How to Pick a Good One

We want to feed our family the best quality fruits and vegetables to balance your plate. When you are at the grocery store or farmers’ market, how do you pick fresh fruits and vegetables? Here are some ideas to help.

How to pick a good one

Watermelon:

  • Pick a watermelon that has a yellow belly. These large yellow spots indicate the watermelon is ripe and ready to eat.

Tomatoes:

  • If you are wanting the tomato for immediate use, pick a bright red tomato, but if you are wanting the tomato for future use, pick a pale pink/orange tomato.
  • Don’t store your tomatoes in the fridge. The colder temperature from the fridge causes the tomato to undergo a change that weakens the flavor and texture, which in turn causes it to ripen faster.

Peppers:

  • Store peppers in the fridge, unwashed in a plastic bag. Typically, red, yellow and orange peppers can last 4-5 days and green peppers last about a week.

Sweet Corn:

  • Feel the cob to see how tight the husk is on the cob. When the cob feels tight, it usually means there is a high water content in the corn kernels. This means the corn is fresh. Also, older husks will start to brown and have a more wrinkled texture.

Cantaloupe:

  • Look for a golden-colored melon with a clean, round hole where the stem was.
  • A little fact about melon: 1 cup of honeydew melon provides the same amount of potassium as a banana.

Asparagus:

  • Avoid purchasing asparagus with ‘woody’ ends. A sign of aging is dry, split ends. The ends should be compact, firm and dry.

Mango:

  • Give the mango a squeeze. If it is ripe, the mango will give a little without being squishy.

In the end, if unsure about the produce item, ask the vendor to share the tips and tricks for that particular fruit/vegetable.

Visit us this summer at the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market!

Megan Klemm

Off to the Farmers’ Market

Off to the Farmers Market

Last night we kicked off another year of the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market at the Illinois State Fairgrounds! Time and time again, we share how important a well balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is to you health. What better way to stock your shelves with fresh, local produce than by taking a trip to your local market?

The Farmers’ Market offers not only produce, but organic meat, eggs and plants for your own garden. Come on out and enjoy a night of fun and health. Stop by the Springfield Clinic tables on the following dates to meet us! For more information on the market, visit our website.

June9   |   July 14   |   Sept. 8   |   Oct. 13

Why use a meal planning website?

There is a plethora of meal planning websites out there! I did some research, tested a few sites, but Gatheredtable was by far my favorite!

Earlier this week I gave you my meal planning tips for beginners; today I’m going to share a resource I found very helpful. There is a plethora of meal planning websites out there! I did some research, tested a few sites, and Gatheredtable was by far my favorite.

Why use a meal planning website?

  1. Time saver. I don’t have time (or I don’t want to make the time) to pull out all my cookbooks and scour Pinterest to pick my recipes for the week, go through each one, and create my shopping list.
  2. Change up your diet. Sometimes I would get stuck in a rut and cook the same 8 meals over and over, but trying a suggested recipe once a week or so can help you change up your chef game!
  3. Connectivity. Your family can share the same account, so try having each member go in and pick a meal they would enjoy. 
  4. Convenience. Since you share the account with the family, anyone can go grocery shopping— just pull up the list on your phone and go!

 

↓↓↓Watch this video….then we will talk more.

Now that you are a little familiar with Gatheredtable, I’ll share my thoughts.

I love that they have a free, 10 day trial and you DON’T have to give them a credit card number to start your free trial like some other websites. I took time to play around and get familiar with Gatheredtable and the settings. I also love the Gatheredtable Web Clipper function. I have a good chunk of recipes on a Pinterest board that I’ve always wanted to try, and the Web Clipper pulls all of the details and even adds ingredients to my grocery list.

Week 1:

I started off small, only planning 3 dinners. I have roller derby practice on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and Friday nights the hubby and I are busy—so Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday it was! Everything we had was amazing. Three recipes were ones I pulled from my Pinterest board, and three were offered by Gatheredtable. We had some leftover steak that we cut up and used in omelets on Sunday morning!  

Week 1

Week 2:

I got a little ambitious this week, but once again skipped Wednesday and Thursday. Last Thursday at the farmers’ market, I picked up some green beans and sweet potatoes. I was able to find recipes that included my fresh veggies from Gatheredtable’s recipe library. With tomorrow’s leftover pulled pork, I’ll save it to use with my Sunday pita chip recipe for Pulled Pork Nachos!

Week 2

All in all, I really enjoy Gatheredtable. When you start your free trial you are assigned a personal coach who contacts you via email. Mine is super nice and answered any questions I had. My biggest issue would have to be you can only begin planning your meals 2 days before the new week starts, but my coach said they will be changing that soon. Also, when you are looking through recipes, you can only add them to the current week, but my coach said, “we’re working on making a more robust date picker soon.” For now you just have to go to the week and select the “add recipe” button to search through recipes (see image above on Wednesday the 2nd). So the two “issues” I have are already being addressed.

So the big question…how much does it cost? For this company, an annual plan breaks down to a little over $7 a month. If I can spend that or more on my Netflix and Hulu accounts, I should be able to justify spending it for meal planning!

costLike I said, there are so many resources out there! Take some time and research your options. If you have a favorite site, please share it here in the comments so all our readers benefit from your great suggestions!

The Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends_cat/how-to/

With all the back to school buzz, I hear people saying, “We’ve got to get back on a schedule,” or “We’ve got to bet back into our routine.” Between work obligations, school hours, and extracurricular activities, putting a healthy, well-balanced meal on the table can fall by the wayside—and understandably so. I’m here to encourage you that this does not have to be the case!

Two words: meal planning. Now don’t freak out, I’m not saying you have to go all Pioneer Woman! There are so many resources out there to help make meal planning effective and simple.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! When starting something new, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. You won’t stick with it if it stresses you out .Try start with planning/prepping for 2-4 dinners the first week.
  2. Start off in your comfort zone. Are you a chicken or pork wizard? Good, start there! Pick recipes you know you can execute well. The last thing you want is to prep and cook an obscure recipe that no one in your family enjoys.
  3. But don’t forget the freshness! Pick sides that include fresh vegetables and herbs. For me, the point of meal planning is to make better use of my time at the store and in the kitchen, and to eat well. When the bulk of your grocery list lives in the produce section, that is a good feeling.
  4. Pick a resource. There are so many great resources out there for meal planning. Take some time to Google your options. Be sure to check back here on Thursday and I’ll share my experience with one of my favorites—it even generates a grocery list that is divided into categories for easy shopping!
  5. Pick a day to shop and prep. Sunday works best for me. I go to the store with my pre-generated list and shop away. I come home, round up the hubby and we prep—organizing and chopping up ingredients. You can store your preps in Ziploc bags or Tupperware, label it for the appropriate day, and your done! Include the whole family—all hands on deck!
  6. Stay up on those dishes! Maybe I’m the only one, but most the time I throw dishes in the sink, the sink gets full, and then we do dishes. More cooking at home means more dishes. Nothing is more discouraging than having to do dishes before you can even start cooking! 

Be sure to check back Thursday when I go over one of
my favorite meal planning websites!

 

Steak and Potatoes

Why? Because doggone it…sometimes, you just need a good steak and potato meal! In the Figge household, we typically consume a plethora of lean white meat. I have nothing against red meat; it’s just not something I crave all the time. So when I do decide to make steak for dinner, I make sure it’s a darn good one! This meal offers a ton of fresh ingredients with a few convenience menu items. My motto is, if you can make at least 75-85% of your meal/plate from natural ingredients, then it’s perfectly fine to use some convenient food items. In addition to the steak and potatoes, I also served up a fresh salad using a ton of veggies from the farmers’ market.

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce & Seasoned Potatoes
Serves 2
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Prep Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr 15 min
Prep Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
  2. • 2 lbs of skirt steak or flank steak
  3. • 1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley
  4. • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  5. • 3 garlic cloves
  6. • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  7. • 1 large shallot bulb, quartered
  8. • 1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  9. • 2 tsp lemon juice
  10. • Salt and pepper to taste
  11. • 4-6 tbsp olive oil
  12. Oven Baked Seasoned Potatoes
  13. • 3-5 lbs of red and yellow potatoes, quartered
  14. • 1 packet of Lipton Onion dry soup mix
  15. • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450*F. Place cut potatoes in a large Ziploc bag and add soup mix. Add 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and close bag. Gently mix oil and soup mix with potatoes so they are evenly seasoned. Line a baking pan with foil and non-stick spray. Pour contents of bag onto pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until potatoes are crisp-tender. Serve with steak and salad and enjoy!
  2. To make the Chimichurri sauce, blend all ingredients (parsley, cilantro, garlic, oregano, shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil) in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. You can vary the amount of olive oil you use to manipulate the texture of the sauce.
  3. Slice flank steak into strips and place in Ziploc bag. Put in about 3 tbsp of Chimichurri sauce in bag and massage over meat. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat your grill to medium heat. Grill meat about 4-5 minutes per side, turning once. Remove steak from grill and let sit on cutting board for a few minutes. Spoon remaining Chimichurri sauce over steak and serve.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/

How to Become a Savvy Farmers Market Shopper

 

How to become a Savvy Farmers Market Shopper

Farmers’ Market season is off and running! There’s no quicker way to go from farm-to-table with your meals than by purchasing your ingredients at your local market. This also provides a great opportunity to communicate directly with your farmers on topics such as pesticide-use, growing conditions and whether or not the products are grown organically. Additionally, at the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market you can often find unique items such as hand-crafted soaps, gluten-free baked goods, organic meats and other hidden gems that may not be available at your local grocery store. Springfield Clinic registered dietitian, Jessica Stevens is a regular at the Farmers’ Market and offers these tips for your next trip:

  • Take your own reusable grocery bag and maybe even a wagon if you plan on buying a lot of produce and other goodies.
  • Purchase fresh herbs at the market when they are in season and also less expensive. Chop and place them in ice cube trays, add olive oil and freeze. You’ve just made your own herb oil and can use at any time by heating in a skillet or vegetable foil pack on the grill.
  • Ask the farmers how they personally use or cook vegetables that are new to you.
  • If you have questions about seasonal produce, ask! The farmers who grow them know best.
  • Best prices are found in bulk. Ask a neighbor, friend or family member to go in on shopping costs with you and share your bounty.
  • Try to have a meal plan in place so you do not feel like you waste fresh produce.
  • Get there early if you’re looking for specific things – the best produce sells out fast. If you want a good deal, you may find one if you get there late, but that’s not always a guarantee.
  • Bring small bills. Market vendors often only accept cash and don’t carry a lot of change.
  • Know your seasons and what produce grows in your local area. This can help you plan your meals around fresh and cheap produce! Visit our Springfield Clinic table each week, as we will be providing a featured recipe that includes in-season ingredients.
  • Bring a cooler. Fresh meat, cheese and eggs can be available to purchase at farmer’s markets so you’ll want to keep these items cool for those trips home. It will be 90+ degrees before we know it!