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Nutrition Column

From the Auburn Citizen: March 22, 2016

Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York: Explore herbs and spices for flavor

Spice market
Deposit Photos

During the month of March, take time to explore adding herbs and spices to foods to savor the flavor of eating right! Reducing salt and replacing it with herbs and spices, and adding additional fruits and veggies are easy ways to kick up the flavor of your favorite recipes!

The dietary guidelines for Americans recommends that we cut back on the amount of sodium we consume to improve our overall health and prevent chronic diseases in the future. The major source of sodium in our diet is table salt. To reduce salt in your diet, follow these tips to achieve your goal:

• Cook more meals at home. Home cooked meals cooked are typically lower in salt than restaurant meals.

• Reduce the amount of salt in your favorite recipes. Slowly reduce the amount, to allow your family to adapt to the change in flavor.

• Consider adding herbs and spices instead of salt to increase flavor.

• Add fresh, frozen or no-salt-added canned vegetables to boost the nutrient content of your recipes.

 • Rinse canned vegetables and beans to reduce salt.

• Limit your use of prepared or processed foods, which are often high in salt.

At home, include your kids as you prepare meals! Younger children can help wash vegetables or mix ingredients together. Older children can help you measure ingredients and cut vegetables, and everyone can help clean up!

For information on herbs and spices to add to your favorite recipes, please check out the Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York website at

By adding herbs and spices, reducing salt, and increasing the vegetables and fruits in family favorite recipes, you will be on the path to savor the flavor of eating right!

The Eat Smart New York grant is handled by Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in the Finger Lakes region. These suggestions are funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, visit or call 1-800-343-8859, ext 2-3008.

September 8, 2015 – Introducing a few Auburn Farmers Market Vendors

As I have mentioned in previous columns, this year marks the 65th anniversary of the Auburn Farmers Market.  My intention is to interview all of the vendors so the public can get to know the faces behind the stands.   I have already interviewed one of the newer vendors – Dan Button from Grey Barn Farm in Tully about his delicious garlic.  Now it is time for sweet things – peaches and maple syrup!

Stop down to the market on Thursdays to meet Jenny Meyer from Sterling Sugar Shanty in Sterling, NY.  She also sells at the markets in Liverpool, Oswego, and Syracuse. She and her husband sell locally produced maple syrup, maple sugar and my favorite, maple sugar candy!  This is the first season that they have tapped their trees, way back in February (remember February?  It was the coldest on record!) and did the first boil in March.   The finished product is beautiful maple syrup.  They sell three grades of syrup – Golden, which has a delicate flavor, Amber, which has a medium color and flavor, and Dark which has a robust, more pronounced maple flavor.  The dark grade comes at the end of the season, and the sap content dictates the color.  When the trees are budding, the sap gets darker.  The maple sugar candy is made by boiling pure maple syrup to a higher temperature, cooling it and pouring it into molds.  Jenny has made some for gift baskets and wedding favors (ask her if you are interested).  The granulated sugar is heated to an even higher temperature and is good on toast, oatmeal, chicken wings and ham.  Unopened, the syrup is good indefinitely.  After opening, it is best to store it in the refrigerator.  All of the syrup she sells is grade A.  Grade B as she explained to me, is good for baking, but they do not make it.  Compared to honey and sugar, maple syrup has antioxidants, which are good for you.  “If you’re going to have sugar, this is the best way to go”.  Jenny will be at the market through the end of October, and she takes credit cards.

The other vendor we are featuring this week is Gary Pepe, from Pepe Farm in Wolcott, NY.   Gary sells 20 different varieties of peaches, 8 different varieties of nectarines, 20 different apples, and 10 different vegetables including some very hot peppers!  If you are feeling brave, try his dehydrated pepper blend, named Train Wreck.    In the winter, Gary takes 125 pounds of peppers, including some of the hottest varieties in the world – Ghost peppers, Carolina Reaper, Scorpion, + 7 more kinds, and dehydrates them to produce 27 pounds of a dry blend that he likes to have on watermelon, or vanilla ice cream.   His one of a kind spice blend can be purchased on Tuesdays from Gary at the Auburn market, at the regional market in Syracuse, in the D shed or by calling his farm.  It is also available at some stores in Fayetteville.  This is Gary’s 12th season at the Auburn Farmers Market.  Currently he has a great selection of beautiful and delicious heirloom tomatoes, and of course, peaches!  If you have not gotten peaches yet for canning or preserving, don’t wait much longer!  Gary said he should have them for another couple weeks, and then they’re gone till next year.  He has a money back guarantee on all of his produce, and eats it himself.  He said the only meat he eats is from Pee Car Farms, who was at the market earlier this season.

If I can get these two together at the market at the same time, I would like to try grilling some of Gary’s peaches and topping them with Jenny’s maple sugar.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Stop down to the market on Tuesday September 8th to see if we got them together or not – if not, I will make something else with all of the great choices in season!  See you at the Market!

August 11, 2015 – Summer is Almost Over!

Hard to believe it but summer is almost over!  Local farmers markets are in full swing and there is a lot of great locally produced foods available.  You can find sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, leeks, scallions, garlic, zucchini and summer squash, all kinds of peppers, eggplant, green beans, beets, radishes, melons,  peaches and plums, cabbage, Swiss chard, herbs, organic eggs,  farm fresh beef, apples, and baked goods.

The Auburn farmers market donates produce weekly to area food pantries and soup kitchens where it is snapped up almost as quickly as it appears!  If you have excess produce from your garden and don’t know what to do with it, contact your local food pantry – chances are they will be happy to accept it.   The 30th year of Central New York’s Tomato Fest will be held on September 12 and 13 at Emerson Park in Auburn. Since its inception in 1986, Tomato Fest has raised over $285,000 and collected more than 11,000 canned goods to help feed the hungry through donations to participating area food pantries. All food pantries receiving donations purchase foods from the Central New York Food Bank, which triples the value of every dollar donated from Tomato Fest. Donations from Tomato Fest each year enable local food pantries to provide more than 10,000 meals to Cayuga County residents. Approximately 50% of those meals provide food for families with children.

Area children will be heading back to school soon and with that comes the everyday question of are you buying lunch from school or packing a lunch from home?  It’s a good idea to have the school lunch menu posted at home so decisions can be made ahead of time and not last minute as the bus is arriving!  You may notice some changes in what is offered because of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  Check with your children to see if they want to eat the school lunch or pack something from home.  If packing, look for thermal lined bags to keep perishable foods cold or freeze a juice box and toss it in!  Make healthy changes at home by trying small portions of fruits, like clementine’s or grapes and veggies like baby carrots or salads instead of chips.  Wraps are an interesting change from the usual bologna or PBJ sandwich.  Get input from your children when you go grocery shopping to see what they may want to try.  And don’t forget snacks!  It may be a long time between breakfast and lunch and a healthy snack can help keep kids focused on learning and not their growling stomachs.

For an easy dip for fruit, mix low fat vanilla yogurt with peanut butter, or soy butter and dip apples or bananas in it for a healthy snack.  Low fat ranch dressing or salsa mixed with plain Greek yogurt is a good veggie dip.   I will be at the New York State Fair on Thursday August 27th and Friday August 28th demonstrating canning in the Wegman’s kitchen in the Art & Home Center.  Saturday, August 29th I will be manning the Eat Smart New York booth in the Science and Industry building, across from the main gate.  Stop by and say hi!    See you at the market!

July 28, 2015 – 65th Anniversary of the Auburn Farmers Market

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Auburn Farmers Market.  It has been through many changes in the past, and likely will go through more in the future, but the one thing that has remained the same is that is a great place to buy fresh locally grown produce and  other agricultural products.  The market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 7AM – 2PM through the end of October.

To help celebrate the 65th anniversary, I am going to feature a different market vendor in my column each time so you can better know your farmer!  I am starting with one of the newer vendors, Grey Barn Farm.  Dan Button and his wife own Grey Barn Farm which is located in Tully.    This is Dan’s second season at the Auburn Farmers Market and he is there Tuesdays and Thursdays.  He sells 12 varieties of garlic, heritage breed eggs, herbs, and heirloom veggies.  His farm is non- certified organic, and Dan uses row cover, crop rotation, and an unheated hoop house to produce food that is free of chemicals and safe.  I asked Dan what his favorite variety of garlic is and he said Music, which is an Italian hardneck type of garlic that he grows the most of.

Hardneck garlic produces the scapes that were on sale at the market earlier in the season.  Hard neck garlic can be stored for 3-6 months (mine never lasts that long!) in a cool, dry and well ventilated place. Music is described as mildly to medium hot, with musky rich taste.  The cloves are big and easy to peel.  Softneck garlic is what you usually find in grocery stores.  A note about grocery store garlic – the majority of the world’s garlic is grown in China and is sprayed with chemicals and bleached white with chlorine during importation quarantine processes.

Dan sells softneck garlic as well because it stores longer and is used in braids.  His favorite way to use garlic is on bread, especially his wife’s homemade bread.  He loves roasted garlic and if you have never tried it, you should!  It is easy to do and so worth it!  To roast, simply put unpeeled heads of garlic in a roasting pan, sprinkle with olive oil and roast at 350° for 30-40 minutes.  Or sprinkle with oil, and wrap in aluminum foil and place on your grill the next time you are cooking dinner.  Let the garlic cool slightly, and then serve. Press on the bottom of a clove to push it out of its paper. Roasted garlic can also be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.  Use in dressings, spread on toast, experiment!

This week I will be making Hummus, a great way to eat garlic!  Stop and down and try a sample and pick up some garlic and other seasonal vegetables while you’re there.  Come say hi to Dan and I’ll see you at the market!

Hummus  makes 12 servings   1 15 1/2 ounce can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained  3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced   1 tablespoon lemon juice  1 teaspoon cumin  4 ounces plain low fat yogurt  1 tablespoon oil.   Drain and rinse beans.  Combine beans, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and yogurt in a blender or food processor.  Puree till smooth.  Transfer to a serving bowl and pour oil over top.  Stir slightly.  Use as a spread or dip for veggies or pita chips.


July 14, 2015  – Come meet your neighbor at the Farmers Market!

There is so much to enjoy at the local Farmers Markets. Fresh Produce, local meats, baked goods, maple syrup and of course, the chance to meet and chat with the farmer. Undoubtedly, most of the vendors are known for their product or a particular trait; the Cookie Man or the Woman with the Red Pick Up. But with some worthwhile effort, you can (and should) get to know more about the people who are putting food on your table.  Most people enjoy talking about what they do, and farmers are no exception! For you, there is the added advantage of a better understanding of your food supply, and options that are open to you by getting to know your farmer better. Here are some guidelines;

  • Try to avoid “absolutes”: Telling a farmer “I only serve organic products” is like saying that everything (and every one) else is not worth discussing. Try to learn what the farmer does to assure the safety and quality of their produce. What chemicals do they use and are they trained in using them? What product(s) receive less “chemical attention?” How do farmers prepare the food for their own table?

In the same way, try not to condemn any particular offering with “Brussels sprouts? Why would anyone want those awful things?” Instead, try to learn how to prepare things you are unfamiliar with and get ideas from the farmers (they don’t throw away what doesn’t sell!) or the local extension educator.  Lean on the Expert: Every tomato is the same, right? Well, yellow tomatoes have less acid and a milder taste; some heirlooms are very sweet while others are meatier, which make them better for sauces. The farmers know what they have grown, and the qualities of their product, so ask questions. Just because the “kid” at the supermarket is clueless about their produce doesn’t mean you have to just accept what is in front of you! There is also an expert in front of you, so don’t be afraid to ask!

  •   Ask about other products: Once you have established trust with a farmer, use them as a resource even if they don’t have the produce you seek. After all, they see many of the other vendors at your market regularly and know who is doing the best work with what. Looking for collards? Ask your “most trusted source” who has good collards this week. As long as it is not taking business away from their farm, most farmers will gladly share what they know is available in the market, or around the area.
  • Chat, but try not to linger: Most of the folks I have met at markets are very friendly and easy to talk to, and the vendors are chief among that group. But at the end of the day, this is their business; their livelihood and they may have many customers to serve while chatting with you. Be sensitive to their business flow and maybe stop back when they are less busy to catch up or just shoot the breeze.
  • Growing and gardening advice: In addition to having great veggies, farmers also have great ideas about getting the most from your plants and garden. Many are trained gardeners, botanists or experts regarding certain strains and varieties and they will know if others among them may be able to help with particular questions. Ask the farmer with the nicest peppers how they managed to grow such excellent produce! The answers may surprise you and help with your own garden!

At the end of it all, these vendors are neighbors, and should be treated as such. They have a wealth of expert advice and sage wisdom. They are able to sympathize with every crop that has failed or pest that has invaded a garden plot and they appreciate your interest in the product. Most of all, showing an interest in your farmers reflects a deeper commitment to their craft and helps to build your understanding of the professionalism and dedication they bring to what they do; getting food to your table.

Stop down Saturday July 18th for Family Fun day at the Auburn Farmers market and see what delicious recipe I am making!  See you at the market!

June 30, 2015 – Summer is Officially Here

Summer is officially here!  After the coldest winter on record, everyone is more than ready to enjoy the nice weather.  With nice weather comes opportunities to get outside and move more.   According to the American Heart Association, any activity that uses the big muscles of your body burns some calories.  How many calories you burn in any given activity is determined by your weight and fitness level.  The heavier and less fit you are, the more calories you will burn.  For a person moderately fit, weighing about 150 pounds the following activities will burn around 100 calories:

  1. Prepare Food – 45 minutes of chopping, sautéing, and everything else involved in putting together a meal uses about 102 calories. Carrying your groceries in a hand basket instead of pushing a cart burns even more!
  2. Dig in the Dirt – 25 minutes of gardening uses 113 calories.
  3. Skip Rope – 10 minutes of jumping rope will burn 113 calories.
  4. Ride a Bike – 25 minutes of riding burns 102 calories.
  5. Go for a Walk – In 22 minutes of strolling (3.5 mph) you burn 100 calories.
  6. Dance! 19 minutes will burn 100 calories.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, which translates into 30 minutes a day for 5 days, or two 15 minute exercise breaks a day while you are at work.  Did you know that you burn 3-5 calories per minute laughing?

Along with moving more, eating healthier is easier in the warmer months because things are available locally from your garden or farmers markets.   This time of year you can expect to find: salad greens of all kinds, cucumbers, onions, beets, Swiss chard, Kale, peas, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, early potatoes, garlic scapes, fresh herbs, local beef, maple syrup, honey and eggs, and some cutting flowers.  The Auburn Farmers market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7AM – 2PM and is located in Curley’s parking lot on State St.  They accept EBT (food stamps) and WIC and Senior farmers market coupons.  They will have the Fresh Check program again this year, which gives people using their EBT at the market an additional $2.00 for every $5.00 in tokens they purchase.  This gives you more spending power and the opportunity to stock up on seasonal items while they are here.   Port Byron’s market is set to open in early July on Wednesdays at Schasel Park; Moravia is opening in July as well, Thursdays from 10AM – 5Pm in the Kinney Drug parking lot, and Niles is already open on Saturdays from 10AM – 1PM at the town hall.  Wherever you shop, look for locally grown food that keeps your money in our area.

This week I will be offering samples of some flavored water as a healthy option instead of sugary beverages.  After finding out that you have to walk for 22 minutes to burn off one soda, switching one out once in a while is a small step in the right direction!  Try:

Minty Cucumber Lime – ½ of a cucumber, sliced ½ of a lime, sliced and ¼ cup fresh mint leaves.

Strawberry-Lemon with Basil – ½ cup sliced strawberries ½ of a lemon, sliced and ¼ cup fresh basil leaves.

Watermelon Mint – 1 cup of cubed watermelon and ¼ cup fresh mint leaves.  To Make – Choose which recipe you’re making, or come up with your own combination and gather all the ingredients.  Place the fruit and herbs in the bottom of a 1 quart canning jar.  Muddle with a wooden spoon (that basically means mash up the fruit and herbs in the bottom of the jar to release some of the flavor).  Fill the jar with water and give it a taste.  If you want something sweeter, try adding some agave nectar or honey to taste.  Refrigerate overnight for maximum flavor.  Stop down to try a taste and walk around the market!


June 16, 2015 – It’s Mid-June and Farmers Markets are Opening!

It is mid- June, that time of year when schools are ending, college kids are home, gardens are planted and farmers markets are opening. Locally the Auburn Farmers Market is in its 65th season, located on State St. in Curley’s parking lot. They are open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 7AM – 2PM, through October. The Moravia Farmers market will be opening in July, and they are open Thursdays from 10 – 5 in the Kinney Drug Store parking lot. Niles is open on Saturday mornings from 10 – 1 at the town hall. Port Byron will have a market on Wednesdays 3- 5PM at Schasel Park. Remember, the Auburn market is the only one in the county that accepts EBT, or food stamps. Using your benefits at the market couldn’t be easier! Visit Shelby at the welcome tent and swipe your card, just like you do at the store. Tell her how many tokens you would like and go shop! Don’t forget to register for the daily drawing for a bag of produce from the vendors.

This week I will be at the Auburn market on Thursday, the 18th from 9AM to noon. I will be making a Mediterranean Grain Salad. It has cooked barley in it, along with seasonal vegetables and is a good choice to take along to graduation parties because it can be made ahead of time and it has nothing in it that can spoil. Barley is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. Most of us have eaten beef and barley soup but are not familiar with other uses for this tasty whole grain. Its health benefits include reducing cholesterol levels, and keeping blood sugar levels stable. It also feeds the good bacteria in your guts, preventing many digestive issues that could spoil your whole day! Research also suggests links between the vitamins and minerals in barley and reduced incidence of asthma in children. 1 cup of barley has as much fiber as 3 cups of oatmeal!
Available at the market this week are: salad greens, onions, garlic scapes, rhubarb, asparagus, early potatoes, beets, greens of all kinds – collards, kale, and swiss chard to name a few, herbs, fresh and dried, organic eggs, beef and some bedding plants. Check out the new vendors this year – Thursdays have a new maple syrup vendor, with syrup and all kinds of yummy maple products!

Stop down and try Mediterranean Grain Salad and pick up some locally grown veggies to make it yourself! See you at the market!
Mediterranean Grain Salad (makes about 6 servings) ½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (salt free) 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small clove garlic, minced 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (or canned diced) ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley ½ cup grated fresh carrots 1 cup cooked barley or whole wheat couscous salt and pepper to taste To make dressing: Whisk together Italian herb seasoning, lemon juice, olive oil, and minced garlic in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, parsley, carrots, and barley to the bowl with the dressing. Stir to combine evenly. Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours.

June 2, 2015 – Auburn Farmers Market Celebrates 65 Years!

When most people turn 65 they think about retiring and slowing down to enjoy life.  They’ve worked hard and want to take it easy now.  The Auburn Farmers Market turns 65 this year and they have no plans to slow down or stop working anytime soon – thank goodness!  The market opens its 65th season on June 2nd at 96 State St. also known as the parking lot across from Curley’s restaurant in Auburn.   The market runs from 7AM to 2PM Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through the end of October.  It is not only the longest running market in Cayuga County, it is also the only market that accepts EBT, or food stamps.  They also take WIC and Senior Farmers market coupons when they become available (usually around the end of June).

On Tuesday you will find Bradford Heights Bakery from Auburn, Anna’s Flowers and Farm from Moravia, Horsford Farms from Weedsport, Grey Barn Farms from Tully, Vitale’s Farm from Sennett, Pe – Car Farms from Skaneateles, Watkins products, and me, Becky Crawford, nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County.  This marks my 13th year doing food demonstrations at the market.   My job is to help promote the market and all of the wonderful local products they offer.  You will find everything you need to make a delicious meal from naturally raised beef, to new potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, salad greens and herbs both fresh and dried.   You will also find bedding and hanging plants for your garden.  I also bring seasonal recipes and food preservation information with me so we can all eat healthier and feel better!   I am teaching a hot water bath canning class this Wednesday June 3rd from 10:00AM – 11:30AM at the extension office, 248 Grant Ave.  Please call 255-1183 ext.246 to register.  I am available to answer canning/preserving questions anytime, just leave a message if I am not at my desk.  We test pressure canner gauges for free, just call to make an appointment.

There will be several events this summer to commemorate the milestone of 65 years in business.  The first one you should circle on your calendars is Saturday July 18th – Family Fun Day, followed by an anniversary celebration/customer appreciation day on Saturday August 22nd and another family event on Saturday September 26th.

Stop down Tuesday and try a sample of Strawberry Spinach Salad.   Makes about 8 servings.  Ingredients: 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, (both optional), ¾ cup slivered almonds, 1 pound fresh spinach, washed, dried and torn into bite -size pieces,  1 pint of strawberries, sliced, non- stick cooking spray.   For the dressing: 1 ¼ cups strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons orange juice 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon canola oil.  Directions:  Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Refrigerate until serving.   For salad, spray cooking spray on nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds, cook until lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  Combine spinach, strawberries, poppy and sesame seeds if using, and almonds in a serving bowl.  Pour half of dressing over and toss.  Add more dressing as desired.  Serve immediately.   Each serving has only 55 calories and provides you with ¼ of your vitamin C for the Day!   See you at the Market!

August 22, 2014 – Hard to Believe Summer is Almost Over

Hard to believe it but summer is almost over!  Local farmers markets are in full swing and there is a lot of great locally produced foods available.  You can find sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, leeks, scallions, garlic, zucchini and summer squash, all kinds of peppers, eggplant, green beans, beets, radishes, melons,  peaches and plums, cabbage, Swiss chard, herbs, organic eggs, wine, farm fresh beef, apples, and baked goods.

The Auburn farmers market donates produce weekly to area food pantries and soup kitchens where it is snapped up almost as quickly as it appears!  If you have excess produce from your garden and don’t know what to do with it, contact your local food pantry – chances are they will be happy to accept it.   The 29th year of Central New York’s Tomato Fest will be held on September 6 and 7 at Emerson Park in Auburn. Since its inception in 1986, Tomato Fest has raised over $285,000 and collected more than 11,000 canned goods to help feed the hungry through donations to participating area food pantries. All food pantries receiving donations purchase foods from the Central New York Food Bank, which triples the value of every dollar donated from Tomato Fest. Donations from Tomato Fest each year enable local food pantries to provide more than 10,000 meals to Cayuga County residents. Approximately 50% of those meals provide food for families with children.

Area children will be heading back to school soon and with that comes the everyday question of are you buying lunch from school or packing a lunch from home?  It’s a good idea to have the school lunch menu posted at home so decisions can be made ahead of time and not last minute as the bus is arriving!  You may notice some changes in what is offered because of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  Check with your children to see if they want to buy lunch or pack something from home.  If packing, look for thermal lined bags to keep perishable foods cold or freeze a juice box and toss it in!  Make healthy changes at home by trying small portions of fruits, like clementine’s or grapes and veggies like baby carrots or salads instead of chips.  Wraps are an interesting change from the usual bologna or PBJ sandwich.  Get input from your children when you go grocery shopping to see what they may want to try.  And don’t forget snacks!  It may be a long time between breakfast and lunch and a healthy snack can help keep kids focused on learning and not their growling stomachs.

For an easy dip for fruit, mix low fat vanilla yogurt with peanut butter, or soy butter and dip apples or bananas in it for a healthy snack.  Low fat ranch dressing or salsa mixed with plain Greek yogurt is a good veggie dip.   I will be at the New York State Fair on Wednesday August 27th, cooking at the AG Pod, next to the farmers market by the main entrance, and will be at the Auburn market on Thursday.  See you at the market!

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August 12, 2014 – Go Have Fun!

It’s hard to go anywhere in the summer and not be confronted with lots and lots of food!  Carnivals, theme parks, fairs, even baseball games; all present challenges to those who are trying to watch their weight.  If you needed to lose some weight and were successful, you know that it is extremely difficult to maintain that weight loss when you are confronted with large servings and some not so healthy choices.  Here are a few ideas on how you can avoid gaining back what you lost!

When you go to a baseball game it may be tempting to get the Jumbo dog, especially if it seems to be a better deal than the regular hot dog.  But, a jumbo beef hot dog (larger than a foot-long) can contain about a half-pound of meat per dog!  That clocks in at around 750 calories and 68 grams of fat depending on the brand (and that doesn’t even include the roll!). Washing that dog down with a tall 16 oz. regular beer will set you back about 200 more calories. Instead, have a regular-sized hot dog (5 to 6 inches) and a small beer. A regular dog on the bun with ketchup, relish and mustard comes in at around 280 calories. Pair it with a 12 oz. light brew for another 100 to 120 calories. Just make sure you don’t overload the dog with high-cal toppings. The chili and cheese layered on top will change 300 or 400 calories into 1,500.

Central New York has lots of outdoor concerts, and many of them feature delicious sounding frozen drinks.  A large frozen margarita can set you back 900 calories! Not to mention the fact that so much alcohol lowers inhibitions, and you start having a “Who cares?” mentality when deciding what to eat.  Mojitos are a better choice, made with light rum, they are around 170-200 calories.

Have you ever been to the Renaissance fair?  You have to try a giant fried turkey leg right?  Did you know that they have almost 1,000 calories in them?  Try a grilled chicken kabob, (around 450 calories) instead or a corn on the cob (about 70 calories).

State fair will be here soon with tons of fried foods to try.  Maybe you’re a fan of the fried funnel cakes?  A serving about the size of a paper plate will set you back 658 calories, while cotton candy, (one of my favorites) is only about 150 calories, mostly because it is spun sugar and very light.  And the fresh squeezed lemonade seems like a good choice right?   Not really, as there is a lot of added sugar, as much as a large soda, so opt for water instead.  You can add fresh fruit to your water bottle to give it some flavor or add a diet flavor packet.  Unsweetened iced tea with lemon is another good choice.

On a really hot day, we like to be in a nice air conditioned movie theater and of course we have to get popcorn!  You smell it as soon as you walk in and it’s always a better deal in the large sizes.  A large buttered popcorn at AMC Movie Theatres can have 1,640 calories and 126 g of fat in its 20-cup serving! If you quench your thirst with a “medium” 20 oz. non-diet soda, that adds another 250 calories.  Try the kid deals they’re the same foods, just a lot less of them.

As you can see, it’s very easy to make a couple bad choices and undo all your hard work to look great in that bathing suit!  The best trick is to have a plan. Know what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat –  And go have fun!

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July 15, 2014 – Have you been to the Farmers Market?

Recipe: Lemon-Dill Green Beans @ bottom of article

Have you been to the farmers market yet?  Across the area markets are open and full of local fruits, veggies, plants, flowers, herbs, meats, cheeses and even wines!    In Cayuga County there are 4 markets open now – the Auburn Farmers market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the parking lot across from Curley’s on State St; the Moravia market on Thursdays in the Kinney Drug parking lot; the port Byron market on Wednesdays in Schasel Park and the Niles market on Saturdays at the town hall on New Hope Rd.

I have been doing food demonstrations at markets for the past 13 years!  This Thursday I will be in Auburn making Lemon – Dill Green Beans.   Green and wax beans are just coming in locally, so it’s time for some bean trivia!  Green beans, once referred to as string beans, because of the string that once was their trademark (running lengthwise down the seam of the pod) can seldom be found in modern varieties.  I probably like them because I used to be called string bean as a kid (I was tall and skinny). They one of only a few varieties of beans that can be eaten fresh. Picked when they are still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form, green beans are a great source of folate, fiber and vitamin K. Purchase beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and “snap” when broken.

Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.   On August 9th, I will be offering a class on quick and easy pickles and we will be making dilly beans, one of my kid’s favorites!  Participants will make and take home a jar and learn the safe methods for hot water bath canning.  The class is $10 and runs from 10AM to noon on the 9th.  If you are interested in joining us, please give me a call at 255-1183 ext. 246 and leave your name and phone number.  This is a good project to do with kids, and they are welcome to come with an adult to the class, please let me know when you register!  Stop down Thursday and try Lemon Dill green Beans and buy what you need to make it while you are there!  See you at the market!

Lemon – Dill Green Beans   makes 4 servings   1 pound fresh green or wax beans, ends trimmed   4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill   1 tablespoon chopped sweet onion  1 tablespoon oil  1 tablespoon lemon juice  1 teaspoon whole grain mustard  ¼ teaspoon salt  ¼ teaspoon pepper    1) Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket.  Add green beans, cover and cook until tender-crisp, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  2) Meanwhile, whisk dill, onion, oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt & pepper in a large bowl.  Add the green beans and toss to coat.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving to blend flavors.  Enjoy!

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June 17, 2014 – Strawberries are here!

Recipe: Strawberry Pancakes @ bottom of article

Strawberries are here! The first of the local berries are available at local markets, and some you-picks. Call before you go to be sure picking conditions are optimal.

A bit of trivia about strawberries: they are fragrant and delicious! The strawberry belongs in the same family as roses, apples and plums. The name of the scientific classification was derived from the old Latin word for “fragrant.” The modern Italian word for strawberry is still “fragola.” Botanists do not consider it to be a true berry, because it has its seeds on the outside and, actually, each seed is considered a fruit!

American Indians called strawberries “heart-seed berries,” and pounded them into their traditional cornmeal bread. Discovering the great taste of the American Indians’ bread, colonists decided to create their own version, which became an American favorite that we all know and love: strawberry shortcake.

Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant will be offering food preservation classes at the extension office on Grant Avenue beginning in June. The first class is June 28 and will cover hot water bath canning methods. Participants will make and take home a jar of strawberry rhubarb jam. The next class is July 19 and will cover freezing and drying. We will be making freezer jam. Aug. 9 is quick and easy pickles, where we will make dilly beans. On Aug. 23, it’s Tomatoes 101, where participants will make salsa and take a jar home. The last class will be on Sept. 13 and will cover pressure canning methods. We will sample soup.

All the classes are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the office on 248 Grant Ave., in the big kitchen downstairs. There is a $10 fee for each class. Preregistration is required by calling (315) 255-1183 ext. 246 two days prior to each class, or emailing

Properly preserving what is in season allows you to enjoy it all year-long and save money. You can also make foods like jams and pickles to give as personal gifts!

I will not be at the market this week, but have a great recipe that features those delicious strawberries.



  • 1.25 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture. The batter should be thick and smooth. Add melted butter and fold in strawberries. Turn griddle on medium heat, spray with nonstick spray and pour about 1/4 cup of batter at a time on the skillet. Cook until bubbly and set, about three minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook until golden brown, about two more minutes. Serve with syrup or additional berries. Enjoy!

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Spring 2014 – Everybody Eats

Everybody eats. Some of us prefer hamburgers. Some like veggies. But what you eat is only the beginning. Here’s something else to ask yourself: Does it matter where your food comes from? Is there any difference between tomatoes grown locally versus those that arrive on a truck from 1,500 miles away? What does chemical ripening of fruits and vegetables mean? Is that safe? Can what you eat really impact the environment — positively or negatively?

Why local food? Have you been hearing the recent news reports on local foods? It seems more and more people are planting gardens or making a point to buy their food from a farmer in their local community. Why do you suppose that is? Do you think locally grown food is healthier, fresher, cleaner or better-tasting? There’s certainly a lot to consider!

Let’s begin with the news reports. Along with the local foods interests, other stories detail all kinds of food recalls. It seems that every month you hear about another batch of contaminated food, along with warnings about eating it. Killer peanut butter. Killer spinach. Killer dog food. What’s next? Is some contaminated item already in your freezer? Help!

Reasons to buy locally grown foods.

1. Freshness. Local fruits and vegetables are usually harvested and sold more quickly so they do not contain the preservatives that are added to products shipped long distances and placed in storage.

2. Taste. Produce that is ripened on the vine has better texture and flavor than produce harvested unripe, then treated with chemicals and ripened during shipping.

3. Nutrition. Nutritional value declines — often drastically — as time passes after harvesting.

4. Improving the local economy. When you buy homegrown food, you circulate your food dollars inside the local area.

5. Strengthening producer/consumer relations. When purchasing food locally, consumers can ask how the product was grown and processed, what chemicals (if any) were used, and any other questions they may have. People tend to trust individuals they know, and they become repeat buyers.

What about the environment? On average, most food travels over 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates! These are called food miles. That distance obviously has a negative impact on the environment. Transportation costs (by truck, rail or air) must be added to the price each of us pays. The transporting vehicle burns fossil fuels that pollute the environment. Often, packaging is heavier to protect contents traveling great distances. And preservatives may be applied to maintain freshness. All of these things have a negative impact on the environment.

What can you do? Incorporate at least two locally grown or produced foods into your family meals each week for one month. (Next month, try three or four!) Take a look at where you purchase your food. Local farmers markets and roadside stands are opening and will offer fresh locally grown food that is good for you and the environment! There are four markets in Cayuga County: The Auburn Farmers Market, open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays beginning June 3; the Moravia Farmers Market, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays in June through October; the Niles market, open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the town hall; and the Port Byron market, open from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Schasel Park.

I will be at some of these markets this season with lots of recipes and ideas on how you can eat local! See you at the market!

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Spring 2014 – Benefits of Gardening

Many of us have begun planting our own gardens. After such a long cold winter, it feels great to be able to get outside and enjoy the weather. Remember, Cornell Cooperative Extension has master gardeners available on a hot line from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through October. They can answer any gardening, lawn, tree or landscape questions you may have. Call (315) 255-1183 to speak to one. If are considering trying a garden this year, you can use EBT (food stamps) to purchase seeds and plants that produce food.

This summer marks the 11th year I have been doing food demonstrations at the Auburn Farmers Market. Wow, where did the time go? Some things have changed, like the location — twice — and the vendors. Sadly, some have passed, but a lot is the same — friendly faces selling you what they worked very hard to bring to a place that is convenient for all of the rest of us to come to and buy the fresh produce they grow. I love eating something that was picked less than 24 hours ago, and is at its peak freshness!

It’s finally spring and the gardening/growing season is just starting to get underway! So why garden? Isn’t just easier to go to the store and buy a bag of carrots or potatoes than grow them? I will give you 10 reasons why it’s a good idea to have a garden!

1. Garden for safe, healthy food. During World War II, almost 40 percent of vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in home “victory” gardens. With reports about food safety in the news frequently, it’s a good idea to know where and how your food was grown.

2. Garden for exercise. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, and almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass is like taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class, and hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting.

3. Garden to add beauty. A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at, and fresh flowers will boost your mood. Herbs in the kitchen add freshness to the room, as well as flavor to daily meals. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade, but shelter for birds and wildlife.

4. Garden to learn. Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves provide the opportunity to find out the cause and understand how to keep plants healthy. Master gardener volunteers man a hot line at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and they can help answer any questions you may have.

5. Garden to make money. For some people, gardening is a lifelong hobby. For others, the love of plants can lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center or a large global company, or even owning their own business. A garden can be a source of flowers, vegetables, herbs and other crops that can be sold at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

6. Garden to meet people. Gardening as a great way to widen your social circle. Join a garden club or beautification committee.

7. Garden to be creative. Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden’s design can reflect a personal sense of style, such as a romantic cottage garden or a peaceful Japanese garden, as well as provide a showcase for art and sculpture.

8. Garden to win. For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off skills. Garden clubs have shows that highlight the best grown, and there’s opportunities at state fairs to compete.

9. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy.

10. Garden for lasting memories. Today’s kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom (especially this Sunday, for Mother’s Day) or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, even if the garden is a single container or small spot in the yard. And a garden provides a beautiful way to remember a special person or time of life.

I hope that I have given you at least one good reason to try gardening this year. Go get dirty!

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Spring 2014 – Spring is finally here

Spring is finally here, although the last couple days felt like we moved directly to summer (I’m not complaining — I’m happy there is no more snow!). Locally grown produce is beginning to slowly appear around the area. I just picked up some locally grown asparagus that I will be grilling for dinner tonight! Asparagus is 93-percent water, and it is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. That’s a lot of nutrition in one veggie!

Other spring veggies like baby greens, spinach, carrots, peas, radishes and rhubarb will be making appearances at local farmers markets as they open. The Auburn Farmers Market will open on Tuesday, June 3 and will again be located in the parking lot across from Curley’s on State Street. They are open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They are the only market in Cayuga County that accepts SNAP (food stamps). When the market opens, you can use your EBT card to receive wooden dollar tokens to spend at the market. For every $5 in tokens purchased with food stamps, you will receive an additional $2 in “health bucks” that can be used that day or saved to use another day.

Moravia will begin its market season on Thursday, June 5. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are located in the Kinney Drug parking lot, 130 Main St., Moravia. They accept WIC and senior farmers market coupons. The senior farmer’s market coupons are available through the Cayuga County Office for the Aging for county residents ages 60 and older.

Port Byron has a farmers market from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Schasel Park on Route 38.

Last but not least, Niles has a farmers market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Niles Town Hall, New Hope Road, Niles. They are open from May to October.

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August 6, 2013 – Five ways to make your fruits and vegetables taste better, fresher

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Recipe @ bottom of article

Thursday, August 8th, I went to the Skaneateles Farmer’s Market to demonstrate a seasonal recipe in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enable farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grows the produce. As of this week, there were 7,864 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. This is a 9.6% increase from 2011.

I would like to share with you all some tips for better tasting fruits and veggies:
1) Know which fruits ripen after they’ve been picked. Apricots, cantaloupe, peaches and plums and tomatoes (technically a fruit) all continue to ripen after they’ve been picked so you can buy some that are not quite ripe if you aren’t going to use them right away. Fruits you should buy ready to eat include apples, grapes, cherries, and watermelon.

2) Keep fruits and veggies separate in the refrigerator. All fruits and veggies should be refrigerated after they have been cut or peeled. Except for onions, potatoes and tomatoes, most veggies are best kept in the refrigerator. Fruits give off ethylene gas which can shorten the storage life of veggies.

3) Refrigerate produce in perforated plastic bags. This helps maintain moisture but also allows air flow.

4) Remove radish tops before storing. Radishes don’t keep well with their tops on, but leave the root end on.

5) Wash fruits and veggies before eating or cooking. This includes salad greens. To avoid having soggy salads, use a salad spinner, which uses centrifugal force to remove water from the leaves.

My visit to the Skaneateles market is made possible by a grant from the Bill Aaron memoriam fund. Bill was, among many other things, a dedicated volunteer master gardener for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County. I was privileged to know him, and to be able to assist him in building the raised beds at The Home, a senior residential facility in Auburn. I also received some of his home made wine as a Christmas gift one year! See you at the market!

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil 
1 ½ pounds green beans
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup butter
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
5-6 leaves of sweet basil, torn
2 cups halved red and yellow cherry tomatoes.
Wash beans, trim ends and cut in half if large. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, bring water to a boil. Add beans and cook, uncovered for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. In a non-stick sauté pan, melt butter; stir in sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper and basil. Add cherry tomatoes and stir gently. Add cooked green beans, tossing gently and serve.

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July 10, 2013 – Cool as a Cucumber
Crisp Cucumber Salsa – Recipe @ bottom of article

To be “cool as a cucumber” add them to your menus during the warm summer months when they are in season. Cucumbers actually are up to 20° cooler on the inside than the outside! Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic or place it in a sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumbers should be used within one or two days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.

Along with cucumbers you can also find at the market this week: lots and lots of zucchini!  All the rain we have gotten has delayed the planting of some crops, but as always what’s bad for one crop favors others, like summer squashes and cucumbers who love all this rain!  You can also find Swiss Chard, kale, collard greens, onions, early broccoli, beets, including the greens, new potatoes, peas, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and cherries.

This week I will be demonstrating a Crisp Cucumber Salsa recipe at the Auburn Farmer’s market.  If you haven’t been down to the market yet this year, it’s a good time to check them out at their new location, 96 State St. in the parking lot across from Curley’s restaurant.  Free parking!

I will be out and about a lot this summer at local farmers markets sharing recipes featuring local produce.  I will also have info on preserving your fruit and veggie purchases.  If you are interested learning how to hot water can, freeze, dehydrate or pressure can, please go to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website: to register for upcoming classes. Space is limited so register today!   We also test pressure gauges at extension, call 255-1183 ext.246 for an appointment.

Did you know that in our area you can visit a farmers market just about every day of the week?  Sunday the village of Jordan has a market from 7AM -12PM; Tuesday is the Auburn market 7:30AM-2:00PM; Wednesday Conquest and Port Byron both have markets 3PM – 6PM; Thursday Auburn again as well as Skaneateles and Moravia 10AM-5PM; Friday Weedsport has a market from 3PM – 8PM and Saturday is Auburn, King Ferry which is 10AM-2PM, Niles 10AM-1PM, and Union Springs from 8:30AM-12:30PM.  Wow!  No excuses not to buy locally and support local farmers!   See you at the Auburn Farmers market!

Crisp Cucumber Salsa  from
2 cups finely chopped, seeded, and peeled cucumber
½ cup finely chopped, seeded tomato
¼ cup chopped red onion.
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 ½ teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons lime juic
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
tortilla chips for dipping.
In a small bowl, combine first seven ingredients.  In another bowl, combine sour cream, lemon and lime juices, cumin and salt.  Pour over cucumber mixture and toss to coat.  Serve immediately with tortilla chips!  Enjoy! –  Only 16 calories in a ¼ cup of dip

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July 18, 2012 – Unusual Spring and Summer Affects Farmers Market Supply
Lemon- Dill Green Beans– Recipe @ bottom of article

If you are looking for something to do with the family this weekend, consider stopping at the Auburn Farmers Market for Family Fun Day.  The market is located across from city hall in the parking lot next door to the Seward House.  This Saturday I will be at the market cooking up some local seasonal vegetables.  Does that sound vague?  Sorry, it’s hard to be specific about exactly what I will be cooking; it’s been that kind of growing year!  Strawberries made a quick appearance and are now gone except for the hydroponic growers.  Zucchini and summer squash are available as well as Swiss chard, cucumbers, scallions, blueberries, some early beets, peas, a few green beans, some early corn, and early potatoes, onions and local garlic.   Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you the same thing – we need rain!  ( except Saturday during the market).  It has been very hot and the heat stress is causing some crops to not do as well as they should.

Many of the vegetables that are in season now lend themselves nicely to being cooked on the grill, avoiding heating up your house on a humid summer evening.  Summer squash is very versatile and can be used in stir–fries, stews, sauté’s, pasta dishes and salads.  You can season them with fresh herbs, like dill, basil, oregano, or thyme (all available locally now).  Lemon juice, garlic, and paprika also add lots of flavor.  Some trivia – summer squash are up to 94% water, making them very low in calories and a good source of liquids on a hot summer day!  They contain vitamins A and C as well as potassium, and calcium.   When we eat summer squash we benefit our eyes, muscles, bones, teeth, and our immune system.  When shopping for squash, look for skins free of any nicks or bruises, as they will spoil quickly.  Choose small to medium squash – no more than 7 inches long to insure smaller seeds and sweeter taste.  Squash dry out quickly so they are best stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator – just don’t forget them!

The Auburn Farmers market is one of only a few in the area that accept food stamps.  The market has an EBT machine that customers can use to receive tokens that they can spend at the market on any food item.  The coupons that mothers on WIC and seniors receive are limited to New York State grown produce only.  Vendors should label their produce if it is not grown in NY, but if you’re not sure, ask.  There have been some beautiful Pennsylvania peaches at the market, and because of the weird weather spring we had, NY peaches are going to be difficult to find and not a lot of them.  Blueberries seem to be enjoying the heat, and are available locally to pick and eat or freeze.   Eating what is seasonally available saves money and is better for you because the food isn’t trucked across the country to reach your table, it’s grown right here!

Lemon- Dill Green Beans
Makes 4 servings

1 pound of green beans, trimmed
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (or 1 1/3tsp. dried)
1 tablespoon minced shallot or sweet onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ black pepper

Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket.  Add green beans, cover and cook until tender-crisp, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, whisk dill, shallot (or onion), oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the green beans and toss to coat.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving to blend flavors.

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January 12, 2011The power of one food choice in losing weight
Kathy Dischner, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Team Coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga and Onondaga Counties.

If your resolution this New Year is to take steps to improve your health and energy level, why not keep it simple? Focus on basic eating and activity behaviors that are painless, easy to do, and after just 21days become a practice. Over time these new practices become habits – the kind of habits that help us control or lose weight, lower our risk for chronic disease and increase our energy and well being.

If your plan is to lose weight or maintain your current weight consider this: it takes an excess of 3,500 calories to gain a pound. If you break this into smaller bites, it takes 100 extra calories a day to put on 10 pounds in one year. The good news is that losing 10 pounds can be as easy as eating 100 less calories each day for a year. Rather than counting calories, focus on making just one or two food choice changes – one day at a time.
Here are twelve food choice changes that will save you about 100 calories each:

  1. Modify your milk. Instead of drinking 2 cups of whole milk, switch to 1% or fat free. You get the same calcium, protein and vitamins minus all the fat calories.
  2. Rethink your drink. Substitute a 12-ounce can of soda or sugary fruit drink for a diet soda (or better yet, water) and save 150 calories. If you switch from a 20-ounce drink, you will save over 200 calories. A soft drink will trigger your thirst mechanism, not satisfy your hunger. You may end up consuming more calories than if you didn’t take the drink.
  3. Modify your Mayo. Switch from 2 tablespoons of regular mayonnaise to light, and you will save up to 150 calories!
  4. Dress your salad; don’t drown it: Regular salad dressing can pack 100 calories per tablespoon. Start with dry salad greens and aim for one tablespoon of dressing per two cups instead of the usual 2-3 tablespoons. Ask for dressing on the side and flavor your greens with lemon, vinegar and herbs to cut the fat and calories.
  5. Size up your cereal bowl. Pour your usual amount into your usual bowl. Now measure it. Compare this amount to the serving size and calories listed on the package. Many of us eat twice the serving size and therefore twice the calories. Try switching to a smaller bowl to aid in portion control.
  6. Watch the bread and butter. Ask for rolls or bread to be served with the salad. It’s easier to limit the bread or rolls to one (or even none) if you can satisfy your hunger with a high fiber, no calorie alternative.
  7. Count your cookies. Read the Nutrition Fact’s label on the cookie package before you indulge. A single medium-sized cookie often contains about 100 calories. We often eat 2-3 cookies before we realize it. If you are seeking “crunch”, try an apple instead. A medium apple provides about 100 calories, takes longer to eat. Then have a cookie if you still crave one.
  8. Top your potato (or vegetable) with fewer calories. Try switching from butter to sour cream. Two tablespoons of butter or margarine have 200 calories. These same 2 tablespoons of sour cream provide only 50 calories (and even less if it is light).
  9. Lesson your liquor. If you drink alcohol, limit your daily consumption to one drink for women and up to two drinks for men as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A typical 5-ounce glass of wine has 100 calories; a 12-ounce beer has 150 calories and 1-1/2 ounces of distilled spirits has about 100 calories. Remember that alcohol can relax your inhibitions. We often consume more calories too when we over-indulgence in alcohol.
  10. Be Smart with Fast Food. Be mindful of your choices. Look at the Nutrition information all fast food restaurants must post or have available for customers first. Check the calories for foods that you like to eat. Ordering the regular size burger or fries can save you hundreds of calories. Try splitting an order of fries with a friend, or skip them and have a side salad with reduced-calories dressing. Hold the mayo and use barbecue sauce and save up to 100 calories. For many adults and children over two, a calorie range of between 1,600 -2,000 is sufficient. It’s easy to consume half of this or more with one fast-food meal, especially if you choose the Value Meals!
  11. Fruit can be Fast Food too: Replace the chips, cookies and candy with an apple, banana or an orange. Just grab, wash or peel first and go! For only 100 calories you’ll have a satisfying and refreshing snack (healthy too!)
  12. Always eat breakfast!  You will have more energy, will think more clearly and often eat fewer calories that day than if you skipped breakfast. Research on women in weight loss programs has shown that women who eat breakfast maintain or lose weight more easily than women who do not.

Finally, move more. Just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can lower your chronic disease risk, provide energy, and can help you to lose or maintain weight. You can split your thirty minutes into three, ten-minute sessions. Create new habits like parking your car further, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to talk with a co-worker instead of phoning or emailing. A little effort can go a long way. For healthful recipes, meal and physical activity ideas and more visit To learn about our educational programs, visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at

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January 26, 2011Use herbs, spices, skip the salt
The flavor of certain spices and herbs has been associated with different cultures, for example; Oregano with Italian cooking, cilantro with Mexican cooking, ginger withChinese cooking and majoram with French cooking.

Want to add a little spice to your life?  How about an herb or two?  Charlemagne said “An herb is the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.”  To reduce your sodium intake without also reducing flavor, try adding some herbs and spices to your favorite foods instead of salt or sugar.  In case you’ve wondered what an herb or spice is, let me explain.   Herbs are leaves of low-growing shrubs, like parsley, chives, basil, oregano, dill, and many others.  Spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, onion, garlic), buds (cloves, saffron), seeds (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (black pepper), or the fruit (allspice, paprika) of tropical plants and trees.

Why would your doctor want you to use more herbs and spices and less salt and sugar?  Probably because he or she wants you to be around for a long time!  Too much salt can raise blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.  The average American eats 20 times the amount of salt that the body needs to function!  It works out to about 5 teaspoons of salt a day every day!  Salt is found naturally in some foods, but most of what we consume is added to processed foods.  With heart disease being the number one cause of death, claiming one American every minute, it’s time we tried to make some changes to our diets.

An easy change to make is to reduce the amount of sodium we eat.  One step that you may want to try is to take the salt shaker off the table, so you have to taste your food before you decide if you want to get up and add some salt.  Savory flavors, and flavors with “bite,” such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill seeds, basil, ginger, coriander and onion are the most effective in replacing the taste of salt according to the American Spice Trade Association.   Use powdered garlic and onion rather than their salt form.

Use half as much of the powdered form. Check labels when grocery shopping to see if “salt” or “sodium” or “monosodium glutamate” are listed among the ingredients.

The flavor of certain spices and herbs has been associated with different cultures, for example: Oregano with Italian cooking, cilantro with Mexican cooking, ginger with Chinese cooking, and marjoram with French cooking.  Changing the spices you add to every day foods like chicken and eggs, can add variety (and spice) to your diets.

Some general rules for how much of a spice or herb to add would be helpful, right?  If possible, start with a tested recipe from a reliable source.  If you’re creating your own recipe, begin with trying one or two spices or herbs.

The amount to add varies with the type of spice or herb, type of recipe and personal preference.  What if your recipe calls for fresh herbs and all you have is dried?  1 tablespoon of fresh finely cut fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of crumbled dried herbs or ¼ to ½ teaspoon of ground dried herbs.

If you don’t know how much of a spice or herb to add, follow these recommendations: begin with ¼ teaspoon of most ground spices or ground dried herbs for 1 pound of meat or a pint of soup or sauce.  Start with 1/8 teaspoon for cayenne pepper and garlic powder, adjust as needed.  Remember, red pepper taste intensifies in flavor during cooking, so add in small increments and taste to make sure you haven’t overdone it!

For maximum quality, store your spices and herbs in tightly covered containers, away from light, such as a cupboard or drawer.  Avoid storage above the dishwasher, microwave, stove or refrigerator, or near the sink as there would be too much moisture.

How long should you keep those spices and herbs around?  As a general rule keep herbs and ground spices for 1 year and whole spices for 2 years.  Buy a smaller amount of a new spice until you know if you like it and how fast you will be using it.   If you have tried a dried herb and like it, consider adding a plant to your garden next year so you can try the fresh version at a very low cost.

Some plants grow well together, called companion planting by gardeners, like basil and tomatoes and chives and carrots.

Did you know a bay leaf placed in a storage container of beans or grains will deter weevils and moths?  (It works, I’ve tried it!).  With Valentine’s Day and National Heart health month around the corner, it’s time to make some healthy changes to we can enjoy those we love a little longer!

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February 8, 2011Keep it healthy this Valentine’s Day: Grab a little chocolate
Chocolate Ladybugs – Recipe @ bottom of article
Kathy Dischner, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Team Coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga and Onondaga Counties.

What is Valentine’s Day without its signature sweetheart food? Among South American tribes, it was considered the “food of the gods”.  I think that many of us would agree that chocolate – that dark, rich, creamy, mouth-watering confection that along with the heart is so heavenly that Valentine’s Day would not be the same without it. 

Researchers have some good news for chocolate lovers: it may be good for you.  Recent research points to preliminary evidence that cocoa, the main substance in chocolate, may help to keep blood pressure lowered, blood flowing through our arteries and our heart a bit healthier.  We already knew that chocolate enhances our mood and makes us feel good, thanks to the neurotransmitters like serotonin that it produces.  Now we learn about its other health-promoting qualities. Health benefits come from the flavonoids, a group of phyto-nutrients contained in all plant foods. Flavonols in cocoa helps our blood to process nitric oxide which is important for healthy blood flow and to moderate blood pressure.  They also help prevent fat-like substances from oxidizing and clogging the arteries and help blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. Other foods rich in health-promoting anti-oxidants and flavonoids include red wine, tea, cranberries, strawberries, peanuts, apples and many other fruits and vegetables.

Dark chocolate contains the highest amounts of cocoa which provide the greatest anti-oxidant benefits; the higher the percent of cocoa listed on the product, the better. Look for chocolate that provides 60-70% cocoa by weight. Dark chocolate has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase blood flow to the brain. But beware, portion size does matter. Chocolate is still a rich source of calories and fat, including saturated fats. On average, a one ounce portion of chocolate contains 140 calories and 9-10 grams of fat with over half of it as saturated fat. The heart-healthy effects come from consuming just a few ounces of chocolate a week. If eaten in excess the calorie and sugar content begin to outweigh the nutritional benefits.

For the true chocolate lover, check out a video titled “The Sweet Science of Chocolate” on the Exploratorium, a museum of science, art and human perception with a website at   The video takes you on a visit to the Amazon rainforest to see cacao, the source of chocolate growing on the tree, learn about the history of chocolate and tours a factory where chocolate is produced.

This Valentine’s Day, try a quick and delicious anti-oxidant rich treat – pair fresh strawberries with dark chocolate chips.  This nutrient-rich, refreshing and satisfying treat will satisfy the young and young at heart!

Chocolate Ladybugs
Makes 10 “ladybugs”

* 5 fresh whole ripe large strawberries
* 30 semi-sweet dark chocolate chips

  1. Cut the greens off the top of the strawberries. Slice in half lengthwise.
  2. Gently push three chocolate chips onto each strawberry half to create ladybug spots.
  3. Serve on a festive tray.

Serving idea: Pair with a creamy fruit smoothie made with your favorite fruit and dairy yogurt.

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February 23, 2011Cook it low and slow
Hearty Barley Casserole – Recipe @ bottom of article

Wouldn’t you love to come home from work, to find your house filled with the delicious aromas of chicken soup or beef stew coming from your kitchen?  Who is in there making those tempting dishes you may ask?  It’s one of the handiest appliances you can use – the crock pot!  With some planning and a few easy steps you can arrive home to a complete meal ready to eat when you are.  Crock pots became popular in the 1970’s when Rival acquired another company that made a little appliance called the beanery, and their cooks started to experiment with this appliance and found it cooked meat even better than beans! 

There are many advantages to using a crock pot: you save money because it is ideal for tenderizing meat so you can use cheaper cuts.  It enhances flavor because a long cooking time combined with low heat and a sealed environment allows flavors to mingle.  Crock pots save time because you put food in the crock pot in the morning and go to work and it’s done when you get home!  You save on cleaning because it’s one pot cooking, and it can free up space in your kitchen if you have a lot of people to cook for by not tying up a burner or oven space.   And, if you’re not completely sold on crock pots yet, there is next to no chance that you will burn dinner because of the low temperatures that the foods cook at.

We may think about using our crock pots more often during the winter but they are very handy in the summer months as well because you aren’t heating up your house using the oven.  They come in different sizes depending on how many people you’re feeding and have become very inexpensive.   By following a few tips, you can have warm family meals ready to eat when you are!  First, start with a clean cooker, clean hands and surfaces.  Next, make sure you keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time.  If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator.  The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature.  Constant refrigeration assures the bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get a “head start” during the first few hours of cooking.

 Always defrost meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.  Choose to make foods with high moisture content such as chili, soup, and stew or spaghetti sauce.
Cut food into chunks or small pieces to ensure thorough cooking.  Do not use the slow cooker for large pieces like a roast or whole chicken because the food will cook so slowly it could remain in the bacterial “danger zone” too long.  Fill the cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full.  Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put vegetables in first, at bottom and around sides of the utensil.  Then add meat and cover the food with liquid such as broth, water or barbecue sauce.  Keep the lid in place, removing only to stir the food or check for doneness.

 Most cookers have two or more settings.  Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used.  Certainly, foods will cook faster on high than on low.  However, for all-day cooking or for less tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting.

If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe.  However, it’s safe to cook food in low the entire time-if you’re leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited.
While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.  If the power goes out when you are not home, you will need to throw away the food in the crock pot when you get home, even if it looks done or if you are home when the power goes out, you can finish cooking it by another means such as stove or grill.  Try this recipe for crock pot barley casserole, a hearty side dish for a cold winters night!

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Hearty Barley Casserole

  • Hearty Barley Casserole serves 4   
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup plain or seasoned tomato juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth

In small microwave-safe dish combine olive oil with onion and garlic. Microwave on high for 2 minutes until onion is tender. Then combine all ingredients except pine nuts in a 3 quart slow cooker (do NOT use a larger crock pot). Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until barley and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with nuts just before serving.

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March 9, 2011 Eat Right, with lots of Color!
“What’s in the cupboard” salad (one varitation) – Recipe @ bottom of article

Do you have a favorite color? What color comes to mind – red, blue, purple, green, yellow, orange, or even white? Do you choose foods from your favorite color palate too? Try eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Why? Because a colorful variety of produce provides a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and energetic, help maintain weight, protect against the effects of aging and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is to Eat Right – with Color! The campaign focuses on choosing whole foods primarily from plant sources to help achieve these health benefits. Antioxidants are substances in plant food that protect the body by neutralizing free radicals, or unstable oxygen particles that can damage cells and lead to health problems. Phyto-nutrients are only found in plant foods that offer a wide variety of health-promoting benefits. Each rich colored fruit or vegetable contains different phyto-nutrients that provide different health benefits.

Choose your favorite colors and savor the great taste, wide variety and enjoyment that eating a rainbow of produce offers. For the greatest nutritional benefits, choose fresh produce in season. During the winter and early spring months, frozen vegetables and fruits are preserved to retain the most nutrient value. Choose colorful fruits and vegetables as part of a low-fat, whole-food eating plan.

Redcolored produce contain nutrients to maintain heart health, memory function and may lower the risk of certain cancers while protecting urinary tract health. Try red apples, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, strawberries and watermelon. Vegetables include red peppers, red onions or potatoes, beets, radishes and tomato.

Blue and purple colored- produce contain nutrients called anthocyanines and phenols which are shown to be powerful anti-oxidants that provide anti-aging benefits. Cells protected from damaging factors in our diet and environment have more youthful properties. Choose blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisin, purple grapes, and black olives. Add purple cabbage, eggplant and even specialty varieties like purple peppers and potatoes to salads and main dishes.

Green colored produce helps to maintain vision health, lowers the risk for certain cancers and helps to maintain strong bones and teeth.”Go green” every day and receive the antioxidant benefits of lutein and indoles. Go for green apples, pears and grapes, honeydew, kiwi, limes, and green olives. The vegetable list is a long one which includes artichokes, broccoli, dark lettuces like leaf and romaine, greens like spinach, kale, collards, mustard and turnip, along with green cabbage, peas, beans, celery and zucchini squash.

Yellow and orange colored varieties provide vitamins and nutrients that also help to maintain a healthy immune system as well as protect heart and vision health, and reduce cancer risk. Pick yellow apples, cantaloupe, lemons, peaches and nectarines oranges, tangerines, mangoes and pineapple. Include butternut and delicate squash, pumpkin, carrots, sweet corn, rutabagas and yellow peppers and potatoes.

White colored produce contain substances called allicins that help to reduce cancer risk and maintain cell integrity. While colored fruits and vegetables include bananas, white nectarines and peaches and brown pears along with mushrooms, onions, garlic white potatoes and turnips.

Try this simple, low-cost salad with fresh, canned or frozen produce from your frig and cupboard. See how many different colors and textures you can add to one simple salad!

  • “What’s in the Cupboard?” Salad~ one variation.
    • 1 – 14 ounce can black beans (rinsed and drained)
    • 1 – 14 ounce can kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
    • 1 – 14-ounce can of whole kernel corn (white, yellow or both)
    • 1 –  large tomato- diced
    • ½ –  each green and red bell pepper, diced
    • 3  – green onions, diced
    • 2 –  tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
    • 2 –  tablespoons juice (lemon, lime or red-wine vinegar)
    • 3  – tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 –  cloves garlic (minced) or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • – Black pepper and dash of salt, to taste
    • 2 –  tablespoons hot peppers, diced (for extra kick)

Mix vegetables and herbs together in a large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients together in separate bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad. Mix well. Chill for 1-2 hours. Serve over bed of chopped romaine of leaf lettuce.  Enjoy your rainbow of colors, flavors and nutrients!

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March 23, 2011 – Eating Healthy and Cheap
Cheeseburger Rice – Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County

Is it possible to eat healthy and cheap in today’s bad economy? It is if you are willing to make a few changes and, most importantly, to cook!  Gas prices are going up with no end in sight, and we know that means grocery prices are also on the rise. The trip to the grocery store is costing us more every time we go! So how can we tame the out-of-control food costs? Stick to the staples — usually buying the components of an item is cheaper than buying the prepaid item. Chicken nuggets, for example, are easy to make from scratch and much cheaper per serving. When you can, buy healthy versions of those staples, like whole wheat pasta or brown rice. As soon as the weather begins to cooperate around here, we can grow our own vegetables. If you haven’t gardened before, or are rusty on what to do, call Cornell Cooperative Extension at 255-1183 and ask to speak to one of our Master Gardeners. They are available to answer questions from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting in early May.

Reducing waste is becoming much more important. Soups and casseroles are great ways to use up leftovers, rather than throwing them away. A little planning can go a long way to stretching your food budget. Get the Sunday paper and check to see what’s on sale this week, before you make a trip to the store and maybe pay too much.  

Consider adding a few of these items to your grocery list:

• Beans are tasty and filling. Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, they have an outstanding nutritional value combined with a delicious taste.

• Tomatoes, whether they are fresh or canned, can save any meal. Tomatoes are low in calories, but rich in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopene. Lycopene can be better absorbed into the body from cooked tomatoes like tomato juice, ketchup, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Fresh tomatoes are good in salads and canned tomatoes add a wonderful flavor to soups, spaghetti, pizzas and a dozen other dishes.

• Brown rice is often overlooked on the supermarket shelves, as we are more used to regular white rice. When we choose white rice over brown, we lose a ton of healthy nutrients like vitamins B1, B3 and B6, iron, manganese and phosphorus, and we completely deprive ourselves of dietary fiber that is responsible for our good health and the feeling of being satisfied.

• Whole-wheat pastas are a little bit more expensive than regular ones, and most people are not used to them, but they are also more filling, so you will end up eating less than if you were eating regular white flour pasta.

• Potatoes, chicken breasts, carrots, ground turkey, onions, garlic, frozen vegetables, 2-percent cheese and lettuce are my best friends in the kitchen. No matter if I have 10 minutes or a few hours to fix a meal, I can always create something interesting and healthy for my family using these ingredients. Here is a recipe that is great for weeknights, and it uses some of the ingredients I mentioned above.

Cheeseburger Rice
Makes 6 servings

• 1 pound ground turkey

• 1 onion

• 1.5 cups water

• 1/2 cup ketchup

• 2 tablespoons prepared mustard

• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

• 1.5 cups quick cooking brown rice (uncooked)

• 2 ounces 2-percent sharp cheddar cheeseBrown meat and onion in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain any fat if there is any. Stir in water, ketchup, mustard and pepper. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice; cover. Remove from heat. Let stand five minutes. Taste to be sure rice is done. Fluff with fork, sprinkle in cheese, cover. Let stand three minutes or until cheese melts. May garnish with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes.

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April 6, 2011 – Spring Veggies Tasty, Healthful
Nutty Asparagus Salad – Recipe @ bottom of article

Kathy Dischner, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Team Coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga and Onondaga County

Well, spring has finally arrived! Even though the air is still a bit chilly, spring produce is making its way to supermarkets and farmer’s markets. Spring produce features an array of bright colors, textures and tastes with the power-packed, disease-fighting phyto-nutrients as an added benefit.

Enjoy a wide variety of produce each day to receive hundreds of these nutrients that protect your health. Remember to follow the USDA MyPyramid guidelines to consume 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day. Two cups of raw, leafy greens count as a one-cup serving.

Choose several of these tasty options to brighten your table and add variety to your spring menus.

Artichokes- each medium artichoke provides about 10 grams of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B vitamins along with magnesium and potassium. To steam, trim an inch or two from the tips of the leaves and remove the stem. Use a vegetable steamer, cook over boiling water for about 25 minutes until tender. Add juice from ½ of a lemon to prevent darkening. Dip the bottom of the leaves into a light sauce like a nonfat Greek yogurt seasoned with garlic, mustard and lemon.

Asparagus – Choose asparagus that has dry, tightly closed tips; the thinner stalks are also more tender. Gently break off the tough ends. Steam, roast or grill seasoned with a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette with some freshly ground black pepper.

Baby Greens- Packed with vitamins, iron and anti-oxidants, baby greens are a true taste treat. Enjoy a salad with a mixture of spinach, endive, field-mix greens, arugula and more. Sprinkle with fresh walnuts, craisins, olives, cherry tomatoes and some feta cheese. Toss with a lemony vinaigrette.

Carrots- Loaded with beta-carotene and fiber, carrots can dress up salads, soups, pasta and casseroles- even muffins! Shred carrots into your favorite salad or muffin batter. Their fine texture, bright color and sweet taste add variety to so many recipes.

Sweet Peas- These sweet, little legumes are a good source of fiber and protein. Add lightly cooked peas to casseroles, salads and stir fries. Steam or microwave just for a few minutes to keep peas a pretty, bright green.

Radishes- These cruciferous vegetables are much like broccoli in the cancer-fighting compounds that they provide. Radishes add a pungent, snappy flavor to salads and salsas. Shred some radishes into a bowl of diced peaches, red onions and tomatoes; toss with lime juice, a pinch of salt and pepper and fresh herbs like tarragon.

Rhubarb-This tart vegetable is a great source of fiber, vitamin C and the phyto-nutrient, lutein. The red hue comes from anthocyanins which help fight age-related eye disease and certain cancers. Simmer rhubarb with strawberries, pineapple, or orange juice instead of sugar or other added nutrients.

Strawberries– Whether eaten plain, as a dessert or added to fresh greens, strawberries are rich in Vitamin C, potassium and anti-oxidants that may help prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung and esophagus.

Try this quick and tasty spring salad:

Nutty Asparagus Salad

1 pound fresh asparagus, steamed for about 5 minutes (until crisp-tender)
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 oranges, peeled and separated into sections
3 cups mixed salad greens

2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. sugar
Pepper to taste

  1. Cut the cooked asparagus into 1 inch pieces.  Place in a bowl; add the walnuts, orange sections, and salad greens.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add dressing to the salad and toss well.

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April 20, 2011 – Easter Egg Hunts Test Food Safety
Muffin Cup Omelets Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County

Holidays are just plain dangerous!  For July 4th, we set off explosives. Thanksgiving seems designed to test our collective immunity to salmonella. But if you had to choose one holiday ritual as the single most dangerous from a food safety standpoint, the venerable Easter egg hunt would win hands-down.
Think about it: We take highly perishable food and stash them outside, under old logs, behind fenceposts or just out in the blazing sun — maybe for hours — and then send children out to gather them up and eat them. It’s a wonder any of us survives past the age of 6!  Remembering a few simple tips will help keep your family safe this holiday.

1) Use one set of eggs for decorating and hunting, and another for eating. Or to be really safe, use plastic eggs for your Easter egg hunt instead of real ones.

2) Keep everything clean. Wash utensils, countertops and other surfaces that eggs come in contact with. That includes washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after handling raw eggs or cooked eggs that will be eaten.

3)  Coloring Easter eggs can be fun, but if you’re planning to eat the eggs you dye, make sure that you only use food-grade dyes.

4) Keep hard-boiled eggs intended for eating in the refrigerator until the last possible minute.

5) Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer to make sure that it is at 40°F or colder.

6) Under no circumstances let anyone eat eggs that have been unrefrigerated (whether at room temperature or outside) for more than two hours. That includes hard-boiled egg used as part of the Passover Seder.

7) If you hollow out eggshells by blowing the raw egg through holes in the shell, you could expose yourself to salmonella from raw egg touching your mouth. To be safe, use pasteurized shell eggs. If pasteurized eggs aren’t available, you should sanitize the outside of the egg before it touches your mouth. To do so, wash the egg in hot water and rinse it in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per half cup of water.

8) If you plan to use the raw eggs you have blown out of their shells, cook and eat them right away — don’t try to store them.

9) When preparing hard-boiled eggs for an egg hunt, be on the lookout for cracks in the shells. Even tiny cracks can allow bacteria to contaminate the egg. Eggs that have any cracks whatsoever should be discarded.

10) If you’re hiding eggs outside, choose the cleanest hiding places you can, and avoid areas that pets or other animals might visit.

11) Keep track of time to ensure that the hiding and hunting time don’t exceed a cumulative 2 hours. And remember, the eggs that are found must be refrigerated right away — or discarded if the 2 hour limit is exceeded.

12) Nothing lasts forever! Even hard-boiled eggs that have been refrigerated properly must be eaten within 7 days of cooking.

Easter is also traditionally a candy filled holiday.  Along with the required chocolate bunny, you might want to include some outdoor activity items that you can easily purchase at your local dollar store like bubbles, a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, or a water gun.  If your child likes to read, a new book would be a good idea.

Here’s an easy breakfast recipe that you can have your children help you make.
Enjoy and have a great holiday!

Muffin Cup Omelets 
makes 12 servings    

12 slices whole wheat bread
6 eggs  ¼ cup low fat milk
¼ teaspoon onion powder, garlic powder, and/or other seasoning to taste
4 ounces reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
2 (approx) cups of any chopped vegetable like; broccoli, spinach, peppers or mushrooms. 

Preheat oven to 400°   Use a biscuit cutter or any 3” round cutter (I use a drinking glass) to cut a circle out of the each slice of bread.   Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Place one bread round in each muffin cup.  In a medium bowl, mix eggs, milk and seasonings.  Divide evenly among 12 muffin cups.  Add vegetables to each and top with cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until 160° on food thermometer.    

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July 27, 2011 – Mapping out nature’s bounty
Vegetable Quesadillas Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County

This summer I am working with our local health department on the Creating Healthy Places to Live Work & Play (CHP) Grant.  My job takes me to 4 local farmers markets this summer to do food demonstrations, beginning with the Port Byron market this Wednesday from 3:00 – 6:00.   The market is located off Rt.31 in the village of Port Byron, in Schasel Park.  Along with great local produce and baked goods, you will also find chicken bbq for takeout or have a seat in the pavilion and enjoy the scenery!   If you enjoy walking there is a 10-foot wide crushed limestone surface trail between Schasel Park in Port Byron and Route 31 in Jordan which links to a newly constructed Canalway Trail segment between Jordan and Camillus and creates a 20-mile bike and hike path adjacent to the Old Erie Canal between Camillus and Port Byron.  Informational sign kiosks were installed at the trailhead in Schasel Park, Centerport Aqueduct Park in Weedsport, and at Old Erie Canal Lock 51 near Jordan.

A new pedestrian bridge was constructed to carry the trail over Cold Spring Brook at the site of the Centerport Aqueduct.   The project was developed in partnership with Onondaga County, the Town of Brutus and the Villages of Jordan, Weedsport and Port Byron. Construction began in April 2006 and was completed in November 2007.

Locally available produce includes: zucchini, summer squash, some early tomatoes, corn, green beans, blueberries, cherries, peaches, and cucumbers. Setting up at the market is free, contact Mayor Ron Wilson with any questions or come down any Wednesday, bring a table and start selling.  Sharon Vitale has been the anchor of this market and does accept WIC and senior farmers market coupons.  She also sells at the Auburn market which is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 7-2 in the parking lot across from city hall.  Other local markets include Moravia on Thursdays from 10-4; Union Springs Saturdays 8-12; King Ferry Saturdays 10-1 and Montezuma Winery Fridays 3-7.  Statewide there are now about 1,000 farmers selling fresh fruits, vegetables and locally made goods at more than 300 farmers markets. 

Along with promoting farmers markets and local produce I will be working on a map of produce stands and you-pick farms in Cayuga County.  If you have or know of a road side stand or you-pick in Cayuga County that you would like to see on the map, you can email the information to me at or call 255-1183 ext.246 and leave a message.   Thank you for any help! 

Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County offers free testing of your pressure canner gauges, just call the above number to make an appointment.  I will have canning and freezing information available at the markets.
Today I will be preparing a popular and easy recipe called vegetable quesadillas.  Perfect for hot summer nights when no one wants to stand over a hot stove for long!  This recipe uses whatever produce you have on hand, is low in fat and high in fiber, and is an easy way to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables as the new USDA’s Myplate recommends.

Vegetable Quesadillas 
makes 8 servings

* 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and mashed
* approx. 2-3 cups chopped seasonal vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, corn, or tomatoes
* 1 cup salsa
* 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
* 8 flour tortillas

* nonstick spray

Mash drained black beans in medium bowl with potato masher or fork.  Stir in vegetables, salsa and cheese.  Spread filling on half of each tortilla and fold other half over mixture.  Spray fry pan or skillet with nonstick spray and heat over medium high heat.  Place folded tortilla in pan and cook 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned, flip and cook other side.  Serve with light sour cream, additional salsa or guacamole.

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August 3, 2011 – Sharing Kernels of Knowledge
Corn, Tomato and Cucumber Salad Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County

New York’s Senate has approved a measure that would make sweet corn the official state vegetable.  Although corn is actually a grass, it is most often thought of as a vegetable. According to Sen. Michael Nozzolio of Seneca County, the sponsor of the winning Senate measure, sweet corn is the top-selling fresh-produce vegetable in the state. Corn is the third most important food crop of the world measured by production volume, behind wheat and rice. In terms of acreage planted, it is second only to wheat.

There is an abundance of other  local produce at the market  including: zucchini, summer squash, corn, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, Swiss chard, melons, scallions, radishes, some early potatoes, blueberries, and more that I can’t remember!  Along with fresh seasonal vegetables, the Auburn market has fresh baked goods thanks to Mark aka The Cookie Man, beautiful handcrafted jewelry, cheese, farm fresh eggs, all natural and locally grown pastured poultry, grass fed beef, local honey, (look for local turkeys this fall), lots of flowers, both plants and cut flowers, and herbs.  Pretty much something for everybody! Remember, the Auburn market accepts WIC and senior farmer’s market coupons and food stamp recipients can use their EBT card to obtain tokens to spend at the market, just find Millie and ask her!

For those of you who have been loyal readers of my column, I am flattered, thank you but due to cuts in my grant, I am not able to be at the Auburn market every week as I have been for the past 8 years.  Thankfully I am working with the health department on the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant (CHP), so I am able to do some food demos this summer to promote local produce.  Last week I was in Port Byron and this week I will be at the Auburn Farmer’s Market on Saturday August 6th from 7AM – 2PM.  Next week I will be down in Moravia and then Union Springs.  I am also working with some community gardens and gathering information for a map of Cayuga County road side stands, u-picks and farmers markets.  If you have questions about preserving all the great summer abundance we have, give me a call at Cornell Cooperative Extension 255-1183 ext.246.  Remember we test pressure canner gauges free, call for an appointment.

Time for a little corn trivia:  The average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows.  There is one piece of silk for each kernel.  A bushel of corn contains about 27,000 kernels.  Each tassel on a corn plant releases as many as 5 million grains of pollen.  Corn is an ingredient in more than 3,000 grocery products.  One bushel of corn can make 33 pounds of sweetener, 32 pounds of starch, or 2 1/2 gallons of ethanol fuel.

National Farmer’s Market week runs Sunday August 7- Saturday August 13.  Visit a market near you and support New York agriculture!  Saturday is the annual corn roast at the Auburn market, so come down to try a free sample of local corn and stop by the extension table to say hi and try a taste of Corn, Tomato and Cucumber salad.  Great for those hot nights you don’t want to heat up the kitchen cooking corn.   The black beans supply an inexpensive high fiber source of protein.

Corn, Tomato and Cucumber Salad
makes 8 servings

* 4 ears of corn (about 2 to 2-1/2 cups corn)
* 2 large ripe tomatoes  2 medium cucumbers
* 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
* 1/2 cup lime juice (or white wine vinegar)
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1 tablespoon oil
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 red onion
* 6 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped, or 6 teaspoons dried parsley (optional)   

Cut kernels from corn and place in a medium bowl. (Corn can be cooked or uncooked.)  Seed and dice the tomatoes and cucumbers and add to the bowl. Add black beans.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together lime juice or vinegar, sugar, oil, salt, and pepper. Stir in red onion and set aside. Toss corn, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers with dressing.  Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Add chopped parsley or cilantro just before serving.

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August 10, 2011 – Zucchini pancakes: A light treat that goes with a lot
Potato-Zucchini Pancakes Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County

August is here and your local farmers markets are stocked up with lots of local produce!  You can find sweet corn, tomatoes (ask if you are looking for green tomatoes) , green peppers (red ones will be in later), cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, onions, summer squash, radishes, melons, lettuces, garlic, blueberries,  sugar plums, and peaches.  With all of this abundance it’s easy to find something for everyone in the family.  This week I will be cooking at the Moravia farmers market on Thursday from 10AM – 4PM and the Union Springs farmers market on Saturday from 8AM – 12PM.  If you haven’t been to either of these markets, it’s a good time to check them out.  Barb Flynn is the manager of the Moravia market which is held in the Kinney Drug parking lot on Rt.38 in the beautiful village of Moravia. Casi Head is the manager of Union Springs market in Astoria Park.  If you are internet savvy, check out Union Springs’s Facebook page, they have great photos and ideas for how to use all that they sell.

I have been keeping busy this summer with my work for the Health Dept. on the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play grant.  We have been promoting community gardens, and have assisted BTW and Melone Village with their gardens.  We taught a freezing class to gardeners at Melone Village this week.   They learned how to freeze many of the vegetables they either have in their gardens or can buy at the farmers market.    It reminds me of the victory gardens of WWI and the movement to can what you grew to save the harvest at its peak.  This Saturday, August 13 is Can It Forward Day.  If you are interested in learning how to hot water bath can, please give me a call at Cornell Cooperative Extension at 255-1183 ext.246 and I will try to get a class together soon.

I will be preparing Potato-Zucchini Pancakes at both Moravia and Union Springs markets this week.  These are a nice light side dish and can be served with your choice of condiments like marinara sauce, ketchup, applesauce, reduced fat sour cream, or a 3 to 1 mixture of low fat sour cream and yellow mustard.  If you are out and about doing any of the many great things are available, like Founders Day, or the Great  Race, stop by and try a taste – you can buy what you need to make it at the market and  bring home some delicious summer fruit or vegetables!

Potato-Zucchini Pancakes

makes 6 servings

* 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and shredded
* 2 small zucchini, washed and shredded
* ½ medium onion, grated or 1 teaspoon of onion powder
* ½ – 1 teaspoon garlic powder  (or I clove minced)
* 1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh-omit if using seasoned bread crumbs)
* 3 eggs

* Oil or cooking spray for skillet 
* 2 tablespoons flour  (or seasoned bread crumbs) 

Place shredded potatoes and zucchini in a colander to drain excess water.  In medium bowl combine drained zucchini and potatoes with eggs, onion, parsley, garlic, and flour (or bread crumbs).  Mix well.  Lightly coat a large non stick skillet or griddle with oil or non stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Working in batches, spoon mixture, ¼ cup at a time, into heated skillet.  Leave an inch or more between pancakes.  Cook 5 minutes (or until light brown on bottom)  turn and cook on second side 3-5 minutes (or until brown)Spray cooking spray on skillet between batches of pancakes.

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September 21, 2011 –Wild Weather Affects Produce
Veggie Wraps Recipe @ bottom of article
Becky Crawford is the community nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County

This Saturday the vendors at the Auburn Farmer’s Market will hold their annual customer appreciation day.  It’s their way to say thank you to all of the loyal customers who have visited the market this year.  If you have a home garden, you know it has been another challenging year to grow anything.  We have had extreme heat, lack of rain, way too much rain, a tornado and the impact of a hurricane!  It’s amazing anything has been able to grow!  Local farmers have been able to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in spite of the adverse weather.  Hopefully, you have taken advantage of their skills and stocked up on some great food!  Local apples are in and very sweet due to the heat.  Apple cider is in as well as pears, a few zucchini and summer squash, spaghetti squash and winter squash, and pumpkins.  You can also find Brussels sprouts, cabbage, hot & sweet peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, and grapes.  Of course, don’t forget to pick up some of Mark (aka the cookie man)’s tempting baked goods, or Pam’s poultry, or Carole’s jewelry.

The USDA’s new MyPlate initiative challenges Americans to: balance their calories by enjoying their food, but eating less, avoid oversized portions; to make half their plates fruits and vegetables, half their grains whole grains, and switch to low fat or fat free milk; and to reduce sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals and drink water instead of sugary drinks.   Visit the website for recipes, information and tips on how to apply the recommendations to your family.  When you pack your kids lunch, toss in some baby carrots, grapes or apple wedges instead of the standard bag of chips.  Remember that your child’s lunch may sit in a warm classroom for hours before they eat it, so don’t pack perishables or include a freezer pack.

Weeknight dinners can be hectic with afterschool activities, leaving a little time to get a healthy meal on the table.

Veggie Wraps
makes 4 servings 

* 1 teaspoon oil
* 2 teaspoons garlic
* ½ cup chopped onions
* ½ cup chopped carrots
* ½ cup chopped green bell peppers
* 1 ½ cup chopped zucchini
* 1 cup chopped broccoli
* ½ cup corn
* 1 cup spinach or other dark green vegetable  pepper
* 4 tablespoons light cream cheese
* 4 whole wheat tortillas  

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, onion, carrots, and peppers and cook for 3 minutes.  Stir in the zucchini, corn, and broccoli and cook another 3 minutes.  Add spinach and season with pepper.  Remove from heat and allow to cool before assembling wraps.  Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on each tortilla, add vegetables, roll tight and cut in half. 

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