Stuffed Peppers

stuffed-pepper-webIt is time for a confession. Until we started testing this new recipe for stuffed peppers, I had never made a vegetable stuffed with anything. It always seemed too fancy to me and it looked like a lot of work. After testing this recipe quite a few times, I realized that it is not a lot of work to make stuffed peppers, it is actually pretty easy. It also tastes great and looks really nice, so maybe I was right on the fancy part.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that the filling can be made in advance. To make the filling, cook ground sausage or beef; then add seasoning, sauce, rice, and cheese. This filling can then go right into pepper halves to bake or it can be saved for another time. You can save the filling in the refrigerator for up to four days. You can save it in the freezer for up to three months. The best thing about making the filling ahead of time is that you can make as many, or as few, stuffed peppers as you need. For example, if you have a family of four, you could make four stuffed peppers right away and then save the filling for the other four for another day.

I hope you will not wait long to try out our Stuffed Pepper recipe.

Stuffed Peppers

Serving Size: 1 stuffed pepper halfstuffed-pepper-label-web
Serves: 8
Cost Per Serving: $0.89
Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage, turkey sausage, or beef
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 can (15 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 4 green or red peppers (softball size)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Sauté sausage and onion in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked to 155°F. Pour off any fat.
  3. Stir in oregano, spaghetti sauce, rice, and 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Wash peppers, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Arrange in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  5. Spoon sausage mixture into the peppers, mounding on the top.
  6. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Continue to cook another 10 minutes.
Tips: 
  • Do not pour fat down the drain. Pour fat from sausage into a bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator until hard and then spoon into the trash.
  • To make smaller meals, freeze filling in three or four portions. When ready to eat, thaw a portion and bake in two or three pepper halves.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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A Healthier Me in 2016: Water

ThinkstockPhotos-122401240This month on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we have been talking about setting goals in the new year.  To be completely honest, setting goals is really hard for me right now with a new baby at home.  But, in the spirit of the new year, I am going to set a public goal and you can all hold me accountable for sticking with it.

So, here it is: This year, I will drink 12 cups of fluids each day.

Drinking enough fluids is hard for me because I do not remember to do it. Then, by the end of the day, I am thirsty and I have a headache. Since I am nursing my baby, I need to make sure to get enough fluids for the both of us. I need to have enough fluids to make enough milk for my baby while at the same time preventing myself from getting dehydrated. My plan is to drink one cup of milk with each meal and then keep my water bottle within reach for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my water bottle has measurements on the side, so I know how much water I am getting throughout the day.

I have chosen this goal because I know that getting enough fluids, especially water, is essential to overall health. Most people need 10-15 cups of fluid each day. We get about 20% of that fluid from the foods we eat, especially fruits and vegetables. We have to drink the remaining 80%, which is about 8-12 cups.  I need to drink about 12 cups (the upper limit) because I am nursing; this amount is not necessary for most people.

I think it is going to take some time, but, with a little practice, I am confident that I can meet my goal. I wish you the best of luck on the goal you have set for yourself in the new year!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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A Healthier Me in 2016: A Dietitian’s Goal

Are you curious what New Year’s goal a dietitian might set? Well, it may surprise you but my goal is to increase my vegetable intake by eating more vegetables for snacks. I eat vegetables daily, but mostly at lunch and supper. However, I don’t always get in the 2 ½ cups I need each day. The snacks I bring to work most often are fruit or whole grain crackers. These are perfectly healthy snacks that I will continue to eat but I will also swap out one a few times each week for vegetables. My SMART goal for 2016 is, ‘I will eat 1 cup of vegetables as a snack 3 times per week’. If you would like a reminder of what a SMART goal is, visit last week’s blog.

Here is a list of some of the vegetables I plan to eat as snacks:

  • Baby carrots with hummus dip (try our After School Hummus)
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Broccoli and cauliflower with a bit of Ranch dressing
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Leftover roasted vegetables (Easy Roasted Veggies)

Some people might be surprised that I plan to eat Ranch dressing with my vegetables. However, I’m much more likely to eat them if I have a dip to go with them. And a couple of tablespoons of dip is not going to add so much fat or sodium that it outweighs the benefit of eating the vegetables.

To help me reach my goal, I plan to use our Veggie Tasting Party recipe and prep my vegetables at the start of each week so they are ready to go when I need them.

Now to eat my baby carrots and hummus dip……

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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A Healthier Me in 2016

It’s that time of year again when we tend to look at how we can live just a little bit healthier in the new year. For me, this means making more time for exercise throughout my day. I do alright with getting my workouts in, but I spend most of my day at a desk and I would like to work in some breaks to get my body moving throughout the day. Our bodies are not meant to be in a sitting position all day, it can damage our posture and even affect breathing. Being active for just ten minutes can help boost mental focus and increase energy.

I plan to use a strategy called SMART goals to make this happen. A goal is SMART if it is:

Specific – It identifies a specific action that will take place.

Measurable – it’s easily measured, I can tell when I’ve done it.

Achievable – it can be accomplished with my current resources.

Realistic – though the goal will stretch me, it is possible for me to do it.

Timely – the goal includes a specific timeline for accomplishing it.

So here’s my goal!

I will walk briskly for at least ten minutes three times per week while I’m at work. I will walk in the halls of our building when it is cold and snowy and outside once the weather gets nicer.

I’ve taken some steps to increase my likelihood of success:

  • I have comfy shoes at the office.
  • I have told my colleagues about my goal so they can keep me honest.
  • I have a chart to track my progress and help me remember to work in my walks.

This month’s blog posts are all about setting goals for the new year. Share your goals with us on Facebook! Sometimes letting just one other person know your goal can help you stay accountable.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken-noodle-soup-webChicken noodle soup is a go to meal for me when anyone in my family is not feeling well. I make it often in the fall, winter, and spring and even occasionally in the summer. Our January recipe of the month is Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup – a great soup for cold and flu season.

Even though it sounds too good to be true, chicken noodle soup can actually help you get well faster when you are suffering from the head and chest congestion that comes with cold and flu season. The hot broth can clear congestion and ease a sore throat; it also provides the fluids that our bodies need more of when we are sick. The chicken provides protein, which our immune system needs to fight off the germs. And the vegetables and whole grain noodles provide vitamins and minerals that boost our immune systems.

So, keep this soup at the ready to help your family fight off colds and flu this winter. It freezes well, so put some in freezer containers just in case there is a time you are not feeling well enough to cook.

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/3 cupschicken-noodle-soup-label-web
Serves: 6
Cost Per Serving: $0.60
Ingredients: 
  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 rib)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (about 4 carrots)
  • 2 cups whole grain wide egg noodles (2.5 ounces)
Instructions: 
  1. Put chicken and water in a large stock pot. Bring water to a simmer (slow boil). Cook until chicken reaches 165°F (10-15 minutes).
  2. While chicken is cooking, clean and chop vegetables.
  3. Take chicken out of water with tongs or fork. Cool in refrigerator about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, salt, celery, onion, and carrots to the pot of hot water.
  5. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove bones and skin from chicken and discard. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot of hot water. Bring to a boil.
  6. When water is boiling, add noodles. Cook according to package directions or about 5 minutes.
Tips: 
  • Any chicken part may be used for this recipe. If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, use only 3/4 pound.
  • Soup freezes well. Make ahead and freeze for a cold or sick day.
  • Other seasoning may be used instead of the parsley and Italian seasoning.
  • If you like, remove chicken skin before cooking. This will decrease fat and calories slightly.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Happy Holidays from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Happy Holidays

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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What’s In Season Now?

pomegranate fruit whole and cutIt’s that time of year when my son asks me to buy pomegranates when he sees them in the grocery store because he so enjoys eating pomegranate seeds. I think it might have something to do with whacking the fruit to get the seeds to fall out. My 2-year old daughter is now a fan of them also. They are quite tasty and fun to eat… if only the seeds were easier to get to! Here is a video that shows how to get them out without making a mess!

These days I’m also filling my grocery cart with clementines, oranges, and kiwi fruit. They are in season now, so their price is low and they taste great. While these fruits are in season during the winter, some fruits and vegetables are in season year round. These include bananas, apples, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. These fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices and with good flavor all year long. When you want or need a fruit or vegetable that is not in season, consider canned or frozen versions for a better buy. Choose fruits canned in their own juice or water and vegetables canned without salt.

For more ideas on purchasing fruits and vegetables, check out our “How-To” videos.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Cooking with Venison

ThinkstockPhotos-499155002It is hunting season, so venison is a source of protein that is both inexpensive and easy to find.  Unfortunately, many people do not know how to cook with venison, so it goes to waste.   Venison is similar in structure and taste to beef and pork, so it can be substituted for beef or pork in most recipes.  If you have it, try one of our Spend Smart.Eat Smart. recipes (Skillet Lasagna or Meatloaf) with ground venison instead of ground beef.

Here are some interesting facts on venison (source:  The New Food Lover’s Companion):

  • People often think of deer when it comes to venison, but venison actually refers to meat from deer, elk, moose, reindeer, caribou, and antelope.
  • The quality of venison depends on many factors including the age of the animal (younger animals are more tender), what the animal eats, the time of year (fall is best), and the skill with which the animal was field dressed and transported.
  • Cuts of venison are similar to cuts of pork and beef when it comes to tenderness and cooking methods.  However, venison is somewhat less tender than beef or pork because the animal gets more exercise and, thus, has less fat and more muscle.  For more information on cooking methods, check out this poster from Penn State University Extension on the cuts and cooking methods for venison.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Broccoli Salad

broccoli-saladThis time of year I know that I need to eat fewer treats and a lot more vegetables. I have a sweet tooth plus pregnancy cravings for chocolate, so it takes a lot of willpower for me to avoid the dessert table at holiday meals and parties. I can easily fill up on sweets so that I am not hungry for the nutritious foods that my baby and I need. One solution to my problem is our recipe of the month for December, Broccoli Salad.

This Broccoli Salad recipe satisfies my sweet tooth with the combination of a lightly sweet dressing and dried fruit. On top of that, it gets me the nutrition packed broccoli that I need. I get the sweetness I want and the vegetables I need in one simple recipe!

Here are some other great things about this recipe that cannot be ignored:

  • It stores well in an airtight container the refrigerator. For some, it may even taste better after a day or two because the flavors have a chance to mingle.
  • It is a quick and easy dish to take along to holiday meals or parties.
  • It can easily be packed in small containers to put in lunch bags for a side dish.
  • It is inexpensive and it will cost even less this spring when broccoli is in season.

Try out our Broccoli Salad to add vegetables to your meals this holiday season.

Broccoli Salad

Serving Size: 1 cupbroccoli-salad-label
Serves: 7
Cost Per Serving: $0.56
Ingredients: 
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 3 tablespoons cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced (1/2 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
Instructions: 
  1. Cut 1/2″ off bottom of the broccoli stem and discard. Peel the outer layer of the stem. Chop the tender inner portion of the broccoli and florets.
  2. Mix sugar, salt, mustard, and mayonnaise together in a large bowl. Add vinegar and stir with a wire whisk or fork.
  3. Add the broccoli, red onion, and raisins.
  4. Stir until mixture is coated with dressing. Serve salad immediately or store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Store salad for up to 4 days.
Tips: 
  • Choose broccoli with green (not yellow) stems and florets.
  • A bunch of broccoli usually has 2 to 3 stalks and weighs about 1 1/2 pounds. It should make 6 to 7 cups of chopped stems and florets.
  • You may use sweet white or yellow onions instead of red.
  • Wash broccoli and onion under running water.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Gifts for the Cook

kitchen scissors

Last week I wrote about food gifts I’m planning to give to family and friends. This got me to thinking about what gift ideas for me I could share with my family. As someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen cooking, I looked around my kitchen to see what I needed. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  1. Kitchen shears- I used to have a pair but they seemed to have disappeared. Kitchen shears can be used for many things like cutting up fresh herbs, cutting pizza into slices or quesadillas into wedges, or cutting poultry joints.
  2. Plastic cutting boards- I have put my cutting boards to good use. They have a lot of nicks in them where bacteria could hide even with thorough cleaning so it’s time to get new ones. I will ask for 2-3 so I can keep one for cutting raw meats or poultry and the other for cutting fruits and vegetables or ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
  3. Food Clips- I like to use food clips to clamp shut open bags of fresh spinach, frozen fruits or vegetables, or crackers. By keeping them shut tight, less air gets into the bag and keeps the food fresher and better tasting.
  4. Skillet with a lid- I use my skillet a lot when cooking for my family and it is starting to show. I like a skillet with a lid since a number of the recipes I make, like Lentil Tacos, include covering the food while it cooks.

In addition to giving a kitchen tool as a gift, consider sharing the link to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website or blog with the cooks in your life so they have a whole new set of recipes to try!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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