The Art of Self-Care

The term “self-care” is often misunderstood. This might be because it is often leveraged as a marketing gimmick. Advertisements promise us health, happiness and contentment if we just purchase the product they’re selling under the guise of self-care.

So, what is self-care? If it’s not the chocolate cake, glass of wine, exotic vacation or new piece of exercise equipment, then what is it?

Succinctly stated, self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, physical, social and professional health. This may include a wide array of activities, and is likely to change as our circumstances and needs change. Relationship expert John Gottman says, “By engaging in proactive self-care, we can create the conditions necessary for deep, mutually fulfilling connections with ourselves, our partners, families and friends.” (1999). So, by proactively taking care of ourselves we are more able to care for those people most important to us. Here are some tips to help you improve your self-care.

  • Identify what you need. The Self-Care checkup found here can help you identify an areas of focus.
  • Choose one specific thing that you WANT to work on.
  • Don’t “should” yourself.
  • Make a plan that is realistic to your life and circumstances.

Identifying legitimate self-care can be tricky. Below is a chart of examples of real versus fake self-care. 

Real Self-Care Vs. Fake Self-Care

Fueling your body with food that gives you energy and helps you improve mentally and physically Extreme Dieting
Drinking water Alcohol or Drugs
Being kind to yourself Talking cruelly to yourself to “motivate” you
Setting boundaries Saying yest to everyone because you’re a “nice person”
Spending time with people that enrich your life Socializing because of FOMO
Treating yourself to something new because you love yourself Impulse buying anything that promises to make you love yourself more
Moving your body because you can Working out as a punishment or attending a class that shames your eating habits/appearance


As you navigate self-care and the challenges and benefits that arise from an increased effort to take care of yourself remember the quote from author L.R. Knost, “Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first’ it means ‘me, too’ (202.)

References

  • Brown, B., (2010). The Gift of Imperfection: Let go of who you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Hazelden Publishing.
  • Gottman, J. M, Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York:Three Rivers Press.
  • How To Practice Self-Care: 10 Worksheets and 12 Ideas. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/self-care-worksheets/

By: Elizabeth Davis, Extension Assistant Professor




Five Ways to Find Peace by Staying Present

It is easy to get caught up in the events of the past or the future. However, doing so only brings worry and causes you to miss out on the present. On the other hand, mindfulness – or focusing on the present moment – leads to better health, lower anxiety and greater resilience to stress. Learning to incorporate the concept of “flow” is one of several ways to increase mindfulness.

Have you ever enjoyed an activity so much that you did not feel time passing? This intense absorption and involvement in what you were doing in the present moment is called flow, and it is generally pleasurable and fulfilling. In addition, the enjoyment is usually lasting and reinforcing and provides a natural high that is not accompanied by negative feelings.

Although it is easy to experience flow during our favorite activities, we can enjoy this feeling more often during other activities with practice, and experiencing flow will come more naturally. Consider these five tips:

  1. Control your attention – Try to keep your full attention on the task at hand. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the present moment. If you are having a conversation with another person, try to stay completely focused on what they are saying. Be patient with yourself as you work to develop the ability to stay focused.

2.  Adopt new perspectives – Try to enjoy life, even if it unfolds differently than you had planned. (Which it often does!) In order to do so, be open to new and different experiences, and be willing to keep learning until the day you die. 

3.  Recognize flow – Many times we do not realize that we are having these experiences. In order to create more of these in your life, you first have to recognize when they are happening so you can increase them. 

4.  Transform routine tasks – During dull, daily tasks, seek to add microflow activities to make them more meaningful. For example, while you are waiting at the doctor’s office, you could read a book or draw a picture. You could try to make your work more meaningful by viewing it as your calling in life rather than just a job. When brushing your teeth, try doing some lunges or squats. When driving, instead of listening to the radio, listen to audiobooks, podcasts or TED talks to learn new ideas.

5.  Find the balance between challenge and skills – Flow experiences occur when we are sufficiently challenged to the point that our skills are stretched, but not so much that the task seems daunting. Activities that challenge your skills too much result in anxiety, while activities that are not challenging enough result in boredom; herein lies the paradox of flow experiences. 

The intrinsic rewards of engaging in these kinds of activities make you want to keep doing them, yet you have to continue stretching yourself because your progress will eventually leave you bored during the same experiences that were once exciting. 

Finding activities that result in flow is exhilarating. Change things up by trying new things. Our brains crave variety and novelty. The key to finding flow is developing a balance between skills and challenges – finding something you are good at and enjoy, but that still stretches.

By: Dave Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, David.schramm@usu.edu and Jennifer Viveros, M.A.




May Gardening Checklist

April showers bring May flowers – as well as a multitude of gardening tasks. The Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac provides a checklist for each month as well as links for tips and further information. The May checklist follows. 

* Plant warm-season vegetables and annual flowers once the threat of the last frost has passed. Click here for a listing of the average last and first frost dates.

* By planting tomatoes deeper, they are able to form more roots along the stem, creating  a more vigorous plant.

* Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.

* Consider the various types of fertilizers. Click here for information on traditional fertilizer options. Click here for information on organic fertilizers.

              * Thin overcrowded seedlings using a pair of scissors, and try not to disturb the young roots.

              * Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for information on critical temperatures for fruit. 

              * Plant summer-blooming bulbs including gladiola, begonia, dahlia and canna.

              * Divide warm-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.

              * It’s already time to take notice of weeds. Click here for information. 

              * Allow the foliage of spring blooming bulbs (tulips, daffodils and crocus) to die down before cutting the leaves off.

              * Click here for information on planting a lawn.

              * Turfgrass needs minimal irrigation each week. Click here to learn about irrigation needs in your area.

              * In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing (April – June).

              * Control broadleaf weeds in the lawn when temperatures are between 60 and 80 F. Follow the label and stop use of broadleaf herbicides once the temperature is above 85 F.

              * Apply a slow-release lawn fertilizer to provide a long-lasting effect throughout the summer months.

Pests and Problems:

              * Monitor newly planted vegetables for cutworm and flea beetle damage. 

              * Monitor for cankerworm damage on scrub oak and Box Elder trees along the foothills.

              * Monitor for aphids on lush new spring growth on a variety of plants. Treat for aphids by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or using an insecticidal soap.

              * Monitor for slugs and snails. These pests thrive in moist, cool areas of the garden and landscape, feeding on a variety of plant hosts.

              * Protect ash trees from the lilac-ash borer around the first of May.

              * Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see the Utah Pests Advisories.

              * Treat for powdery mildew on apples beginning when leaves are emerging (at ½-inch green) until June.

              * Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May through early June.

              * Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.

              * Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.

              * Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.

              * Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website




Four Tips to Help You Avoid Food Waste and Save Money

The average American throws away nearly 275 pounds of food each year. The USDA estimates between 30 to 40 percent of America’s food supply is wasted. Not only is good food wasted, but good money, too, equating to about $390 per year per person. While no one should eat unsafe food, consider these strategies to minimize food waste – and put the saved money toward a financial goal.

1. Use fresh foods first. Most fresh and perishable foods that have to be thrown away are simply forgotten. Shop with a list and a plan ways to use the food you purchase. It can be easy to over-purchase when there are sale items, or when many fruits and vegetables are in season, so be realistic about how much those in your household will eat. Place fresh items at the front of the fridge so you see them when you open the door. Make a list of your fresh foods and attach it in a prominent place on the fridge. If you find yourself throwing away fresh produce often because it spoils too quickly, purchase reusable containers or bags that ventilate the air and keep water from sitting on the produce.

2. Store fresh foods properly. Apples can cause nearby produce to ripen or decay more quickly, due to a harmless ethylene they contain that causes food to ripen. To prevent this, keep apples in a produce bag or store them alone in a drawer in the fridge. Onions, potatoes and tomatoes last longer when NOT refrigerated. For storage tips, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

3. Understand food expiration dates. These dates are not created equal, are not required by federal regulations (except infant formula) and do not necessarily mean food is unsafe or expired.

a. The “sell by” date simply tells the store how long to display the product. Consumers should eat or freeze within 3-5 days of the date printed on fresh meat packages.

b. The “use by” dates refer to peak quality, but are not safety dates (again, except infant formula). They are found most often on fresh and chilled foods such as bagged salads.

c. “Best if used by/before” dates indicate when food will have the best quality or
flavor. Even if the date has passed, the food should be safe if stored and handled properly. Moisture, time and temperatures affect how quickly food spoils.

4. Use safe methods for preserving foods. Freezing is the quickest way, and most foods freeze nicely. Dehydrating, canning and freeze-drying are other options. Don’t preserve food that is starting to spoil, as this will affect the quality of the final preserved product. Be sure to follow safe USDA-approved food preservation and storage recommendations. Check out USU Extension’s website at canning.usu.edu, or contact your local county Extension office for further information.

By: Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor,  Melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




Home Sweet Home: Is It Best to Rent or Buy?

Paying rent each month isn’t just for college students or young families not yet settled in a career. Overall, home ownership in the U.S. has declined for the past 10 years since peaking in 2009. At the end of 2020, the rate hovered around 65%.  (https://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/files/currenthvspress.pdf) If you plan to rent in the future, consider these points:  

Advantages of renting:

  • Affordability – Monthly rent can cost nearly 1/3 less than the amount of a house payment.
  • Down payment/deposit – While some landlords require a deposit equal to first and last month’s rent up front, most contracts allow for a sizable refund at the end of the lease for reliable, responsible renters.
  • Flexibility to relocate – With an uncertain job market or perhaps more schooling in your future, living under a short-term contract allows more mobility.
  • Few maintenance expectations – Yardwork, main appliances, carpets, pipes, etc., are often repaired or replaced by the landlord.

Disadvantages of renting:

  • Security – How protected are your belongings inside your apartment? Are you in a safe neighborhood? How is the lighting and protection for your vehicles? Are windows and doors secure with sturdy locks? Check these out before you sign.
  • Personalizing or customizing – You may be limited in what you can hang on walls, paint and carpet color and possibly window coverings.
  • Space and noise – Apartments and many condos are not known for having large living spaces or being sound-proof.   

The majority of Americans still lean toward owning their own home. However, because this type of ownership is likely to be a long-term commitment, it is useful to review the advantages and disadvantages of this option as well.

Advantages of buying:

  • Freedom to individualize – When you own your space, you get to choose paint colors, carpet and appliances and determine how you decorate.
  • Pride in ownership – If owning your own home has been your goal, this will feel like a major accomplishment. 
  • Sense of community – You now belong to a neighborhood and can build relationships and a sense of belonging.
  • Ability to design and groom your yard and garden – You can reap the calming benefits and satisfaction many people find as they spend time outside working in nature and growing their own flowers and produce.

Disadvantages of buying:

  • Down payment – One of the major obstacles for potential homeowners is qualifying for a long-term loan. You will likely need a minimum of 3.5 to 10% of the total loan amount  as a down payment. When the down payment is less than 20%, the lender will likely require mortgage insurance, and the interest rate will be adjustable.
  • Mortgage payments – The thought of living on a reduced income due to monthly mortgage payments, for not just months but for decades, may seem overwhelming! Homeownership is a major financial commitment.
  • Insurance and property taxes – You will now need to purchase home-owner’s insurance to protect your investment and also pay property taxes. These can be included in your mortgage payment (through an escrow service), but the trade-off is less money in your savings account earning interest.
  • Municipal/utility fees – Moving from a single-rental payment that includes utilities will come to an end with home ownership. You will now begin paying monthly city/municipal fees such as water, electricity, sewer, etc.
  • Upkeep and maintenance – The yard and maintenance costs covered by a landlord when renting are now your responsibility. Experts recommend you plan on spending 1% of your home’s value per year to cover maintenance. 
  • HOA fees – It is possible that you may move into or build a home that is part of a home owners association (HOA). These fees may include hiring someone to take care of the grounds. There may also be fines if the yard isn’t maintained, sidewalks aren’t cleared or other HOA regulations aren’t met.

Approach home ownership with your eyes wide open. Consider enrolling in an online or face-to-face first-time home-owner education course. It will likely save you unexpected financial surprises during the process. If renting is the best option for your current situation, study that as well. 

            USU Extension offers an online home buyer education course for $60. For information, visit https://extension.usu.edu/hbe/.

            Other sources of information for renting vs. buying include:

https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/buy-rent

https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/gh5002.

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu,

435-586-8132




Establishing Smooth Transitions after Divorce

Household transitions, when children leave the care and responsibility of one parent to be with the other parent, can be emotional for children and parents alike. Establishing a routine for these transitions is beneficial for residential parents, nonresidential parents and children. Although there is no correct way to handle these transitions, good communication about how it will happen can make it easier for everyone. Consider these tips. 

  • Select a set pickup and return time. Having a set time when children are picked up and returned creates continuity for them. It is important that they know what to expect and when. If something unforeseen happens and a parent cannot make the visit or pickup when planned, they should let the children and other parent know as soon as possible. 
  • Choose a pickup location. It may be beneficial to pick children up at a neutral location. This could be daycare, school, a grandparent’s house or afterschool activities. This will lower the chances that the children will become caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict. It will also help children avoid saying goodbye and leaving one parent to be with the other. 
  • Ease children’s feelings of guilt and stress. Children often feel guilty when they leave a parent. It can be difficult for children to go through repeated separations and reunions. Parents should encourage their children to talk about their feelings. Children need to know from both parents that it is okay to love and see the other parent. It is important that children are not used as spies or messengers between parents.
  • Get to know your children’s friends. Allowing children to invite their friends to their house or to join family activities shows them that their parents are interested and care about who they spend time with.
  • Involve nonresidential parents. Children need regular contact with their nonresidential parent. Both parents should stay actively involved in their child’s life. A positive relationship and regular connection with the nonresidential parent help promote a positive adjustment for the child.
  • Get involved in children’s school activities. Nonresidential parents should make an effort to attend parent-teacher conferences, sporting events and other school activities. This keeps parents involved in their children’s lives and lets them know that both parents want to be there for them.
  • Establish regular household routines. Avoid the “Disneyland parent” syndrome of doing strictly fun activities when the children are visiting. Children need structure and routines. Knowing what to expect when they are at each house will make their transition easier.

By: Shannon Cromwell, Utah State University Extension associate professor, 435-283-3472




April Gardening Checklist

April showers (and work in the garden) bring May flowers (and plants). Consider these tips to help you prepare! Included are links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac.

  • Consider planting peas in the garden every 2-3 weeks (until early May) to extend the harvest.
  • Click here for information about how to plant and harvest rhubarb.
  • Check out the fact sheets produced by USU Extension. We have over 55 on herbs and vegetables!
  • Mechanically control young garden weeds by hoeing or hand pulling.
  • Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for critical temperatures in fruit.
  • If storing bulbs, check their condition to ensure they are firm, and remove any that are soft or rotten.
  • If locally available, plant bare root trees and shrubs, keeping the exposed roots moist until planted.
  • Wait to prune roses until after buds begin to swell to avoid late frost damage to new growth.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs (those that bloom before June) after they have bloomed to encourage new flower buds for next season.
  • Divide crowded, fall-blooming perennials.
  • Divide cool-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.
  • Apply chelated iron (FeEDDHA) to plants with prior problems with iron chlorosis.
  • Use organic mulches (wood chips or bark) to retain soil moisture around shrubs and trees.
  • Plant a tree to Celebrate National Arbor Day. The USU Tree Browser offers an interactive list of tree species adapted to the Intermountain West.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicides in late March to mid-April to control annual weeds in your lawn, such as crabgrass and spurge.
  • Click here for information on planting a lawn.
  • In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing in April to June.
  • Check sprinkler systems for leaks. Also, clean filters and fix and align heads.

Pests and Problems:

  • Download the Utah Home Orchard Pest Management Guide.
  • Learn about common problems in peaches and nectarinespearsplums or apricots.
  • Reduce chemical use to promote beneficial insects in your landscape.
  • Treat for Coryneum blight in stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums) at shuck split, approximately 10 days after flower petals drop.
  • Treat for powdery mildew on apples beginning when leaves are emerging at ½-inch green until June.
  • Monitor wet weather during bloom in apples, pears and hawthorns to determine whether to treat for fire blight.
  • Treat fruit trees for cat facing insects, such as stink bugs, to prevent dimples and pucker marks in the trees.
  • Use preventative control for peach twig borer in peaches, nectarines and apricots to help reduce twig and fruit damage later in the season. For specific timing see http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/.
  • Control spring flying bark beetles in pine trees and other conifers.
  • Protect birch trees previously infested by the bronze birch borer by applying a systemic pesticide.
  • Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.
  • Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.
  • Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website.



Seven Tips for Raising Responsible Children

As a parent, what would you say is your top goal for your children?

A common response is that parents want to help their children grow into responsible adults. This may include smaller goals such as helping them have the skills necessary to be productive members of society and helping them be healthy, happy and able to take care of themselves. To encourage and help direct parents toward achieving this goal, Cornell University Extension, Jefferson County, has created a parent guide that identifies and breaks down seven parenting tips that are worth considering.

         1. Don’t do things for your children that they can do for themselves.

Even young children can help with chores and get themselves dressed in the morning. Resist the urge to take over and solve all your child’s problems. Instead, help children learn to help themselves.

          2.Be clear and consistent about your expectations.

Make sure your children understand the rules of the household. Be consistent with your messages. If the rule is that children must finish homework before watching TV, then stick with it. Give children advance notice if you expect certain behavior. This is helpful when taking them to the grocery store or on a family vacation, for example.

          3. Teach skills and give positive feedback.

Don’t just tell your child what to do — include how to do it. For example, a young child may be told to clean up his or her toys, but showing what you mean usually works best. Older children may benefit from written step-by-step instructions. For example, to clean the bathroom they may need to know: spray down the shower walls and floor with “X” cleaner, leave for 5 minutes and then rinse with warm water and use a squeegee to dry. Give positive and specific feedback for a task or assignment done well. For example: “I love the way you folded your clothes so neatly before putting them in the drawer.”

          4. Create a home that helps children act responsibly.

Work with children to organize their space and belongings. This might mean providing bins and shelves they can reach. Make sure children know where to find cleaning supplies to do their chores and clean up spills. Set up an area for homework that is comfortable, well-lit and that minimizes distractions.

          5. Teach children that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

Everybody makes mistakes. Try not to over-react. Instead, view mistakes as a time to make new plans and take better actions in the future.

         6. Let children experience the natural consequences of their behavior. When children don’t act responsibly, don’t be a “helicopter” parent who always rushes in to fix the mistake – unless it is dangerous to their personal safety. Instead, let children experience the results of their actions.

          7. Be a positive role model.

Speak positively about your work and chores. Don’t complain about all you have to do. Instead, take pride in the things you do well.

When you make a mistake, admit it, then show how you will correct it.

These tips come from the publication found at: http://ccejefferson.org/parenting under Resources for You, Raising Responsible Children.

          A few final take-aways for parents include:

          *Children do best when they know what to expect.

          *Letting children know when they do well encourages responsible behavior.

          *Remember that you are in charge of your home.

          *Keep in mind that when children “choose” their behavior, they must also choose the consequences.

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor,435-586-8132, Kathleen.riggs@usu.edu




When to Plant? That Is the Question

Determining when to plant a garden can be especially confusing in Utah’s unpredictable, varied climate where last-frost dates can vary by many days within just a few miles.

An example of how fickle Utah’s climate can be is in Cache Valley. Frost-free days vary from an average of 113 days in Lewiston and Trenton to 158 days on the USU campus. Similar examples are common around the state.

Geographic characteristics of where you live can help in determining when to plant. When a yard is located in a populated area or on a mountain bench, it usually has a longer growing season. Other areas located at slightly lower elevations where cold air drains and cannot escape have a shorter season. This is why local commercial orchards are generally located on benches. Additionally, urban and suburban areas are slightly warmer than surrounding areas due to the urban heat effect. Heat from buildings and warmth generated by sunlight reflected from roads and other surfaces increases temperatures and delays frost. It can be helpful to talk with a local farmer or experienced gardener in your area to determine what works for him or her regarding when to plant.

In addition to frost information, it is important to consider the needs of the plants. Vegetables planted locally fall into four basic categories: hardy, semi-hardy, tender and very tender. Depending on which category a plant belongs to, planting dates vary from early spring until early summer. Consider the following:

  • Hardy vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, peas and spinach, can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. This usually ranges between 45 and 60 days before the average last frost. These same vegetables can be safely planted until the average last frost date.
  • Semi-hardy plants, such as beets, carrots, lettuce and potatoes, can be planted one to two weeks after the hardy group. These can be planted until the average last-frost date.
  • Tender vegetables, such as celery, cucumbers, corn and most beans, should be planted on the average last-frost date. 
  • Very tender plants, such as squash, beans, melons, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, should not be planted until at least a week after the average last frost. Even if frost does not occur before this time, these plants will not grow well and are more susceptible to disease until warmer weather. 

Many experienced gardeners have planted and later lost their plants to frost. If this happens to you, all you can do is try again.

When deciding the best time to plant, consider these average frost dates for various Utah locations.
                                  Average Frost Dates   
City Last First Frost-Free Days
Alpine May 20 September 30 136
Blanding May 13 October 12 153
Cedar City May 10 October 5 148
Delta May 17 September 28 134
Farmington May 5 October 10 158
Fillmore May 16 October 4 140
Huntsville June 11 September 9   89
Kanab May 7 October 20 166
Lake Town June 15 September 10   87
Logan May 14 September 25 135
Morgan June 6 September 11  98
Moroni June 1 September 18 109
Ogden May 1 October 24 176
Park City June 9 September 1   92
Price May 12 October 7 148
Roosevelt May 18 September 25 130
Spanish Fork May 1 October 13 165
St. George April 6 October 28 205
Tooele May 7 October 14 159
Tremonton May 3 October 10 160

                             
* Note that these dates are averages and can vary from year to year. For information on areas not listed, contact your local county Extension office.

By: Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, taun.beddes@usu.edu




Corned Beef and Cabbage Not Just for March Meals

Corned beef and cabbage, Ireland and leprechauns – all part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, right? Actually, these foods often associated with the holiday are not tied to Irish history at all. At any rate, it’s worth learning more about them and how to include them in your diet.

Cabbage – Eating it more than once a year is a great idea since it has no fat, is low in calories, high in vitamin C and is a source of fiber, calcium, iron and folic acid. The most common types are green and purple. Most cabbages have firm, compact leaves and are much heavier than leafy heads of lettuce similar in size.

Cabbage can be shredded and used raw as the main ingredient for coleslaw or added to green salads and tacos in place of lettuce. It can also be steamed and eaten hot with butter and seasonings or sautéed with other fresh veggies such as carrots, peppers or zucchini as a side dish. Boiling it may be the least tasty and nutritious way to prepare cabbage, regardless of what tradition touts. This is due to the leeching of color, flavor and nutrients out of the vegetable and into the water.

 Another way to prepare cabbage is as sauerkraut, but making it is a time-consuming process. Sauerkraut is most often eaten with hot dogs or on Reuben sandwiches. Note that once it is brined, aged and becomes sauerkraut, the sodium content may be a concern for those worried about their blood pressure. Check out USU Extension Create Better Health for a cabbage patch stew recipe at https://extension.usu.edu/createbetterhealth/recipes/soups.

Corned Beef – “Corned” refers to the coarse grains of salt rubbed on the meat or added to a brine mixture. A flavorful curing brine can be made by mixing pickling spices such as mustard seed, allspice, coriander and garlic with water.

Commercially prepared corned beef can be purchased fresh from delis, butcher counters or in cans. These tend to have a similar appearance and taste. However, specialty shops that sell fresh corned beef or home recipes can vary substantially. Should you decide to make your own corned beef, recipes abound online, so choose one from a site you trust.

Brisket is the cut of beef used for making corned beef. A combination of pickling spices, kosher salt and brown sugar can be combined with curing salt (sodium nitrite), which adds the pink color to corned beef. After the brining solution is created, the process takes about five days, so be sure to take this into account if corned beef is on the menu for an upcoming family meal or gathering.

Brisket is considered a lean cut of beef and is relatively nutrient-dense, containing potassium, iron, zinc, key B vitamins and oleic acid. The dietary downside to making brisket into corned beef is the increased amount of sodium absorbed from the brine. Baking a simple seasoned brisket is a good alternative.

Back to the notion that eating corned beef and cabbage is not an Irish tradition at all – if you want to delve into Ireland’s culinary history, here are a couple of websites to visit:

https://tinyurl.com/rhsksbce and https://tinyurl.com/jdmkedu8.

Whatever your St. Patrick’s Day cooking and dining traditions, remember that you can enjoy corned beef and cabbage year-round, not just for March meals.

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or 435-586-8132