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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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Homemade Salad Dressing … Easy as 1, 2, 3

February 3rd, 2014

salad bowlHomemade salad dressing adds wonderful flavor to salads of all kinds – lettuce, fruit, and pasta salads. You can even add dressing to roasted veggies to add extra flavor. The thing I like best about homemade salad dressing is that it can be made quickly and easily by keeping some basic ingredients in your pantry – vinegar and oil plus whatever add-ins taste great to you, such as herbs, spices, mustard, fruit juice, sugar, salt, pepper.

Here are three easy steps to making a homemade salad dressing:

1.  Measure your ingredients. Measure into a screw top container or a mixing bowl. Start with three parts oil to one part acid (vinegar or citrus juice) and a small amount of seasoning – you can always add more acid and seasoning later.

  • If you are interested in some homemade salad dressing recipes, check out our homemade salad dressing video, our salad dressing handout, and this newsletter that has a helpful salad dressing chart.

2. Mix your ingredients. If using a screw top container, secure the lid tightly and shake until combined. If using a mixing bowl, mix ingredients together vigorously using a fork or whisk.

3. Eat your salad. Pour your dressing onto your salad and eat it up. Homemade salad dressing will make your vegetables, fruits, and whole grains taste great.

In addition to the ease of making homemade salad dressing, I like the cost. I use canola oil in my salad dressings, which makes the cost about half of a store-bought salad dressing.  Since citrus fruit has been cheap this winter, I have been saving even more money by using the juice from an orange in place of some of the vinegar. When I make my own dressing, I can try new things like this in small amounts without buying a whole bottle of premade dressing.

Look through your pantry and see what you have to make a homemade salad dressing today!

Justine

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Get Creative, Use What You Have on Hand

January 20th, 2014

soupI know it’s time to make soup when my refrigerator, pantry and freezer are getting full of small bags of rice, pasta, meat, beans, and vegetables. I make soup using the ingredients I have on hand without a specific recipe.

This weekend I made ham soup. Saturday I simmered a ham bone with a chopped onion and some celery. I covered the bone and veggies with water, put a lid on the pot and it cooked away for a few hours. Then I removed the bone and vegetables and let the broth cool in the fridge overnight.

On Sunday I spooned off the hardened fat from the top of the broth and started reheating the broth. Then I pulled together a lot of odds and ends to give the soup great flavor and texture:

  • A cup of leftover cooked kidney beans
  • A cup of leftover ham
  • A cup of chopped chicken from the freezer
  • Some chopped vegetables (one onion, a cup of baby carrots and 3 small potatoes)
  • For seasoning I used one of the spice packets that come with Ramen noodles. (leftover from coleslaw when I used the noodles but not the spice)

The friend I had over for dinner loved the soup. She wanted the recipe. Uh-oh. Should I admit she was eating leftovers? Instead I told her I created the soup. I found a great handout from Utah State University Food Sense, Create a Soup which shows how you can make soup from what you have on hand.

Utah also has similar cheat sheets for making casseroles, pizza and fruity desserts from what you have on hand.  To see a list of what’s available and links check out the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page.  

Peggy Signature

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Recipe Feature: Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

January 6th, 2014

VegSoupKaleLentilsI never heard of either kale or lentils when I was growing up. Recently, I’ve started enjoying both. Kale is being promoted as one of our most powerful vegetables. It is low in calories, but rich in vitamins C and K, fiber, and calcium. Lentils are very high in protein and they contain fiber, folate, vitamins and minerals. They come in a range of colors including yellow, red, green, brown and black. Lentils are easy for me, because they cook much faster than other dry beans.

When choosing kale at the grocery store, look for green leaves that are moist and crisp. If the leaves are yellow or brown, the kale is not fresh. Kale develops a stronger flavor the longer it is stored, so plan to use it within a day or two of purchase. Kale can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your refrigerator. You can also store it in the fridge in a tall glass with some water (stems pointing down) like a flower bouquet to keep it fresh for a couple of days.

Our featured recipe this month includes both kale and lentils. It’s a quick and easy soup that is made using only one pan. You can have it on the table in less than 45 min. I serve it with bread, fruit and milk or cheese.

If you can’t find yellow or brown lentils other colors could be substituted. If kale is not available, or is too expensive you could use other greens in this soup such as collard greens or spinach.

Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 6VegSoupKaleLentils-Label
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced (3-4 cloves), or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry yellow or brown lentils
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) no sodium added diced tomatoes or 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bunch kale (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add water to veggies in pot. Heat to boiling.
  4. Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add lentils to pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not drain.
  5. Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Rinse kale leaves, cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Stir kale, salt, and pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Tips: 
  • Skip soaking the lentils first for this recipe. It is not needed.
  • Use kitchen scissors instead of a knife to cut the kale.
  • Make kale chips from extra leaves. Drizzle a little oil on clean, dry leaves. Spread leaves on a cookie sheet. Bake 12-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Leaves should be thin and crackly but not brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.

Peggy Signature

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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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