New ways to add flavor to meals

Edith Lovett Pulaski County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

The Pulaski County Fair is in town. Be sure you visit the fair for excitement for the entire family. The Open Class for the public is always a way you and others can be involved. Pick up a Fair Book to see all the different categories you can entire items in. Fair books are available at the Extension Office and at the Lake Cumberland Farmers Market.

For competition, the items must be brought to the Fair Grounds on Wednesday, July 21 after 5:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m., or on Thursday Morning, July 22 from 9:00 to 11:00. The Ugly Lamp Contest is always a popular category. You can enter your ugly lamp in the "Born Ugly" or "Make Ugly" category. Cash prizes are awarded of $50, $30 and 20.

The Lake Cumberland Farmers Market uptown, (401 East Mt. Vernon Street) in the old Food Fair Parking Lot, accepts the Farmers Markets food vouchers. The Market is opened on Wednesday from 9:00 to 1:00 and on Saturday from 8:00 to 2:00. Free, food vouchers you can spend at the Farmers Market can be picked up at the Court House on 3rd Floor. There are qualifications for receiving the food vouchers. You must be 60 years of age or older, meet the income guideline, and can receive vouchers worth $48 that can be spent at the Lake Cumberland Farmers Market. Call 606-679-6203 for more information.

Oils and vinegars are great ways to add flavor and health benefits to your diet without using butter. But with many different options of each at the grocery store, it can be difficult to determine the type of oil or vinegar that best suits your cooking needs and diet.

Oils have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Some of the commonly used oils include olive, canola, vegetable, peanut and coconut.

Each of these oils has a different temperature at which it breaks down. This helps to determine its best use. Olive oil begins to break down at very low temperatures, so it is best used in salad dressings and marinades and for sauteing or drizzling. On the opposite side of the spectrum, peanut oil has the highest heat tolerance, and it is commonly used for frying foods. Canola, vegetable and coconut oils all have a moderate heat tolerance. You can use canola and vegetable oils for sauteing, baking, grilling, roasting, marinades and salad dressings. Coconut oil is used for sauteing, baking, frying and roasting. It is also used in many cosmetic products including lip balms and skin and hair care products.

The type of oil you choose may depend on the health benefits you are looking to receive from the oil. Numerous research studies have confirmed that olive oil is rich in monosaturated fats. These "good fats" may reduce your risk of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Canola and vegetable oils do not have as many healthy fats as olive oil but are still good choices if you are looking to reduce your saturated fat intake. These plant-based oils may have health benefits including reduced risks for cardiovascular disease, insulin sensitivity, high cholesterol and inflammation. Since peanut oil has less monosaturated fats than olive, canola and vegetable oils, it may not be the healthiest choice if you want to add healthy fat to your diet. Coconut oil is made up of mostly saturated fat and has 121 calories per tablespoon. Due to its high saturated fat content, it should be used sparingly and may have a greater benefit for its cosmetic uses.

Regardless of which oil you choose to use, remember they all contain fat and calories and have a daily recommended allowance. According to MyPlate, adults should only consume 5 to 7 teaspoons of oil per day.

People have used flavored vinegars in cooking for centuries because of their antioxidant properties. Balsamic, apple cider and red wine are common types. Balsamic vinegar has a woodsy, sweet and tart flavor. It is most commonly used in salad dressings, sauces and drizzling for fruit and vegetable and meat dishes. Red wine vinegar adds a tart flavoring to hearty meals. It is used in salad dressing, soups, sauces, marinades and pickling and pairs well with beef, pork and root vegetables. Apple cider vinegar packs a lot of flavors in a small amount. It has a tangy taste with a slight hint of apple. It is used in salad dressings, marinades, sauces and soups. You can also use it to add flavor to hot and cold drinks like teas and smoothies.

More information on oils and vinegars is available in the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication, "Savor the flavor: Cooking with oils and vinegars." It is available online at or by contacting the Pulaski County office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, 606-679-6361.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

At the farmers markets you are going to find lots of tomatoes, green beans, squash, zucchini, corn, fresh greens, canned items, fresh meat, eggs, and craft articles. Check with the farmers for special prices if you need to purchase a bushel or box of fresh produce.

Today is a great recipe if you like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and fresh basil. It makes a pretty salad in addition to being delicious.

Tomato-Cucumber Basil Salad

*1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves

1 pint of cherry, grape or other salad tomatoes, cut in halves (2 cups)

1 large cucumber, chopped, 2 cups

3 green onions chopped ½ cup

1 small bell pepper, seeded and diced

3 tablespoons crumbled, fat free feta cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic or white vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Roll basils leave lengthwise, and cut across into ¼ inch strips for ¼ cup

Combine basil, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, bell pepper and cheese in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil and vinegar together. Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients and lightly toss to cover. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*If you have extra basil, dehydrate the basil to use in other recipes.

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