have a large gathering. In fact, for many, the table may be set for just one or two. Despite this, a traditional Thanksgiving meal can still be enjoyed.

There are many choices when it comes to bringing an onion flavor to your dish: red, white and yellow onions, scallions, shallots, chives and leeks all bring a different intensity of flavor. Leeks have a milder taste and resemble an oversized scallion. Their stalk is a bundle of leaf sheaths, which are white on the bottom and green on top. Use the white and lighter green area for recipes, but save the darker green sheaths for making stock.

Eating a bowl full of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year. However, why save it for just once a year? Black-eyed peas are low in fat and a great source of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber. With these great nutrients, they just may bring that prosperity to you in the form of good health!

Peppers are a common ingredient in so many recipes. Whether you play it safe with a bell pepper or throw in a punch of heat with a hot chile pepper, you are sure to find a pepper that brings a depth of taste to your dishes.

This weeks blog post is written by Illinois State University Dietetic Intern, Erin Fejes!

With Fourth of July just around the corner, many people may be searching for a sweet treat to celebrate with. If you haven't tried sorbet made with fresh berries, it may be just the dessert you've been searching for.

Plantains are a cousin to the banana, but you don't want to make the mistake of peeling a plantain and eating it raw like a banana. Not only will your teeth not sink through it, frankly, it won't taste anything like a banana.

Holiday traditions create lasting memories, but have you ever wondered how these traditions got their start? Whoever thought to hang hosiery on the fireplace and stuff it with goodies? While we can't say for sure how it began, the legend has it that St. Nicholas heard a man talking about not having enough money to get his three daughters married, so he secretly slid down the man's chimney and placed gold coins in the girls recently laundered stockings, which were conveniently drying by the fire. Now what about those oranges so often found in the bottom of the stocking?

Butternut squash is one of the most popular winter squash varieties. It has a pale peach color on the outside but yields a yellow-orange flesh on the inside. It's flavor is reminiscent of a buttered sweet potato, and it's a versatile ingredient in many fall dishes.

On a recent trip to a garden center, I bought what I had thought was sweet basil only to bring it home to realize that it was lemon basil. After pondering what I was going to do with lemon basil, I realized that it really was not much different from other lemon fragranced herbs, such as lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, or lemon thyme. All are known for their lemon aroma that can bring a refreshing twist to many foods and beverages.

This week's blog post is written by Illinois State University dietetic intern and graduate student, Erin Fejes!

Have you ever wondered why oats have become such a popular food item in recent years? From overnight oats to homemade granola, oats seem to be in many recipes these days. Read on to learn all about oats and why you should add them to your diet, too!

Many grills are sure to be fired up on this Father's Day, and depending upon the honorary dad's taste buds, steak is the choice of meat. When the word "steak" is used without classification, it generally refers to beef.

Nutmeg is a common spice known to flavor a flurry of holiday foods and beverages. It's a key ingredient in pumpkin spice, a must-have in eggnog and a flavor booster in custards.

I'm pleased to introduce this week's blog post author, Stephanie Sanderson! Stephanie is a student studying Food, Nutrition and Dietetics at Illinois State University.

Spinach isn't just for Popeye; it's for all boys and girls, men and women, who want to be healthy and enjoy a good green! However, if you think it's packed full of iron and will make your muscles big, you may have been misled. History has it that a German chemist misplaced a decimal point and listed a 100-gram serving as having 35 milligrams of iron rather than the true amount of 3.5 milligrams. Nonetheless, spinach is highly regarded in the nutritional world and is considered a powerful superfood.

A gooey cheese sauce is a comfort food classic that makes nachos unstoppable, mac and cheese a must-have, and (to some) vegetables edible. But it takes a bit of know-how to make the perfect cheese sauce.

Butter versus Margarine: it's a hot topic debate that has been battled over the decades. Health professionals tout that margarine is a heart healthy alternative to butter, while others claim that margarine is not "natural" and therefore, should not be eaten. You know, the whole "margarine is one molecule away from plastic" theory.

I love how produce can taste so differently depending upon how it is prepared. Steamed cauliflower is delicious but when it is roasted, it takes on a slightly nutty sweet flavor. Sautéed kale is soft, but baked kale turns into a thin crisp chip. An onion eaten raw is pungent and crunchy, but when caramelized, it is tender and sweet, yet savory.

If you've never caramelized an onion there are a few pointers to know:

When people talk about beets, they either love them or hate them. However, they have so much to offer they deserve a second chance!