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Premade Versus Homemade Breakfast – Smoothies

October 13th, 2014

Fruit SmoothieMy husband has a 30 minute drive to work each morning. That means he needs to leave our home by 6:30 am so he can be to (or at least near) his desk by 7 am. He is also not a morning person, so sitting down and eating breakfast before he leaves is not an option.

Most of the time he grabs some dry cereal and munches on it throughout the morning at his desk. This is easy, inexpensive, and a healthy choice. However, I have learned that if we do not start our morning off with a fruit, vegetable, or both, my family is not likely to get all of the fruits and vegetables we need in a day. So, we have started adding smoothies to his morning routine a couple of times a week.

There are many restaurants and shops near his workplace, so he could easily stop and pick one up. These smoothies taste great, but they are expensive at $3 to $4 each. They also tend to be larger than what he can drink for breakfast, so some of it gets wasted. We can make smoothies at home that taste great and cost about $1 per smoothie. With the cost savings, we prefer to make our own smoothies. On top of that, by making smoothies at home we can make sure we are getting the fruits and vegetables we need with about half the calories of a smoothie from a restaurant.

We usually make a large batch of smoothies one night a week (about eight smoothies in a batch). I have some glass jars that hold 8 ounces and some plastic bottles that hold 10 ounces. I pour the smoothies into the jars or bottles, pop the lid on, and freeze. The smoothies need about 12 hours to thaw, so I put a smoothie into the refrigerator while I am working on supper the night before. In the morning he can pull it out of the refrigerator, shake it up to mix everything around, and it is ready to go.

Smoothie Chart

The best thing about smoothies is that you do not need a recipe. I usually use yogurt or milk, frozen berries, bananas, and fresh spinach or kale. If you prefer to follow a recipe, we have several options:  Fruit Smoothies, Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast, and Orange Smoothie.  Whether you follow a recipe or make up your own, try a smoothie for breakfast this week! Watch our video below How to Make a Fruit Smoothie!

Justine

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Sloppy Joes

October 6th, 2014

SloppyJoeWhether you call them taverns, loose- meats, made-rites or sloppy joes, ground beef sautéed with chopped vegetables, seasonings and sauce served on a bun is a hit.

We called them Sloppy Joes when I was growing up and they were always a favorite. I know my mom hid some vegetables in them, as I do now with my grandson. Our recipe calls for onion, celery and green pepper but you can easily substitute diced or grated carrots. To reduce the sodium you can also substitute tomato sauce for the ketchup (this saves 420mg of sodium!)

To save time consider making a large batch and freezing it for a quick meal. Some families buy 10 pounds of ground beef at a time and make a basic mix like this one to freeze and use in various ways like spaghetti sauce, taco filling, etc.

The cost of beef is high this year. You can save money by buying ground beef with a higher percentage of fat if you are willing to rinse the ground beef as we have outlined in the steps below. Just be sure to collect the water with the ground beef fat in a bowl and refrigerate to harden fat. Spoon hardened fat into trash so you don’t clog your plumbing.

Sloppy Joes

Serving Size:  1/2 cup meat and one bun | Serves: 5

Ingredients: sloppyjoeslabel

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped (about 1 stalk of celery)
  • 1/2 cup green or red pepper, chopped (about 1/2 large pepper)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 whole wheat buns

Instructions: 

  1. Combine ground beef, onion, celery, and pepper in a medium skillet. Add water.
  2. Cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Stir as needed. Cook until beef mixture reaches at least 160°F.
  3. Put ground beef mixture in a colander. Pat mixture with paper towels and rinse with warm water to remove fat.
  4. Return to skillet. Add ketchup, mustard, and sugar. Heat 5-10 minutes on low heat.
  5. Toast buns, if desired, in an oven broiler, toaster oven, or skillet. To use a skillet, spread buns with margarine and place face side down in skillet. Cook over medium heat 1-2 minutes.

 

Pointers from

Peggy Signature

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Eating protein foods on a budget

September 29th, 2014

protein foods blogMy total is what?!? There has been a lot of sticker shock at the grocery store lately. Food prices in general have increased in the last couple of years, but meat prices have gotten a lot of attention lately. Foods from the Protein Foods Group are important sources of protein, iron, vitamins B and E, zinc and magnesium. Therefore, it’s necessary to determine how to fit them into your diet but stay within your food budget.

Here are four tips for including protein foods in your diet and staying within your budget:

  1. Use www.choosemyplate.gov to determine how much food you need from the Protein Foods Group. The amount needed for the average person is 5-6 ounces. If you’re eating meat, this is just about the size of two decks of cards. Most Americans consume much more than this. By not eating larger portions than you need, you can stay within your food budget.
  2.  Choose both animal and plant-based sources of protein. As seen by this chart, the cost of a serving of protein varies by type. Some protein foods like hot dogs are inexpensive, but also higher in fat and sodium than other protein foods. By including a variety of protein sources in your diet, you can enjoy the kinds of protein you prefer but balance the cost. Be sure to consider nutritional value along with cost when choosing what sources of protein to eat.
  3. Watch for sales at the grocery store. When meat your family enjoys is on sale, buy extra and put in your freezer for use at a later time.
  4. Choose recipes that help stretch protein foods. For more expensive sources of protein, use them in recipes that make them go further. Soups, casseroles, stir-fry, and salads combine meat and poultry with beans, grains, vegetables, and dairy to make more servings.

Common sources of protein foods that I eat include ground beef, chicken breast, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and nuts. Here are some of the dishes I like to prepare with protein foods:

Ground Beef

Tacos
Spaghetti
Skillet lasagna
Homemade pizza
Chili

Chicken Breast

Mexican Chicken Soup
Quick Pad Thai
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Enchiladas

Eggs

Scrambled Egg Muffins
Breakfast Burritos
Egg Sandwich

Beans

Mexican Chicken Soup
Chili
Make Ahead Mexican Rollups

According to MyPlate, I need 6 ounces of protein foods per day. If I eat an egg and cheese on an English muffin for breakfast, 2 servings (2 cups) of Mexican Chicken Soup for lunch, and a serving of Skillet Lasagna for supper, I will eat the 6 ounces of protein foods recommended for me. There will also be enough Mexican Chicken Soup and Skillet Lasagna for my family to eat and we will still have leftovers for another day.

Protein foods are necessary for good health. With some planning and some go-to recipes, you can eat your favorite protein foods and stick to your budget. Do you have a favorite trick for making meat go further? Share it on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart Facebook page.

Jodi Signature

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School Spirit is in the Air – Go Cyclones!

September 22nd, 2014

CyCookingForBlogThis weekend the Iowa State University Cyclones have a football game against the Baylor Bears. We’re underdogs going into this one, but the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team is hoping for a Cyclone victory!

I like to go to tailgates and have people over for football games, but sometimes the food served at football celebrations is pretty unhealthy. I challenged myself to remake a couple of typical football snacks the Spend Smart. Eat Smart way. My recipes are fun, festive and ready for the football game!

I started by thinking about the veggie trays at tailgates. Someone always brings one but often they don’t get eaten. I think this is usually because they are kind of boring and everyone really wants the sweet and salty snacks instead. Not to mention, these often come pre-made from the grocery store and cost way more than a veggie tray made at home. I made mine festive with peppers in Cyclone colors and instead of the usual ranch veggie dip, I made Garbanzo Bean Dip. It is a tasty and inexpensive alternative to the old standby. If you like hummus, you’ll love this dip!

dip and cereal treatsDesserts are always a favorite at tailgates. I usually see lots of brownies, cookies and bars. Sometimes for early games there are even cinnamon rolls! I wanted to have a sweet treat that was a little healthier so I chose to make Whole Grain Cereal Treats. These are very similar to the rice cereal treats we all know and love, but with the added health benefit of whole grain. I even added some red sprinkles to show Cyclone pride!

Next time you’re going to a football get-together, think about putting a healthier spin on the dish you take. Game time food can be healthy and inexpensive while still being lots of fun!

s Signature-1

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Making the Most of a Hot Grill

September 15th, 2014

chicken on grill blogIt’s a beautiful time of year here in Iowa. That means I am cooking on the grill at least a couple of nights per week. I love the flavor of grilled food and it saves me from heating up the kitchen. Best of all, fewer dishes!

I use a gas grill and replacing the empty propane tank with a full one is one of my least favorite chores. I want to get the most out of every tank – so when I heat up my grill I fill it up!

Instead of grilling two hamburgers or pieces of chicken, I fill the grill up and use what I don’t eat as “planned overs”. These are leftover ingredients that I know I will use later. I can cook a whole grill full of food in the same amount of time as just a piece or two of meat. Last week I needed two grilled chicken breasts for a recipe so I made six and saved the extra four. I chopped up two of them and saved them in the fridge. I used them to top the salads in my lunch all week. I froze the other two in freezer bags. I’ll defrost them and use them next time I need a fast dinner.

veggie basket blogMeat isn’t the only thing I can make ahead on the grill. I love to make grilled vegetables using a grill basket. I just chop them all about the same size, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of seasoning and grill for about 15 minutes. I mix them around half-way through using a metal spatula or tongs.

Even if I just need a few cups, I fill up the basket and save the leftovers for other meals. I love to add them to cooked rice and pasta for a really fast meal. If I know I’ll eat them in a few days, I keep them in a sealed container in the fridge. Otherwise, I put them in a freezer bag and stash them in the freezer.

I love knowing that when I come home from work late I can grab the chicken and veggies from the freezer and put together a tasty meal with the flavors of the grill in no time at all.

s Signature-1

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Take-out vs. Homemade Lunch: Time, Cost and Nutrition

July 21st, 2014

Fast food is expensive and most options are not as healthy as homemade meals. As a recent college graduate entering the workforce I’m learning there is a “life” aspect that can’t be ignored. I, like you, value my time, health and money so I wondered – is take-out lunch really more expensive, less nutritious and quicker than a homemade version? The Spend Smart Eat Smart Team sent me on a mission and here is what I found:

lunch blog chart 2

It was really easy to locate nutrition and serving size information on my favorite burrito shop’s website. I was able to easily recreate a burrito with the exact same flavors at home.

There are two different ways I’m excited to customize my homemade burritos in the future.

The first is the ingredients. When getting take-out there is only one kind of rice, flavor of chicken and limited vegetables to choose from. When I make the burritos at home I’m able to add more or less lettuce and tomato or season my rice with chili powder and cumin rather than eat it plain. When I made my homemade burritos I used brown rice and added chili powder, onion, green chilies and tomato sauce to make a Spanish rice. I am also looking forward to customizing the size of my homemade burritos. I’m not sure what your experience is, but I can never finish an entire take-out burrito in one sitting. The leftovers either end up in the trash or I save it for a second meal (but by then the lettuce is slimy – boo). When making burritos at home, I’m able to make a burrito of an appropriate size for my appetite.

Although it took me longer to prepare the homemade burrito compared to take-out, I ended up with six burritos with rice, beans, cheese and chicken in them. I wrapped each burrito in plastic wrap, put them in a freezer bag and stored them in the freezer. In the future for an easy (and cheap) lunch from the freezer, I’ll just thaw, reheat, throw some lettuce, sour cream and tomato on it and enjoy a burrito in less than 10 minutes.

If I were to get take-out once a week for the next month I would have to commit to:

$27.44 | 1 hour and 15 minutes of time | Four DAYS worth of sodium in only four MEALS.

If I were to make my burritos at home and eat them once a week I would commit to:

$8.04 | 35 minutes of time | 4,900 fewer milligrams of sodium.

burrito blog

I was really surprised by how easy it was to make my own tasty burritos at home. Although it took more time and planning on the front end, homemade burritos on average took 6 minutes of time per burrito compared to the 19 minutes take-out took. My perception of how “fast” fast food really is has changed.

I wonder what results I would get if I compared a take-out sub sandwich to a homemade one. I’m definitely rethinking and re-planning the time and money I have spent on fast food that is actually easy to make at home, what about you?

-Liz

2014 ISU Dietetics Graduate

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Seasonal Produce – The time has come!

June 16th, 2014

vegetables fruit mixed heartWarm weather has finally arrived here in Iowa and locally grown produce is starting to become available. Summer is my favorite time of year to cook because my favorite ingredients like tomatoes, fresh green beans and bell peppers are in season. When fruits and vegetables are in season they are often available at a lower price and fresh-picked produce tastes great.

I grow some of my favorites myself like tomatoes, herbs and peppers in pots on my patio. I shop for other items at the farmers’ market or even my local grocery store. I find that grocery stores in my area carry much more local produce than they did in the past. Here in Iowa we often see locally grown tomatoes, sweet corn, hot and sweet peppers and salad greens in the produce aisle in the summer.

Check out our video about eating seasonally and let us know what you’re looking forward to growing or eating this summer!

s Signature-1

 

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The Rhoads’ SNAP Challenge

March 24th, 2014

Vickie Rhoads decided to do the SNAP challenge with her family and share their experience to call attention the fact that nearly 13 % of Iowans are food insecure, meaning they do not have the ability to acquire nutritionally adequate and safe foods in socially acceptable ways. Vickie shared, “We have had friends and family whose income has been reduced due to job layoffs or family deaths”. A one-week challenge certainly does not replicate the complexities of poverty, but it is one way to better-understand the reality many Iowans face.

Rhoads SNAP

Photo courtesy of Captured by Heidi Photo

Paul Rhoads may be the coach at Jack Trice Stadium, but Vickie is in charge at home juggling all of the family’s needs and three very busy schedules. The Rhoads have two sons, one of whom lives at home and the other is at college. Vickie began her challenge by going grocery shopping with her teenage son, Wyatt. He is a high school wrestler and must be careful about his diet, in fact he was preparing for the state wrestling tournament during the challenge.

Vickie’s reflections on this experience included several meaningful realizations:

  • “It’s amazing how much you think about food when it is limited.” This is a quote from Vickie’s reflection log on day 1 of the challenge. This thought points to the importance of food beyond nourishment. We all have routines and habits built around food and when those are disrupted it is uncomfortable.
  • Vickie and Wyatt began by purchasing the foods Wyatt is used to eating to ensure that he would get what he needed for wrestling. Reflecting on the experience, Vickie mentioned, “I didn’t plan for myself very well”. This is a common reality for families working with a tight grocery budget. Children are often prioritized meaning Mom and Dad make some additional compromises.
  • Vickie shopped carefully and did a fair bit of scratch cooking to get the most nutrition for her dollar. She cooked a larger amount of food several times so that she would have leftovers for future meals. The only food they really missed was fresh fruit and vegetables. The budget did not allow for the fresh produce they are accustomed to.

On the last day of the challenge, Vickie reflected back on the week, “It took a lot more planning on my end”.  She also shared that she will do some things differently going forward. First, Wyatt enjoyed the grocery shopping and it was a good learning experience for him. She plans to include him in shopping more often. Second, the experience helped her identify how she could minimize food waste at home by making better use of perishable foods. Third, she has learned about various resources available to families struggling to eat healthy on a budget. “I hadn’t really thought about the programs that are available in Ames for people who need help.” Iowa Food Assistance and WIC provide benefits to families who meet income qualifications. In addition, local food banks and pantries provide food to needy families. To learn how to receive help from a food pantry or make a donation, visit the Iowa Food Bank Association’s website. For families trying to eat healthy on a tight budget, ISU Extension and Outreach offers programs to help you build your nutrition knowledge as well as shopping and cooking skills. Visit our program website for more information.

In this three-part blog series we have looked at the knowledge and skills necessary to eat healthy on a budget. We have discussed planning and strategy as well as the social and psychological role food has in our lives. If you are interested in these themes and hunger-related issues, you can visit the Feeding America website to learn more. Thank you to the Rhoads and Litchfields who shared their stories with us this month!

s Signature-1

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Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce

March 3rd, 2014

pan fried tilapia

Growing up, we pretty much stuck to breaded fish sticks and squares and then for special occasions – shrimp cocktail. Once in a while my mom bought frozen fish and dipped it in egg and then cornmeal and fried it. As an adult, knowing fish was good for me (great protein plus low in calories and fat), I used to buy those frozen rectangles of raw fish, but prying frozen fillets apart was not fun.

Now I buy bags of individually frozen tilapia fillets. They come in packs (usually 2 or 3 pounds) that cost $2-3 per pound. I love that I can just pull out the number of fillets I need and defrost them.

This month’s featured recipe, Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce is delicious, easy and fast! You’ll want to have the table set and the rest of your meal ready to go when you start this. I usually serve it with a salad and frozen peas or broccoli. Sometimes I add brown rice.

Other kinds of fish work in this recipe also. Try it with domestic mahi-mahi, halibut or swai which is a white-flesh fish with a mild taste and light flaky texture. Swai is often less expensive than other kinds of fish.

Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce

Serving Size: 1 fillet of fish (about 3 ounces) | Serves: 4 | Cost Per Serving: $1.44

pan fried tilapia label

Ingredients: 

  • 4 small frozen tilapia fillets (about 1 pound total)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram or Italian seasoning
  • 1 orange

Instructions: 

  1. Defrost and pat dry tilapia with paper towel.
  2. Put flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a plastic bag. Add fillets one at a time and shake to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.
  4. Add fillets to skillet and fry until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn fish over, sprinkle with marjoram or Italian seasoning, and finish browning (heat fish to at least 165°F).
  5. Heat orange for 10 seconds in microwave. Cut in half. Squeeze half the juice and pulp from the orange on the fish. Use the other half for garnish.
  6. Place fish on a platter. Scrape the pan juices on top of the fish to serve.

Peggy Signature

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Edamame?

February 24th, 2014

edamameWhat is it? Have you tried it? What do you think of it?

These are some of the questions I got when I first made edamame for my family. I answered their questions, hoping that they would like this new food. Edamame is green soybeans – it is harvested before the beans harden. I have tried it and I do like it.  It turns out that my family likes it too… a lot.

Edamame is a vegetable that is typically found in the frozen foods section at grocery stores around here. I recently bought two 12 ounce bags for $5 (or $2.50 each). This is a little more than I usually spend on frozen vegetables, but there are some added nutritional benefits to eating edamame along with other vegetables. It is a good source of protein, fiber, some B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. This makes it a good partner for vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C, such as peppers, and vitamin A, such as carrots or winter squash.

Edamame can be used in many ways. I have served it as a side dish with a little salt and pepper. It can also be added to any dish you add frozen vegetables to such as soups, stir-fries, or casseroles. I have added it to my children’s favorite, tuna and noodles.  A small amount (1/2 to 1 cup) of thawed edamame could be added to any of these SpendSmart.EatSmart recipes to boost the nutrition:

Try some edamame and let us know what you think of it.

Justine

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