This month at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., we have been talking a lot about beans. We love beans because they are packed with nutrition and they are inexpensive. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite bean recipes from our website. Try one out this week, I am sure you will enjoy it!
Many of these recipes call for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. You can substitute 1-2 cups cooked, dried beans. It is easy to cook an entire bag of dried beans and then freeze them in one or two cup serving sizes to use when you need them.
There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.
- Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
- Chew beans well to help digest them.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
- When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.
As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. You might wonder, ‘where in the grocery store would I find the legumes?’
These are actually common foods that you are probably already familiar with. Legumes include beans like kidney beans, lima beans, or pinto beans. They also include peas, lentils and chickpeas.
It is a good idea to eat both animal and plant based proteins. Legumes are nutritious, low cost plant-based protein food. They are typically high in protein and fiber and they’re simple to cook. If your family isn’t sure about trying legumes, you can mix them with meat in dishes they like. This is a good way to stretch your dollar while introducing new foods gradually. Check out the slow cooker pork chili below, it’s a winner!
Here are some of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that call for legumes:
Fiesta Skillet Dinner
Slow Cooker Pork Chili
Butternut Squash Enchiladas
Tacos are a go to meal for my family. They make the menu almost every week. Our May recipe is a delicious way to change up the typical taco routine. In our lentil taco recipe, lentils are used in place of meat or fish because they are quick and easy to cook and they are inexpensive.
If you have not yet cooked with lentils, this is the perfect recipe to start with. Start by rinsing and sorting your lentils to remove any dirt or other debris. Then simmer the lentils with onion, seasonings, and water for about 30 minutes. Spoon the lentils onto corn tortillas and serve with your favorite taco toppings.
Add lentils to your grocery list this week and try out lentil tacos for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!
With the weather warming up here in the Midwest, gardens are being planted and farmers markets will open soon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on fresh fruits and vegetables that will be in season. Strawberries and watermelon just say ‘summer’ to me! Adults and children need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day for good health. In my family we usually eat fruit for breakfast or for snacks. There are some recipes on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. that make eating fruit really fun for kids including Fruit Slush, Frozen Fruit Cups, or Fruit Kabobs & Yogurt. These recipes are flexible and can be made with different combinations of fruit depending on what you like and what you have on hand.
Last week I wrote about making breakfast foods for supper. I ended up making the French Toast one night and it was a hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. We have a number of breakfast recipes on our website that could be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or supper. I’m not much of a cereal eater but I really like the Crispy Granola. You can make it to your liking by adding different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. Breakfast Splits are a fun one for kids or to have when guests are over. You can set out bananas, different flavors of yogurt, different cereals, chopped fruit and nuts and each person can make their own splits. And my favorite breakfast recipe is our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch to put in the freezer. Then I can grab one out and quickly heat it in the microwave to enjoy on busy mornings. You can also find me enjoying one at supper some nights when I’m not up to cooking!
Recently my husband got groceries and came home with a carton of 18 eggs. I usually only buy a dozen eggs so I asked him if he had something planned for all the eggs. He didn’t so I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I know it’s only 6 more eggs but it seemed like a lot of eggs to use! After eggs are purchased, they can be stored in their original carton in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Usually the “sell-by” date on the carton will expire during that storage period, but the eggs will remain safe to use. I could make hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, but I’ve had my fill of those for a while after all the hard-cooked eggs at Easter! What came to mind next was to make breakfast for supper. Scrambled Egg Muffins, Easy Quiche, or French Toast are all tasty ways to use up the eggs and change up what we have for supper. And my kids like smoothies so I could serve Fruit Smoothie to get in a serving or two of fruit. No sleeping in past this breakfast!
At the grocery store where I shop, they often have canned pineapple on special. It is usually a great deal on a great tasting and nutritious fruit. My family loves canned pineapple as a side dish for any meal, so I buy it often. My husband and son even like to drain the juice off and save it to drink later. Our April recipe is a new way to use canned pineapple – as a snack cake.
A 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple is drained and patted dry then mixed with typical muffin ingredients and baked to make Pineapple Snack Cakes. These snack cakes are versatile and can be used as a snack, side dish, or dessert. Next time you find a deal on crushed pineapple, try out this Pineapple Snack Cake recipe!
Pineapple Snack Cakes
Serving Size: 1 muffin
- 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in 100% juice
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup all purpose white flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray.
- Drain juice from the pineapple into a cup or bowl. Save the juice for step 4. Dab pineapple with a paper towel to dry.
- Whisk whole wheat flour, all purpose white flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
- Beat sugar, oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the saved pineapple juice until combined. Beat in eggs. Stir in the crushed pineapple.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Divide the batter into the muffin tins.
- Bake until the snack cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a snack cake comes out clean, about 18–20 minutes.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Pineapple Snack Cakes are great as a side dish to any meal or as a snack.
- Use pineapple tidbits or chunks instead of crushed pineapple. Drain well and finely chop.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut or walnuts on top of each snack cake before baking.
- Save extra pineapple juice to add to a salad dressing, fruit salad, or smoothie.
I have an uncle who worked for years as a sea captain. He is retired now, but has many stories of his time traveling the world on a tanker ship. He often says you should not eat certain seafood unless you are within ‘spitting distance’ of the ocean. Please pardon the picture that might put in your head!
I always found that funny as a child and as an adult I have come to wonder if it is really true. We in Iowa live in a land-locked state, so access to fresh seafood from the ocean is pretty limited. Fresh seafood is very expensive here and by the time it arrives in Iowa it needs to be prepared very quickly to maintain quality and food safety. Most of us don’t have the resources to work with that kind of product. Instead, we make use of frozen options. But is frozen fish really as good as fresh?
Frozen fish is similar to frozen vegetables in that they are frozen immediately upon harvest so the product’s freshness and quality is preserved very well. In fact, wild caught fish is often frozen right on board the ship when it is caught. Fresh seafood that is harvested in this part of the country like catfish and trout may be available fresh at a reasonable price, particularly during certain times of year. However, frozen seafood is a great option year round.
You may have heard on the news that we should be concerned about mercury in fish. Nearly all fish contain traces of mercury. Mercury is found naturally in aquatic environments. It is absorbed by fish and can accumulate in their bodies, especially in larger fish and fish that live longer. Too much mercury can be harmful for humans, especially for an unborn baby or a growing, developing child. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children avoid certain types of fish high in mercury and limit weekly seafood consumption to less than 12 ounces. Most Americans consume well below this guideline.
Many commonly eaten fish like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish are low in mercury.
Large fish that tend to be higher in mercury include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
You can eat fish and avoid dangerous amounts of mercury by choosing from the lower mercury options. If you would like to learn more about healthy seafood choices, visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Fish and Shellfish website.
Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek