Potato salad in yellow bowl next to fork on blue wood table

Oh my, is it hot this week in Illinois! So, these five cold summer salad recipes will certainly taste great to help beat the heat. 

I like salads (and recipes like salsa with a mix of different fruits and veggies) for a couple reasons. One, there are multiple different nutrients in one bite. Two, sometimes these foods are more fun and enjoyable to eat than munching on plain carrot sticks or an apple.

Small white turnips with attached greens on a bamboo mat

I don't remember growing up eating turnips. And while turnips are not my go-to veggie, I enjoy grabbing an occasional bunch when I visit farmers markets or local farms each year, primarily to shake up my food routine. 

If you enjoyed turnips as a kid (or as an adult), how did your family cook and serve them? Write about your experience on social media and tag Illinois Extension.

Plate of sliced cucumbers with overlaying text of "Cucumbers: From pickles to salads to sandwich toppers to dippers." Photographs show a young Asian holding a cucumber, a pregnant women slicing cucumbers, and an African American father and child holding cucumbers on a cutting board

Is it a zucchini or a cucumber? I get this question almost every time I talk with kids about that long, green vegetable. (They do have some similarities. It would be easy to confuse.)

If you garden, cucumbers seem to keep coming and growing and expanding across the soil! So, when you are ready to eat, know you can do a lot with a cucumber. From pickles to salads and from sandwich toppers to dippers, cucumbers can be used in many ways.

Add celery as a supporting player in recipes. With tips on recipes, shopping, and storage. Dark wood background with whole head of celery off to the right and cut celery above whole head.

I'm ready for some green this spring! While you have lots of options with spring flowers and impending green blades of grass, let's talk about the humble celery. And we can celebrate that March is National Celery Month.

A Look Inside the Can: The Role of Canned Food Liners

A community member called my office  several years ago with a really interesting question: why does the liner of my can of pineapple look different from my canned beans? Until that question, I hadn't paid much attention to the inside of my cans, except to look at the food. I think about that question sometimes, so in honor of Canned Food Month in February, let's explore commercial canning and can liners (or coatings).

Roles of Canned Foods

A LOT of foods are canned, and for helpful reasons.

Image of family eating together and image of heart healthy foods, fruit, whole grain foods, oatmeal, waffles. Image of building wooden blocks with wellness images of blood, stethoscope, first aid, bandage. University of Illinois Extension branding and logo

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Most of us know someone who has been touched, in some way, by heart disease. Sound a bit scary? It doesn’t have to be because heart disease can often be prevented by adopting simple lifestyle changes. First, we have to understand what puts a person at risk for developing heart disease.

"Diet and skincare tips for a healthy microbiome" with images of little microbes and a magnifying glass.

Winter can be a shock to the system. Yes, it’s true, some of us live for the frigid temperatures and the snow and ice outside. But for the rest of us, we’d rather hunker down and wait for the Spring thaw. Whichever you prefer, though, the dramatic shift outdoors can have an impact on your body, including the micro-environments that your countless friendly microbes call home. That’s right, we’re talking about your microbiome(s).

How Do I Eat Kiwi Fruit? With Tips on Recipes, Shopping, and Storage. Left photo is a gold kiwi fruit cut in half sitting on a blue napkin. Right photo is a wood cutting board with a knife and green kiwi fruit cut in half.

What is a food you never grew up eating, but now enjoy as an adult? There are several for me, including pears, asparagus, cauliflower, and kiwi fruit. I've had strawberry-kiwi flavored drinks, but never a fresh kiwi fruit until several years ago. I'm so glad I tried them, with their soft, sweet, and a little tart fruit with crunchy little black seeds.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

oat-based recipes including overnight oats, savory oats, and oatmeal bars.

Oats can be found in many cultural dishes such as Scotland’s haggis and Muesli from the Swiss. Oats have been a popular addition to many recipes and a staple food source for centuries.

Oats are an extremely versatile whole grain and can be added to many recipes, from breakfast to beverages. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate oats:

Apples on a cutting board

Are you patiently waiting for the apple season? The abundance of apples may come from an apple tree, a visit to the orchard or a local farmers market, or your local market. Right now in Illinois, the hot summer sun is preparing this delicious fruit for the harvest season.

Many apple varieties are available all year. In Illinois, the apple harvest season runs July to  November. During this time, I find local varieties that I look forward to each year, such as McIntosh, Ever Crisp, or Blushing Gold.

healthy immune system from eating fruits and vegetables

Psssst…. Did you hear? Word on the street is that pineapple juice is a cure for the COVID-19 virus!

Is that true? Can you reduce your risk of getting sick by choosing specific foods? Well, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That is the case with our bodies and how they fight illness.

You have heard that the best defense is a good offense and it is never more true than with our immune system. If we keep our bodies well fed, they are better able to fight off infections more effectively and efficiently.