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Nick Merk

Fall Seasonal Recipes

Fruits and vegetables can be found all year long fresh, frozen, or even canned.  However, when produce is in season, it tastes so much better and can be easier on your wallet.  Seasonal produce in your area will vary by growing conditions and weather, so check out a local farmer’s market to find produce grown in your area.

  • Buy “in season” produce which often costs less and is at peak flavor. Buy only what you can use before it spoils. For more info check out the Seasonal Produce Guide from SNAP-Ed Connection.
  • Choose fruits canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on the label. These products are just as nutritious and fresh, and often cost less.
  • If you have the freezer space, stock up on frozen vegetables without added sauces or butter. Frozen vegetables are as good for you as fresh and may cost less.
  • Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables last much longer then fresh. They can be a quick way to add fruits and vegetables to your meal.

Try some of these recipes to incorporate seasonal produce into your weekly meal planning or take to your next summer meal:

Avocado Breakfast Bruschetta

Start your day with a breakfast twist on classic bruschetta: avocados, tomato, hard-boiled egg, and ricotta with basil atop toasted rustic whole-grain bread.

Avocado Breakfast Bruschetta

Spicy Carrots and Squash

This side dish is an excellent way to get your orange vegetables. Vinegar, brown sugar, and spicy mustard combine to give this dish a sweet and tangy taste. 

Spicy Carrots and Squash

Pineapple Zucchini Cake

Stuffed with fruits and veggies, this hearty cake can be shared after a light lunch or dinner.

Pineapple Zucchini Cake

Grilled Shrimp with Cantaloupe Avocado Salsa

Savory sweet salsa featuring cantaloupe and avocado is the perfect complement to grilled shrimp. Grilled Shrimp Cantaloupe Avocado-Salsa

If your child is like many preschoolers, he or she probably doesn’t eat enough vegetables each day. Many children this age can be “choosy” eaters. It can take children 10 or more tries before they like a new food. Keep trying. Your efforts will help your child have healthier eating habits later.

Offering Vegetables Can:

  • Help your child get important nutrients like potassium, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C.
  • Provide dietary fiber to help your child feel full. This makes bathroom time easier, too.
  • Add color, crunch, and favor to meals or snacks.
  • Help your child develop healthy eating habits that may reduce the risk of certain diseases, like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, later in life.

Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Vegetables Are All Smart Choices

  • Packages with added sauces or seasonings may have additional fat and calories.
  • Rinse canned beans and vegetables with cold water to reduce sodium.
  • Cut vegetables into smaller pieces to make them easier for your preschooler to eat.

Five Ways To Encourage Vegetables

  1. Eat together. Let your child see you enjoying vegetables at meals and snacks.
  2. Prepare together. Teach your child how to tear lettuce or add vegetable toppings to pizza.
  3. Get colorful. Choose different colors of vegetables to eat.
  4. Make vegetables fun. Read about them in books. Plant a seed and watch it grow.
  5. Share the adventure. Shop for vegetables together. Try a new vegetable each week.

Did you know that an estimated 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year alone? Food poisoning not only sends 128,000 Americans to the hospital each year—it can also cause long-term health problems. You can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home by following these four simple steps: clean, separatecook and, chill.

Clean: Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Often

Germs that can make you sick can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your food, hands, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops.

Wash your hands the right way:

  • Use plain soap and water—skip the antibacterial soap—and scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse hands, then dry with a clean towel.
  • Wash your hands often.

Wash surfaces and utensils after each use:

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water, especially after they’ve held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
  • Wash dish cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Wash fruits and vegetables, but not meat, poultry, or eggs:

  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water without soap, bleach, or commercial produce washes.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables before peeling, removing skin, or cutting away any damaged or bruised areas.
  • Scrub firm produce like melons or cucumbers with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth towel.
  • Don’t wash meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood to avoid spreading harmful germs around your kitchen.
  • Produce labeled as “pre-washed” does not need to be washed again.

Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate

Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs:

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce or other foods that won’t be cooked before they’re eaten, and another for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Replace them when they are worn.
  • Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
  • Use hot, soapy water to thoroughly wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or flour.

Cook to the Right Temperature

Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick:

  • Use a food thermometer to be sure your food is safe. When you think your food is done, place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat, or gristle.
  • Refer to our Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart to be sure your foods have reached a safe temperature.

Keep food hot (140˚F or above) after cooking:

If you’re not serving food right after cooking, keep it out of the temperature danger zone (between 40°F -140°F) where germs grow rapidly by using a heat source like a chafing dish, warming tray, or slow cooker.

Microwave food thoroughly (165˚F or above):

  • Read package directions for cooking and follow them exactly to make sure food is thoroughly cooked.
  • If the food label says, “Let stand for x minutes after cooking,” follow the directions — letting microwaved food sit for a few minutes allows food to cook thoroughly as colder areas absorb heat from hotter areas.
  • Stir food in the middle of heating. Follow package directions for commercially prepared frozen food; some are not designed to be stirred while heating.

Chill: Refrigerate and Freeze Food Properly

Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours:

  • Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Your refrigerator should be set to 40°F or below and your freezer to 0°F or below. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure.
  • Never leave perishable foods out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or summer picnic), refrigerate it within 1 hour.
  • Leftovers should be placed in shallow containers and refrigerated promptly to allow quick cooling.
  • Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter. The safest way to thaw or marinate meat, poultry, and seafood is in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing does not destroy harmful germs, but it does keep food safe until you can cook it.

Seasonal Produce

Fruits and vegetables can be found all year long fresh, frozen, or even canned.  However, when produce is in season, it tastes so much better and can be easier on your wallet.  Seasonal produce in your area will vary by growing conditions and weather, so check out a local farmer’s market to find produce grown in your area.

Eating fruit has many health benefits.  People who eat fruits and vegetables as part of an overall diet may lower their risk for certain diseases.  Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients needed to maintain your health and body.

Try some of these recipes to incorporate seasonal produce into your weekly meal planning or take to your next summer meal:

Salsa Fresca

A great summer treat to make when our garden is bursting with tomatoes and jalapeño peppers. Enjoy over eggs, meat, fish, tofu, or with whole grain chips.


Asparagus with Gremolata Sauce

Asparagus has folate, fiber, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. It also has antioxidants, so treat yourself to this dish knowing that you are feeding your body with some important nutrients.


Celery with Apricot Blue Cheese Spread

Crunchy, sweet celery is a versatile snack food, just right for this flavorful spread. Filled with dried fruit and nuts, this enticing and quick low-fat spread can be made ahead or on the spot. You could also serve it on whole grain crackers as an appetizer.


Apple & Chicken Salad

A deliciously balanced blend of crisp Cameo apples, celery, raisins, chicken breast and Greek yogurt-based dressing, served over a bed of lettuce.


Whether you are cooking for just yourself, one to two people, or a larger group, planning meals is a good place to start improving your food choices. Taking the time to plan a healthy evening meal can help you avoid a less healthful “drive-through” dinner.

The foods you enjoy are likely the ones you eat the most, so take note when planning your nutritious and satisfying meals.

Once you’ve planned your meals, make a grocery list. Take some time on your visit to the grocery store to choose lower-calorie ingredients. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Many casseroles and meat sauces use cream soups as a base. Use a low-fat cream soup.
  • Substitute a low-fat cheese in casseroles and vegetable sauces.
  • Try a non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of cooking oil for sautéing instead of frying with solid fat.
  • If you’re using ground beef for tacos or meat sauce for spaghetti, look for a lower-fat variety such as ground round or ground sirloin or try using skinless ground turkey breast. Once you’ve browned the meat, drain to remove excess fat.
  • Instead of full-fat versions of mayonnaises, butter, and salad dressings, try those that are lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat.
  • Check out the frozen food aisles for quick, low-calorie vegetable side dishes. You can find cut green beans, sliced carrots, and other chopped vegetables in the frozen food section. Avoid the ones with added cream, butter, or cheese sauces as these ingredients can add calories. You can steam these vegetables quickly in the microwave.
  • In some soups and entrees, you may also be able to add dry beans to extend the recipe and improve the nutritional value. This is easy to do in vegetable-based soups and chili. You can just add a cup of canned white beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans to the recipe. As another example, if you are making enchiladas, rinse a can of black beans and add these to the ground meat.

It’s National Nutrition Month and while eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables gives many health benefits, it’s also important to select and prepare them safely.

Fruits and vegetables add nutrients to your diet that help protect you from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Also, choosing vegetables, fruits, and nuts over high-calorie foods can help you manage your weight.

Sometimes, raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful germs that can make you and your family sick, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. CDC estimates that germs on fresh produce cause a large percentage of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

The safest produce to eat is cooked; the next safest is washed. You can enjoy uncooked fruits and vegetables by taking the following steps to reduce your risk of foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning.

When you are at the store follow these simple tips when choosing produce:

  • Choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged.
  • If you buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables choose items that are refrigerated or kept on ice.
  • Separate fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry, and seafood in your shopping cart and in your grocery bags.

 Once you are at home:

  • Wash your hands, kitchen utensils, and food preparation surfaces, including chopping boards and countertops, before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
    • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water—even if you do not plan to eat the peel. Germs on the peel or skin can get inside fruits and vegetables when you cut them.
    • Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended. Do not use bleach solutions or other disinfecting products on fruits and vegetables.
    • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
    • Dry fruit or vegetables with a clean paper towel.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw foods that come from animals, such as meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Refrigerate fruits and vegetables within 2 hours after you cut, peel, or cook them (or 1 hour if exposed to temperatures above 90°, like a hot car or picnic). Chill them at 40°F or colder in a clean container.