We Love the Holidays!

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Outreach Director

Here at Arizona Farm Bureau, and especially with our farm and ranch families, we love the holidays! Since Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Day is just around the corner, you need to sample all the articles we’ve written over the years celebrating the holiday season in farm and ranch country.


  1. Choose Arizona Beef for your Main Course this Holiday
  2. Farming Family Holiday Traditions
  3. Holiday Hacks
  4. Celebrate the Holidays with Arizona Wines!
  5. Fill Your Plate with these Thanksgiving Blogs
  6. 12 Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes
  7. Prime Rib Serves up Well on Thanksgiving Too
  8. Thanksgiving Recipes to Thrill Your Guests
  9. Great Grandma Griffith’s Thanksgiving Stuffing

Stay tuned. We’ll be coming out with more holiday fun this season. Do you have a holiday idea or recipes you’d like Fill Your Plate to write about?

Posted in Arizona, Beef, Chicken, Cooking, Dairy, Eggs, Fill Your Plate, Food, Fruit, Grocery, Healthy Eating, Holidays, Pork, Produce, Recipes, Vegetables, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuts for Nuts? You Should be!

By Jessica Bombace, ASU Nutrition Student

Photo Provided by Green Valley

Nuts may seem like just an ordinary snack or something you would find in your trail mix but it really is more than that! And, Arizona is home to some amazing pistachio and pecan nuts contributing just over $3 million to our economy.

Let’s first start off on what exactly is a nut? A nut is actually considered a fruit that is composed of a hard shell that is not edible but it also contains a seed, which is edible.

Some keywords to know:

  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fatty acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation

This research article will contain a couple of studies in regards to the benefits of nuts.

A study done at Tufts University (Massachusetts), was conducted called a meta-analysis study, Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. This meta-analysis study combined 61 studies together where some participants consumed tree nuts while others did not. People in general knew that eating nuts can lower your risk of heart disease but the study done at Tufts University has changed the game and provided more health benefits on the intake of nuts.

The tree nuts that were used in this study were walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts or Brazil nuts. These nuts were consumed daily and the kind of nut did not matter. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects between subjects who consumed and those that did not consume the nuts on their blood cholesterol, triglycerides, along with HDL and LDL.

To get more in detail about this study, the participants that consumed nuts ate 2 ounces daily for a month. After a month, the results were compared between both groups. The group of participants that ate the nuts had a lower total and LDL cholesterol.  What the nuts did not affect was the HDL.

Nutrition Content of Nuts!

  • Nuts are very nutrient dense. Not including chestnuts (which have a lower amount of fat), other nuts have a high total fat content. Fat content ranges from 46% (cashews and pistachios) to 76% (macadamia nuts).
  • “Good fat” is that even a thing? Yes, it and nuts are known as “good fats.” The saturated fat is low while nearly half of the total fat includes unsaturated fat, monounsaturated fatty acids in most nuts as well as linoleic acid (Brazil nuts) and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Nuts contain a very interesting amino acid, L-arginine. This amino acid basically makes nuts so beneficial in the coronary heart disease category. L-arginine is the precursor of the endogenous vasodilator, nitric oxide that potentially helps in vascular reactivity.
  • Not only are nuts a good source of macronutrients they also have significant amounts of essential micronutrients. The micronutrients that it contains are folate, antioxidant vitamins and phenolic compounds.
  • Folate: is a B vitamin that is necessary when it comes down to normal cellular function, which plays an important role in detoxifying homocysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid.
  • Antioxidant & phenolic compounds: protect the germ from oxidative stress along with preserve the reproductive potential of the seed.
  • CHOLESTEROL FREE! Yes I said it, CHOLESTEROL FREE! What makes nuts cholesterol-free is that they contain a significant amount of sterols that are non-cholesterol sterols and it contains compounds called plant sterols or phytosterols. Phytosterols is what helps to lower blood cholesterol since they interfere with cholesterol absorption.


In another series of U.S.-based studies published in Vegetarian Journal in 2016, the Health Benefits of Nuts, all four studies showed beneficial effects of consuming nuts & CHD, in addition to the study subjects with the highest consumption of nuts resulting in a 37% reduction of in multivariable adjusted risk of CHD.

(Ros, 2010, p. xx)

If nuts weren’t beneficial enough with how nutrient dense they are and how they lower our LDL and total cholesterol, they also are associated with type 2 diabetes which is a major risk factor for CHD. So, nuts go beyond providing a nutritious choice of snack or addition to a meal, and lowering the risk of CHD, it also plays a role in a person who has type 2 diabetes.

The health benefits are constantly being studied. And year after year, this research continues to confirm how important nuts are to our diets. Are you nuts for nuts yet?

Continue following Fill Your Plate to watch for more articles on the health benefits of nuts and more. The cool thing, Arizona grows two varieties of these tasty, healthy nuts: Pistachios and Pecans.

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Scrub Your Grub!

By Laura Slatalla, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

Step one, before cutting into vegetables or taking a bite of fruit, is to wash all produce. Produce needs to be washed to get rid of any dirt or bacteria picked up along the way. It’s passed through employee’s hands and is touched by several shoppers in the grocery store. Stockers at the store don’t need a food handlers card to stock fruits and veggies at the grocery store, so common precautions like washing their hands after coughing may not have been followed, and there is certainly no way to guarantee a fellow shopper didn’t sneeze on your apples.

According to the FDA, rinsing with cool water is enough, and actually recommends against using soaps or detergents. For tougher fruits and vegetables, like melon or squash, a clean produce brush should be used to scrub the skin. I like to use a brush on most produce with a natural cleanser to remove the waxy coating. Even though you may not be eating the peel, the bacteria will be transferred to the inside of the produce once it is cut into, so it still has to be washed.

Fruits and vegetables are too often overlooked when it comes to foodborne illness, which is a serious threat. When we think of food poisoning, meat usually comes to mind, but many cases are actually caused by improperly washed fruits and vegetables. We take precautions with meats and dairy products, so do the same with produce. Prepare it safely to keep your family healthy.

My favorite cleanser recipe is pretty simple. You need a spray bottle. Prepare it by squeezing a tablespoon of lemon juice into the bottle. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Add a cup of water. Mix it up well and you’re ready to scrub that grub!

For more informative blog post check out the Fill Your Plate Blog.


Reference: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm114299

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5 Tips to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

by Lori Meszaros, Recent ASU Nutrition Communication student


If you walked into a school lunchroom and saw children lining up for the salad bar, you’d probably wonder, “What are they putting in that salad bar to make those kids want to eat salad for lunch?”

Salad bars are starting to show up in school cafeterias, with no special ingredients to entice kids to eat salad for lunch, other than the school garden planted outside.

School gardens are sprouting up across the United States, Europe and Australia; From the Edible School Yard Project to Farm to School programs like Arizona Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom, gardening is quickly becoming the mainstream focus on teaching our children about healthy food choices.

School Gardening


Research supports, that if you teach children about gardening you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll try new fruits and vegetables. For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that middle school children who were exposed to gardening alongside a nutrition education course more than doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables they would try in a taste test, compared to those children who weren’t exposed to the gardening program. The study further demonstrated how gardening increases a child’s curiosity about where food comes from, encouraging healthier eating habits.

You’re probably thinking, that’s great news! School gardens may help my picky eater eat fruits and vegetables for lunch, but my school doesn’t have a gardening program. What can I do?

There is plenty you can do at home with your children to encourage healthy eating habits. Here are 5 tips to get you started.


Tips to encourage healthy eating habits at home

 Tip #1- Start small, plant an herb garden.

You don’t need a big backyard to start a garden, you don’t even need a backyard.  All you need is some soil, sun, water and a little patience. Herbs are a great way to start gardening with your child, and can be grown in your kitchen. Herbs require very little work, other than trimming once in a while, to add fresh flavor to your next dish.

Parsley, oregano and basil grow incredibly well in Arizona’s dry climate, and are used in so many dishes. Next time you get the urge to make home-made pizza, ask your child to cut some fresh oregano or basil, grown from your very own kitchen garden. You and your little chef will be amazed at the flavor fresh herbs add to your pizza. You may even find yourself making pizza more often (and try not to act surprised when they sample a leaf or two before bringing it to you).

Tip #2- Grow vegetables from kitchen scraps.

Why throw out scraps when you can regrow them. Ever find a potato or onion starting to sprout before you get a chance to use it?

Next time, instead of just throwing it away, why not ask your child if they think they can grow it into something to eat? They may look at you funny, but curiosity will win them over and before you know it, you’ll have your very own science lab in your kitchen.

There are lots of fruits and vegetables you use every day that can be regrown from the unused portion you usually throw away, and most can be grown in just a small amount of water.

Potatoes, celery and onions are just a few of the kitchen scraps you can easily grow with your child. Check out my list of 10 foods you can easily regrow from kitchen scraps.

Tip #3- Harvest your own seeds.

Play with your child’s curiosity about how things grow. Cut into a tomato and remove a few seeds from the center. Place the seeds on a wet paper towel inside a clear plastic cup, place the cup near a sunny window, but not in direct sunlight, and watch them sprout. Within a few days your child will see the seed start to break open, and a new little sprout pop out. Once the sprout is a few inches tall, gently remove the sprout and plant in a sunny location. You’ll have fresh tomatoes within the month and your picky eater trying tomatoes.

Tip #4- Enjoy a family outing to your local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets are a great place to teach your kids about where food comes from and Arizona is host to so many different markets. Farmers are extremely proud of what they grow, and kids are naturally curious. Who better to teach your kids about the food they eat then the person who grows it?

When you take your child to a farmer’s market, they get a chance to meet the farmers and learn about how their food was grown; not to mention tasting some of the samples they may normally pass on at home. Kids love samples, and farmer’s markets are a great place to try something new.

By making a family outing to your local farmer’s market a regular thing, instead of your usual trip to the local fast food joint, you can quickly help associate good, healthy food with happy memories of going to the farmer’s market.

Tip #5- Make food fun.

The internet has made finding fun ways to present food easier than ever. Think Pinterest. From “The Hungry Caterpillar” fruit sticks to “Butterfly” sandwiches, you can find tons of creative ways to present new foods that might just be the trick to get those picky little eaters to try something new.

Another trick, stick it on a stick.

One of the easiest things I did to get my kids to try new foods was, present it to them on a stick. Yep, it was that easy. You’d be amazed at what kids will try when they don’t have to use a knife and fork. I’ve even gone so far as making an entire meal that had to be eaten with toothpicks.

Research supports, kids who are exposed to healthy foods are more likely to make healthy choices as an adult, and isn’t that what we want for our kids?

Remember that October is National Farm to School Month and is the perfect time to visit one of Arizona’s many farmer’s markets, encouraging healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

What are some things you’ve tried to get your kids eating healthier? We’d love to hear your creative ideas to get your kids trying new, healthy foods. Go to our Fill Your Plate Facebook and post a comment.



Castro, DC., Samuels, M., & Harman, AE. Growing healthy kids: A community garden-based obesity prevention program. Am J Prev Med, 2013; 44(3):193-199.

McAlesse JD, Rankin LL. Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc, 2007; 107(4):662-665.

Photos: Pixabay, Creative Commons



Posted in Ag in the Classroom, Cooking, Diet Tips, Farmer's Markets, Fill Your Plate, Food, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Produce, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips to Keep You on Track with Healthy Eating

 By Lori Meszaros, Former ASU Nutrition Communications student

We’ve all been there, wanting to cook a healthy meal but home too late to even think about it. Who wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing, cooking and then cleaning up after a long day? We often turn to unhealthy takeout or prepared meals at the local grocery store. These meals are loaded with extra calories, fat, and salt which makes it hard to stay on track and stick to eating healthy. However, if you follow these simple tips, you too can cook a healthy meal in less time than it takes to steam rice or boil pasta.

If you’re anything like me, meal planning isn’t something you like to do. I’m more of a cook- on-a-whim kind of person, making whatever I’m in the mood for that day. This can pose a bit of a problem sometimes, but a little bit of planning on the weekend can help keep you on track with healthy eating.

Pre-cut your veggies

After your weekend trip to your local farmer’s market or grocery store, bring home your bountiful veggie harvest, rinse and pre-cut the veggies to store for use through the week. Buying veggies and spending a little time getting them ready on the weekend will not only save you time in the kitchen during the week but also save you money. Pre-cut veggies can be expensive and you’re never sure how old they really are. Home-cut veggies can be stored in plastic zip bags, plastic or glass container and kept fresh through the week. Just place a dry paper towel in the bottom of the container to trap any extra moisture or gently pat dry if storing in a zip bag.

The USDA recommends eating at least 3 servings of vegetables a day as part of an overall healthy diet, and that eating more vegetables may also help reduce the amount of calories you eat in a meal. Vegetables are a good source of fiber, low in fat and calories, and an important source of many vitamins and minerals.

Having pre-cut veggies on hand makes it easy to throw some into a quick stir-fry, have as a quick healthy snack or toss with some olive oil to roast. Roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness in them by what is called dextrinization- browning of the starch that gives foods a sweet taste. Try tossing veggies with a little olive oil, some seasoning then roast on a lined baking sheet at 400F for about 10-15 minutes or until tender. Roasted veggies make a great addition to a salad or as a side dish.

Batch cook rice, quinoa or pasta

Cooking rice, quinoa or pasta can be time-consuming and after a long day who has wants to spend hours in the kitchen cooking? Batch cooking over the weekend will have you cooking up healthy 15-minute meals to impress your family just like those celebrity chefs Racheal Ray and Jamie Oliver.

Cook rice, quinoa or pasta over the weekend and store in containers for up to one week. If you find yourself not using all of the food you batch cooked, you can store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just defrost in the refrigerator the day before you plan to use them again.

  • Rice and quinoa can be stored in a glass container right after cooking.
  • Toss pasta with a little olive oil before storing in a container to prevent from sticking.

Rice and quinoa can be tossed into a simple stir-fry with some chopped veggies and pasta can be reheated in a little boiling water in only 1-2 minutes.

The USDA recommends eating 1 ½-2 cups of grains per day as part of a healthy diet. Eating whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa provides your body with many beneficial nutrients that are stripped away from refined wheat products. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, several B vitamins and minerals. B vitamins are an essential for energy, a healthy nervous system and play a role in metabolizing your food by helping your body release the energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates in the foods you eat.

Precook Legumes

Legumes, like beans and chickpeas can take hours to cook. Presoaking the legume can help cut cooking time in half, and batch cooking on the weekend can eliminate the need to even turn on the stove.

Over the weekend, prepare the beans first by soaking overnight. The next day, begin cooking the beans you plan to use for the week. If you plan right, you can have a few things cooking at the same time. Just make sure to cool the legumes to room temperature before you store them, otherwise they may turn bad in a few days. If cooled properly and stored in an air-tight container, legumes will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Legumes are a unique food because they can be counted as both a protein and a vegetable in your diet. Legumes are packed with nutrients and have many benefits to your health such as reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Adding legumes to your diet is a great way to get in plant-based proteins that are loaded with fiber.

Frozen veggies

Freezing vegetables is one way to be sure to always have produce on hand when you’re short on time and are the next best thing to fresh. They’re usually picked at the peak and then quickly flash frozen, preserving most of the nutrients. Just like store-bought pre-cut veggies, frozen veggies can be a bit more expensive, so why not put a little time aside on a weekend to make your own.

Next time you’re buying veggies at the farmer’s market, buy a little extra of whatever is in season, and instead of storing the pre-cut veggies in the refrigerator, blanch some (that is dropping veggies into boiling water for 30 seconds- 1 minute). After blanching the veggies, remove them from boiling water and drop them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry, then spread on a baking sheet to freeze for at least 2 hours before storing in a plastic bag.

Arizona grows some of the best sweet corn in the country and you can find it in season at your local farmer’s market or grocery stores from June to October. But what about the rest of the year? Stocking up on AZ finest sweet corn when it’s in season and freezing it for those recipes you can’t live without in the winter is the best way to enjoy those tasty kernels year round.  Just cut kernels off the cob raw, or either after grilling on the BBQ or blanching, then spread them on a lined baking sheet in the freezer for at least 2 hours before storing in a plastic bag.

Frozen corn can be added to many dishes; I’ve even added one of my favorites below or you can check out Fill Your Plate for more yummy Arizona sweet corn recipes.

Sweet corn is another one of those amazing foods that can be considered a vegetable, a grain and a fruit. Usually, corn is eaten as a vegetable and has many of the health benefits of vegetables. Sweet corn is a rich source of B vitamins, vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, folate and dietary fiber. One serving of sweet corn contains 3 grams of your daily fiber needs.

Eating healthy is much easier when you have a well-stocked refrigerator. By taking an hour or two over the weekend to prepare, you too can be cooking healthy meals in as little as 15 minutes. Here’s one of my personal favorite go to recipes that take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad



1 cup frozen corn (fresh is always better, but who has the time tonight!)

1 small red onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red sweet pepper, diced

1 zucchini, chopped (optional)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked quinoa (you can use rice if you prefer)

1 lime, juiced

Handful of cilantro, chopped

How to prepare

  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and dry sauté (no oil) the corn with chili powder, cumin and coriander until it begins to brown, tossing to prevent sticking, about 2-4 mins.
  • Add in the onion, garlic, and red pepper and sauté another 1-2 mins.
  • Add the black beans and toss to heat. (Note- do not cook black beans, just toss them in the mixture and turn off heat.)
  • Remove from heat and add the cooked quinoa (or rice), lime juice and coriander and mix until all ingredients are combined.
  • Garnish with fresh avocado, tomato, cilantro and a lime wedge.

This can be served warm or cold. I served mine with organic blue corn chips and avocado. This salad also makes a great filling for other dishes you can find on my recipe blog, like my Taco Omelet or Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Portabella’s.


Remember to go to Fill Your Plate for recipes from Arizona Farmers and Ranchers.



USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov

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