Fruit of the month: Cranberries

By Paula Solano

Thanksgiving and fall festivities might look a bit different for most of us this year. When I think about the holidays, I think about food, fellowship, reflecting on the past year, and forward-thinking on years to follow.

Food is in the center of many cultures, in the center celebrations, those of joy and those of mourning. The types of foods we consume during the holidays also look different in many cultures.

Tamales are a Thanksgiving staple in our gatherings, along with our turkey, ham, and desserts. Nevertheless, this year we have the opportunity to make changes for health, wellness, and safety.

I look forward to this year’s holidays as a time to recharge and reflect. Our Thanksgiving celebration will be different as we will continue to practice social distancing, particularly thinking about our older adult loved ones and medically fragile friends. It is also a time of solidarity for those who have unexpectedly lost someone due to COVID-19.

This year, we will opt out of the large gatherings or travel and stay home. Nutrition and physical activity have gained substantial importance in our household and we hope to continue these practices as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal on a much smaller scale.

I’ve invested some time reviewing options to introduce to my picky eaters (my three children). I have had some successes and learned many lessons along the way. Particularly thinking about the cookie recipe I’ve included in this blog, a lesson learned from preparing the recipe is that I might have succeeded in sneaking cranberries had I pureed the cranberries. Needless to say, I considered this recipe a success when two-thirds of my kiddos gave the cookies a thumbs up.

Changing habits and behaviors can bring forth challenges; however, consistency is key. Health and wellness are at the forefront for many, and I personally hope our healthier choices will continue beyond this pandemic. Scaling back will be less complex as we face the possibility of preparing a smaller “feast.” Feeding a family of five will call for a smaller spread yet equally as cherished.

Our spread will likely includes cranberries. They are a seasonal fruit and can be found in the produce section, frozen, in a can, or as 100% juice.  

Nutritional Facts and Health Claims

Did you know cranberries are a good source of antioxidants? One cup of whole cranberries contains 46 calories, calcium, iron, and potassium. Additionally, they’re sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat free. 

Cranberries offer unique health benefits, including potentially reducing the risk of high blood pressure when part of a low-sodium diet. Drinking cranberry juice can reduce the risk of UTIs.

 Shopping & Storage

When shopping for fresh cranberries, select those that are firm to the touch. A single fresh cranberry will bounce if dropped on the floor. Avoid selecting cranberries that are soft or contain spots. Fresh cranberries may be refrigerated for up to two months, then, it is recommended that you freeze them. 

Get the Facts!

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC and clean contact surfaces often. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Use:

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Serving: 2.5 dozen cookies

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

2/3 cup of butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cups of brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 6-once Ocean Spray ®Craisins Original Dried Cranberries 

2/3 cup of white or semi-sweet chocolate chunk cookies

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Beat butter/margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. 

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mix well after each addition. Stir dried cranberries and chocolate chunks. 

Drop round teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Per serving: Cal. 130, Fat 6g (9%DV), Sat. Fat. 3.5g (18%DV), Sod. 90mg (4%DV), Carb. 18g (6% DV), Sugar 11g, Pro. 2g

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD

Prep Time: Approximately 1.5 hours

Servings: 15 portions

Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

Ingredients 

2 cups of flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoon grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

4 tablespoon butter or margarine melted 

1 egg or 2 egg whites (medium)

1 cup of chopped cranberries (I used a can)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 powdered sugar (1/3 cup, optional, for glaze)

1 teaspoon of water (optional for glaze)

Directions

Preheat oven at 350F degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.

Grate orange peel, then squeeze juice from the orange. Add additional juice if needed to make 3/4 cup. 

Blend orange juice, butter, egg, and grated orange peel in a separate bowl. Then add the flour mixture, stirring until blended, and add the cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, greased at the bottom.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Remove and cool completely in a wire rack. 

Optional: To make the glaze, mix powdered sugar and water. Add water slowly to create a thin glaze, then drizzle over the cooled loaf. 

Enjoy!

Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University, certified Community Health Worker, volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community particularly underserved and underrepresented citizens.

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit YourTexasBenefits.com.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Better Living for Texans: New year, available curriculums, & partnering with you

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Every year we like to provide program updates and share new curriculum. Do not worry, next month we will back to regular scheduled fruit and veggie facts.

Greetings from the McLennan County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service! My name is Lindsey, and I am the Extension agent for the Better Living for Texans (BLT) Program. BLT is a nutrition education program for adults and youth who are SNAP participants or SNAP eligible, and in October we kicked off our 26th year of serving Texans.

Programs are free and rooted in research. Evidence-based information empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives. Whether we meet in-person, online, virtually, or through a combination of methods, we are here to serve you. This monthly update will feature our available curriculum. You will see that BLT is for all Texans.

Curriculum Highlights: 

FOCUS: NUTRITION

A Fresh Start to a Healthier You! – Target Audience: Adults

Promotes increasing fruit and vegetable intake, food safety, and food resource management.

A Fresh Start to a Healthier You! – ONLINE – Target Audience: Adults

Promotes increasing fruit and vegetable intake, food safety, and food resource management.

Conducted completely online.

Get the Facts – Target Audience: Adults

Teaches how to read Nutrition Facts Labels and identify portion sizes, sodium, fat, and added sugar found in foods.

Healthier Carbohydrates -Target Audience: Adults

Promotes a healthful eating pattern to prevent or delay diet related chronic diseases

Be Well, Live Well – Target Audience: Older Adults

Promotes nutrition and physical activity specifically targeting older adults

Color Me Healthy – Target Audience: Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Provides fun, innovative, interactive learning opportunities on physical activity and healthy eating.

Balancing Food & Play – Target Audience: 3rd-5th graders

Promotes good nutrition and healthy weight; physical activity; limiting screen time; increase fruit and vegetable intake; drinking milk with meals and water with snacks.

Choose Healthy – Target Audience: Middle Schoolers

Teaches about MyPlate, physical activity (energy balance), making healthy food choices, and choosing healthy drinks.

FOCUS: GARDENING

Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities – Target Audience: Adults

Teaches how to build gardens and grow fresh vegetables.

Learn, Grow, Eat and GO! – Target Audience: 3rd-5th graders

Enhances gardening skills and increased fruit and vegetable intake

FOCUS: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Walk Across Texas! (WAT!) – Target Audience: all ages

Promotes increased physical activity through tracking miles walked

Walk N Talk – Target Audience: all ages

Promotes increased physical activity – WAT! with added nutrition messages in a discussion format. Discussion topics are: 1. Fruits and Vegetables, 2. Rethink Your Drink! (hydration, flavored waters, sugary drinks, etc.)

If you have questions, want to plan and brainstorm, or want to hear more, please reach out to Lindsey at McLennan County’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office:

Phone, 254-757-5180 or email, Lindsey.Breunig@ag.tamu.edu 

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com


Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Fruit of the month: Pumpkins

Happy fall, y’all! I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather as much as I am. 

The fruit I will feature in this blog is often mistaken as a vegetable, an all-time favorite the pumpkin. Pumpkins bring forth a bit of nostalgia, thinking of my late grandmother who would give us sun-toasted pumpkin seeds. I enjoy observing the anticipation and excitement of all things pumpkin spice.

Did you know eighty percent of our United States pumpkin supply is available in October? Let’s not forget our pumpkin patches, fall décor, children’s activities, and oversized sweaters. I look forward to all the new and creative ways individuals and communities will embrace the season while practicing social distancing. 

Select pumpkins that are firm and heavy. Look for those with a one to two-inch stem, those with small stems will decay faster. Avoid those with soft spots or blemishes. Pumpkins may last up to two months when stored in a cool, dark, and dry location.

Canned pumpkin is also an option. Pumpkins can also be purchased canned and are safe to consume past the expiration date so long as the can is free of dents, swelling, or rust. For decorative purposes, keep in mind lopsided pumpkins are not necessarily bad. 

Pumpkins are 90% water. They’re low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free, saturated fat free, sodium free, high in vitamin A, and a great source of vitamin K. 

Get the Facts!

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC, and clean contact surfaces often. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Enjoy the tasty recipes below:

Pumpkin Smoothie in a Cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Serving: 1 cup

Ingredients:

2/3 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt or 1 six ounce container

¼ cup canned pumpkin

2 teaspoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 tea spoon nutmeg (optional)

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl or blender

Mix until smooth

Serve or refrigerate within 2 hours

Enjoy!

Additional suggestions:

Add granola

Excess canned pumpkin can be frozen


Low-Fat Pumpkin Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 Hour

Serving: 20 Slices

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup of whole wheat flour

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of grown cloves

¼ teaspoon of ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

4 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup applesauce

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven 350 degrees

Lightly coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan with cooking spray oil and set aside

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl (dry ingredients) 

Combine eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, brown sugar and sugar in a separate bowl and mix (wet ingredients)

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix

Pour batter onto pan and spread into the corners

Bake for approximately 60 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in the middle

Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes

Remove loaf from pan and slice

Wrap and freeze leftovers for up to one month

Enjoy!

Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University, a certified Community Health Worker, and is volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community, particularly the underserved and underrepresented. 

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com

References:

Food Hero (2020) Recipes. Retrieved from: https://foodhero.org/recipes/pumpkin-smoothie-cup

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (2020) Vegetable Fact Sheet Guide. Retrieved from: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#search/lindsey/FMfcgxwJXLmlTmrsWggKBbBkJgmzwHJC?projector=1&messagePartId=0.5

U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020) Pumpkins. Retrieved from: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/pumpkin

University of Illinois Extension (2020) Pumpkins and More. Retrieved from: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/selection.cfm

Fruit of the month: Apples

By Paula Solano

As we to transition into the 2020-2021 school year, we can appreciate how our school and health systems work collectively to ensure the safety of students and educators. I find apples, a seasonal fruit often associated with both health and education, appropriate for this season.

Extended workdays, possible home schooling, and other responsibilities may often lead to missing a meal or making a fast-food run. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Apples might be the essential fruit to have in a pinch. In fact, apples can be enjoyed during breakfast, lunch, or dinner or as a perfect on-the-go snack. When selecting apples, choose those that are firm, with intact stems, and they should smell fresh. 

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC, clean contact surfaces, and thoroughly rise apples to remove any dirt before you pack, enjoy, or use while preparing a meal. Refrigerate apples in a plastic bag, away from other fruits and raw meats for up to three weeks.

Not only are apples yummy, they are saturated fat free, low in fat cholesterol, and sodium free. Apples are rich in fiber and phytochemicals (compounds produced by plants). 

Enjoy these tasty apple recipes!

Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins (Kid Friendly)

Serving: 24

Nutritional Information: Calories: 217, protein: 3g, fat: 10g, carbohydrates: 29g, fiber: .6g, sodium: 230mg, cholesterol: 44mg

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine

1 cup grated Braeburn or Golden Delicious apple

1 container (8-ounce) low fat vanilla yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Grease 24 3-inch muffin pan cups or line with paper liners. In large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt, orange zest, and nutmeg. With pastry blender or fork, cut in 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter until mixture is crumbly.

2. In medium bowl combine apple, yogurt, and eggs; add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until centers spring back when gently pressed.

3. Cool muffins in pan 5 minutes; remove from pan and cool until able to handle. Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter. In small bowl, combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. To serve. brush tops of muffins with butter and roll top in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

4. Enjoy!

Golden Apple Oatmeal 

Servings: 1

Nutritional Information: Calories: 122, protein: 4g, fat: 2g, carbohydrates: 27g, fiber: 3g, sodium: 331mg, cholesterol: 0mg

Ingredients

1/2 cup diced Golden Delicious apple 

1/3 cup apple juice

1/3 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/3 cup quick cooking oats (of your choosing)

Instructions:

1. In small pot, combine apple, apple juice, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt (if desired); heat to boiling. Stir in oats and cook 1 minute. Cover and let stand two minutes before serving.

2. Enjoy!

Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University and certified Community Health Worker who is volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community, particularly underserved and underrepresented residents. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Fruit of the month: Blueberries

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

As we move into July, we are continuing to highlight a seasonal fruit or vegetable. While many of our traditional summer plans and activities look drastically different, we can count on the heat to still be here. With the rising temperatures, it is important to stay hydrated. Of course, increased water intake will be our first recommendation, but we cannot forget that fruits and vegetables provide us with water, too.

If we asked a child what color water is, they may and hopefully respond with blue – which leads us perfectly into the fruit of the month — blueberries. These BLUE fruits not only provide us with nutrients but also with WATER that our body needs. Blueberries are such a fun fruit; they add a beautiful blue color to your favorite dish like in this Berry Cherry Tart. They also make a fun addition as “eyes” if you’re making a silly face on Animal Toast! 

Shopping: 

When shopping for blueberries, you traditionally will find them in the prepackaged containers. Before placing one in your cart, examine the entire package and look for blueberries that are firm, plump, and a royal blue color with a silvery frost. Berries should be relatively the same size and free of stems and leaves. Avoid packages that contain moldy berries or stains on the containers, which indicate crushed or bruised fruit. 

Storage: 

Keep unwashed blueberries refrigerated in a container with a lid for up to one week. When blueberries are in season you may find them on sale, and if you find yourself with an abundance of berries, freezing blueberries will help preserve the nutrients and fruit so you and your family can enjoy and save money. Freezing fruit is also a great way to reduce food waste.

For more tips on how to freeze blueberries, watch this video. To freeze, place rinsed blueberries on a paper towel-lined baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for one hour. Place in a container with a lid and freeze for up to nine months. 

Use: 

Rinse blueberries thoroughly only before preparing. As mentioned earlier you may notice a silvery frost on blueberries, this is a natural preservative that helps to keep the berries fresh. Washing the berries will remove this protective barrier, and the berries will go bad much more quickly. Discard any shriveled or moldy berries. Blueberries can be enjoyed raw or cooked. When baking with frozen berries, do not thaw before using or the juice and color will bleed or leak out. Gently add berries to batter as the last step before baking. Fresh berries will not bleed unless their skin is torn or broken.

Nutrition: 

Per USDA dietary guidelines it is recommended we consume 1-2 cups of fruit daily. Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. It all counts! In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group.

Blueberries are a great source of Vitamin C, which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Additionally, blueberries are a great source of Vitamin E, which aids in healthy skin and eyes. Lastly, blueberries are high in fiber which will keep us full! 

Enjoy:

Blueberries make a delicious nutritional snack that you can enjoy anytime of the day. Check these additional recipes below:

Trying to find the best deal? Always compare the unit price to see the best deal. See the example below, what would you choose? 

Fresh Texas Blueberries, 1 PintCost:  $3.07 ($0.28/oz)No Sugar Added Blueberries – FROZEN, 16 ounces Cost:  $3.07 ($0.20/oz)Vegetable & Fruit Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Juice – 46 ouncesRegular: $3.07 (about $0.07/oz)No Sugar Added Blueberries – FROZEN, 5 pounds Cost: $14.91 ($0.19/oz)

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB.


Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.