Tag Archives: tomatoes

Corn Month

Corn Month

It’s Corn Month, so make the most of the veggie with these healthy corn recipes.

First up is a simple and refreshing side that’s especially good with Mexican food, Fresh Cilantro Corn Salad.

Fresh Cilantro Corn Salad

 

This veggie-packed Southwest Chicken Skillet is the perfect, easy weeknight meal for the family.

Southwest Chicken Skillet
Image and Recipe via Barefeet in the Kitchen

 

This light Zucchini Corn Salad is the perfect fall replacement for heavy potluck sides.

Zucchini Corn Salad

 

Fish has never been easier with these refreshing Honey Lime Tilapia and Corn Foil Packs.

Honey Lime Tilapia and Corn Foil Packs
Image and Recipe via Delish

 

Substitute this delicious Basil Pesto & Roasted Corn Rice for your standard rice pilaf.

Basil Pesto & Roasted Corn Rice

 

Make the most of sweet corn with this tasty Fresh Sweet Corn Salad.

Fresh Sweet Corn Salad
Image and Recipe via Eating Well

 

Get your last taste of summer in with these Chicken, Tomatoes, and Corn Foil Packs.

Chicken, Tomatoes, and Corn Foil Packs
Image and Recipe via Delish

Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

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Safe, Fresh Food Storage

Keeping Things Fresh

Storing your fresh food correctly is important. It protects you from contamination that can make you sick, and it helps you get the most out of your groceries. If you store your fruits and veggies in the wrong way, they can go bad more quickly, before you have the chance to use them. These tips can help.

Tip #1

Keep them cold. Most importantly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, 40°F or below, and the freezer should be 0°F or below.

Foods that need refrigerated should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home. Never allow food that should be refrigerated, including leftovers and takeout, to sit out for more than 2 hours.

As soon as you get home from the store, freeze any meats that you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 days.

Tip #2

Some things always need to be refrigerated. All produce that is pre-cut or peeled needs stored in the fridge.

Eggs, meat, chicken, and seafood need to be refrigerated.

Tip #3

Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be refrigerated. Tomatoes get mushy and lose their flavor; bananas will turn black, and the starch in potatoes turns to sugar when kept in the fridge.

And while potatoes and onions do best in a cool, dry place, don’t keep them under the sink where leaking sinks can ruin them. And never store any food near cleaners because they can poison you.

Tip #4

Some fruits should be ripened on the counter and then refrigerated. Avocados, kiwis, and fruits with a pit, like peaches and plums, take a few days on the counter to ripen and then can be kept in the fridge.

Tip #5

The containers some produce comes in are good ways to store them. When you bring home berries, make sure you go through them and remove all spoiled ones so they don’t spread mold to the other berries. Their containers also allow for air to get to them.

Things like grapes and onions also come in bags that let air get to them.

Salad mixes also often come in good storage containers. It can be a good idea to put a paper towel between the lid and greens to prevent condensation.

Always make sure your meat is wrapped well, both for the best quality and to protect other food.

Tip #6

Some things shouldn’t be stored together. Never store anything you eat raw, like fruits and veggies, near anything that must be cooked to be safe to eat, like raw meat, chicken, or seafood.

And even though potatoes and onions both do well in cool, dry environments, you shouldn’t store them right next to each other. That goes for most foods and onions because other foods can take on the onion flavor. (But make sure to store green onions in your fridge in the crisper drawer.)

If you buy root vegetables with their tops still on, like radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots, cut the greens off and store them separately. Never used the tops before? Don’t worry, we can help!

Tip #7

Use water to keep some things fresh for longer. Asparagus and fresh herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, stay fresh for longer when you store them with the ends in a jar or cup of water.

Still not sure how to handle a certain food? This handy guide can help:

How to Store Your Groceries
Image via Buzzfeed

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

And make sure you keep your food bacteria-free by washing your produce and practicing safe food prep.

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Cleaning Produce at Home

Cleaning Before Eating

Cleaning produce carefully before eating it is important for lots of reasons. Some people blame all foodborne illnesses on meat, but in recent years, fruits and veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce, have played a role in many illnesses.

Your fresh fruits and veggies can get contaminated by animals or harmful substances in the soil or water during farming. And after farming, they pass through many people’s hands, raising that risk even more.

Easy Steps for Cleaning Produce

  1. Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water.
  2. Always wash and cut off bruised or damaged parts of fruits and veggies before eating or preparing them.
  3.  Always wash fruits and veggies before you peel them, so dirt and bacteria don’t go from your hands or knife onto the parts of the fruits or veggies you eat.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, like melons, squash, and cucumber.
  5. Gently rub fruits and veggies under cold, running water. You don’t need to use soap or cleaners.
  6. Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towels to help get rid of any other bacteria.

Tips for Cleaning Produce

Fruits with Stems

Fruits like apples and pears can hold bacteria around the stem, so it’s always a good idea to wash them off right before eating them. And it never hurts to cut off the core’s outer ends before eating.

Fruits with Rinds

Even though you don’t eat the peel of things like oranges and grapefruits, make sure you rinse them well before peeling them. You can always scrub bumpy foods, like avocados, to kill bacteria. If you’re going to use zest in a recipe, cleaning these kinds of fruits is really important.

Berries

Rinse berries gently. Using a colander can make it easier to drain them of extra water.

Lettuce and Cabbage

Throw out the outer leaves of all heads of leafy greens.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These have lots of spaces for bacteria to hide. Soak these for a few minutes if rinsing them can’t get every spot.

Celery

Things that come in a bunch, like celery, should be pulled apart before washing, so you can get each piece clean.

Root Veggies

Veggies like potatoes and carrots need scrubbed well to get all of the dirt and bacteria off, even if you’re going to peel them after.

Mushrooms

Some mushrooms can absorb water, so it’s important to not let them soak. Rinse them gently or wipe them off thoroughly with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Organic Produce

Still needs washed! And while farmers markets are a great place to get local, healthy produce, you should still wash it all carefully!

Up Next:

Your fruits and veggies can also get contaminated after you’ve bought them. Learn more about storing your food to prevent this. And make sure your food prep is safe.

Zucchini from the Garden

Long View: You Don’t Have to Be an Expert Gardener for Homegrown Taste

A few years ago, I moved into a house that could support a backyard vegetable garden. I decided to give it a shot. After all, I had watched many how-to shows on PBS for resource material, and all four of my grandparents were farmers. I cleared out a sizable space and then went to buy the plants.

Most of you know that eight zucchini plants are more than enough for a small town, not to mention a backyard plot. I over-bought cherry tomato plants, too. They got away from me early in the game.

The bugs were another challenge. I guess I never noticed them before, but they sure noticed my tender, young plants and considered them a fresh buffet planted just for them. I voiced my frustration to my neighbor, and she said, “Why don’t you just go to Urbana’s Market at the Square? It’s right next to your Health Alliance home office. How could you not know about it?”

Urbana’s farmers market began in 1979 and has grown considerably since its inception. Thousands of visitors attend it every Saturday morning from early May until early November. Fresh produce is just one of the attractions. Per its website, it also features a variety of other products—from “meat and dairy products, prepared foods, plants, and flowers to jewelry, pottery, wood workings, candles, body care products, garden décor, clothing, and more!” Whew.

I especially like being able to talk to the producers face to face. Almost all of them are quick with a story or a smile, and they remember their regulars. One producer puts back a box of new potatoes if I get to the market a little later than usual. She doesn’t make a big deal about it, and neither do I.

There are always some nice opportunities for socializing. I see lots of people I know, and my visit always takes longer than I expected. Folks just seem to be in a good mood, so why not enjoy it?

You may have a similar resource in your community. You can search on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. People new to our community and many mature family members make good shopping companions. I think I have found a great way to support our local economy and purchase products that were grown or created in our area. The produce is spectacular. Funny thing though, in all these years, I can’t remember buying a single zucchini.

Drive Thru Choices

Smart Eating in the Drive Thru

Fast food can be easy, quick, and affordable. And there’s going to be times, like running around after school and work, but before your kid’s big game, that you just don’t have time to go home and cook. But, you should be careful to eat smart when you’re running through the drive thru.

From 2007 to 2010, American adults got 11.3% of their total daily calories from fast food. And when many fast food meals pack a high-calorie punch, it’s important to make the smartest choices possible.

Tips for the Drive Thru

Don’t add salt.

Fast food places are already adding plenty of salt to their food, so don’t add extra from the shaker to your fries.

Pick smart toppings.

Ketchup can have quite a bit of sugar, but sauces like honey mustard and BBQ have even more, and mayo is high in fat. Mustard is the perfect low-fat condiment. And pick veggies like onion, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce instead of cheese or bacon.

Pay attention to names and menu descriptions.

Things that are labeled deep-fried, panfried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, Alfredo, or in cream sauce are going to be high in calories, fat, and salt.

Don’t assume it’s healthy because it sounds like a health food.

Some fast food salads, like those with crispy chicken, lots of cheese, and heavy dressings, like ranch, can have more than a 1,000 calories! Some burgers have as few as 250 calories. Pay attention to what’s on each item.

Skip the soda.

Drink water, tea, or even coffee instead. Even diet soda is not helping your health.

Look at ALL of the menu.

Some places serve breakfast all day that can have healthier options. Kids’ menus can give you smaller, lower calorie portions. And you can always ask to remove or substitute certain ingredients.

Use technology.

More and more menus are listing calories, but it can be hard to read that in the drive thru while you’re also trying to choose and order. But technology makes it easy to check calorie-counts and nutrition info online. Some places, like Starbucks, even have nutrition info on their app. Take a minute before you go or while you’re waiting in a long line to check what your healthiest options are.

Stop your cravings.

If you’re hitting up the drive thru because of a craving, not because you’re short on time, learn how to make healthier, cheaper, and delicious versions of your favorite takeout at home. Our Pinterest can help you learn how.

Fitness Magazine also has some great recommendations for what you should order at some of your favorite fast food stops.