How much do Americans pay for fruits and vegetables?

by Sarah Paxson

An article came out in the National Geographic about how much Americans pay for fruit and vegetables.  The article included an interesting chart showing the differences in costs between produce commonly found in our grocery stores.  It’s worth taking a look!

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Kraft Easy Mac versus Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

by Sarah Paxson

original-kraft-macaroni-and-cheese

This is a reoccurring series where we compare the nutrition facts of a pre-packaged, processed food item and it’s “fresh food” counterpart.

The Food Matters Mobile Message for the month of February focuses on sodium, so this past week our Nutrition Outreach Coordinator set out to determine the difference in nutritional value between Kraft Easy Mac and a recipe we have for Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese.

We’ll start with the Kraft Easy Mac. Their Easy Mac pouches contains 61g, with 230 calories per pouch. Its fiber content, one of the components of a diet that keeps you feeling fuller for longer (which cuts down overeating), is a measly 1g– 4% of your daily value. Fat comes in at 4g, cholesterol comes in at <5mg (since it doesn’t actually contain real milk or cheese, it doesn’t contain cholesterol), carbs come in at 42g, and protein comes in at 5g. But here’s the kicker: one pounch of Kraft Easy Mac contains 540mg of sodium– 23% of your daily value!

Let’s compare Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese. The serving size differed, so we calculated it so that it would match the 61g serving size of the Easy Mac pouches. In one serving of Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese, there are 121 calories. Fat comes in at 4g (same), cholesterol comes in at 10mg (more), carbs come in at 15.8 (way less), and protein comes in at 5.7g (slightly more). It also contains 2.4g of fiber, 2.5x more than Kraft Easy Mac. But sodium is the biggest difference: one serving of Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese contains just 154mg of sodium, nearly a fourth of the sodium!

Verdict: Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese has more of the good stuff like protein and fiber and less of the bad stuff like carbohydrates and sodium. Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese wins, plus you can’t beat the taste.

In the Kitchen with the Hub: Ham, Bean and Kale Soup

by Jill Brown

kale

Any kale is great to have, but FREE kale from the IFFS farm is the best kind to have! After the alert went out that there was extra kale available for the taking, we sent our very own Katherine Moser over to get some for the folks who live in the HUB. This means that a part of my weekend was spent preserving the kale, as I had too much to eat all at once. One of my favorite ways to preserve greens is blanching and freezing into cubes for later sautéing or addition to soups or stews.

Follow these simple steps and you will be done in no time:
1. Clean the kale, removing any dirt or sand
2. Cut the leafy part of the kale off the stem
3. Add kale to a pot of hot water, swirl around for a couple of seconds and add to an ice bath to stop the enzymatic activity—this produces a nice, bright green/purple kale that will keep its color through freezing and thawing. Plus, it gets rid of some of the bitter flavors that can be found in raw green vegetables.
4. Allow the kale to dry a little
5. Add kale and a small amount of olive oil to a food processor and process until you make a smooth paste
6. Place the kale/oil mix into ice cube trays or if you have these nifty cocktail ice cube trays, they make really big cubes.
7. Freeze! Once frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and place in a freezer bag until needed.

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Much like Pavlov’s dog, sautéing onions, shallots and garlic will get my teenager into the kitchen quickly! He immediately discovered my kale cube structure and had to check it out and determine if I had preserved cilantro [he was hoping] or kale. While it wasn’t what he was hoping for, he was happy to know I was making my ham and bean soup – with the addition of some kale, of course.

Ham, Bean and Kale Soup

First, dice:
1 yellow onion
1 small shallot
1 celery stalk
3 garlic cloves

And saute with:
2 tablespoons butter. (Yes, there is butter. I didn’t go all Paula Dean on us, but adding just enough butter provides enough fat to properly caramelize the onions.)
Rinse, in order to remove sodium:
3 cans of beans [any kind]
1 lb. cubed ham

Combine everything together in a large pot along with:
8 cups of reduced sodium beef broth, or broth of your choice
2 teaspoons of parsley
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoonsalt
a large amount of kale– as much as you’d like!

Bring to a boil and you are done – enjoy!

Get In The Greens!

by Sarah Paxson

kale

If you are like me, you have complained no less than two times a week, every week, for the last couple of months about the lack of fresh produce in the grocery stores. “That’s it! We’re doubling our tomato garden this spring! We’re buying blueberry bushes! I mean, what are we supposed to eat?! We’re going to starve!” I protested to my husband. (I may have a problem with exaggerating.)

Of course there are options for fresh and local produce, especially in the Piedmont where the weather is warm enough to grow food year-round. For instance, greens. My weekly CSA box is exploding with greens as of late. And the grocery stores? Fuggedaboutit!

But how can greens get added into our diets without becoming redundant  The key is creativity. Everyone knows how to make a salad with a wide assortment of greens (and some delicious goat cheese). But what about incorporating greens into a more unusual places– like breakfast?

Take eggs, for instance. You can saute spinach with diced onions in a skillet, mix some eggs in a bowl, add them to the skillet, and serve with a little cheese and a whole grain English muffin. Or, turn it into a breakfast burrito by adding some beans and salsa and wrapping it in a whole wheat tortilla.

Or what about making a Coconut Kale Smoothie, using coconut milk, cocoa powder, chia seeds, banana, cherries, and kale? Chock-full of vitamins A and K, not to mention antioxidants, this smoothie is the perfect mid-morning snack.

Jump outside the box and find new and delicious ways to incorporate greens into your every day diet!

Cheese 101

by Sarah Paxson

the-perfect-cheese-plate-tray

What to buy―and how much―to create a delightful and delicious spread.

Select three to five cheeses, with approximately 1-2 ounces per person per cheese. Try to include a variety of textures and flavors, a cheese from each category. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue.

Aged: Aged Cheddar, Goat Gouda
Soft: Camembert
Firm: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Manchego
Blue: Gorgonzola, Valdeon

Cheese platters offer a great opportunity to try new things but don’t be afraid to feauture at least one familiar cheese.

Cheese platters should always be served at room temperature to bring out the cheese’s full flavor and texture, so take cheeses out of the fridge at least an hour before serving. Be sure to cut the cheese prior to a guest’s arrival, to avoid awkward fumbling. Regular knives tend to cause goat and blue cheeses to crumble, so use a cheese wire. (If you don’t have one, use dental floss!) When arranging the cheese on a cutting board, arrange them from mildest to strongest. This is done so that the strength of one cheese’s flavor doesn’t overpower the subtle flavors of another. And don’t forget to write out labels so that you won’t need to recite the names all evening!

Remember to provide a few simple accompaniments, such as fruits, nuts, chocolate, bread or crackers. Whatever is in season will have the best flavor, so use strawberries or blueberries in the summer and apples and pears in the fall and winter.

If you have leftovers, don’t store the cheese in plastic wrap, which will make the cheese sweat and leave a plastic-y taste. Cheese needs to breathe, so wrap it in parchment or wax paper and keep in the fridge, usually the vegetable drawer.