Turkey Time Quiz

Photo by Anita Peppers courtesy of morguefile.com

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 www.eatturkey.com 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 morguefile.com

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
Salsa

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 morguefile.com

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 www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation/cure-smoke 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 morguefile.com

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: www.eatright.org

  • 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).

Have an Apple a Day This Fall

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Our apple tree is producing abundantly this year. Fortunately, we have many ways to use apples. We’ve had fresh apple wedges, baked apples, applesauce and apple crisp. After the second pan of apple crisp in a week, my family looked at me sideways. I knew it was time to try another recipe, the one included with this column.

Americans love apples, crunching their way through about 18 pounds per person yearly. We have many choices, too. Worldwide, apples come in more than 7,000 varieties. In the U.S., about half the apples are sold fresh and the rest are processed into apple juice, sauce and other products.

Apples often are used to symbolize nutrition, and they deserve this recognition. Apples are fairly low in calories with no fat and very little sodium.

A medium apple, about the size of a tennis ball, counts as one serving of fruit on your way to at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. It has 80 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrate, 170 milligrams of potassium, 5 grams of fiber, 8 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C and 2 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A.

But does an apple a day “keep the doctor away”? Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a type of fiber linked to lowering blood cholesterol. This potentially lowers our risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women. So once again, mom was right about eating your fruits (and vegetables).

Apples make great snacks, and they’re portable, too. Besides enjoying them plain, with fruit drip or sprinkled with cinnamon, add them to peanut butter sandwiches for a little crunch. For some added protein, spread apple slices with peanut butter. Freeze apple juice to make “apple pops.” Try freezing applesauce, thaw slightly and blend in a blender for a quick smoothie.

If you’ve had your fill of apples for the season, consider preserving them for the cold winter months. Apples can be frozen, dried, canned or made into apple butter and other spreads.

Freezing is an easy way to preserve foods. Before freezing, peeled, sliced apples can be sweetened or left plain; however, they must be treated to prevent darkening. For each quart of apples, sprinkle with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in 3 tablespoons of water. Then fill freezer bags 3 to 4 inches from the top, squeeze out air, seal and label.

For more information about freezing, canning and preserving produce, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food to see the resources the NDSU Extension Service provides.

Here’s an easy side dish that goes great with ham or pork chops. The sweet potatoes add flavor, fiber and vitamin A as beta carotene.
Apples and Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 large apples (or 3 medium apples) cored and cut into ¼-inch rings
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. margarine

Boil water, add potatoes and cook until tender. Remove skin and cut into 1/4-inch slices. (Alternatively, potatoes can be baked until tender.) Layer the potatoes in the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with a layer of apples. Pour the orange juice over the potatoes and apples. Mix the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples. Dot the casserole with margarine. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until apples are tender, about 30 minutes.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate, 3.5 g of fiber and a full day’s supply of vitamin A as beta carotene.

 

October is Popcorn Poppin’ Month

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Popcorn has been “popular” in my house from the time my kids were young. Every time the aroma of popcorn filled our kitchen, my children came running for bowls of the fluffy, crunchy snack. I kept my kids in view because popcorn can be a choking hazard.

I always reached for a bowl, too. A big bowl.

October is “Popcorn Poppin’ Month,” according to the Popcorn Board, so we need to celebrate in our house and perhaps yours.

Americans munch on 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually. That adds up to about 51 quarts of popcorn per person each year.

Popcorn is not a new snack. Archeologists have found grains of popcorn in Peruvian tombs dating back more than 1,000 years. Some of the well-preserved kernels still pop.

For best quality, however, try to use yours sooner.

Popcorn has been a longtime popular food in the Americas, especially among Native American tribes. Researchers have uncovered pottery in Mexico dating back to 300 A.D. featuring popcorn in the design. They knew a good thing.

Popcorn is economical and nutritious, too. It’s a whole-grain food made of three parts: the endosperm, germ and pericarp (or hull). The starchy endosperm forms the white part of popped popcorn.

Popcorn is quite low in calories, depending, of course, on how much butter you add. A cup of air-popped corn contains about 30 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber. Lightly buttered popcorn has about 130 calories per cup. Popcorn in a butter-soaked bag is another story.

Why does popcorn pop? Heat causes the moisture to turn to steam, creating pressure in the kernel that turns the kernel inside out. To pop successfully, a certain level of moisture (optimally 14 percent) is needed in the kernel. If the moisture level is too low, you will find many unpopped kernels (or “old maids”) at the bottom of the bowl.

Through the years, popping technology has progressed from popping over an open fire to today’s ingenious devices, including electric air poppers and microwave poppers. Microwave popcorn is very popular, with a variety of flavors available.

Through plant breeding and other research, food companies try to guarantee that 99 percent of “fresh” popcorn kernels will pop. With storage, moisture can be lost.

What can you do about popcorn that doesn’t pop? You can rejuvenate popcorn kernels quite easily. Just fill a quart-size jar about three-fourths full of popcorn kernels, add 1 tablespoon of water to the jar, cover and shake every 10 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed. Let it stand a few days.

The Popcorn Board suggest these tips for optimal popping:

  • Warm the popper, pan or skillet. If using oil, add 1/4 cup cooking oil to the pan. Ideally, the oil should reach between 400 and 460 degrees. Oil burns at 500 degrees. If it smokes, it’s too hot.
  • Drop in a couple of kernels. If they pop or spin in the oil, you’re ready to add more. Add about 1/3 cup or enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan and shake the pan to make sure the oil coats each kernel.
  • Add flavorings of choice. Experiment a little with different spices, such as chili powder, garlic powder or other seasonings. Or add some dried fruit such as raisins or dried cranberries.

For all of you football fans, here’s a tasty recipe from the Popcorn Board.

Touchdown Treat

4 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup unsalted cocktail peanuts
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large buttered bowl, combine popcorn, peanuts and raisins. Keep warm. Combine honey, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir over medium heat until mixture reaches 250 degrees, or hard ball stage on a candy thermometer. Pour over popcorn; toss to mix thoroughly. Turn onto a buttered jelly roll pan or large baking pan. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes about 16 servings. Each serving contains 176 calories, 4.9 grams (g) fat, 33 g carbohydrates and 2.3 g fiber.

 

Don’t Take Your Bones for Granted

 

Photo by ronnieb courtesy of morguefile.com

If you’re like me, you might take for granted things that aren’t causing you any pain at the moment. Think about your bones. If you aren’t wearing a cast, you might ignore the 206 bones in your body.

I was reminded of bones the other day while shopping in a store with a Halloween section. The skeleton characters were grinning at me.

Osteoporosis, the condition of porous, fragile bones, is a major public health issue. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million have low bone density or osteoporosis. One in two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

To stay strong, bones need proper nourishment and weight-bearing physical activity such as walking. Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and other nutrients found in a varied, balanced diet can lessen your chances of getting osteoporosis.

Teens have the highest calcium needs due to their rapid growth. They also are most likely to fall short of the 1,300 milligrams of calcium they need daily. For children age 1 to 3, the requirement is 500 milligrams. Kids from 4 to 8 should consume 800 milligrams. The calcium recommendation for adults to age 50 is 1,000 milligrams. Adults 51 and older should aim for 1,200 milligrams daily.

Calcium is found in foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, dry edible beans, fish with edible bones, and leafy green vegetables. Some foods, such as certain cereals and orange juice, may be fortified with calcium.

Dairy foods are a concentrated source of calcium. A cup of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, and a cup of yogurt about 400 milligrams.

To learn the calcium content of your food choices, read the Nutrition Facts label. The calcium value is given as a percent of daily value. To convert this number to milligrams, add a zero. For example, a food with 10 percent of the daily value for calcium contains 100 milligrams of calcium.

Beyond bones, calcium plays other roles in keeping us healthy. Meeting your calcium needs may help maintain healthy blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study found that blood pressure could be lowered when study participants ate at least three servings of low-fat dairy foods and eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Sometimes dieters cut milk out of their diets to reduce calories. That’s a mistake for reasons that go beyond bone health. Meeting your calcium needs also may help with weight management.

In one study, women who consumed the most calcium were less likely to be obese than those who consumed the least calcium. A study of preschool children showed that kids who consumed more calcium were less likely to be overweight.

Here’s a calcium-rich recipe from the Midwest Dairy Council. Try it for a tasty snack or breakfast drink.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1 1/2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk
1 pint low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
12-14 ice cubes

In blender, combine milk, yogurt, banana, strawberries and honey. Add enough ice to measure 6 cups in the blender. Process until smooth, scraping sides as necessary.

Makes five servings. Each serving contains 196 calories, 2.4 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrate and 268 milligrams calcium.

 

Is Brown Food Healthier?

photo courtesy of morguefile.com

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.