Tips and Recipes

En Español

Creative Movement for Cold Weather

Like Olaf from Frozen sang, “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle,” but that can’t be all we do during the cold-weather months!

It’s important to stay active year-round, but some days it’s just not possible to bundle everyone up, load the kids into the car, and drive 20 minutes to a gym or a playground for kids to get the exercise they need to stay healthy. But don’t worry! There are plenty of fun indoor activities that will get your kids moving, help them stay healthy, and fight those chilly winter blues!

Balloon Volleyball

Just like regular volleyball, the goal of balloon volleyball is to keep the balloon from touching the ground. The catch is that you can only move the balloon by blowing on it, no limbs allowed. 

Hang a piece of ribbon, yarn, or string across the room where you are playing to serve as a net. The balloon has to go over the string and land on the other team’s side of the “net” to score a point. 

If your kids are younger or less competitive, you can skip the “net” and try to keep the balloon off the floor by hitting it back and forth. Each player can only touch the balloon once in a row. 

Indoor Obstacle Course

We all know that kids have huge imaginations, so use that to your advantage by creating an indoor obstacle course! Imagine that the floor is lava, rushing water, or something else that would be unsafe to step in. Place pillows, towels, chairs, or anything else that you are okay with your kids standing on at various points around the house, designating them as “safe.” Then challenge players to get from point A to point B without touching the floor.

For an added challenge, come up with tasks players must accomplish along the way (still without touching the floor), like putting on a pair of tennis shoes, crossing over or under a certain piece of furniture, collecting certain toys, washing their hands, etc. 

Laser Maze

(This will take up some space, so be prepared to dedicate whatever area you are playing in to the game while it is going on.)

Create a web of “lasers” by stringing yarn or rope around furniture or taping it to walls, criss-crossing it back and forth. Once your laser web is built, instruct players to get through the “lasers” without touching them!

Have fun!

-Bethany Helm

What’s in Your Favorite Coffee Drink?

Cappuccino, caramel macchiato, pumpkin spice latte, extra whipped cream mocha—we all have our favorite coffee drinks. They’re sweet, delicious, and give an extra boost of energy. Who wouldn’t love that, right?

While these drinks are a tasty treat, they typically have a lot of extra saturated fat (unhealthy fat) and added sugar. While fat and sugar can be a part of a healthy diet, getting too much can be bad for your health.  

Don’t panic! You can still enjoy coffee drinks once in a while.

Let’s break down each part of the drink and see how we can make healthier choices:

Coffee: Regular coffee is really just water that has been flavored by brewing it with coffee beans. It doesn’t add sugar or fat to your drink! 

Milk: Whole milk contains a lot of unhealthy fat. Ask for 1% or 2% milk in your drink instead of whole.

Flavored syrup: Pumps of flavored syrup bring the taste and the sugar to our favorite drinks. Ask for only 1 pump or a smaller amount of syrup in your drink to cut back on the sugar.

Whipped cream: Whipped cream is mostly made of sugar and unsaturated fat. Ask for no whipped cream to enjoy a healthier drink!

Caramel or chocolate: Drizzle on top of the drink makes it look pretty, but it also adds more sugar. Since most of the flavor in the drink comes from the flavored syrup, try asking for no drizzle. You might not be able to taste the difference!

Coffee drinks are a fun treat to be enjoyed every once in a while. How will you make your coffee healthier?

By Logan Joyner

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

EFNEP cooks logo with sweet potatoes

For good reason, this classic Irish holiday casserole has survived the test of time. In this adaptation, seasonal North Carolina sweet potatoes provide sweetness and depth, while the ground turkey — cooked with traditional peas and carrots — makes this a complete one pot meal, worthy of all the festivities!

Serves 4


-2 tablespoons butter, divided

-1 lb ground turkey 

-3 cloves garlic, minced 

-½ cup onion, chopped

-¼ cup parsley, stems and leaves separated and chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried) 

-1 teaspoon salt

-1 teaspoon black pepper

-1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

-1 can peas and carrot, low-sodium

-1 cup water (plus additional for boiling potatoes) 

-1 tablespoon flour

-1 teaspoon brown sugar

-2 dashes Tabasco (optional)

-½ cup shredded cheese, low-fat


  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.
  2. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the cubed sweet potatoes and cover with water.
  3. Boil for 17-20 minutes, until cooked and fork tender.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, prep and cook the turkey. Start by adding 1 tablespoon of butter to a medium saute pan, over medium heat.
  5. Add the onions, garlic, and parsley stems until the aromatics are soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. 
  6. Add the ground turkey and break apart with a spoon.
  7. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165˚ F. 
  8. While the turkey is cooking, in a small bowl whisk to combine 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of flour. 
  9. Add this mixture to the turkey to thicken it, season with salt and black pepper and simmer for another two or three minutes.
  10. Rinse and drain the excess liquid from the can of peas and carrots and add them to the pan with the turkey. 
  11. Turn off heat.
  12. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, brown sugar, Tabasco (if desired) and season with salt and pepper.
  13. Mash to combine, using a fork. 
  14. In a casserole dish, add the turkey mixture then cover with the sweet potatoes. 
  15. Cover with cheese and bake for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted. Garnish with reserved parsley leaves.

Click here to learn more about the health benefits of sweet potatoes

Fruit Chewy Cookies


-Nonstick cooking spray 

-3 ripe bananas

-2 cups old fashioned oats 

-1 cup raisins 

-½ cup walnuts, chopped 

-2 tablespoons apple butter

-1 ½ tablespoons canola oil 

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Heat oven to 350˚ F. 

2. Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. 

3. Coarsely mash bananas in a mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients with bananas and stir to mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes. 

4. Drop by teaspoonful onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-20 minutes until browned. 

5. Remove and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Makes approximately 28 cookies.  

Whole Wheat Pancakes


¾ cup whole-wheat flour

¼ cup oat bran or wheat germ 

¼ cup old fashioned oats

1 tablespoon cornmeal 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

¼ teaspoon salt 

1 egg

1 banana, mashed 

1 cup 1% milk

1 tablespoon canola oil


1. Heat griddle to 375˚ F. 

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the whisk. Add the banana, milk, and oil. Mix well. 

4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently, just until ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix. The batter may be lumpy, but that is OK. Let batter sit for 5 minutes. 

5. Spray the griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter ½ cup at a time onto the hot griddle. Cook until edges become crisp and bubbles have formed on the top, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancake and continue cooking until the bottom is browned, about 1-2 minutes more. 

6. Serve hot with a fruit puree or sugar-free syrup.

© 2021 North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)