Author Archives: Judi


Cranberries 101 – The Basics

Cranberries are popular in American cuisine, especially during the fall months when they are freshly harvested. They are traditionally served with most Thanksgiving feasts. Not only do we enjoy cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving, but we also love cranberry bread, cranberry salad, cranberry beverages, and dried cranberries in trail mix.

If you’re looking for something a little different to do with cranberries this year, read on! I have a LOT of suggestions to do with cranberries along with suggested flavor combinations of foods that go well with cranberries. Look no more!!


Cranberries 101 – The Basics

About Cranberries
Unlike many foods we routinely consume today, cranberries are native to North America. Interestingly, the plant has not spread widely across the globe. Today, over 80 percent of the world’s cranberries are grown in the United States and Canada, with most of those being grown in the United States. In 2014, about 840 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the United States, while about 388 million pounds were produced in Canada. Our main cranberry producing states are Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Cranberries are also grown in New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

Cranberries are grown on very low-lying vines that thrive on a combination of peat-based sandy soil and wet conditions. The area where cranberries grow is usually referred to as a “bog” or “marsh.” Wetland habitats are places where cranberries naturally grow. They usually take 16 months to fully mature. They are often planted in late spring or summer and mature during the fall of their second year.

Cranberries are closely related to blueberries, with both fruit belonging to the Ericaceae family of plants. The two berries have similar properties, yet unique benefits as well. We may see white and red cranberries in the grocery store. They are actually the same variety, with the white ones having been harvested about two to four weeks early. The white cranberries are milder and less tart in flavor than the red ones, but they lack some of the healthful phytonutrients that generate the red color in the more mature berries. The color of the mature berries can range from pale red to crimson to scarlet to deep purple.

Most of the cranberries grown in the United States are processed into juice, dried, or made into sauce. Only five percent are sold fresh. Due to their sharp, sour flavor, fresh cranberries are rarely eaten raw and unflavored.

Nutrition Tidbits
Cranberries provide an array of vitamins, minerals and other compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Among other nutrients, cranberries are a good source of Vitamins C, E, and K, along with pantothenic acid, manganese, copper, and fiber. One cup of cranberries has a mere 46 calories.

For the greatest nutritional value, use your cranberries when fresh and uncooked. Many of their nutrients are lost during the cooking process, especially when heated to 350°F or above.

Cranberries have long been known for their benefit against urinary tract infections. Historically, Native Americans are known to have used cranberries as a treatment for bladder and kidney diseases. Compounds in cranberries prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. As reported in an article at, scientists have found that this effect can be seen within eight hours of drinking cranberry juice.

Also, some scientific evidence suggests that cranberries may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure. They may also reduce the risk of cancer by slowing tumor progression, and protect dental health by preventing bacteria from adhering to teeth and helping to protect against gum disease.

How to Select Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are usually harvested between mid-September and mid-November, so the freshest berries would be found during this time frame.

Look for fresh, plump, brightly colored berries that are firm to the touch. Firmness is a prime indicator of freshness when shopping for cranberries. The richer the color, the higher is their phytonutrient (anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin) content.

How to Store Cranberries
Before storing your cranberries, pick through them, removing any that are soft, discolored, pitted, or shriveled. Store them in the refrigerator (unwashed) until you are ready to use them. Fresh, ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

How to Preserve Cranberries
Fresh cranberries may easily be frozen for later use. Simply place your washed and drained berries on a tray. Place them in the freezer. When the berries are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag, label the bag and return them to the freezer. Cranberries will keep for 6 to 12 months in the freezer. Once they are thawed, they should be used immediately.

Cranberries can be purchased dried, but they are usually sweetened during their processing, and many of them were also coated with oil. The added sugar and oil greatly increases the calorie content of the cranberries. Furthermore, some people need to avoid added oils and sugars in their foods. Some producers do dehydrate cranberries without added sugars and oils, so know what you’re wanting when you shop and read labels carefully. If you have a dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions for drying your own cranberries.

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned vs Dried vs Juiced
Fresh cranberries are found only during the fall months when they are harvested. They are relatively inexpensive, so if you use a lot of cranberries, it’s wise to stock up during this time and freeze or dry some for later use. As with so many foods, regarding nutritional aspects, fresh is best.

Frozen cranberries can be found in some grocery stores. They can be used in many recipes calling for fresh cranberries, however their texture may be softer when thawed then when fresh. Usually frozen cranberries are added to smoothies or cooked foods calling for the berries.

Canned cranberries are usually found as cranberry sauce, whether it be whole berry or the jelly variety. Canned cranberry sauce is delicious, but heavily sweetened. So, if you’re monitoring your added sugar intake, this option may not be the best for you.

Dried cranberries can be found in most grocery stores. However, most of them are heavily sweetened and they often also have oil added to them. All this makes them taste pleasant, masking the natural tartness of the cranberries. You’ll need to shop around if you’re looking for dried cranberries without the additives. Some companies do offer them dried without added sugar or oil, but not many. If your local grocery stores does not carry them, they can be found online.

Cranberry juice is found in most grocery stores. It is often blended with sweeteners and sometimes other liquids to reduce the tartness of the cranberries. One-hundred percent juice varieties are now available; however, they are a blend of a number of different fruit juices including cranberry juice. Such juices may have no added sugars, but the concentration of fruit juice makes them high in naturally occurring sugars. Again, if your diet calls for sugar restriction, such juices may not be the best for you. Some stores do carry 100% cranberry juice, without added sweeteners or other juices to mask the tartness of the cranberries. So, if you’re opting for cranberry juice, read labels carefully to be sure you purchase the type of juice you’re looking for.

How to Prepare Cranberries
Cranberries should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator. Wash them just prior to being used. Place the cranberries in a strainer and give them a quick rinse under cool, running water. Allow them to drain, then use them as desired.

When using frozen cranberries that will not be cooked, thaw them well and allow them to drain before being used. If you’ll be cooking your frozen cranberries, simply use them in the frozen state for the best flavor. Note that this may increase your cooking time somewhat.

Cooking/Serving Ideas
Fresh or dried cranberries are often used in many sweet and savory foods, baked goods, salads, relishes, snacks, and dishes from breakfast to suppertime desserts, especially during the fall months when they’re in season. In addition to the numerous suggested recipes listed below, the following are some quick ideas for using cranberries. Enjoy!

* Add some frozen cranberries to your favorite smoothie.

* Add some fresh cranberries when you juice vegetables for a healthful addition.

* Add some cranberries, whether fresh or dried, when you’re making your favorite quick bread, muffins, cookies, and even pancakes.

* Add some cranberries to the pot when you cook your favorite grain. This would work well with rice, quinoa, wild rice, millet, and buckwheat.

* Make a simple cranberry jam by mixing ground cranberries with a small amount of maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, or even other fruits like apples, oranges, pears, pineapple, and/or pomegranates.

* Make a savory cranberry chutney by mixing ground cranberries with onions, garlic, ginger, and apple cider vinegar.

Here are some quick ideas for using cranberries as provided by The World’s Healthiest Foods website at

* Take advantage of cranberries’ tartness by using them to replace vinegar or lemon when dressing your green salads. Toss the greens with a little olive oil and then add color and zest with a handful of raw cranberries.

* To balance their extreme tartness, combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries.

* For an easy-to-make salad that will immediately become a holiday favorite, place 2 cups fresh berries in your blender along with 1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, a quartered skinned orange, a sweet apple (such as one of the Delicious variety) and a handful or two of walnuts or pecans. Blend till well mixed but still chunky. Transfer to a large bowl. Dice 3-4 stalks of celery, add to the cranberry mixture and stir till just combined.

* Combine unsweetened cranberry juice in equal parts with your favorite fruit juice and sparkling mineral water for a lightly sweetened, refreshing spritzer. For even more color appeal, garnish with a slice of lime.

* Add color and variety to your favorite recipes for rice pudding, quick breads or muffins by using dried unsweetened cranberries instead of raisins.

* Sprinkle a handful of dried unsweetened cranberries over a bowl of hot oatmeal, barley, or any cold cereal.

* Mix dried unsweetened cranberries with lightly roasted and salted nuts for a delicious snack.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Cranberries (Fresh and Dried)
Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mint, nutmeg, pepper (black), salt, vanilla

Other Foods That Go Well With Cranberries (Fresh and Dried)
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, almond butter, chestnuts, chicken, hazelnuts, nuts (in general), pecans, pork, pumpkin seeds, turkey, veal, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, beets, Brussels sprouts, chiles (jalapeño or serrano), kale, onions, pumpkin, squash (winter, esp. butternut), salad greens, spinach, sweet potatoes

Fruit: Apples, apple cider, apple juice, apricots, currants, dates, figs, lemon, lime, orange, pears, persimmons, pineapples, pomegranates, raisins, raspberries, tangerines, watermelon

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (soft), milk, yogurt

Grains: Bread crumbs, corn (popcorn), cornmeal, farro, oats, quinoa, rice (esp. brown, wild), wheat

Other: Agave nectar, caramel, honey, maple syrup, miso, sugar, vinegar (esp. balsamic), vodka, wine (esp. port)

Cranberries have been used in…
American cuisine, baked goods (esp. breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, quick breads, scones), cereals (esp. hot), cobblers, compotes, crisps, drinks (cocktails, juices, punches), granola, muesli, pancakes, pilafs, puddings (esp. bread, rice), relishes, salad dressings, salads (esp. grain, green), salsas, sauces (cranberry), sorbets, soup (fruit), stuffings (corn bread), trail mixes

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Cranberries

Combine fresh cranberries with…
Apples + oranges
Apples + raisins
Balsamic vinegar + ginger + honey + miso + orange
Brown sugar + lime + oranges + walnuts
Cinnamon + ginger + oranges + vanilla + walnuts
Cloves + ginger + oranges
Dates + orange
Maple syrup + vanilla
Nuts + wild rice
Oatmeal + walnuts
Oranges + pears + pecans

Combine dried cranberries with…
Grains (i.e. couscous, oats, quinoa, wild rice) + nuts (i.e. almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts)
Oats + vanilla
Orange zest + wild rice
Pears + pecans
Pecans (or walnuts) + wild rice

Recipe Links
Holiday Cranberry Relish

Perfect Oatmeal

Cranberry Sauce

40 Best Cranberry Recipes for All Your Fall Meals

50 Things to Make With Cranberries

16 Savory and Sweet Recipes to Make with Fresh Cranberries

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry and Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Jamie’s Cranberry Spinach Salad

10 Things to Do With Fresh Cranberries

28 Mouthwatering Cranberry Recipes

25 Sweet and Savory Cranberry Recipes That Go Beyond the Sauce

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Cranberry Salsa and Blue Cheese Cranberry Scones

Cranberry Gingerbread Cupcakes

Roasted Cranberry, Wild Rice and Kale Salad

Cranberry Crisp

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


Ways to Use Up Ripe Bananas

Anyone who buys bananas has had some overripe ones at one time or another. So, what can we do with them? Plenty! Don’t throw them away! Here are some suggestions…

In a hurry? FREEZE them!
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to mess with the ripe bananas at the moment, simply freeze them for later. Peel the banana and place it in a freezer bag or container. If you have a number of bananas to freeze, first peel them, then lay them on a tray that will fit in your freezer. Place them in the freezer for an hour or two and allow them to freeze. Then transfer the frozen bananas to a freezer bag or container. Date the container so you know how long they’ve been waiting for you. They will keep well for up to eight months.

Ways to use frozen ripe bananas…
* To use a frozen banana when making banana bread or another baked good calling for fresh, ripe banana, simply puree the frozen banana in a food processor first. To do this, slice the frozen banana then place it in your food processor. Pulse or run it slowly until it is smooth. At first when processing, it will be “crumbly” but keep going and it will become very smooth. This doesn’t take more than a minute to accomplish. It will be cold, but usable. If preferred, you can let the pureed banana rest for a short while for it to thaw. Use it immediately to prevent it from turning dark.

* Make banana ice cream! One frozen banana makes a moderate size portion for one person. Simply slice the frozen banana and puree it in a blender until smooth. Enjoy it immediately. Frozen bananas are delicious without any adornment. However, if you want to dress it up, you can…

* Blend it with some sweetener of choice and some cocoa powder to make chocolate banana ice cream.

* Drizzle pureed frozen banana with chocolate sauce or syrup, caramel topping, or any other ice cream topping that you have available. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and you’ll have a delicious banana sundae!

* Sprinkle the blended frozen banana with chopped goodies of choice, such as chopped nuts, chocolate chips (or other baking chips that you enjoy), chopped dried coconut, chopped dried fruit of choice, hulled hemp seeds, M&M candies, cocoa nibs, or anything else your heart desires!

* Add a little of your favorite nut butter to the banana as you puree it for a flavor twist to your banana ice cream. If desired, add a little milk of choice to thin it out.

* Add frozen banana slices to pancakes as they cook. Or puree the banana and add it to the pancake batter. It will add a sweet, fruity, richness to your batter.

Other ways to use fresh or frozen ripe bananas…
* Frozen or fresh ripe bananas can be added straight to a blender when making a smoothie or milkshake. If you want to cut frozen bananas up first, they are easy to slice with a knife. Either way, bananas add a delicious flavor and a richness that can’t be supplied by any other fruit.

* Add mashed ripe or pureed frozen banana to cookie dough. This addition will make the cookie soft and tender with a delicious richness. If the recipe was not designed for added banana, some ingredient adjustments may be needed, so do a test batch first.

* Adding mashed or pureed fresh or frozen banana to a bowl of hot oatmeal will add a rich fruitiness to your porridge.

* Make frozen banana bites. Slice a ripe banana into large bite-size pieces. This can be done with a frozen banana or a fresh ripe banana. Dip your banana slices in chocolate syrup or whatever ice cream topping you prefer, and allow the excess to drain off. Then roll the coated pieces into whatever topping you want…finely chopped nuts, chopped coconut, chopped baking chips of choice, ground flax meal, hulled hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chopped cocoa nibs, or finely chopped candy of choice. Place the coated slices on a parchment paper-lined tray and freeze them for an hour or two until completely frozen. They are ready to serve or be transferred to a freezer container for a grab-and-go treat when you need one.

Recipes Using Ripe Banana…

Banana Bread (A Recipe from My Bakery)

Banana Oat Cookies (video…Judi in the Kitchen)

Banana Oat Cookies

Tropical Banana Bread with Macadamia Nuts, Pineapple and Coconut

Banana-Date Smoothie

5-Minute Vegan Breakfast Smoothie

Frozen Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Milkshake

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Banana Chunks

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Frozen Banana Cereal Pops

35 Ripe Banana Recipes to Use Up Your Bunch

16 Healthy and Easy Ways to Use Overripe Bananas

Simple Green Smoothie

Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Brilliant Ways to Use Overripe Bananas!banana-cream-pudding

Banana Breakfast Cookies


About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Banana Bread (A Recipe From My Bakery)

So who doesn’t enjoy banana bread? I think we all have enjoyed it at some point in our lives. If you have some ripe bananas that you want to use in some way, why not make a loaf of banana bread today? Here’s a recipe from my bakery that I had some years ago. I made these in small 5-inch loaf pans and sold a LOT of these over the years. They were a favorite among my customers. Give it a try!


Banana Bread
Makes 4 each 5-Inch Loaves

10 oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
3 ripe bananas
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil of choice
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray the bottoms only of four small (5″ long) loaf pans with nonstick spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts, if using them; set aside.

With a food processor, puree the bananas. Add the brown sugar and sour cream and continue processing to make smooth. Pour into a large bowl. With a whisk, blend in the oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Pour liquid mix into dry ingredients. Stir to combine all ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into prepared loaf pans, dividing batter evenly among all the pans.

Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan about 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Tip: No “ledges on the edges!”
When making quick bread loaves, spray (or grease) only the inside bottom of the pans. If you spray the sides too, the finished loaves will have “ledges” that form around the top edges of the loaves. Spraying only the bottom of the pans prevents that from happening, and (believe it or not) they shouldn’t stick to the sides of the pans.

This recipe comes from my cookbook, “Secrets of a Professional Baker, Favorite Recipes from The Spice Rack Bakery/Bistro, Cherokee, Iowa”. This book can be purchased here.

Quick and Easy Banana Oat Cookies

Quick and Easy Banana Oat Cookies

Here’s a REALLY fast and easy banana oat cookie that can be made in no time in the food processor, if you have one. Otherwise, mix them by hand, no issues! They’re perfect for anyone wanting to reduce added sugar and fat in their diet. They’re great as a dessert, snack, or even a breakfast cookie.

Here’s a video showing how to make the cookies. The recipe is below the video.


Quick and Easy Banana Oat Cookies
Makes About 18 Small Cookies

2 cups oats (any type)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon*
2 ripe bananas
2-4 Tbsp milk of choice, or more if needed**
½ cup add-ins, optional

Place the oats, baking soda and cinnamon (if you are adding it) in a food processor and process until the oats are a coarse flour. It does not need to be ultra-fine. Slice the bananas and add them plus the milk to the food processor. Pulse until the bananas are pureed and the mixture comes together. If the mixture seems crumbly and a bit dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is moist and comes together, but is not overly wet.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in up to ½ cup of any combination of add-in ingredients you want. Mix well. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes so the oats can soak up some liquid. After the soaking time, the mixture should be moist and still hold together, not dry and crumbly. If it is dry, add a little more milk until it is moist and holds together.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. With a tablespoon or a #40 cookie scoop (which holds 1-3/4 tablespoons), divide the mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Slightly flatten each mound with your fingers. Bake on the rack in the middle of the oven for 13 to 16 minutes, until they are set and starting to brown. Remove from the oven, cool, and enjoy!

* The cinnamon can be omitted if you feel the flavor won’t blend with your preferred add-in ingredients.

**The amount of milk needed will vary depending on the size of the bananas used, and the type of add-ins you choose. Batches made with larger bananas will need less milk than batches made with smaller bananas. Add enough to make a very moist, but not sopping wet batter.

Optional add-ins:
You can add any one or combination of embellishments and flavorings to your cookies. Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, flavorings, and chips of various sorts all work well. Get creative! Here are some examples:

Chopped Nuts or Seeds
Sunflower Seeds
Sesame Seeds
Dried Coconut

Chopped Dried Fruits

Flavorings (Of course, add only small amounts of these!)
Vanilla extract
Vanilla bean
Cocoa powder
Orange zest
Orange extract

Chocolate chips
Peanut butter chips
Butterscotch chips
White chocolate chips
Cinnamon chips
Mint chocolate chips
Caramel chips
This list is growing with what’s becoming available in stores.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles with Dill Weed

EASY Refrigerator Pickles with Dill Weed

If you enjoy the flavor of dill weed AND cucumbers, here’s a really simple recipe for you. These pickles can be made in just about no time and will be crispy and delicious after just resting overnight in the refrigerator. What an easy way to use extra cucumbers from the garden!

Below is a video demonstration of how to make the pickles. The written recipe is below the video. I hope this helps!


Simple Refrigerator Pickles (with Dill Weed)
Makes 1 Pint

½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup distilled water
1-1/2 tsp canning/pickling salt (Kosher salt)
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 medium clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
About 2 cups cut cucumber (not waxed, both ends removed)*

In a freshly washed pint size mason mar, add the vinegar, water, salt, dill weed, and garlic (if using it). Stir to combine and dissolve the salt. Add the cut cucumber to the jar, until the jar is full but the cucumber still remains in the brine. Place the lid on the jar and gently shake it just a couple times to combine the ingredients. Place in the refrigerator overnight, then enjoy! Store the jar in the refrigerator. Best if used within 3 months.

*Be sure to remove both ends of the cucumber. If the cucumber was waxed, it should be peeled. The peel can be left on cucumbers that were not waxed. The cucumber can be cut any way you want…sliced, cut into bite size pieces, or sliced lengthwise into spears. Just be sure they are cut small enough to fit easily into the jar.

Cutting Board

Cutting Boards 101 – The Basics

Cutting boards come in different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and materials including wood, plastic, bamboo, stone, glass, and more. Most of us have them in our kitchen equipment, and we use them on a regular basis. But cleaning them can be a bit confusing because the different materials can require different treatments. To complicate matters, the type of food we use on them (from raw meats to fresh vegetables and fruits, to baked breads) also makes a difference on how they should be treated.

First, one important rule-of-thumb when using cutting boards is to have several of them, with one being reserved only for use with raw meats, seafood, and poultry. Raw animal foods carry their own risks for specific food-borne illnesses that can create serious concerns if not handled properly during food preparation. Reserving a board only for such uses can help to avoid potential cross-contamination of pathogens that can lead to serious disease.

The following information will hopefully help you out with how to choose the right cutting boards for your needs, and regularly clean and maintain the boards for safe use in food preparation.

Wood Cutting Boards
Wooden cutting boards are a favored piece of kitchen equipment for most chefs, both professional and casual alike. Yet, they do require some specific care to maintain them over the years.

Pros: It has been proven by research that wood boards retain less bacteria than plastic boards, especially those with a lot of knife marks. Wood boards can be sanded and resurfaced if necessary. Also, they are usually heavy and don’t slide around easily, which can be extremely hazardous. It has been proven that wooden boards are THE BEST surface for maintaining a sharp knife edge. Also, they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and thicknesses.

Cons: They require more routine maintenance than other types of boards (i.e. waxing and oiling). They cannot be soaked for long periods of time. They cannot be put in the dishwasher.

Routine cleaning: Wooden cutting boards should NOT be placed in the dishwasher. The exposure to prolonged heat and water can cause the board to warp and possibly crack. Cracks in wooden cutting boards will tend to harbor microbes that can feed on trapped food particles. This is NOT what you want to happen to your cherished wooden cutting board!

Routine cleaning of your wooden cutting board, after using it to cut breads, fruits and vegetables can be done simply by hand washing it in hot, soapy water with as much manual scrubbing action as is needed to get it clean. Using a scrub brush will help to make this job faster and easier. Rinse it well, pat it dry, then stand it up to air dry completely before putting it away.

When using your wood board for high-risk foods such as raw meat, fish, and poultry, it should be immediately hand-washed in hot soapy water, then sanitized. Dry the board, then allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Sanitizing your wooden cutting board: Research has shown that wooden cutting boards harbor fewer microbes than do plastic cutting boards. Nevertheless, if you have used your wood board for cutting raw animal foods (meats, poultry, fish), sanitizing it after it is hand-washed is important to kill any remaining pathogens after it was washed. This should be done EACH time the board is used for raw animal foods, especially if that same board will be used for cutting fruits and/or vegetables that are to be eaten raw (this practice is not recommended). There are some options (listed below) on how to sanitize your board.

If your wooden cutting board is not being used for raw animal products, you can get by with sanitizing it less often than when using it for raw animal foods. According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology (August 2015), traditional detergent-based household methods of cleaning will usually sufficiently clean cutting boards used in the preparation of foods that are not high risk (such as raw animal foods) or when not being used for immune-compromised individuals. Ideally for ultimate food safety, cutting boards should be sanitized after each use. However, when no one being fed is immune compromised or when only low-risk foods are being prepared, sanitizing it less often should suffice.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination if using a cutting board for high-risk foods such as raw meat, fish, and poultry, it is suggested that we have different cutting boards for high-risk foods than for low-risk foods (fresh vegetables, fruits and breads). Having different colors, shapes or sizes for different types of food can help to keep the cook from using the wrong cutting board during food preparation.

Bleach: The USDA recommends that we sanitize a board used for cutting raw animal foods in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach to 1 gallon of water. First, hand-wash the board in hot, soapy water, and scrub it well. Then apply the bleach solution and allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse well, then dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. Stand it up for a little while to help ensure it is completely dry before storing it.

A slightly stronger solution, but simpler to mix up was suggested by Global News of Canada. Mix one teaspoon of bleach to three cups of water. Pour that over the washed cutting board and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Rinse it well, then dry the board.

Vinegar: Vinegar is a non-toxic item that most of us keep in our kitchen. After being hand-washed in hot, soapy water, a wood board can be sanitized with a solution of 1 part of white vinegar to 4 parts of water. Allow the solution to remain on the board for a few minutes, then rinse it well, and pat it dry. Allow the board to air dry before storing it.

If you REALLY want to “go for the gusto,” you could also use undiluted white vinegar to sanitize your board. Spray your cutting board with straight white vinegar, allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse it well, pat it dry, then stand it up, and allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Hydrogen Peroxide: As always, wash your board first with hot, soapy water. According to The Food Network, wood cutting boards can be sanitized by pouring 3% hydrogen peroxide (this is the type of hydrogen peroxide commonly found in your local pharmacy) all over the board. Distribute the liquid around the board with a cleaning sponge, and leave it alone for a few minutes as it bubbles, killing any microbes that are left on the board. When finished, rinse well, and wipe it off with a clean cloth or paper towel. Allow it to air dry before storing the board.

To Deodorize a Wooden Cutting Board: There are several suggested ways to deodorize a wood cutting board…
If your board has any lingering odor from some food used on it, sprinkle baking soda on the board, then pour white vinegar onto it. Important! This will create a lot of bubbling, so be sure to do this in a sink! When the bubbling stops, rinse the board well, dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel, and then stand it up to air dry.

Another way to remove odors from a wood board would be to rub the board well with a cut lemon, squeezing the juice as you rub. Allow the juice to sit on the board for a few minutes, then rinse it well and dry the board.

Some people remove stains and odors from a wood cutting board by sprinkling it with coarse salt, then rubbing it with a cut lemon, squeezing to remove the juice as they rub. When finished, rinse the board well and dry the board. Allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Spritzing the board with white vinegar after use can help to avoid the development of odors in your board.

Protect the Wood: Oiling wooden boards helps to maintain their surface and keeps them from drying out, which could cause them to crack. This also helps to prevent liquids from food and microbes from penetrating the board, helping to keep it clean and germ-free. The goal is to penetrate the wood and saturate the wood fibers with board oil.

All wooden cutting boards should be oiled periodically by rubbing them with food-safe (this is critical!) mineral oil (or an alternative oil of choice). This oil can be found in most local pharmacies. Note, that mineral oil is the oil of choice by most professional chefs for this application, since it will not go rancid over time. Do not use vegetable oils for this purpose. They will spoil, causing the board to smell bad and possibly transmit rancid oils into your food.

If you prefer to use a food-derived oil, you could use traditional coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) or fractionated coconut oil (which is liquid at room temperature). Just note that some say traditional coconut oil may go rancid over an extended period of time, whereas fractionated coconut oil should not.

First, be sure your board is as clean (and dry) as possible. Then, simply rub a generous amount of your preferred oil very well into the DRY board with a clean, dry cloth, or new paint brush dedicated to this purpose (do not use your hands as you might get a splinter!). Doing this will help to prevent cracks in the board, keeping it from harboring microbes in hard-to-reach areas. After being oiled, stand your cutting board up on its side on a clean, dry towel, or place it on a wire rack. Allow the oil to soak in as long as possible before wiping any excess off. Try to allow the oil to soak in for at least a few hours (up to 24 hours) before wiping away the excess. A simple way to do this would be to wipe the board with oil in the evening. Allow it to sit overnight. Wipe any excess oil off in the morning, and allow it to air dry until it is not tacky or sticky feeling. Then use the board as needed.

How often you should oil your board depends upon how often you use it. Wooden boards used daily may benefit from being oiled once a month. Those not used very often could be oiled once or twice a year. If your board feels “dry to the touch” it’s time to oil it. If nothing else, let that tip be your guide.

Spoon (Wood) Butter (Cutting Board Creams or Waxes): You can also condition your board with “spoon butter” or “wood butter” which is a mixture of beeswax, food-grade mineral oil, and sometimes other waxes. These same creams may also be referred to as cutting board creams or waxes. They can be purchased in stores (local and online) that carry cutting boards and kitchen supplies.

While board oil penetrates the wood, board creams or waxes coat the surface of the board, protecting it from liquids and stains. Board creams or waxes also help to protect sanitation, as they fill in knife marks, where bacteria can live, even after the board is cleaned. When used in conjunction, both board oil and cream or wax can protect your wooden cutting board from inside to out, helping it to serve you well for years.

To use board creams or waxes, rub a generous amount of the mixture into your board and allow it to sit for at least several hours, up to 24 hours (overnight is really convenient). Then buff excess off your board with a clean, dry cloth. Allow it to air dry until it no longer feels tacky or sticky, then use your board as normal. Use it freely on any wood or bamboo bowl, board, or kitchen utensil.

Plastic Cutting Boards
Plastic cutting boards are enjoyed by many. They are usually made from polyethylene and can be washed at the sink, soaked for indefinite periods of time, and placed in the dishwasher. They are relatively good on knife blades, but not as good as wood boards in that respect.

Pros: One benefit of plastic boards is that they come in different colors. The assorted colors can help you isolate their use for specific types of foods, such as one specifically for raw meats, while another is specifically for raw vegetables, and yet another is dedicated only to cutting breads. Such a system is excellent to help prevent cross-contamination of bacteria which can be deadly.

Plastic boards can be safely soaked for long periods of time and can also be placed in the dishwasher.

Plastic boards are relatively good for maintaining the sharp edge of your knife, since they give slightly in the cutting process.

Cons: Over time, plastic boards can get a lot of knife gouges in them which are permanent. Such furrows allow places for bacteria to harbor, even after the board has been washed. When a plastic board becomes “fuzzy” or has a lot of knife furrows in it, it’s time to replace it.

Sanitizing Your Board: Always start by first washing your board in hot soapy water, or running it through a dishwashing cycle. If your board has been used for low-risk foods such as breads or fresh fruits and vegetables, occasionally letting your plastic board soak in a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon of unscented bleach to 1 gallon of water) for 5 minutes can adequately sanitize the board. If the board has been used for cutting raw meat, seafood, or poultry, it’s important to sanitize it after EACH such use.

Placing it in the dishwasher after each use is also a good way to help keep your plastic board clean and fresh.

No matter how your board has been washed or sanitized, be sure your board is completely dry before storing it. Any moisture left on the board can allow bacteria to remain viable.

Bamboo Cutting Boards
Bamboo cutting boards have increased in popularity in recent years. They require less maintenance than traditional wood cutting boards and are harder and less porous than hardwoods.

Pros: Bamboo cutting boards require less maintenance than traditional wood boards. Since they do not retain water as traditional wood boards can, they are less likely to warp, crack, or harbor bacteria. Bamboo absorbs very little moisture and resists scarring from knives, so they are more resistant to bacteria than traditional wood boards. They make lovely serving trays for cheese, crackers, and other appetizers or finger foods.

Because bamboo is harder than traditional wood, it resists scarring from knife use, as does traditional wood. This makes it easier to clean and less likely to retain bacteria after use.

The hardness and density of bamboo makes it less likely to stain when preparing some foods like meats or tomatoes.

Bamboo is a sustainable crop, so less damage is done to the environment when bamboo is harvested than trees. Bamboo is a grass and one of the fastest growing plants on the planet! It is one of the simpler and more economically grown plants available. Also, they are relatively inexpensive.

Cons: Do not put bamboo cutting boards in the dishwasher, which might cause the board to warp and/or crack. Also, do not soak your bamboo board.

Read the label carefully when buying a bamboo cutting board. Some bamboo products are processed with formaldehyde and glues that can leach into foods over time. Choose only boards made with non-toxic treatments or organic practices.

Since bamboo is harder than traditional wood boards, they are not as forgiving to knife blades as wood boards. Hence, your knife may not last as long when using a bamboo cutting board, especially if it is a cheaper knife made with a softer metal than a higher-priced knife.

Bamboo boards should not be used as hot plates or trivets for hot items, since this might burn the board.

Pre-conditioning your bamboo board: If your bamboo board was not pre-conditioned by the manufacturer, you’ll need to do that before you use it. First, wash it well in hot soapy water, then dry it and allow it to completely air dry. Then prime it with food grade mineral oil. Apply a generous amount of oil and let it sit for a few hours to overnight. Wipe off any remaining oil in the morning with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel until it does not feel damp or sticky, and it will be ready to use. Do this about once a month to maintain your board and extend its life, or repeat this process any time your board looks dry.

Spoon (Wood) Butter: See this topic under the Wood board section. The same information applies to bamboo boards.

Washing, Sanitizing, and Maintaining Your Bamboo Cutting Board: Clean bamboo cutting boards with hot soapy water; and sanitize if it each time it is used for cutting raw meats, seafood, or poultry. Dry it thoroughly before putting it away. Do not put it in the dishwasher.

To sanitize your bamboo board, scrub it well with a mixture of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water (or 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water…which is slightly stronger than the 1 gallon mixture). Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then rinse the board well afterwards, and wipe it dry. Allow it to air dry completely before putting it away.

Glass Boards
Glass cutting boards can be beautiful decorative elements in any kitchen. They make a nice platform or tray for items that you want to protect from other surfaces. Although they can be easy to clean and maintain, most professionals do not use glass boards for reasons stated below.

Pros: Glass boards are easy to clean since they are nonporous. Germs can’t penetrate them. They may be placed in the dishwasher.

Cons: Since glass boards are hard and have no “give” whatsoever, they can damage knife blades over time. For this reason, most authorities do not recommend glass cutting boards for cutting purposes.

Sanitizing Your Board: Simply wash your glass board at the sink or in the dishwasher. An occasional sanitizing with a bleach or vinegar solution is always advisable (see how, under “Wood” section).

Stone/Marble/Granite Boards
Stone boards are excellent when used for rolling pastry. They are naturally cool to the touch which helps to keep the butter or other fat in the pastry from melting during the rolling process. Doughs also tend to stick less to stone, marble, or granite when being rolled out. They can also be used to place pots on to keep them from scratching a counter top. But since they are extremely hard, they can dull knife blades over time when used to cut foods, so they are generally not recommended for use as a traditional cutting board.

Pros: There is no chance these boards will warp. They can be used as a hot pad or trivet. They can be very attractive and add a nice element to your kitchen décor. They are simple to clean and sanitize and do not need special treatment to maintain.

Cons: They can dull your knife blade when used as a true cutting board. If not careful, they can chip or crack if mishandled or bumped.

When to Replace Your Cutting Board
Replace your cutting board when it shows a lot of wear, such as extensive knife marks. Deep groves in any board can allow bacteria to live on the board, even after being washed.

Also replace your board if it has warped. Using a warped board will not be stable on the counter or table, which can be very hazardous when using a sharp knife. The cost of a new board is well worth it when compared to having a serious knife injury.

If you are using a wood or bamboo board and the seams are starting to separate, it’s time to replace the board. It may be unstable to use, making working with a sharp knife potentially dangerous. Also, deep groves may catch your knife making cutting action erratic and possibly invite an injury. Furthermore, deep groves or cracks can also harbor bacteria. So, needless to say, a board that is separating is not worth keeping! When dealing with food and food-related equipment…”When in doubt, throw it out!”

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Rice Blend Vegetable Pilaf

Rice Blend Vegetable Pilaf

If you’re looking for something a little different, I suggest you try the rice and vegetable pilaf recipe below. I used Lundberg’s Wild Blend Rice Mix; however, you can feel free to use any rice mixture or even plain rice, if preferred. Simply cook your rice according to package directions and proceed from there! (Note that I have no ties with the Lundberg company. I simply spotted their rice mixture in the grocery store and decided to give it a try.)

Below are two videos, one showing my review of Lundberg’s Wild Blend Rice Mix, where I show how to cook it according to package directions and my results. The wild rice in the mixture gives this dish an earthy flavor.

The second video is a demonstration of my cooking this recipe. There are a lot of possible variations, so it should be easy to make it to your preferences so you and your family are sure to enjoy it. Try it sometime! I hope this helps!!


Rice Blend Vegetable Pilaf
Makes about 6 Servings

1 cup Lundberg Wild Blend Rice (or any rice mixture that you prefer, cooked according to package directions)
1-3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp water or stock (use stock for a greater depth of flavor in the finished dish)
½ tsp salt, if cooking the rice in water (omit the added salt if cooking with stock)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (use stock, if preferred)
½ cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup shredded carrot (or 1 small carrot, shredded)
1 (8 oz) pkg mushrooms of choice, chopped (use canned or frozen mushrooms, if preferred)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup dried tart cherries (or dried cranberries, raisins or currents, if preferred)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup water or stock, as needed
Parsley, optional garnish

Cook 1 cup of rice blend, according to package directions. If cooking the rice blend in water, add the ½ teaspoon of salt to the cooking water. If cooking the rice blend in stock, omit the added salt.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Toward the end of the cooking time for the rice, heat a large pot over just above medium heat. Add the olive oil (or stock, if preferred). Add the vegetables and thyme; sauté briefly until they become aromatic. Add the extra ¼ cup of water or stock if needed to prevent the vegetable mixture from burning. Cover the pot with a lid very briefly to allow the vegetables to steam. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more thyme, if desired. When the vegetables are as soft as you like them, stir in the cooked rice blend and serve. (If desired, this dish could be garnished with a sprinkle of parsley flakes.)


Dill 101 – The Basics

Dill is a special herb in that we use both the leaves (called dill weed) and the seeds, and they both have completely different flavors. Dill weed provides a bright, fresh flavor to whatever it’s sprinkled on, and dill seed is what gives dill pickles their characteristic flavor.

If you want to explore the culinary ins and outs of dill, you should find some helpful information below. The information covers from what dill is, to how to use it in combination with other herbs, spices and foods. I hope this helps!


Dill 101 – The Basics

About Dill
The herb dill is a member of the parsley family. It has light green, feathery thread-like leaves that have a bright aroma and fresh flavor that is slightly sweet with a hint of caraway. The leaves look similar to fennel leaves, and are usually referred to as “dill weed.” The leaves are available fresh in the produce section of many grocery stores, and dried in spice isles.

The seeds produced by the dill plant is also used for its flavorful qualities, but lends a completely different flavor than the leaves. The dill seeds are what gives dill pickles their characteristic flavor. All parts of the herb are edible.

The plant appears to be native to the Southern Europe to Western Asia and Southern Russia region. It was used extensively by ancient Greeks and Romans. Evidence has been found that dill was used in Swiss settlements dating back to 400BC. Today, dill is used in many parts of the world.

Nutrition Tidbits and Health Benefits
Compounds in dill have been shown to work with antioxidants in helping to protect the body from harmful compounds. The essential oils in dill have been found to help neutralize some carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), as well as having antibacterial properties. Although we normally use dill in small amounts, it does contain some calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber, and also pro-Vitamin A carotenoids. With all things considered, dill is a good herb to include in your foods whenever you can!

How to Select Dill Weed
The flavor of fresh dill weed is superior to that of the dried version. So whenever possible, opt for fresh dill. The leaves should look fresh, green, and feathery. The leaves droop quickly after being harvested, so if they look a little wilted, they may not be as old as they look.

If fresh dill weed is not available in your local grocery store, the dried version should be available in the spice isle.

How to Store Dill Weed
Always store fresh dill weed (unwashed) in the refrigerator. It should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a crisper drawer. Or, stand it up with the stems down in a container with a little water. Fresh dill is very fragile and will only keep fresh for about two days, so use it quickly.

How to Preserve Dill Weed
If you have fresh dill and will not be using it quickly, it’s advisable to freeze or dehydrate it to keep it from spoiling. Freeze it whole or chopped in airtight containers. To keep it from freezing into one big clump, place the prepared dill weed on a tray and put that in the freezer. When the leaves are frozen, transfer them to your freezer container.

Alternatively, chopped fresh dill can be placed in ice cube trays, covered with water, and then frozen. Transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic bag or airtight container and return to the freezer. Use the herbed ice cubes when making soups, stews or sauces that call for dill.

To dry fresh dill without a dehydrator, hang it with the leaves upside down, in a cool to warm area out of direct sunlight. Be sure there is plenty of air flow for fast drying. High temperatures will destroy the flavor.

Dried dill weed will keep in an airtight container in a dry, cool, and dark place for about six months.

How to Prepare Dill
Since dill is so delicate, just give it a quick rinse right before you’re about to use if. If desired, gently pat it dry with a paper towel.

Dill is extremely tender, so chop it only right before you need to use it. To chop dill weed, simply line up the stems with the leaves at one end. Chop finely with a sharp knife, including the thin stems near the leaves. Although the entire plant is edible, many people discard the thicker stems, as they can be tough. Try them yourself before discarding them, to see if they will be right for your needs.

Cooking/Serving Ideas
Dill weed has a fresh, unique flavor. A little goes a long way, so add only a small amount at a time. Taste the food, then add more if needed. Dill weed goes well in many foods including sauces or toppings for fish, yogurt, sour cream, salad dressings, spinach dishes, and chicken and lamb casseroles. The tender, fresh herb leaves are usually added toward the end of cooking to preserve their flavor.

Quick ideas using dill:
* For a refreshing dip, combine dill weed with plain yogurt and chopped cucumber.

* The flavor of dill weed goes exceptionally well with fish, especially salmon and trout.

* Garnish sandwiches with dill weed for a refreshing flavor twist.

* Dill seeds have been used throughout history to soothe the stomach and aid digestion after meals. Try leaving some dill seeds in a small container on the table for people to chew on after a meal.

* Try adding dill weed to egg salad.

* Mix chopped cooked potatoes and green beans with some plain yogurt. Season with both dill seeds and chopped dill weed.

* If you need to substitute fresh for dried dill weed (or vice versa), 1 tablespoon of fresh dill weed is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of dried.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Dill Weed
Basil, capers, caraway seeds, chives, cilantro, garlic, ginger, horseradish, paprika, parsley, pepper, poppy seeds

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Dill Seeds
Bay leaf, chili powder, cumin, paprika, parsley, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well With Dill Weed
Proteins: Beans (esp. dried, green, lima, white), black-eyed peas, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, lamb, peas, seafood, tahini, tofu

Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, peas, pickles, potatoes, pumpkin, sauerkraut, spinach, squash (summer), tomatoes, zucchini

Fruit: Lemon

Grains: Biscuits, breads, corn, barley, millet, noodles, pasta, rice, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e. cottage, feta, fresh white, goat), sauces (i.e. cheese, yogurt), sour cream, yogurt

Other: Mayonnaise, oil (olive), miso, mustard, vinegar (i.e. balsamic)

Dill has been used in the following foods and cuisines: Baked goods, dips, Eastern and Northern European cuisines, egg dishes (i.e. hard-boiled, omelets), German cuisine, pasta, pickles, Polish cuisine, Russian cuisine, salad dressings, salads (i.e. egg, potato), sauces (i.e. cheese, tomato, yogurt), Scandinavian cuisines, slaws, soups and chowders, stews, Turkish cuisine

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Dill:
Combine dill weed with…
Beets + capers + celery
Cucumber + yogurt
Fennel + feta cheese
Feta cheese + kohlrabi
Feta cheese + spinach
Garlic + ginger + green pepper + lemon
Garlic + sour cream + yogurt
Horseradish + sour cream
Mushrooms + yogurt
Asparagus + butter + mushrooms
Cabbage + feta cheese + mint
Chard + cheddar cheese + cream + garlic

Combine dill seeds with…
Bay leaf + beets
Cabbage + carrots

Recipe Links
5-Minute Cold Cucumber Salad 1

5-Minute Cold Cucumber Salad 2

Salmon with Dill Sauce

15-Minute Beets

Steamed Salmon and Asparagus with Mustard Dill Sauce

Mahi-Mahi Filet With Lemon Dill Sauce

Maple Dill Carrots

15 Recipes to Use Up a Bunch of Dill

43 Recipes for Fragrant, Fantastic, Fresh Dill

41 Fresh Dill Recipes That Aren’t Just for Pickles

10 Recipes with Fresh Dill

Lemon and Dill Chicken

Braised Lemon Chicken with Dill and Turmeric

Crispy Dill Tilapia

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


Rice 101 – The Basics

Rice is a valuable staple food for many people around the world. That says a lot, right there! Yet, there are so many different types of rice to choose from that shopping for rice can get very confusing. There are different grain lengths, like short-, medium-, and long-grain rice. There are different types of rice, like brown rice, jasmine rice, white rice, basmati rice, wild rice, etc. Then there are different forms of rice, like parboiled, converted, and instant rice. Combine all that with yet different terms, like glutinous, sticky, and polished, and one can get very confused, for sure, and sometimes leave the store without any rice in the cart!

If you find yourself with your hands in the air when shopping for rice and are not sure what is what, you’re in the right place. Below is a lot of information about the many different qualities of rice, detailed in such a way that I hope answers all your questions about the many facets of rice.


Rice 101 – The Basics

About Rice
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice). It is native to Asia and Africa, but is now grown around the world where there is plenty of water or rainfall. It is an annual cereal grain, but can be grown as a perennial plant in tropical regions.

Rice has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. It is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia. Today there are over 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice, with different shapes, colors, aromas, and starch content.

Rice is extremely versatile, since it can be paired with just about any flavor or seasoning. Its chewiness and soft texture add substance to meals and complements many foods. It’s no wonder why it’s a staple food around the world.

Nutrition Tidbits
Rice is a nonfat, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and low-sodium food that is a staple for many populations around the world. Brown rice has the naturally-occurring nutrients, including the bran and germ, left intact. It is rich in thiamin (Vitamin B1), magnesium, selenium, manganese, and fiber. The thiamin in rice helps with carbohydrate metabolism. Brown rice actually has fewer calories and grams of carbohydrates than white rice, and is considered to be a low-glycemic whole-grain food. Whole grains have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, help protect against cancer, help prevent gallstones, and ward off heart disease.

All rice is mostly carbohydrates with a little protein and negligible fat. Although more white rice is eaten around the world, brown rice is recognized as being the healthier option. White rice is mostly carbohydrates with some nutrients added back in the fortification process. Brown rice has 4-1/2 times the fiber as white rice and far more B-vitamins and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc than does white rice.

The carbohydrates in food are made mostly from starches (chains of glucose) known as amylose and amylopectin. Amylose slows down the digestion of starch and is associated with “resistant starch,” a type of healthy fiber which is known to feed our gut bacteria. Rice that is high in amylose, such as basmati rice, does not stick together after cooking.

Rice that is low in amylose and high in amylopectin is sticky after being cooked. Such rice is often called “glutinous rice” or “sticky rice” and is excellent for risottos and rice pudding. It is often used in Asian cooking because its sticky property allows it to be picked up easily with chopsticks. Glutinous rice is highly digestible. This property means it can cause a quick rise in blood sugar levels after consumption, possibly causing problems for those with diabetes.

Concerns with Brown Rice:
Phytic Acid (or Phytate): Many whole grains, including brown rice, contain phytic acid which is known to bind to some minerals within that food (particularly iron, zinc, and calcium) reducing our ability to absorb them. Phytates are sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients.” Phytates can be found in seeds, nuts, legumes and grains. Its function in these foods is to serve as a storage form of phosphorus until it is needed after germination. Soaking, sprouting (starting the germination process), and lactic-acid fermentation have been shown to reduce the phytate content of foods.

Conversely, phytic acid does also have some health benefits. It is an antioxidant that has been shown to protect against kidney stones and cancer, and may be part of the reason why eating whole grains has been shown to be protective against colon cancer.

If you eat a healthful, varied diet, phytic acid should not be a serious concern.

Arsenic: Brown rice may contain arsenic, a toxic compound that has detrimental health effects. The amount of arsenic in brown rice depends upon the soil in which the rice was grown, the water used for irrigation, the time of year the rice was grown, and the amount of arsenic (if any) in your household water supply. How much arsenic is found in any particular brand or supply of brown rice is hard to determine because it will vary depending upon where it was grown, the water supply used in the irrigation process, and how it was prepared and cooked.

To help reduce the arsenic in your brown rice: (1) wash the rice before cooking it, and (2) use a lot of water when cooking the rice.

Other Compounds Found in Brown Rice
Lignans: Lignans are found in rice bran. Our gut bacteria convert lignans to enterolactone, an isoflavone that may have health benefits. It is known that enterolactone has weak estrogenic activity in the body, but the extent to which it affects estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activities is not well understood.

Diets rich in lignan-containing foods have been shown to have a consistent effect on lowering cardiovascular disease risks. Also, researchers have found a reduced risk of breast cancer, and possibly endometrial and ovarian cancers in postmenopausal women with a high lignan intake.

Ferulic Acid: Ferulic acid is an antioxidant found in rice bran. Research has shown that it may protect against cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Grain Length of Rice
Long-Grain: This is the most common type of rice used. The grains are about four times as long as they are wide. They are fluffy when cooked and the grains stay separated, with a firm, dry texture. Long-grain rice is best for side dishes, pilafs and salads. Types of long-grain rice include American long-grain white and brown rice, Basmati rice, and Jasmine rice.

Medium-Grain: Medium-grain rice is about two to three times as long as it is wide. It is tender, moist, a little chewy, and the grains tend to stick together some when cooked. Types of medium-grain rice include Arborio and Valencia rice, which are good for risotto. Another medium-grain rice is Bomba rice, which is good for paella.

Short-Grain: Short-grain rice is short and plump, and only slightly longer than it is wide. It has a high starch content, causing the grains to stick together and clump up when cooked. Short-grain rice is often referred to as “sticky rice,” “sweet rice,” and sometimes “glutinous rice.” However, glutinous rice is actually a specific type of rice that is very low in amylose and is grown mostly in the Southeast and East Asian regions. Common varieties of short-grain rice include American short-grain brown rice and sushi rice. This type of rice is best for sushi, molded salads, and puddings.

The Parts of Rice
Hull or Husk: This is a tough outer layer found on all rice grains. It must be removed before the rice can be eaten.

Bran: The bran layer is found under the husk. It is removed for many, but not all types of rice. The bran contains a lot of fiber and nutrients that make rice a healthful food to consume. It is usually tan in color, but may also be reddish or black, depending on the variety of rice.

Germ: The germ is found under the hull. It is nutrient-dense and rich in B-vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It helps give rice its color.

Endosperm: The endosperm is also known as “white” rice. It is the inner-most core of the rice kernel and the area that contains the bulk of the starch. This is the part of rice that most humans eat as white refined rice.

Forms of Rice
Brown: Brown rice has only the outer husk removed from the grain. The bran and germ layers are left intact, resulting in a nutritious grain with a nutty flavor.

White: White rice has had the outer husk, the bran, and the germ layers removed. Only the white endosperm, inner core of the grain remains. Removal of the outer layers including the germ makes this form of rice very shelf-stable with the longest shelf life. This is the type of rice most commonly consumed.

Parboiled: Parboiled rice is subjected to a steam pressure process to force the inner and outer starches together to create a less sticky, separate kernel. It is not actually precooked. This process helps retain many of the nutrients found in unprocessed rice. Nutrients soak into the rice kernels before the outer layers are removed. Because of this process, parboiled rice is higher in calcium, potassium and Vitamin B6 than white rice. Parboiled rice is light golden or amber in color. It cooks up fluffy with separate distinct grains.

Sticky Rice: Sticky rice is also known as sweet rice. It is grown mostly in Asia and is used in traditional Asian dishes, desserts, and sweets. When cooked, it becomes very sticky and is often ground into rice flour.

Converted Rice: Converted rice is parboiled rice that has been cooked even further. This allows the rice to be cooked quickly.

Instant or Quick-Cooking Rice: This rice has been fully cooked and prepared for packaging. Some of the nutrients are lost in the processing, but this rice is fast to prepare.

Color of Rice
Most rice is naturally brown after being harvested and the outer husk removed. When it is processed and the bran layer and germ removed, it appears white. Red, black, and purple varieties of rice have pigmentation in their bran layers. The bran is usually left intact in these varieties, for visual appeal and added nutritional benefit.

Polished (White) Rice: Polished rice can also be referred to as milled rice. This is simply white rice that has had the bran and germ removed.

Brown Rice: Brown rice has had the outermost husk removed, while the bran and germ were left intact, giving it a light brown or tan color. This variety of rice has the greatest nutritional value when compared with white rice, but takes longer to cook than white rice.

Forbidden (Black) Rice: Forbidden rice is also known as black rice. The term “forbidden rice” stems from it being an exclusive food being served only to emperors in China. Its color is due to a high level of anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in blueberries, eggplant, and purple corn.

Red Cargo Rice: This rice is from Thailand and has the bran layer left intact. The bran gives this rice its reddish-brown hue.

Rosematta Rice: This rice is grown in India. It has a reddish color.

Wild Rice: Wild rice is not actually a true rice at all. It is in a different classification in the plant kingdom than traditional rice. It is harvested from a grass of the genus Zizania. Wild rice is very dark brown in color.

Some varieties of rice release different aromas when cooked. Basmati rice is a long-grain rice often used in Indian cuisine. It has a nutty, popcorn-like flavor and aroma. Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice with a slightly sticky texture and subtle jasmine flavor and aroma when cooked.

The Many Types of Rice and Their Uses
Aborio Rice: This is a medium-grain rice with a notable white dot at the center of each grain. It has a high starch content with a slightly chewy and sticky consistency with a creamy texture when cooked. Aborio rice is ideal for risotto, rice pudding, soups and stews.

Basmati Rice: Long-grain basmati rice cooks up with dry, separate grains that have a nutty, popcorn-like aroma and flavor. Basmati rice gets its rich flavor from one year of aging before being sold. It is commonly used in Indian and Asian cuisine. It can be served plain or combined with a variety of flavorings. Basmati rice is ideal for dal, curry, and saffron rice.

Brown Rice: Brown rice comes in short- and long-grains and has a chewy texture and nutty flavor when cooked. The bran layer and germ are left intact, so it is tan in color and provides all the nutrients rice has to offer. Brown rice is a 100% whole grain food. Long-grain brown rice is light and fluffy when cooked. It is ideal for stuffed peppers, casseroles, stir-fries, and rice pilaf. Short-grain brown rice is starchier and sticks together well, so it is suitable for dishes where you need rice to clump together.

Forbidden (Black) Rice: Forbidden or black rice has a mild, nutty flavor, with a high nutritional value, and is often used in Asian cuisine. It is slightly sticky when cooked. It blends well with mushrooms and cilantro. It is sometimes mixed with brown rice to make a sweet coconut rice pudding. There are numerous types of black rice with some having a long-grain glutinous texture when cooked, while others are short-grain and medium-grain varieties.

Jasmine Rice: This long-grain rice imparts a jasmine aroma while being cooked and gives a mild jasmine flavor to dishes. It is often used in Asian dishes, including curries and stir-fries. It has a moist, soft texture which readily soaks up spices and flavorings. Jasmine rice also pairs well with dried fruit, Jamaican jerk, and spicy curries.

Parboiled Rice: The steam processing of this rice changes the properties of the starch making it firmer and less sticky than white rice when cooked. It is used often in thick curries and other dishes popular in India.

Red Cargo Rice: Red cargo rice is a type of non-glutinous long-grain rice, similar to brown rice. The color can be red, purple, or maroon. Because the bran layer is left intact in red cargo rice, this variety takes a little longer to cook than other types of rice. When cooked, red cargo rice is firm and chewy with a sweet, nutty flavor. It has a chewier texture than jasmine rice. Its nutty flavor pairs well with curries, fish, meat, along with stir-fried vegetables.

Rosematta Rice: Rosematta rice is grown in India and has yellowish-red grains. It has a robust, earthy flavor all its own. It pairs well with meats like lamb, beef, and game. It works well in slow-cooking stews and curries.

Sticky or Glutinous Rice: This type of rice is grown mostly in Asia. Despite its name, it does not contain dietary gluten. It does, however, have a high (amylopectin) starch content which makes it very sticky and glue-like when cooked. This type of rice is popular in Asia, especially since it can be easily picked up with chopsticks. It is often used in sweet and savory preparations, such as rice pudding. It is also soaked in sweet coconut milk and served with fresh mango, and also paired with sesame shrimp.

Sushi Rice: Sushi rice is a white or brown Japanese short-grain rice. Its high starch content makes it perfect for wrapping in sushi. It also works well in rice pudding.

Valencia Rice: Valencia rice is popular in Spain and is often used in paella. It is a short-grain rice with a high starch content. It is tender and moist when cooked and sticks together as you would expect a short-grain rice to do. It can absorb a lot of liquid so it also works well in stews, soups, and stuffings.

White Rice: White rice is the long-grain rice most commonly used in American cuisine. It is also used in Asian and Mexican culture. It has a mild flavor, with a light, fluffy texture, with grains that separate easily when cooked. It is very versatile and ideal for stuffing, casseroles, stir-fries, rice pilaf, and salads. It also accompanies poultry, meats and vegetables very well. White rice is simply refined starch that is left after brown rice is processed.

Wild Rice: Wild rice is not actually a rice, but the seed of a grass commonly grown in wetlands. When cooked, it curls up and the skin breaks open revealing a white interior. It has a toasty, earthy flavor that blends well with vegetables, nuts, and dried fruits.

How to Choose Rice
Rice is usually available prepackaged in bulk containers. When selecting brown rice, check to see if there is a “Use By” date on the package. The natural oils found in brown rice can turn rancid over time, if kept too long.

Based on the soil in which it was grown, some rice may have a high content of arsenic. Choosing organic rice, especially rice that was not grown in the southern USA, is one way to help reduce your chances of getting excessive arsenic in your rice.

How to Store Rice
Unopened packages of rice store well in a cool, dry place. Some resources state it will keep indefinitely, if well-wrapped and air-tight. However, the shelf-life of brown rice is a bit shorter because of its slight fat content. On the pantry shelf, brown rice should keep for 3 to 6 months.

Once opened, many varieties of rice store longer if wrapped air-tight and placed in the refrigerator or freezer. When stored in the refrigerator, most varieties of uncooked rice should keep indefinitely, while brown rice will keep for 6 to 12 months. In the freezer, well-wrapped uncooked rice should keep indefinitely, with brown rice keeping well for about 12 to 18 months. No matter how it is stored, if you notice an off odor, color, flavor, or appearance, your rice has spoiled and should be discarded.

Always store cooked rice in the refrigerator and use within about four days.

How to Prepare Rice
Unless your package directions state otherwise, it never hurts to rinse your rice before cooking it to remove any dust or debris. This is especially helpful if it was purchased from a bulk bin. Many people will soak rice, no matter what type it is, before cooking. Soaking time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Bear in mind that rice will absorb some of the soaking water, so soaked rice will cook faster than the package directions call for. So, either use less water or cook it for less time and drain off excess water when it is as tender as you like. Monitor it carefully as it cooks so you don’t have a mushy mess!

The traditional method of cooking rice calls for rinsing the rice well, until the water runs clear, then placing it in a pot with one part rice to two parts water. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pot, then simmer it until tender and most, if not all of the water has been absorbed. However, different types of rice require different amounts of water and cooking times, so do refer to your package directions.

The following directions for cooking soaked rice were provided by This method was shown to reduce arsenic levels by about 80 percent. It appears to have been used with white rice. Brown rice may take a little longer to cook.

• Measure the dry rice in a jug.
• Soak rice overnight
• Wash then rinse the rice really well, until the water is clear.
• Drain really well.
• Place rice in a saucepan with five parts water to one part rice (plus a little salt) and stir once.
• Bring to the boil, then turn the heat all the way down and cover the pan tightly with a lid.
• Cook on the lowest heat possible for 10-15 mins without uncovering the pan. Drain any excess water.
• Use a fork to fluff up the cooked rice.

How to Freeze Cooked Rice
Some varieties of rice take a fair amount of time to cook, which can make it prohibitive for some weeknight meals. Cooking and freezing it in advance can help. Simply cook your rice according to package directions, and allow it to cool some before packing it for the freezer. Place enough of your cooked rice for one meal in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. (If you’re measuring the rice, to help keep the rice from sticking to the measuring cup, wet the cup with a little water first.) Flatten the bag without smashing the rice (this helps it to freeze faster than if it was in a big clump). Place it in your freezer, flat side down. It should keep for up to 6 months.

No need to thaw the rice in advance when you’re ready to eat it. Just take your packet of rice from the freezer and heat it up any way appropriate for your meal. To quickly heat the rice, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of liquid per cup of frozen rice. Heat it on high in 1 minute increments until it is hot.

The rice may also be emptied from the freezer bag into a pot of boiling water. Allow it to heat in the hot water only briefly, about 30 seconds (or more, depending upon how much rice you’re heating). Be sure it is hot, then drain well. Do not allow it to stay in the water too long or it will continue cooking and possibly turn mushy.

Quick Ideas for Using Rice
Here are some quick serving ideas for using rice, as provided by

• Heat up cooked rice with milk or soymilk. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and honey for a delicious rice pudding.

• Make homemade vegetable sushi rolls by wrapping brown rice and your favorite vegetables in sheets of well-moistened nori.

• Use rice leftovers for cold rice salads that are great for on-the-go lunches. Be creative and add either chicken or tofu plus your favorite vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices.

• For a simple yet delicious lunch or dinner entrée, serve beans and rice accompanied by the vegetables of your choice.

• Rice as a side dish need not be served plain – spruce it up with the toppings of your choice. Some favorites include nuts, sesame seeds, healthy sautéed mushrooms, and scallions.

• Place rice and chopped vegetables in a pita bread or tortilla, top with your favorite dressing, and enjoy a quick and easy lunch meal.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well With Rice
Anise seeds, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, chervil, chili powder and chili sauce, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon thyme, lemongrass, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, saffron, sage, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, vanilla

Other Foods That Go Well With Rice
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (black, red), beef, chicken, eggs, legumes (i.e. lentils), nuts (i.e. almonds, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts), peas, sausage, sesame seeds and paste, shrimp, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, fennel, greens (Asian), kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, pumpkin, rhubarb, sea vegetables, spinach, squash (summer), tomatoes, vegetables (spring)

Fruit: Coconut, dried fruit (i.e. apricots, plums, raisins), lemon, lime, oranges, pineapples, plantains

Other Grains: Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, farro, millet, oats, rye, wheat (as in pilaf with orzo), wild rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (Swiss), coconut milk, cream, milk, yogurt

Other: Soy sauce, stock (vegetable), sugar (esp. brown), tamari, vinegar (rice)

Cuisines and Dishes that Commonly Include Rice
American cuisine (esp. Southern and Southwestern), Asian cuisines, beverages (i.e. horchata), stuffed cabbage, Caribbean cuisines, casseroles, chili (vegetarian), Chinese cuisine, custard and puddings, fried rice, Indian cuisine, Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, Korean cuisine, meatballs, Mexican cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisines, paellas, pilafs, risottos, salads, soups, Spanish cuisine, stuffed mushrooms and vegetables, Thai cuisine, veggie/bean burgers

Suggested Flavor Combos
Combine rice with…
Almonds or almond milk + cardamom + cinnamon + fruit + sweetener
Black beans + garlic + kale + tahini
Butternut squash + garlic
Carrots + onions + parsley (pilafs)
Cilantro + garlic + oregano + tomatoes
Cinnamon + milk + raisins + vanilla
Coconut + lemon
Coconut + raisins
Feta cheese + mint
Kale + scallions
Lemon + tahini + vegetables
Lentils + mushrooms + spinach

Recipe Links
53 Insanely Easy Ways to Use Rice

Garlic Butter Rice

Perfect Rice

58 Creative Rice Recipes Using Our Favorite Pantry Staple

65 Best Rice Recipes for Dinner

Southwestern Rice

Parmesan Rice

20 Tasty Ways to Make Rice a Meal

Fiesta Rice Recipe

Sarah’s Rice Pilaf

Herbed Basmati Rice

Creamy Parmesan One Pot Chicken and Rice

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Easy Steamed Green Beans

Easy Steamed Green Beans

Here’s a really simple and healthful way to serve green beans. Try steaming them, then top them with a little fat of choice (optional), lemon juice and almonds. Yum!

Below is a video demonstration and the written recipe follows that.


Easy Steamed Green Beans
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

1 pound fresh green beans
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, butter or ghee*
1 or 2 fresh lemon wedges, to taste
¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds**
¼ to ½ tsp salt, or to taste

Wash the green beans. Trim the ends and cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

Place a steamer basket in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add enough water to a level that comes below the steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Add the prepared green beans to the steamer basket and cover with a lid. Steam for 3 to 7 minutes, depending on how soft you like your beans to be. (I cooked mine in the video for 5 minutes and they were crisp-tender.)

As soon as the beans are as tender as you want, transfer them to your serving bowl. Drizzle with the oil, butter or ghee, lemon juice, almonds, and salt. Toss well and serve.

* If you prefer not to add fat to your beans, simply omit the oil, butter or ghee.

** To enhance the flavor of the almonds, they can be lightly toasted first in a dry skillet or in an oven at 350°F for a few minutes. Shake or stir them often as they toast. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn, and remove them from heat as soon as they are aromatic and starting to brown.