What’s Your Cooking Style?

Different things can draw people to participate in meal preparation. In the kitchen, there’s really something for everyone! Take a look at some of the examples below to find strategies for getting your kids involved with family meals.

  • The builder is like the engineer. She or he may become enamored with kitchen gadgets and equipment that does a specific job, so make the builder’s gadget requests and use a part of your time in the kitchen.
  • The artist, on the other hand, might not want to make a whole meal. Set him/her to work making an elaborate table setting, a beautiful plate for the main meal, or a pretty salad. Plating meals can be fun for artists too, especially if you have sauces in squirt bottles, ready to be “painted” on the plates.
  • Let the musician listen to music while cooking or choose the music that is played during dinner!
  • Have kids who are interested in writing make lists of meal ideas, write recipes, or create their own cookbook.
  • Allow the aspiring chef as much freedom in the kitchen as possible. You may be amazed at some ingredient combinations or gourmet preparations.
  • Give the gardener opportunities to grow herbs or vegetables for the kitchen.
  • The shopper might like to buy pots and pans, kitchen equipment, plates, or neat produce at the farmers market.
  • The social butterfly might like inviting friends to dinner and posting pictures of meals on Facebook.

Excerpted from No Battles Better Eating, by Chef Judy Doherty, PC II

Eat your jack-o-lantern?

Kids love Halloween, costumes and carving pumpkins. Extend the fun by serving dinner in a pumpkin. This meal could be made ahead and served before the goblins go out trick-or-treating or have it in the oven while passing out treats at home.  I made this for family friends a couple of years ago and they still talk about the time I put a pumpkin on the table.

Get the kids involved in this meal. Make it a family outing to select the pumpkin or pumpkins.  The large round pumpkins that make great jack-o-lanterns are not the best for eating, they are usually stringy and tasteless. Smaller flatter pumpkins are best for cooking. Look for  sugar,  pie pumpkin or cooking pumpkins.

I could only find small orange pie pumpkins at our farmer’s market. There was also a hybrid pumpkin variety called a Buck Skin. This was a tan  on the outside rather than orange but bright orange inside.  This is one of the varieties of  pumpkins used by commercial canneries use to make canned mashed pumpkin and pie filling.  So, it’s a great eating pumpkin.

A word of caution when it comes to selecting pumpkins to fill for a meal. Don’t get one that’s too big.  It might not fit in your oven or may be too heavy once filled.  If you can’t find a nice medium-sized cooking pumpkin, you might want to go with individual smaller pumpkins.  Everyone could have their own pumpkin for dinner.

It may be tempting to try to do “double duty” with a pumpkin, to first have it as a jack-o-lantern and then make it into a pie. Let’s not go there. Like any other food, once it has been cut, pumpkin needs to be kept refrigerated. You should plan to eat or refrigerate pumpkin the same day you cut into it. You could use the whole pumpkins for yard decorations, just don’t cut them until you’re ready to cook them.

The bright orange color is a dead give-away that pumpkins are full of important nutrients and antioxidants and beta-carotene. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for proper health of eyes, respiratory tract, skin and tooth enamel.


Tips for making a meal in a pumpkin:

  • Make a recipe of your favorite soup, chili or meal-in-one casserole.  Cook that recipe almost complete.
  • Wash the outside of the pumpkin. Cut off the top as if you were making a jack-o-lantern and thoroughly clean out the seeds and strings, leaving the pumpkin shell.  This can be a great job for the kids.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the hot filling into the cleaned pumpkin shell, replace pumpkin top and place entire pumpkin with filling on a baking sheet in oven.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until pumpkin is tender.
  • Carefully place the pumpkin on a serving platter (this may be difficult or impossible if your pumpkin is very large.) Remove the pumpkin lid and serve the contents. For your vegetable, scoop out the cooked pumpkin and serve.
  • Add a cold glass of milk and toasty bread and this provides a complete meal.

Food safety notes:

  • The soup, chili or casserole should be hot and almost completely ready to eat when put into the pumpkin shell. 
  • Do not put raw ingredients, especially meats or poultry into the pumpkin shell, the heat will not penetrate the hard shell enough to cook these items.
  • Ingredients such as rice that need a long cooking time should be almost tender when placed inside the pumpkin.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University


Produce Puzzler


I’m stealing this idea from a local produce market.  They do a great job promoting their foods on Facebook and Twitter.  Each week they ask a question they call the Produce Puzzler and offer food prizes for the person answering correctly.

The question last week was: “What fruit is consumed more than any other fruit in the world?”
Now I’m sure I could have cheated and searched the web for the answer.  However, I felt fairly sure about the first idea that popped into my mind.  So I responded: banana.

Other people were saying apples, tomatoes and mangos.  There were lots of people that said mango. I wondered to myself, have these folks ever priced a mango? 

I was wrong. The market claimed that mango was the correct answer. (Could all those people be that much smarter than me or did they “Google” the answer?)

Their source was James Scherrer @ Banderasnews.com (a newsletter out of Puerto Vallarta). He claims that worldwide mangos are consumed 3 to 1 over bananas and 10 to 1 over apples.

I didn’t believe that.  So I kept looking.

Wiki.answers.com questions that answer, too.  They say it’s the tomato.  While it is technically a fruit, most of us consider the tomato a vegetable and while lots are consumed worldwide, most are consumed in a cooked product.

Anwser.com agrees with me about the banana.  They state that there are 95 million tons of bananas produced per year.  In terms of price, availability, ease in eating and what people like, you can’t beat a banana.

They also say that “mangoes are the world’s most popular fruit” because many of mangoes are grown in home gardens, not produced commercially or imported to America. 

Ask.com agrees that it’s the mango, stating that they are “the most eaten fruit worldwide, being staples in diets in India, South Asia, China and Latin America, while we in America still consider them an “exotic” fruit” (thus the price.)

I’m assuming that mangoes must be much cheaper and more readily available in other parts of the world.  I remember once while traveling in the Bahamas, I was delighted with the two (yes, two) mangoes in the packed lunch prepared for me by the hotel. I commented about that being such a treat, telling the staff that these fruit usually cost over $1 each in our stores.  They just laughed at me saying they grew all over the island.

If you look at this question just a little differently, what is the most popular fruit in the United States, mangoes don’t even make the top 10. Apples top that list. Bananas are up there, too.

 I’m really not sure of the statistics or the correct answer for the question of the “most consumed” fruit in the world. This could be a fun tip for parents – what is the most popular fruit at your house?  Buy a bunch, take a poll and have fun. The best part is everyone wins with increased fruit consumption.

It could also be good for work-site wellness programs – take a poll on favorite fruits and post the answers. Maybe different departments have different favorites.

Here’s a great recipe from Chef Judy for a Vanilla Custard Sauce that turns these favorite fruits into a fancy dessert.  Hint:  it’s great with mangoes and bananas. http://www.foodandhealth.com/recipes.php?id=1133

You can also serve mangoes and other fresh fruits in a tall glass with chopped mint for an elegant dessert.

Well,  I’m not going to complain to the market, dispute their facts or try to claim the prize.  But, just wait till next week’s question.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Surrender to the ice cream temptation

Summer time and the living isn’t always easy.  Hot weather seems to cry out “time to stop at the ice cream shop.”  Ice cream is a great treat, but it can also be a dilemma for those that are mindful about a healthful diet.

The number of calories in that ice cream treat can vary widely and range from about 100 calories to over  500 depending on portion size and what goes in and on your ice cream.

Here are 10 ways to make trade-offs that keep you in the fun without the guilt or blowing your calorie or fat budgets:

  1. Pick a cake cone instead of a waffle cone (this could save you about 100 calories). Have your ice cream in a cup and avoid the cone all together.
  2. Go for a child’s size, one scoop or a small cone instead of a “regular”  which is frequently 2 or more large scoops.
  3. Watch the flavors you pick. Plain flavors such as vanilla and strawberry usually have less calories than the fancier choices.
  4. Limit the add-ins. Obviously those with added chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, cookie crumbs and candies have more calories.
  5. Select ices or sherbets instead of ice cream.  These usually have less or no fat. Greek yogurt bars are pre-portioned and a great treat, too.
  6. Look for light, reduced fat or fat-free  ice cream, since they generally have less fat (and calories) than regular ice cream.
  7. Many soft-serv cones are lower in fat and calories than the hand-dipped ice cream varieties.
  8. Don’t assume that a frozen yogurt is more healthful or contains less fat or calories—be a good consumer and read labels or ask for nutritional information.
  9. Instead of going out, make ice cream or sorbet at home.  It is a fun family project if you have an ice cream maker. Plus you won’t be tempted to keep gallons on hand. Consider that a gallon of ice cream can be over 5000 calories! Peach Berry Crush Frozen Fruit Pop Cups
  10. How about substituting frozen fruit instead?  I posted about the Yonanna machine https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/your-bananas-my-bananasyonanas/  a while back that takes frozen fruit and turns it into an ice cream-like product.

It isn’t always easy when the gang is screaming for ice cream.  As we all know healthful eating is a matter of moderation.   I have a friend who says that once or twice a summer she goes out and  gets a super cone with all the frills, but it’s not a daily or weekly practice.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University


Pineapple a-peel

I love kitchen gadgets. Yes, you have to store them.  Yes, it is something else to clean.  But they are fun and (I think) make cooking and eating easier.  Some foods are just hard to prepare. Pineapple is one of them.

My sister recently showed me a pineapple corer she purchased at a specialty food store for about $10. This is her second, the first broke from use.  Thinking it may hold up better under frequent use she says the next one she buys will be metal. It is fun to slice the fruit into rings and kids can have fun decorating them into happy faces.

If you’re not into buying more gadgets, many grocery stores have machines that will core and cut a fresh pineapple.  Either way do-it-yourself or at a store, you get the solid core out of the center and the prickly skins cut away.

I heard people say they don’t use these devices because it wastes some of the fruit. It is hard to use the little bits of pineapple attached to the skin.  Personally I think it’s a trade-off.  Yes, coring wastes a little of the pineapple, but it makes getting through the prickly skin much less daunting.  If it’s easy, it might even get people to eat more fruit.

Commercially this fruit is not wasted. Pineapple manufacturers use the parts attached to the skin after mechanical coring for crushed pineapple, juice, nectar and marmalade.

Fresh pineapple can be pricey, but this is the time of the year to look for your best deals.  Other times of the year, canned pineapple is readily available for a reasonable price.  Select pineapple canned in its own juice or in water to reduce the added sugar calories.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

IMGP9523Peeled Pineapple

Here are great pineapple recipes from foodandhealth.com: