food

Pumpkin’s a Good Pick for Your Health!

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Alexa Horkachuck

Autumn is finally here, which means that pumpkin flavored products are flooding into your local grocery store. If you’re a fan, you will find everything from pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin pastas and soups. There is bound to be a recipe that you would enjoy making and eating!

carved pumpkin on a tablePumpkin is a tasty vegetable that is packed with healthful benefits for you and your family to enjoy. It is low in calories, sodium, and fat, while high in fiber to help keep you full throughout the day. It is also a great source of beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A – a powerful antioxidant which helps improve your skin and eye health. Pumpkin also has vitamin C to keep your immune system strong through the upcoming winter. It also is packed with potassium, and low in sodium which can help prevent high blood pressure!

When cooking with fresh pumpkin, it is important to pay attention to what type of pumpkin you are using and how much of the pumpkin you need to use! For cooking at home, purchase fresh sugar-pumpkins (also called pie or sweet pumpkins), which are small and round. Field types of pumpkins are larger, have watery, stringy flesh, and are best used for decorating like Jack-O-Lanterns.

Check this out to learn about different types of pumpkins!

https://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-pumpkins-for-baking-ingredient-intelligence-211333

Fresh pumpkin is easy to prepare in an oven, check it out!

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-roast-pumpkin-4115845

You can replace fresh, pureed pumpkin with equal amounts of canned pumpkin in your favorite recipes. For example, substitute 1 cup fresh, pureed pumpkin called for in a recipe with 1 cup canned pumpkin.

  • Canned pumpkin is certainly more convenient and relatively inexpensive, typically costing around $1-2 for a 15-oz can. Be sure to buy 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin pie “mix” by accident! The “filling and mix styles” add unwanted sugars that you do not need in most recipes.
  • Once opened, canned pumpkin can be stored in your refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. You can also stir canned pumpkin into oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, and vanilla yogurt for added flavor. Add it to soups and stews to thicken them.
  • Be sure to transfer any leftover canned pumpkin to an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Here are two delicious ways to use fresh or canned pumpkin.  For more tasty, healthy, and low-cost recipes, visit: https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/recipes/

Pumpkin Soup Makes ~6 cups bowl of pumpkin soup on a saucer

Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 can (15 oz.) solid packed pumpkin

2 cups water

½ cup milk

1 tbsp. maple syrup

¼ tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, about 8 minutes. Do not burn.
  2. Add pumpkin, water, milk, syrup, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking often.
  4. Let cool and then cover and chill. Bring to a simmer before serving.

Pumpkin Apple Cake Serves: 24

Ingredients:

1 package white cake mix

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

1 tsp. cinnamon

⅔ cup apple juice

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Nonstick cooking spray and flour

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉.
  2. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, cinnamon, apple juice, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour into a 12 cup Bundt pan or a 9” x 13” cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and floured.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake center comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes. Then invert onto wire rack to cool completely

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Cholesterol Education with the UConn Dietetics Program

Written by UConn Dietetics student Madeline Fulton

93 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Nearly 29 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.1

Too much cholesterol circulating in your blood can put you at risk for developing heart disease and stroke. What is cholesterol? It’s a waxy, fat-like substance made by our livers. Cholesterol is needed for our bodies to produce hormones, digest fatty foods, and other important jobs. Our bodies produce the right amount of cholesterol needed. There are two types of cholesterol we care most about: “GOOD” (aka HDL) and “BAD” (aka LDL). We want more “GOOD” cholesterol in our bodies because it helps our bodies get rid of the “BAD” cholesterol. The “BAD”, or less healthy cholesterol, can build up over time and cause our arteries to become stiff and narrow. This reduces the blood flow which could result in blockage to the heart (a heart attack) or the brain (a stroke). Cholesterol in our blood is affected MOST by eating saturated fats (fatty meats, butter, baked goods) and trans fats (fried fast food, vegetable oil, microwave popcorn, some stick margarines).

The way you can help yourself and improve your cholesterol levels is to:

  1. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Don’t miss doctor’s appointments or lab work.

    chart with cholesterol guidelienes
    National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines, 2018
  2. Learn and be aware of the foods that can help you control your good and bad cholesterol, as well as, the saturated and trans fats you eat:
    • “Good” cholesterol (aka HDL) is affected in a good way by foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil, canola oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), flax and chia seeds, avocado, high fiber fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
    • “Bad” cholesterol (aka LDL) is affected by foods like fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, deep-fried fast foods, processed foods (chips, cookies, other snack foods), and butter.
    • Review your diet. Only on occasion should you eat rich (highly marbled) meats, cream, butter, and fried foods.
  1. Participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Aerobic exercise (those that increase your heart rate) can help improve your GOOD cholesterol levels. Aerobic types of exercise include: walking, running, biking, or jumping rope.2
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation. The current recommendation for females is up to one drink per day; while the recommendation for males is up to two drinks per day. “One drink” is considered one glass (5 oz.) of wine, one beer (12 oz), or 1.5 oz of hard liquor.3
  3. If diet and exercise plans don’t seem to be lowering your cholesterol numbers into a healthy range, medication might be necessary. Make sure to speak with your doctor to see what plan will work best for you!

Tip: Small changes go a long way when it comes to managing your cholesterol! The small changes will add up, helping you to develop long-lasting lifestyle and nutrition changes.

Citations

  1. Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2020 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008. Health (San Francisco) 2008 Physical Activity. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  3. Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of. 2015. “2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (8th edition). Accessed September 21, 2020.

This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Improving Health and Nutrition in Hartford

girl sitting in grass drinking orange juice out of straw with basket of fruits and vegetables next to herParticipants at the Village Family Resource Center at Burns Latino Studies Academy in Hartford wanted more information on health and nutrition. Our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program (EFNEP) partnered with the Family Resource Center to provide five educational outreach sessions in 2019. Community members wanted to learn about food security, healthy choices, feeding children, quick and easy healthy recipes, how to include more fruits and vegetables, and how to save time and money. Parents shared with our team that they struggle with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

The workshop series covered food safety, reading and understanding food facts, meal planning, MyPlate, and portion control. We made our own spices to substitute Adobo, Sazón, and a mix of herbs and spices for soups to control sodium intake. In another workshop we made a quick and easy lasagna using spinach and zucchini.

Participants learned measuring skills, and how to use new kitchen tools to make prep time fast and easy. We also helped them develop meal planning strategies with ingredients they have at home. We encouraged them to track their spending, and have their children help with the math for extra practice.

One parent shared with us, “I am a diabetic and have been trying to start eating healthy. It has been so hard because I didn’t know what foods and how much I could eat. Now I am making changes, measuring, and using an app to keep track.” After a few diet analyses she was making positive changes that she also shared with her dietician.

We are continuing to serve community members in Hartford, and provide educational outreach programs that help improve nutrition and health outcomes. Our EFNEP program also works with other communities statewide to help our residents.

Article by Angela Caldera

Urban Agriculture in Bridgeport

Blumenthal and urban ag students

Extension works on urban agriculture projects in cities including Danbury, Stamford and Bridgeport. We are collaborating with food accessibility and food justice organizations in Bridgeport to build capacity growing fresh vegetables.

Growing sites include schools, community centers and capped brown fields. Partners provide healthy food and train underserved, diverse audiences in farming.

UConn Extension offered two urban agriculture courses in Bridgeport, collaborating with Green Village Initiative. We implemented a year-round urban agriculture program in both English and Spanish. Fifteen urban residents from Bridgeport completed the 2018 program.

The Food Justice AmeriCorps VISTA Project service program built organizational capacity in community food security and food justice. Food justice helps communities grow, market, and eat healthy foods. Our partners empowered their communities through food programs and services. Host sites shared best practices and learned new skills in engaging people through participatory decision-making. We had four VISTA service members in Bridgeport. Host organizations were: the Bridgeport Farmers Market Collaborative, CTCORE— Organize Now!, Green Village Initiative, and at Housatonic Community College.

Article by Bonnie Burr and Jiff Martin

Students’ IDEA Grant Will Showcase Innovative Agriculture

collage showing photos of three students, Jon Russo, Ally Schneider and Zach Duda
Jonathan Russo, Alyson Schneider, and Zachary Duda

A group of students from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) received an IDEA grant from the UConn Office of Undergraduate Research. Their project will help bridge the communication gap between agriculture and consumers. Approximately two percent of the population is involved in agriculture, but we all need to eat every day. There is a growing disconnect between agriculture and consumers because they are not involved in agriculture. Misinformation about food and agriculture is also increasing. Connecting consumers to farms expands their access to relevant information.

Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are producing a documentary film, Completely Connecticut Agriculture: Agricultural Innovation. Their goal is to show consumers examples of innovative agriculture in our state. All three students are Agriculture and Natural Resources majors in CAHNR, graduating in 2021. Jon has a double major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems. Stacey Stearns of UConn Extension is serving as their mentor, and other faculty and staff from UConn Extension are serving in advisory roles on the project.

“Around the world there has been a large disconnect with consumers and producers regarding basic knowledge about agriculture,” Zach says. “We want to highlight some farms and programs in Connecticut that target that disconnect and better educate the public while helping them connect to agriculture.”

The idea for this project formed several years ago, when Zach, Jon and Ally were all serving as state FFA officers. Their experiences have shown them many aspects of Connecticut agriculture. The students understand how innovative and resourceful agriculture in the state is and wanted to bridge the disconnect between consumers and agricultural operations. They have also witnessed how Connecticut agriculture helps support a sustainable food supply for residents, and how uncommon commodities diversify and enhance farm profitability.

The three students will visit various farms across the state, meet with agricultural leaders, and film day to day operations as well as thoughts from farmers and leaders on the future of agriculture in Connecticut. The video will showcase innovation in Connecticut that breaks barriers through diversity, education, and disproves misconceptions about agricultural operations. The students will lead viewers through the film and connect with the consumer as they learn about each of the innovative agricultural operations along with the audience.

Filming will take place later this summer and into the fall. Social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 revised some plans. The students selected fifteen farms to include in their documentary – and each of the farms showcases one or more of the three theme areas:

  • Sustainable Food Supply,
  • Consumer Disconnect, and
  • Uncommon Commodities.

Local food is a buzzword that has gained popularity in recent years. Many consumers associate fruits and vegetables with local food. “We want to highlight how producers are using innovative techniques to yield more local food so we can show that there is so many more products for Connecticut residents to purchase when they are looking to buy local,” Ally says. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of local food for many residents, and agricultural producers throughout the state have risen to the challenge by pivoting their business and finding new ways to deliver products to consumers.

A sustainable food supply is also environmentally balanced. It ensures that future generations can continue producing food and enjoying their lifestyle. “Through various practices such as no-till, renewable energy, fishing quotas, soil amendments, and crop selection we want to show consumers that Connecticut agriculture is becoming more environmentally friendly even as production is on the rise,” Jon says.

Some audiences view agriculture from a traditional mindset. The video will dispel traditional agricultural myths by showing uncommon commodities that farms are producing and selling. Examples of unique products on Connecticut agricultural operations include popcorn, chocolate, and flowerpots made from cow manure.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Our Extension educators are working with the various agricultural operations featured in the documentary to help them adopt innovative practices and create a sustainable food supply.

Our students are helping bridge the communication gap between farmers and consumers with their documentary that will showcase the innovative agriculture practices happening right here on farms in Connecticut. Farming has many positive aspects that will be the focus of the film. The students plan to address agriculture’s challenges as well and share Connecticut agriculture’s story with consumer audiences. Film screening will be in the spring of 2021.

Genetic Engineering Professional Development

teachers in laboratory with Dr. Gerry Berkowitz learning about DNA and GMO ]The American public is growing increasingly skeptical about the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods. Despite consensus in the scientific community that foods containing GM ingredients are safe, nearly half of Americans believe otherwise. Younger adults are also more likely to regard GM foods a health risk.

In order to address misunderstandings about GM foods and provide information about the applications of genetic engineering in agriculture and other fields, a team is developing a program to enhance science literacy for educators and young adults. The team is collaborating to create a standards-based curriculum and laboratory-based professional development for secondary school teachers on genetic engineering. The project aims to build the knowledge and confidence of educators and provide them with materials to deliver lessons related to genetic engineering in their classrooms.

High school teachers will participate in training at the Storrs campus, where they will utilize laboratory resources and build connections with academia and industry professionals. The networking opportunity will also allow educators to share career opportunities in the field of genetics with students. In addition to the professional development workshop, the program will prepare simpler exercises that can be taught outside of classroom and without the resources of a lab setting, such as during 4-H youth activities, to introduce scientific concepts.

Read the full article at http://bit.ly/UConn_PDSTEP.

Article by Jason M. Sheldon

Partner Testimonials

boy eating from a bowl outside with another little boy behind himPartnerships are at the foundation of Extension’s work statewide in all 169 towns and cities of Connecticut. We integrate with agencies and non-profits in communities in a variety of ways.

“Our partnerships strengthen Extension, and in turn increase our statewide impact. Our innovative collaborations allow Extension and our partners to reach respective goals together.” ~ Mike O’Neill, Associate Dean and Associate Director, UConn Extension

“For the benefit of Connecticut farmers, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture collaborates with UConn Extension across many disciplines. From FSMA Produce Safety Rule education and outreach that expand market opportunities to Viability Grant funding of crucial research done by Extension educations, our strong partnership will help to sustain and foster innovation for agriculture in our state.” ~ Bryan Hurlburt, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture

“The Master Gardener Program has provided significant value to the Bartlett Arboretum for many years. We rely on Master Gardeners to support our community outreach in so many different ways. Examples of their contribution include Master Gardener availability in Plant Clinic from May through September of each year to address homeowner plant problems and issues. Master Gardeners conduct visitor tours of our gardens and our champion and notable trees. They provide Arboretum management with ideas for plants in our gardens. All of these activities enhance the visitor experience at the Bartlett Arboretum and further its mission.” ~ S. Jane von Trapp, CEO, Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford

“The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our town to save resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit. The template for the stormwater management plan alone saved us a significant amount of money by allowing staff to complete an acceptable plan in a minimal amount of time.” ~Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford

“We are grateful to partner with SNAP-ED and EFNEP to ensure the people we serve not only have access to nutritious food but also have opportunities to participate in evidence-based nutrition education. In food insecurity programs we can bring healthy food, and a pantry shopping experience directly to schools, senior centers and other community-based organizations. Through partnerships with SNAP-ED and EFNEP clients can learn, sample healthy recipes and then apply new skills to shopping.” ~ Jaime S. Foster, PhD, RD

“The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) found a great partner in UConn Extension as we rolled out the Best Practices in Economic Development and Land Use Program that really asks, ‘How do we do our jobs better?’ In economic development in Connecticut we face a fiercely competitive landscape for jobs and investment. How we compete as a state matters, but at the end of the day, a company locates in a community. We want our communities to be as well-prepared as possible, and that’s something that UConn Extension’s programs in Community & Economic Development is doing every day. CEDAS offered the3platform to create a set of standards and the UConn team helped add the details. More importantly, they were the support to our communities that wanted to get better. We can all want to do a better job at local economic development, but if3there’s not someone there coaching and mentoring us along we’re not going to get there. UConn Extension was the helping hand that truly pulled our communities through the process and in the end, raised our standards for economic development in Connecticut.” ~ Garret Sheehan, CEcD, President Connecticut Economic Development Association, President and CEO Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

Highlights of Extension

Highlights of Extension spread of images and articlesUConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time. All of our educators are working and serving their audiences.

Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment. The Highlights of Extension annual report showcases program achievements from the past year.

Our Extension faculty and staff are effectively responding to the new challenges as well. They are utilizing technology and mobilizing resources to help families, communities, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders. For example, our extension specialists and 4-H volunteers are helping distribute thousands of gallons of dairy products weekly to families in need throughout the state. There are many other examples of how the CAHNR family is responding to help our communities.

Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate

The Highlights of Extension annual report is available online at https://bit.ly/ExtensionHighlights and we invite you to learn more about CAHNR Extension at https://cahnr.uconn.edu/extension/.