Tag Archives: Food

How Long Can You Store Commercially Canned Food?

Image courtesy of USDA Image Library

Image courtesy of USDA Image Library

Commercially canned foods are convenient as they require no refrigeration to keep their contents safe. Their nutritional value is comparable to other forms of food such as frozen and fresh. In some cases, it may be higher.

The question that people often our Nebraska Extension office, is “how long can you keep canned food”? This article on “Shelf-Stable” Food Safety,” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture answers this question and more. For example:

  • Is it safe to use rusted cans?
  • Is it safe to use food from dented cans?
  • Is it safe to use cans that freeze accidentally?

So … the next time you wonder if you “can” use the food from that can, check out Shelf-Stable” Food Safety!

Celebrating National Farmers Market Week

My purchases at my local Farmers' Market this week

My purchases at my local Farmers’ Market this week

August 3 – 9 is National Farmers Market Week! If you’ve never visited a Farmers Market, this is a great week to check one out! A variety of fruits and veggies are in season.

This is one of my favorite recipes that I look forward to making every summer.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Tomato Basil Bruschetta


  • 8 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, Spanish onion or sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices


  1. Combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  2. Arrange bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to brown slightly.
  3. Remove bread from oven and transfer to a serving platter.
  4. Serve the tomato mixture in a bowl with a serving spoon and let everyone help themselves. Or place some on each slice of bread before serving. If adding the tomato mixture yourself, add it at the last minute or the bread may become soggy.

alice’s notes

If you’re short on time, the tomato topping (minus the basil) can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated. Wait until you’re ready to turn on the oven for the bread before chopping and adding the basil. Set mixture aside at room temperature while the bread is toasting.

So … check out a Farmers Market. You’ll be glad you did! The U.S. Department of Agriculture has compiled a list of Farmers Markets through the United States that may help you locate a market near you.

Old Cheney Road Farmers Market, Lincoln, NE

Old Cheney Road Farmers Market, Lincoln, NE



Slow Cooker Meals

Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Slow Cooker Stew

Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew (slow cooker recipe)

Imagine walking into your kitchen after a busy day and being greeted by the scent of cinnamon, garlic and onions signaling “dinner is ready!”

Unless you have a cook at home who prepares meals for you, using a slow cooker is the easiest way to achieve this state of well-being!

Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew is one of my favorite slow cooker meals. I just measure, chop and toss in everything at the same time. (Source: Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association)

As you search out slow cooker recipes, here are some tips for optimum nutrition and taste.

If you can’t find reduced sodium or “no salt added” canned dry beans, rinse and drain canned beans. This will remove about 40 percent of the salt content.


Rinse and drain canned, cooked dry beans to reduce sodium content

If a recipe calls for spices or herbs you may not use much, purchase small  containers to save money. The smaller sizes will also help you use the seasonings by their recommended usage date, when they will be most fresh.


Buy small containers of spice you are likely to use less often

Cut foods into similar size pieces. This ensures they will finish cooking at the same time.


Cut foods into similar sizes for even cooking

Look for broths and stocks that are lower in salt. The flavor of the ingredients may shine through more if a food isn’t so heavily salted. You can pass the salt shaker and let people decide for themselves.

Beef broth label

Look for foods lower in added salt

For more tips on cooking with a slow cooker, check out this self-paced slide show:

NOTE: If you are getting this information through your email, you may have to click through to the web version to view the slide show.

Techniques for Chopping Herbs

georgia-chopping tarragon2
A sprinkling of fresh herbs quickly adds appealing color, plus flavor and nutrients to foods. Here’s how to chop them to kick up the taste and nutrition of favorite foods in just a few seconds.


  1. Quickly snip small bundles of chives with a kitchen scissors OR
  2. Cut bundles on a cutting board with a very sharp chef’s knife


Cilantro, parsley, and other
small-leaved delicate herbs:

  1. Remove leaves by hand
  2. It’s OK to include some tender stems

Pulling leaves from thymeThyme, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and other sturdy stemmed, small-leafed herbs:

  • Hold thumb and index finger together; run down the stem in the opposite direction the leaves have grown

bunching-tarragon2Chopping herb leaves into smaller amounts:

  1. Bunch leaves on cutting board
  2. Use a sharp chef’s knife so as not to bruise the leaves

georgia-chopping tarragon2How to cut with a chef’s knife:

  • Place fingertips on tip of a chef’s knife and rock blade briefly back and forth. Re-gather leaves and chop again if a smaller size is desired.

basil-ribbons-2Basil, mint, sage and other large, leafy herbs:

  • A technique called “chiffonade” can be used with these herbs
  • This method cuts these herbs into narrow ribbons

georgia-4-hand-rollHow to Chiffonade:

  • Stack 5 or 6 leaves, and roll tightly

georgia-handsHow to Chiffonade:

  • Cut crosswise into narrow ribbons

For More Info about Herbs:

The Skinny on Potatoes

assorted potatoes

“My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I’m not sure if I would share MY potato! There are just 110 calories in one medium-size potato. Potatoes are fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free. They’re also a good source of potassium.

It’s not potatoes that pack on the calories, but rather the topping on the potato. An an example,  my colleagues at North Dakota State University Extension Service state, “…  a 100-calorie potato with no fat becomes a ‘stuffed potato’ with 463 calories and 35 grams fat when you add 2 tablespoons of butter, ¼ cup of cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons of bacon bits.”

One of my favorite low-calorie — but packed with nutrition and taste — ways to top potatoes is with Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh parsley or chives.

baked potato with and without chives

Topping baked potatoes with Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh chives or parsley, adds nutrition, a pop of color and flavor, and few calories.

Roasted Potatoes, Tomatoes & Onions

Here’s my adaptation of one of our favorite potato recipes for “Roasted Potatoes, Tomatoes & Onions.” My husband and I enjoyed this while traveling in Sicily. It’s so easy to make! And tastes delicious.

"Roasted Potatoes, Tomatoes & Onions" are so easy to prepare and taste delicious.

“Roasted Potatoes, Tomatoes & Onions” are so easy to prepare and taste delicious.

Use amounts of the following ingredients according to personal preference. Limit to an amount that will fit in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides.

■ Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, cut in half
■ Potatoes, peeled and cut in about 1/2 to 1-inch similar-sized pieces
■ Onions, sliced
■ Olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine ingredients in a bowl and coat with a small amount of olive oil.
  3.  Roast about 35 to 45 minutes in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides, until potatoes are slightly browned and fork tender.
  4. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes

Another favorite is this recipe for “Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes” from the US Potato Board. The only fat in the recipe is in the cheese. No additional fat is used in making the sauce.

The only fat in "Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes" is from the cheese. No additional fat is used in making the cheese sauce.

The only fat in “Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes” is from the cheese.


  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup low-fat milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup cooked small broccoli florets
  • Salt & cayenne pepper to taste


  1. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook at 50% power, turning once or twice, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. (Or, use the “potato setting” on your microwave and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.)
  2. Heat 3/4 cup of the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming, about 4 minutes.
  3. Stir together flour and the remaining 1/4 cup milk in a cup until smooth. Add to the hot milk, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Season with salt and cayenne.
  4. Distribute broccoli over the baked potatoes, top with the cheese sauce and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 269; Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 19mg; Sodium: 218mg; Fiber: 4g; Protein: 11g; Potassium: 989mg

Source: Recipe courtesy of US Potato Board. For more potato recipes, visit: http://www.potatogoodness.com

Whether you say PO-TAY-TO or PO-TAH-TO, potatoes taste great on your plate!

Homemade Holiday Food Gifts

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

One of my favorite food gifts to give for the holidays is homemade food mixes. Though inexpensive, they are “priceless.”

Here are a few of my favorites …


Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie Mix in a jar

Cranberry-Oatmeal Cookie Mix. Notice how the covering is placed on top on of the canning jar in this picture and held in place with a rubber band, covered with a pretty ribbon and bow.

While you’re making up jars of this cookie mix, make a few extra for yourself! Obtain the  recipe for this mix in  Mix It Up (to Expand Your Holiday Gift-Giving) Food Mixes in a Jar by Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension Food & Nutrition Specialist.

Check that the baking soda you use in this cookie mix isn’t past its expiration date! For best flavor, use this mix within nine months.

For tips on making baking mixes in a jar, check out my PowerPoint on Food Mixes in a Jar.


Chili Mix in a jar

Country Chili Mix. In contrast to the cookie mix, the covering for this jar is placed under the band. I found it easier to distribute the material around the lid using this method.

There’s something about the flavor and aroma of homemade chili that is hard to beat! And this chili definitely satisfies!

The recipe for this chili, plus recipes for a Homemade Cornbread Mix and a Friendship Soup Mix are also found in Mix It Up (to Expand Your Holiday Gift-Giving) Food Mixes in a Jar.

Imagine your friend (or yourself) enjoying a big bowl of this chili, perhaps topped with some grated, sharp cheese!

Chili made from a homemade chili mix



Give friends a cup of holiday cheer with beverage mixes.

A cup of tea made from Spiced Tea Mix

Spiced Tea Mix.

This sweet, spicy tea will put you in a holiday mood!

Find the recipe in Beverage Mixes in a Jar, a publication also by Julie Garden-Robinson and in part, by me. (I had the delightful task of sampling all the beverages and taking the photos!)

Double Chocolate Peppermint Candy Hot Cocoa Mix

Double Chocolate Peppermint Candy Hot Cocoa

A cup of this hot cocoa is perfect after a chilly afternoon of sledding, or ice-skating, or making snowmen. Or, after a busy day of hitting the after-holiday sales.

Find this recipe, plus two other beverage mixes (French Vanilla Coffee Mix and Mint Candy Coffee Mix) in Beverage Mixes in a Jar.

View all the beverages and some tips on making mixes on our YouTube video, Homemade Holiday Beverage Mix Gifts. (Opens in a new window)


Foods, like homemade granola, are another great food gift. I like this recipe for California Walnut Granola from the California Walnut Commission. Walnuts are especially high in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and are unique among nuts as they contain the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Make this granola shortly before you give it for the best flavor. The California Walnut Commission suggests printing the following tip out on a piece of paper; hole-punch the corner of the paper and attach it to the container with a ribbon:

Storage tip: This recipe will maintain its freshness by storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

California Walnut Granola

California Walnut Granola. When you give this gift, encourage the recipient to  eat it while it is the most tasty, by attaching the following tip: Storage tip: This recipe will maintain its freshness by storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.