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Have you tried MyPlate?

October 17, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
This month's recipes bring the flavors of the fall season while packing a nutritional punch. Photo by Alison Crane of the Garland County Extension Service

Back in the '90s, we were taught to use the Food Guide Pyramid when planning meals or deciding what to eat. The food groups were arranged in the pyramid shape according to which ones you needed more or fewer servings. Using a total diet, the guide and its 2005 updated version visually reminded people to try to make healthy food choices.

In 2011, the USDA introduced MyPlate. It was fresh way of looking at the five food groups by using a familiar image, a place setting for a meal. Where the pyramid focused on the overall, MyPlate took food choices down to each meal. Dividing a plate into portions created a useful illustration of how each food group should be proportioned on your plate for each meal. The idea is "before you eat, think about what you goes on your plate, in your cup, or in your bowl."

The recommendations for MyPlate come from years of accumulated research on nutrition. Fad diets may take off pounds quickly, but usually once research has a chance to catch up with them, they are proven to not be effective in the long run and often they are shown to be detrimental.

Because diet is one of our most effective tools we have for disease prevention, making good food choices can have a huge impact on our lives. Often times we know what we need to do, but we just don't know how to get started or maybe we need a little help coming up with a doable plan.

Why not Start Simple with MyPlate? Visit http://www.myplate.gov and get tips, ideas plus a personalized plan to meet your food group targets. You can also contact the Garland County Extension Service for more information on nutrition and available classes. Visit our website: http://www.uaex.uada.edu/counties/garland/ or call 501-623-6841. Like us on Facebook @GarlandFCS or @garlandEGF.

Since it is now officially fall, for this month's recipes I chose some MyPlate dishes that bring the flavors of the fall season while packing a delicious nutritional punch. I taste tested these dishes with my family and they were a big hit. So, instead of sweet pumpkin pie, try savory Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells. Substitute spaghetti squash for pasta and make this easy and inexpensive Spaghetti Squash and while you are at it make your own Pasta Sauce for a flavor-packed punch on top. Finally, make this super easy Cranberry Apple Pie. The cranberries really add a tasty twist to it. (For the record, I ended up using dried cranberries because the store I went to didn't have the fresh ones available and I chose Honey Crisp Apples because they are good for baking.)

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

12 jumbo pasta shells (about 6 ounces)

1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese, part skim

3/4 cup pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)

2 tablespoons basil

1/4 teaspoon sage, dried (optional, rosemary can be substituted)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 ¼ cup spaghetti sauce (low sodium)

Directions:

Wash hands with soap and water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain and place each on a baking sheet to cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, spices and all but 1 Tablespoon of the cheese. Reserve the 1 Tablespoon cheese for topping.

Spread 1 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a baking dish that can hold all the shells in a single layer. Fill each shell with about 3 Tablespoons of pumpkin mixture and place shells close together on top of the sauce.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, drizzle remaining ¼ cup of sauce across shells and then sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes more.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size -- 1 Stuffed Shell, Total Calories -- 103, Total Fat -- 4 g, Sodium -- 211 mg, Carbohydrates -- 12 g, Protein -- 6 g

Source: Food Hero Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service

Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

1 whole spaghetti squash

Topping ingredients as you choose

Directions:

Wash the skin and cut squash in half lengthwise, crosswise or in 1-inch rings. If squash is too tough to cut, microwave or bake for a few minutes until squash is warm to the touch and soft enough to cut.

Remove seeds and stringy fibers with a spoon.

Cook squash. The squash flesh should be easily pierced by a fork when done.

Microwave (shortest cooking time). Place squash cut side down on a microwave-safe dish with 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Cook on HIGH for about 12 minutes for a medium-sized squash. Time will vary depending on size of squash and power of the microwave. Squash is done when the shell can be pierced with a fork and the flesh separates into strands.

Bake in the oven. Choose a baking temperature between 350 to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil for easier cleanup.

• For a "roasted" flavor, rub cut edges with a little vegetable oil (optional), place cut side down in the pan and bake uncovered.

• For a "steamed" texture, add ½ cup water to the pan and cover with foil.

Check for doneness after about 40 minutes. Larger squash and lower oven temperatures may take longer to cook. Squash is done when the shell can be pierced with a fork and the flesh separates into strands.

Let sit for 10 minutes or until squash is cool enough to handle. Use a fork to gently scrape the inside of the squash to make spaghetti-like strands.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes:

Season the squash with a little salt and pepper or try nutmeg, onion or garlic powder.

Top with your favorite pasta sauce. Try the Quick Tomato Pasta Sauce.

Try sautéed mushrooms, onions or other veggies.

Add a sprinkling of cheese.

Include beans, tofu, cooked chicken, or cooked meat such as browned ground turkey to make a one dish meal.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: ½ cup, Servings per Container: 8, Total Calories -- 20, Total Fat -- 0g, Sodium -- 15mg, Total Carbohydrate -- 5g, Protein -- 1g

Source: Food Hero, Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service

Quick Tomato Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil or olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes

¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Diced onions and/or red or yellow peppers (optional)

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. (If using garlic powder, omit oil and skip this step).

Add tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired. Cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. For a thicker sauce, cook an extra 10 to 20 minutes to allow more of the liquid to evaporate.

Serve over pasta or use in any recipe that calls for pasta sauce.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes:

Try adding 1 teaspoon dried oregano, basil, or Italian seasoning.

Try with Baked Spaghetti Squash.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size -- ½ cup, Calories -- 60, Total Fat -- 2.5g, Sodium -- 340mg, Carbohydrates -- 8g, Protein -- 2g

Source: Food Hero, Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service

Deep Dish Apple Cranberry Pie

Ingredients:

4 apples (large, peeled, cored, and sliced)

2 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen -- I used about 1 ½ cups dried cranberries and soaked them in a little bit of warm water.)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour (all purpose)

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

2 pie crusts (prepared)

Directions:

1. Stir all ingredients (except for the pie crust) together in a medium sized mixing bowl and place in a 10-inch deep dish pie pan.

2. Place one pie crust on top of the fruits. Cut 3 or 4 slits to allow the steam to escape.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 slice, 1/10 of recipe, Total Calories -- 158, Total Fat -- 1g, Sodium -- 15mg, Carbohydrates -- 37 g, Protein -- 1g,

Source: Food and Health Communications Inc.

Print Headline: Have you tried MyPlate?

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