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Welcome to the LSU AgCenter’s Food, Family & Fitness Blog. Experts from the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Region invite you to read and discuss all things relating to food, family, and fitness. This blog has been designed as a forum for individuals to exchange information, answer questions, and share ideas and other useful resources.

What's In Season for the Summer
Posted: 7/24/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Some of the freshest dark green and orange fruits and vegetables this summer include:

Apricots – make sure to choose plump and firm apricots with a golden orange skin. This fruit ripens at room temperature and can be stored in the refrigerator.

Carrots – when choosing this vegetable, look for firm, smooth orange skin that is bright. Choose smaller carrots for a much sweeter taste. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Collard Greens – texture should be firm and crisp and have deep, dark leaves. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a plastic container.

Lima Beans – buy fresh from your farmers market. Choose the lima bean that is dark green and in a shiny pod. Lima beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week in a Ziploc bag in the crisper drawer.

Mangoes – choose red, yellow and orange colors that are firm and when pressed, give in a little. Can be stored at room temperature for at least 5 days and can ripen in a paper bag.

Okra – when choosing, make sure the okra is deep green and firm. Can be stored in the refrigerator for at least 1 week.

Here’s a great summer recipe to try:

Baked Apple and Carrot Casserole

  • 6 apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cooked carrot slices
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • ¾ cup orange juice


Place half the apples in greased 2-quart baking dish and cover with half the carrots. Mix brown sugar, flour, and salt to taste, and sprinkle half the mixture over carrots. Repeat layers and pour orange juice over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Nutritional Facts per serving:

Calories 148.7
Fat 0.6 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Sodium 82.3 mg
Carbohydrates 37.1 g
Total Sugars 26.7 g
Dietary Fiber 3.4 g
Protein 1.2 g


Pair These Superfoods for Some Major Health Benefits
Posted: 7/21/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Good health and nutrition are just as much about being strategic with the foods that you consume as much as it is about choosing the right ones.

By combining certain superfoods – those foods with numerous nutritional benefits – your body profits even more than healthy eating alone. Those healthy benefits range from an extra boost to the immune system or lowering your risk of cancer to giving you better skin.

For more energy

Combine iron and Vitamin C: Iron helps oxygen circulate throughout your body, while Vitamin C, which is known as a fighter of diseases, makes it easier for your cells to absorb iron, according to Woman’s Day. A recommended suggestion is paring a glass of orange juice with fortified cereal or an omelet with salsa for breakfast, a spinach salad with orange or strawberry slices for lunch and pasta with fresh tomatoes for dinner.

For better heart protection

Combine fish and garlic: Oily fish, such as salmon or sardines, contain good fats that lower your risk of heart disease. Partner a filet with some garlic, which lowers total cholesterol and prevents an increase in bad cholesterol.

For boosting one’s mood

Combine magnesium and B6: Magnesium is a mineral that is linked to lowered anxiety and happiness, while B6 helps the body better absorb magnesium, says Rodale News. We suggest combining beet greens and chickpeas, which contain magnesium and B6, respectively, to turn your frown upside down.

For fewer tummy problems

Combine prebiotics and probiotics: Consuming good bacteria in a probiotic, such as yogurt, helps boost the immune defenses in your digestive system, according to Family Circle. Likewise, peribiotics, found in the inulin in bananas, pair well with probiotics to knock out stomachaches.

For better vision

Combine lutein and Vitamin A with good fats: Lutein and Vitamin A are linked to better vision, while good fats help the body better absorb those nutrients. We suggest pairing avocado and spinach to sharpen those eyes.

For lower risk of cancer

Pair your grilled steak with a cruciferous vegetable: For years, grilled steak has been linked to carcinogens. Including broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts with your Delmonico flush those carcinogens out of the body.

Pair these superfoods for some major health benefits by Laura Van Wert, June 19, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Start Walking Now
Posted: 7/9/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Walking with others has the added advantage of social support.

The heat and humidity of summer is here but should not prevent us from achieving our health goals. Being physically active daily is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Physically active people have a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, some cancers, and live longer.

The Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 2008 recommends at least 30 minutes a day (2 ½ hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity - like brisk walking - a week) for adults (18-64 years) and at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day for youth (6-17 years). These recommendations can be met all at once or done in bouts of 10 or more minutes a day.

Brisk walking is one way to get active; it has numerous health benefits. Brisk walking is walking at an energetic pace that increases your heart rate and still allows conversation but you cannot sing. It does not require any special equipment or facilities and most people can walk. A pair of comfortable shoes is all you need to begin. In 2012 the CDC reported walking as the most popular kind of physical activity: 6 in 10 people in a study walked for ten minutes or more in the previous week. The percentage of walking people increased from 56% in 2005 to 62% in 2010. In addition to the above mentioned benefits of being active, brisk walking:

  • Builds muscles and stronger bones
  • Helps achieve a healthy weight
  • Helps achieve a healthy blood pressure
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces stress and improves mood and confidence
  • Promotes outdoor enjoyment
  • Can be done on your own schedule and at your own pace
  • Helps you spend quality time with friends and family
  • Is free

So start brisk walking if you haven’t begun already. You can listen to music from your phone if you are walking by yourself. Walking with others has the added advantage of social support, especially when sharing challenges and solutions and catching up with family, friends or coworkers. Walk your dog too.

Set a target to walk 10,000 steps a day because studies show it helps reduce the risk of chronic disease and improves overall health in adults. Wear a pedometer to count steps or distances covered and log your steps. As a beginner you can start with 2000-3000 steps a day and gradually walk your way to 10,000 steps or more a day in upcoming weeks.

Walk a number of blocks in your neighborhood or the walking trail in your neighborhood park daily. Add steps during your lunch break. You can cover thousands of steps without realizing it as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, but look out for low hanging limbs, uneven turf and cracked sidewalks as they present a safety hazard.

So walk every day, as often and as far as you can. REMEMBER: Doing something every day is better than doing nothing.


Measuring Physical Activity Intensity
More People Walk to Better Health
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
10,000 Step Program

Quench Your Thirst
Posted: 7/7/2014 by Stevens, Karen M.

EBRP Quench Your Thirst-S. Diaz

It is summertime and the temperature is rising. Are you looking to quench your thirst? Maybe you’ve already purchased your favorite beverage. If the beverage is high in calories and lacks nutritional value have you considered trying a new beverage? Try quenching your thirst with a beverage that has zero calories and can be refreshed just by adding a variety of fruit and even a vegetable. The flavor is keen and easily recognized. This beverage makes up 60% of your body weight and is vital to the functioning of your body. Every system in your body needs this beverage to regulate your body temperature, carry nutrients and remove toxins and waste. Yet, it’s the oldest beverage since the beginning of time. Have you guessed what the new beverage is? If not, it is WATER!!

Did you know calories consumed from beverages can quickly add up? Depending on your beverage of choice, 200 calories or more could easily be consumed - but if water is your favorite beverage of choice you have consumed zero calories. Think about the healthful impact - just by changing your beverage choice you’ve reduced calories. Reading the nutrition facts label on beverages is another great way to reduce calories. Remember the nutrition facts label is the key to opening the door of knowledge for individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Meanwhile, not only is water calorie free, but it is easy on the family budget. Getting more water in your diet can be stress-free - just carry a water bottle with you wherever you go or drink water at each meal and between meals. If you are willing to follow these simple stress-free steps, you will consume the 8 cups or more of water your body needs each day.


Posted: 6/26/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

One of the first vegetables to pop out of the ground during the spring is asparagus. This vegetable can be eaten with a fork or fingers. It is yummy.

Asparagus is the second best whole food source of folic acid, a B vitamin that lowers risk of heart and liver disease. It also contains large amounts of Glutathione, riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin A, iron, phosphorus and zinc.

This vegetable comes in three different colors: green, white and purple. The color that is seen the most is green. White is more tender, but less favorable and purple has a fruity taste. When shopping, select brightly colored asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips. Make sure that the stalks are not yellowing or limp. Remember to refrigerate asparagus in a covered container or plastic storage bag for up to three days.

Before cooking asparagus, snap off the bottom part of the stalk and wash well in cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Asparagus can be cooked in several different ways:

  • Steamed and served hot with butter and seasoning or a sauce
  • Blanched and served cold with a vinaigrette or mustard sauce
  • Pureed as a soup
  • Grilled for a smoky flavor
  • Chopped in pieces for stir fries, pasta dishes, omelets/quiches and salads

Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Soup


  • 1 pound of asparagus, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • ½ tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1 cup milk or Half-n-Half
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Over medium heat, add oil, celery and onions to a large soup pot. Sauté until soft. Add asparagus, potato, Herbs de Provence and soup stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Puree soup until smooth with a stick blender, food processor or blender. Stir in milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


Eat Cool to Stay Cool This Summer: Foods to Keep Your Body Temp Down
Posted: 6/16/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

We all have those summer rituals - both productive and sometimes bizarre – to keep cool. Some take three showers per day or incorporate frozen drinks into our happy afternoons, while others invest in bulk talcum powder. Still, we find ourselves lying in bed at night wondering how to cool our bodies down.

Surprise, surprise! Eating certain foods during hot weather will help cool you down while filling you up. Summer eating is a strategy, so let’s explore it.

Light vegetables are easy to digest and therefore make your body work less, so salads are perfect for keeping cool.

Those craving spicy foods needn’t worry – hot peppers and other sweat-inducing goodies are staples in countries that sit along the equator. Spicy foods will make you sweat more, but that perspiration will cool the body down.

Fruits like grapefruit and watermelon will hydrate you to cool you down. Milk and yogurt also provide protein while hydrating the body.

Cold food, too, will help keep body temperature down. Frozen concoctions like shaved ice and ice cream - as well as soups traditionally served cold, like gazpacho – work well and can be homemade and therefore healthier.

Choosing a diet to stay cool in the summertime is more than the foods that you do eat – it’s also about the foods that you don’t eat. Eating smaller portions more frequently, keeping those dishes light and drinking non-caffeinated beverages will cool you down.

Eat cool to stay cool this summer: Foods to keep your body temp down by Laura Van Wert, May 25, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Brain Talk - Part 3
Posted: 6/9/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain
Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

In the United States, women are expected to live to 73-86 years and men are expected to live to 66-81 years. One might wonder - will their brains function adequately until death? As people grow older, do they all forget things and wait for their bodies to slowly deteriorate? Does their mental functioning begin to decline during middle age and beyond? The belief that the adult brain is not as capable as the young brain has been the general consensus, however research is now proving these ideas are not always true.

Baby boomers, people born between the years 1946 and 1964, are being researched extensively. Cognitive brain function and physical activities are what neuroscientists are studying through magnetic resonance imaging. Through this technology scientists can measure the progress and improved findings on the aging brain.

In a study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers tested how memory and learning could be improved. The research that was performed consisted of blood transfusions from young mice into older mice. The results of the experiment show the older mice becoming more physically active and their learning abilities were improved. In another study performed at Harvard University, researchers have used mice as well as people, exposing subjects to high levels of protein in their blood - and there is some indication that brain function improved. The University of Illinois’s Dr. Neal Cohen, the director of The Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, is a pioneer and lead researcher on aging, cognition, neuroscience, learning, memory and plasticity. He continues to receive fellowships for funding including backing from the White House’s BRAIN Initiative. Under President Obama, the White House created the "BRAIN Initiative - a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury."

Those born between 1980 and now will reap the benefits of research being conducted on baby boomers.  It’s hoped that the research and studies will encourage mankind to live more healthy and productive lives into the future.

Five Ways to Help the Brain Stay Young

  1. Exercise - keep moving and doing aerobic exercise, stay physical, lift weights, walk if possible.
  2. Good mental health – the brain stores information and draws from it when needed to answer or solve problems, give advice and wisdom.
  3. Eat healthy – to avoid lifetime illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, eat antioxidants - cancer fighting foods such as beans, grains, nuts and spices.
  4. Enjoy life – humor and laughter stimulate parts of the brain that produce dopamine which sends “feel good” messengers to the brain. Attend concerts and plays, or visit museums.
  5. Stimulate the brain – learn something new, such as a foreign language, to play an instrument or learn a new game.


The New Vacation is a "Staycation"
Posted: 6/2/2014 by Mason, Passion

It's summertime and the weather is fine, and many of us have vacationing on our minds. With gas prices soaring to astronomical heights the road trip is becoming harder and harder to budget for, therefore it’s becoming more necessary to explore other options for financially friendly family fun. From this need the idea of the “staycation” was born. A staycation combines the idea of seeing new and exciting (or old, yet exciting) venues all while staying in or near your home. Here are ten staycation ideas for you and your family to try this summer:

Ten Staycation Ideas

1. Find an inexpensive hotel (use internet search engines) and spend the night (enjoy the pool or hot tub)

2. Play a round of mini golf

3. Go to the zoo

4. Visit the farmer’s market and prepare a family meal with the items that you purchase

5. Take a historical tour of your city/tour your city’s capitol building

6. Set up a tent in your backyard and have a slumber party

7. Visit an aquarium

8. Go to a water park

9. Go for a family bike ride

10. Go to a science or space museum

No matter what you choose, a well-planned staycation could be just what your family needs to enjoy these hot sunny summer days, and keep restless summer children happily entertained.

May - The Month For Mothers
Posted: 5/21/2014 by Davis, Eva A.

Mother's Day family image

What comes to mind when we think of May? Mother’s Day! A day set aside to enjoy and appreciate mothers. It is a day for us to honor our mothers, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It should be one of the most important holidays on earth. So, what do we do for our mothers during this special month?

Let's help our mothers to be proactive about their health by encouraging them to stay on top of what’s important: eating healthy, exercising, and getting timely preventive health care screenings. 

1. Eat Healthy

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, make half of our grains whole, choose low-fat milk and milk products, select lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts and select foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt , and added sugars.

2. Exercise

Be active 5 or more hours each week. Do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level or 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level.

3. Routine Health Screenings - Suggested Timeline

General Health

Physical examination - get screened every 2-3 years; discuss with your health care provider.

Bone Health

Bone mineral density test - get screened at least once beginning at age 65; earlier depending on your risk factors for osteoporosis.

Breast Health

Mammogram - get screened every 1-2 years starting at age 40.

Colorectal Health

Colonoscopy - get screened every 10 years starting at age 50.

Heart Health

Blood pressure screening - get screened at least every 2 years in your health care professional’s office.

Cholesterol screening - get screened every 5 years starting at age 35. Begin screening at age 20 if you smoke, are obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure or have a family history of heart disease.

Moms are a special part of our world; let’s keep them healthy!

Preventive Health Screenings for Women from

Top 5 Egg-cellent Ways to Reinvent Breakfast
Posted: 5/19/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

There shouldn't be anything boring about breakfast or brunch. Give yourself a creative, healthy and delicious start to your day with these five unique substitutions for your tired eggs and toast routine. Eggs are a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorous, and a very good source of protein and selenium.

Baked egg in an avocado

Remember eggs in a frame? When we were little, we used to use a cup to cut out a round circle in the middle of a slice of bread and fry it up with an egg in the cutout area. This is a new and healthier version of eggs in a frame. Instead of all the butter and/or oil, you bake it. And instead of the toast - which you can have on the side anyway - the egg is cooked inside of an avocado where the pit has been removed.

Crustless quiche with kale

If you thought quiches couldn't be crispy without crust, think again. This quiche piles on the kale which is packed with dietary fiber; vitamins A, C, K and B6; calcium; potassium; copper; and manganese. Because the leafy green pokes out and around the top of the quiche, the top of the quiche essentially becomes a layer of kale chips, giving it a crunchy and tasty exterior.

Egg and hash brown nests

Breakfast couldn't be cuter - or yummier - with egg and cheese hash brown nests. They bake for just enough time to leave the egg runny, so when you cut it, the yolk spills over the layers of hash browns and cheddar cheese seasoned with shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and paprika.

Spinach and baked egg galette

Spinach and baked egg galettes have everything you could possibly want in a breakfast or brunch: egg, protein, carbs and veggies. Spinach, sautéed onions, feta, black forest ham and a baked egg sit on top of a flaky pie crust that's baked 18-25 minutes, leaving the crust golden brown and the egg deliciously runny.

Flower power eggs

Make your morning groovy with flower power eggs. Instead of chopping up bell peppers and throwing them into an omelet, crack the eggs into colorful rings of bell peppers and cook them over a skillet. So simple and fun to eat!

Top 5 egg-cellent ways to reinvent breakfast by Melissa Valliant, May 9, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Posted: 5/15/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Tracing back to the 16th century are the pecans. Pecans are the only major tree nut that naturally grow in North America. The word "pecan" is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “nuts requiring a stone to crack." Pre-colonial people in North America widely used pecans as a major food source during the autumn month. They used them to make corn cakes and pecan milk. Pecan trees were first cultivated and grown in gardens of presidents Washington and Jefferson by the Native Americans.

These tasty nuts are healthy to eat year round, but are very popular during the holidays. They contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals and are cholesterol-free. They are also an excellent source of protein and can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish by vegetarians. Ranked number 13 among the top foods that contain the highest antioxidant capacity, pecans can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, cancer and heart disease. Pecans also contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.

Adding more pecans to your family’s diet is the healthy thing to do. Pecans are a nut and they are considered a high allergen for children.

Kid-Friendly Treat: Best Ever Granola


  • 4 cups of old-fashioned oats
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl mix the oats, pecans, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan whip the oil and honey and stir in the vanilla. Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon.

Spread the granola onto a large cookie sheet (15x10x1 inch). Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir in dried cranberries.

Makes 9-10 servings.


Collard Greens - Natural Protection For You
Posted: 5/14/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Collards, or collard greens, are very popular in the Southern region of the U.S. They belong to the cabbage family and are an excellent source of vitamin A which is needed for a healthy immune system. Two cups of chopped collard greens provide 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement.

Collards Are:

1.  Rich in vitamins C and K and folate
2.  A good source of calcium and fiber
3.  Fat-free and low in calories
4.  Low in sodium
5.  Rich in antioxidants and can reduce the risk of cancer and have the ability to reduce cholesterol

Selection and Storage

Select a bunch with dark green leaves that have no yellowing. For storage, bag unwashed collards with moist paper towels and store up to about 5 days in the refrigerator for freshness.

Preparation and Cooking

Wash thoroughly before use. Rinsing at least twice in cold water is recommended to ensure all the dirt and grit is removed. Collards are traditionally cooked with bacon fat or ham hocks, which add too much salt and fat. For a healthier and flavorful version, substitute the pork with smoked turkey. Chili vinegar or the vinegar from pickled peppers enhances the bitter flavor of cooked collards. Onions, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and crushed red pepper are also used to season collards.

More Ways to Enjoy Collards

1.  Add them to any kind of pasta about 5 minutes before pasta is done and season to taste.
2.  Mix collard greens with chicken broth, garlic and seasoning, and simmer until ready to serve. This makes a quick side dish.
3.  Use collard greens in place of lettuce in salads, tacos, wraps and sandwiches.
4.  Add them to any stir fry and season with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and crushed red peppers.
5.  Cook collard greens with okra by adding olive oil, peppers, onion and lemon.
6.  Add cut collard greens and sliced low-fat turkey to almost cooked potatoes until cooked.


Organizing Your Recipe Collection
Posted: 4/21/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Perhaps you have a drawer full of recipes you’ve clipped from magazines, newspapers, etc. But it takes forever to sort through them when you want to try something new, and you usually go back to your tried and true recipes. Here are some suggestions for getting them organized.

Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Delores Cotter Lamping, authors of Organizing for the Creative Person, suggest the following for all the recipes we’ve clipped and never used: Put them in an attractive box, secure it with a pretty ribbon, label carefully and “use them as a boat anchor….”

Kidding aside, most organizational authors do suggest as the first step in getting organized to discard recipes we’ve never used and aren’t likely to use. If you just can’t bear to throw them away—yet—put them in a separate folder or envelope and date it. If you haven’t used them in a year, toss!

Decide on a Storage System

Organizational experts suggest several methods for saving recipes:

  • Attach them to paper sheets in a notebook.
  • Place in plastic sleeves in a notebook.
  • Place in a photo album that has “self-adhesive” pages.
  • Paste or copy them on recipe cards and keep them in a recipe box.
  • Use page pockets in a notebook with a different pocket for each category.
  • Store in accordion files.

For example, you may wish to place your recipes one per page in a notebook. This should leave you plenty of space for writing “cook’s notes” by recipes. Plus, you’re less likely to lose a recipe when it’s “tied down” to something like a notebook. A different system may work better for you. For example, it may be simpler to toss recipes into page pockets or an accordion file.

Label Recipe Categories

To make retrieval easier, separate your recipes into categories, such as Vegetables, Desserts, etc. Insert some type of dividers that label the sections. Make the categories meaningful for you. One way to start is to sort your recipes into piles and see what types you have. Then, label accordingly. It may help to check the table of contents in some of your favorite cookbooks to determine category labels.

Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger at Home, recommends if you don’t have many recipes in a category, that you start broad categories like “Bread." As you collect more recipes, you can always expand to “Muffins," “Yeast Breads," etc.

The important thing is just to start—you can always modify in the future. Hemphill suggests it may be easier to use your system for the recipes you’re collecting now. Then, incorporate your backlog as time allows.

Separate “Keepers” from “Never Tried”

Separate the recipes you’ve tried and consider “keepers” from those you’re still thinking about trying, advises Hemphill. A simple initial sorting system is file folders with labels similar to those on your more permanent collection. You might include a “Try Soon” file for those recipes that particularly catch your eye! Somewhere you might also designate a temporary storage spot for recipes that have passed from “never tried” to “keeper” until you can paste, tape, etc. them into your permanent system.

No matter how many new recipes we collect, many of us have 15 to 20 meals we prepare over and over again according to Georgene Lockwood, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organizing Your Life. Lockwood calls these “rotation recipes." She advises putting these frequently used recipes together in a separate file from those used less often.

Whatever system you decide to use, it’s important to designate a place where you do your sorting, pasting, cutting, etc. Keep all your supplies nearby. This might include hole-punched paper for your notebook, a glue stick, scissors and so on.

Someone was once spotted wearing a T-shirt that said, “The one who dies with the most recipes wins!” Just don’t get buried under your recipes while you’re still alive! Toss even “the tried-and true” if they no longer fit your lifestyle. Continually cut the clutter and keep your recipe collection easy to use!


Reposted with permission from Alice Henneman: Organizing Your Recipe Collection by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Foods to Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk
Posted: 4/17/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Let the truth be told, that what we eat has a tremendous impact on our overall health. Eating food that is unhealthy can be a major risk factor for various kinds of diseases - from heart disease to cancer.

What is colorectal cancer? Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts either in the colon or rectum and is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and third leading cause of cancer death in women and men. This is why it is extremely important to understand that eating healthy may help to reduce your risk of developing this condition.

Here are some good-for-you choices to help reduce colorectal cancer risks:

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet and are the main players in providing natural sources of vitamins and minerals to the body. They also supply antioxidants. Antioxidants boost body defenses against free radicals that can damage cells through oxidization. Some antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are carotene, beta-carotene and lutein. Foods that contain high levels of antioxidants include: berries, carrots, citrus fruits and dark, leafy vegetables.

Brown rice (and other whole grains)

While it has not been proven that eating more fiber helps reduce or prevent colorectal cancer, fiber does help by keeping the digestive tract clean by moving waste out of the body. Research found that eating brown rice does reduce the risk of having colon polyps (precancerous growths) by 40 percent. The reason is because brown rice has a high percentage of fiber.

Lean protein and fish

Research has shown that eating red meat does produce a high risk or colorectal cancer. Other meats that should be avoided include: processed, salted, smoked or cured meats. Meats that are good to eat include: lean poultry and fish. Limit the amount of red meat eaten to small portions once a week. Make sure the red meat is lean and all of the fat is trimmed away.


Research shows that eating legumes three times a week reduces the risk of colon polyps by 33 percent. This includes peanuts, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and peas.


Research shows taking ginger supplements for approximately 28 days reduces colon inflammation. However, inflammation is linked to colon cancer.


Spring is Here - Let's Exercise Outdoors
Posted: 4/4/2014 by Stevens, Karen M.

Are you tired of the same exercise regimen? Try exercising outdoors. Did you know exercising outdoors can provide many benefits? Of course, the health benefits of exercise are significant. Yet, a lack of exercise can increase the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and strokes.

Being physically active can be enjoyable and fun. So, why not try exercise outdoors. Research has proven exercising outdoors can decrease tension, confusion, anger, depression and even enhance your mood and self-esteem. Overall, exercising outdoors can boost your mental health and provide you with a pleasurable workout in the fresh spring air.

If you’re still unsure of the benefits of outdoor exercise, maybe these additional facts can prompt a change:

  • Studies have supported that exercising in a natural setting can help to increase one's quality of sleep.
  • Outdoor exercise exposes one to natural sunlight, which provides a good source of vitamin D.
  • No membership cost or special equipment is needed, just take off walking.

By now I’m sure you’ve begun to plan your next outdoor exercise adventure. While outdoors drink plenty of water, wear a sunscreen protectant, and avoid extreme temperatures.

As always, remember to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.


Berman, Stacy (2012, April 18) The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise. HuffPost Healthy Living
IIiades, Chris, MD (2009, December 9) The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise. Everyday Health

Spaghetti Squash
Posted: 3/21/2014 by Farbe, Katherine

Glancing at the two words above, one may think that I’m attempting to debut an innovative new health dish; however, what I’m about to share may positively change the way you eat your most favorite dishes forever! Spaghetti squash, or Curcubita pepo, is a variation of winter squash that has a spaghetti noodle-like consistency. In order to grow your own spaghetti squash, you will need full sunlight and loose, fertile soil. Now is actually the perfect time in the Louisiana climate to begin planting your seeds as our last winter freeze is said to have passed. If you are starting from a squash transplant, you want to aim for approximately 2 weeks after the last frost to ground your plant. Spaghetti squash can be found pretty regularly in the supermarkets but if you’re looking for locally grown, you should check out the farmer’s market between the months of June and September.

Now let’s get to the nutritional component of consuming spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash is an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese. So what does this mean in terms of health benefits?

-Reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers
-Promotes healthy cell functioning
-Prevents cell damage
-Helps to lower blood pressure
-Promotes proper brain functioning
-Has anti-inflammatory properties
-Promotes a healthy weight

Something that is special about this particular vegetable is that it can serve as a nutrient packed alternative to regular pasta. It has a similar consistency and taste to regular pasta while providing your body with copious amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. To prepare, start by cutting the squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp.

Cooking Methods:
-Bake with the rind side up for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
-Microwave for 6 to 8 minutes.
-Boil for about 20 minutes.

After the cooking portion is complete, you can separate the strands by raking a fork from stem to stem.

You can enjoy your spaghetti squash in the same fashion you would any pasta. Spaghetti and meatballs and Fettuccini Alfredo are two I would recommend testing out!

Bon appetite!


Self Nutrition Data

New Health Guide

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Backyard Gardening Blog

Brain Talk - Part 2
Posted: 3/21/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.


Have your ever heard someone comment on a youth he or she knew and utter these words:
His family gave him love and nurturing, but it appears that was not enough.  

He robbed and killed someone for no apparent reason.

She came from a loving and beautiful family and her parents gave her the best of everything, so why did she choose a life of substance abuse at such an early age?

While infant and toddler brains develop very quickly, the adolescent brain experiences rapid change somewhat the same however the pruning is done swiftly while stronger experiences endure. Many changes are occurring and more “outside” or away from home (family) experiences are more influential. Like the research being done with infant brains, the MRI is also used to better understand the adolescent’s brain.

Researchers, scientists and physicians all agree that the part of the brain called the frontal or prefrontal cortex is where complex and complicated decisions are made. Critical judgments and decisions are not yet matured. Research states that the brain of the adolescent develops somewhat differently from the child. The adolescent brain develops myelin, which insulates the nerve fibers and speeds neural processing occurring in the frontal lobes. Neurotransmitters send electrical messages of “feelings” throughout the body. Dopamine sends messages of “good feelings” and eventually these feelings reach what is called “tolerance." Another area in the brain that is responsible for the emotional status of teens is called the limbic. Many changes are taking place, but the parts of the brain which develop first involve physical coordination, emotions, and motivational regions. Researchers believe this may be the reason or possible cause for some teens having difficulty or possessing the inability to control their emotions and reactions. And yet other researchers state this may explain the dramatic or overactive behavior in many boys and even some girls. It is believed that this part of the brain does not mature until around the age of 25.

Changes with Adolescents

  • Teens sleep longer
  • Rapid growth spurt in height and weight
  • Boys tend to be more narcissistic and physically active
  • Girls are more sensitive about appearance and weight
  • Beginning of puberty, hormones (boys' voices change)
  • Increase in production of oily skin (acne)

Supporting your Adolescents

  • Don’t criticize
  • Encourage healthier eating
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Be honest with responses
  • Give them freedom (time and space)
  • The development of hygiene and grooming habits requires patience


Virginia Cooperative Extension
National Institute of Mental Health

5 Apps to Help in Planning Meals and Counting Calories
Posted: 3/20/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

How would you like to not have to worry about what to cook for dinner tonight or how many calories you are taking in or have used up? It can be a daunting task to keep up with meal planning and calorie counting. However, these tasks can become easier if you have the right app.

So, let’s check out these 5 apps for planning meals and counting calories:

Five Plates

Do you hate trying to figure out what to eat or make for dinner? Well, Five Plates provides you with a grocery list of whole foods that is delivered directly to your home weekly with ingredients for five different meals. This app is free.

Menu Planner

Is your recipe board too full on Pinterest? Do you know what’s in your pantry? You can create meal plans, import your favorite recipes from the Internet, inventory your pantry and integrate all of that to create a weekly grocery list. No more stress. This app is $2.99.


This app is used for losing or maintaining weight. With one of the largest food databases, it allows you to enter your own recipes and the app figures out the nutritional content. It includes other features such as an exercise database, goal tracker and friend tracker to help you stay motivated. This app is free.

Lose It

This app keeps track of the calories that you have eaten and how much exercise is needed to eliminate those extra calories. This app is equipped with a bar code scanner which is much easier than putting in your food information. It helps you in that it subtracts calories when you have exercised. This app is free for the basic version, but costs $39.99 per year if you enroll in the premium weight-loss program.

Restaurant Nutrition

Eating out and traveling frequently can make it hard to count calories and plan meals, but there is an app that can help you navigate the food choices in restaurant menus. It includes over 250 restaurants and 60,000 food items with all the nutritional information needed. This app is free - can you believe it!

Well folks, now that you have apps that can help you in your quest for a healthy lifestyle, let’s get this done the right way. Happy eating.


A Color-Coded Guide to Nutrients in Your Fruits and Vegetables
Posted: 3/17/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Let’s face it: As winter trudges on and we find ourselves feeling more and more sluggish, we need an extra boost. I propose that the boost be the addition of color in our fruits and vegetables. These foods are colorful because they contain different nutrients and research shows variety is equally important as quantity when it comes to healthy eating. In short, an all-greens diet won’t give you all of the nutrients your body needs to function well. Today’s Dietician states that we need a diet full of a variety of natural phytochemicals. Let’s take a look at the nutrients found in our most colorful fruits and vegetables.


Nutrients: Our Granny Smiths get that beautiful red color from natural pigments, such as lycopene and anthrocyanins. They are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that also have been linked to cancer prevention.

Fruits and veggies to try: Red apples, red peppers, beets, pomegranates, red cabbage, red potatoes, cherries, radishes, cranberries, raspberries, pink grapefruit, rhubarb, red grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon.


Nutrients: Those beautiful oranges and golds in our carrots and squashes are caused by carotenoids like alpha carotene, beta carotene and beta cryptoxanthin. They convert our nutrients into vitamin A and serve as antioxidants for our eyes.

Fruits and veggies to try: Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squashes and surprisingly dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and peas. The dark green pigments mask the orange/yellow ones.


Nutrients: When we think of vegetables, we of course think of green first. That’s because the green pigment is packed with vitamins, nutrients and fiber.

Fruits and veggies to try: Cabbage, spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, romaine and iceberg lettuce.


Nutrients: These are the rarest colors in fruits and vegetables. They also contain anthrocyanins and other vitamins and minerals that boost eye health, antioxidants and heart health.

Fruits and veggies to try: Blueberries, blackberries and purple potatoes.

A color-coded guide to nutrients in your fruits & vegetables by Lauren Van Wert, February 17, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Being Active at Any Size
Posted: 3/1/2014 by Mason, Passion

Assistant Extension Agent Passion Mason
Assistant Extension Agent Passion Mason gives a presentation on physical fitness.

Physical fitness and health are vital at any age and body size. Larger people face several challenges when it comes to fitness and physical activity. There could be marked difficulty in accessing their full range of motion (bending or stretching). There may be difficulty finding exercise clothing and exercise equipment. You may even have some self-consciousness in relation to beginning an exercise routine or being physically active around other individuals (the “will they judge me?” moments); however, these are not good reasons to forgo being active. Facing challenges can be hard, but don’t lose heart because you can beat these challenges!

Before beginning any new workout regimens be sure to consult your physician. Activities such as swimming or exercising while sitting put less stress on your joints due to the fact that your legs are not supporting the weight of your body. Remember physical activity doesn’t have to be hard or boring to be good for you. Anything that gets you moving (walking, dancing, gardening, mowing the lawn, mopping your house), even if it’s only for a few short minutes a day, is a great start to getting more fit. If you commit to being physically active on a regular basis, your body will thank you. You will be making a difference towards your own health and well-being. Even if the activity level doesn’t prompt weight loss you will still have a lowered risk of getting many diseases, and if the physical activity does prompt weight loss you’ll get even more health benefits.

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