Vegetable of the month: Lettuce

By Paula Solano

Cheers to the New Year! A new year, a new beginning. As we return to our routines, a little planning will not only save time and money, it can help you set and maintain a new routine.  

Our environment and communities have a great influence on our beliefs and behaviors. As we begin to plan for the return of in-person learning, I’m reminded of a person who had a significant impact on the nutrition choices I was making as a parent. A brief conversation transformed my thoughts on packing school lunch. Now, packing lunch or even drinks and a snack are essential in our household. 

The seasonal vegetable for this month’s “Better Living for Texans” blog is lettuce. Lettuce is in season in the spring and fall and has an ethnic presence in Asian, Southeast Asian (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), African, Latino, and Mediterranean cuisines.

Did you know May is National Salad Month? Share your photos on social media platforms using #RomaineLettuce! @fruitsandveggies. I’ve selected lettuce as the vegetable of the month as it represents a nutrition staple and can be paired with endless accompanying fruits, vegetables or serve as a side dish for a meal. 

Nutritional Facts and Health Claims

While many factors impact one’s health, let’s learn nutritional claims about lettuce. The nutritional value of lettuce varies, generally, lettuce is low fat, saturated fat-free, cholesterol free, sodium free, high in vitamin A, low calorie, and a good source of folate (folic acid). 

According to the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Institute, foods rich in vitamin A and C (antioxidants) protect against some forms of cancer. 

Hypertension & Sodium: A diet low in sodium may reduce the risk of high 

blood pressure, a disease associated with various factors. Lettuce contains very low sodium.

Coronary and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease & Dietary Saturated Fat: While many factors impact heart disease, a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of the disease. Lettuce contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. 

Cancer & Fiber – Containing Grain Products, Fruits, and Vegetables: Lettuce is high in vitamin A. A low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. The disease is associated with various factors. 

Shopping & Storage: 

Lettuce is a cool weather crop. When shopping for lettuce, 

select those closely bunched, with a fresh appearance. 

Avoid those with brown or wilting edges.

Avoid storing lettuce with apples, pears, or bananas.

Wrap fresh, unwashed lettuce in plastic wrap and store for a few 

days. Cooler temperature will maintain lettuce fresh longer. 

Discard lettuce that appears to have brown spots or has a slimy 

appearance. 

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:

Avocado Garden Salad 

Source: Eat Fresh

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serving: 6 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of mixed salad greens 
  • 3 tomatoes (medium) chopped
  • 5 green onions chopped
  • 1 cucumber small, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper (ground)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado (large) peeled

Directions

  • In a large serving bowl, mix salad greens, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers
  • In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and salt. Stir with a fork or whisk. Pour over the salad mixture and toss together.
  • Cut the avocado half lengthwise, remove the pit, and peel avocado halves. Slice into thin wedges.
  • Arrange avocado slices on top of the salad and serve.

Nutrition Information and More

Serving size: 1½ cup

Total calories 78, total fat 5g, saturated fat 1g, carbohydrates 9g, protein 2g, fiber 4g, and sodium 222 mg

Recipe: https://eatfresh.org/recipe/salads/avocado-garden-salad#.X_UHl9hKiUk 

Tasty Taco Rice Salad

Source: Arizona Health Zone

Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 ½ cup of instant brown rice, cooked
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 3 cups of tomatoes chopped
  • 1 seeded jalapeño finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach or romaine lettuce
  • 1 ½ cup of low-fat cheese, shredded

Directions

  • Washing hands with soap and warm water.
  • Wash onion, tomatoes, jalapeño, and spinach or romaine lettuce before preparing.
  • Cook ground meat in a large skillet until brown (160℉). Drain off fat. Rinse meat with warm water to remove the grease.*
  • Add rice, water onion, and chili powder to meat in skillet. 
  • Cover. Simmer over low heat about 15 minutes to cook rice.
  • Add tomatoes and jalapeño. Heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Layer spinach or romaine lettuce, rice mixture and cheese on a plate. 
  • Serve. 

*Do not pour grease down the drain. Allow grease to harden, then place in the trash. 

Recipe: https://www.azhealthzone.org/recipes/tasty-taco-rice-salad 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Serving size 1 ½ cups

Calories 191, carbohydrate 19g, protein 18.8g, total fat 4.5g, saturated fat 2g, trans fat 0g, cholesterol 35 mg, fiber 2g, total sugars 3g, sodium, 260mg, calcium 110mg, folate 30 mcg, iron, 1.75 mg, calories from fat 22%.

Share your favorite recipe with us!

Enjoy!

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

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

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. To learn more about SNAP or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com 

References:

Arizona Health Zone (2021) Tasty Taco Rice Salad. Retrieved from: https://www.azhealthzone.org/recipes/tasty-taco-rice-salad 

Eat Fresh (2021) Avocado Garden Salad. Retrieved from: https://eatfresh.org/recipe/salads/avocado-garden-salad#.X_UHl9hKiUk 

Fruits and Veggies (2021) Leaf Lettuce. Retrieved from: https://fruitsandveggies.org/fruits-and-veggies/leaf-lettuce/ 

University of Illinois Extension (2021) Watch Your Garden Grow. Retrieved from: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/lettuce.cfm  

Vegetable of the month: Sweet potato


By Paula Solano

As the year 2020 comes to an end, many of us begin to think about New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are often associated with nutrition, physical activity, spending more or less time doing something. Changing habits or behaviors can be challenging, but not impossible.

What are some of your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share! Honestly, I cannot recall the last time I made a New Year’s resolution. Most of my resolutions become lifestyle changes, changes I adopt throughout the year.

One of my resolutions or lifestyle changes was self-care. Through this change, I make time to decompress, rest, and reflect. Then, I proceed with all my responsibilities, many of which revolve around my home, work, and school.

As I reflect on the past year and all the pieces that encompass my daily life, something that has changed in my household is preparing meals as a family and having meals at home. I’ve learned that a little effort and planning will save unnecessary trips to the grocery store, or we just have to get creative.

Similarly, I’ve observed how my daughters look forward to helping, and I hope their enthusiasm will continue. Our plan for the holiday festivities — keep it small, keeping those who have lost a loved one, their employment, or are struggling near and dear in our prayers.

During my time with the Family and Community Health unit of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in McLennan County, I’ve gained increased understanding related to various programs offered by FCH and have applied much into my daily life — nutrition education, food safety, and selecting and storage of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve learned that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or expensive.

The seasonal vegetable for this month’s Better Living for Texans blog post is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes have a presence in Asian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Latino, Mediterranean, Pacific Island, and Southern foods. Add a twist to your meals with a yummy sweet potato, enjoy them grilled, in a salad, as a snack, or mashed.

Nutritional Facts and Health Claims
While many factors impact one’s health, let’s take a look at sweet potato health benefits. Did you know sweet potatoes are low in sodium, cholesterol free, fat free, saturated fat free, and a good source of fiber? Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamins A and C.

Hypertension & Sodium: Since sweet potatoes are low in sodium, they can reduce the risk of high blood pressure when part of a low-sodium diet.

Coronary Heart Disease & Dietary Saturated Fat: A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat can reduce the risk of coronary disease.

Cancer & Fiber Containing Grain Products, Fruits, and Vegetables: A low-fat diet containing fiber in grain products, fruits, and vegetables may reduce risk of some types of cancer.

High Blood Pressure/Stroke & Potassium: A diet containing a good source of
potassium could reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Shopping & Storage: 
When shopping for fresh sweet potatoes, select those that are firm,
with smooth skin. Avoid those that have cracks, soft spots, or blemishes.
Sweet potatoes are also conveniently available frozen and in a can.
Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark space for use within 3-5 weeks.

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.

Lentil Minestrone (source: MyPlate Recipe)

Cook Time: 80 minutes

Serving: 6 

Lentil Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 3 carrots (scrubbed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 celery stalk (diced into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 sweet potato (scrubbed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 zucchini (diced into 1/4-inch pieces or 1 cup of frozen zucchini)
  • 2 cups canned low-sodium, diced tomatoes (including liquid or fresh tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup lentils (brown or red)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cube low-sodium chicken bouillon
  • 4 cups kale (washed and chopped into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces)

Directions

  • Put a soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the oil. Add onion and garlic and cook about 7 minutes until golden.
  • Add carrots, celery, sweet potato, and zucchini and cook about 10 minutes until slightly tender.
  • Add tomatoes, lentils, water, and chicken bouillon cube and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook 40 minutes.
  • Add the kale and cook an additional 20 minutes. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

Mock Southern Sweet Potato Pie (source: Choose MyPlate)

Prep Time: Approximately 1.5 hours

Servings: 16 portions

Bake Time: 60 minutes

Mock Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients 

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour (all purpose)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk, non-fat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup sugar (white)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 egg (large, beaten)
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk, non-fat (canned)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked, skin removed and mashed

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust:

  • Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl.
  • Add milk and oil to the flour mixture.
  • Stir with fork until well mixed and then form pastry into a smooth ball with your hands.
  • Roll the ball between two 12-inch squares of waxed paper using short, brisk, strokes until pastry reaches edge of paper.
  • Peel off top paper and invert crust into pie plate.

Filling:

  • Combine sugars, salt, spices and eggs.
  • Add milk and vanilla. Stir.
  • Add sweet potatoes and mix well.
  • Pour mixture into pie shell.
  • Bake for 60 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  • Cool and cut into 16 slices.
  • Source:

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Heart Healthy Home Cooking African American Style, p.24-25

Share your favorite sweet potato recipes with us.

Enjoy!

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

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.

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:

Fruits & Veggies (2020) Sweet Potato. Retrieved from: https://fruitsandveggies.org/fruits-and-veggies/sweet-potato/ 

Fruits and Veggies (2020) Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes. Retrieved from: https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/top-10-ways-to-enjoy-sweet-potatoes/ 

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.

Summer months call for summer squash

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Recently I have been thinking about the “Wild West” — a time when there was a lot of discovery and a lot of unknown. I must say, it somewhat feels like we are in a modern-day Wild West. I can only imagine how difficult it was to stay hydrated. Someone probably shared a water canteen and planned travels according to where the next water source would be.

Today we do the same when we camp, go hiking or walking, or are outside for an extended time. To avoid dehydration, we must actively think about drinking more water, and even more so in these hot summer months.

Thankfully, we do not have to solely rely on water; fruits and vegetables also provide us with water. This month we are highlighting a vegetable which consist of 95% water, making it a great source for extra hydration and is even named for its season. Introducing summer squash! 

Nutrition: 

Per USDA dietary guidelines it is recommended we consume 3 Cups of vegetables daily. Vegetables may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. It all counts!

Summer squash is a great source of vitamin C, which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Additionally, summer squash is fat free, saturated-fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, and low in calories (around 20 calories in 1 cup). It is not recommended to peel summer squash because most all the vitamins and minerals are found in the skin. 

Shopping, Storage, and Preparation: 

There are two types of squash: summer and winter. Today we are focusing on summer squash. There are many varieties of squash, some names you will see are: patty pan, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, chayotes, and zucchini. For all squash varieties, choose firm, glossy, small to medium-sized squash. Avoid squash that is soft, moldy, or sunken in spots. Though usable, larger squash tend to be less flavorful and tougher. 

Right before using, wash squash by rubbing the skin under cool running water. Refrigerate summer squash for up to one week or freeze and use within three months. If freezing, cut it into pieces and blanch (placing vegetables in boiling water for a short time and then placing in freezing water.). For more instructions, read here

Enjoy: 

Due to its mild flavor summer squash can be prepared multiple ways. It is important, however, to remember that seasonings or other ingredients added to squash will change the nutritional value. Below are some ways to enjoy it: 

Roast — Cut squash in slices and drizzle with olive oil and low‐sodium seasoning before placing on a baking sheet. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender. 

Grate — Add raw, grated squash to green salads, muffins, or cookies. Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons in place of pasta noodles. 

Grill — Pair squash with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, or fruit. 

Raw — Enjoy in salads or dipped in hummus or a low-fat dip. 

Sauté — Heat pan to high, add oil to coat the pan and add sliced squash. Sauté until lightly brown, about 3‐5 minutes, or tender. Use as side dish or add to dishes like stir fry or pasta. 

Check out these other tasty recipes too: Italian Spinach and Zucchini Meatballs or Baked Zucchini Sticks

See below different ways to cut and prepare zucchini –  thank you to Montana State University Extension for the graphic: 

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.

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: 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.

Lessons from a pineapple: Warmth & friendship (AND tasty!)

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

In this time of increased stress and uncertainty I found it fitting to highlight a fruit that not only tastes great but also symbolizes the qualities of hospitality, which include being welcoming and friendly! You may see this fruit incorporated into home décor, in fact, I had a family member that decorated an entire house with this fruit. It is tasty, sweet, and symbolizes a great reminder for all, and the fruit we are talking about is pineapple!  

On the outside a pineapple looks like a giant spiky pine cone, however, once you cut into the inside it is bright yellow, juicy, and sweet-smelling. Tips for selecting the best pineapple include: 

  • Look for fresh looking and green leaves. Brown or wilted leaves indicate an old fruit.
  • The fruit should feel heavy/dense for its size indicating it is full of juice!
  • Choose a pineapple that smells sweet on the end.
  • Avoid selecting a pineapple with soft or dark spots on the outside or an off smell.

Pineapple can be left at room temperature for 2-4 days before serving. Be mindful to make sure it does not spoil, as it will become softer and juicier the longer it stays out. 

Once cut the pineapple should be good in the refrigerator 5-7 days. If its pine cone-like features make it intimidating to cut, check out this quick video from Dinner Tonight for an easy, stress-free way to cut up a pineapple. 

Per USDA dietary guidelines, it is recommended we consume 1 to 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. 

Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Fortunately, pineapple is tasty in many of the forms listed above. Precut fruit can be convenient and a great snack option but often have a higher price tag.

Pineapple is a delicious, nutritional snack you can enjoy anytime of day. Enjoy it plain, added to salsa, grilled, baked, added to stir fry, and rice. Check out these recipes below!

Enjoy!

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, AgriLife 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

Also, I want to take a moment to remind you of our Better Living for Texan’s Vision and Mission. BLT’s Vision is “creating opportunities, changing lives,” and our mission is “to provide research and evidence-based nutrition, health and wellness knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives.” 

When we come together to discuss food and to discuss wellness we strive to make our presence be one of hope, love, and resolve to truly succeed in BLT’s Vision of creating opportunities, changing lives. This is for all Texans, and it is our privilege and responsibility to contribute and to support each other, no matter our race, our religion, or our background.


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.

Resourceful Food and Cooking Tips for You During COVID-19

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas and around the world, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has suspended all face-to-face events through at least May 20th. We cannot meet face-to-face for programs, but remain committed to providing research-backed information to help individuals navigate the challenges this virus brings. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB. Rather than highlighting a specific fruit or vegetable, this month our Better Living for Texans post will focus on ways to save money and reduce grocery store trips.  

Many of us, myself included, are continuing to try and minimize our trips outside the home. Reducing trips to the store is actually a great tactic to save money! Fewer trips reduce our chances of buying products we do not need. How often do we go for one item but walk out with four or five items instead? This can throw off our food budget and increase our chances of opting for items that may not be nutritionally better. To avoid extra trips to the store, start by making a list and create a food budget to help you stick to buying only the items you need.

However, what do we do when we realize we are missing an ingredient? If anyone is like me, sometimes I get the “kitchen freeze” and do not have a back up plan when an ingredient is missing. To help in preventing the “kitchen freeze” below is an ingredient substitution list for when we find ourselves missing an ingredient. Knowing these ingredient substitutions will eliminate the need for extra grocery store trips AND help us save money by eliminating extra purchases.  

A second tip that not only saves money but also time is how you organize your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Maintaining organization in those areas will also make menu planning easier as you can see all the items available to you.  Shop your pantry first before heading to the grocery store! Some tips for organizing these areas are:

  • Place similar items together – This will help in creating substitutions for a recipe. For example: a recipe calls for noodles and you are out, you may have rice that can be substituted in for a similar flavor. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to group items by the major food groups. This goes for in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. (There may be some exceptions because of food safety, if you have questions about a specific item check https://www.foodsafety.gov/) Some other groups are:
    • Cans together (group canned beans, meats, and veggies together)
    • Spices/seasonings & herbs
    • Baking/grains together (flour, rice, lentils, pasta, etc.)
    • Premade items (sauces, soups, salsas, etc.)

  • Use the first in/first out method – If you purchase an item you already had, place it behind the item in your pantry. This helps you use items that are closer to their expiration date, sooner.

We hope you are staying healthy and safe during this historic time. You may have extra time at home, or you may be working extra to keep our community safe and running. No matter who you are, creating recipes that produce leftovers is yet another way to save time and money. Making recipes that are also great leftovers is handy and reduces the time spent in the kitchen too. Therefore, please enjoy some cook once and eat twice recipes!



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, TX 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.