Is Brown Food Healthier?

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In our Scandinavian household, neutral-colored food was abundant while I was growing up. Yah, sure, we Scandinavians still get teased about our somewhat drab-appearing traditional foods and some of our expressions, too.

You bet I liked the taste of brown-shelled eggs and brown bread.

The adults in my life accommodated my tastes. The farmer who delivered eggs to our family always filled half a carton with brown ones for me. Little did I know that the only difference between white and brown eggs was the color of the shell. The color difference was good enough for me.

My mother would make at least one loaf of “brown bread” every week because it was my favorite. Taste was No. 1 to me. I was not a budding nutrition specialist.

Now I know that some kinds of brown bread and other whole-grain foods are especially good for health. Eating at least three daily servings of whole grains may reduce the risks of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer and possibly diabetes. A serving of whole grains is 1 ounce of whole-grain cereal, one-half cup of cooked whole-grain rice or pasta or a slice of whole-grain bread.

If aiming for more whole grains in your diet sounds appealing, remember that “brown” bread isn’t necessarily “whole-grain” bread. For example, cracked wheat, pumpernickel, 100 percent wheat and rye bread appear “brown” but technically they’re not whole-grain foods.

Whole-grain foods contain all parts of the wheat kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the outer shell that protects the seed. It’s rich in fiber, B vitamins and trace minerals. The germ contains B vitamins and vitamin E. The endosperm provides energy in the form of carbohydrates and protein.

Many whole-grain foods, including cereals and breads, are on the market. Deciphering whole-grain bread from brown bread may take a little detective work. Pick up the package and check out the ingredient label. If the product lists “whole-grain” (followed by the name of the grain) or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient, it’s a whole-grain food.

Some food companies have placed a “whole-grain” seal on their product packages to make selecting whole grains easier for us. Other food companies list the health claim allowed by the Food and Drug Administration on products that meet the whole-grain standards: “Diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods that are low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risks of heart disease and certain cancers.”

Here’s a recipe reprinted from the Wheat Foods Council website. It features whole-wheat flour as an ingredient, and you don’t need to use brown-shelled eggs. Enjoy it with fresh fruit and a glass of cold milk.

Whole-Wheat Angel Food Cake

1 3/4 cups egg whites (about 12 to 14 large eggs)
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg 

In large bowl, let egg whites warm to room temperature, about one hour. Sift cake flour, whole-wheat flour and 3/4 cup sugar together. Repeat process three times; set aside. Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, to egg white mixture, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. With rubber spatula, gently fold vanilla and nutmeg into egg white mixture until combined. Sift a quarter of the flour mixture over the egg white mixture. Gently fold in with 15 under-and-over strokes. Repeat, rotating bowl a quarter of a turn after each addition. After last addition, use 10 to 20 extra folding strokes. Flour mixture should be blended into egg whites. Spread batter into ungreased 9- or 10-inch tube pan. Cut through batter with spatula to release air bubbles. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Invert pan over neck of bottle; let cool in pan completely. With spatula, carefully loosen cake from pan and remove.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 100 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of protein, no fat and 170 milligrams of sodium.


Tame the School Snack Attacks


Photo by Kakisky courtesy of

Most third grade boys think girls are rather germ-laden. My son was no exception when he was a third grader.

I recall a conversation we had about healthful school snacks. As I eyed a large bunch of rapidly ripening bananas on our kitchen counter, I suggested he bring more fruits and vegetables for school snacks.

He wasn’t opposed to the idea, but he brought up the downside of fruits and vegetables. One of the girls in his class brought fruit and vegetables for snacks the previous year.

“Her desk was full of rotten banana peels and old, dried up carrots. It smelled really bad. She had piles of old math homework in there, too.” 

I’m not sure which is worse: spoiled produce or old arithmetic.

After more discussion, bananas, bunches of grapes, apples and mini carrots were deemed “OK” with my son. He said he’d throw the banana peels. He promised to bring his math papers home before they piled up, too.

Most of us of are falling short of the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables, which averages about 4.5 cups per day for adults and preteens. Choosing fruits and vegetables as mid-day school snacks is a good way to help meet the daily goal.

Individual packs of raisins and canned fruit are easy options for including more fruits daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, apples, pears, plums, mini-carrots and celery sticks, also are easy-to-pack snack options.

Safety is another consideration when it comes to packing perishables in backpacks or lunch boxes. Improperly handled fresh produce is increasingly linked with foodborne illness. A few easy steps can prevent a bout of food poisoning:

  • Start with clean hands and kitchen surfaces. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds, about the time it takes to hum “Yankee Doodle” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meats during meal preparation.
  • Wash produce thoroughly with plenty of running water, but no soap.
  • Pack snacks in a way that helps prevent contamination on the way to school. Small clusters of grapes, for example, can be placed in a single-use plastic bag. Washed, whole apples can be wrapped in plastic wrap. Cut-up cantaloupe can be placed in snap-top, air-tight plastic containers. Cut-up produce is perishable, so it’s safest to place cut-up produce in an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack.
  • Since frequent and proper hand washing is key to food safety, wash hands before enjoying a snack.

Here’s a recipe that combines cereal and dried fruit into a tasty treat.

Chocolate Cereal and Fruit Snack Mix

1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. bite-sized crisp rice squares cereal
3 c. bite-sized crisp wheat squares cereal
2 c. toasted oat rings cereal
1 c. cashews (or other nuts)
1 1/2 c. dried fruit bits (such as dried cranberries)
1 c. chocolate chips

In 4-quart microwave-safe bowl, place butter or margarine. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until melted. Stir in sugar, cocoa and cinnamon. Add cereals and nuts. Stir until evenly coated. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Stir in dried fruit. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Cool completely. Stir in chocolate chips. Store in tightly covered container in cool, dry place. Makes about 11 cups mix.

Makes 22 snack-size servings. Each half-cup serving contains 190 calories, 10 grams fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber and 160 milligrams sodium.


Drying Foods is Fun for Family

Chances are you may have some dried foods in your kitchen cupboards. Raisins, of course, were once grapes, and prunes were plums. In fact, prunes are now known as “dried plums” commercially, because plums are viewed as more appealing.

Besides raisins, various dried fruits are common in many popular cereals. They add flavor, sweetness and sometimes, color.

For avid campers and hikers, dried foods are light and portable compared to their high-moisture, perishable counterparts. Banana chips, apple rings and fruit leathers are easy-to-make nutritious snacks that kids can help prepare at home. If kids help dry vegetables, which are later used in vegetable soups, they might be more tempted to eat the vegetable soup, too.

Drying is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. When water is removed from food, bacteria, yeasts and molds are not able to grow as readily. Foods become more compact and safe for an extended length of time at room temperature.

Food may be dried in the out-of-doors using the heat of the sun (and protected from insects and birds with a cheesecloth or screen covering). Tomatoes and raisins are commonly sun-dried. Beans may be vine-dried. Both sun-dried fruits and vine-dried beans, however, should be pasteurized by freezing for 48 hours or by heating in a 160 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Food dehydrators are available for indoor drying. If you choose to buy one, be sure it has a thermostat from 85 to 160 degrees, a dial for regulating temperature, a fan, at least four trays made of sturdy plastic and a timer.

Home ovens may also be used for occasional food dehydrating, but it might disrupt everyday cooking so it probably isn’t the most viable option for drying lots of produce. Oven drying is slower than dehydrator drying and takes more energy.

Following are directions from the University of Georgia Extension Service for fruit leather. Homemade fruit leather is easy to make and usually less expensive than commercial types. Children love to help make this simple snack, too. The added advantage is that you can mix fruit flavors and adjust sugar content to suit your tastes. Artificial sweeteners can be used in place of sugar, and you can use fresh, frozen or canned fruit.

Fruit Leather

Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Wash fruit in cool water, remove peel, seeds and stems. Cut fruit into chunks, and use about 2 cups of fruit for each 13″ x 15″ pan of fruit leather. Puree fruit in blender until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid for each 2 cups of light-colored fruit to prevent darkening. If desired, add corn syrup, honey or sugar. For longer storage, use corn syrup or honey. If the fruit leather will be used immediately, use sugar (because it crystallizes during storage). Commercial apple sauce may be dried on its own as described here or may be used as an extender.

Cookie/jelly roll pans with edges (13 inches by 15 inches) work well if leather will be dried in an oven. Line with plastic wrap; do not use waxed paper or foil. Food dehydrators often have special inserts for fruit leather.

Pour pureed fruit mixture into pan, spreading evenly, about 1/8 inch thick, and staying away from pan edges. The optimum temperature for drying fruit leather is 140 degrees (usually the lowest oven setting works but use an oven thermometer to check). Keep the oven door open two to six inches and a fan near the door – but be especially cautious about keeping young children away from the oven. A commercial dehydrator is a safer option for use around children. Fruit leather will take up to 18 hours to dry in an oven, or 6 to 8 hours in a food dehydrator.

To test for doneness, touch center of fruit leather. No indentation should appear. Peel from plastic while warm; roll, allow to cool and rewrap in plastic. During initial cooling phase, leather may be cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Fruit leather will keep for about 1 month at room temperature. Nutritional value varies depending on type of fruit and amount of sugar/sweetener added.

See for more information about drying fruit.

See for more information about making fruit leather.

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Lift the Lid on Food Preservation

Photo courtesy of the National Center of Home Food Preservation.

When most of us “baby boomers” came home from the hospital as infants, our mothers probably held us because infant car seats weren’t required then. We probably rode in cars filled with leaded fuel.

Most likely we came home to houses with asbestos insulation and lead-containing paint. Most of us slept in cribs with fairly wide slats, and our pajamas probably weren’t flame-retardant. We might have been fed solid foods at 2 weeks of age.

Maybe it’s a wonder we survived.

The moral of the story: Health and safety recommendations change based on knowledge gained through research and practice.

Food preservation recommendations have changed through time, too. Great Grandma’s famous pickled beet recipe and the canning recipes published in the 1970 church cookbook probably don’t stand up to current recommendations.

During and after World War II, canning formulations were tested for safety. Research-tested recipes and procedures were provided across the U.S. through the Extension Service network of the land-grant university system. Since then, canning recommendations continually have been revamped as new knowledge is gained.

How much do you know about canning recommendations? Even if you never have seen a pressure canner, you could be offered home-canned food. You might want to gauge your risk.

Test your knowledge with this true/false quiz.

  1. True/False: Vegetables, meats and most mixtures of foods must be canned in a pressure canner, not a boiling water-bath canner.
  2. True/False: Paraffin wax is not recommended as a way to seal jams and jellies.
  3. True/False: When canning salsa or tomatoes to be processed in a water-bath canner, lemon juice or another acidic ingredient must be added to ensure proper acidity.
  4. True/False: Botulism, a potentially fatal type of foodborne illness, could result from eating low-acid foods (such as vegetables) that have been canned improperly.
  5. True/False: For best quality, use home-canned foods within a year.

How did you do? All the answers are “true.” For more information about food preservation, contact your local Extension office or visit the NDSU Extension Service website, (click on “food preservation”).

Where Can You Learn About Canning, Drying and Freezing Food?

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I was having breakfast with a group of people after helping harvest lettuce, beans, zucchini, peas and peppers that our “Junior Master Gardeners” had planted behind our church. The food is shared with members of our congregation and the community.

People at my table began reminiscing about gardening and food in general. Someone mentioned she wanted to get into gardening and preserving foods. Another person talked about having home-canned foods while growing up, with few foods purchased from the grocery store.

Someone else mentioned the home-canned wild game birds her mother used to prepare. I think she could almost “taste” the memory.

Then a person mentioned a time she opened a jar of home-canned food and her house smelled bad for three days because the food had spoiled in the jar. That was not a pleasant memory.

Her family was lucky the jar didn’t blow its cover off, spewing the toxic food everywhere. I have had phone calls from people asking how to clean up the mess when food is not properly canned.

Sometimes, however, we have no “signs” such as changes in color, flavor or aroma to know whether food is safe. The only prevention measure is to follow research-tested guidelines for preparation and storage.

Whether you grow your own produce or buy it, preserving food has many advantages. You have control of the quality of your starting ingredients, and you have a sense of pride that comes with preserving your garden’s bounty. You also may be preserving some family traditions.

Creativity often is the mark of a good cook, but creativity has little, if any, role in home canning. Home canning is a science. The good news is that U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research-tested recipes are readily available at no cost.

The bad news is that Great-grandma’s pickled beet recipe isn’t necessarily considered safe by today’s standards. Botulism, a potentially deadly form of foodborne illness, can result from improperly home-canned foods.

Remember some basic rules when canning. Make sure your equipment is functional and, if processing vegetables or meats, be sure your pressure gauge has been tested for accuracy within the past year. Obtain research-tested recipes and follow them closely.

Acidic foods such as pickles, jellies, jams, fruits and tomatoes should be processed in a boiling water-bath canner for the recommended amount of time. Tomatoes should be acidified with lemon juice or citric acid. Low-acid food such as vegetables, meat and most mixtures of foods should be processed in a pressure canner following current recommendations.

Salsa is one of the most popular home-canned foods. If your garden produced salsa ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers and onions in abundance, consider these salsa-making tips.

  • Follow the formulation exactly and measure/weigh ingredients carefully. Use bottled lemon or lime juice or vinegar as indicated.
  • Handle hot peppers carefully: Wear plastic gloves and wash your hands before touching your face.
  • In canning recipes calling for spices, you safely may decrease the amount of spice, but do not increase the spice amounts.
  • To alter the heat in salsa, you safely can substitute one type of pepper for another, but keep the total amount of pepper the same.
  • Do not thicken salsas with cornstarch or other thickeners before canning. After opening the jars, if the salsa appears thin, it can be heated and thickened later, or the excess juice may be strained.

For more information visit for free, research-based information about food preservation. You can learn about freezing and canning almost any food. Learn how to make sauerkraut and home-made wine. Explore making fruit leather and dehydrated herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Many county Extension offices offer food preservation classes, so check in your area for those learning opportunities. One of our most popular guides is “Canning and Freezing Tomatoes and Making Salsa,” which includes the following recipe.

Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa

3 quarts peeled, cored, chopped slicing tomatoes
3 cups chopped onions
6 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
4 long green chilies, seeded, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin*
2 tablespoons oregano leaves*
1 teaspoon black pepper

Procedure: Prepare tomatoes (see Page 1). Prepare peppers (see Page 7). Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into pint jars, leaving ½ inch of head space. Adjust the lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water-bath canner (at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet) or for 20 minutes at higher altitudes.

*Optional: Spice amounts may be reduced. Do not make other adjustments to this recipe.

This recipe yields about 7 pints. Two tablespoons of salsa has about 10 calories, 2 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 0 g protein and 0 g fat.


I’ll Have the Centerpiece for Lunch

At this time of year, some of the blooming flowers look good enough to eat. Some flowers actually are edible.

In fact, many flower varieties are edible, but before you munch on the centerpiece, you need to do your homework. Some flower varieties are poisonous, or at least could cause allergic reactions or stomach upset.

For example, apple blossoms should be tasted in moderation because the flowers contain chemicals related to cyanide. Chamomile commonly used in teas can cause allergic reactions in people with ragweed allergies. Too many daylilies can have a laxative effect.

Flowers have been used as food throughout history, from squash blossoms in Asian culture to roses in Italian culture. More recently, chefs and cake decorators have used flowers as garnishes.

Edible flowers can be floated on soups or in punch bowls. They can be frozen in ice cubes or ice rings. Brightly colored edible petals can be sprinkled over salads. Besides serving as the finishing touch, flowers have made their way into the main course or side dishes.

Some of the common edible flower varieties include the petals of roses, chrysanthemums, pansies, violets, nasturtiums, impatiens and daylilies. Not only can flowers add color, they also can add flavor. Flowers differ in taste from mintlike to peppery.

Here are some tips to consider before eating the bouquet:

  • Know your flower varieties. Consult with an expert or use a reputable plant identification guide. Remember that flowers used as plate garnishes aren’t necessarily edible.
  • Be aware that people affected by allergies, hay fever or asthma could react to flowers used in food preparation.
  • Avoid flowers that have been exposed to pesticides unless the pesticides are labeled for use on edible flowers and the label directions have been followed. Avoid using flowers grown by the roadside because they may have been exposed to pesticides. Flowers from florists or garden centers also likely have been treated with pesticides and are best left off the menu.
  • Pick fully open edible flowers after morning dew has evaporated. Use right away or refrigerate between layers of damp paper toweling.
  • Remove pollen-containing stamens and pistils from flowers. Pollen can detract from the flavor. Pollen also can cause allergic reactions.
  • Gently wash flower petals right before use.

Slowly introduce edible flowers into your menu to avoid potential stomach upset.

For further information, the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service website has an online publication with information on growing edible flowers and the flavors of edible flowers. It is available at

Here’s a tasty veggie dip. Try it with or without added nasturtium petals. The light versions of cream cheese and mayonnaise cut calories and fat.
Veggie Dip

1/4 c. hot water
2 tsp. beef bouillon powder
1 8-oz. package light cream cheese
1/2 c. light mayonnaise
4 large green onions, chopped
1/3 c. chopped red, orange and yellow nasturtium petals, chopped (optional)

Dissolve beef powder in hot water. Chop onions, tops included. Mix ingredients and chill. Before serving, mix in chopped flowers if desired. Be sure flowers have not been in contact with pesticides, and wash carefully. Garnish with additional flowers if desired. Serve with assorted fresh vegetables.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving contains 60 calories and 5 grams fat.

What Kind of Water Is Best?

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A few years ago, I visited California in late summer. When people hear you’re from North Dakota, they talk about cold weather and lots of snow. If you add that you live in Fargo, they talk about the movie and TV show of the same name. They expect you will speak in an accent.

When I told them the temperature topped 100 degrees back home, they hardly believed me. I think they were expecting us to have snow on the ground year-round. They probably thought I wore snow boots on the plane. I’m not sure what the local reaction would be to snow in August.

The effects of high heat and little moisture are pretty obvious on plant and animals. When I forget to water them, my decorative plants look like overcooked side dishes. Birds flutter in search of refreshing bird baths.

High heat and lack of moisture also can take a toll on humans. While we have no minimum recommendation for human water consumption, water perhaps is our most essential nutrient. Humans are made up of 60  to 75 percent water by weight, depending on age and gender.

Too little water can be devastating, especially to older adults and young children who become dehydrated more easily. People who work outdoors in hot weather and athletes also need to keep liquids handy to prevent dehydration. When we feel thirsty, it usually means we’re slightly dehydrated.

Water has many roles in the human body, ranging from lubricating joints for easy movement to helping regulate body temperature. On average, we lose a couple of quarts of water daily through urination and sweating, so replace those losses with the equivalent of 6 to 8 8-ounce cups of fluid daily.

Signs of dehydration include nausea, sunken eyes, muscle cramps, clammy skin and rapid heartbeat. Dehydration often requires prompt medical care.

What kind of water is best? That depends on your personal preferences. Municipal water or tap water is safe to drink, barring any contamination issues. However, some people prefer the taste of bottled water.

Bottled water has become a huge business. In fact, according to a market research company, bottled water is a top-selling beverage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water, also known as “drinking water.” The FDA requires that bottled water be processed, bottled, held and transported under sanitary conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the safety of tap or municipal water.

Special types of bottled water, such as mineral, artesian and spring water, must meet the guidelines set by the FDA. For example, mineral water can’t contain added minerals. These minerals must be present in the water source naturally.

Are you thirsty yet? A glass of cold water certainly will tame your thirst. Most foods contain some moisture, too. Fruits and vegetables are the all-stars in moisture content, and their high moisture level keeps their calories low. Here’s a refreshing fruity drink to enjoy on a hot day.

 Tropical Smoothie

1 c. orange juice
2 c. pineapple chunks packed in juice, drained
1 large banana, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. fat-free milk
2 Tbsp. sugar (as desired)
1 c. crushed ice

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 140 calories, no fat, 36 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 2 g of fiber and 60 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Do You Have a “Fish That Got Away” Story?


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I recall when my now-16-year-old daughter first experienced fishing. At age 6, she didn’t catch a fish while casting a line off a dock, but she officially was “hooked” on fishing.

She talked about the fish that got away for years. I witnessed a striped bass nibble her bait, but then it cleverly avoided her hook for the rest of the afternoon. She was very persistent.

She became a classic “fisherperson” with a “fish that got away” story. Her fish has grown progressively larger as time has passed. In fact, by today’s estimate, it’s probably about one-third her size.

That fish had her name on it. She asked our friends to promise not to catch it because she expected it to grow much larger by our return visit at the end of summer. Shaking her little fist for emphasis, she vowed to catch that fish. She never got her fish, but I think it led to her love of fish and seafood to this day.

Fishing is a popular and relaxing sport that sometimes results in a tasty meal. Be sure to learn about the fishing guidelines at your destination. Because fish is highly perishable, follow some rules to keep your catch at its best.

To help ensure a safe and tasty meal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • Scale, gut and clean fish as soon as possible after they’re caught.
  • Keep live fish on stringers or in live wells when possible, but be sure they have enough water to move and breath.
  • Wrap fish, whole and cleaned, in water-tight plastic and store on ice.
  • Keep 3 to 4 inches of ice on the bottom of a cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice.
  • Store coolers out of the sun. Cover the coolers with a blanket to insulate them against the sun.
  • Eat fresh fish within one to two days or freeze it. For best quality, use frozen fish within three to six months.

You don’t need to catch your own fish to enjoy it. When purchasing fish, use your eyes and nose to help you make your decision. Look for firm flesh that springs back when pressed and be sure your selection has a fresh smell, not an unusually strong “fishy” smell.

To determine amounts to purchase or prepare per serving, consider these guidelines. Allow about 1 pound of whole fish (as it comes from the water), 1/2 pound dressed fish or 1/4 pound fillet per serving.

Cook fish until it flakes with a fork, but be cautious not to overcook it or your entrée will be rubbery or dry. Experiment with cooking methods. Try grilling, baking, poaching or frying your catch.

Here’s a quick and easy way to enjoy the “fish of the day.”  For more information, see the NDSU Extension Service publication, “A Pocket Guide to Care and Handling of Fish from Stream to Table” FN 535 at

Baked Fish Fillets

1 pound fish fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated onion
Paprika (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If fillets are large, cut into desired portion sizes. Allow about 1/4 pound per portion. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Mix melted butter, lemon juice and onion. Dip fillets into mixture and arrange in baking pan. Pour remaining mixture over fish. Bake uncovered until fish flakes with fork, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika before serving if desired.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 7 grams (g) fat, 0.5 g carbohydrate and 22 g protein.


Happy Campers Need to Plan Ahead


Photo by sgarton courtesy of

I grew up in an “indoorsy” family. In fact, the first time I spent a night in a tent was at the insistence of a very outdoorsy college roommate.

We gathered a few friends and went to a lake for “Julie’s Camping Adventure.” Things started out OK. The food was tasty, and the weather was fairly warm. I had my own tent and a cozy sleeping bag.

This wasn’t so bad after all, I thought.

Then things took a turn for the worse in the late evening. Rain started falling. My tent partially collapsed in the wind and pouring rain. Water seeped in, forming a little pool in half of the tent.

As I rolled to the other side of the tent, I lamented that nothing is quite like a soggy sleeping bag.

When the rain subsided, I heard animals rustling outside my tent. They sounded big. Not only was I wet and cold, I also was terrified.

I thought surely I’d be a midnight snack for some huge, hungry animal that had wandered over from a distant state, probably having heard through the animal grapevine that I knew nothing about camping.

Needless to say, sleep escaped me that evening.

I obviously survived my adventure, and I even had fun on a hike the next day. I later went on to more enjoyable camping adventures.

Camping and hiking are chances to enjoy the outdoors, “rough it” a little and learn a few things along the way. If you’re planning a lengthy camping or hiking trip, you have a few guidelines to keep in mind.

First, plan your menus, shop for ingredients and think “light” when packing. Aim for cookware that “nests” so it takes up less room and also consider using aluminum foil as a cooking aid.

Find out if you’ll need to bring a portable stove or grill or if campfires are allowed. If you are using new or unfamiliar cooking equipment on your trip, do a trial run at home to be sure you know how to operate it.

Consider easy-to-prepare items such as macaroni, rice, and dry soup, pancake and sauce mixes that help create quick and tasty meals with only the addition of water and a few other ingredients.

If meat is on your menu, don’t forget your food thermometer. Be sure the meat is packed on ice and kept below 40 degrees.

Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees and chicken breasts to at least 165 degrees. Heat leftover food to at least 165 degrees. Don’t forget to clean your thermometer between uses.

If you plan to take a hike, pack some shelf-stable foods to eat on the trail. Consider bringing peanut butter in plastic jars; juice boxes; crackers; canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef; beef jerky; nuts; dried fruit; and plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

When doing cleanup at your campsite, use biodegradable soap that’s available in many camping supply stores. Wash your dishes at your campsite, away from the edges of rivers, lakes and streams. Dump the dirty water on dry ground to prevent contaminating the rivers, lakes or streams.

Wash your hands well. For quick cleanup, pack some disposable wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Here’s a snack to enjoy while you’re enjoying a nature hike or brisk walk around your neighborhood. Trail mixes are generally energy-dense for their weight.

Trail Snack

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. oatmeal (not instant oatmeal)
1 c. raisins
1 c. coconut
1 c. peanuts
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix together well. Press onto greased or sprayed baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool and cut into chunks. Divide into 12 servings and place in individual sealed bags.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 300 calories, 7.4 grams (g) protein, 35 g carbohydrate and 15.5 g fat.

What’s the “Exertion Value” of Gardening?


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“Are you teaching me how to plant things so someday I can teach my little girl?” my daughter asked. We were planting flowers and tomato and pepper plants. She was about 7 at the time.

“That’s the idea,” I remarked. Being a grandmother was an interesting future concept, too.



“Then she can teach her little kids and they can teach their little kids and on and on,” my daughter continued.

I was growing older by the minute.

“Yes, that’s true. Gardening is pretty fun, isn’t it? I hope we’ll get lots of tomatoes and peppers,” I remarked, changing the subject before we hit the 22nd century.

“It’s kind of a lot of work,” she noted with a dramatic sigh as she lugged a bucket of compost to the garden plot. “Can we take a break?”

As we visited, we met our new neighbor for the first time. He was trimming shrubs. We became acquainted, and I got some rhubarb in the process.

Gardening is beneficial on many levels. All that digging, lifting and bending is good for your health and it’s relaxing at the same time. Depending on what you choose to plant, flowers and plants can beautify your landscape, herbs can flavor your recipes, and fruits and vegetables can color your recipes. Children who help grow fruits and vegetables are more apt to eat them, too.

If gardening is your preferred form of exercise, consider the research results of Barbara Ainsworth and colleagues published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. She examined the effort expended in a variety of activities and assigned “exertion value” numbers. Lower numbers correspond to less exertion and fewer calories burned. Here are some relative exertion values (not in calories burned) for typical activities:

  • 0.9 – Lying quietly or sleeping
  • 1.5 – Sitting on the deck
  • 2.3 – Walking while shopping
  • 3 – Carpentry
  • 4 – Bicycling at 10 mph, fishing, water aerobics
  • 4.5 – Golfing
  • 5 – Softball or baseball
  • 6 – Swimming

Here’s how gardening activities fit in this system:

  • 1.5 – Standing or walking while watering the lawn or garden
  • 3.5 – Trimming shrubs with a power cutter
  • 4.5 – Mowing lawn
  • 5 – Laying sod
  • 6 – Tilling a garden or mowing with hand mower

I’m not sure where gathering rhubarb stalks would fall, but the activity has enjoyable consequences in the kitchen. One of the earliest “fruits” of the season, rhubarb, or pieplant, is technically a vegetable, but it’s used as a fruit in pies, cakes, sauces and jams. Look for firm, glossy stalks that aren’t large. Don’t nibble on the leaves because they are toxic.

Store fresh rhubarb in the crisper of your refrigerator, wash and use within a few days. Rhubarb is frozen easily by cutting and placing it in freezer bags in recipe-size portions. Heating rhubarb in boiling water for a minute and cooling promptly in cold water helps retain color and flavor. Before freezing, you also can add sugar or sugar syrup if desired.

Here’s a tasty way to enjoy rhubarb. You can substitute frozen rhubarb that has been thawed and drained, too. For more information about food, nutrition and gardening, visit the NDSU website at

Cinnamon-topped Rhubarb Muffins

1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. butter
1 c. (8 oz.) reduced-fat sour cream
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. chopped rhubarb
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, combine brown sugar and butter. Beat at medium speed until well-mixed (one to two minutes). Add sour cream and eggs; continue beating, scraping bowl often until well-mixed (one to two minutes). In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. By hand, stir flour mixture into sour cream mixture just until moistened. Fold in rhubarb. Spoon into greased muffin pans. In small bowl, stir together a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle onto each muffin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan.

Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin has 165 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fat and 1 gram of fiber.