Monday, September 26, 2016

Fun, Fall, Family Activities in Maryland!

Fall is the time of the year for you and your family to enjoy the crisp, cool air and colorful trees. Take your family on a walk anywhere to enjoy the nice fall weather! The University of Maryland Extension and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene host WalkMD each year on October 5. If you miss it this year, make plans for it next fall! This event is a fun way to get your family active.

Take your family to your local farmers’ market to pick out some fresh produce, like apples, greens, and winter squash. There are so many delicious fruits and vegetables to choose from, but some of them only come during the fall season, so get them while they last!

Pumpkins are now in season. You can go to a pumpkin patch or your local farmers’ market and let the kids pick out their very own pumpkin. Make a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin, then bake the pumpkin seeds in the oven by adding a pinch of salt for a healthy snack!

There are also many places in Maryland where you can bring the family to pick your own apples at an orchard. The apples you pick can become a game: bobbing for apples. Remember that apple scraps are good composting material!

During the month of October, many events are related to Halloween. If you are a family that likes being scared, you could always walk around a haunted house. However, if you have younger kids that might be too afraid, you can always go to a farm that offers corn mazes!

Lastly, raking up the leaves in the yard is a fall chore, but it also counts as exercise. Before you dispose of the leaves, make a pile and jump in them! No matter what your family decides to do this fall season, remember to have fun and be active!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Celebrate Locally Grown Food Through Farm to School!

Farm to School is a term that is used to describe efforts to incorporate locally-grown foods into school or preschool menus, and activities used to generate interest and learning about local food. In Maryland, a whole week in September known as “Homegrown School Lunch Week” is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland State Department of Education to encourage schools to feature locally-grown foods on the school lunch menus, encourage school-wide celebrations of locally-produced food, and teach about where food comes from. Nationally, Farm to School is recognized in the month of October.

Celebrate Farm-Fresh Produce at School and at Home! 
  • Visit a local farmers’ market or farm stand with your child to learn more about the foods grown in your area and take something home to try.
  •  Visit to learn more about local agriculture and visit a pick your own farm or local creamery to try locally-made ice cream or dairy products.
  •  Experiment with gardening with your child by placing a seed on a moist cotton ball in a clear plastic bag or cup and watch it as it grows.
  • Try growing your own produce in a small container garden. See for tips on starting your own garden.

Visit your local library to find a great book to share with your child. Below is a selection of books to choose from:
  • “Before We Eat: From Farm to Table” by Pat Brisson
  • “Seed, Soil, Sun” by Cris Peterson
  • “Max Goes to the Farmer’s Market” by Adria F.
  • “Tops and Bottoms” by Janet Steven
  • “Growing Vegetable Soup” by Lois Ehler
  • “In the Garden with Dr. Carver” by Susan Grigsby
  • “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” by Christine Butterworth

Try our recipe made with fresh Maryland Produce

Crunchy Apple Coleslaw

Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 cabbage (small) washed and shredded.
1 carrot (medium) washed and grated. ½ green pepper, washed and chopped
1 apple, washed and chopped.
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt, plain
1 Tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dried dill Salt and pepper

1. In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage, carrot, green pepper, and apple Stir together.
2. Put the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl. Stir together to make a dressing.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Toss to mix.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Food Label: What You Need to Know

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced updates to the Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods. This is the first major change to the food label since 1994. Here’s what’s new on the label:

  • Larger and bold print for Calories: These changes make this information easier to see.  It is important for consumers to look at how many calories are in the foods they buy.
  • Updated Serving Sizes: Package size affects what people eat. Certain items will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting. A 20 ounce soda is a good example of this change.
  • Added sugars: Added sugars are defined as any sugar, honey, or syrup added in the making of the food.

  • Updated daily values: Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D have been updated based on newer scientific evidence.
  • New nutrients will now be on the label:
         ·        Vitamin D: Builds strong bones.
         ·        Potassium: Helps lower blood pressure and is healthy for your heart.

Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, smaller companies will have an additional year to change their labels to the new format.

The Nutrition Facts Label is the best tool to check for Calories, sodium, fat, sugars, etc. and compare products. The Nutrition Facts Label can help you and your family pick healthier foods at the grocery store.

Monday, September 5, 2016

September is National Food Safety Month

Food Poisoning (also known as Foodborne illness) is any illness that results from eating contaminated food. The good news – it is preventable.
Let’s look at some current facts and discuss some common food safety myths.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 6 people each year will experience food poisoning.
  • About 15% of foodborne outbreaks occur at home.  
  • Following four simple steps CleanSeparateCook, and Chill – can help protect your family from food poisoning.
Food Safety Myths – True or False
Myth 1: Washing raw poultry, meat, and seafood is safe to do at home.
False: Washing raw poultry, meat, and seafood could cause bacteria to spray and may contaminate other foods and kitchen items.  
Solution: Cook your meat, poultry, and/or seafood to the proper temperature – do not wash it.
Myth 2: Putting hot foods in the refrigerator will make the whole refrigerator get too warm.
False: Your refrigerator can take the heat! You want to cool hot foods to a temperature of 40°F or below quickly.
Solution: Divide hot foods into shallow containers that are less than 4 inches tall for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

Myth 3:  Fruits and vegetables with a skin don’t need to be washed before peeling.
False:  Bacteria on the peel or rind can easily transfer to the inside of your fruits and veggies when you cut them.
Solution:  Wash all fruits and vegetables even if you will peel them.
See more Myths

Check your Steps Campaign

Monday, August 29, 2016

Food Trends

Have you heard?
New food ideas come and go quickly. We wanted to introduce you to some food trends that are popular lately. Try them in your own home!

Green Smoothies:
It can be difficult to get all your vegetables in every day. Adding leafy greens to your smoothie can be a fast and yummy way to add greens into your day.  Even picky eaters will love these colorful drinks, since they taste like fruit instead of greens. You can use fresh, washed spinach, kale, collard greens, beet leaves, or others to any fruit smoothie. To save time and money, you can also use frozen greens! For the smoothest smoothie, blend the greens and liquid first. Then, add your other solid ingredients.
Try this recipe for your first green smoothie:
Tropical Smoothie
1-2 cups of greens, fresh or frozen (such as spinach)
1 can of pineapple in juice (with the juice)
1 banana, fresh or frozen
1 cup of orange juice, water, milk, or yogurt
1 cup of ice
Makes 4 servings. Try adding a kiwi, too!

“Nice” Cream:
You may have seen this trend on TV shows lately. “Nice” cream can be a great sweet treat that helps you get another serving of fruit. Bananas are the only ingredient! First, you freeze ripe bananas. Then, blend them in a blender or food processor until just smooth. The finished result is the texture of soft serve ice cream. You can try many types of mix-ins such as: frozen strawberries, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, peanut butter, or more!

Overnight Oats
Everyone knows that eating breakfast helps to give you the energy for the rest of the day.  Make your breakfast ahead of time so that you can easily grab it and go in the mornings.  Overnight oats are easy to make and you can add many different flavors to mix it up for a different breakfast every morning.

To make overnight oats:
Place ½ cup plain oats (old fashioned or quick oats) in a seal able container or jar.  Add ½ cup of milk and your favorite fruit topping like strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and bananas on top. Place the top on the container or jar and leave in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, just stir and your oatmeal is ready to eat! For added flavor, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Less Waste Cooking
Many chefs recently have been creating new recipes to lower how much food gets wasted. You can do this in your own home too!

Some ideas:
-       If you buy carrots with stems, try cooking the leafy greens with onions or garlic.
-       If you buy potatoes, leave the peel on. Just scrub them clean.
-       If you buy broccoli, chop up the stems and use them too! Lots of fiber.
-       If a fruit looks good but is a little soft, try adding it to a smoothie or yogurt.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Be Ready for School with School Lunch

School starts soon and that means your child will bring home many papers to fill out.   Make sure to fill out the Free and Reduced Meal forms that are in your packet!  Free and reduced meal forms help to cut your food budget and the amount that your child pays for school breakfast and lunch.  Check your school's website for an application if you do not get one in your back to school packet.  Do you have questions about completing the Free and Reduced Meal forms, check our previous blog for many questions and answers on the forms.   

If your child packs a lunch for school, while you’re out shopping for school supplies, browse the grocery aisles and consider what you’re packing for your child’s lunches. The trend of preparing meals ahead of time offers a stress free way to send your kids to school with a healthy lunch. You can use reusable air-tight plastic packaging to store snack or meal components such as:

  • Celery and hummus
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Cooked or raw vegetables
  • Veggie Bean Wraps

Many other foods can be packed as well, get creative! Lunches can be prepared each night or at the end of the weekend to be eaten the next week. Packed lunches that include all MyPlate items are healthy and less expensive than other food choices. They also allow you to make sure your child is eating well when they are away from home.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Enjoy Plums this Summer

Plums are a summertime favorite of all fruit lovers.  Found in a variety of colors from red, purple, blue-black, green, yellow or amber, this fruit provides lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber to our diet.
Plums are known as a stone fruit because of their hard stone pit. They are relatives of the peach and nectarine. When plums are dried, they become prunes.
Buy plums that are ripe and ready to eat. Look for ones that soft at the tip and soft to the touch.  
Good quality plums will have a rich color and may still have a slight whitish coloration, showing that they have not been over handled. They should be free of cuts, bruises or any signs of decay.
Plums can be found in the grocery store from May through the early fall. Check your local farmers’ markets during the summer for plums.
Plums should be stored at room temperature to ripen.
Plums are delicious eaten whole or combined with other foods. Enjoy a whole plums on the go for breakfast and a snack. Slice them and put on top yogurt, cereal and waffles. Dice them and add them to green salads. Try them baked in a favorite dessert like the Old Fashioned Fruit Crumble below.

Old Fashioned Fruit Crumble
Makes: 6 servings
Serving size: 1/6 recipe
3 cups plums or peaches, washed and sliced
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons orange juice
1 cup oats
3 Tablespoons nuts, chopped
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Cooking oil spray
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray 8x8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Combine fruit with sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and orange juice.
4. Pour fruit mixture into pan.
5. Combine oats, nuts, brown sugar, remaining 2 Tablespoons flour, and cinnamon.
6. Stir to combine and sprinkle over the fruit mixture.
7. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 20 - 25 minutes.