The apple harvest has commenced! Get your buckets ready—farmers are gradually opening up their apple orchards for picking. Due to our absurdly hot summer, all of the crops are ripening earlier than usual. There are plenty of apple-picking orchards encircling Greater St. Louis, including:
Eckert’s Farm– Belleville, IL, Millstadt, IL, and Grafton, IL
Centennial Farms– Augusta, MO
Mills Apple Farm– Marine, IL
Thierbach Orchards & Berry Farm– Marthasville, MO
Each farm will begin harvesting their precious apples at different times, so if you want to go on a picking spree just make sure to confirm with the farm that the orchards are ready for you. Happy picking!
It’s August. Work has slowed down, the kids are tiring of their lazy summer routine, and all you want to do is go on vacation. But the reason you didn’t plan one already is because vacations are SO expensive. What is the solution? A staycation of course!
Staycations are exciting because you make your own rules. The only defining factor is that you sleep at home, therefore saving all of the money that would normally be spent on travel and lodging. Beyond that simple restriction the time is yours! Below are some ideas for creating a special staycation in St. Louis.
1. Set rules for use of electronics, seeing friends, doing errands, answering the phone, responding to emails, and anything else that signifies routine life.
2. Try out new restaurants. Limit the amount of cooking you do so that you can maximize your leisure time
3. Enjoy lots of private time in your backyard lounging and playing around. It is very convenient if you have a pool, but if not just set up some sprinklers and a Slip ‘n Slide!
6. Take advantage of Forest Park-all of it. Swim in the fountains below the World’s Fair Pavilion, walk around in the art and history museums, rent paddle boats, eat at the Boat House, experience the Jewel Box, enjoy the zoo, and top off the day with a show at the Muny.
BUG BYTE: There are 176 species of mosquitoes in the United States. Be sure to protect your family from the dangerous diseases mosquitoes can carry by using a barrier spray on your property or with the proper use of DEET.
[This was written by Rachel, a guest blogger interning at Mosquito Squad this summer.]
Peanut butter is one of my all time favorite substances. It is delicious when eaten by the spoonful and also has the ability to make other foods taste 1,000 times better. Of course, it isn’t the lightest food out there, but it is so filling that I argue it is worth the calories and saturated fat. And hey, it has protein and is low carb! So there.
Here I am focusing on two categories of peanut butter consumption. The first one involves using peanut butter to make something healthy taste much more exciting, whereas the second category is all about adding peanut butter to foods that are already very indulgent.
5 ways to combine peanut butter with healthy food:
1. FRUIT—Spread peanut butter on the entire length of a banana and then slice the banana. Eat the pieces with a fork to feel sophisticated.
2. FRUIT+VEGGIES—Scoop 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into a bowl and use it as carrot or apple dip.
3. PROTEIN+FRUIT—Spoon 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt into a blender. Add one sliced or mashed banana, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. This delicious chocolate PB banana smoothie is low in sugar and packed with protein.
4. PROTEIN—Spread peanut butter on a piece of fat free bologna. Roll up the piece of bologna and eat it. Sure, bologna is heavily processed, but if you’re trying to avoid carbs then this is a very smart and satisfying snack!
5. FIBER—I might be the only person in the world who loves peanut butter enough to do this, but sometimes when I eat Kashi Peanut Peanut Butter bars I make them more palatable by spreading peanut butter on top of them. Some may call that excessive. I call it consistent.
5 ways peanut butter can take indulgent foods to the next level of decadence:
1. CHOCOLATE—mix peanut butter with chocolate chips. I usually use a 1 to 1 ratio of chocolate to peanut butter, but to each her own.
2. ICE CREAM—use vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chip cookie dough, cookies and cream, or any other type of ice cream that you deem a good match for peanut butter (disclaimer: I do not take responsibility for ruining your bowl of strawberry ice cream). For each scoop of ice cream, add a spoonful of peanut butter. Now use a sturdy metal spoon to stir the peanut butter into the scoop of ice cream. It will be slow going at first, especially if the ice cream starts out really cold. Eventually the consistency will become slightly thinner like soft serve and the peanut butter will completely mix in. Enjoy your peanut butter soft serve ice cream! The wonderful thing about it is you can add as much PB as you please!
3. S’MORES—Spread peanut butter onto one of the graham crackers before encasing the marshmallow and chocolate. The warmth of the roasted marshmallow will melt the peanut butter. YUM!
4. BROWNIES—Technically the peanut butter could be added during the baking process or used as frosting. I enjoy the challenge of baking it into the brownie. You have to very deliberately spoon it out in a swirly pattern without letting it sink all the way to the bottom or clump up in huge blobs. Regardless of whether you bake the PB into the brownie or add it after the fact, your brownies will thank you.
5. WAFFLES—This is my favorite creation to eat in the morning. You make a waffle, spread peanut butter on top of the entire thing, and then drizzle maple syrup all over. The peanut butter melts and the maple syrup really brings out the flavor, causing this combination to taste like freshly baked peanut butter cookies.
Well, those are all of my PB secrets. I recommend using JIF regular creamy peanut butter for all of the aforementioned delicacies because it is my personal favorite, but of course you should use whichever variety of peanut butter tastes best to you. If you are trying to be as health conscious and natural as possible, then I highly recommend grinding your own peanuts at Whole Foods and then salting it yourself depending on your taste preference and health needs. I advise avoiding varieties of peanut butter that are reduced fat or reduced calories because the manufacturers usually add in other (often unnatural) ingredients to make up for the reduction.
Healthy grilling tips from the registered Dieticians and NutriFormance
1. Choose LEAN cuts of meat: Using baby back pork ribs instead of beef short ribs saves 300 calories and 17 grams of saturated fat for every 6 ounces. Choose 93% lean ground beef, bison, loin cuts, fish, chicken sausage, and veggie burgers for fun alternatives to traditional burgers.
2. Pile up the PRODUCE: grill asparagus, peppers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, beets, mushrooms, artichokes…and the list goes on. Sprinkle a dash of olive oil and pepper to bring out the vegetables’ natural flavor. Add a smoky twist to fruit by grilling pineapple or pears with honey for a warm dessert.
3. SPICE things up: choose spices or powders for flavor to help cut out the added salt. Also consider adding citrus juices like lemon or lime to for extra flavor and health benefits.
4. Get proper grilling TOOLS: soak wooden skewers for 30 minutes before grilling for creative meat and veggie kebob combinations. This will keep wood skewers from burning. Use a meat thermometer to take the guesswork out of grilling meat (beef = 145 degrees, pork = 160 degrees, lamb = 145 degrees, poultry = 165 degrees).
5. Avoid CANCER causing compounds: use a wood plank to prevent direct contact between meet and grill flames (where carcinogens can form). Grilling on a wood plank also enhances the aroma and flavor of the meat. In addition to grilling on wood, integrating antioxidant rich vegetables, fruits, spices, olive oil, and citrus juices into the meal can also help fight these cancer-causing compounds.
Get more grilling tips in the full article by Molly Kimball, RD: http://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2012/06/5_ways_to_stick_to_a_healthy_d.html
Summertime and the EATIN’ is easy…
…thanks to the dedicated farmers that bring their fresh, locally grown produce right into our neighborhoods. It couldn’t be any easier to make sustainable food choices with so many fantastic farmers’ markets scattered throughout Greater Saint Louis! Check out the table below for current information about the local markets.
I personally frequent Soulard, Clayton, Kirkwood, and Webster Groves Farmers’ Markets.
Soulard is special because it is HUGE, has a permanent structure, and is open year-round on Fridays and Saturdays (and Wednesdays and Thursdays May through September). This is the best market to visit if you’re looking to get all of your groceries from local farmers. There is an extensive meat and cheese selection, and if you get hungry while you are there you can make a stop for peanuts, donuts, or a full-blown meal.
I go to Clayton Farmers’ Market because there are wonderful fruit stands as well as several quality baked goods vendors. On top of these typical farmers’ market items, Clayton also lures in the crowd with Straub’s BBQ, Belgian waffles, farm sandwiches and fresh tea and coffee!!! Take your kids—this time it is socially acceptable for them to be eating as you continue to shop for food…
Kirkwood Farmers’ Market stands out because it is open every day of the week. And, Saturdays at Kirkwood outdo Saturdays at the other markets thanks to the live music at 10am in June, July, and August. AND Kirkwood has Tro-Mo (“Tropical Moose Shaved Ice” for those of you who aren’t abbreviation-crazed teens).
Webster Groves Farmers’ Market is truly a community center. Of course their mission is to promote healthy eating and locally grown foods, but your kids won’t even realize that they are becoming sustainability champions as they enjoy “Kids at the Market” on Thursday nights.
Ticks are proving to be a prolific pest this year in St. Louis because of our mild winter and lack of frost this spring. Over the last month I have had at least 30 people call with concerns about ticks compared with three people the last two years! Ticks might be little, but they pack a mighty punch. There is reason for concern: Ticks carry serious diseases for humans AND pets like Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, STARI and Erhlichiosis. The CDC’s website offers extensive information on these tick-borne illnesses.
The three most prevalent ticks in Missouri are deer ticks, lone star ticks and American dog ticks. They live in moist, humid environments especially near wooded and grassy areas, so after being in these areas be sure to check yourself, children and pets for ticks.
Ticks are often found in these areas of the body:
- Under the Arms
- Around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Around the hairline and scalp
- Between the legs
The quicker a tick can be removed, the less of a chance for infection. Most infection occurs when ticks are attached for at least 24 hours.
To remove an attached tick, wearing latex gloves use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out. Be sure not to twist the body. Be careful not to break the tick. Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol. Use rubbing alcohol to kill the tick by soaking it in a container. If you encounter a nest of seed ticks (tick larvae) quickly remove clothing and bathe in warm soapy water. It’s possible to encounter thousands of these little creatures at one time!
Remember the 5 Ps for Tick Protection:
PRUNE: Prune all tree branches and shrubs away from the edge of the lawn and place a path of wood chips, mulch or gravel between woods and lawn. Remove as much honeysuckle as possible from your property. Honeysuckle is an invasive, noxious plant that provides nesting areas for animals that carry ticks like deer and rodents.
PITCH: Pitch any leaf litter or yard debris before ticks can settle in and make a home.
PREVENT: Prevent deer (which carry ticks) from gathering in your yard by eliminating deer food sources like groundcovers.
PROVIDE: Provide children with vegetation free play areas. Place play equipment on a bed of mulch or wood chips.
PROTECT: Protect your family and pets with a professional barrier spray program that eliminates adult ticks. Apply DEET bug repellent if you are going in the woods or other areas where ticks are present. Apply Frontline Plus or Advantix to dogs to keep ticks from attaching to them. Mosquito Squad can also protect your yard with tick tubes. Visit MosquitoSquad.com to read more about them.
BUG BYTE: One tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs!
Have you heard about the newest craze, a website called Pinterest? It’s a social network that allows users to organize and share interests by “pinning” images or videos to their own virtual bulletin boards. Users can “pin” items from the internet or “repin” items found on others’ boards. Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests. You must be invited to join, so let me know if you want an invitation. Watch out…it’s addicting.
Check out Mosquito Squad of Greater Saint Louis’ Pinterest page. It’s a work in progress, as most Pinterest pages are. From veggie gardening to outdoor parties, we’ll give you all sorts of fun ideas to help make your outdoor living fantastic! Be sure to follow us. It will be worth your while!
St. Louis skiing may sound like an oxymoron to some, but head out to Hidden Valley and you’ll see that’s not the case! Located a few miles from Highway 44 near Eureka, Hidden Valley offers a day of fun for the whole family no matter what your ski level. This is one reason to enjoy St. Louis winters!
We went to Hidden Valley yesterday a few days after getting three inches of snow. We ski in Montana every Christmas, so we are used to massive mountains and lots of snow. Upon arriving my daughter said, “This reminds me of Montana.” I giggled to myself…ahhh…seeing things through the eyes of a child. Hidden Valley couldn’t have asked for a better compliment!
Lift tickets and rentals for one adult and two children were $174. Helmet rental was an additional $10 per helmet. Renting equipment was super easy with no lines. (I was warned by a friend who works at Hidden Valley to arrive right at opening because the lines at rentals can get very long). The equipment is basic, which is fine because the skiing isn’t too difficult. Be sure to bring quarters for the lockers to store your personal items while you’re skiing.
With three ski lifts and a magic carpet leading to the bunny slope, there is quick, easy access to the nine or so runs. The mountain is 300 feet high and some of the runs are surprisingly longer than I figured possible. There are lots of beginner skiers and the typical teenagers who go faster than they should, so stay alert. HV offers private lessons and ski school for skiing and snowboarding. I highly recommend lessons if you are a beginner.
We had a blast skiing all day on black diamonds! Of course these aren’t like black diamonds out west, but now my girls can say they’ve skied black diamonds. Skiing was best on the “backside” of the mountain…not many people which means the snow wasn’t very “skied-off” exposing icy patches. I can honestly say that HV exceeded all of my expectations. We had such a pleasant day, and we can’t wait to go back. Next time the girls are excited to try the tubing at Polar Plunge and Nastar, which is a national racing program. If you’re interested in Nastar, it costs $5.00. You pay at the top before you race down, so don’t forget cash.
If you’re looking for some outdoor fun in the middle of winter, be sure to head to Hidden Valley. It’s no Vail or Aspen, but they do a good job. Put it on your calendar…you won’t be disappointed!
BUG BYTE: We’re headed to the Mosquito Squad Annual Meeting this week. Can’t wait to learn some new stuff to keep us the best and smartest in mosquito and tick control.
Happy New Year! Mosquito Squad wishes you a happy and healthy 2012!
I have a love/hate relationship with January. I enjoy the “organize your life and house” feeling that January brings, but I despise the cold weather and the cabin fever that accompany winter. One positive thing…winter solstice has come and gone and the days are now getting longer, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that easy summer living is still months away. Until then, I have some fun iPhone apps that keep me connected to the great outdoors in some form or fashion.
iBird Explorer Midwest With tons of rich information in its database, iBird is worth the $4.99. This cutting edge field guide to 585 birds in the midwest will keep you entertained for hours. Be sure to check out the bird songs and calls. They might come in handy while you’re hunting your Thanksgiving turkey. Seriously though, this fascinating app has everything you need to become the neighborhood ornithologist except the binoculars of course.
Accuweather Whether you need to check the weather for school bus pick up or for a trip across country, Accuweather has all you need. You’ll never use the weather app that comes standard on the iPhone again. Another bonus…it’s free!
Photo Garden There is nothing sweeter than a new crocus popping up in the dead of winter. Now I can photograph and document it along with every other plant in my garden throughout the year. Photo Garden is a fun, visual way to keep track of ever evolving plants. It’s so simple: 1. Name the garden. 2. Take a picture of the entire garden. 3. Add each plant found in the garden. 4. Each week update the photos of your plants and garden. 5. Enjoy your collection over time. You can even email pictures of garden successes (and failures) to friends and family. Finally, that prize winning tomato plant will get the attention it deserves. All of this for just $.99!
Planets Release your inner Galileo with this FREE app that’s sure to be a family-pleaser. Just set your location and your iPhone will teach you things about the solar system that will definitely make you smarter than a fifth grader!
Postcards on the Run Who doesn’t love getting a postcard in the mailbox? But with email and texting at our fingertips, hardly anyone sends them. Postcards on the Run combines today’s technology with the nostalgia of mailed postcards. Simply snap a picture, tap a message (along with an address) and press send. Postcards on the Run does the rest making sure your postcard arrives in your loved one’s mailbox. Surprise your grandparents or college roommate with a keepsake they can hold close to their heart. It will make their day…and you’ll look clever at the same time! The app is free but each postcard costs approximately $1.50.
Do you have any fun apps that I need to know about? I’d love to hear from you.
So it goes without saying that it’s hot outside—and the next few days are going to be hotter. The end of summer is upon us, weighing heavy with humidity. It’s almost September, and this heat makes me want to get out of the kitchen. (If the truth be known, I’ll take summer heat over winter anytime! I’m just always looking for an excuse not to cook)! It’s Labor Day on Monday, but that doesn’t mean you have to labor in the kitchen!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten really good at finding yummy snacks and treats on the go, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car. Pretzel Boys for a salt fix, Tropical Moose for shaved ice. Chick-fil-A makes a mean lemonade. And this is St. Louis—people do love their frozen custard. I understand the obsession with Ted Drewes, so I know I’m committing sacrilege here, but I prefer Baskin Robbins! Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate is to die for!
It is prime farmers’ market season, too. And in the Midwest, that means corn on the cob so fresh that it doesn’t even need cooking (bonus)!, heirloom tomatoes that I eat like apples and countless varieties of juicy fruits.
Here is one of my all-time favorite summer recipes—I call it “green gazpacho.” No cooking involved, just some washing, a bit of chopping and a couple presses of a “puree” button and you have a cool lunch, snack or dessert. My kids love it, too. They get a kick out of the bright green color twisting its way through their bendy straws, and I get a kick out of tricking them into eating fruits and veggies that they normally refuse.
Let me know if you have any favorite summer recipes that take advantage of all the fresh produce—and don’t involve a heat source!
Bon appétit, and stay cool!
Green Gazpacho (makes five 1-cup servings)
- 1/2 a honeydew melon
- 2 cups green grapes
- 1/2 a peeled cucumber
- 1/2 a green pepper
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed
- Zest and juice of a lime
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley
- Optional: quartered grapes and diced cucumber, pepper and avocado for garnish
Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. A perfect treat for Labor Day Weekend.
BUG BYTE: Mosquitoes are still active in St. Louis until late October. Mosquitoes function best at 80 degrees, become lethargic at 60 degrees and inactive during consistent 50 degree weather.