Tag Archive: Holiday

“Egg”cellent Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday

“Egg”cellent Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday

Easter Egg picIt seems that everywhere you look, an egg hunt is being advertised, egg dye kits are on every corner in the store, and the Internet is a-buzz with cool decorating ideas. Keep in mind this season that this fun family activity could turn rotten if you forget food safety.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness, especially salmonella, have been associated with the improper preparation and storage of eggs. Salmonella is not something you want to remember when you think back to memories of decorating and hunting eggs in the spring.

Common symptoms of salmonella include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache. Children are one population most susceptible to foodborne illness.

There is no reason to worry about potential food safety hazards associated with your holiday eggs as long as you remember to follow these guidelines:

  • Clean and sanitize your hands, preparation area, and utensils before, during, and after the cooking process.
  • Use eggs that are clean and free of cracks and leaks.
  • Cook eggs completely – no rushing or short cuts. If you don’t have the time, pick another day to do it.
  • Use only food-grade dyes; these include food coloring and dye sold in egg dye kits.  Use beet juice, blueberry juice, etc. as alternatives to artificial dye.
  • Refrigerate eggs as soon as you are finished decorating or, if decorating later, after cooking and drying.
  • The refrigerator door is the warmest spot in your fridge; store eggs in the carton in the main compartment, not in the door.
  • Toss eggs that have been out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.  If eggs are not “found” or eaten, within this time, make the sacrifice and throw them away (of course, do this while the kids aren’t looking.)
  • When hiding eggs for a hunt, keep them in areas that are clean, free of dirt, and away from pets or pests.  Consider decorating one set for hunting and another for eating.
  • Hard-boiled eggs are safe for up to one week with proper cooking, storing, and handling procedures.

Keep these guidelines in mind for an “egg”cellent holiday with family, friends, and fun!



Author: jbreslawski – jbreslawski@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/11/eggcellent-food-safety-tips-for-your-holiday/

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Holiday MyPlateThe holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days. An added bonus, these small changes may help you to avoid those extra holiday pounds we all fear each year. Happy Cooking!

In the Kitchen:
• For gravies or sauces — if you are making pan gravy, first skim the fat off pan drippings. For cream or white sauces, use fat-free (skim) milk and soft tub or liquid margarine.
• For dressings or stuffing — add low-sodium broth or pan drippings with the fat skimmed off instead of lard or butter. Use herbs and spices and a whole grain bread for added flavor.
• For biscuits — use vegetable oil instead of lard or butter and fat-free (skim) milk or 1 percent buttermilk instead of regular milk.
• For greens — use skin-free smoked turkey, liquid smoke, fat-free bacon bits, or low-fat bacon instead of fatty meats.
• For sweet potato pie — mash sweet potato with orange juice concentrate, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and only one egg. Leave out the butter.
• For cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pancakes — use egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Two egg whites can be substituted in many recipes for one whole egg.
• Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter.
• Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half.
• Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
• Try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie.
• Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.

For meats and poultry (chicken and turkey):
• Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
• Take off poultry skin before eating.
• Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
• Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
• Chill meat and poultry broth until fat becomes solid. Skim off fat before using the broth.
• Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds fat and calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
• Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.

When Shopping:
• Start with a lean choice.
• The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
• The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
• Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choice.

Use the food label to help you choose
• Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
• Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
• Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
• Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.

• Use a nonstick pan with vegetable cooking oil spray or a small amount of liquid vegetable oil instead of lard, butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature.

Enjoy the Food, Fun, Friends and Family!
Cheers to Good Health
• Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.

Be the Life of the Party
• Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.

Give to Others
• Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season. Giving back is a great mood booster.

Make Exercise a Part of the Fun
• Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.

Enjoy the Leftovers
• Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!

Be sure your family and friends enjoy the food and fun, but focus on the time together. Remember this season is all about the memories, not just the food. You will feel better and enjoy your holiday time with less worry if you focus on staying healthy this season.

Source: USDA United States Department of Agriculture – www.MyPlate.gov


Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/12/11/tips-for-healthier-holiday-cooking/

A “Green” Holiday

A “Green” Holiday

Green Gift Giving

Green Gift Giving

The holiday season will soon be upon us. A Green Holiday focuses on finding ways to reduce consumption by using renewable resources and reusing or repurposing objects. Practicing these principles can fit in line with holiday celebrations, making it a time of sustaining traditions as well as helping the environment. Here are some fun ideas for greening your holiday season when it comes to wrapping gifts.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about an opportunity to…..


  • Wrap gifts with brown paper bags, newspaper, or reused wrapping paper.
  • Create personal wrapping paper with stamps or collages, or drawing on paper bags.
  • Avoid wrapping altogether and tie a large bow around an item instead.
  • Make the wrapping part of the gift such as using reusable tins, planting pots, or new towels.
  • Give presents or gift certificates from local businesses.
  • Focus on homemade or non-traditional gifts such as baked goods, plants, fishing licenses, dance classes, travel mugs, local art, or battery chargers.
  • If giving appliances or electronics, make sure they are Energy Star-certified.
  • Make donations in someone’s name to charities or conservation organizations. Investigate to see if any organization in the area is offering an alternative giving holiday festival.
  • Give “time”.  Help an older relative with difficult chores or take children to a park.
  • Teach someone a skill or talent you have.


Investing time and creativity into the holiday can help make it more fulfilling and meaningful for you, your family, and your friends.



Author: Shelley Swenson – sswenson@ufl.edu

Shelley is the FCS/EFNEP Agent in Wakulla County. She joined the UF/IFAS Wakulla County staff in 2008 after re-locating in Florida. She previously worked for the Kansas State University’s Extension Service for 13 years in a county position. She also spent 15 years in various administrative roles in the Kansas community college system. She owned and operated an interior business for five years.

Shelley Swenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/11/30/a-green-holiday/

Give Yourself the Gift of Time This Holiday Season

Give Yourself The Gift of Time graphicIt’s the season to be jolly, but for many of us it’s the season to be overstressed as well. If getting ready for the Holidays is beginning to feel like a full-time job, start rethinking your holiday plans and consider streamlining, or even scaling back, some of your activities.

Following are some holiday survival tips that can help you save time and money, and preserve the holiday spirit in your heart.

  • A few shopping strategies can help you save time and reduce the hustle-bustle stress. Shop early in the month and early in the day.
  • Take advantage of free gift boxes and free or low-cost wrapping services. Wrapping presents can take as much time as shopping for them.
  • Shop online and have the company wrap and ship gifts directly to recipients. Make sure you are shopping on a secure site. Look for the padlock icon.
  • Simplify gift giving by choosing a theme. For example, buy a book or a sweater for everyone on your list.
  • Suggest exchanging cards instead of gifts at the office.
  • To keep packages sorted, wrap all of each person’s gifts in the same wrapping paper color or pattern.
  • Instead of exchanging gifts with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, suggest a Dutch treat lunch date at a nice restaurant.
  • Call a family meeting or, if family members are distant, arrange a conference call, or a mass text or email to discuss gift giving. You are probably not the only one who wants or needs to scale back on gifts. Strategies to discuss include drawing names so each individual buys a gift for only one person; giving family gifts; or giving gifts only to the children.
  • Establish a spending limit and stick to it. If your holiday cash is limited, make gifts well in advance or think of creative ways to give of your time AFTER the holidays.
  • Simplify your plans. You don’t need to decorate every room in your house or give gifts to everyone who sends you one.
  • Reduce your entertaining requirements. Plan a themed potluck instead of dinner parties for which you are responsible for all the food. The same goes for family get-togethers. Ask each participant to contribute a dish for the meal.
  • Keep your priorities straight:  take time to think about what is really important to you; be realistic about how much you can do; don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Setting priorities will help keep your schedule manageable. Draft a schedule that includes all the tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each needs to be done.


Most importantly, enjoy the holidays!


For further information contact:

Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.

UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County

3740 Stefani Road

Cantonment, FL 32533-7792

(850) 475-5230



For additional information, go to the University of Florida Solutions for Your Life website, http://www.SolutionsForYourLife.com



Author: Dorothy C. Lee – dclee@ufl.edu

Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent in Escambia County

Dorothy C. Lee

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/11/27/give-yourself-the-gift-of-time-this-holiday-season/

Holiday Food Prep FAQs

Holiday Food Prep FAQs

thermometer_in_turkey_in_panHave questions about safely preparing your holiday meal? Refer to this quick reference for answers to common questions this time of year:

Q. Approximately how long should you allow for thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator?

A. 24 hours per each 4 – 5 pounds of turkey. In it’s original wrapper, place the frozen bird in the refrigerator (40˚F or below). To prevent cross contamination, be sure to place the turkey in a container.  A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 days.


Q. How long should I cook the turkey?
Size of Turkey        Estimated Time to Reach 165˚F
8 – 12 pounds          2 ¾ – 3 hours
12 – 14 pounds        3 – 3¾ hours
14 – 18 pounds       3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours
18 – 20 pounds       4 ¼ – 4 ½ hours
20 – 24 pounds       4 ½ – 5 hours

Size of Turkey      Estimated Time to Reach 165˚F
8 – 12 pounds        3 – 3 ½ hours
12 – 14 pounds      3 ½ – 4 hours
14 – 18 pounds     4 – 4 ¼ hours
18 – 20 pounds     4¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20 – 24 pounds     4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

Q. What is a safe internal temperature for cooking a whole turkey?
A. 165˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Insert the thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast, making sure not to touch the bone.  All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165˚F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes after removing from the oven. Remove any stuffing and carve the turkey.

Q. What is the recommended temperature for stuffing?
A. 165˚F. The stuffing should reach 165˚F whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.

Q. I want to stuff the turkey. How do I do this safely?
1. Cook any raw meat, poultry, or shellfish you plan to use before stuffing the turkey. Do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before stuffing the turkey cavity; wet ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.
2. Spoon stuffing directly into the cavity right after preparation. Stuff loosely – plan for ¾ cup of stuffing per pound. The stuffing should be moist, not dry – bacteria is destroyed more quickly by heat in a moist environment. Do NOT stuff turkeys to be grilled, smoked, fried, or microwaved.
3. Cook the turkey immediately in an oven no lower than 325˚F.
4. Use a food thermometer to make sure the temperature of the turkey AND the center of the stuffing have reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165˚F.
5. Let the cooked turkey rest for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.

Q. How long can I keep leftovers?
A. Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours after cooking. Divide cooked foods into shallow containers; this allows the center of the food to cool more quickly and evenly. Use within 3-4 days or freeze for longer storage. Be sure to reheat hot foods to at least 165˚F; sauces, soups, and gravies should be heated to a rolling boil.

For more information about holiday foods and food safety (in English and Spanish), call: USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) www.fsis.usda.gov

Source: Avoid Guessing About Holiday Food Safety, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.



Author: Judy Corbus – jlcorbus@ufl.edu

Judy Corbus is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Washington and Holmes Counties.

Judy Corbus

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/11/27/holiday-food-prep-faqs/

Inviting Wildlife to a Holiday Dinner

While youth are home over winter break, encourage them to do something fun that will attract wildlife. Nothing is more fun than watching birds or squirrels play in your yard. One way to make this happen is to provide a supplemental food source for them. You can create a special “Tree for Wildlife” in your yard. In fact, a great family activity is making some very inexpensive simple feeders. The most wonderful part is these feeders, they not only look attractive, but help wildlife survive through the winter.

You can create feeders out of bread, bird seed and a binding agent like eggs, lard or peanut butter. Cut stale bread into shapes with cookie cutters. Make a small hole in the top to put twine or string through. If using egg, brush the bread with egg wash and dip in seeds. Then let it dry for a day or so. Attach string and hang in the trees. If using lard or peanut butter, toast the bread to dry it out then spread like you would on a sandwich and roll in bird seed.

Another type of feeder that is popular especially if you have lots of pine trees are pine cone bird feeders. Attach string to a pine cone. Mix peanut butter and oats together then apply to pine cone. After the cone is covered with the mixture roll in bird seed. Lard can be used in place of peanut butter. Hang from tree.

One last type of feeder is using apple and orange slices. Cut thin slices of apples and oranges, attach string and hang each slice separately all around the tree.

Additional feeders could be strings of grapes, raisins, cranberries, raw peanuts, salt free crackers or popcorn. If you are using popcorn be sure it does not have butter and salt. Just use a needle and thread to make the strings.  All edible decorations should be hung with biodegradable materials such as cotton string, twine, or thread.

For more information to help you invite wildlife into your yard check out Junior Master Gardener: Wildlife Gardener or Cornell Feeder Watch. Inviting wildlife into your yard provides a fun way for kids to develop a culture to care about nature, while teaching them about their environment. It also makes a great family traditional activity to do not only during the holiday season but throughout the year. 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest, while being guided by adult volunteers. The local 4-H Agent is a youth development professional who provides direction and program leadership as part of the nationwide Cooperative Extension System. For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension at http://florida4h.org/

A jewelry beading needle works well for popcorn. A stronger weaving needle for fruits and nuts. Here are some examples. Feeders in use



Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/05/inviting-wildlife-to-a-holiday-dinner/

Evergreens for Holiday Decorating

Evergreens for Holiday Decorating

Now that we’ve all been stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, it’s time to transition into the final and, arguably, most ornate holidays of the year. Right now you can hear your mantles and door frames crying out to be adorned. Your windows are begging for wreaths and giant red bows. And there may be a certain corner in your house that has been waiting all year for an evergreen, or two.

As we delve into the winter holidays our homes are being dressed to impress. There is nothing better than fresh foliage placed along a mantle or maybe a little mistletoe hanging from a previously unadorned beam. The scent of pine is in the air and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get decorating.

Here is a list of a few evergreen plants that make wonderful decorations for the season. You may even find some in your own backyard! Just make sure when you are removing foliage and fruit that you do it gently, so as not to harm the plant. Make all cuts at a 45 degree angle so that water will not pool on branch tips and rot. Also, if you forcefully remove foliage from a plant you could expose the susceptible cambium layer.

Wreaths and a decorated door frame add a bit of holiday cheer to this snowy scene. Photo courtesy Taylor Vandiver.

Wreaths and a decorated door frame add a bit of holiday cheer to this snowy scene. Photo courtesy Taylor Vandiver.


Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) – This southern staple provides foliage that will liven up any banister or door frame. After being cut from the tree it can withstand the dryer temperatures indoors for days on end. 

Hollies (Ilex spp.) – Hollies not only provide glossy green foliage, but bright red fruit that will beautifully adorn holiday arrangements and centerpieces. 

Pine/Pinecones (Pinus spp.) – Pine trees offer a wispy presence to many decorations and their cones can give structure to wreaths and mantle pieces. 

Boxwood (Buxus spp.) – Boxwoods are great for a touch of green.

Yaupon holly fruit and foliage. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

Yaupon holly fruit and foliage. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

New Ideas

Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) (evergreen to semi-evergreen) – Abelia are not commonly thought of when making holiday arrangements, but the texture of their foliage and the myriad of colors can spice up traditional decorations. 

Aucuba (Aucuba japonica) – Aucuba offer a coarse texture that would pair well with the wispier pine foliage. Also, the gold dust variety will add a little more color to the mix.

Aspidistra (Aspidistra elatior) – Aspidistra foliage tends to feel more tropical. If you want to try a non-traditional arrangement these would work well and they can last for days provided a small amount of water. 

Aspidistra foliage that could easily be worked into a stunning arrangement.

Aspidistra foliage that could easily be worked into a stunning arrangement.

Remember that a few well placed planters can liven up even the smallest spaces. Try using a small evergreen tree or shrub such as a magnolia, cypress / false cypress or arborvitae and surround them with poinsettia or pansies. You can try a smaller planter and add in pine cones, poinsettia, grasses, etc. Also if you are celebrating this holiday season with a live Christmas tree, then don’t be afraid to ask the grower/retail center for discarded branches. These can easily be formed into a wreath or used throughout the house. And since this is Florida there’s always the option of decorating your palm tree!


Author: Taylor Vandiver – tavandiver@ufl.edu

Taylor Vandiver

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/12/16/evergreens-for-holiday-decorating/

Healthy Holiday Eating for Diabetics

sugar cookies_3Eat, drink, be happy and be healthy this holiday season. My favorite holidays are just around the corner. It is an exciting time to be with family and friends. There is usually lots of food that may come with lots of calories and carbohydrates. Are you wondering how to survive this holiday season without adding more calories and carbohydrates to your diet?

The first thing to keep in mind is to plan your meals to help keep your diabetes management on track. Persons with diabetes should space out their carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy foods, and grain foods all contain carbohydrates. Eating the right amount of carbohydrates throughout the day will help you control your blood glucose levels. The Idaho Plate method of meal planning is one of many tools to help control carbohydrates while recommending at least one-half your plate consist of vegetables. More information on the Idaho Plate can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy334 .

If you going to a party or eating at a friend or relative’s home and the meal time is around your normal dinner time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would eat. You may ask your host if you can bring a covered dish. If so, take your favorite low carbohydrate dish to share.

Avoid or limit the amount of sugary drinks like soda, fruit punch or drinks, sweet tea and eggnog. These drinks raises blood glucose and can provide lots of calories in one serving. For example, one cup of fruit punch contains 100 calories or more and at least 30 grams of carbohydrate; and, one cup of eggnog may have as many as 344 calories and more than 34 grams of carbohydrates. A much better choice is to choose diet or other low-calorie drinks that are available in several flavors. Remember, water is a much healthier choice and has no calories.

Fill up on salad first. Filling up on salad or other raw veggies will fill you up without lots of calories.

Don’t forget to focus on conversation. Make an effort to meet new friends or circulate with those you know instead of eyeing the food.

Stay active this holiday season. Put yourself on your gift list by treating yourself to a personal trainer, fitness class series or membership to a gym.

Learn more about how you can enjoy eating healthy as a diabetic this holiday season by contacting your local UF/IFAS Extension Office .



Author: Marjorie Moore – mreem@ufl.edu

Marjorie Moore is the Director/Extension Faculty in Family & Consumer Sciences for Bay County.

Marjorie Moore

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/11/22/healthy-holiday-eating-for-diabetics/

Lighten Up Your Holiday Feast

Holiday Feast

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The countdown is upon us.  The last-minute food preparation is soon to begin.  Don’t regret the holidays by overdoing in the food consumption aspect of meals.  Avoid having to include a strict eating regimen as a new year’s resolution by making some changes in the way you prepare your food.  There are ways to cut back during food preparation to spare calories without changing the taste.  Consider these suggestions:

  • Turkey:  Haven’t bought yours yet?  Choose a plain bird over a self-basting bird to lower the sodium content.  To ensure a moist bird, leave the skin on while roasting, don’t over-bake the bird, and pour gravy on the meat after carving.  This isn’t a calorie savings but we have to concern ourselves with sodium intake every day.  Consider the latest recommendation from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It is suggested that we reduce our daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African-American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.  The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults. (Source:  Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, USDA, www.dietaryguidelines.gov)
  • Gravy:  Use a fat-skimmer cup or freeze the juices in a shallow pan so you can remove the fat.  You will save around 56 grams of fat per cup!
  • Dressing:  Use a low-sodium boxed stuffing mix and add sautéed onion, celery, apples, and cooked rice.  Add a little more broth and bake.  Dressing is my favorite part of the meal so I fill my plate with low-calorie vegetables and fruits before the dressing is passed to me to keep my calories under control.
  • Candied yams:  Sweeten with apple or orange juice and add ground cinnamon.  Realize yams have flavor all by themselves.  Wean yourself off the butter and marshmallows and enjoy their wholesome taste.
  • Green bean casserole:  Green bean casserole is a favorite for many people over the decades.  Cook fresh green bean with chunks of potatoes and fat-free half-and-half instead of cream soup.  Top with almonds and leave the fried onion rings in the cupboard.
  • Mashed potatoes:  Use skim milk, garlic powder, and a little Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.  Serve low-calorie margarine instead of butter.
  • Pumpkin Dessert:  Consider serving the pumpkin custard without a pie shell.  Individual baking dishes adorned with a small dollop of whipped cream can save calories without sacrificing the taste of a holiday meal favorite.

Ever wondered about the fat content of different meats and poultry that are traditionally consumed over the holidays?  USDA offers this summary:

Fat Facts

 For a 3.5 ounce serving                                                Grams of Fat

Roast Beef                                                                             15.0

Turkey Wing with Skin                                                            12.3

Dark Turkey Meat with Skin                                                    11.5

Roasted Ham                                                                          9.0

Turkey Breast with Skin                                                           7.3

Dark Meat without Skin                                                            7.0

Turkey Breast without Skin                                                       0.7

Holiday meals don’t have to pack such a high-calorie punch.  Simple makeover tips can lighten a meal and keep the taste good!



Author: Shelley Swenson – sswenson@ufl.edu

Shelley is the FCS/EFNEP Agent in Wakulla County. She joined the UF/IFAS Wakulla County staff in 2008 after re-locating in Florida. She previously worked for the Kansas State University’s Extension Service for 13 years in a county position. She also spent 15 years in various administrative roles in the Kansas community college system. She owned and operated an interior business for five years.

Shelley Swenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/12/18/lighten-up-your-holiday-feast/

SPICE Up Your Holiday Meals

The holiday season is upon us and that means many of us will be spending more time in the kitchen.

Add that extra-special touch...experiment with a variety of seasonal spices for your holiday meals. And, enjoy the flavors as the aromatic scents fill your home.

Add that extra-special touch…experiment with a variety of seasonal spices for your holiday meals. And, enjoy the flavors as the aromatic scents fill your home.

If you would like to make an impression with a less-than-ordinary meal, use traditional family dishes as a starting point for your special menu, then add seasonal spices to easy-to-prepare dishes to create a holiday feast that your family and friends will talk about for weeks. 

Spices are native to warm, tropical climates and are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds, or bark.  Adding “holiday” spices to your recipes will add just the right amount of Christmas charm along with a rich, warm flavor and aroma that enhances many dishes.

Spices do come with some health benefits, the greatest being that spices serve as flavorful alternatives to salt, fat, and sugar without adding any extra calories to meals. Instead of adding sugar to oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and desserts, try adding spices like cinnamon and allspice. For savory meals, replace salt with spices like black pepper, cumin, and dill seed. Try flavoring foods with spices instead of using breading, gravies, and sauces. Seasoning meats with spices and cooking them on the grill are healthy alternatives to frying and easy, flavorful ways to reduce fat intake. Adopting changes like these can help reduce sodium, fat, and sugar in your diet.

How long will these spices last in your kitchen?  Dried spices never actually spoil, but their flavor and aroma fade over time. They should be stored in a cool, dry place in tight containers and away from heat. When cooking, keep the container away from steaming pots to avoid exposure to moisture. Ground spices, such as paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg, can be kept for 2–3 years. Cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and any other whole spices can be used for up to 5 years.  Always start with small amounts of spices. When adding spices to foods that are served cold, it is important to refrigerate the food for a few hours to ensure that the flavors of the spices are well absorbed.

Now you know using spices is a great way to reduce sodium, sugar, and fat in your diet while adding bold new flavors. It’s a good idea to plan your meals before going to the grocery store so you know which spices you will need. Use the advice above to keep seasonings fresh and flavorful. The examples listed above are just a snapshot of possible uses, so be creative! Follow these tips, and you will spice up your cooking in no time.

Here are few of the traditional holiday spices you may want to try this season:




Best used

Pair with


Dried bark of the cinnamon tree

Pungently sweet

Dried sticks or ground powder

Breads, cakes, chicken, coffee, cookies, pork, spiced beverages, sweet potatoes, squash, tea, yogurt (often paired with allspice, cloves, and nutmeg)


Seeds of the nutmeg tree

Warm, spicy, sweet

Freshly ground

Applesauce, baked goods, beverages, cheese dishes, cream dishes, desserts, ground meats, pies, sauces, soups, stews, and many vegetables


Roots of the ginger plant

Mix of pepper and sweetness

Dried powder or freshly grated from root

Beets, beverages, breads, cakes, cheese dishes, chutneys, cookies, curries, dipping sauce, dressings, meat, poultry, soups, stews, and yellow vegetables


Dried flower buds of the clover tree

Sweet or bittersweet

Dried and ground

Baked goods, beets, chili sauces, cookies, curries, fruit sauces/syrups, gingerbread, squash, and tomato sauces


Dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica plant (a tropical evergreen tree)

Pungent and fragrant (ground allspice releases aromatic notes reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)

Dried, ground, and fresh leaves

Meats, jerk seasoning paste,  marinades for chicken and pork, stews, roasts, soups, barbecue and tomato sauces, roasted vegetables, rice, applesauce, fruit compote, oatmeal cookies

Be sure to add this spiced tea to your holiday table.  Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Mulled Holiday Tea


3 quarts simmering water

3 red fruit tea bags

3 regular tea bags

1 orange, cut in quarters and studded with 4 whole cloves

1 lemon, cut in quarters

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

2 cinnamon sticks


1. Simmer water in a large pot on the stove.

2. Add all ingredients and turn the heat to low.

3. Heat for a few minutes until the tea is steeped.

4. Remove the tea bags.

5. Serve hot to your guests.


Serves 12. Each 1 cup serving: 2 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans-fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 0g protein

Source:  Shopping for Health: Herbs and Spices, J. Norris, W. Dahl, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.


Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/12/18/spice-up-your-holiday-meals/

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