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The Other Holiday Shopping: Grocery Shopping

During the holiday season, it seems that all we do is shop, shop, shop. While not paying attention when you purchase holiday gifts places your wallet at risk, not paying attention when you purchase groceries can place your health at risk.

If you don’t take certain safety steps while grocery shopping, you can risk food poisoning. Grocery shopping is where safe food handling should start, by following these recommendations you can make sure the food you bring home is safe.

Milwaukee Welcomes the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, Salutes Veterans

Despite the rain and freezing temperatures, there was warmth and good cheer in the hearts of everyone who came out to catch a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and help transform Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park into Community Spirit Park on Veteran’s Day.

The fanfare also helped to honor past and present members of the Armed Forces, some of who were on hand to see a holiday bedecked park with a 50-lighted tree, Milwaukee’s Color Guard waving American flags and a larger than life 90-foot tractor trailer parked nearby.

Recycling Christmas Trees on National Forests a Seasonal Tradition

For many, purchasing or cutting a Christmas tree is a favorite seasonal tradition. But what do you do with your trees after the festivities end?

Tree recycling after the holidays has become part of community traditions on several Eastern Region national forests. Recycled trees can be used to establish fish habitats, create mulch for future plantings and build soil erosion barriers. Using the trees for these purposes also keeps them from filling up local landfills.

Land managers of several national forests in the area have found that the old Christmas trees can be used to make a cozy home for schools of fish. Fish habitats create ideal spawning grounds to ensure successful reproduction, a place of refuge and shade for the young, and shelter from predators. Also, fish habitats provide a food source – a breeding ground for algae and plankton to attract bait fish and lure larger fish to favorite fishing spots.

A Carton of Eggs - A True Baker's Dozen

 

The holiday season is a busy time of year for bakers and chefs.  From egg nog and cookie exchanges to fruit cakes and meringue pies, increased baking and gift-giving means you’ll need to know just what to look for when you buy one of your key ingredients…eggs. When shopping for eggs, consumers should look for the USDA Grade shield, for the ultimate assurance of quality.  For best results for pastries and baked goods, pay attention to the freshness of your eggs.

USDA grading of shell eggs is a voluntary service paid for by shell egg producers.  Eggs sold to consumers must be labeled with a grade.  Eggs that are not labeled with a USDA Grade Shield have not been officially graded by USDA standards.  Only eggs meeting strict USDA standards are allowed to be marketed with the USDA Grade Shield on the package.  Egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service may put terms such as “Grade AA” or “Grade A” on their cartons, but they may not use the USDA Grade Shield.

Restoration Efforts May Mean More 'Chestnuts Roasting....'

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” is a line from a song that conjures up fond holiday memories for some Americans. For others, the joy of roasting chestnuts has yet to be experienced. But the lack of American chestnuts could change in the coming years, thanks to some very dedicated people.

The U.S. Forest Service and its partners may be one step closer to restoring the American chestnut tree to parts of the mountains and forests of the southern United States. Since 2009, they planted close to 1,000 potentially-blight resistant American chestnut trees on national forests in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Thanksgiving - Brought to You by the American Farmer

Thanksgiving is a time when Americans come together to celebrate a holiday that connects each and every one of us. During this truly American holiday, we all give thanks for the previous year’s blessings and look ahead to the future. While we may bring our own traditions and flavors to the table, Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to celebrate our country’s rich history.

It has always been a special holiday to me, but this past year I developed an even greater appreciation for all that goes in to producing the Thanksgiving meal. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I spent the last six months visiting with American farmers and learning about their businesses. In my conversations with American farmers and ranchers, I am always impressed by their work ethic, ingenuity, and dedication to making sure their customers get the best products. It’s no wonder that our nation's farmers were responsible for producing nearly 7.5 trillion pounds of turkey in 2012—nearly half the world’s supply!—and are leaders when it comes to many other foods regularly featured in Thanksgiving meals.  In 2012, American farmers also produced 3.1 billion pounds of sweet corn and nearly 2.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.

Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! - Week 2

The MyPlate Team continues to share “Makeover Monday” recipes each week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page through January 6th.

This recipe was originally created for another festive day.  But everyone loved “green-mash” potatoes so much that this family favorite became part of our Thanksgiving Feast.

Since my family has an Irish ancestry, we first started making this Green-Mash Potatoes Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day.  Green peas add a slightly sweet flavor, and the garlic and pepper gives it some zip.  The white pepper is optional, especially if serving to little kids.  A sprinkle of Kosher salt on top brings out the flavors, yet the sodium is much lower than traditional mashed potatoes.  And also, kids think the chartreuse-green color is fun!

Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! - Week 1

The holiday season has finally arrived! It’s time to find your favorite family recipes and start cooking! While many of our favorite dishes help us to remember and celebrate special times, choosing healthier options can be a challenge. Let MyPlate help you find solutions with “MyPlate Holiday Makeovers.” During our eight-week series, you’ll find ways to celebrate the season with great new resources such as recipes, a new infographic, and tips for preparing your holiday feast.

Celebrate Labor Day with a MyPlate Picnic

A picnic is an easy and relaxing holiday activity. USDA's MyPlate resources can help take the “labor” out of your Labor Day picnic. You can enjoy an easy, healthy meal by following this simple MyPlate formula: 5 food groups + family and friends = fun! When planning your picnic, be sure to include more healthful choices of menu items from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and water or 100% juice to drink.

Fruit
Celebrate the end of summer by enjoying seasonal fruits. You can make an easy (and portable) fruit salad by dicing up fresh fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, kiwi, and strawberries. If you choose to include apples, bananas, or pears, just add a splash of citrus (like orange juice) to prevent browning. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this refreshing MyPlate watermelon gazpacho recipe. You can bring it in a lidded container, or divide into jars for individual portions.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue – Some Valentine Stats Pulled Just for You

It’s February 14th and love is in the air. This year more than half of us – nearly 60 percent according to the National Retail Federation – will celebrate Valentine’s Day in many different ways.  But what do you get that special someone?

If you need some ideas, you may not need to look any further than your local newspaper.  According to USDA Market News, which tracks market prices and trends, stores and retailers offer help by featuring some holiday favorites—roses, steak, lobster and strawberries—in their sale ads the week before the big day.