A bowl of an orange and brown colored stew with green garnish on the top. Contains an orange I block logo and an Illinois Extension wordmark.

Comfort food is what I crave on cold, dark evenings and for me that includes a bowl of warm, hearty stew. While both soup and stew will provide the warm nourishment I desire, there is a difference between the two. Soup generally refers to ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, cooked in a large amount of liquid like broth or tomato juice. Soups may be clear, like chicken noodle, or thick, like any cream soup.

Three halves of winter squash, one face down on the table, two face up with seeds showing. Contains an orange I block and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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?

A pile of white flour on a wooden table with two pieces of grain laying over it. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

An array of whole fruits and vegetables around a circular wooden cutting board, including carrots, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and strawberries. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension workmark.

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.

A wooden spoon with salt surrounded by salt on a black table. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

An overhead view of a white rectangular casserole dish with melted cheese over spiraled pasta noodles and pepperoni. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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. 

Three whole butternut squash with stems on a gray tablecloth. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A skillet with three round corn flour pancakes, with one being lifted by a spatula. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Three small slices of bread with bruschetta topping on a wooden cutting board. Contains an orange I logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A grain bowl containing quinoa, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, avocado slices, and a creamy white dressing. Contains Illinois Extension wordmark and orange I block logo.
These time-savers will get you where you need to be with a satisfied belly of good-for-you food.
A small tan bowl containing a dark, viscous liquid. On a white mat. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A sprig of rosemary set on a round dark wood slice on top of a wooden table. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A white bowl of plain yogurt with a strawberry in the middle of the yogurt. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Raspberries in a pile. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A cutting board with three different bowls of dip next to a glass of water. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A bowl containing refried beans, topped with melted cheese, chopped tomatoes, and guacamole. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Produce wall at a grocery store containing sections of lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cauliflower. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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?

Four hamburger patties on a grate grill, with one being flipped with a metal spatula. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Clear bowl with pineapple and strawberry salsa surrounded by tortilla chips on a white plate. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A dark pink smoothie with a straw in a glass mason jar next to bananas and strawberries. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Rhubarb stalks growing in a garden. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Two glass bottles with a tan colored tea and black tapioca pearls at the bottom on a table. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Tortillas stacked o a plate on top of a table with flour and a rolling pin. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A half of an avocado face up against a pink background.

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.

A wooden spoon with prunes along with prunes spilled on the table. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Five eggs on a cloth. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

A cutting board with stacks of carrots, sugar snap peas, and a bowl of cucumbers. Contains blue I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.

Stack of feta cheese blocks on a plate beside a bowl of sugar. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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.  

Bowl of tan-colored bulgur with a spoon, with some of the bulgur spilled on the table. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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!

Strawberries, garlic, and four packages of sausage on a refrigerator shelf. contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

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?

Pair sliced in half, with one half facing forward and the other half facing backward, set on a white tablecloth. Contains Illinois Extension wordmark and orange "I" logo.

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.

Three cinnamon sticks stacked over a pile of ground cinnamon on a dark table. Contains an Illinois Extension wordmark and orange I logo.

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.

Woman cutting into a whole chicken on a platter. Measuring cups behind the platter. Contains an orange I logo and Illinois Extension wordmark

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.

A garlic press on top of a table with fifteen to twenty cloves of garlic behind it. Includes an orange I and Illinois Extension woodmark.

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.

Pomegranate split open, with a few seeds on the table

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!

Pomegranates, oranges, and grapefruits cut in half

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.