Spillin’ the Beans About Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables

If I placed all the green beans I cut as a child from end to end, they’d probably reach from Fargo to Jamestown. Maybe the trail of beans only seems to have covered 100 miles.

I became quite efficient at cutting beans after modifying my cutting techniques. I tried several different knives and finally decided a pair of scissors was my best option.

I guess I learned something about trial and error and the scientific method in the process. When I applied my bean-cutting techniques to the bushels of rhubarb I also cut up, it didn’t work so well.

Besides cutting the beans, I had helped plant them. When they appeared on the menu, I ate them, too. Maybe my parents were onto something.

Summertime brings opportunities to teach children about growing food and helping with food preparation. Many vegetables are at the peak of their nutritional value and flavor. They’re less expensive in season, too. Fresh radishes, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash and all the other colorful fresh produce items add nutritious variety to summertime menus.

Reaching the goal of eating about 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily may seem a little easier with the wide array of summertime produce. With all the farmers markets cropping up, you don’t even have to grow produce yourself.

If you’re in the market for green beans, look for blemish-free long, straight pods. They should snap easily when bent. Store fresh green beans unwashed in plastic bags in a refrigerator. A serving (1/2 cup) has about 20 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrate and no fat, plus a little vitamin A.

At home, wash beans and other fresh produce thoroughly under cool running water. Don’t use detergent. Beans can be left whole, or cut diagonally or “French-cut” in long strips. Nutrients are better preserved with less cutting and less exposure of the surface area to cooking water.

Cook beans for about four minutes in a small amount of boiling water and serve. Enjoy green beans in stir-fry, or try the youngest, most tender beans raw.

Here’s a recipe for green beans, where cutting is not required. I wish I had known about this recipe when I was a kid.

Snappy Green Beans With Basil Dip

1/2 lb. fresh green beans, washed and stemmed
1/3 c. low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 Tbsp. low-fat milk
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (or substitute 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried basil, to taste)

Wash beans well and snap off the ends. Mix all ingredients except green beans. Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, place small serving bowl with dip in center of serving platter. Surround with green beans.

Makes four servings. Each serving (beans and dip) has about 80 calories, 7 grams (g) fat, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 2 g fiber and 160 milligrams of sodium.

Are You Sun Savvy?

When spring arrived, I pulled out the floppy-brimmed hats, along with our gardening tools, mower, balls and bats. I put away all the mittens, scarves and other winter items. Now that summer has arrived fully, here’s a refresher about safety and the sun.

On the nutrition and health side, exposure to sunlight helps our body manufacture some vitamin D. However, according to some studies, we need only about 15 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen twice a week to make adequate vitamin D.

Adequate vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones, plus it may help protect us from heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially during our long winter months when standing outdoors for 15 minutes is not very practical.

Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Some that do are salmon, tuna and eggs. Fortified foods, such as milk, some types of orange juice, yogurt and cereal, also provide vitamin D. Read the food labels to learn more.

As we enjoy the warmth of the summer sun and stock up on vitamin D, we also need to take a few precautions. Try this true/false quiz:

  1. True or false: You can get sunburned on a cloudy day.
  2. True or false: Vehicle windows do not block the rays of the sun.
  3. True or false: The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men more than  50 years old.
  4. True or false: One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during his/her lifetime.

All these statements are true.

While everyone is at risk for skin cancer, some people are at a higher risk. If you use a tanning bed, you are at higher risk for skin cancer. Tanning beds are on the list of “known carcinogens,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Having a family history of skin cancer, lots of moles or freckles, fair skin, blue or green eyes and/or naturally blonde, red or light brown hair also puts you at a higher risk. If you do not use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30, you are at a higher risk for skin cancer.

Just one severe sunburn doubles your risk of developing skin cancer. That is why covering up in the sun is so important. Hats with 3-inch brims all the way around, long-sleeved shirts, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must.

Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. You also need to reapply your sunscreen after sweating, getting wet or towel drying.

Be sure to do regular self-skin exams and remember “ABCD.” Look for “assymetrical” spots, “borders” that are irregular and a “color” that is uneven or that has changed. Look for moles or suspicious spots with a “diameter” larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

Be sun savvy. Protect yourself from skin cancer. Visit http://www.cancer.org for more sun-safe tips.

This recipe provides some vitamin D from the tuna. Complete your menu with a glass of vitamin D-fortified milk and your favorite fruit.

Tuna Salsa Wraps

1 (7-oz.) can tuna, drained and flaked
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 c. salsa
1/4 c. shredded carrots
6 large corn or flour tortillas
1 1/2 c. shredded lettuce
3/4 c. mild shredded cheddar cheese

Warm the tortillas according to the instructions on the package. In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients in the order given. Mix well. Place tortilla on a cutting board or other surface. In the center of the tortilla, place an equal portion of shredded lettuce and tuna mixture. Top with a pinch of cheese. Fold in one end and tightly roll the tortilla over the ingredients. Place in a baking pan and warm in a 350-degree oven until the cheese is slightly melted.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 362 calories, 41 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 14 g of fat, 2.5 g of fiber and 838 g of sodium.

Thirsty? How About Some Watermelon?

When I think of summertime food, wedges of juicy, refreshing watermelon come to mind. I don’t even mind having a dribble of red juice staining the front of my shirt.

Watermelon is about 92 percent water by weight, so it is hydrating as well as nutritious.

Researchers have shown that the summertime treat is even healthier than previously known. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) reported that the natural color compounds in watermelon, known as lycopene, rivaled the amount and absorption of lycopene in tomatoes.

Why is lycopene important? Lycopene in tomatoes has been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer in men. Lycopene from cooked tomatoes, as in spaghetti sauce, has been shown to be absorbed better than lycopene from fresh tomatoes. Another plus: Lycopene pigments have been associated with reducing the risk for heart disease.

ARS scientists compared lycopene absorption from tomatoes and watermelon. Step aside, tomatoes. Watermelon has about 40 percent more lycopene than tomatoes. Lycopene from fresh watermelon was just as well absorbed as lycopene from cooked tomatoes. For people who shun tomatoes, this is a chance to enjoy the benefits of lycopene.

If you’re inspired to pick up a melon, here are some clues to choosing a good one. Look for a symmetrical watermelon without bruises or cuts. Lift it; it should be heavy in relation to size. Look for a pale area on the bottom of the watermelon; that shows the watermelon ripened on the vine.

At home, store the melon for up to two weeks in the refrigerator for optimum flavor. Improperly handled melons have been linked with foodborne illness, so handling fresh produce carefully is important.

Wash the outside of all melons thoroughly with running water, using a brush if necessary to remove soil and other contaminants. Clean the brush thoroughly after use. If the cleaning brush is dishwasher-safe, run it through a dishwasher cycle.

Keep cut-up watermelon cool. To store watermelon, cover the cut surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Place smaller chunks of melon in covered containers and refrigerate.

Watermelon, like other produce, is a nutrition powerhouse compared with the calories it contains. A 2-cup serving contains only about 90 calories and no fat, plus vitamins A and C.

Add more color – and beneficial natural plant chemicals – to your diet. Here’s a tasty, colorful and nutritious summer recipe from the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Try putting wedges of watermelon on a stick for a fun summertime treat. Scoop melon balls and place in a cone for a fun treat.

Watermelon and Spinach Salad

6 c. torn fresh spinach
3 c. watermelon, seeded and cubed
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 Tbsp. real bacon bits
1/3 c. Sweet and Sour Dressing (see following recipe)

In large salad bowl, mix all ingredients except dressing. Just before serving, toss spinach mixture with dressing.

Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing

1/3 c. balsamic or red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. finely chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt

In blender or food processor, process all salad dressing ingredients until blended. Makes about 1 cup.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 90 calories, 4.5 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 190 milligrams sodium.


Do You Use a Food Thermometer?

I recall a conversation I had around our lunch table at work. Often our lunch conversations gravitate to food. Someone was talking about grilling, and I asked him whether he used a food thermometer.

No, he just cooks it “‘til it is brown.” That’s not necessarily safe, I told him in a good-natured way (I thought). Brown meat might not be at a safe internal temperature. Well, that set off quite a debate, including the standard “we’ve always done it like that.”

I even offered a thermometer. Fortunately, I wasn’t banished from the lunch room for teaching during a break.

How much do you know about food safety and meat temperatures? Try this three-question quiz.

What are the recommended minimum internal cooking temperatures each of the following types of meat should reach?

a) Ground beef

b) Chicken breasts

c) Steak

The answers are a) 160 degrees, b) 165 degrees and c) It depends; 145 degrees usually is listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Steak can be cooked to a lower internal temperature than ground beef because it is a whole-muscle food.

The bacterial contamination is usually on the outside of muscle meats such as steak and roasts. Cooking will kill the bacteria on the outer surface. With ground meat, the bacteria is mixed throughout, therefore requiring a higher internal temperature.

Judging ground beef doneness by color tends to be especially deceptive. In one study, scientists bought 240 pairs of ground beef packages from stores across the U.S. They froze one package and cooked patties made from the other package in each pair.

The researchers reported that one burger in four turned brown before it reached the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees. The researchers termed it “premature browning.” Meat that had been frozen was even more likely to turn brown prematurely than fresh meat.

The flipside of premature browning is “persistent pinkness.” Ground beef that’s pink actually may be at a safe internal temperature, but the only way to know for sure is to use a food thermometer. Added ingredients such as dry onion soup, chopped onions or bacon may contribute some nitrates, which can cause the meat to remain pink, even at a safe temperature.

Other factors also influence cooking time. Leaner ground beef conducts heat less well than higher-fat beef, so it usually requires longer cooking to reach the same endpoint temperature. Adding oatmeal, soy or other fillers may lengthen cooking time of meat.

Using an accurate food thermometer is the best way to determine doneness, but Americans aren’t doing very well in following this recommendation. In a study reported in 2015 and conducted by Tennessee State University, Kansas State University and RTI International, researchers reported that 62 percent of their respondents owned a thermometer but only 10 percent of them used it to check doneness of poultry.

Here’s a chance to use a food thermometer and serve a tasty – and safe – home-cooked meal. Depending on the type of grill you have, you also could cook it in a pan on the grill.

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. vinegar
1 tsp. prepared mustard
2 eggs, beaten
2 lb. ground beef
1/3 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. onion, minced
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Combine tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard. In separate bowl, combine eggs, ground beef and remaining ingredients. Add half of tomato mixture to beef mixture. Mix thoroughly and shape into loaf in baking pan. Pour remaining tomato mixture over meatloaf. Bake in 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes, until internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees.

Makes eight servings. When made with extra-lean ground beef, each serving has 200 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 25 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 550 milligrams sodium. To decrease the sodium content, you can cut back on the amount of salt you add.



Don’t Let Pests Ruin Your Perfect Picnic

Don’t Let Pests Ruin Your Perfect PicnicOn a warm day with a gentle breeze, who can resist a picnic? Unfortunately a number of pests try to foil our best attempts at perfect picnics. Troops of ants march, ready to invade. Flies buzz by, alerting all their friends of the upcoming gourmet feast. Squadrons of mosquitoes the size of helicopters swarm overhead, waiting to attack their relaxing human banquets.

Insects aside, the worst threats to great picnics are the “bugs” we can’t see. Bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Staphylococcus, are invisible enemies that exert their effects a few hours to a few days after the meal. If you’re lucky, you only end up with flu-like symptoms that last a couple of days.

Warm temperatures are bacteria’s best friend. In fact some bacteria can double in number every 10 to 20 minutes.

What can you do to hold bacterial numbers down and help keep you, your family and your friends safe from bouts of foodborne illness? Start by thinking about the most basic of rules – “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

Safety begins at the grocery store. Buy your perishable items such as meat, salads and milk products last and get them home quickly. While you can’t haul your refrigerator with you, try some strategies to keep cold foods cold. If you plan to transport foods to a lake cottage or distant destination, bring coolers and ice. The large blocks of ice available in many stores tend to resist melting better than cubes. Frozen gel ice packs are another option.

Cross contamination is a leading cause of foodborne illness cases, so pack raw meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads in separate coolers. Keep canned beverages separate from meats because the raw meat juices could contaminate the cans — and eventually — you. Since contaminated ice has been linked with a number of foodborne illness outbreaks, maintain a separate ice-filled cooler for use with beverages.

Hand washing is considered the single most important way to prevent the spread of bacteria. Spend at least 20 seconds at the sink scrubbing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Time yourself. Twenty seconds is longer than you might think.

If the picnic site lacks hand washing facilities, bring a container of water and some soap from home, or at least some wet hand wipes. Hand sanitizers, such as hand gels, can cut down bacterial numbers, but they are not a substitute for good hand washing.

Avoid bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods by using clean utensils like tongs or other utensils to serve food. For example, put a spoon or set of tongs in the potato chip or tortilla chip bowl.

Bring along your food thermometer and use it to gauge doneness. Color is not a reliable indicator. Cook burgers to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, chicken breasts to 165 degrees, and fish until it is opaque and flakes with a fork.

Here are a few more picnic tips:

·       If you used a marinade, it’s safest to throw any leftover marinade, unless you are able to boil the marinade for several minutes.

·       Avoid reusing the plate or pan that held the raw meat, and always use a clean plate for serving.

·       Don’t leave perishable foods at unprotected temperatures for more than one hour on warm days (above 90 F). Serve food over a bed of ice to maintain temperature.

·       To protect food from the visible enemies of the winged variety, keep food protected with covers and immediately put away food after serving. Don’t spray pesticides around food.

What’s a picnic without coleslaw? Here’s a recipe from Dannon yogurt for a low-fat version of creamy coleslaw. Plain yogurt can be substituted for mayonnaise and sour cream to trim fat and add calcium to recipes. This recipe can be prepared in just a few minutes if you use pre-shredded coleslaw, which is available in most grocery stores.

Light and Easy Country Coleslaw

3/4 c. non-fat plain yogurt 1/4 c. mayonnaise 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar 1 tsp. sugar 1/2 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. each: celery seed and pepper 8 c. shredded cabbage 1 large carrot, shredded 2 green onions, thinly sliced

In large bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed and pepper. Add cabbage, carrot and green onions and toss. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to blend flavors.

Makes 12 servings, 3/4 cup each. Each serving has 45 calories, 1.5 grams (g) fat, 6 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein and 160 milligrams of sodium.


Does Your Garden Promote Healthy Eyes?

As I admired the various shades of green in my landscape and the bright yellow daffodil blossoms in late May, I couldn’t help but value my eyesight. A rose-breasted grosbeak and a yellow finch flew to our bird feeders. A plump robin hopped nearby.

Without healthy eyes, we would not be able to enjoy the splendor of spring blossoms and the return of colorful birds.

The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health promotes Healthy Vision Month every May. Remember to take care of your eyes so you can continue to enjoy nature’s colorful art throughout your lifetime.

I thought about a question that came to our office: What should you grow in your vegetable garden to promote healthy eyesight?

You might think of carrots and their association with eye health. Carrots, squash, pumpkin and a variety of dark orange and gold vegetables contain beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. While beta-carotene-containing foods certainly are a colorful, healthful option linked to reducing our risk of night blindness, leafy greens more often are linked to vision protection.

Among the most debilitating eye diseases are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. You can nourish your eyes with smart food choices.

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness, and scientists have found that diet can play a role in preventing this eye disease. The “macula” is a region close to the optic nerve at the back of our eyes that allows us to see clearly and distinguish colors. It is about the size of a capital “O” in 12-point font.

The macula is composed of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are pigments also found in colorful fruits and vegetables.

Some good sources of zeaxanthin are kale, collard and spinach greens, orange bell peppers and corn. Some good sources of lutein are kale, green leafy vegetables, spinach, corn, peas, and yellow and orange vegetables. Egg yolks are another excellent source of lutein.

Consider your eyes when you plan your garden plot, peruse a farmers market or make your grocery list.

If you decide to plant a salad garden, sow the seeds for a variety of leafy greens in the spring, and consider planting a second crop later in the summer. Be sure to water the plants well because the crispness of the lettuce will vary depending on the amount of watering. Control the weeds through shallow cultivation and keep the soil loose around the plants.

You can begin harvesting your greens when the leaves are about 2 inches long. Consider harvesting the outer leaves so your plants will continue to produce. Be sure to rinse the leaves thoroughly under cool water, and try a salad spinner to remove excess water. You also can use a clean paper towel to blot the lettuce dry.

To learn more about growing leafy greens, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/landing-pages/gardens-lawns-trees/leafy-greens-h-1754 or Google the NDSU Extension Service’s “From Garden to Table: Leafy Greens!” (H1754) for a free publication.

Along with a healthful diet of leafy greens, peppers, corn, peas and other veggies, these are some tips from the National Eye Institute to take charge of your vision:

  • See an eye-care professional routinely. If you are age 50 or older, have a dilated eye exam annually or as recommended by an eye-care professional. Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma can be detected through regular eye exams.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure. Do you know your numbers?
  • Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat when you are outside in bright sunshine.
  • Wear safety eyewear when you are working around your house or playing sports.

Learn more about healthy eyes at the NDSU Extension Nourishing Boomers and Beyond website at www.ndsu.edu/boomers (click on “Eyes” on the left side of your screen). You can sign up for a free monthly newsletter and “like” the Facebook page for regular updates.

Here’s a recipe rich in fiber and vitamins C and A. It’s courtesy of the Fruits and Veggies – More Matters program. Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for more recipes.

Rubies and Greens Salad

1/3 c. orange juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste

1 bag baby spinach or mixed greens (5 oz.)
3 c. sweet cherries, pits removed
2 c. sliced cucumber
1/2 c. finely diced red onion

Whisk together orange juice, oil, honey, salt and pepper; set aside. In large bowl, combine salad ingredients. Toss with salad dressing and serve immediately.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 133 calories, 4.7 grams (g) of fat, 24 g of carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber.

Does Gardening Really Count as Exercise?

When I was very young I loved to help with gardening. Squash, pumpkin and bean seeds were easily within my planting capability. I’m not sure I ever graduated to the manual dexterity needed for planting the tiny carrot seeds. I’d dash out to the garden several times a day to check if any tiny plants had appeared. I was a little disappointed that it took so long. But soon we had long rows of plants — and lots of weeds to remove.

By the time I was a teenager and the gardening novelty wore off a bit, all this planting, weeding and watering sometimes seemed like parental punishment.

Now I see the lessons that were learned. Besides learning about horticulture, children can learn life skills like patience and persistence from gardening. Eating vegetables was never an issue in our house. We helped grow the vegetables, so of course we wanted to taste them. And I also learned how to preserve the food to savor our efforts during the winter.

According to some recent research, gardening does more than provide healthful food. The act of gardening and landscaping can make you healthier by strengthening your heart and lungs and increasing your flexibility. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days of the week, and most activities involved in gardening count toward this goal.

Researchers at Stanford and the Universities of South Carolina and Minnesota computed the metabolic equivalents (METs) of about 500 different activities, including planting, weeding and mowing. One MET is the amount of energy a body uses when it is at rest.

Planting and weeding are rated 4.5 METs, since you burn up 4.5 times the amount of energy you would burn at rest. Activities that rate from 3 to 6 METs are considered heart-healthy. For example, planting or weeding for 30 minutes burns up about 150 calories in a 150-pound person. A heavier person will expend more energy. Mowing the lawn with a push mower (a 5 MET activity) will burn about 200 calories every 30 minutes for a 150-pound person.

Sorry, mowing the lawn with a riding lawn mower (a 2.5 MET activity) doesn’t count as a heart-healthy activity.

Even if you only have time to rake grass clippings for 15 minutes in the afternoon and return to weed your garden for 15 minutes after dinner, you’ll still meet your goal as long as you work up a little sweat. Accumulating physical activity in 10- or 15-minute increments counts toward the overall 30-minute goal.

If you’ve been a couch potato all winter, it’s best to start slowly with any kind of activity. Don’t plow the “back 40″ by hand on the first day of spring. Take care of your back by bending at the knees. If your knees give you problems, consider using foam knee pads, or sit when possible.

Wear sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburn. Bring your water bottle along with you and drink frequently, especially on a warm sunny day. When you’re thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. Many experts recommend drinking about a half-cup of water every 15 minutes during physical activity.

Nearly 100 years ago, my Grandma Garden (yes, that was her name and note my “middle” name) planted a patch of rhubarb in the backyard of the house where I grew up. We still own the home, and the rhubarb faithfully comes up every year, producing tender red-green stalks.

Rhubarb, or “pie plant,” is technically a vegetable, but it is used as a fruit in pies, cakes, sauces, and jams. For best eating quality, choose firm, glossy stalks that aren’t overly large. Store fresh rhubarb in the vegetable crisper, wash carefully and use within a few days, or freeze. Here’s a tasty dessert recipe that’s easy to make.

Rhubarb Crunch

4 c. rhubarb, cut up
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. orange peel, grated

Crumble Topping:
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
dash salt
1/4 c. butter or margarine

Sour Cream Topping:
1/2 c. dairy sour cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Procedure: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine rhubarb, sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and orange peel. Place in an 8-inch square pan. Prepare crumble topping by combining 3/4 cup flour with brown sugar, and salt. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly. Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes. Right before serving, combine sour cream, powdered sugar and vanilla and drizzle over the top.

A serving (1/8 of the recipe) contains 250 calories and 9 grams of fat, which is much lower than a slice of double crust rhubarb pie but still a “treat.” Remember, too, that to burn up the energy from a 250-calorie dessert, you’ll need to weed for about 50 minutes.

Bees Are Busy Food Producers

Some of us claim to be pretty busy. But we’re all slackers compared to honey bees.

Imagine yourself as a bee. To make a pound of honey, you’d need to gather all your winged friends, fly more than 50,000 miles and collect nectar from a couple million flowers.

I don’t think you’d collect any frequent flyer miles in the process.

The use of honey for food dates back to ancient times. Through the years, honey has been used as a method of payment, as a component of cement and furniture polish and, of course, as a sweetener.

Nutritionally honey is fairly complex. It’s mainly made up of carbohydrates like glucose and fructose, but it also contains small amounts of B vitamins and minerals, including copper, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc. A tablespoon of honey has 64 calories and no fat.

We’re all born with a liking for sweet foods. Adults often enjoy honey in their tea and children may like the sweetness of honey in yogurt or fruit smoothies. Infants under age one, however, should never be fed honey because cases of infant botulism have been linked to the practice. Honey can contain inactive bacterial spores, which the infant’s immature digestive system cannot tolerate. Infant botulism could result in death without proper medical attention.

More than 300 unique kinds of honey are available. Depending on the bee’s choice of “floral restaurant,” the resulting honey will have a unique flavor. Some common honey varieties include clover, orange blossom and alfalfa honey. In general, darker honey is more strongly flavored than light-colored honey.

Honey comes in different forms. Most people are familiar with liquid honey, which is separated from the honey comb by straining or some other method. “Comb honey” is sold with its edible comb intact, while “cut honey” includes parts of the comb. “Whipped honey” or “spun honey” can be readily spread.

If you’d like to incorporate honey in cooking or baking, there are some modifications that may be needed in your recipes. It’s easiest to use recipes that were specifically designed for honey. If you choose to experiment with baked goods, liquid should be reduced by one-fourth cup for every cup of honey used in place of sugar and one-half teaspoon of baking soda should be added for every cup of honey used. The sugars in honey promote browning, so the oven temperature should be reduced by 25 degrees.

If you’ve ever stored honey in the refrigerator, you may have found a solid crystalline mass awaiting you. It’s best to store honey in the cupboard. You can rejuvenate honey in a microwave oven, stirring regularly, but be cautious about over-heating. Or you can place the container of honey in a container of warm water, stirring until the crystals dissolve.

Here’s a recipe just in time for the grilling season.

Honey Barbecue Sauce

1/2 c. minced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 c. honey
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Saute onion and garlic in oil until softened. Add remaining ingredients and bring mixture to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Sauce can be used to marinate chicken, beef or pork or it can be brushed on during grilling.

Makes 1 cup or about 16 servings. Each 1 tablespoon serving contains 46 calories, 0.8 grams fat and 11 grams carbohydrates.


Bison Are at Home on the Range

Whenever I drive to Jamestown, N.D., I always peer off to the distant hill looking for the famous albino bison. It’s not a mythological creature. White Cloud really exists, and now the herd has an additional younger white bison.

Among Native Americans, bison, or buffalo, have long been considered sacred. Traditionally, every part of the buffalo was used for food, clothing or shelter. The hide was used for blankets, moccasins, shirts, winter robes and many other items. The blood was used for paints and food.

Tendons were used for bowstrings, arrow ties and glue preparation. Hooves were used to make containers, glue, spoons and wind chimes. Bones were used to make arrowheads, eating utensils, game dice, pipes, sleds and many other items. The beard and teeth were used as ornaments, and the fat was used to make soap and cosmetics. The meat was cooked immediately or made into pemmican, sausages or jerky for longer storage.

The plains buffalo and the wood buffalo are the two types of bison. The plains buffalo, which weigh up to 2,000 pounds, is smaller than the wood buffalo, which can grow to 2,500 pounds. While these animals do not appear swift, they can travel up to 35 miles an hour and burrow through snow banks, thanks to their muscled shoulder hump.

Bison meat is fairly low in fat, saturated fat and calories. It contributes iron, zinc and vitamins B-6 and B-12 to the diet. A 3-ounce serving of roasted bison contains about 125 calories, 1.7 grams of fat and 80 milligrams of cholesterol, making it comparable to lean beef, chicken and pork.

The flavor, composition and texture of meat will vary depending on what the animal eats. In a study conducted by retired professor Marty Marchello in the Department of Animal Sciences at North Dakota State University, taste panelists preferred grain-fed bison to grass-fed bison. Grain-finished bison roasts were rated equivalent to beef roasts. Grain-finished bison had more fat than grass-finished bison.

Here’s a recipe from the North Dakota Evening Stars Family and Community Educator Club. According to the cookbook, the recipe contributor’s son called home for this recipe after he moved away. That’s a supreme compliment for any mom.

Dakota Meat Rolls With Cheese Sauce

1 pound ground bison (or extra-lean ground beef)
2 c. all-purpose baking mix, such as Bisquick
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp. shortening or butter 1/4 tsp. pepper

Brown meat. Stir baking mix, water and shortening to a soft dough. Gently smooth dough into a ball on a floured board. Knead. Roll dough into a rectangle. Spread browned ground beef over dough to within 1/2 inch of edge. Sprinkle with pepper. Roll up, beginning at narrow side. Cut into 1-inch slices. Place slices, cut-side down, in greased pan, 9 by 13 inches. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Serve hot cheese sauce over biscuits.

Cheese Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. baking mix, such as Bisquick
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 c. fat-free milk
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

To make cheese sauce, melt margarine over low heat in saucepan. Blend in baking mix and seasonings. Add milk. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Stir in cheese. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.

Makes 12 servings (one Bison roll). Each serving has 230 calories, 15 g fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein and 370 mg sodium.

What Are Your Summer Nutrition and Fitness Goals?

I recall a conversation I had with my son many years ago. He had just completed first grade. He and I were talking about scheduling some summer activities for him, and I was perusing the city’s summer recreation guide.

“What do you want to do this summer?” I asked him.

“I want to jump over turtles this summer,” he announced.

Because we do not have lots of turtles in the neighborhood, I didn’t think he’d be having much fun or getting a lot of exercise. I repeated my question.

He gave me the “my mom’s an alien” look and repeated his answer.

Trying to get me to understand, he said, “Mom, you run around a track and jump over turtles this high.” He held his hand about waist high. I finally got it.

He wasn’t talking about the giant turtles featured in public TV documentaries. He was talking about “hurdles.”

Yes, running and jumping over hurdles would be a good summer activity, as long as it’s not done in the living room.

Physical activity is very important for people of all ages. It goes hand in hand with healthy eating in helping lower our risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be as strenuous as “turtle” jumping to be effective. Back in 1995, the U.S. surgeon general recommended that all adults aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity such as walking on five or more days of the week. That message remains 20 years later.

You can accumulate the minutes in shorter increments. Ten minutes of walking three times a day will fill the bill. Parking your car farther from your destination and taking the stairs instead of the elevator counts, too.

Many experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis. Increasing physical activity among children could help reverse the worrisome trend of childhood obesity. Saying no to “super-size” portions and eating more fruits and vegetables also can help.

With hectic lives and many distractions, adults and children may find that meeting the recommendations is difficult. TV, videos and computer games can distract children from getting physical activity. Many TV food commercials are for sweetened beverages and high-fat snacks.

We all need to feed our bodies with a variety of healthy foods. Bones, in particular, need ample calcium, along with vitamin D and several other nutrients. Dairy products are good sources of calcium. A cup of milk, for example, contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. Calcium-fortified juice and cereal and broccoli are other sources of calcium.

In addition to food, weight-bearing physical activity can strengthen our bones. Setting limits on sedentary activities such as watching TV is a worthy goal. Children, especially teenagers, are building bone mass to carry them throughout life.

Walking, running and jumping rope are examples of activities that put pressure on bones, strengthening them in the process. Swimming and bike riding, although good for the heart, technically are not weight-bearing exercises because weight is being supported.

Here’s a refreshing and easy-to-make treat to enjoy after getting some physical activity.

Pudding Pops

2 c. cold low-fat or skim milk
1 (four-serving size) package instant pudding mix
6 paper cups (5-ounce size)
6 plastic spoons or Popsicle sticks

Beat pudding mix and milk together at least two minutes. Spoon into cups. Insert Popsicle stick or spoon in center of each cup. Freeze at least five hours. To remove pop from cup, place bottom of cup in warm water for 10 to 15 seconds.

Makes six pops. When made with nonfat milk, each pop contains 80 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein and 10 percent of the daily value for calcium.