If you are looking for a delicious, yet healthy dessert for your Fourth of July celebration, try homemade popsicles. My family enjoys popsicles this time of year (or any other time of year for that matter).
I am excited to share our tasty apricot pop recipe! Simply pour a can of apricots (drained) and two cartons of vanilla yogurt into a blender. Blend the mixture together and then pour into popsicle molds or into paper cups with wooden sticks.
For festive, patriotic pops, you can switch up the color by replacing the apricots with another fruit:
Red: 2 cups strawberries, finely chopped
White: 2 medium bananas, finely chopped
Blue: 2 cups blueberries
Just like with the apricot pops, combine the fruit and the yogurt in the blender and blend until smooth then pour into popsicle molds. If you do not have a blender that is no problem, simply stir the fruit and yogurt together and pour into the molds – the color and texture will be different, but the flavor will still be great.
Summer is in full swing and my children love spending time at the swimming pool. My son really likes getting a treat at the pool snack bar. I let him get a treat every once in a while but I balance that by bringing our own snacks the other times. Depending on how often you go to the pool, the cost of getting treats can add up. And the options are not always very healthy. My son and daughter really need an afternoon snack, but if they are swimming actively in the hot sun, I don’t want to give them heavy foods. Here are some snacks I like to take from home.
Frozen fruit-For a sweet treat, freeze grapes, blueberries, or individual containers of unsweetened applesauce. Put in a cooler or an insulated bag and let thaw slightly while playing in the water.
Whole grain crackers-These are a good option in place of chips and can provide more fiber.
String cheese-Along with the whole grain crackers, enjoy some string cheese for added calcium. Keep them cold in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack.
Trail Mix-This is a breeze to make. Here are a couple of options Popcorn Trail Mix and Take-along Trail Mix. For children under age 3, it is best to make without peanuts and dried fruit to reduce choking.
Muffins-Make a batch of muffins and freeze them. Then thaw out when you need a quick snack. With strawberries that are in season, try these Super Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins. Put these in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack to keep them from getting too hot and sticky at the pool.
To stay hydrated, fill reusable water bottles with water and ice cubes made out of 100% juice. (Check out the June 8 blog for more tips on hydration.)
Summer is right around the corner. The days are getting longer, and kids are out of school. The warm weather is perfect for spending time outside with your kids. There are so many ways to get active in the summer – I love to hit the pool and go for walks in the evening. But with all this fun activity comes the need for yummy snacks!
Every kid loves taking an evening trip out for ice cream. But these days, one treat costs $2-5. These Apricot Pops are just as tasty as a treat from an ice cream shop, but they are much cheaper. They are made with real fruit and yogurt so they are healthier too!
Another cool treat to try is the Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast. Smoothies are so easy to make and are ready in seconds. These taste delicious and pack a punch of vitamins and minerals that healthy kids need.
Fresh fruit is so tasty this time of year that it makes a fine snack on its own. Want to get the freshest produce at the best price? Check out this video to learn to shop for seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The weather is heating up and our humid Iowa summer is just around the corner. It’s easy to turn to sugary drink mixes, sports drinks and juice boxes in the summer because they’re convenient and tasty. The problem with these is that they can be really expensive and also high in sugar. Ads would have us think that whenever we sweat we need to have a sports drink to recover. Thirst is a sign that your body needs to be hydrated, but water will do the trick unless you are doing a super intense workout!
If you’re like me, plain old water may not be for you. I like to improve it a bit and add a little flavor! Here are some Water 2.0 ideas to try out this summer.
Freeze 100% juice in ice cube trays. Add it to plain water for a kick of fruit juice flavor for less sugar and calories than a full glass of juice.
Put cut up fruit in a large pitcher of water in the refrigerator – it only takes a small amount of fruit (think one sliced lemon or lime) to flavor a large container of water.
Make water as easy to grab as a juice box by keeping reusable bottles in the fridge where little hands can reach them.
My family and I love pasta with alfredo sauce, but I am not a fan of the fat and calories that go along with traditional alfredo sauce recipes. Our recipe for June is Chicken Alfredo Pasta and it is an alfredo sauce makeover that you will enjoy. It has all the creamy cheesiness of a traditional recipe with fewer calories and less fat.
The goal of a meal makeover is to improve the nutrition of a recipe. This can be done by adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by reducing or replacing ingredients that are high in fat, sodium, or added sugar. In this alfredo sauce makeover, nonfat milk and low fat cream cheese are used in place of cream and butter. This switch reduces both the fat and calories. Combine the alfredo sauce with whole wheat noodles, broccoli, and chicken then add some fruit on the side and you have a complete meal.
Put this recipe on your menu soon, and you will have your whole family asking for more!
Chicken Alfredo Pasta
Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups
1 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
1 cup nonfat milk
8 ounces low fat cream cheese, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Remove fat from chicken and cut meat into bite sized pieces on a cutting board. Wash hands.
Begin heating water to boiling in a large pot for pasta.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet when oil is hot and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken for 20 seconds before stirring again. Cook the chicken for 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the chicken cubes every 20 to 30 seconds.
Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and is 165ºF. Cover it to keep it warm.
Cook the pasta using directions on package. Add the frozen broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot. Do not cover.
Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
Add the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.
• You can use boneless chicken thighs and legs or leftover chicken instead of chicken breasts.
• You can use other vegetables instead of broccoli.
• Add a few red pepper flakes for color and spice.
• Be sure to use a clean cutting board. Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
It is important to me that my family eat well, but being active matters too. As a working mom of two daughters I am always looking for more energy! The cheapest and easiest way for me is by adding physical activity into my day. It feels great to get the blood pumping through my body. Afterwards I always think I’m so glad I did that. But being a mom with limited time requires creativity. Currently my three favorite ways to get active are:
Take a neighborhood walk. My daughters love a good ride in the stroller. We talk about our days, and my two-year old loves to point out what she sees – birds, school buses, other kids, dogs, trees, flowers, rabbits, lawn mowers, bicycles, etc.
Walk to run errands. Sometimes I need to grab a sandwich at lunch, or return a book to the library or mail a letter at the post office. I love when it is just a few blocks away and I can walk there. A 15-minute walk to and from the store means I have completed my activity for the day and I didn’t have to find any additional time (or load kids into car seats)!
Watch you tube videos. There are so many free exercise videos out there. My daughter thinks it is so much fun to hop alongside me doing jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place, and dancing. Being silly together is a real treat for both of us.
Sarah Taylor Watts
Physical Activity Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health
Our weather in Iowa has really warmed up lately and I’ve been firing up the grill a couple of times each week. The outdoor grill is a great tool for eating healthy and if you plan well, you can also save time and money. Here are a couple of tips for using your grill the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. way!
Make the most of a hot grill. Every time you heat up your grill, you’re using fuel, either charcoal or propane. Make the most of that fuel by filling the grill, not just cooking one or two things. I like to fill one side of my grill with meat like chicken, hamburgers or pork chops. I put veggies on the other side. Zucchini (cut in half the long way), asparagus, sliced onions and large pieces of pepper grill very well. I pack up any leftovers for future meals. If I won’t get to them within 4 days, I freeze them in freezer bags. If I know I have tasty grilled meals in my fridge or freezer, I am far less likely to grab take out on the way home from work.
Stretch meat by mixing with other foods. Grilling doesn’t have to be all about meat. The most expensive ingredient in a lot of meals is the meat. You can cut down on this cost by mixing the meat with whole grains like brown rice and additional protein sources like black beans. I love to season grilled chicken with spices like chili powder and cumin and then mix them with brown rice, black beans, grilled peppers and onions. I sprinkle a little hot sauce and shredded cheese on top and I’ve got a delicious, healthy meal!
I hope these tips will help you make your grill work a little harder for you!
Last month I wrote a blog about how I plan my meals ahead and how easy it is. Well, I have a confession to make. The past couple of weeks I have not done a good job of planning meals. Between my son’s soccer practices and games and just wanting to be outside in the nice weather as much as I can, I haven’t been as committed to getting my meals planned. I feel like I’ve been in a rut making many of the same recipes for the last few months. Therefore, I am excited to have discovered a new resource from Utah State University that is all about making your own meals based on what you have on hand.
The Create Series has taught me how to prepare a variety of dishes, like casseroles, sandwiches, soups, and skillet meals without a recipe or having to run to the store. By understanding how some ingredients go together, you can mix and match a variety of ingredients to make your desired dish.
For example, to create a casserole, choose an item from each category below and follow the directions on the handout:
Choose a starch, such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, potatoes, or whole grain tortilla.
Choose a protein such as 1 can beans such as pinto, black, or white.
Choose one to three vegetables like broccoli, carrots, corn, or green beans.
Choose one sauce like a can of cream soup or a can of diced tomatoes with juice.
Choose one or more flavors like chopped onion, green pepper, garlic, or salt and pepper.
Choose one or more toppings such as breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, or grated cheddar cheese.
The Good Foods to Have on Hand handout is also really helpful. By keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with these items, you can make a variety of things to eat in a short time, even if you haven’t planned ahead.
It is very helpful to plan your meals ahead of time but when that isn’t done, use the Create Series to help you get tasty, nutritious meals on the table.
Do you ever crave take-out food? When I was in college I used to order take-out at least once a week – sandwiches, pizza, or Asian. It tasted so good and it was convenient. Unfortunately, now I live in a small town and my take out choices are almost non-existent. On top of that, I have a family of four, and take-out every week would take a lot of money out of our budget. So, when I am craving take-out, I try to re-create my favorites with fresh (and budget friendly) recipes at home. Our recipe for the month of May is Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry and it tastes better than take-out.
To make this recipe come together quickly, wash and chop the vegetables in advance when you have a little extra time. Broccoli, carrots, peppers, onion, and celery can all be washed, chopped, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to five days until you are ready to use them. Also, the next time you make rice, double or triple the amount you need and freeze the extra in freezer bags. Then, when you need rice for another recipe all you need to do is re-heat.
If there are any leftovers, this recipe stores well in the refrigerator. I think it tastes even better re-heated for a quick lunch the next day.
Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups stir fry, 2/3 cup instant brown rice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 pound lean beef or pork, sliced thinly against the grain
2 cups uncooked instant brown rice (or whole wheat noodles)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
7 cups chopped vegetables (like carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions) or 24 ounces frozen stir fry vegetables, thawed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Mix ginger, garlic powder, soy sauce, and water. Pour ¼ cup of the mix into a sealable plastic bag and save the rest. Add meat to the bag. Seal the bag and set it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Prepare brown rice according to directions on the package for 4 servings.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. When oil is hot, add meat from plastic bag and stir until brown. This will take 1 to 3 minutes. Discard liquid from the bag.
Remove meat from pan and cover it. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan.
Add chopped hard vegetables when oil is hot. Stir and cook them for 3 minutes. Add chopped soft vegetables. Stir and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add cornstarch to the saved ginger mixture and stir until smooth.
Return meat to the pan when vegetables are tender. Add cornstarch mixture and cook for about 2 minutes until bubbly.
Serve over brown rice.
Wash hands and fresh produce under running water. Trim, peel, and core vegetables using a clean knife and clean cutting board. Then chop or slice the produce.
Add a few drops of hot sauce to the ginger mixture if you like a spicy flavor.
The meat is easier to cut into strips if you freeze it for 20 minutes.
It’s no surprise that healthy eating includes fruits and vegetables. In fact, MyPlate recommendations say we should make half of our plate fruits and veggies at each meal. For adults, that is about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. For children, 1 ½ cup of fruit and 1 ½ cup of veggies will meet their daily needs.
As you plan your week’s meals, this can seem overwhelming particularly if you have a picky eater at your house. Here are some tips to make fruits and veggies a fun part of every meal.
Mix it up – choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to purchase each week. Fresh, canned and frozen varieties are all nutritious. When shopping for canned fruits, choose those packed in water as opposed to syrup. Here are some examples of fruit and veggie combinations that are $10 or less.
Work veggies into your family’s favorites. Whether it is mac and cheese, pizza or chili, there is always room for a veggie boost.
Add frozen mixed veggies or broccoli to macaroni during the last 3 minutes of cooking time.
Top pizzas with spinach leaves, chopped tomatoes and peppers.
Boost your chili’s flavor and nutrition with chopped peppers or grated carrots.
Don’t forget about breakfast! Start your day off right with fruits and veggies.
Serve fresh or canned fruit as a breakfast side dish, so quick and easy!
Smoothies are a fun way to work fruit into breakfast that children tend to enjoy. Here is a recipe for tasty and easy fruit smoothies.
For busy mornings, have breakfast ready in the freezer! Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos are ready in no time and they include veggies. Serve fruit on the side and you’re well on your way to a healthy day.
We’re not far from the growing season here in Iowa. When fruits and veggies are in season in your area, they will likely be at their peak of flavor and lowest price.
For more tips on meeting your family’s fruit and veggie needs, check out this video!