15 Fun Ways to Celebrate National 4-H Week

National 4-H Week

Here are some fun ways to celebrate National 4-H Week (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Many people think that 4-H is something that kids who want to be farmers participate in, but the 4-H movement has expanded well beyond the rural farming communities of yesterday. Today, it is the largest youth development organization in the country with more than 6 million participants. The kids who are involved in today’s 4-H Club come from urban areas, suburbs, rural areas and everywhere in between.   The week of October 3-11, 2014 is National 4-H week which provides a great opportunity to learn more about this amazing organization and to encourage everyone to get involved.

For those already involved in 4-H, this week offers an amazing opportunity to spread the word about the great work the organization is doing in your community and to inspire others to join your club. To help you get in the spirit and to reach out to others, here are 15 ways you can celebrate national 4-H week.

  1. Sign-up to participate in or assist with your local 4-H club.
  2. If there isn’t a 4-H club in your area, find out what you need to do to start one.
  3. Wear green every day in support of the 4-H movement.
  4. Invite someone from 4-H to come and speak at your church, your child’s school, or another community event to help others learn about the organization and what it offers.  If you are a member, volunteer to speak at these community events to spread the word.
  5. Host a 4-H cookie bake-a-thon and distribute the cookies to those who support your local community like police officers, fire fighters, and teachers.
  6. Throw a 4-H Family Fun day and invite the families in your community to come and learn more about your club. Plan fun activities, games, and demonstrations that show all the great things about 4-H.
  7. Host a chili cook-off where 4-H families and members of the community can show off their chili making skills while raising money for a local charity or community group.
  8. Hand out 4-H clover stickers to people you meet throughout the week and use the stickers as a way to start conversations about the great things 4-H does for its participants and its communities.
  9. Do something special for the local sponsors of your 4-H club like writing thank you notes or taking them a bouquet of green and white balloons.
  10. Encourage everyone in your club to wear a 4-H t-shirt or button everyday during the week to promote 4-H across your community.
  11. Give out shamrock plants to special donors as a thank you for their support.
  12. Hand out bags of green and white jelly beans at the community park or sports fields as a way to spread awareness of 4-H.
  13. Make 4-H clover shaped cookies and take them to your local nursing home to hand out to the residents.
  14. Leave a basket of treats in the teachers’ lounge at your school as a thank you to the teachers, custodians, and staff that support your education.
  15. Make a sign to hang in your school celebrating the 4-H Centennial that says “4-H, more than 100 years of helping teens!”
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What’s in Season in Arizona in October 2014

Arizona in season

Check out this list of in season Arizona produce and recipes to cool some delicious meals! (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

October means fall festivals, Halloween happenings, and pumpkin flavored everything!  It means you will find leafy greens like spinach and arugula next to the root veggies at the farmer’s market.   It also signifies a change in season and when the seasons change, so do the foods you can find that are raised or grown right here in Arizona. There is a wide range of locally grown produce, dairy, poultry, and meat available to fill your family’s plate whether you are shopping at the farmer’s market or right in your local grocery store. When you focus on eating locally grown, in season options you get the most nutritional value for your food dollar.

Here are some great ways to fill your plate with what’s in season in October.



Bok Choy








Green Beans

Green Onions/Scallions

Key Limes









Sweet Peppers




Winter Squash


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Training Your Brain to Crave What’s Good for You

train brain healthy food

Train your brain to like eating foods that are good for you. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Cookies make your brain sparkle, at least during an MRI. These sparkles are the visual representation of the release of dopamine in the brain that occurs when we experience something pleasing, like eating a cookie. This is the brain’s reward system and it is generally programmed to sparkle more for unhealthy foods like cookies, cake, and candy than for the foods we should be eating like broccoli and carrots.

This is one of the reasons it is so hard to make healthy food choices day in and day out; we are often fighting with our own brains to choose carrots over cookies. Wouldn’t it be great if we could change the way the reward system in our brains works so that veggies made our brains sparkle too?

This was the question a small study recently published in Nutrition & Diabetes sought to answer.

The study included 13 overweight and obese adults who were followed over the course of 6 months. The participants were all involved in a behavior modification program that provided menu plans that focused on satiety along with recipes and tips.

As part of the study, each participant was given an fMRI at the start of the 6 month period and again at the end. The fMRI focused in on the reward system portion of the brain and during the scan participants were shown pictures of both high and low calorie foods. As each picture was shown, the desirability of the food item pictured was rated by the participant.

Over the course of the study, those participants who opted to follow the program lost more weight than those who did not. But more importantly, the post-6 month scans of the participants who followed the program showed a change in how their brains responded to both kinds of food. Those who followed the program had brains that sparkled more for low calorie foods than they had at the start of the study and less for the high calorie foods.

In essence, they had reprogrammed their brains to treat eating healthy foods as pleasing and rewarding.

While the study size was small and there is much that remains unknown about our ability to convince our brains to like carrots more than cookies, these findings are promising. They indicate that it may be possible to curb cravings, manage weight, and follow a healthier diet without feeling a sense of deprivation. This is important as we face an unprecedented obesity crisis and most other long-term options, like gastric bypass, seem to have the opposite effect on the brain, decreasing the enjoyment people get from their food.

As we expand our understanding of the role the brain plays in how we choose the food we eat and get better at using technology like the fMRI to get a glimpse at what’s going on inside, the hope is that we will be able to develop better solutions for losing weight, managing weight, and making healthier food choices.

We have many delicious, and healthy, recipe options on Fill Your Plate if you are looking for new ideas as you train your brain towards better health.

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Eat for Your Heart’s Health on World Heart Day

Word Heart Day

Make sure you know these healthy ideas to keep your heart healthy (Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

On September 29th people all over the world will be participating in World Heart Day. This awareness day and intervention campaign is sponsored by the World Heart Federation and seeks to turn the tide in the battle against Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) which claims more lives each year than anything else. The goal of World Heart Day is to encourage people to create heart healthy environments so that it is easier to live, work, and play in heart healthy ways.

How Heart Healthy in Your Environment?

Although CVD kills more people on the planet each year than anything else, almost all cases of the disease can be prevented. Prevention centers on changing lifestyle habits and aspects of the environment in order to reduce or eliminate those things that raise the risk of developing the disease.

Many people underestimate the role their environment plays in the most common risk factors for CVD including smoking, inactivity, and unhealthy eating habits. We tend to put the blame for the unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of developing the disease on the person rather than looking at whether the environment where they work, live, and play supports a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy one.   One of the things the World Heart Foundation hopes to change is this view.

If we can embrace the idea that healthy environments support people in making healthy choices and living heart-healthy lifestyles, we can focus on creating the kind of environments that will reduce the impact of CVD around the world.

Today, more than 17 million people die each year from CVD and that number is expected to top 20 million by 2030. Do your part this year in honor of World Heart Day and commit to making some simple changes to your own environment that will help make your environment more heart-healthy.

How to Make Your Environment More Heart Healthy

To help you improve the heart-healthiness of the places where you work, live, and play, here are some ideas for the World Heart Federation.

  1. Focus on filling your refrigerator and pantry with healthy food options. It is much easier to eat healthy if you have the food you need on hand and it is even easier, if that is all the food you have available.
  2. Focus on fresh whole foods and avoid pre-packaged food products. These products are generally high in sugar, salt, and fat, which can contribute to CVD when eaten in excess.
  3. Pack lunches for work and school at home so you can make healthy selections.
  4. Quit smoking if you smoke. Ban smoking in your home. Avoid secondhand smoke.
  5. Be more active. Simply walking for 20-30 minutes every day can make a difference in your risk for CVD.
  6. Engage in active hobbies. Rather than watching television, go for a bike ride or a hike.
  7. Know your risk. Get regular checkups with your doctor to track your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and BMI. Knowing your risk factors will help you determine which changes are the most important to make.

We at Fill Your Plate value health as much as we do our deliciously grown and raised farm products. You can find many healthy, delicious recipes on the recipe section of Fill Your Plate to help you eat for your heart’s health, too.

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50 Fantastic Ways to Use Figs


If you’re looking for fun ways to fix figs, check out these delicious recipes (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is nothing quite like the sweet taste and chewy texture of fresh figs. As the fruit of the Ficus tree, figs come in a variety of colors and textures and offer a tasty treat that is as good for you as it is good to eat. One medium size fig has about 40 calories and is high in dietary fiber. Figs are also high in potassium which can be beneficial in helping lower and control blood pressure. For those looking to lose a little weight, the fiber in figs can help you feel full and satisfied longer, making it easier to avoid high calorie filler foods.

To help you celebrate this fabulous fruit this month, here are 50 fantastic ways to use figs to fill your family’s plates.

  1. Fig and Arugula Salad
  2. Pork Loin with Fig and Port Sauce
  3. Seared Figs and White Peaches with Balsamic Reduction
  4. Fig Spice Cake
  5. Fig and Almond Tarts
  6. Fig and Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
  7. Fig and Onion Spread
  8. Prosciutto Wrapped Figs
  9. Fig Goat Cheese Bruschetta
  10. Fig and Brie Crostini
  11. Fig Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula
  12. Fresh Fettuccine with Figs, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese
  13. Fig Prosciutto Gorgonzola Salad
  14. Fig Smoothie
  15. Honey Glazed Grilled Fig salad with Feta, Pistachio, and Mizuna
  16. Fig and Walnut Sticky Buns
  17. Fig and Olive Tapenade
  18. Chicken Panini with Fig Jam
  19. Fig and Lemon Chicken
  20. Fresh Pear and Fig Mixed Green Salad
  21. Fig Pecan Macaroons
  22. Fresh Fig Cookies
  23. Fig and Walnut Cookies
  24. Fig, Date, and Walnut Quick Bread
  25. Fig Bars
  26. Flatbread with Fresh Figs, Monterey Jack Blue Cheese, and Red Wine Reduced Vinaigrette
  27. Crostini with Gorgonzola, Caramelized Onions, and Fig Jam
  28. Fig and Banana Loaf
  29. Roasted Fresh Figs with Gorgonzola
  30. Granola Honey Yogurt with Figs
  31. Fig and Ricotta Crostini
  32. Fig Bran Muffins
  33. Strawberry Fig Preserves
  34. Spinach Sautéed with Garlic, Figs, and Honey
  35. Figs Stuffed with Almonds and Chips
  36. Creamy Leon Pepper Orzo with Chicken and Fig Salad
  37. Citrus Grilled Pork Filet with Mint Fig Sauce
  38. Four Cheese Pizza with Fig and Proscuitto
  39. Fresh Fig Compote Over Cream Cheese
  40. Fresh Figs with Rosemary Goat Cheese
  41. Chicken with Figs in a Port Wine Sauce
  42. Pan-seared Foie Gras with Figs and Port Wine Sauce
  43. Stuffed Bison Burgers with Caramelized Figs and Shallots
  44. Prosciutto Fig and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
  45. Bourbon Fig Compote
  46. Pecorino Romano with Apples and Fig Jam
  47. Sweet Figgy Pudding
  48. Montalcino Chicken with Figs and Buttered Gnocchi with Pancetta and Nutmeg
  49. Turkey Sliders with California Pepper Fig Salsa
  50. Pita Pockets with Fresh Figs and Roasted Chicken


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