Perk Up With a Cup of Coffee


Photo by Rikahi courtesy of

Coffee beans were on my shopping list. We switched back to buying beans when I brought our coffee grinder out of storage. I need to stay alert for the season.

As I studied all the coffee types in a supermarket aisle, the choices nearly overwhelmed me: light, medium, dark roast, whole beans, various grinds, caffeinated, decaffeinated, multiple flavors, pre-bagged or fill-your-own bag. You get the picture.

“We have lots of choices,” I commented to a fellow shopper who was staring at the same array of packages. I was surprised she didn’t answer, “Well, duh.”

“Too many,” she replied. “This is a gift for my son who has a French-press coffeemaker. I just buy the cheap stuff for myself.”

I decided on a package of medium roast beans with no added flavor, tossed it in my cart and called it good. The other shopper still may be at the store.

Coffee is big business and Americans are dedicated consumers. Americans collectively spend $40 billion annually on coffee according to 2013 statistics from Food Industry News.

Chances are, if this column caught your attention, you are among the coffee drinkers. You even may be sipping coffee. Let’s take a look at the effects, positive or negative, that drinking coffee has on health.

Through the years, coffee has had some negative publicity. For example, coffee was linked to increasing blood cholesterol levels in one study. When other experts reviewed the study, they noted the coffee was boiled, which changes its composition, and the participants in the study drank twice the average amount.

The good news is that moderate consumption of coffee, two or three cups daily, does not negatively affect most people’s health. In fact, many research studies have shown coffee has positive effects.

Many of us drink coffee to “wake us up” in the morning and during the midafternoon slump. Being “mentally alert” is a good thing, but too much caffeine can leave you jittery. If you decide to cut back, remember to wean yourself slowly to avoid potential headaches.

Coffee is rich in protective antioxidants, with at least one study showing it to be higher in anti-oxidants than green tea and other types of tea. A Harvard study examined the role of coffee and development of Type II diabetes and found that drinking coffee seemed to have a protective effect against the disease. But, before relying on coffee to lower diabetes risk, note that other issues, especially increasing weight, play a role in diabetes development.

Next time you run a marathon, keep this in mind, too: A little caffeine before an event can boost an athlete’s performance. Some research, although controversial, has shown a slight protective effect of a few daily cups of caffeinated coffee toward gallstones and Parkinson’s disease.

Who should forgo coffee or trim back consumption to minimal levels? If your doctor says “no coffee,” abide by that rule. If you suffer from heartburn, you may want to curb your caffeine intake. Drinking coffee can stimulate the painful burning sensation of heartburn.

If you’re drinking coffee instead of milk, you may be putting your bones at risk. Aim for at least three servings of calcium-rich foods daily and do weight-bearing exercise for strong bones.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to minimize, or better yet, eliminate caffeine consumption. This is an issue best discussed with a medical care provider.

Overall, moderation is the best advice when it comes to coffee. Would you like to try a cappuccino but don’t have a machine? Try out this inexpensive alternative adapted from a recipe from


1 1/4 c. hot coffee of choice
1/4 c. skim milk
Sweetened cocoa powder

Place skim milk in glass jar and tightly apply lid. Shake until froth forms. Pour coffee in large mug and top with frothy milk. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and cinnamon.

The recipe makes 1 serving with 27 calories, no fat and 75 milligrams of calcium.

Brighten Your Plates and Bowls of Food This Winter


Photo by missprint2 courtesy of

Have you ever noticed that many comforting “wintry” foods are pretty bland in color? Our plates tend to take on the appearance of the outdoor landscape about this time of the year.

I thought about this as I was enjoying a cup of cocoa with marshmallows. My steaming cup looked like a murky pond filled with a pile of little snowballs. I didn’t spoil my appetite by visualizing that scene too long.

Along with fuzzy sweaters and floppy slippers, many of us like to “cuddle up” with creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, savory meatloaf, flavorful bean soup and other “warming” foods when the mercury dips low in the thermometer. All these comforting, brownish-beige foods have their nutritional merits, of course, but menus can be improved with a little color.

Many people experience a winter slump when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we eat the most fruit in the summer. Despite eating more fruit, adults are still only eating about 54 percent of the recommendation. In the winter, our fruit consumption slips to 44 percent of the recommendation.

Besides beautifying your plate, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is good for your health. Fruits and vegetables contain “phytochemicals,” or plant chemicals responsible for their color and many of their health benefits.

Plants differ in their makeup, so eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important to get all the health benefits. Color provides cues to health benefits.

Blue/purple fruits and vegetables, such as plums, purple cabbage and blueberries, in conjunction with an overall healthy diet, may lower the risk for certain types of cancer. The “blues” also may promote memory function and healthy aging.

Green fruits and vegetables, such as green grapes, kiwi, cabbage and broccoli, add crunch and flavor to meals. Some of the “greens” provide protective lutein and indoles, which are plant chemicals that may lower the risk for cancer and/or promote vision health.

Yellow/orange fruits and vegetables, including cantaloupe, apricots, carrots and squash, are sources of carotenoids, which promote vision health. The yellow/orange group also includes citrus fruits. Oranges and grapefruit, for example, provide vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system.

Red fruits and vegetables, such as pink grapefruit, red potatoes and tomatoes, are versatile, colorful foods with many health benefits. Some may lower the risk of certain kinds of cancer, and others promote memory function.

Here’s a super-simple soup recipe that received rave reviews at a holiday potluck. It’s creamy, warm, comforting and colorful. With a blend of vegetables in a reduced-fat creamy cheese soup base, it might become one of your favorite quick meals. Visit for more information.

Colorful Cheesy Vegetable Soup

3 cans chicken broth (low-fat)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes (with green peppers, onions and celery)
2 16-oz. packages California blend frozen vegetables
10 oz. “light” or “reduced-fat” processed cheese (such as Velveeta)

Simmer broth, tomatoes and vegetables in a pot for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Serve.

Makes about 10 servings. Each serving has 150 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 2 g of fiber and 11 g of carbohydrate.

Holiday Bulge Doesn’t Have to Happen

At this time of the year, holiday goodies are everywhere. Tasty treats show up on desktops and break tables, and in grocery store aisles. I’ve learned that my family rapidly gives in to temptation.

One year, I bought a decoration shaped liked a gingerbread “chef” with a removable glass plate. Of course, I needed to put something on the plate, so I bought some red, green and gold foil-wrapped miniature candy bars. They looked like little presents.

I told my spouse and kids that the candy bars were for “decoration” and we would eat the candy later. Needless to say, I was asking for disappearing candy bars. Within three days, only one bar remained of about 50.

I had two bars. Strangely, they all said they’d only had “a couple of bars” each. That adds up to 10 bars accounted for, unless, of course, they actually meant “a couple dozen.” Maybe they were having parties in my absence.

I was tempted to wrap cotton balls in colorful foil as a surprise for my treat stealers.

Tempting holiday treats can add pounds because little cookies, candies and snacks contain calories that add up through time. In theory, 3,500 extra calories can add a pound of weight.

The good news: Research has shown most people are not gaining as much weight as once was believed. The average weight gain is about a pound during the winter holiday season.

The bad news: Once weight is added, it’s often hard to subtract. Researchers found that the 165 subjects in their study did not lose the extra weight they gained from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. In fact, by the following year, the subjects had gained an additional half pound.

Gaining 1.5 pounds a year may not seem like an issue. Through the course of 10 years, however, that adds up to 15 pounds, which can make a health difference. Continuing to accumulate extra weight through time can lead to obesity, which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

So, what can we do to avoid the cycle of weight gain? I, for one, should have left the little candy bars, pretty as they were, in the cupboard, in the freezer or at the store.

Consider these tips to avoid the winter bulge:

  • Plan ahead for parties. Have a snack such as an apple or banana at home so you’re not “starving” by party time. Have a large glass of water before you leave for a holiday gathering.
  • Position yourself away from the buffet line or snack table. You can overeat easily without realizing it.
  • Spend more time visiting than eating. After all, it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full.
  • Use a smaller plate or gather your goodies on a cocktail napkin. This may help deter you from drippy, high-fat foods.
  • Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole-grain crackers. These fill you up without filling you out.
  • If you’re the chef, use low-fat ingredients such as reduced-fat cream cheese, salad dressing and sour cream in place of “regular” versions.
  • Bundle up and get some regular, moderate exercise. If the weather is too cold, consider going to a shopping mall.

Visit and click on “recipes” for a variety of soups, salads and appetizers.

Mailing Food Gifts Requires Some Precautions

Package by cohdra courtesy of

Several years ago, a friend from entered the Peace Corps. A group of my friends and I decided to assemble a gift package for him. We collected a number of nonperishable items and mixes that only require the addition of boiling water.

He was surprised and pleased by the large box of goodies.

Many people send gift boxes in the mail at this time of the year. Sometimes family members are far away. Thousands of troops are serving in the military, separated from families and friends at home during the holidays.

There’s nothing like favorite foods to conjure up fond memories of home.

Besides deciding on favorite foods, think about safety and quality when deciding what to mail. Perishable items, such as meat and soft cheeses, must be kept at 40 degrees or lower, so they aren’t good choices for a long trip.

Within the U.S., dry ice can be used along with overnight delivery for highly perishable items. You’ll need to decide if the expense is worth it and you’ll want to be sure the person knows the arrival time of the perishable items.

Consider moisture content of the foods when deciding what to mail. Moist carrot bread or pumpkin bread may grow mold during a week of travel to a distant destination, so they aren’t the best bet.

Quality can be an issue if you’re thinking about sending your favorite delicate holiday cookies. Cookies can become crumbs without some special precautions.

To keep cookies from crumbling, pack them back to back and wrap with plastic wrap. Put the wrapped pairs between two plastic foam plates and tape the plates together. Finally, surround with bubble wrap, foam or newspaper and pack in a sturdy box.

Here are some ideas from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline for foods that travel well without need for refrigeration:

  • Beef jerky or other dried meat. Exclude foods that are forbidden by the country’s religious restrictions, such as pork in Muslim countries.
  • Dehydrated soup and drink mixes.
  • Condiments in single-serve packets.
  • Canned items, such as corned beef, cracker spreads or dips.
  • Dense, dry baked goods, such as biscotti, prepackaged cakes and cookies in airtight tins and dry cookies, such as ginger snaps.
  • Dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots, canned nuts and fruit or trail mix.
  • Hard candies. Avoid sending candy, such as fudge, that may melt during the trip.

Think about nonfood gifts, too, such as favorite soap, toothpaste or other personal products that might not be readily available. Slip in some stationery, stamps, books or magazines.

Here’s a homemade mix recipe for those with access to kitchen facilities. Pack the needed amount of the mix in a plastic container or sealed bag. Attach the recipe, a bag with the additional nonperishable ingredients and a festive bow. You might want to include the baking pan in your “kit,” too. Visit and click on “recipes” for more ideas.

Rolled Oats Master Mix

Yield: 10 cups

4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. quick-cooking oats (not instant)
1 1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
1/4 c. double-acting baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. shortening

Put all ingredients, except shortening, in a large bowl and stir until well blended. Cut in shortening, cover and refrigerate. Will keep one month. To measure, spoon into cup, tap lightly and level off.

Oat Muffins using Master Mix

2 1/4 c. Rolled Oats Master Mix
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 c. water
1 egg, beaten

Put ingredients in bowl and stir just to moisten. Spoon into 12 greased 2 1/2-inch muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 159 calories, 20.6 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fat, 1.3 grams of fiber and 230 milligrams of sodium

Date-Nut Oat Bread using Master Mix

3 c. Rolled Oats Master Mix
1 c. pitted, chopped dates
1 c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Chop dates and put in bowl. Cover dates with boiling water and mix well. Stir in sugar, let stand until lukewarm. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put in greased 9-by-5 by-3-inch loaf pan and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for an hour or until done. Turn out and cool before slicing.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 227 calories, 30.4 grams of carbohydrate, 11 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of fiber and 205 milligrams of sodium.

Photo by cohdra courtesy of

Turkey Time Quiz

Photo by Anita Peppers courtesy of

I paged through a grocery store ad the other day as I wrote my grocery shopping list. The ad featured all the ingredients to prepare a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal.

I recall being tempted by an ad one year. The entire prepared Thanksgiving meal was available. I could place my order a week in advance, and the store would not only roast a 12-pound turkey, but someone also would mash the potatoes, prepare gravy, make green-bean casserole and cranberry salad, and bake the pie and rolls.

This was tempting.

I looked around my kitchen and imagined not having a heaping sink of bowls and pans on Thanksgiving Day. I guess I could opt for disposable dishes, I thought to myself. The price for this “meal deal” was pretty good, too.

I thought a bit, but then I kept writing my list. Part of our Thanksgiving tradition has been the time spent with family in preparing the meal and ending with a messy kitchen filled with the pleasant aroma of cooking food. 

Maybe next year I’ll start a new tradition. For now, I’ll be cooking.

Are you ready for the holidays? Here are some questions to review the basics of safe Thanksgiving food handling.

1. When thawing a turkey under cold water, how often should the water be changed?

a. Every 10 minutes
b. Every 30 minutes
c. Every two hours

2. If you’d like some leftovers, about how much turkey (including bone weight) should you allow per person?

a. 0.5 pound
b. 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
c. 3 to 4 pounds

3. True or False. “Dressing” and “stuffing” are interchangeable terms that relate to the bread mixture served with turkey.

4. How many turkeys are pardoned annually by the U.S. president?

a. One
b. Two
c. Three

5. How long can leftover turkey be stored safely in the refrigerator?

a. Three to four days
b. Five to six days
c. Seven to 10 days

6. True or False: Reheating a whole turkey on the carcass is not recommended.

7. Which is lowest in fat and calories?

a. Dark meat without skin
b. Dark meat with skin
c. White meat without skin

8. To what internal temperature should a whole turkey be cooked?

a. 120 F
b. 165 F
c. 220 F

9. True or False: Sometimes pop-up thermometers prematurely pop up before a turkey has reached a safe internal temperature.

10. How many turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.?

a. 77 million
b. 61 million
c. 46 million

Here are the answers: 1. b; 2. b; 3. True; 4. a; 5. a; 6. True; 7. c; 8. b; 9. True; 10. c.

Visit the National Turkey Federation website at for more information about turkey preparation.

Here’s a recipe from the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council in St. Paul. It makes a tasty side dish year-round.

Wild Rice Dressing

4 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 4-oz. pkg. wild rice, cooked according to package directions
2 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 lb. turkey breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium-size skillet over medium heat, sauté bacon until almost crisp. Add onion, celery and mushrooms. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender.

In a large bowl, combine the bacon mixture, cooked wild rice, breadcrumbs, cooked sausage, oregano and sage. Season if desired with salt and pepper. Spoon dressing into lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish. Bake covered, in a preheated 325-degree oven, for 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 224 calories, 9 grams of fat and 26 grams of carbohydrate.

Cleaning Up Before Winter


photo by etichetta courtesy of

One fall after setting two bags of trash at the curb, I went back into our house as usual. When I ventured outside later in the day, I discovered our trash can had grown by three bags.

This was a little odd.

Maybe someone thought our first pile of trash was a bit meager, so this was a donation. Maybe someone didn’t pay his/her trash collection bill. More likely, this person missed his/her own trash pickup schedule.

With “fall cleanup” under way, many people are bracing for winter by cleaning their yards and garages. Trash piles have grown markedly. Winter is approaching, so who wants to haul lots of trash in subzero temperatures?

Fall is a good time to check the foods in your cupboards and refrigerator, too. Some foods have a longer shelf life than others. If you’re pondering what to keep and what to toss, consider these questions and answers:

1) What do food package dates mean?

A “sell by” date is used on foods such as milk/dairy products, eggs and packaged meats. Grocery stores use these dates to decide how long to keep food products on the shelf. The food still is safe to use at home for a few days past the sell date.

An “expiration date” is used on foods such as baby food and yeast. The product may not be safe (or effective in the case of yeast) past this date.

“Use by” or “best if used by” dates show when the product is at best quality. The product generally is safe past the use by date.

2) Is using dented cans of food safe?

Small dents usually pose no risks, especially if the dents are not on the seams of the can. If the can is bulging or leaking, it should be discarded where no human or animal can eat its contents.

3) Do the UPC bar codes have anything to do with food safety?

UPC codes – the black lines with a series of numbers on product packages – are computer codes used to manage inventory. These codes don’t indicate quality or the safety of the food.

4) How cold should my refrigerator and freezer be set?

Refrigerators should be maintained at 40 degrees or lower. Freezers should be set at zero or lower.

5) What are the recommended storage times for refrigerated foods?

It depends on the food. Use leftover cooked meat, for example, within three days and fresh meat within two days of purchase. Hard cheese, such as cheddar, will last several weeks in the refrigerator if properly wrapped. Milk stays fresh about a week.

Here’s a good way to use leftover turkey or chicken.

Turkey or Chicken Pot Pie

1 c. cut up cooked turkey or chicken
1 16-oz. bag frozen vegetables, thawed
1 10-oz. can reduced-fat condensed cream of chicken soup
1 c. biscuit mix (such as Bisquick)
1/2 c. low-fat milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir turkey or chicken, vegetables and soup in an ungreased 2-quart casserole dish. Stir the remaining ingredients until blended. Pour over the turkey or chicken mixture. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes to an internal temperature of 165 degrees or until the crust is golden brown.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 215 calories, 27 grams (g) carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 3 g fiber and 415 milligrams sodium.

Taking the Heat Off Time Issues in the Kitchen

When I glanced at the clock high on my office wall a few years ago, minutes were flying by like seconds. The hands were spinning around the dial.

I thought I was hallucinating. Then I realized that a campuswide time adjustment was being made for daylight-saving time.

With the pace of life today, many people feel that minutes and hours are spinning out of their grasp. Lack of time is a common reason that people skip physical activity, cooking and eating at home. Skipping activity and nutritious foods can increase the risk for heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. Time issues also can create stress, which has many negative health effects.

For many people, maintaining a household and raising children is quite a juggling act. Many people juggle working one or more jobs, keeping up a home, raising children, caring for aging parents and participating in community and/or school activities. Scheduling time to eat healthfully, exercise and occasionally sleep is yet another part of the equation.

How are Americans spending their time? According to the American Time Use Survey released in June 2014, employed people worked about 7.6 hours on the days they worked, with employed men working an average of 53 minutes longer than employed women.

Gender differences related to leisure, housework and child care were evident in the results but could be related at least in part to full-time vs. part-time work. About 95 percent of the survey respondents spent time on leisure activities, such as watching TV, exercising or socializing. On average, men spent 5.9 hours and women spent 5.2 hours on leisure activities.

About 83 percent of women and 65 percent of men spent time on household chores. About 49 percent of women and 19 percent of men spent time on housework such as laundry or cleaning. About 42 percent men did food preparation, compared with 68 percent of women. Among households with children younger than age 6, women spent one hour bathing or feeding a child while men spent an average of 26 minutes on child care per day?.

Try to make time for healthful food preparation, and consider the “cook once, eat twice” technique. This is not the same as making extra food and eating “leftovers.” This technique means you deliberately cook extra meat, poultry or other ingredients for use in a completely separate dish.

Remember food safety as the first step. Do not partially cook meat because bacteria and other microorganisms can live and grow in meat that is not cooked to “doneness.” Quickly cool fully cooked meats and other perishable foods in shallow pans. The food should be no more than 2 inches deep, so it chills quickly and safely for the next meal.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Cook extra chicken breasts and pasta. On the first night, season chicken, place over a bed of bowtie pasta and add your favorite pasta sauce. Promptly refrigerate the planned-over chicken and pasta. Make a quick pasta salad for dinner the next night. Cut up the refrigerated chicken and mix with pasta, cut-up vegetables and Italian dressing within the next two days for a quick pasta salad.
  • Prepare a roast and serve one night. Make sandwiches, soup or stew out of the remaining roast the following night.

Try this tasty make-ahead recipe and follow-up meal idea when time is short.

South of the Border Pork Chops

6 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
3 Tbsp. taco seasoning (or to taste)
2 tsp. olive oil

Rub pork chops on both sides with taco seasoning. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Cook pork chops for eight to 10 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 160 F. Turn once. Top with salsa and serve with cooked rice and a salad.

Makes four servings (plus four follow-up servings). Each pork chop has about 250 calories, 2 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 23 g of protein and 16 g of fat.

The next evening, slice the refrigerated chops into strips and wrap in soft flour tortillas with lettuce, tomato, onions, olives, salsa and light sour cream for a quick meal.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side of the Menu


Photo by Taliesin courtesy of

I had chili at a friend’s house several years ago. At the end of the meal, I was informed it was venison chili. They looked at me strangely, waiting for my reaction. I’m not sure what they expected. I could have really surprised them and screamed.

If I had just eaten bear or antelope, it would have been a new experience. I grew up in a family that likes to hunt, so this wasn’t any different to me than eating ground beef.

It’s deer hunting season in much of the Midwest. If you live here, you’ve probably, at some point, tasted game meats such as venison or elk. Maybe someone gave you a package of venison sausage or jerky. Maybe you’ve had venison roast or steak. Game meats can add variety to your diet.

Game meats are nutritious and often lower in fat than domestic meats. A 3 1/2-ounce portion (before cooking) of game meat provides about half of the daily adult protein requirement and 130 to 150 calories. Game meats are usually slightly lower in total fat, but higher in polyunsaturated fats, than grain-fed beef.

Just like meat from domestic animals, wild game needs to be handled carefully to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. How much do you know about safely handling game meats? Try these questions. The answers are in the information that follows.

1. Within how many days should game meat be used (whether fresh or defrosted in your refrigerator)?

a. 2 to 3 days
b. 4 to 5 days
c. 6 to 7 days

2. How long will frozen game meats remain at high quality in your freezer?

a. 3 months
b. 6 months
c. 12 months

When wild game reaches your kitchen, refrigerate it and use it within two or three days. To freeze it for longer-term storage, use the right packaging materials.

  • Divide meat into meal-size quantities.
  • Use moisture/vapor-proof wrap such as heavily waxed freezer wrap, laminated freezer wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer-weight polyethylene bags.
  • Press air out of the packages prior to sealing.
  • Label packages with contents and date.
  • Use within 12 months for best quality.

When it’s time to prepare the wild game, handle it safely to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Use refrigerator-thawed meat within one to two days. Use microwave-thawed meat immediately.
  • Cook game meats to at least 160 degrees to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Big-game animals usually exercise more than domestic animals, so game meats may be drier and less tender. Consider using moist heat methods such as braising or simmering in a small amount of liquid in a covered pot. Chops and steaks, which are tender cuts, may be pan fried, grilled or broiled.
  • Game meats have a distinctive flavor. Some people prefer to trim the fat completely, while others prefer to add spices or marinades.

For more information about the handling, preparation and preservation of wild game, visit for more wild game resources.

Here’s a tasty and easy recipe to warm hunters after a day in the field.

Chuckwagon Chili

1 tsp. oil
1/2 lb. lean ground beef or venison
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 c. cooked kidney beans
1 16-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin

In a large pot, cook beef or venison in oil; drain fat. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered on low heat for at least one hour to blend flavors. Stir occasionally until thick.


Makes 4 servings. Each serving has about 370 calories, 10 grams (g) of fat, and 19.4 g of fiber.


Family Meals Are Worth the Effort


Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Through the years I have learned a lot of things during our family meals. When my son was 9, he enjoyed quizzing our family about animal trivia from his world record book. I learned the cheetah is the world’s fastest animal, the sloth is the slowest and the koala is the sleepiest.

With the fast pace of family life, most parents probably feel they’re breaking some records, too. Sometimes, after a busy day, I certainly have felt like the world’s sleepiest mother. On other days, like many parents, I feel like the world’s busiest.

Regardless of how busy our days became in the 10 years since my son was a 9-year-old, I maintained a goal for my family as my children grew older. We continued to eat our meals together as often as possible.

Research shows the many benefits of family meals, including a lifetime of positive memories. Enjoying meals together enhances family communication and improves manners, too. Children who eat with their families are also less likely to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs during their teen years.

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 43 percent of adults with children less than 18 eat together at least six nights a week.

Children who eat with their families also gain many nutritional benefits. They eat more fruits and vegetables, plus they get more calcium, fiber, iron, folate, and vitamin C and B. Children who eat with their families eat fewer fried foods and drink less soda pop.

With all the concern about children and weight, it’s good to know that eating family meals can promote a healthy weight. The meals served are generally more nutritious, plus family meals promote a sense of “belonging.” Children are less inclined to eat because they are lonely.

If you’re thinking that a family meal has to be a five-course gourmet dinner, think again. In fact, nutrition experts say the meals don’t even have to be enjoyed around a table. For example, in warm months, bring a picnic lunch on the way to soccer practice to enjoy at the park. In colder months, enjoy a picnic in your warm vehicle.

Be flexible with timing, too. A family meal doesn’t have to be the evening meal. It could be breakfast or even a bedtime snack eaten together.

Time is an issue in busy families, so planning helps. Make a list of favorite family menus in a notebook along with the recipes. Get the kids involved. They can help make a grocery list, help prepare food and clean up. Children learn about food safety, basic food preparation skills and even language and math skills by helping with food preparation.

Enjoy more family meals. In the words of the late Erma Bombeck: “We argued. We sulked. We laughed. We pitched for favors. We shouted. We listened. It is still our family’s finest hour.”

Here’s a time-saving recipe that takes one skillet and just 30 minutes to have on the table. To save even more time, brown ground beef ahead of time and freeze in recipe-size portions.

Zucchini, Pasta and Beef Dinner

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 14-oz. can beef broth
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
2 c. sliced zucchini, about 1/2-inch thick
1 cup bow tie pasta, uncooked
2 tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

In a large nonstick skillet, brown ground beef, onion and garlic over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into crumbles. Drain well, season with salt and place in bowl or other container. Set aside. In same skillet, add broth, Italian seasoning, red pepper, zucchini and uncooked pasta. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally. Return beef to skillet and add tomatoes; heat through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving has 296 calories, 28 grams of protein, 11 grams of fat and 22 grams of carbohydrate.

Try Halloween Treats With a Twist


Courtesy of

Lately, large displays of Halloween treats greet us as we shop for groceries and other necessities. That means that little goblins with flashlights and plastic jack-o-lantern buckets will be haunting neighborhoods and shopping malls collecting goodies.

However, kids in Halloween costumes aren’t the only ones who enjoy sweet treats. Americans spend about $102 per person yearly on candy, and the candy industry tops $3 billion in sales in the United States according the National Confectioners Association.

Here’s a study that many a “sweet tooth” will hold up as evidence for candy as an essential nutrient. Harvard researchers studied the relationship between candy consumption and lifespan among Harvard University alumni who were undergraduate students from 1916 to 1950.

All the subjects were males who completed questionnaires and detailed their eating habits, including candy consumption. The researchers took age, physical activity, diet and smoking into consideration when studying the data.

The somewhat surprising news: Eating candy was associated with living longer. Males who ate about 1.5 ounces of candy one to three times per month lived about a year longer than those who skipped the candy jar.

Note that the amount of candy was consumed per month, not per day.

However, emptying the candy jar daily does not mean you can set the Guinness World Record for longevity. Perhaps the candy consumers were just a little happier because they were looking forward to a sweet treat.

Or maybe, as the researchers speculated, the antioxidant chemicals (phenols) in chocolates helped protect them against cancer and heart disease. Dark chocolate, by the way, is higher in protective antioxidants.

In reality, this isn’t a license to eat a daily chocolate bar without some other possible consequences. Does buying a larger wardrobe fit into your budget? Enjoy an occasional treat-size candy bar to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Engage the “rule of one” in your life: one small treat per day.

Parents should inspect candy before their excited kids enjoy the tempting loot from an evening of trick-or-treating. Kids and parents should agree on guidelines for the number of treats to enjoy per day. Sweet, sticky treats can cause cavities, so make sure that little ghouls brush their “fangs” well after enjoying a few treats.

Here are some suggestions from the American Dietetic Association for nutritious goodies and a few non-food items that will please the little goblins haunting your neighborhood. For more information about healthful eating, visit this Web site:

  • Individual boxes of mini rice cereal bites
  • Cereal bars
  • Small boxes of raisins or other dried fruit
  • Sugar-free gum
  • 100 percent fruit juice boxes
  • Snack-size packages of peanut butter and crackers, graham crackers or oatmeal cookies
  • Halloween pencils, pens, stickers, tattoos or spider rings

Here’s a tasty recipe featuring the icon of Halloween, the pumpkin. Before sending children out to haunt the neighborhood they might enjoy a small cauldron of this tasty, naturally sweet soup. This recipe is courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension.

Quick and Easy Creamy Pumpkin Soup

2 c. finely chopped onions
2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
1/2 c. finely chopped celery
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1/2 c. canola oil
3 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth, reduced sodium or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 (16-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 c. undiluted, evaporated skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley

Note: Canned chicken broth and canned pumpkin may contain added salt. Taste the finished soup before adding salt, as additional salt may not be needed.)

1. In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.

2. Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.

4. Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 210 calories, 15 grams (g) fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 3 g fiber and 100 milligrams of sodium (with added salt).