Monday, November 23, 2009

New Food Safety Widget

Are you interested in keeping up with the latest food recalls? We have installed a brand new "widget" on this blog (under the monthly picture at the top right section of the blog) so that you may see the lastest recalls. The widget has just been launched by the government and is linked to (which has all of the most up-to-date recall information). You will also find that the widget has a "tips" section where you can access tips for food safety. We will still be posting important recall information on our website under the recall section.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are you making this common cooking mistake?

Did you know that the method you use to cook your food can affect how many of the original nutrients are in the final product? Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, deteriorate when they are exposed to light or cooked in water or acid. Recent research has shown that these cooking methods can decrease other antioxidants found in vegetables as well. So, boiling your vegetables in a big pot of water is not a good idea. Try steaming, stir-frying, sauteeing, microwaving, or grilling them instead. For maximum nutrient preservation it is also important to avoid overcooking your vegetables. Not only do veggies taste better when they are crisp-tender, they are better for you.

Potatoes are one good example of how food preparation can change a food's nutrients. A medium baked potato contains about 17 milligrams of vitamin C (approximately 23% of an adult woman's daily needs) and about 160 calories. If you peel the potato and boil it to make mashed potatoes, much of the vitamin C and potassium will be lost in the water. If you eat your potato in the form of french fries instead; the potato will likely be peeled, cut and fried. This will destroy many of the nutrients and you would have to eat about 1,600 calories worth of fries to get that same 17 milligrams of vitamin C (not to mention all of the extra fat and sodium found in the french-fried potatoes).

Here is another interesting vitamin fact that you may not know. Do you know why milk is sold most often in cartons and opaque plastic jugs? The answer is that riboflavin, a necessary B vitamin, is destroyed by light. Milk is an important source of riboflavin in the typical American's diet along with enriched grains, whole grains, poultry, fish and some vegetables.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lovely lentils

What's not to like about lentils? Lentils offer the same benefits that dried beans do (they are inexpensive, full of nutrients and fiber, and rich in phytochemicals), but lentils are easier to cook than dried beans since they require no soaking before cooking. In addition, many people find that lentils are less likely to cause gas during digestion.

What's in them? Just 1/2 cup of lentils provides nearly as much fiber as two cups of cooked oatmeal. The fiber in lentils is the soluble kind which can help lower blood cholesterol. Lentils are also rich in iron, protein, folate, magnesium and potassium. Lentils are considered a "nutrient-rich" food because they offer many nutrients yet lentils are low in calories.

Which ones should you choose? There are different types of lentils you can use depending on what type of recipe you are making. Brown and green lentils hold their shape after being cooked so they are ideal to use in salads, side dishes and entrees. Red lentils are often used in soups because they break down and become soft and act as a thickening agent. You can find lentils among the bags of beans at your local grocery store. You will usually find more varieties of lentils at health food stores where they are often found in the bulk section.

Here is my kids' favorite lentil soup recipe. As with all soups, this tastes best if you can make it the day before serving it and let the flavor develop in the refrigerator overnight.

Lentil Stew

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
3 cups water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (14.5 oz) vegetable broth
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes with no added salt, undrained
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies

In a Dutch oven, cook the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the canola oil until the veggies are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the water, potatoes, broth, lentils, salt, cumin,, and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and chilies. Heat through.

Makes 28 servings. Each serving creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component for 3-5 year old children at lunch or supper.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Winter squash

Fall is the perfect time to start cooking up some winter squash! Since squash is currently in season you will find the greatest variety, best price, and freshest product right now. Winter squash comes in many different sizes and shapes, but most varieties are a great source of beta-carotene. You will also find a quite a few other nutrients contained in the flesh of these delicious vegetables. For example, butternut squash is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, fiber, and folate.

Squash is most commonly split in half and baked; but it can be used in soups, stews, sauces and breads. Here is a quick and tasty "souffle" recipe using squash.

Butternut Squash Souffle

2 cups cooked, mashed squash
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the squash, butter and oil. Mix well. Blend in the sugar, milk, salt and cinnamon. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat well. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until set.

Makes 8 servings. Each serving creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Web resources for home child care providers

I wanted to let you know about a couple of websites that you might find useful in your child care business. The first website is a learn-to-read website that helps teach children to read while having fun. At you will find reading games, books, and activities for many different age groups. In addition, they have reading resources available for purchase in their online store. The second website is: where you can find fun workouts to download. These workouts involve easy moves done by animated characters and are perfect when the weather doesn't allow for outside exercise. One more website that you might find helpful is Playnormus: At this website you can find online games such as "lunch crunch", "food fury", and "bubble trouble" for kids to play and learn as well as some ideas for teaching children about "go, slow and whoa" foods.