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Holiday Breakfast – Baked Oatmeal

December 23rd, 2013

4.1.1I look forward to the traditions associated with holidays because I find comfort in doing the same things each year. Many of our family traditions include food. We work together in the kitchen to create foods we often eat only once each year. When visiting my husband’s grandparents, we were introduced to baked oatmeal and we fell in love. We decided that it needed to become part of our family traditions. Baked oatmeal is a great breakfast any day, but we think it will make a perfect holiday breakfast for us this year and in future years. Here is why I am choosing baked oatmeal this holiday season:

  • It can be put together the night before. All I will have to do in the morning is put it in the oven, so I will not miss out on any family time.
  • Each person can make their bowl of baked oatmeal special with add-ins like sliced bananas, nuts, dried fruit, milk and cinnamon sugar.
  • It is a healthy choice. Baked oatmeal is made with fruit, oats (a whole grain), and non-fat milk.
  • It is filling. The oats fill me up so I am less likely to get hungry for the high fat and sugar snacks that are common during the holidays.
  • I can buy a lot of oats for very little money. Besides using them in this recipe, I can use them in granola, fruit pizza, baked apples, instant oatmeal packets, and oatmeal bars.

I hope that you try baked oatmeal sometime soon and fall in love with it just like we did.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups oats (quick cooking or old fashioned)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup non-fat milk
  • 2 medium apples, chopped
  • ½ cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add oats and boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and milk with a fork.
  3. Stir in oatmeal, apples, and dried fruit.
  4. Lightly coat a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with cooking spray and pour oatmeal mixture into the pan.  Cook immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. To cook, preheat oven to 350°F then bake for 50-60 minutes until the center is set and the top is lightly browned.

Tip:

  • Serve with a variety of toppings including sliced bananas, dried fruit, non-fat milk, chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, and cinnamon sugar.
  • This recipe makes a lot, so if you do not have a large crowd to feed, plan on eating this for breakfast or snacks for a couple of days.

-Justine

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Knowing the Cost and Calories of Holiday Treats May Give You Will Power

December 16th, 2013

treatsMost adults have no idea how many calories they burn in a day, so they don’t realize that a piece of pecan pie that has 500 calories is probably 25% of all the calories they need for a day.

Calories are just a measurement tool, like inches or ounces. They measure the energy a food or beverage provides. Most women burn about 1600 to 2000 calories a day. A pound is equal to 3500 calories.  If you consistently eat more calories than you burn through daily living and exercise, you gain weight. Studies show a pound or two gained over the holidays sometimes never comes off again.

If you’d like to get an estimate of how many calories you use in a day based on your age, gender, and activity, check out Super Tracker from USDA. You can also set goals and track activities and calories at this site.

I don’t want to be surprised by the calories in my holiday treats. Below is a chart of some treats and their nutrition information along with links to the restaurants’ nutrition pages.  An extra treat like these added to your usual diet, could add a pound in just a week. The cost of these treats varies based on where you live, but each represents extra expense for me during a time of year when I need to keep a careful eye on my budget. When I consider the cost and know the calories, my self-control to make healthy choices is boosted and I can choose the treats I really love and pass by the ones that aren’t that special to me. Many restaurants have incredibly detailed nutrition information online so you can know the facts about your holiday favorites!

Holiday Treat

Approximate Calories

Source

White Chocolate Mocha Grande Latte

400 calories

Starbucks

Raspberry and Cream Muffin

540

Perkins

Cranberry walnut Bagel and cream cheese

500 calories

Panera

Eggnog

500 calories per cup  add another 100 calories if you add alcohol

Anderson Erickson

Red Velvet Drizzle Donut

410

Dunkin Donuts

Peggy Signature

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Meals In 30 Minutes Featuring Sweet and Sour Rice

December 2nd, 2013

SweetSourRice RGBThe month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the busiest in the year. I like to make “all in one meals” on the stove that are quick and healthy. The recipes I look for include three or four food groups all in one dish. Most of the time I have enough left over to take for lunch the next day. This saves me money and time!

Our featured recipe this month, Sweet and Sour Rice, allows you to use one pan to cook the chicken, vegetables and sauce. The sweet and sour sauce is super easy and economical. I hate buying a sauce, using it once and then watching it spoil in the fridge. My family liked this sauce better than bottled!

The SpendSmartEatSmart web site has many more recipes that are quick and only use a pan or two so clean up is quick.

Fiesta Skillet Dinner (another quick meal) is featured in our UKnow video series. Other quick meals on our website include – Ham & Brown Rice and Tasty Taco Salad.

Sweet and Sour Rice

 

Serving Size: 2/3 cup rice and 1 1/4 cup topping Serves: Cost Per Serving: $1.26

Ingredients: sweetandsour label

  • 16 ounces chicken (skinless, boneless)
  • 1 bag (16-ounce) frozen stir-fry veggies
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups instant uncooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce (make your own or use prepared sauce)*
  • 1 can (8-ounce) pineapple chunks with juice

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup

Instructions: 

  1. Cut chicken into 3/4 inch pieces. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Remove stir-fry veggies from freezer to thaw.
  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chicken and cook until done. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside. Set frying pan aside.
  4. Heat water for rice to boiling. Add rice. Let rice cook according to the package directions.
  5. Return skillet (used to cook chicken) to the stove. Add sauce ingredients. Cook over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, or add the prepared sweet and sour sauce.
  6. Stir in the pineapple (un-drained), vegetables, and chicken. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve chicken and veggie mixture on top of the rice.

Substitution:

You can substitute 2 cups cooked chicken in this recipe. Just add it at step six. Cook for about 5 minutes to heat it through.

Peggy Signature

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Homemade Baby Food Using Fall Produce – Yum!

October 28th, 2013

baby foodI enjoyed making baby food for both of my children, and I made most of it in the fall – a great time of year to make homemade baby food. Here are some reasons to give homemade baby food a try (especially in the fall):

  • It is inexpensive. This week at my local grocery store, I found squash for $0.59 per pound. That is a bargain!  I found pre-made squash baby food for $1.09 for two servings.
  • It tastes fresh. Both of my children preferred the fresh taste of homemade baby food to pre-made baby food.
  • It is in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season in the fall make perfect first fruits and vegetables for baby. These include apples, pears, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots.  No matter when you choose to make baby food, choose produce that is in season for the best price and freshness.
  • It is easy. Homemade baby food can be just as convenient as store bought if you make a few batches at one time and store it in the freezer.
  • It is fun. I enjoy cooking for my family, and making some of the first foods my babies ate is a great memory for me.

If you have a baby, or if you have a friend or family member with a baby, consider using some wonderful fall fruits and vegetables to make some homemade baby food.  Join my daughter, Eliza, and I as we make some homemade sweet potato baby food in this video.

Justine

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It’s Not Just School Lunch. It’s Bigger Than That.

October 14th, 2013

school lunch

This year my daughter started kindergarten. And honestly one of my biggest concerns was if she was going to be hungry throughout the day. Going from daycare and preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment for various reasons. I was particularly concerned about the change in foods available to her and how much time she would have to eat. The thought of her having fifteen minutes to eat lunch and no snacks was a little scary!

In preparation for her first day, we went shopping for a backpack. She was amazed not only at the selection of back packs, but the selection of the lunch bags. I was pretty shocked myself! Also, the books we read to prepare her for the first day of school all referenced the character bringing a lunch from home. Based on back to school shopping and children’s books, one would think that bringing a lunch from home was the norm. But in reality, approximately 80% of all students enrolled in Iowa schools participate in school meals each day. 1

With that in mind, I wanted her to try school meals for the first week. This would give her the opportunity to learn the process while everyone else did. Every day after school I ask her what she had for lunch. As the weeks have gone by she has been excited to share with me the fruits and vegetables she has chosen and even eaten at school. It’s a simple thing I do each day that often opens up a conversation about her entire day, which I was having a hard time getting her to share.  “I tried zucchini slices today and really liked them!” “Oh, and I was picked the best singer of the day!” It’s fun to see how a simple conversation about school lunch can really lead to a great conversation with a 5 year old! She has expanded the things she will eat at home and I truly believe it is connected to her positive experience with school meals.

National School Lunch Week is this week and is an observance to celebrate the benefits of healthy school lunches! School meals are doing a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out school meals and discover what they like. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods at school and at home:

    • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria. It will provide you a first-hand experience of school meals and grow a deeper appreciation for teachers, school staff, and nutrition staff.
    • Explain to your child the options they have each day at school for lunch.
    • When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
    • Eat meals at home with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.
    • Provide some of the new foods offered in the school cafeteria at home.  Some examples include: whole grain foods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini slices.
    • Take your child grocery shopping with you and talk to them about where foods come from. Let your children make healthy purchases while at the store.

For more information including how to get involved at your school, school lunch myths, healthy snack ideas, visit: http://schoolmeals.educateiowa.gov.

Guest Blogger,

Carrie

1 Iowa School Nutrition Association Annual Child Nutrition Report, March 2013

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It’s Worth a Little Mess

September 30th, 2013

kids in kitchenMy 3 ½ year old son Parker loves to help me in the kitchen. When he realizes I’m cooking, he quickly goes and gets his stool so he can stand and help me. Even though cooking takes longer, and we make more messes, I enjoy spending time with him in the kitchen. He is a picky eater, so when he helps me prepare different foods, he is more likely to try them.

Some tasks that Parker likes to help me with are pouring ingredients in the bowl, stirring ingredients, breaking eggs, putting toppings on homemade pizza, and scooping batter into muffin tins. He likes to have me read him the recipe so we also work on following directions and counting.

There are numerous benefits to having children help in the kitchen. As I mentioned before, it exposes them to new foods and helps them become more willing eaters. Helping in the kitchen also improves children’s fine motor skills, increases their confidence, and gives them an opportunity to work on learning colors, shapes, and counting.

Our new video “How to Include Children in the Kitchen”  has helpful information on how to get children involved in the kitchen, from helping cook to helping unload the dishwasher. Check it out to see how much fun we had cooking with kids along with some tips to get your kids excited about cooking.

Another helpful resource, full of recipes that your children can help you make, is ‘Let’s Cook with Kids’ created by the Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program in California.

How do your children like to help you in the kitchen?

Jodi Signature

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Label Claims: What they Mean

September 16th, 2013

Various labels and health claims cover food packaging these days. Some labels and health claims are regulated by the FDA, while others are simply advertising. Deciphering labels can be confusing and the laws and regulations behind them are even more confusing. After completing a course in Food Law this summer I thought I would try to simplify and clear up some confusion about “organic” versus “natural” labeled products.

Organic:USDA logo postit

Definition:“foods that are grown and processed with minimal synthetic materials”

Regulated by the USDA. There are regulated synthetic substances that may be used as well as  nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used in the production of “organic” products.

100% Organic: In order for a product to be labeled “100% organic” it must be grown and handed in an establishment that has been certified by the National Organic Program.

Made with organic ingredients: For a product to be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” it must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

Only certain ingredients produced organically: May not display the USDA seal shown below, but may identify individual ingredients that were produced organically. For example, “ Made with organic carrots.”

Natural:

Definition: By law, there is not one! This label is not regulated.
There are no limitations to using the term “natural” if the food “does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances”.

Understanding what these labels mean can help you be a savvy shopper and avoid getting tricked by misleading labels. The most important thing is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It is a personal choice whether eating organic is important to you. Keep in mind that there are many foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar that are also certified organic. Reading the nutrition facts label is the only way to really know how healthy a food is for you and your family.

 organic quiz 2

Click here to go to our facebook page for the answers!

Guest Blogger,

Elizabeth Breuer

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Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

September 9th, 2013

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

 s Signature-1

 

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Labor Day Meal Plan

August 26th, 2013

Labor Day Meal, serves 4 for less than $3.50 a person!

Labor day is quickly approaching! This national holiday on the first Monday of September results in a long weekend filled with relaxing, picnics, and spending time with family and friends. This simple menu is easy to prepare and easy on your wallet.

labor day menu plan

 

New labor day label

I put together this menu plan with a day of soaking up sun with friends and family in mind. The pita pocket is easy to eat on the go and provides the perfect opportunity to light up the grill or use stovetop and avoid turning on the oven in the heat. The carrots and whole wheat pita chips are finger foods that are packed with vitamins to keep everyone fueled throughout the day. The dessert will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth while featuring any fresh fruit that is in season.

The total cost of this meal is only $13.85. This breaks down to $3.46 per person.

Click here for recipes! I have separated the recipes into two sections, the first is recipes to prepare the night before serving the meal and the second is recipes to prepare the day of serving the meal.

Guest Blogger,

Liz Breuer

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Vegetable Oils – Comparison, Cost, and Nutrition

August 19th, 2013

As I was reaching for the canola oil in my cupboard last week while doing some baking, I got to looking at the different oils I have on hand. The canola oil and olive oil are at the front of the cupboard because those are the ones I use most often but I also have peanut oil and sesame oil. Some may wonder, like my husband, why I have four different kinds of oil. The kind of oil I use depends on what kind of food I’m preparing. For baking, I like to use canola oil but for roasting or sautéing vegetables, I use olive oil.

When deciding what kind of oil you are going to buy, consider three things 1) what it will be used for, 2) how much it costs, and 3) nutrition. Below is a comparison of commonly used oils. You’ll notice olive oil is more expensive than canola or vegetable oil, but keep in mind that typically recipes call for small amounts of olive oil so a bottle lasts a long time.

Type of Oil Uses Cost*** Unit price
(per fl oz)
Canola
(48 fluid oz)
Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating 3.59-4.59 .07-.09
Olive
(17 fl oz)
Grilling, sautéing, roasting, spreads for breads 7.69-7.99 .45-.47
Vegetable*
(48 fl oz)
Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating 3.18-4.39 .06-.09
Peanut
(24 fl oz)
Stir-frying, roasting, deep frying, baking 3.58-4.98 .15-.21
Sesame**
(8.45 fl oz)
(12.7 fl oz)
Stir-frying (light), dressings/sauces (dark) 5.89-7.89 .70-.62

*usually made from a combination of corn, soybeans, and/or sunflower seeds

**there are light and dark versions of sesame oil

***Costs were found at grocery stores in Central Iowa

Below is a chart that compares the nutritional value of different fats and oils. Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels and are not heart-healthy. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are considered the ‘good’ fats. Oils high in monounsaturated fats are particularly heart healthy because they lower LDL levels, the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol. Replacing the fats and oils that are higher in saturated and trans fats with those higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is good for your health.

oil comparison chart

I also noticed while in the grocery store a couple of new oil blends. There is a Natural Blend oil that is a combination of canola, sunflower, and soybean oil. It was $3.59 for a 48 fluid ounce bottle. The other new one I noticed was called Omega and was a combination of canola and extra virgin olive oil. It was $3.99 for a 48 fluid ounce bottle.

For best quality store your oil in a cool, dark place and replace it if it smells “bitter” or “off.”

Watch our recent ‘How To’ video and learn how to make your own salad dressing using the oils in your cupboard.

Jodi Signature

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