Food, Family & Fitness Blog
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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.

Fun at the Farmers Market
Posted: 8/27/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

Do you want to have fun? Visit your local farmers market and see all the fun you can have learning about new foods. If there is a food that you cannot identify, ask the grower questions about the food so that he/she can explain what the food is, how it’s grown, how to cook it and what it should taste like.

The farmers market is also a good place for children to put math lessons to work. They can count and sort shapes and colors of the different fruits and vegetables. They can learn how to weigh fresh produce and figure out the cost based on price per pound.

The farmers market is a great place for taste testing new foods that are not normally served at home. Trying new foods can help families broaden their food choices. If there is a fruit or vegetable that tastes good, take it home and try it for the family and see how they react to trying a new fruit or vegetable.

Here are some questions that you can ask the farmers at the farmers market:

  • Is this a sweet or sour fruit or vegetable?
  • What is the growing time on this fruit or vegetable?
  • What month is it ripe to pick?
  • When will I know if the fruit or vegetable is ready to be picked?
  • How is a fruit or vegetable picked that is at the top of a tree?
  • Does it grow from a seed, flower, stem, leaf or root?

Are you ready to go to the farmers market with me? Let’s go!


Prepare for the Worst & Hope for the Best!
Posted: 8/25/2015 by Walker, Karen

Picture of food supplies.
Your emergency food supply should include nonperishable foods that store well and are ready to eat or easy to prepare even when the power is out. High-energy foods like peanut butter and crackers and granola bars are good to have on hand. Soups and canned meats can be useful too. Just be sure you have a manual can opener in case you need it. (LSU AgCenter photo by Tom Merrill)

“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!” is a favorite saying of my parents. During the months of June through November, coastal areas call this time period hurricane season. This is a time to prepare for wind, rain, and possibly an evacuation.

The LSU AgCenter suggests you be prepared and that is why their website has a wealth of information concerning preparation for storms and floods.

Food suggestions: Include ready-to-eat canned or packaged meats, beans and fish (sardines, tuna, salmon), fruits packed in natural juice, canned vegetables, canned or powdered milk, 100% juice boxes, and plenty of water. Nuts (including nut butters such as peanut butter or other nut butters) and seeds, dried fruit, dry cereal and breakfast bars do not need refrigeration and will last for weeks.

The Boy Scouts call it being prepared. The LSU AgCenter calls it being smart. You can be prepared too. All it takes is proper planning, cooperation, and some effort. Click here to find information to help you during hurricane season.

And yes, now that you are prepared, it is better to be safe than sorry and hope for the best.


Creole Tomatoes
Posted: 7/23/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

Creole tomatoes are so good that they should be eaten straight from the vine while they are still warm. Usually when farmers pick creole tomatoes, they are sold the same day they are picked. Creole tomatoes are grown in parishes across Louisiana. Rich soil with low acidity always makes the tomatoes sweet tasting with a long growing season. The definition of a creole tomato is a ripe red tomato grown in Louisiana, but most often in parishes southeast of the parishes along the Mississippi River. It can be grown from many varieties such as Celebrity, Amelia or Christa.

There are more than 250 tomato growers that cultivate the 500 acres of Louisiana today. The tomato growers sell their produce at wholesale warehouses, farmers’ markets, stands on the side of the road or under bridges and yes, at local supermarkets too.

So, let’s go out and support our local farmers.

Creole Truffle Alfredo Pasta

1 pound fettuccine pasta, cooked al dente and drained (save pasta water)
1 cup of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
5 green onions chopped
5 ounces Sal & Judy’s truffle Alfredo Sauce
2 cups of pasta water
1 pound peeled crawfish tails (can substitute with shrimp)
4 toes of garlic, minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot boil water for pasta. When water reaches boiling point, add salt and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente.

In a large saucepan, sauté mushrooms, green onions, garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper in olive oil for 10 minutes on low heat. Add crawfish and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add vegetables and crawfish, pasta water and Sal & Judy’s Truffle Alfredo Sauce and toss.
(Serves 4-6).


Summer Garden Salads
Posted: 7/15/2015 by Walker, Karen

Picture of salad with summer vegetables.
Summer vegetables enhance and add crunch, flavor and color to a cool salad on a hot day.
Picture of summer fruit
A rainbow of fruit can be added to any summer salad.

Mixed greens, a wedge of lettuce, and tossed salad can all describe what Americans term: a salad. Eaten at the beginning of the meal, at the end or as a main course, salads have been around for centuries and they are still in vogue. Let’s explore the bountiful harvest that can be used in combination to create a unique salad this summer.

Vegetables, fruits, protein (meats, poultry, seafood), dairy and grains! Yes, these are all the groups on the new MyPlate. And, these also describe the variety of salads people eat around the world. One can grow tired from counting the salad recipes that are published and handed down from generation to generation.

They say “some like it hot.” This could mean spicy or warm in temperature. Jalapenos, red pepper flakes, pepperoncini, arugula, dandelion greens and radishes all add a little spice to a salad recipe. Sizzling fajita meats, hot off the grill, using chicken or shrimp sits well on top of a bed of salad greens. In most Louisiana households or restaurants hot fried oysters or popcorn crawfish can top a salad. Remember that fried foods are higher in fat so use them sparingly.

Ham salad, turkey salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and egg salad can all be prepared and served in a tomato half or on a bed of lettuce or spinach. Protein or meat salads are usually mayonnaise based, but variations have surfaced. It is recommended to check the grams of fat because some recipes may exceed the 30% of calories from fat. Refer to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for more details. What a great way to use leftovers!

Even the teen’s favorite food pizza is going salad crazy. A local eatery advertised the Caesar salad pizza. Believe it or not, the hot pie piled with melted cheese was served with the cool Caesar salad on top. Do not knock it until you try it! It is a popular menu choice for many.

The MyPlate focuses on half of your plate being fruits and vegetables. So add a rainbow of color to your next salad by adding red bell peppers, purple onion, and grated yellow squash. Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits and add them to your summer salad.

Many fruits marry well with lettuce based salads. Summer provides a multitude of fruits that can be sprinkled, tossed and combined with salad greens. Fruit salads are also popular. A combination of ripe, sweet fruit makes a wonderful warm weather dessert. There are so many seasonal fruits available this time of year at reasonable prices.

A recent report confirmed that eating a healthy diet is just as affordable as eating less healthy foods according to Andrea Carlson, an economist and co-author of the report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

Celebrate summer by choosing fresh, healthy salads any time of the day or night. Create your signature salad and share your recipe with others. By making half of your plate vegetables and fruits, you are adding fiber, B vitamins, Vitamin A and C and minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics -
Dietary Guidelines website -
LSU AgCenter -
EatSmart Recipes - Garden Salad 
EatSmart Recipes - Taco Salad
Getting the Minerals We Need- A Very Serious Matter
USA Today - Healthy food no more costly than junk food, government finds

What is the Unwanted BBQ Guest? Listeria
Posted: 6/25/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

What is the Unwanted BBQ Guest? Listeria

WOW! Summer has finally come and it is hot. Time to have BBQ’s, swim parties, beach parties and all sorts of parties. Because of the outside parties that will be given this summer, we need to take into consideration foodborne illnesses that will be lurking around and trying to get people sick, especially children and the elderly. Remember that bacteria grows faster in foods that are at a warmer than usual temperature when outside.

Listeria monocytogenes is a very dangerous bacteria that grows year round especially during the summer months. This bacteria grows at refrigerator temperature and is very deadly for pregnant mothers, unborn babies and newborns. In fact, they are 10 times more likely to become infected with the bacteria.

Listeria is found in foods such as:

· Cheeses that are soft and ripened (examples: Mexican-style, Brie, Feta and Ricotta)

· Vegetables that are raw

· Pre-bagged salads with ham chicken, tuna and seafood

· Meats from the deli

· Hot dogs

Hot dogs are a favorite at every BBQ party, however, that is why it is extremely important to make sure that:

· Hot dogs are never eaten straight from the package but heated to 165 degrees F

· Hands are washed before and after handling the pack of hot dogs

· Drain hot dog juices in sink so that it does not get on other foods or eating utensils

· Keep grilled hot dogs temperature at 140 degrees F or above until eaten

· Leftovers should be refrigerated or placed on ice at least two hours after removed from grill or one hour if temperature is 90 degrees F. When reheating hot dogs, always heat to 165 degrees F or above

· Leftover should be eaten within four days, after four days throw away

Following these instructions will keep these dangerous and deadly bacteria from crashing your party and making people sick.


Nutrition Month Tips
Posted: 3/26/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

Build up muscle with protein. Because the body needs lots of protein to strengthen muscles, eating a meal that is full of protein reduces feeling hungry between meals. Most of the protein meals people consume are usually high in fats, so choosing leaner meats such as chicken and fish and other proteins such as beans are better for the body and muscles.

Good fat is phat. Producing healthy and strong cells comes from eating fats. The body also needs vitamins A, D, E and K to produce healthy cells. There are two types of healthy fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. Sources for these fats include foods such as avocados, cheese, butter, canola oil, eggs and olive oil.

Carbs can be complex. Because our brain and our body need energy that is produced from carbohydrates daily, we focus on complex carbs such as pastas and breads that are whole grain. Adding green vegetables for fiber regulates our digestive system and gives us regular bowel movements.

Drinks and foods with sugar should be avoided. According to the American Heart Association, a child’s intake of sugar should be limited to three teaspoons a day which equals 12 grams. While we think that avoiding candy, cookies or soda is okay, we should also avoid things that have added sugars such as processed foods, canned goods, frozen foods, fast foods and condiments.

A dash of salt. We all know that the body needs a little salt to function. But adding too much salt can cause health problems such as high blood pressure. Remember one teaspoon of salt is 2,300 mg. Depending on their age, children need 1/3 ‐1 teaspoon per day. Always remember that when we eat processed or fast foods, there is an enormous amount of salt; it is best to limit or avoid these foods.


Winter Health
Posted: 2/26/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

It is that time of the year again - flu season. With all the chilly cold and hot temperatures also comes the spread of those dreadful words cold and flu. This time of the year also brings challenges to the healthiest of people. The changing of temperatures, cold winds, rain beating up our bodies and the spreading of colds and flu through families, schools and the workplace is not a big help this time of the year.

Here are a few tips to stay healthy this winter:

Frequent hand washing: Frequent or regular hand washing is the best way to remove and prevent germs, getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash hands with soapy water under warm running water for 20 seconds. To determine what 20 seconds is, singe the happy birthday song or say the ABCs. Children and adults should follow these easy steps: Wet – Lather – Scrub – Rinse – Dry (WLSRD).

Dress in layers: Layer up with clothes that are warm but light and wear waterproof boots, a hat, mittens and a scarf for your neck and throat.

Flu shot: It is recommended that getting an annual flu shot helps fight the flu and if you get the flu, it is not as bad as if you didn’t get the flu shot.

Healthy eating habits: Always practice eating healthy during the wintertime to help avoid missing work or school. Remember to stay active, eat a healthy and well balanced meal and get lots of sleep. Drink plenty of water, hot liquids (broth), and sugar-free clear liquids (sports drinks). Choose foods rich in vitamins C to boost the immune system (mangoes, strawberries, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits).

Recipe: Creamy Cauliflower Soup


1 head of cauliflower, cored and chopped into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetables broth or chicken broth
½ teaspoon herbs de Provence (or a pinch of each: rosemary, parsley, oregano, and thyme)
Salt and pepper to taste


Place all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour in batches into a blender, being careful not to overfill the blender. Puree until smooth. You can also use a hand blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


Food Allergies and Children
Posted: 1/22/2015 by Clifton, Cynthia

One common food allergen among children is nuts. Nuts can sometimes cause life-threatening allergic reactions called anaphylaxis.

About six (6%) percent of all children are clinically diagnosed with food allergies. A food allergy of this sort is usually dangerous and early detection is very critical to treatment and management. Any family history of food allergies should be discussed with your health care provider before introducing solid foods to your baby. Sometimes children develop food allergies even if there is no family history. When introducing different foods to children, they should be introduced one at a time to monitor the children's appearance, behavior and reaction to the food. Common symptoms of food allergies include:

  • Rashes or eczema on the face
  • Diaper rash
  • Hives
  • Runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing
  • Diarrhea, gas or vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Behavioral changes

It is believed that one way to prevent food allergies is not to introduce commonly-known allergenic foods until later in your baby’s life, at 1, 2 or even 3 years old. Some of the most common food allergens are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Cow’s milk
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Tomatoes
  • Yeast

Because there is no cure for food allergies, the most sufficient resolution is to eliminate the food from the diet. Foods such as eggs, milk, fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans account for approximately 90% of food allergies in children and sometimes adults. Manufacturers are now required to include in English a list of foods that causes allergies.


Simple Abundance
Posted: 1/5/2015 by Walker, Karen

image of vegetable soup
Vegetable soup is wonderful on a cold evening.

According to Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, gratitude is one of the first principles of simple abundance.

She says, “At the heart of Simple Abundance is an authentic awakening, one that resonates within your soul: all you have is all you need to be genuinely happy. All you need is the awareness of how much you really have and then give thanks."

January is a perfect time to reflect on this statement. Simple abundance can be carried into the way we take care of our health as well.

So, begin again:

Eat Simply: Leave the sauce behind to save calories and fat.

Snack Simply: Nuts and fruit, fresh and dried, make light, easy snacks.

Shop Simply: Choose more locally grown foods and plant based foods for a fresh, tastier meal.

Prepare Simply: Use recipes with a few ingredients – make a 5 vegetable soup or a 5 fruit salad.

Savor Simply: Eat slowly and enjoy every bite.

Drink Simply: Include water with 2 tablespoons unsweetened fruit juice.

Smile Simply: Be grateful for everything you have and everything you will accomplish in 2015.

Recipe: Garden Vegetable Soup


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only (from approximately 3 medium leeks)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds (approximately 2 medium)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and green beans and continue to cook for 4 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn kernels, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with kosher salt. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2004


Blue and Red Foods
Posted: 12/25/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Blue and red foods are packed with all sorts of vitamin (A, C, K, B-6, B-12), minerals, potassium, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients. These foods help to decrease inflammation in the body’s cells and also protect against heart disease.

So, during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, let’s eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables that are blue and red in color and stay healthy. Here is a list of the blue and red foods to eat this holiday season:

Strawberries: Loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They are fresh and great in yogurt, ice cream or alone as a snack.

Tomatoes: Excellent source of lycopene, potassium and vitamin C. Tomatoes give an excellent taste to soups, stews and sauces. They are also great in salsa and scrambled eggs.

Cherries: A nutritional super food because of the antioxidants and vitamins. Cherries are great as a snack.

Blueberries: Nature’s best super food. Blueberries give the body and brain a great healthy dose of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They are delicious for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or snack time. Blueberries freeze well and are extra delicious in smoothies, baked goods and jams.

Purple Potatoes: These potatoes - also called blue potatoes - provide lots of carotenoids and flavonoids (anti-oxidants) which can help prevent cancer.

Purple Cabbage: This type of cabbage provides fiber, potassium and vitamin C to the body. Purple cabbage is great when shredded and tossed into a salad. Adds great color to a salad and a different taste.

Remember to add more blue and red foods this Christmas and New Year’s for a healthier 2015.



10 Food Safety Tips to Keep Germs Out of Your Holiday Meal
Posted: 12/15/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

We all have our hang-ups when it comes to food. Some of us cringe when we watch someone else consume food that’s been on the floor. Others stop mid-chip when a guest double dips in the guacamole.

Public health and safety organization NSF International surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to learn about Americans’ biggest kitchen pet peeves. Some of the most interesting findings:

Seventy-eight percent of respondents are grossed out when guests double dip. But talk about double standards:

  • 36% admitted to double dipping a utensil to taste food while they were cooking for others.
  • 43% say they have gotten sick or had an upset stomach after eating at a dinner party.
  • 8% have served something that fell on the floor.
  • 66% are most bothered when others use the dish towel for something other than drying dishes.

In order to keep your holiday free of germs, NSF has got you covered with these 10 safety tips:

1. Just say no to cross-contamination. If you’re preparing a meal that incudes meat or fish, make sure you wash your cutting board with hot soapy water between each use. Or use a different cutting board for foods like fruits and vegetables.

2. Keep your sponges and dishcloth out of the sink. Sponges and dishcloths can contain coliform bacteria, a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli, according to an NSF International Germ Study. Allow sponges to dry between uses, or microwave wet sponges for two minutes once per day. Wash dishcloths in a washing machine on the hot cycle with bleach. And replace both often.

3. Wash your hands – A LOT. Use warm soapy water and scrub 20 seconds before and after handling food.

4. Clean kitchen utensils with hot soapy water after each use. NSF’s “Germ Study” found Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold on various appliances, including blender gaskets and can openers, which were not cleaned and dried after being used.

5. Dry kitchen appliances and utensils before storing. Putting away wet appliances and utensils is basically like putting out a welcome mat for germs. Wash with warm soapy water and then thoroughly air dry.

6. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Perishables should never sit out at room temperature for more than two hours - and their temperatures should never reach above 40 degrees. Store cold items in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Use ice trays or bowls to help keep them cool. Use warming dishes or keep hot foods stored in the oven.

7. No double dipping. Your houseguest is not just being a germaphobe. Double dipping - with either your fingers, utensils or chips - can spread germs. This goes for taste-testing your recipes as well. If you go in for a taste, grab a clean utensil to continue cooking.

8. Don’t wash your chicken or turkey. Washing raw poultry can spread bacteria onto your countertops, dishes or other food. All you need to do is cook your bird at the proper temperature. Use a FOOD THERMOMETER to make sure your poultry is thoroughly cooked through.

9. Never cook while sick. This should go without saying, but don’t cough or sneeze onto food.

10. Keep separate towels for drying hands and dishes. To avoid cross-contamination, keep the towel you use to dry your dishes separate from the towel intended for drying hands. By using the same towel, you risk spreading the germs from the hand towel onto your clean dishes.


10 food safety tips to keep germs out of your holiday meal by Jaclyn Bertner Felber, November 29, 2014.
Reposted with permission from

The Challenging Roles of Grandparents
Posted: 12/5/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

Now that the seasonal holidays are upon us, memories of the elders sharing wisdom and preparing foods are what many families reminisce about or look forward to. Awaiting our grandparents' cooked, mouthwatering holiday meals are what most ponder. As with so many of the new, fast paced changes in American life, grandparents' roles have changed significantly. Increasingly more parents are dying or are killed, divorced, drug addicted or incarcerated and other family neglect or abuse problems contribute to children being raised by grandparents or relatives. That precipitates the transfer of grandchildren from parents to grandparents. As more grandparents are assuming the responsibility of being the grandchildren’s new parent, the role changes. Adoption, guardianship and foster parents are statuses given with the role being one of authority and not just one of fun and joy with the basic visitation or weekend stay with grandparents.

The grandparents now assume the role of parents, to nurture, discipline, and guide the child’s future. They give up planned retirement and the typical “grandparent relationship” when the grandchildren have no parents to care for them. This predicament often creates needy and problematic behaviors in many of the grandchildren's lives. Often these grandparents now take on two more lifetime burdens - first, caring for the grandchild and additionally caring for the child who is addicted, incarcerated, or suffering from mental illness or disease. These conditions have long lasting effects on the grandparents which cause stress, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed and unhappiness.

In Louisiana:

Most grandparents in Louisiana lack a number of resources, such as basic support services and programs to assist with the rearing of these children who, unconsciously and unintentionally, pose challenging burdens with enormous emotional and behavioral concerns to grandparents.

Stats on Grandparents:

· 159,522 children live with grandparents or other relatives

· 72,555 children are being solely raised by grandparents

· 51% are black grandparents

· 46% are white grandparents

· 1% are Hispanic grandparents

· 27% of grandparents live in poverty

· 38% have no parent living with grandparents

· 68% of grandparents are under age 60


It's Pumpkin Time Everyone!
Posted: 11/27/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

The pumpkin is no stranger to the spotlight because of stories like Cinderella; Legend of Sleepy Hollow; Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Every year thousands of pumpkins are carved for decorations and made into pies for Thanksgiving dinners.

Pumpkins are great for us because they have no cholesterol and are very low in fat and sodium but rich in vitamins. Due to the bright orange color, pumpkins are loaded with antioxidants, beta-carotene and vitamins. Beta-carotene in pumpkins is known to reduce the risk of certain cancers and contributes to protection against heart disease and some forms of aging.

Pumpkin should be a part of every diet, not only because it is good for our health, but because it tastes good. So, since Halloween is gone and Thanksgiving is approaching, let’s all have some pumpkin - happy pumpkin eating!

Eating roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack is high in fiber and contains a high amount of phosphorus. Try this recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 quart water
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible.

3. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.

4. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter.

5. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan (cover pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup).

6. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

7. Cool the seeds, then eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.


Holiday Turkey Safety
Posted: 11/25/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Turkey image from

The holidays are here and families are busy planning for the seasons’ celebrations, especially to have an enjoyable turkey feast. However, unless safe food practices are applied during its preparation and serving, this joyous occasion might culminate in sickness or even a trip to the emergency room due to foodborne illness .

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness every year; 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of these illnesses. Two of the most commonly reported causes of foodborne illness, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, are mainly found in poultry products like chicken and turkey. So now is the time to practice the four basic rules of keeping food safe: clean, separate, cook and chill to keep the turkey safe for consumption.

Important food safety practices to follow:

Do not thaw turkey at room temperature on the kitchen counter.

Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40-140oF and make it unsafe for consumption. The safest places to thaw are in the refrigerator, cold water and in a microwave oven.

  • The USDA recommends thawing a whole turkey in the refrigerator. Place bird in its original wrapper on a refrigerator shelf with a pan beneath to catch leaking juices. Every 4-5 pounds of turkey requires about 24 hours thawing.
  • Keep the bird in its original packaging and immerse it in cold tap water. Change the water every thirty minutes. It takes about 30 minutes to defrost a pound of turkey.
  • Get more information at turkey tips on defrosting turkey in a microwave oven.

Do not wash the raw turkey.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling raw turkey and its packaging.
  • Use hot soapy water to wash counter tops, sinks and utensils that have come in contact with raw turkey or its juices to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Go an extra mile by disinfecting surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Ensure the surface is thoroughly dry before using.

Cook the turkey to a safe internal minimum temperature of 165oF, measured by a food thermometer. This is the best way to destroy harmful bacteria on and in the turkey.

  • Insert the thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, not touching the bone to read the temperature. Find out more details here on how to use a food thermometer and doneness.
  • Cook the turkey without stuffing for optimum safety. The recommendation for stuffing is to cook it in a casserole dish. If turkey is stuffed, fill cavities loosely and ensure it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165oF.

Learn more at Turkey Basics and Let's talk turkey to ensure a safe and delightful turkey meal.

Happy Holidays!

Let’s Be Safe Rather Than Sorry!
Posted: 11/24/2014 by Davis, Eva A.

Many of us still head to a family member's house during the holiday season, sometimes with a dish or two to contribute to the holiday table. However, is the food packed properly to ensure food safety?

Packing up food for a road trip can be frightening. If you're afraid of getting sick from a food related illness, then take the proper steps to make sure no one gets sick.

Follow the five easy steps for packing food for a road trip:

1. Select the correct equipment to use.

Select a good quality cooler, generally a thick-sided, hard cooler. Have available frozen ice packs. Avoid using loose ice to keep food cool in a cooler. Potential contaminated cooler water can affect other foods. Also, use a cooler that’s the appropriate size for what you need and pack it full. A full, stocked cooler will keep foods cooler than a partially filled one.

2. Wash everything properly before packing up.

Wash interior of cooler with warm soapy water, sanitize and leave lid on cooler open to air dry. Before handling foods, make sure to wash your hands.

3. Pack food and beverages separately.

Always separate meat and poultry from foods that will be eaten raw or beverages. Use a separate cooler. Pack the food in the cooler in reverse-use order. Pack foods first that you are likely to use last. If meat and poultry need to stay cool for a long period of time, they may be packed while still frozen. Pack foods in air tight bags or sealed plastic containers. This helps prevent cross contamination.

4. Monitor the cooler temperature with a thermometer.

Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature stays 40°F or below.

5. Store the cooler inside the car, not in the trunk. Limit opening the cooler.


From Brown Rice to Basmati Rice, a Guide to the Healthiest Types of Rice
Posted: 11/17/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

There are about 40,000 types of rice in the world, but we’ll focus on the most popular.

White rice vs. brown rice – White rice may seem the most common, but it is the least nutritious. This is because it is actually brown rice that has been stripped of its bran content and bleached, thereby eliminating most of its nutrients. In contrast, brown rice is optimal as it contains far greater amounts of fiber, protein, several minerals and vitamins E, B6 and B2.

Wild rice –Though the taste may take some getting used to, another rice to consider is wild rice. It is lower in carbohydrates than other varieties and provides nutrients not found in any other types of rice, such as omega-3fatty acids. It also has an added bonus of being high in folic acid, vitamin A and protein.

Jasmine and basmati rice – Jasmine and basmati rice are known for their aromas, but their nutritional content depends on whether they’ve been processed and to what extent. From a dietary standpoint, all types of white rice are generally comparable to one another, as are brown rice varieties. However, one advantage of brown basmati rice is that it contains about 20% more fiber than other types of brown rice.

Why the focus on fiber?

Fiber from whole grains has a whole slew of benefits for one’s wellness, including – but not limited to – a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, diverticulitis and constipation.

A guide to the healthiest types of rice: From brown rice to basmati rice by Marissa Goldfaden Bleier, January 3, 2013. Reposted with permission from

Making Celebrations Fun, Healthy and Active
Posted: 10/23/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Making parties and events fun while eating healthy and being physically active is doable in today’s society. Focus on enjoying friends and family while eating tasty, healthy foods from all five food groups. Here are 10 tips on how to create a healthy and active party or event:

1. Make healthy habits part of your celebrations. Play fun games like sack races with children to get them active and interested in the celebration.

2. Create festive looking food. Create different shapes from vegetables and add nuts or seeds to the figures to make stick people. Add sprinkles, almonds and semi-sweet chocolate to fruit. Make the fruits and vegetables eye-catching.

3. Thirst quenchers that please. Freeze 100% juice into ice cubes or add slices of fruit to water for a different appearance. Create floats by adding a scoop of low-fat ice cream or sorbet to seltzer water.

4. Savor the flavor. Enjoy the taste of the food by eating slow and chewing food well. Add different seasonings to an old recipe to liven things up for a different taste.

5. Use to include foods from the food groups. Offer whole grain crackers or bread; serve bean dip with a veggie tray; make fruit kabobs with melons and berries; layer yogurt, fruits and oats to make a parfait and create a healthy salad using whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

6. Make moving part of every event. Physical activities such as dancing, volleyball, baseball, football, sack races or games of hide-and-seek keep everyone active and having fun.

7. Try healthier recipes. Cut back on sugar, salt and fat in your favorite recipes.

8. Keep it simple. Have family members and friends participate by contributing healthy dishes, helping with clean up and playing games with the children.

9. Shopping and eating smart. Serve foods that fit your budget and are in-season and taste good. Plan ahead before purchasing foods.

10. Be a cheerleader for healthy habits. Adults can set the best example for children to follow. Children always follow what they see adults do.

Happy celebration!


Energy-boosting Foods to Keep Students Alert and Focused
Posted: 10/20/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Schedules change when families transition from summer to the start of school. For many students in grades kindergarten through 12, that means an increase in activities – earlier mornings, a rigorous academic schedule, then music lessons, cross-country practice or student council meetings followed by homework and an appropriate bedtime.

Getting through all of those activities requires more energy. Certain foods can provide the much needed boost in energy for students going back to school, without the sugars and stimulants of energy drinks or caffeine.

Let’s take a look at those foods, grouped by nutritional compounds, which will help to whip your student back into shape for those crazy schedules.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel and will keep your student energized longer, despite how unpopular they are with some fad diets. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and fortified cereals will provide that fuel. These high-fiber whole grains release glucose into the bloodstream slowly, providing lasting energy. Sugary cereals cause a spike in blood sugar.

Lean proteins – such as skinless chicken, pork and turkey – will provide your young scholar with the energy he or she needs to get through a three-hour swim practice. Lean proteins contain tyrosine, which boosts the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, therefore making students more alert and focused.

Hydration and staying hydrated will help your student from getting tired, both physically and mentally. After all, sluggishness is one of the main symptoms of dehydration. Fruits, vegetables and, of course, water will do the trick.

Fiber helps maintain energy throughout the day, unlike caffeine, which can sometimes cause horrible crashes in energy. Great foods that provide fiber, which people generally don’t get enough of, include beans, whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables. Folate, which is found in those leafy green vegetables, provides energy in the form of a brain boost, and also could lower the risk of depression.

Energy-boosting foods to keep students alert & focused by Laura Van Wert, August 15, 2013
Reposted with permission from

Orleans SNAP-Ed Rocks
Posted: 10/15/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Doing the limbo
Doing the limbo.
Making MyPlate
Making MyPlate.
Childhood obesity is a public health problem in Louisiana. Statistics from the New Orleans Health Department (Community Health Data Profile: Healthy Lifestyles in New Orleans, June 2013) indicate that over one-third of youth are overweight and do not meet physical activity recommendations and less than a quarter report eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Since lifestyle and eating habits are formed in the early years of life, helping young children to develop healthy eating habits and be physically active are important strategies to prevent or reduce childhood obesity.

Under the SNAP-Ed Program in Orleans Parish the Happy Healthy Me curriculum based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate was used to meet this need. Through six interactive sessions using story-telling, nutrition activities (drawing and coloring, games, songs, physical activities), Q & A and a recipe demonstration, young children were able to make the connection between good nutrition, physical activity and a healthy body.

Sixty-four (64) Pre-K youth from three early childhood development centers were impacted in the past two months. Based on the interactive portions of program delivery, youth participants:

·Recognized MyPlate as a guide for healthy eating.

·Were able to sort foods according to MyPlate food groups.

·Were able to describe the health benefits of each food group.

·Learned that eating healthy foods and moving their bodies makes them healthy and strong.

Youth audience enjoyed making and tasting their own MyPlate salad and fruit salad, making and having fun with “veggie tambourines," dancing to MyPlate songs (Alive with five food groups) and doing the “animal moves."

More young children in other head start centers will benefit from SNAP-Ed in upcoming months.

A New Concept for Raising Children - Co-Parenting
Posted: 10/13/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

mother and son

For over five decades American culture continues to emphasize family values integrated and entwined with our typical married couple, the family. The married couple consisted of a father, mother and a child, and was considered to be the nuclear family or traditional American family. American families grew up learning traditional values from viewing television shows such as “Father Knows Best," "The Andy Griffith Show," and “Leave It to Beaver” - all displayed morals, values and behaviors suitable to function in American’s society. These TV shows accurately displayed true examples of the father’s role, the mother’s role and that of their child indicating the perfect lifestyle and behavior of a typical America family.

In the last three decades the family structure deteriorated with changes in morals, traditions and behaviors, with values being eroded and vanishing in the typical styles and techniques used with raising children. Over 60% of marriages are now ending in divorce. Seventy-two percent of African American women are single parents, more than any other ethnic group. Most researchers admit a marriage license does not always guarantee a nurturing or good parent, but both parents' involvement in the child’s life does produce positive outcomes. Co-parenting is the agreeing to partner together and recognizing the importance of giving the child stability, love and nurturing that he or she needs to develop appropriately. There now seems to be more consideration for sociological changes in today’s society, the non-traditional family which resembles the cultural, racial, gender and religious values. These mores are what some term “melting pot” or the many differences that contribute to our multi diverse society. Now more than ever, people are co-habiting before marriage. Cohabiting or living together is very prevalent with many couples who are agreeing and deciding to raise their children. Same sex couples, divorced parents and single individuals with nannies are all choosing to raise a child. Co-parenting and other changes have occurred due to multiple factors such as income, education, employment, etc. The most substantial factors and concerns in raising the child is his or her care, safety and well-being. These structural changes continue to be studied and researched more extensively, but many researchers agree co-parenting partners are just as suitable as a married couple because both parents are sharing the responsibility of raising the child and being actively involved in that child's life. Children of divorced parents and children of never married mothers who do not experience a father or positive male role model in their lives are said to be at risk of poor outcomes.


·Parents should keep the lines of communication open.

·Parents should always provide a united front to people in the child’s life.

·Parents should provide a gift to present for important birthdays and holidays.

·Child feels secure with co-parenting.

·Child benefits from consistency.

·Child better understands problem solving.

Married Cohabit Not Cohabit
18-19 y/o




20-24 y/o




US Census Bureau, Harvard University, Reuters University,

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