My children are at an age when they need to eat two snacks every day. Just last week I skipped the morning snack one day because we went to the library and on a bike ride. By lunch time both of them were laying on the couch crying. I made a quick lunch, got them fed, and all was good again, but it reminded me how important snack time is for young children. Their bodies are growing, but their stomachs are still small, so they need their food spaced evenly throughout the day.
If you are looking for a new snack for your family, try out our July recipe – Peanut Butter Balls. They have peanut butter, beans, and oatmeal – all of which will give you energy and fill you up until your next meal. After I make this recipe, I lay the peanut butter balls out on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Once they are frozen, I put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. When snack time comes around, I grab two out of the freezer for each person, let them thaw for a few minutes, and then we enjoy them.
I hope you enjoy this Peanut Butter Ball recipe too!
Peanut Butter Balls
Serving Size: 2 balls | Serves: 25
1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
Mash the great northern beans with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
Add the honey and vanilla. Stir.
Add peanut butter. Stir until blended.
Stir in the oatmeal.
Wash hands. Use a tablespoon to scoop up some of the peanut butter mixture. Shape the mixture into balls (makes 50 balls).
Store leftover balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This recipe is not for children under age 1 because it contains honey and peanut butter.
You can use a blender or food processor to mix ingredients before shaping into balls.
You can store peanut butter balls in the freezer. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag. Thaw for 5 minutes before serving.
Make fruit kebabs using a toothpick or kebab stick. Add washed fresh fruit pieces that will not brown such as kiwi slices, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices.
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.)
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.
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!
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!
Shredded pork sandwich is an easy meal for a busy day. This is the type of meal that I like to have on my menu each week because some nights I am too worn out to put much energy into a meal. All you need to do is:
Pull your leftover cooked pork from our January recipe out of the freezer,
Thaw it in the microwave,
Make coleslaw to top the sandwiches while the pork is thawing,
Put your sandwiches together, and
Serve with some fruit and a glass of milk for a complete meal.
Since that recipe was so easy, I would like to take a moment of your time and talk about something a little more difficult – menu planning. I plan a menu each week based on the food that I already have on hand. This saves me money at the grocery store because I only buy what I need. I like to keep my menu flexible by listing seven supper meals (I go shopping once per week). Instead of assigning one meal to each day, I let the way each day is going dictate which meal I choose. For example, if I am having one of those days when I am feeling too worn out to cook, I choose an easy recipe like shredded pork sandwiches. If you would like more information on menu planning, the SpendSmart.EatSmart website has a great section on menu planning.
I hope you enjoy this shredded pork sandwich recipe!
Shredded Pork Sandwich
Serving Size: 1 sandwich
Cost Per Serving: $1.72
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1/3 cup light mayo
3 tablespoons cider or white vinegar
1 package (16 ounces) shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded pork (from pork chili featured in January recipe)
4 whole wheat buns
4 tablespoons barbeque sauce
Make the coleslaw
Mix sugar, salt, mustard, and mayo together in a large bowl. Add vinegar and stir with a wire whisk or fork.
Add the shredded cabbage to the bowl. Stir until ingredients are mixed well. You will use half the coleslaw for the sandwiches. You can use the other half as a side or with another meal.
Make the sandwiches
Thaw shredded pork from the pork chili recipe, if it is frozen. Reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stop and stir. Reheat for 1 more minute. The temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Layer ½ cup shredded pork on bottom of 1 whole wheat bun. Put 1 tablespoon barbeque sauce on shredded pork. Put ½ cup coleslaw on barbeque sauce. Put top of 1 whole wheat bun on coleslaw.
• Look for coleslaw that is labeled ready to eat or triple washed.
• Coleslaw will keep for 4 days in the refrigerator if it is covered.
• This is a very quick meal because the pork is already prepared.
When it comes to eating healthy and weight loss, people tend to get confused about what kind and how much fat they should be eating. Fat is necessary for good health, however, some types of fat are healthier choices than others. Fats supply calories for energy, help protect organs and keep your body warm. They also help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you’re confused about fats in foods and which ones to eat, use the information below to learn which fats are in and which ones are out.
Here are some suggestions for ways to include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet and limit saturated and trans fat:
Use olive oil to sauté vegetables instead of butter.
Use vegetable or canola oil when baking.
Use oil-based salad dressings in place of cream-based dressings.
With a New Year just under way, many people are focused on losing weight. Unfortunately, some of the diets people follow to lose weight are not healthy. People tend to cut out foods or food groups, go on restrictive diets or spend money on unnecessary supplements and drinks. At a recent health and wellness fair I spoke at, one participant mentioned to me that she “just wanted someone to tell her what to eat”. I can totally understand where she was coming from! It seems like every day we hear about a new fad diet or food that we thought was healthy that someone says is not. It can get very confusing.
I told her to ‘model your plate after The MyPlate icon and recommendations given on www.choosemyplate.gov are healthy, sensible, and easy to remember’. MyPlate is based on a 10-inch plate so be sure to check your plate size. Forget about the fads and miracle diets, follow these simple ideas and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy plate.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables. Include more red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in your meals.
Make at least half your grains whole. One-quarter of your plate should be grains. Choose 100% whole grain cereals, bread, crackers, rice, and pasta. You might also try quinoa, barley, or bulgur.
Vary your protein food choices. One-quarter of your plate should be lean protein such as beans and peas, seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, and nuts. Visit our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website for main dish recipes using a variety of protein sources.
Switch to skim or 1% milk. In addition to low-fat milk, drink more water and unsweetened beverages. If drinking juice, choose 100% fruit juice.
When people commit to losing weight or eating healthy, they tend to focus on what they ‘shouldn’t’ eat. Instead, focus on what you should eat for good health. Go to www.choosemyplate.gov to find out how many servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and low-fat dairy you need.
When it comes to eating healthy and weight loss, people tend to get confused about what kind and how much fat they should be eating. Fat is necessary for good health, however, some types of fat are healthier choices than others. Read the blog next week to learn about the different types of fat and the foods they are in.