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.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Recipe Spotlight: School Garden Salsa

School may be out for the summer, but this salsa recipe is a great healthy snack for your child that is full of flavor.  School Garden Salsa can be made with fresh veggies that you may even be able to find in your garden! The salsa can be eaten with chips, on top of a salad, with chicken or fish, or just on its own as a side. Kids will love to help rinse the vegetables, squeeze the limes, and help mix the salsa together!

School Garden Salsa

Servings: 8
1 can unsalted whole-kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium red onion
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/8 cup lime juice
Baked tortilla chips
1.   Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
2.   Served with baked tortilla chips.
Gather all your ingredients.

Wash all vegetables thoroughly.
Drain and rinse black beans and corn in a colander.

Combine rinsed black beans and corn into large bowl.
Remove seeds in center of pepper and dice into small pieces.
Chop all vegetables in small pieces similar to the pepper.
Combine all vegetables into bowl along with black beans and corn.

Squeeze lime over all ingredients in bowl.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
 Serve your School Garden Salsa with baked tortilla chips!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It's Farmer's Market Week!

The first full week of August is National Farmers’ Market Week. Harvests of peaches, tomatoes, corn, peppers, blueberries, watermelon and other favorite fruits and vegetables are pouring in all month, making August a great time to celebrate the bounty of Maryland farms.

Why shop at farmers’ markets? 
Farmers’ markets allow farmers to sell produce and other foods directly to their customers. This means that farmers’ market produce is often picked and sold within 24 hours. It is fresher than grocery store produce, which travels to a warehouse before reaching the store. Fresh produce is tasty produce!
Because farmers are selling produce when it is plentiful, farmers’ market produce can be very affordable. You can use SNAP and WIC benefits at many farmers’ markets.
Where is my closest farmers’ market?
Farmers’ markets are typically open at a given location once or twice a week. To find a farmers’ market close to your home and their open hours, visit the Maryland Farmers’ Market Association website and enter your address. The site allows you to search for markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits, as well as those that participate in Maryland Market Money, an incentive program to stretch benefit dollars spent on healthy foods at farmers’ markets. 

How to shop at a farmers’ markets
Bring cash or your FMNP/WIC coupons, or use your EBT card if the market accepts SNAP benefits. Visit each stand and pay for items as you select them. Ask the farmers questions about their produce—most love sharing their growing methods or cooking ideas with their customers.

Remember food safety
While it is tempting to sample a ripe peach right after you purchase it, fresh produce should always be washed thoroughly in clean water before eating. Even produce with rinds you don’t eat, such as melons, should be washed to prevent bacteria from being transferred to the flesh during cutting.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners for Busy Parents

Planning family meals can be a challenge when we get busy, but we know that eating together is one of the best ways to eat more healthfully while sharing and caring for each other. How can you make this happen? Try some of these ideas for quick dinners:

Hold Special “Buffet” Nights!
  • Host a salad bar, and allow family members to create their own personal salad.  Have large bowls of shredded/torn lettuce for each person to make their own salad. Smaller bowls of add-ins will give each person a chance to customize their own favorites. Diced meat, shredded cheese, cubed tomatoes, sliced sweet peppers—the list is nearly endless! Have a variety of low-fat dressings to top the salad.
  •  Make Your Own Taco Night is often a hit! Brown low-fat hamburger ahead of time and refrigerate, then set out taco shells, the hamburger, salsa, and shredded lettuce and cheese. Clean-up is quick, too!
  •  Sandwich Night can be fun when you have a selection of low-fat sliced meats to pick from. Remember the whole grain bread or buns! Rinse some lettuce leaves and slice some tomatoes, then have spreads like mustard and mayonnaise for each person to add to their sandwich. Or, if your kids love peanut butter and jelly, set those out for them to make up their own PB&J sandwiches!

How about breakfast for dinner? Mix up a batch of pancakes, brown up some sausage or ham, cut up a big bowl of fresh fruit, and serve breakfast for dinner! Kids love to mix up the foods they eat!  Another breakfast idea might be a cereal or oatmeal bar.  Have different kinds of whole grain cereals available for your kids to choose from.  Include fresh fruits like blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and bananas. 

Slow-cookers aren’t just for winter eating! Soups are a filling meal all year long or mix up a big pot of veggies with chicken and enjoy a steamy stew.  Need a soup idea?  See our previous blog post on One Dish Meals for a quick and easy meal idea the whole family will love!  
Another tip: Another great tip to try if you have more time to cook on the weekends is to prepare family meals ahead of time and freeze them. Use the microwave to re-heat the meal when you need it. Chili, lasagna, and casseroles are all great re-heated meals.

Remember to serve low-fat or non-fat milk with your meals and have fruit for dessert. Now, sit back and enjoy some family time!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Corn Season is Here!

 What better way to celebrate summer than with corn? You can find corn year round in the can or in the frozen section of the grocery store, but fresh corn is best during the summer months. You can usually find them in farmers’ markets and grocery stores still in their husks. Corn has many health benefits including being high in fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins.

Shopping for Corn on the cob
  • Look for husks that are fresh and green.  The husk should feel firm and heavy. Pull back the husk to look for plump kernels.
  • If you find a lot of fresh corn on the cob on sale you can shuck them and freeze them for later use during the fall or winter months.

Shucking Corn on the cob
  • Peeling or “shucking” the husks can be messy but if you hold the corn over a plastic bag it can make it easier to clean up.
  • Hold the base of the corn firmly and peel back the outer husk. Grab the silks at top and peel those back. It may leave a few strands of silk on the cob but you can remove those after.

 Time to Eat!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Time for Fun in the Sun

Summer is a great time to get outdoors and get moving! Being active helps kids and adults have stronger muscles and bones. It also helps you sleep better at night. Try to encourage kids to be active for at least sixty minutes every day. 

Some ideas:

  • Hopscotch: be creative! Use chalk to make a hopscotch course, with numbers or letters in the shapes. Let kids take turns giving directions such as “spin around on the number 5” or “hop on your left foot to the letter D.”
  • Gardening: it may not seem like activity, but digging holes and watering plants can work up a sweat! As a bonus, kids may be more likely to eat a veggie if they help to grow it.
  • Frisbee: throwing a frisbee back and forth is a great way to practice catching skills without needing a lot of expensive equipment or gloves. Check your local dollar store for a frisbee
  • Crazy walks: when going for a walk, add some challenges to get your heart beating and keep kids interested! Try skipping, hopping, walking backwards (carefully), or walking sideways.

  • Stay hydrated! When it is hot outside, we sweat more and lose water through our skin. Keep a cold water bottle nearby and remind kids to take drink breaks during their play.
  • Stay protected! It is easy to lose track of time while having fun in the sun, but it is important to always wear sunscreen. Reapply according to the directions on the bottle or after getting wet. Take a few minutes as a family to put on sunscreen before every time you go outside, even on cloudy days.