Fresh Local Corn–Enjoy While You Can

We all know that local corn-on-the-cob tastes the best. One of the reasons is that corn’s natural sugars change quickly after harvest causing the corn to lose its sweetness quickly. Corn is one of those great summer farm market treats.

When selecting sweet corn look for husks with good bright green color that are snug to the corn ear and the silk dark brown. Avoid silk with worms or decay. Select ears that are full of kernels. These kernels should be well developed and plump, tender and milky.  If they are too large or too dark they can be tough, chewy and pasty.

For best quality, store corn in the husks uncovered in the refrigerator. If you have corn without the husks, put them in a perforated plastic bag. Corn is best when eaten within two days. After removing the husks and silk, wash the corn in cool running water before eating, cooking or preserving.

Nutritionally corn is a good source of carbohydrates as well as small amounts of Vitamins A and C.  It is sodium-free and low in fat.  Depending upon the size, corn can yield 2/3 to 1 cup of corn per ear. One medium ear of corn contains about 90 calories. Corn provides folate and thiamin as well as fiber.  It can also be a source of zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that may protect against age-related eye disease, such as macular degeneration.

Even though corn is a starchy vegetable, it can still fit into a healthy balanced diet.  According the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans we should try to eat 2-2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day and this can include 5 cups of starchy vegetables a week. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-3/ The key here again is balance and moderation and an occasional ear of corn-on-the cob when it’s fresh adds variety.

Instead of the traditional boiled and slathered with butter and salt corn-on-the-cob, try roasting on the grill with a little olive oil. I recently placed husked corn in a zip-top bag with a small amount of olive oil and added an herb blend. I turned the bag over several times to coat the ears with the oil and seasoning.   Then I took the cobs out of the bag and placed the cobs directly on a hot grill turning them several times until the kernels were slightly charred and golden. The flavor was great and there was no need to add extra salt or butter. Do be careful to watch the corn as it cooks, you don’t want it to overcook and dry out.

Judy’s favorite method for grilled corn is to start in the microwave and then finish on the grill at the same time the other items are cooking. That keeps it sweet and from getting tough and burnt. She cooks it in husks or in a covered dish for 2 minutes per ear. See her recipe below for corn salad using leftover cooked corn.

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

Here is one of Food and Health Communication’s Favorite recipes for corn:

Fresh Corn Salad

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup
Total Time: 15 min | Prep: 15 min | Cook: 0 min

Ingredients:

6 cups dark green lettuce, preferably red leaf
2 ears of corn, shucked and cooked
1 large, ripe tomato
1/2 medium-sized, ripe avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flavored vinegar
Black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and soak in a large amount of cold water; allow to stand so the dirt sinks to the bottom. Drain the lettuce well in a colander. Place the lettuce in a salad bowl.

Cut the corn off the cob and place on top of the lettuce. Core and dice the tomato and place on top of the salad. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh from the rind. Dice the avocado and place it on top of the salad.

Chill and cover the salad until ready to serve, up to 3 hours.

When ready to serve, drizzle oil and vinegar over the top and add black pepper to taste.

Serves 4. Each 1 cup serving: 148 calories, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0gtrans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 18mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 4gsugars, 4g protein.© Food and Health CommunicationsAnother article in the blog on Corn-on-the-Cob

Shucks with the husks

Fruit: Nature’s Fast Food

I’ve got a fun new poster in the store, and today I want to share a little bit about it with you!

First things first, here’s my latest creation:

I was inspired by the fresh produce available last summer at one of my local markets, so when I got home I couldn’t resist setting up a quick still life to highlight these tasty stone fruits at their peak.

Imagine my surprise when this print won 1st place in the Open Print category of the 2016 Annual Print Competition at the Palo Alto Camera Club. Ron Herman was the judge, and I was completely floored by his decision.

Soon after this picture won, I decided to feature it in my gallery showing this past winter. The showing was titled “A Visual Feast” and took place at the Avenue 25 Gallery in San Mateo California. In fact, if you look closely, you can see this photo hanging with a few other favorites in the picture below.*

I was so proud of this original photo that I decided to turn it into a poster. But what to call it?

I wanted to steer clear of additional artistic commentary and let the image speak for itself, so I focused my brainstorming on key health lessons and nutrition topics. Then, out of the blue, it hit me. Fruit is nature’s fast food! I often grab a peach or a handful of cherries on my way out the door or to snack on as I work at my desk, and I realized that these snacking habits had — over time — gradually replaced my reliance on fast food. I’m sure that this change in my routine was great news for my health, and so now I want to share that epiphany with your clients in order to encourage them to also change their habits.

And that’s how this poster came to be. How will you use it?

* This image is copyright 2017 by Len Cook @expressionfood.com

And here are some other resources that can help make your life easier…

Watermelon Basics

TendrilsJuly is National Watermelon Month… celebrate in style!

Nutrition: All melons are low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. They’re also sodium free.

Watermelon is a good source of Vitamins A and C. It also provides vitamin B6 and potassium. Pink watermelon contains the potent carotenoid antioxidant, lycopene, and has higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, including tomatoes. A two cup serving of watermelon contains only 80 calories and counts for two of the eight servings of fruits and vegetables recommended per day.

Picking a watermelon: A good watermelon should be symmetrical, heavy for its size, and firm with no cuts, dents, or bruises. Look for the pale or buttery yellow “belly.” Tendrils (like pig tails) near the fruit stem should be dry and brown. When selecting a cut watermelon, the more red flesh and less white rind you see, the riper the melon is. White seeds usually indicate that the melon was picked too early. Although so-called “seedless” watermelons have far fewer seeds than the seeded varieties, they generally contain at least a few soft and pale seeds.

Wash that melon!Storage: Uncut melons can be stored for up to 2 weeks at room temperature depending on ripeness. Once cut, store all melon in a tightly closed container — its aroma easily mingles with other foods. Cut slices or chunks of melon should never be left out or held at room temperature for an extended period of time. Use cut melon within 3-4 days.

Safety: Bacteria can adhere to the surface of a melon and be passed to the flesh when the fruit is cut or handled. The melon’s skin should be washed and scrubbed with water, even if you don’t eat the rind or skin. If selecting a cut melon, be sure that it has been refrigerated during display.

Looking for some other articles or ideas to use to write or teach about watermelon?  Here a past post from the archives that can help: To Thump or Not to Thump? A Watermelon Quiz

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

And here are some other fun summer resources…

Last but not least, here’s a new printable handout that you can use as you see fit!

Watermelon Month

Farmers’ Markets Dos and Don’ts

I have a problem at farmers’ markets.

In the fieldsYou see, I absolutely adore farmers’ markets. The problem is that I tend to get carried away when I visit them. I’m always so excited to see all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I end up buying much more than I really need. My eyes are bigger than my refrigerator.

After a visit to the farmers’ market the other day, we had fresh tomatoes, green beans, tiny new potatoes, and corn on the cob for dinner. I served all that with oven-baked walleye from the freezer. Even the fish had been caught locally — we got it last summer on a trip to Lake Erie.

You can’t get much more of a local meal than that.

Since I go to farmers’ markets so often and have been going for so many years, I’ve learned quite a few “dos and don’ts.” Now I’d like to share them with you…

Farmers’ Market Dos:

  • Do eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Do enjoy the fresh, local availability of a wide range of foods.
  • Do try something new and different.
  • Do make a quick trip around the market before you make any purchases.
    • This allows you to see what’s fresh.
    • It also helps you get a sense of how much each kind of food will cost.
    • Once you’ve made your lap, go back to the stalls that offer the items you want at the best prices.
  • TomatoesDo bring cash. Growers don’t always accept credit cards.
    • Keep your money easily accessible.
    • This will make your transactions easier and faster.
  • Do wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
  • Do bring water to drink.
  • Do bring a reusable or recycled bag to help carry your purchases.
  • Do put a cooler with ice in your car.
    • This will help the items you buy stay fresh until you get home.
  • Do go early in the day.
    • If you’re there at the start of the market, then you’ll get the best selection and quality.
    • Yes, you might get a good deal on any items left near closing time, but you also might miss out on what was available.
  • Do get to know the vendors.
    • Many are your neighbors.
    • Become a regular.
    • Spend some time talking with the growers. They can let you know what’s in season and what to expect in upcoming weeks.
  • Do ask about bulk purchases.
    • If you’re planning on purchasing a few items to preserve (freeze, can, or pickle) then you might get a deal if you buy large quantities.
    • Again, this is the time to talk with the grower and arrange for these large orders ahead of time.
  • Pea Shoots Do keep food safety in mind.
    • While you may be tempted to taste a bite of fresh melon or tomato, look around and make sure that the person offering it has used good practices.
    • Good practices include washing the produce, wearing clean gloves, offering toothpicks, using a clean knife, and keeping the food items cold if necessary.
    • Don’t take risks.
  • Do be considerate of the farmer and the next customer.
  • Do keep control of your kids and dogs.
  • Do come back next week.

Farmers’ Market Don’ts:

  • Don’t sample anything if the food isn’t offered to you or labeled as a sample.
  • Don’t expect the farmers to deal with you on price.
  • Don’t pinch, squeeze, drop, peel (like corn), or stick your fingernails in foods and then leave said foods for someone else.
    • Respect the food and your fellow customers.
    • By messing with the food, you may be making it unsellable.
  • Don’t block a vendor if you’re not buying.
    • If you’re visiting with a friend, move away from a display so others can get by and shop.
  • Don’t get carried away (like I do).
    • A deal isn’t a deal if the food goes to waste.
    • Be sure to only purchase what you’re able to eat while the food still has good quality.
  • Don’t forget, you can always go back next week.

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

Find more farmers’ market educational resources in the Nutrition Education Store. The most popular ones include…

Farmers’ Market Photo Posters

Enjoy Your Farmers’ Market Handout

Real Food Grows Banner

PS Have you visited the free clipart library? Check out the fruit and vegetable clipart, try an infographic, or just browse the full selection!

Make Great Grilled Salads at Home!

Sliced RomaineI’m always on the lookout for ways to eat, serve, and enjoy more vegetables. Salads are winners, but sometimes the toppings tend to pile on more calories and sodium than I want.

Caesar salad is a great example. It sounds healthy in the beginning, but the high-fat dressing, huge dose of cheese, and heaps of croutons frequently outweigh the benefits of the dark green leafy Romaine lettuce. A tablespoon of a typical Caesar dressing contains around 8.5 grams of fat and roughly 80 calories. This can be cut a little by using a lower-calorie version, but then you increase the amount of sugar and maybe even sodium.

But the foundation is sound. Romaine is a great green, high in vitamins K, A and folate. Like other greens, it’s almost fat-free and low in calories, with about 50 calories in a half a head and a bonus of dietary fiber (6.5 grams that same half head). Romaine is usually the basis for the Caesar salad, so let’s capitalize on it.

How?

By putting it on the grill.

Recently my husband and I went to a new restaurant in our community. I was surprised to see a “grilled Caesar salad” on the menu.  It brought back memories of a similar salad I had in a restaurant in Baltimore over 15 years ago. I was so glad to be reminded of something I had enjoyed, and that in turn inspired me to give my own twist on this other way to enjoy a salad.

I fired up the grill and decided to try a grilled salad of my own. It’s so simple and a winner! Plus, it really doesn’t need dressing or croutons and a small amount of cheese goes a long way! When I served it for the first time, I had guests going back for seconds on salads. Now how often does that happen?!

Want to try it for yourself?

Here’s what I did.

On the grill!I started with full heads of Romaine lettuce. I washed and pulled of any wilted leaves, leaving much of the core intact so that the leaves still clung together. (Nutrition tip: keep as many of those dark green outer leaves as possible).

I then cut the heads in half and washed them again. After that, I put a small amount of olive oil (about one tablespoon) and some (about 1 ½ teaspoon) dried garlic seasoning into a large zip-top bag and shook it around. I used garlic seasoning since it’s in a Caesar salad, but you could experiment with anything. Then I added the Romaine heads and refrigerated them in the marinade, shaking the bag a couple of times to coat the lettuce with the oil and seasoning.

I’ve seen recipes online that didn’t put the lettuce in a bag and brushed the leaves with oil just before putting on the grill.  I’m guessing this would work well, too. This was just my way of getting the work done early. It also eliminated a brush and allowed me to take the seasoned lettuce straight to the grill.

Once you’ve got the Romaine on the grill, the key is timing. It doesn’t take long:three to four minutes on each side at the most. The lettuce should be slightly charred and a little smoky. I topped each head with grated Parmesan cheese and served it to my guests. I don’t think it needed any other dressing, but a small amount of low-fat Caesar dressing could be added. Yum!

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

And here’s a printable handout with the recipe! How will you use your copy?

Grilled Caesar Salad

Don’t miss these other amazing salad resources from the Nutrition Education Store!

Eggplant Cooking Tips

Eggplant!I recently got the best gift from a friend — 4 small eggplants from her garden. This is the same friend who brought me several pomegranates a couple years ago. I feel so lucky that I have friends that bring me wonderful fruits and vegetables — what great gifts!

Anyway, back to the eggplant.

I don’t usually buy eggplant, largely because I really don’t know what to do with it. My husband likes eggplant Parmesan, but he usually orders it in restaurants. I’d heard so many rumors and old wives’ tales about how to cook eggplant, and found myself baffled by all the conflicting information. For example, do I need to salt the eggplant? I remember my husband’s aunt always salting her eggplants and then weighing them down with books. On the other hand, according to an archived article from Food and Health Communications, you don’t have to bother with this if the eggplants are very fresh.

So how should I treat my eggplants?

Since salting can help remove the bitterness from an eggplant, I decided to salt mine. If you’d like to salt your eggplants before you cook them, first you need to slice or dice the eggplant into the shape you want to use. Sprinkle everything with about half a teaspoon of salt (not the half cup my husband’s aunt used to use) and then let everything sit in a colander for 30-60 minutes while the eggplant drains. Once that time is up, press out any excess liquid and dry the eggplant with a clean towel. You can also rinse the eggplant to remove extra salt before drying it.

So, there I was with salted eggplant. How did I want to cook it?

Grilled EggplantI dug further into the Food and Health Communications recipe archive and found a few articles about eggplant, along with several healthful recipes. Here are some of my favorites…

With time running short, I decided that I wanted to preserve my eggplants to cook later.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, eggplant can be frozen. As far as I could tell, there is not a research-tested recipe for safely canning eggplant.

So, freezing it was!

To freeze eggplant, fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and half a cup of lemon juice (the lemon will keep the eggplant from darkening). Bring the mixture to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, wash, peel, and slice the eggplant into discs that are half an inch thick. Since eggplant does discolor quickly, prepare only what you you can blanch at one time. When you’re ready, place the eggplant slices in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Pluck the slices out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice bath for another 4 minutes. Then drain and pack up your eggplant. If you want to fry the slices or layer them into eggplant Parmesan or vegetable lasagna, consider placing freezer wrap between the slices before freezing.

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That’s basically what I did, with one little twist. I put the well-drained eggplant slices on a tray and froze them individually. Then I transferred everything to a freezer bag. Hooray! Now I have two quart bags full of sliced eggplant for later this year!

My research also led me to discover a bunch of great eggplant cooking tips. If you ever find yourself with a spare eggplant or two, consider the following…

  • To avoid browning, wait to cut into the eggplant until you absolutely have to — don’t prep that part a few hours in advance!
  • Leave the skin on! This will help color, shape retention, and optimal nutrition. You can find anthocyanins in the purple skin of an eggplant, and since anthocyanins have a positive impact on blood lipids, it would really be a shame to remove the skin.
  • Eggplants do have a tendency to soak up oil during cooking. To keep your dish light and healthful, sauté eggplant in a small amount of very hot oil in a nonstick pan.
  • Want a quick eggplant side? Spray slices with olive oil cooking spray and roast, grill, or broil them.

Anyway, that’s a brief recap of my eggplant adventures. I hope you liked it!

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

Here’s a handout that features the most helpful points from today’s post. Get your copy today!

Eggplant Handout

And for more fun with eggplant, drop by the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit and Vegetable Activity Set for Kids

I Heart Fruit and Veggies Bookmark

Vegetable Chopping Guide Poster

Summer Food Safety Quiz

Summer just seems to scream “let’s eat outdoors!” It’s important to remember that these opportunities for picnics, patio dining, and special summer foods also bring different problems and situations into the food safety picture. Here’s a quick quiz that can be used as a refresher for food safety in the summer.

Summer Food Safety QuizAre the following questions true or false?

  1. The safest homemade ice cream is made with a cooked custard.
  2. It’s safe to eat hot dogs that have been stored unopened in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
  3. Because it’s in a picnic cooler, it’s safe to leave food on the picnic table in a sunny location for over five hours.
  4. This is a great time to marinate meat for the barbeque. Since most of these marinades contain acids, which slows bacteria growth, it’s OK to allow the meat and marinade to “steep” at room temperature like the recipe indicates.
  5. Since it’s already been cooked, it’s OK to leave fried chicken set out all afternoon at the family reunion picnic.

Are you ready for the answers? Here they are!

1. TRUE. If you’re making homemade ice cream, look for a recipe that uses cooked custard. If you must use a recipe that calls for uncooked eggs, get pasteurized eggs or egg whites. Why? Well, there can be salmonella bacteria in raw, uncooked eggs and just because a food has been kept cold or frozen doesn’t eliminate the risk.
2. TRUE. Check the expiration date on those hot dogs. Hot dogs should be used or frozen within three days of the sell-by or use-by date on the package. An unopened package of hot dogs can stay safely in your refrigerator until the expiration date (or two weeks if there is no date). An opened bag of hot dogs should be eaten within a week of opening. Never eat hot dogs that have a cloudy liquid in the bag.
3. FALSE. The “two hour rule” changes to the “one hour rule” when temperatures creep up above 90 degrees F. This means that you should not allow food to sit out at room temperature for longer than one hour. Hot temperatures are just right for allowing the bacteria in food to multiply to numbers that could make people sick. When everyone is done eating, get that food quickly into coolers or a refrigerator.  When storing food in coolers, use lots of ice. It’s hard to keep the temperature of food in coolers below 40 degrees. Five hours may be too long to ensure that food is safe. In that case, don’t eat or save those leftovers! It may seem a waste to throw out half a bowl of potato salad or sliced fruit, but there may be several problems with it in addition to the uncertain temperatures (i.e. bugs, lots of people around — did they double dip?). Unless you are absolutely sure of the safety of the food, pitch any leftovers.
4. FALSE. Marinate your meats in the refrigerator. Yes, most recipes for marinades contain an acid. This may slow but does not stop bacteria growth. Just because the recipe says to allow it to “steep” at room temperature doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Remember, not every celebrity chef or recipe developer has had a food safety or food science class.
5. FALSE. Remember that “one hour rule” for large buckets of fried chicken or plates of burgers and hot dogs. Just because a food item has been cooked does not make it immune to bacteria growth.

While the living can be easy in the summer months, food safety takes a little more effort and planning.

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

There are lots of other amazing summer resources in the Nutrition Education Store! We’re here to help you look your very best, right now!

PowerPoint: Healthy Vacation How-Tos

Food Safety Poster

Hydrate for Health

Summer is in full swing at our beach community and it is HOT.

RehydrateWhen the temperature rises, proper hydration is extra important. You need to provide your body with the fluid that it needs in order to keep itself healthy. Water regulates many different body processes, including body temperature, digestion, and heart rate. It also cushions and protects our internal organs. When we don’t get enough of it, our bodies can suffer.

We lose water from our bodies every time we breathe, sweat, or pee. In fact, it’s estimated that you can lose up to 4 cups of water during an hour of exercise in the heat. This water loss can lead to dehydration.

Signs of dehydration include…

  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Cramping

Ultimately, dehydration can lead to extreme thirst, confusion, heat stroke, loss of consciousness, and death.

So, how can you manage staying hydrated in the heat of summer?

One of the keys is not to wait until you’re thirsty. Drink water regularly.

Running ClipFood can also provide some of the water you need every day. Things like watermelon, soup, milk, lettuce, and strawberries can help you get that needed hydration.

In general, sugar-sweetened sports drinks or beverages with added minerals, vitamins, or electrolytes are not necessary unless you are a competitive athlete or in heavy training for an athletic event.

I was chatting with some friends the other night about proper hydration, and they asked about caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda. The general theory is that people should avoid drinks with caffeine because they are diuretics. But, as the American College of Sports Medicine says, the diuretic effect of soda and coffee is mild compared to the amount of fluid that each beverage contains. I’m guessing the thought here is that — when it comes to staying hydrated — any drink is better than none!*

So, how much water should you be drinking in order to stay hydrated?

This really depends on the person and the activity. In the book, Sports Medicine Guidebook, Nancy Clark stresses that people should be drinking enough so that they will urinate every two to four hours and the color of the urine should be light. If you’re working out, she suggests drinking two cups of water before the activity, 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes during the activity, and 16 ounces after an hour-long workout.

Tips for healthful hydration:

  • Start your day with a big glass of water.
  • Carry a water bottle with you. Refill it often.
  • When selecting bottled beverages, look for drinks with fewer than 20 calories per 8 ounces.
  • Ask for water in restaurants. It keeps you hydrated and it’s free!
  • Made infused water by adding slices of lemon, lime, oranges, or other fruit to your tap water. Combine it all in a big pitcher and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Add a splash of juice to your water for a change of flavor.
  • If you’re going to exercise, make sure you drink water before, during, and after your workout.

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

PS As you hydrate, be sure not to take things too far. Avoid hyponatremia, which often occurs with slower athletes during endurance events. The article, How to Avoid Hyponatremia can be a huge help.

Like what you see? Here’s some of the key information from this post, assembled in a handout just for you. Feel free to distribute it to your clients or use it in a summer display!

Hydration Handout

 

Plus, there’s a ton of hydration resources in the Nutrition Education Store!

3 Steps to Better Health Kids and Family Banner

Sports Nutrition Basics PowerPoint

Are You Drinking Candy? Poster

* That said, alcoholic beverages will increase urine output and decrease hydration.