Sort of Eggplant Parmesan

By Michael Russell, recent Arizona State University Nutrition Communication Student

Today I’d like to celebrate a childhood favorite of mine, eggplant parmesan.  Growing up in Northern New Jersey Italian food is a staple and at home, it was made on the regular.  As I’ve mentioned previously some of my earliest memories are of my mom or aunt making big meals for the family to sit and eat, well eggplant parmesan was one of them.


Now to explain the “sort of” portion of my title.  Typically, eggplant parmesan is cooked with eggplant cutlets that are dredged in egg and coated with either seasoned bread crumbs or flour and fried, and I am not saying you can’t do this, but I am trying to eat healthier these days so I skipped that part.  I, in turn, have grilled my eggplant cutlets.


A key to this dish is picking out your eggplant.  In my experience when you buy a smaller, squatter eggplant you are less likely to get a lot of seeds.  This is important because it gives you a meatier cutlet which allows it to handle the grill better than a cutlet that is full of seeds.


What you will need to make my “Sort of” Eggplant Parmesan:


1 eggplant

1 Cup of homemade or store-bought tomato sauce

4 Slices of fresh mozzarella

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

4 leaves of basil

1 Tbsp of balsamic reduction


So now that you have your eggplant picked out it is time to assemble your team.  The star of the show is the eggplant but his partners in crime are the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.  Now in my house, I almost always have a container of homemade pasta sauce but you can buy it out of a jar, I mean I die a little inside when this happens, but it’s okay.


Next step, execution.  I keep the skin on my eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch cutlets, I then coat with olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over top.  Now, it’s grill time.  Get your grill or grill pan up to a medium to high heat, spray with a nonstick spray and start to grill the eggplant.  I like to cook them for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the edges of the eggplant start to brown.


Once your eggplant is grilled you only need to top it with your tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and put under a broiler until the cheese starts to bubble and ooze over the sides.  You want to add a leaf or two of basil for presentation.  I then drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction for added flavor.

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Why Nutrient Deficiency is Less Likely When Eating Seasonally

By Rebecca Rullo, A Nutrition Communication Student at Arizona State University

Many of us understand that fruits and vegetables are important for optimal health, but we may not understand how they are related to the seasons of the year. We might buy the same foods year round, thinking we have our healthy diet nailed with the food that’s available year-round. Seasonal eating is becoming more popular, but we might question its legitimacy. Can we take in sufficient nutrients while eating only what is available at particular times of the year, and is doing so better than eating out-of-season? Seasonal eating may prevent some of the prevalent nutrient deficiencies today by leading to consumption of more variety and more whole foods.


The World Health Organization states that we should consume “a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day”. This recommendation may give people the message to avoid potatoes and root vegetables, or the message that all spring and summer produce is healthier than all fall and winter produce, regardless of the season. Rather than recommending that we avoid eating potatoes and tubers, maybe we should be emphasizing eating them at certain times of the year.


Seasonal foods have higher nutrition content and their composition may match our bodily needs in different weather. During winter, if citrus fruits are out of season, potatoes may be a better source of vitamin C than the citrus. Switching from citrus to other fruits and vegetables creates more variety in the diet. For instance, fall foods may contain nutrients that are particularly beneficial for that season and may require a cooking method that suits the colder weather, according to the George Mateljan Foundation.


Some say that nutrient differences between in-season and out-of-season foods are minor and that even seasonal food quality is decreased through soil depletion, processing, handling, and cooking. A study comparing the amount of vitamin C in broccoli in season and out of season showed the in-season broccoli to have a higher vitamin C content. The author notes that eating produce that is out of season is better than not eating any. However, eating out-of-season produce replaces in-season produce like eating empty-calorie foods replaces energy-dense foods, which can add up in overall nutrient consumption to a more significant difference in nutrient intake.


Seasonal eating is neither easy to define nor easy to implement without knowledge of seasonal foods, agriculture, and climates. Seasonal foods change as frequently as each month, not necessarily lasting an entire three months of a season. They also vary by region. Familiarity with cold weather and warm weather crops helps generalize what types may be available in certain seasons. If we think seasonal eating may be limiting, our lack of knowledge in these areas and our abundant variety of out-of-season foods is actually more limiting. The frequent change up of diet allows more variety of produce to be consumed and places a focus on whole foods and produce over processed and convenience items. The better taste of in-season foods may lead us to choose more of them and fewer calorie-dense options. Regardless of any differences between in-season and out of season produce, eating seasonally helps us eat whole foods that are much more nutritious than processed foods.


Nutrient deficiencies can occur under any condition where a person is unable to take in a variety of foods. Eating seasonally may appear to limit variety until we understand how each season presents its own variety. All food groups can be consumed in each season, and foods contain varying combinations of micronutrients. As long as we consume a variety of food groups through the year, we don’t have to rely on a summer source of vitamin C through the fall and winter, when it probably doesn’t contain the proper amount of the vitamin anyway.


While scientific studies on the comparison of seasonal diets in the United States with non-seasonal diets are lacking, nutrient deficiencies do not appear to be caused by seasonal eating. Studies have been done comparing nutrient intakes among individuals at different seasons in the year. Intakes are usually similar in spite of different seasons, which shows that we are able to get adequate nutrients. The similarity may be minimum in countries that have fewer resources, such as in the case of one study where animal sources were unavailable, resulting in low calcium, iron, and B12.


The lack of animal sources was not related to seasonal eating. In the United States, we have a wider selection of seasonal foods. Nutrient deficiencies that occur in the United States today are because of poor diet and poor food quality, neither of which is indicated by seasonal eating. For countries that still eat seasonally, other deficiencies occur because of agricultural difficulties and economic status rather than from eating foods by the season.


As nutrition science advances and we find out more about the best foods to consume for optimal health, the health disparities among different regions with similar dietary intakes appear harder to explain. We know that humans have survived on many diets in many climates, but to what extent their health was affected is not really clear. Evaluating whether seasonal eating is important is hard when we have little details from history of the effects when people had no choice but to eat seasonally, because of other factors contributing to the countries that still eat seasonally, and because of a lack of research studies comparing seasonal and non-seasonal diets in the United States.


What is clear is that eating seasonally in the modern day supports other healthy habits and a higher nutrient consumption is likely. The connection with our environment through seasonal eating could be fulfilling psychologically, as well.


As the United States Department of Agriculture suggests, what we know about nutrition in some aspects is very clear: Work to eat a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (50% of your plate), a variety of proteins including red meat, dairy, grains, and eggs.





Arsenault, Joanne and Nikiema, Laetitia and Allemand, Pauline and Ayassou, Kossiwavi,
and Lanou, Hermann and Moursi, Mourad and De Moura, Fabiana and Martin-Prevel,
Yves. (2014). Seasonal Differences in Food and Nutrient Intakes Among Young Children
and Their Mothers in Rural Burkina Faso. Journal of Nutritional Science. Vol. 3.
Retrieved from


Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.S. (n.d.). Preventing Micronutrient Deficiencies:
Food Abundance and Diversity are Fundamental
. Retrieved from


Ma, Y and Olendzki, BC and Li, W and Hafner, AR and Chirbooga, D and Hebert, JR and
Campbell, M and Sarnie, M and Ockene, IS. (2007). Seasonal Variation in Food Intake,
Physical Activity, and Body Weight in a Predominantly Overweight Population.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Pp. 519-528. Retrieved from


Mark. (2010). Does Seasonality Affect Nutrition Content? Retrieved from


Garn, Stanley and Leonard, William. (1989). What Did Our Ancestors Eat? Oxford
University Press
. Vol. 47. No. 11. Pp. 337-345. Retrieved from


The George Mateljan Foundation. (2016). Healthy Eating with the Seasons. Retrieved from


World Health Organization. (2004). Fruit and Vegetables for Health. Retrieved from


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Soup Recipes for the Soul

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

As the weather cools down our stoves heat up. Here in Arizona, that’s a pretty big deal, as most of us try to keep stove use to a minimum during the warm months. Winter gives us all a chance to break out the cookbooks and try some recipes we would never think to make in the summer. My favorite dish to make when it’s cold out is soup. I make it on the stove, or if I know I’m going to be busy I make it in the crockpot.

Soup can feed your whole family easily, and is the easiest thing to make.


  1. Albondigas – Meatball Soup
  2. Turkey, Kale, and Brown Rice Soup
  3. Oyster Stew
  4. Bacon, White Bean, and Kale Skillet
  5. Cream of Cauliflower Soup
  6. Spicy Ham and Black Bean Soup
  7. Ranch Soup
  8. Carrot Ginger Soup
  9. Mexican Pork and Beans Soup
  10. Potato Cheese Soup
  11. Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
  12. Italian Cupboard Soup
  13. Savory Goat Meat Stew with Dumplings
  14. Chicken Tortilla Soup
  15. Pepper and Pineapple Pork Stew
  16. Old Mexico Style Pozole
  17. Chilled Potato, Leek, and Beet Soup
  18. Grand Canyon Sweet Onion Soup
  19. Classic Minestrone Soup
  20. Comforting Corn Chowder

Share your favorite soup recipe with us in the comments! If you need any more soup, stew, chowder, or pasta recipes head over to the recipe section on Fill Your Plate.

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, Food, Grocery, Healthy Eating, In the Kitchen, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My 5 All-time Favorite Fall Homemade Soup Recipes

By Katrina Aceret, ASU Nutrition Communication Student

Fall has arrived, meaning time to cook homemade soups! I’m not a big fan of cooking soup out of the can and I just love how versatile you can make homemade soups.

Below are my favorite fall homemade soups. All the recipes are modified to my preferences, I always put a little cayenne pepper into my soups, so you’ll see it added to every recipe.


I love The Pioneer Woman, and she has one of my favorite homemade recipes that is really easy to make.

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup


  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • ½ large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked chicken, bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 4 cups cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • ½ cup of mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 pinches of cayenne pepper


Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, and mushroom. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender for 10-15 minutes until tender.

Add chicken and wild rice then 3 cups cream and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Add the peas and turn off the heat, add more cream if desired.

Serve once the peas are heated through. Add the two pinches of cayenne pepper and add the shredded cheese.


Pumpkin Soup

You can’t celebrate fall without some pumpkin soup!


  • 2 whole pie pumpkins
  • 1-quart vegetable stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra cream, for serving



  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pumpkins on a cookie sheet and roast them until slightly shriveled and soft. Allow to cool slightly, the slice in half and carefully scoop out seeds and pulp. Scoop yummy flesh into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a pot, heat up the pumpkin flesh with the stock and maple syrup until simmering. Mash out the big chunks, the transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until velvety smooth. Add cream and nutmeg, then blend again.
  3. Reheat if you need to and serve in a hollowed-out pumpkin.


Tomato Basil Soup

I am obsessed with tomato basil soup during the fall. I binge on it soup every time fall hits!


  • 4 tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 12 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to garnish



  1. Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.
  2. Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.
  3. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese.

Thai Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk

If you love pumpkin and coconut, you have to try this soup! I made this for the first time and was impressed with how easy it was!


  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 ½ cups butternut squash, peeled, chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 5 oz coconut milk


  1. Remove the roots and stalk ends from the cilantro. Wash the leaves and dry with paper towel before roughly chopping. Remove any dirt clinging to the roots. Shake off any water and finely chop.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat before adding the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes translucent.
  3. Add the ginger, lemongrass, and cilantro roots and stalks. Cook until the stalk become before adding the pumpkin.
  4. Toss the pumpkin in the oil and cook for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil before reducing the heat to lower. Cook for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Add most of the chopped cilantro leaves reserving some to garnish the soup. Blend until the soup is speckled with flecks of green.
  6. Return to a clean saucepan and add the coconut milk. I like to only add half the milk, reserving the rest for garnish. Serve with shaved coconut, and the remaining cilantro leaves.


Stuffed Pepper Soup


  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup small yellow onion chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 2 ½ tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain of white or brown rice
  • Cheddar cheese (optional)


  1. In a large pot heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat, once hot add beef to pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up beef, until browned. Drain beef and pour onto a plate lined with papers towels. Set aside.
  2. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil in pot then add onions, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and sauté 3 minutes, then add garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer. Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and add parsley, basil, oregano and cooked beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a light boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
  3. While soup simmers, prepare rice according to directions listed on the package, then once the soup is done simmering stir in the desired amount of cooked rice into soup. Serve warm topped with optional cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.


Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate has a variety of homemade soup recipes too! Their searchable database of recipes with help you find a favorite.

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9 Black Friday Shopping Tips

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

When you’re out to get a good deal there should be no stopping you! Black Friday is the one day a year where people can get out and shop unapologetically. Most of the time, people shopping on Black Friday have one thing in mind: Christmas. But don’t be afraid to use the big savings to buy yourself something nice, too!

Whatever you’re shopping for, make sure you have a game plan in place before you head out into the crowds on Friday. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the best tips for surviving the Black Friday crowds, and getting the best deals. Good luck out there, and happy shopping!


  1. Research, research, research! Before you dive into the shopping, research the stores you plan to visit, the deals they are offering, and the products you are looking to buy. First, compare the prices of items offered at different stores. A certain store might have a better deal on that must-have thing on your list. Today’s instant access to information and comparison shopping is only a click away. Second, check the ads! Many stores put out their Black Friday ads at least a week before the sale, so take the time to look through and see what the biggest specials will be.
  2. The kids need to stay home. Unless you are shopping with your adult children, leave the kids at home. Black Friday shopping might sound fun to your little ones at first, but after a few hours of walking, standing in line, and hopping from store to store, the complaints will begin. Unfortunately, Black Friday has become known for too much pushing and shoving.
  3. Make a list. Before Black Friday, make a list of the things you’re looking to purchase. First write down all the stores you plan on visiting, and then list the items you want to purchase at each store under the store name. List the items in order of importance so you have a higher chance of getting them first.
  4. Start early. Tons of stores offer discounts and deals a few days before Black Friday. When you do your research, find out which stores are offering these deals, and visit them on Wednesday or Thanksgiving night.
  5. Find the best payment method for you. Instead of using a credit card for your Black Friday purchases, use cash if possible. Set a budget before you head out, and withdraw that exact amount in cash. It will save you from spending more than you have or maxing out your credit card. Just make sure you keep the cash secured in your wallet or purse, and if you are shopping with a purse keep it tightly closed. If you will be able to pay your card off and in full at the time payment is due, then feel free to use your credit card.
  6. Shop with friends. Shopping with friends can be a blast, and in the end, it can help you score the items you wanted. When shopping with a friend, split the store up by departments, and designate departments between yourselves. Share your lists with each other so you can grab the stuff they need while getting what you’re looking for, too. Don’t forget to text your friend to let them know what items you’ve grabbed.
  7. Shop online. If you’re not one for crowds, shopping online might be a better option. Stores sometimes give their best deals online. Lots of brands also start their sales up to a week early on their websites. Plus, don’t forget Cyber Monday that’s designed to lure all of the online shoppers a few days later.
  8. Learn the return policies. If you can’t memorize them all, ask about the store’s return policies at checkout. Some stores change up their policy for Black Friday.
  9. Bring snacks. I am constantly snacking, so this tip is very important to me. You might be waiting in long lines, camping out the night before, or searching each aisle meticulously. This can not only tire you out but make you hungry! Keep a bag of nuts or healthy granola bars on you at all times, and don’t forget a bottle of water.

If you shop right, Black Friday can be a day filled with discounts and deals. Hopefully, these tips make shopping that much easier. If you’ve got any other tips that you use to survive Black Friday, leave them in the comments.

Want to purchase directly from a farmer or rancher instead of the mall, remember Fill Your Plate. We’re your online directory of direct market (retail) farmers and ranchers.

Have fun out there, and good luck!

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