Better Living for Texans: Turkey Day is Near!

(As I’m sure most of you probably know, one of our Prosper Waco community goals is McLennan County residents will live healthier lifestyles and access the best available care. With that in mind Act Locally Waco is teaming up with Better Living for Texans to bring you a monthly blog post full of tips for healthy living. For more of the posts in this series, click here: Better Living for Texans. – ALW)

by Lindsey Breunig

November may have just begun but the Thanksgiving holiday will be here sooner than we think! From the food, to the guests, to travels, or planning around a football game, Thanksgiving can be simple or a day of hustle. There will always be the unexpected, but creating a plan for your Thanksgiving will help ease stress, keep the family healthy and safe, and better yet make your Turkey Day restful. Below I will talk about some tips and share recipes all in the spirit of Thanksgiving. So, let’s start planning!

Turkey 101:

There are many new and alternative ways to cook the turkey. Some will stick to the traditional oven baked while others are ready to explore new options. Whatever you choose it’s important to know which methods are safe and which are not. Remember that no matter the method – the minimum internal temperature for a whole, cooked turkey is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Always, always, ALWAYS check for doneness with a thermometer. A beautifully browned turkey can still be frozen solid inside. Doing a temperature check is preferable to worrying about getting guests sick.

When taking the temperature, insert the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat, or gristle. If your turkey comes with a pop-up thermometer, it is still recommended to check with a conventional food thermometer as an added precaution to gauge both safety and doneness.

It is also important that you carefully read the instructions for the cooking method and that you wash your hands, utensils, and counters that may have been contacted by raw turkey. You do not need to wash the turkey. Let’s look at a few safe and unsafe methods:

Safe, alternative methods include:

  • The Oven cooking bag method involves preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and should produce a moist-heat cooking environment for the turkey (use fresh or thawed turkey for this method).
  • The Fried method is usually done with smaller turkeys (8-10 pounds) and peanut oil.
  • The Grilled method is also used with smaller, unstuffed turkeys, weighing 8 to 14 pounds. The oven should be set between 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to grill a turkey.

 Unsafe, alternative methods include:

  • The Brown Paper Bag Method involves placing the turkey in a large brown paper bag and cooking. Chemicals in the bag may seep into the food, making it unsafe.
  • The Slow-cooking overnight method puts you and your dinner guests at risk of food poisoning due to the low cooking temperature used.
  • The Trash Bag method involves placing the turkey in a trash bag and marinating it for several hours at room temperature, which could result in bacteria buildup.

 Sides – Ingredient stock up and recipe collecting:

Are you planning to use that favorite recipe you already have memorized? Or do you like to change up the menu? Maybe a little of both? Start collecting recipes now rather than the week of Thanksgiving. By collecting new recipes, you may find a new family favorite, introduce new flavors, or learn new ways to alter meals in a healthier manner.

Once the menu is set, it is time to hit the grocery store. While you are out now start purchasing ingredients you know you need. Take note of sales and purchase the must-have-items before going out of stock. Canned ingredients, frozen items, spices, or boxed items will last, and even the turkey can be stored in the freezer. Stock up today and reduce your risk of special ingredients being sold out or having to pay full price!

Recipe prep can sometimes take longer than the recipe implies so go ahead and prep side dishes and desserts the day before. Chop veggies or prep ingredients to avoid a cluttered counter space the day of. Veggies like onions, carrots, peppers, celery, and garlic can be stored in containers or plastic bags in the fridge to use as needed on Thanksgiving Day.

Food Safety Reminder: When re-warming up dishes, use a food thermometer to keep the family safe. Anything being reheated should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fitness:

It is well understood the calorie intake on Thanksgiving increases. (I am equally guilty!) Thanksgiving focuses on food and tradition, so why not create active traditions of your own! Participate in your local turkey trot or create your own with family and friends. Plan your route alongside your favorite designations (maybe downtown, along the river, or at Cameron Park?) and walk, run, or jog before the day even starts! Take advantage of guests visiting, create teams, and play your favorite sport – try football, softball, soccer, or kickball to name a few. Lastly, before settling in for that second slice of pie take a short walk around the neighborhood, your stomach will thank you! Just a few fun ways to burn off excess calories and spend quality time with friends and family.

A day of Thanks:

No matter what happens, if the sides don’t turn out like the picture or you need some extra gravy on the turkey – it is a day of thanksgiving. Whoever you are with, I challenge each of you to share five things you are thankful for.  Enjoy the day! 

Recipes to try:

Wanting to add some new recipes to the menu? Here are some unique recipes to try!

Cranberry Pumpkin MuffinsThese have become a favorite of mine. Start off Thanksgiving morning in the spirit! I used dried cranberries here.

Turkey Tacos and Cranberry SalsaMake these tacos with leftovers or use the recipe to make mini-street tacos as an appetizer! You can use ground turkey or shred up leftovers. A fun twist!

Pumpkin Pie Parfait  – This dessert is a healthier alternative to traditional pumpkin pie and are a delicious way to get your vitamin A in for the day! When you see orange colored veggies that is visual sign of there being a lot of Beta-Carotene. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that can be converted into a form of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin, teeth, skin, and promotes good vision, especially in low light.


Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco 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 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.

Better Living for Texans: Pizza Night – A Slice for Everyone!

(As I’m sure most of you probably know, one of our Prosper Waco community goals is McLennan County residents will live healthier lifestyles and access the best available care. With that in mind Act Locally Waco is teaming up with Better Living for Texans to bring you a monthly blog post full of tips for healthy living. For more of the posts in this series, click here: Better Living for Texans. – ALW)

by Lindsey Breunig

Fall is here, which means busy days and busy nights. From the school work (dog school for me), fall sports, and extra-curricular activities, everything is back in session. Hectic schedules between family and friends create limited time to prepare a healthy meal at home. I will admit it, when I am hungry and have limited time, my dinner choices usually are not the healthiest.

I believe it is safe to say we have pizza fans in Waco. Pizza can be cheap, easy, and feed the masses, perfect for those fall days. I can think of numerous occasions where pizza has been the chosen meal for watching away Baylor football games. Pizza is a great go-to meal, but you might be wary to regularly serve pizza because of the nutritional value, or lack thereof. Calories add up quickly when one adds double cheese and extra meat! However, today I’ve got good news for you! Pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy – read on, and get ready for pizza night, there will be a slice for everyone!

Making a healthy pizza can be easy, a cost-saver, and fun for family and friends. Make the crust and sauce together and let everyone personalize the pizza with their favorite (healthy!) toppings! In the sections below, we will talk about pizza basics; however, once you’re in your own kitchen, I challenge you to get creative and make it your own! 

Make Your Own Crust!

Whether it is thick, thin, or deep-dish, in its basic form, pizza crust is made from flour (whole wheat or unbleached are preferred), water, and yeast. If you are pressed for time, buy a pre-made whole wheat pizza crust, or use an alternative crust – English muffins, mini-bagels, flat or pita bread, or French bread make great crust! Does the crust have to be bread-based? No! Sneak more veggies into your pizza by trying out a cauliflower crust, check out this recipe below, and see if anyone notices the difference!

Ingredients:
cauliflower stemmed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced onion
garlic cloves peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
egg whites
To make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a food processor, add the cauliflower in sections and pulse 10 times until it has a rice-like consistency. Place into a dry dishcloth, squeeze and wring out any water into the sink. Pour out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until dry and lightly golden. Remove and cool. In a large mixing bowl, add cauliflower and remaining crust ingredients. Mix together until dough forms, then press mixture into two 8-inch circles on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil if desired. Turn oven up to 450°F and bake for 20 minutes.

 Sauce

Choose tomato-based sauces like marinara rather than alfredo sauce for a lower fat content. Use a premade tomato-based sauce or take fresh tomatoes and blend them together for your own sauce. For added nutrtients, add fresh or frozen vegetables to the sauce and use a blender to mix the vegetables into the sauce. I recommend spinach or kale! Try this recipe below:

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic minced
2 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes unsalted
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp rosemary
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp sugar
 

Instructions: Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 1 -2 minutes until slightly golden. Reduce heat to low and add crushed tomatoes, herbs, and sugar. Simmer on low for 15-18 minutes. 

Toppings

Choose your favorite toppings to make the perfect pizza for you and your family. Something I always encourage is the more colorful, the better! Add your favorite fruits and/or vegetables and you’re almost done! Don’t like the crunch? Sauté bell peppers and onions before topping. Like a kick? Add some pickled Jalapeños! Something I have found when introducing new veggies is that the more finely cut, the better. When it comes to cheese, use a low-fat cheese, like part-skim mozzarella. If you want a little protein on your pizza, use a lean meat source.

Conclusion

Making your own pizza can not only be a good bonding experience, but it can also provide you with a much healthier pizza that everyone will love! Don’t be afraid to let the kids help, many important nutrition-related lessons and habits can be taught over making pizza together. Get the pizza cutter out and save me a slice!


Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco 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 just saying hello.

Cauliflower Crust: https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/recipes/myplate-cnpp/chicken-sausage-cauliflower-crust-pizza

Herb Infused Marinara Sauce: https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/recipe/herb-infused-marinara-sauce/

 

 

Better Living for Texans: Creating opportunities, changing lives

By Lindsey Breunig

In the acronym alphabet soup, you are bound to have a couple repeats. If I told you that the BLT program creates opportunities and changes lives, I can understand how you might have a glimmer of doubt. Now, how does a Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich have such a strong impact? You see, in my world BLT goes beyond a tasty sandwich…

Better Living for Texans (BLT) is a statewide nutrition education program created by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Texas A&M AgriLife). If you are unfamiliar with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, do not worry, I too was completely confused (Sic’Em Always).

Extension Services are nationwide and connected to the state’s Land Grant University. Land Grant Universities were established by Abraham Lincoln through the Morrill Act to connect universities to the community. In Texas, our Land Grant University is Texas A&M. Extension Services bridge America’s universities to local communities. University faculty and staff connect and work with local Extension professionals to apply their expertise and connect community members to research based knowledge.

Texas A&M AgriLife reaches every county in the state of Texas. Local needs impact Texas A&M AgriLife’s presence in every county. Some efforts include but are not limited to: mitigating drought impacts, water conservation, landscapes, and production agriculture, improving emergency management, enhancing food security, and protecting human health through education about diet, exercise, and disease prevention and management (BLT!).

Texas A&M AgriLife is literally for everyone. The Texas 4-H program engages youth every year in learning projects, leadership development, and community service. I found this necessary to explain because sometimes to understand a piece you need to see the whole picture. Here in McLennan County you too can find Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services. Our office is located downtown and houses professionals here to serve the county.

Breaking Down BLT:

Statistics show that 1 out of 6 Texans struggle with food insecurity, hunger, and eat less than the daily recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, Texas children and adults are less physically active than recommended. McLennan County is no exception and it is critical that we change these statistics in a positive direction.

BLT’s target audience is adults and children with limited resources. Whether someone is young or old, BLT was designed to help people prepare healthy meals, improve their physical fitness, save money at the grocery store, grow their own foods, and adopt better food safety habits. We provide facts rather than the latest trends. BLT is here to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives on limited resources.

BLT programs are delivered in a variety of ways and at different locations. You may see BLT programming at health fairs, community centers, food pantries, church events and, more! Groups or participants can decide from the several available curriculums or request one-time education events or cooking demonstrations. If there is an interest in health and wellness, we are there! Below are our programs topics:

Basic Healthy Living:

Basic Healthy Living covers quite a lot. Topics range from food safety, cooking, preserving, and meal planning. It is our hope that adults increase fruit and vegetable intake, learn to cook nutritious meals, and spend less on groceries. Here we want healthy eating to be practical and attainable for everyone. We are here to challenge the notion that “it’s too expensive to eat healthy.”

Healthy Aging:

Healthy Aging is similar to Basic Healthy Living but focused on seniors. In our programs we talk about steps to remain independent by choosing healthy diets and staying physically active.

Maintaining a healthy weight:

Here we do not diet but we establish a healthy eating plan within one’s calorie requirements to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Gardening:

The gardening curriculum begins at the basics. Education includes how to select a garden location, learn techniques on how to compost, plant and water, and control insects. Participants learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and learn how to cook with produce grown from their own garden. The BLT program relies on the knowledge from the numerous Master Gardeners (another Texas A&M AgriLife program!) here in Waco. They are a great resource for learning how to grow fruits and vegetables!

Fitness:

Fitness is for EVERYONE, and BLT wants everyone to find their favorite way to get active and moving. We have our statewide challenge called Walk Across Texas (WAT) where people from the community create teams with family, friends, and coworkers to log walking miles; however, miles are not limited to walking. Being active and moving will get you across Texas. There are several other ways BLT works to get folks moving and to include more fruits & vegetables in everyone’s daily routine.

Although the Better Living for Texan’s program may not promote the daily consumption of a BLT sandwich, BLT is here to make health attainable and practical for all. This done through providing research and evidence-based nutrition, health and wellness knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives. BLT creates opportunities, and changes lives.

If you are interested or want to know more about the Better Living for Texans program here in McLennan County, please do not hesitate to reach out, and ask. We would love to get involved with your group or organization!

Call our office at: 254-757-5180 or email Lindsey.Breunig@ag.tamu.edu


Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco 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 just saying hello.