Picky-Approved Chili

By Angela Bates, Current ASU Nutrition Student

I’ll admit it, I was the pickiest eater as a child. My dad caved into my pickiness and I’m finding myself trying new foods as an adult that I refused as a kid. My youngest sister followed in my footsteps and even she loves this chili recipe I’ve honed over the past few years.

Some people prefer different things in their chili. I’ve seen recipes with cocoa, beer, peanut butter, soy sauce, and more, but I like my traditional but zingy chili. That’s not to say you can’t play around with the ingredients. Part of the fun in chili is the room for experimentation! Some changes I make occasionally are ground turkey substituted for the beef, pinto beans in addition to or instead of the kidney beans, and adding diced potatoes and a bit more broth to make a more stew-like chili. I recommend the slow cooker or instant pot method of cooking for best (and much easier) results.

No matter how you choose to cook, change, or eat this chili, I assure you it’ll be well-accepted, even by the picky eaters!


1 pound ground beef

1-2 tablespoons oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1-10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1-14.5 ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes

1-15 ounce can tomato sauce

1 cup beef or vegetable broth

1-2 teaspoons Cholula or similar hot sauce

2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Toppings (optional; such as shredded cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt, crackers, tortilla chips, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, etc.)



In a large cast iron or heavy pan, brown the meat over medium heat, being careful not to overcook it. Remove meat to a crock pot, instant pot, or large cooking pot.

In the same pan, put oil, onion, and bell pepper. Once the onion and pepper are almost soft, add

the garlic and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, sugar, and spices. Stir well and allow to cook together for a few minutes.

Add the vegetable mixture to your cooking vessel of choice, then add the canned tomatoes, broth, and hot sauce. Stir ingredients together well. Add the beans and stir gently.

If cooking in a pot on the stove, place on very low heat and stir every 15-30 minutes for 2 hours minimum.

For the slow cooker method, place on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours and stir 1-3 times.

The instant pot method can be done the same as the slow cooker method using that setting, or, if pressed for time, you can use the pressure cooking chili/stew setting. When using the pressure cooking setting, allow the pressure to release naturally at the end of the cooking cycle and your chili will be perfect serving temperature.

Top your chili as desired with cheese, sour cream, crackers, tortilla chips, or hot sauce.


For more recipes be sure to take a look at the Fill Your Plate recipe section. If you liked this article, then you will love the Fill Your Plate blog.

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Start your Own Herb Garden

By Victoria Gabrielle Bravo, University of Arizona ISPP dietetic intern


Starting an herb garden in your own home is easier than once thought. Having fresh herbs to use will greatly improve the health and taste of all dishes. Using fresh herbs is a great way to add flavor to your cooking at home, but there are also many health benefits. Using fresh herbs usually helps with cutting down on sodium intake. Excessive sodium intake can be dangerous to your health, even if you do not have cardiovascular disease. Too much sodium, or salt, can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and other chronic diseases. By replacing salt with fresh herbs, you are reducing your risk. By simply using herbs to season dishes, you are adding various nutrients to your food as well. Herbs are a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Many herbs also act as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Follow these steps to create an herb garden:

  1. Choose a space near your kitchen.
  2. Prepare the space by loosening the soil.
  3. Dig holes as appropriate to each herb.
  4. Label herbs.
  5. Plant flowering plants (zinnias are a great flowering plant)
  6. Water as indicated by the individual herb.


Herb Spacing Light preference Soil conditions Germination Time to harvest
Basil 12”-18” Full sun Rich, moist, well drained 5-10 days 10 weeks
Cilantro 4”-12” Full sun, light shade Well-drained 7-10 days 3-4 weeks
Oregano 12” Full sun Well-drained 7-14 days 11-13 weeks
Parsley 12”-18” Part shade Rich, moist 14-30 days 10-11 weeks
Rosemary 18”-36” Full sun Light, well drained 14-21 days 11-14 weeks
Tarragon 18” Sun, part shade Well-drained 10-14 days 11 weeks
Thyme 6”-8” Sun, part shade Well-drained 14-21 days 13-14 weeks.


Herb Nutrients When to use
Basil Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium Cheese, salads, vegetables
Cilantro Phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K Salads, salsas
Oregano Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium Italian dishes, cheese
Parsley Antioxidants, anti-inflammatories Fish, vegetables, poultry, salads, soup
Rosemary Vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium Beef, soup, bread
Tarragon Manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, zinc (helpful as an antioxidant) Fish, poultry, salads, soup, vegetables
Thyme Vitamin A Fish, cheese, vegetables


For more fun and interesting articles check out the Fill Your Plate blog, where new articles are posted every week.

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Not All Cinnamon Is Created Equal


By Morgan Crawford, Current ASU Nutrition Student

I have the fondest memories of a small, silver tin that held the most delicious mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It had several holes in the top that made for a perfect vessel to shake the mixture over anything you could think of. I remember the mornings that I was with my grandmother and she would place two pieces of bread in the toaster, smear a thin layer of butter on top, and dust it with the cinnamon sugar. It was so mesmerizing to watch the sugar and butter slowly melt into the warm piece of toast. I think this is when my love for cinnamon truly began!

Did you know that there is more than one variety of cinnamon? The most common type that we see sold in grocery stores and that most of us have in our spice cabinets is known as Cassia Cinnamon. This name is also used to refer to Saigon and Korintje, due to the similarities found between them. These types are grown in places around the world such as China and Indonesia. The other main type is known as Ceylon Cinnamon, which is also called True Cinnamon. Ceylon is grown primarily in Sri Lanka and Madagascar.


A compound known as Coumarin is found at extremely high levels in Cassia Cinnamon, which is actually quite toxic to the liver. For this reason, many people choose to use Ceylon over its much less expensive counterparts. One study that was conducted in Germany found after testing several types of cinnamon, that this toxic chemical compound is around 63 times more potent in Cassia than Ceylon Cinnamon. In small amounts, it does not present major health risks, but for those who take cinnamon capsules or eat cinnamon on a daily basis, they should consider using Ceylon rather than Cassia.


Just like other spices, cinnamon carries an immense amount of health benefits. What I think is one of the most incredible, is its ability to increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone produced by the body that helps regulate the metabolism and blood sugar. Insulin takes the glucose in the body and transports it through the bloodstream to the cells that can then use it for energy. In order for glucose levels to remain at a healthy level, insulin must be readily available and know what to do. If these mechanisms are not working properly, blood glucose levels spike to high levels and the pancreas is forced to overwork.  For certain individuals, their body does not recognize how to properly utilize insulin and are therefore considered to be insulin resistant. Most people are familiar with this condition being a precursor to type II diabetes.


Studies show that cinnamon has the potential to increase insulin sensitivity, making it an excellent method for managing type II diabetes. I’ll spare you all of the excruciatingly detailed science behind this process, but here is a study that explains it in great depth!


Another element of cinnamon is its anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These are so potent, that it is sold in tablet or capsule form that can be taken like any other vitamin supplement. It is useful for treating gastrointestinal disorders that are associated with inflammation, as well as joint pain and muscle soreness.


Cinnamon is really quite versatile—it can be used in sweet or savory recipes, can be taken as a supplement in tablet form, and can even be made into a salve that is used topically to soothe aches and pains.


For those of you who are cinnamon lovers, here is a recipe that I found on Pinterest and added my own special touches! It combines two of my favorite things–cinnamon and banana bread!


Cinnamon- Banana Bread Recipe


  • 2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 2 tbsp. Bobs Red Mill Egg Replacer (applesauce will also work here)
  • 3 tbsp. Maple syrup
  • 5-6 ripe mashed bananas


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl (sugar, melted butter, egg replacer, mashed bananas, and maple syrup)- mix well.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt) – mix well.
  4. Slowly add dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9×5 bread pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  8. For an extra kick of cinnamon, sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar over the top immediately after taking it out of the oven.


For more fun articles be sure to check out the Fill Your Plate blog. New articles are posted every week.

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5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

By Angela Bates, Current ASU Nutrition Student

With flu season upon us, it’s a great time to check in on your health, specifically your immunity. The immune system has different kinds of cells to destroy microbes ranging from bacteria to viruses, some of which it learns to keep out. Humans have two types of immunity—natural and acquired. We are born with some natural immunity, so we don’t get sick as easily as newborns. Acquired immunity happens when we get sick and fight the microbes off or when we receive a vaccine. Unfortunately, our immune systems aren’t always up to the challenge of flu season.

Immune system issues can arise when it becomes overactive or underactive. An overactive immune system can present itself as an autoimmune disease or allergies to foods or environmental items which did not have an effect previously. According to Dr. Calabrese of the Cleveland Clinic, the immune system is hardwired to our nervous system. This means that the body automatically reacts when something invades, unless your immune system is weakened. Here are a few important ways to boost your immunity now.

1. Sleep
Every college student cramming for finals and new mother waking up for the third time in one night can tell you, a severe lack of sleep will be felt. The National Sleep Foundation investigated a study on healthy young men who were either allowed to sleep normally or made to stay awake for 29 hours straight. Researchers found that white blood cells in the sleep deprived men mirrored the stress response of the body, weakening. The University of Washington performed a sleep study on identical twins and found that a shorter sleep duration depressed the immune system.

In our busy world, it can be difficult to find time to wind down and sleep, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. Electronics emit blue light, which tells the body it’s day time. Putting down the phone and turning off the television at least an hour before bed can help your body recognize it is time to sleep. Creating a routine before bed signals to your brain that it is time to relax and get to sleep as well. Ask for decaf after 3pm so your body has time to process it before bed. Finally, make your bedroom comfortable; cool temperatures, a supportive mattress, and a good pillow go a long way.

2. Eat Healthy

Eat your vegetables… and your fruits, fiber, protein, and so on. You don’t have to eat a salad every day to reap the benefits of a healthy diet. While there aren’t many studies that look directly at what foods improve immune system function, Harvard Health states there is quite a bit of evidence that nutrient deficiencies alter the immune response. Deficiencies in zinc, iron, copper, selenium, folate, vitamin A, B6, C, and E seem to have a direct impact on immunity. If you’re not sure you are eating enough nutrients, tracking your food intake can give you an idea. When in doubt, foods such as nuts and seeds, eggs, yogurt, and leafy green vegetables contain high amounts of these micronutrients. Discuss with your doctor if you feel a multivitamin may be needed to supplement your diet.

3. Exercise
Other than giving you a cardiovascular boost, regular exercise can also help your immune system. Being overweight puts a strain on the body, including the immune system, but a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you get back to a normal weight. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exercise causes white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, helps flush bacteria out of the airways, raises the body temperature which may prevent bacterial growth, and slows the release of stress hormones.

Does the thought of running on a treadmill for an hour make you want to run away? Don’t worry, experts say that just 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise of any kind in a day can make a difference. You can bicycle with the kids, go for a swim, play some golf with your friends, rake leaves in the yard, or take a walk in the park with your pet. Mixing up your routine will help keep the boredom from setting in and keep your body on its toes. If you get your heart rate up, you are giving your immune system a boost it may need.

4. Don’t Forget the Basics
Wash your hands. Your hands become a breeding ground when you neglect them. We already know to wash after using the bathroom and before eating, but don’t forget other opportunities to wash. When you cough or sneeze, give your pet a treat and a pat, visit a sick person, or perform other various tasks, your hands accumulate all kinds of gunk. Washing your hands with warm water and soap for 30 seconds, being sure to scrub under nails and around wrists, then drying can prevent the flu and takes just a few moments.

The advertisements in your local drugstore aren’t just to sell you a flu shot. In fact, your insurance most likely covers some or all the cost! Even if you think you are safe from an illness, your immunity ensures others with compromised immune systems won’t get sick. The elderly should take special care to get vaccinated for the flu, pneumonia, and shingles to prevent illness, as aging can also weaken the immune system.
If you do end up sick, please stay home. Your coworkers and hairdresser would like to prevent getting sick as well, so rest up and eat well until you feel better and get back out in to the world.

5. Chill Out
We all get stressed sometimes, especially with deadlines that never seem to stop coming, no time for vacation, and those bills that show up in the mailbox each month. Emotional stress can become chronic stress, increasing inflammation and working your immune system overtime. When your body is working so hard to stay regulated when it isn’t fighting off an invader, it cannot properly protect you when it needs to.

The American Psychological Association says that psychoneuroimmunology has become an important field where researchers are finding more ways each day that our minds and body are connected. As stress hormone levels rise, immunity lowers. Almost 300 studies all came to the conclusion that stress hinders the body’s ability to defend itself. If knowing your stress is hurting you stresses you out more, relax. Take a few minutes a day to meditate, do some yoga, read a book, listen to your favorite music, or get a massage. While you perform stressful work, check in with yourself and take some deep breaths, releasing your tense muscles. Studies have found that having a support system helps with stress, so talk to your friends, spouse, or a therapist and know that taking care of your stress protects your immune system too.

While these tips should not be taken as a replacement for medical advice, they may help fill in the gaps that were missing in your immune system building exercises. Making these 5 things into habits will ensure you are healthier and your immune system can protect you when you need it most, such as during this flu season!

Angela Bates

Angie is a current student at Arizona State University in Nutrition Communications. When she’s not working on school work, Angie enjoys cooking and playing video games. She’s passionate about helping others and nutrition education. With an interest in food allergy awareness, Angie hopes to someday work for a non-profit focusing on food allergy awareness and education.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Bailey Roden, Arizona Farm Bureau
The outside temperature is dropping and the seasons are changing. That’s right, the holidays are here! If you’re anything like me than you are jumping up and down from excitement. Eggnog is back in the dairy aisle and Christmas decorations are being sold. I’ve noticed that people have some tips and trick for the beautiful holiday season.

Let’s check them out:
1) Slow Down on the Sugar During the Holidays
2) We Love the Holidays!
3) After Holidays, Get Off Sugar, Save Your Teeth
4) Celebrate the Holidays with Arizona Wine!
5) A Foodie’s Guide to the Winter Holidays
6) Four Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Affordably
7) How to Get Through the Holidays Without Gaining Weight
8) How to Celebrate the Holidays- Arizona Style
9) 8 Tricks to Going Gluten-Free for the Holidays
10) Everything you need to Plan Christmas

The holidays are the perfect time to bond with your family and enjoy yourself. Don’t let the holiday season stress you out. These ten articles will help you plan your holiday get together.
For more informative articles check out the Fill Your Plate blog. Looking for recipe inspiration for your holiday parties? Check out the amazing recipe section on the Fill Your Plate website.

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