Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.
This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:
It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.
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
Cost Per Serving: $0.14
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
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.
My husband gets excited this time of year for fish sandwiches. He loves that he can get a deal on fish sandwiches at one of his favorite fast food restaurants. A few years ago, I decided to try to make a homemade fish sandwich that would be heathier, less expensive, and tastier than his fast food favorite.
The recipe I came up with is our March recipe of the month. You simply coat fish in a mixture of cornmeal and seasonings and lightly pan fry it in a small amount of oil. Top with your favorite sandwich toppings and enjoy! At 300 calories and 10 grams of fat (the fast food version is 390 calories and 19 grams of fat) and less than a dollar a sandwich, I know that I succeeded in making a healthier and less expensive sandwich. I think this sandwich is tastier than the fast food version, but I suspect that my husband still likes the deep fat fried version better. I hope that after trying this recipe, you will agree with me!
Serving Size: 4
Serves: 1 sandwich
Cost Per Serving: $0.91
2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
1/4 cup cornmeal
4 frozen filets (about 3 ounces each) of white fish (tilapia), thawed
4 hamburger buns
Optional sandwich toppings: sliced onions and tomatoes, leaf lettuce, light ranch dressing or tartar sauce
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Spread the cornmeal on a plate and press the fish into the cornmeal to coat on all sides.
Fry the fish in the hot oil until the cornmeal is lightly browned. This will take about 2–3 minutes on each side. Fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 145˚F or it flakes easily with a fork.
Move the fish from the frying pan to a plate lined with paper towels. Pat the fish dry with more paper towels.
Assemble sandwiches with your favorite toppings.
Thaw fish in the refrigerator overnight.
For more flavor, mix 1 teaspoon seasoning with cornmeal before coating fish. Seasoning might be lemon pepper, pepper, garlic powder, or chili powder.
Make homemade tartar sauce. Stir light mayo or salad dressing with pickle relish.
It is time for a confession. Until we started testing this new recipe for stuffed peppers, I had never made a vegetable stuffed with anything. It always seemed too fancy to me and it looked like a lot of work. After testing this recipe quite a few times, I realized that it is not a lot of work to make stuffed peppers, it is actually pretty easy. It also tastes great and looks really nice, so maybe I was right on the fancy part.
My favorite thing about this recipe is that the filling can be made in advance. To make the filling, cook ground sausage or beef; then add seasoning, sauce, rice, and cheese. This filling can then go right into pepper halves to bake or it can be saved for another time. You can save the filling in the refrigerator for up to four days. You can save it in the freezer for up to three months. The best thing about making the filling ahead of time is that you can make as many, or as few, stuffed peppers as you need. For example, if you have a family of four, you could make four stuffed peppers right away and then save the filling for the other four for another day.
I hope you will not wait long to try out our Stuffed Pepper recipe.
Serving Size: 1 stuffed pepper half
Cost Per Serving: $0.89
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage, turkey sausage, or beef
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 can (15 ounces) spaghetti sauce
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
4 green or red peppers (softball size)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Sauté sausage and onion in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked to 155°F. Pour off any fat.
Stir in oregano, spaghetti sauce, rice, and 1/2 cup cheese.
Wash peppers, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Arrange in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Spoon sausage mixture into the peppers, mounding on the top.
Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Continue to cook another 10 minutes.
Do not pour fat down the drain. Pour fat from sausage into a bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator until hard and then spoon into the trash.
To make smaller meals, freeze filling in three or four portions. When ready to eat, thaw a portion and bake in two or three pepper halves.
I always look forward to fall, it is my favorite season. I enjoy watching the harvest come in and I like that the weather cools down. I also enjoy putting my soup recipes back into my menu rotation. Our recipe of the month for September is Vegetable Pasta Soup.
Here are the reasons I love to include soup in the menu rotation for the cooler months:
It is loaded with vegetables. Many people do not eat enough vegetables, and eating a bowl of soup is an easy way to get the vegetables we need.
It freezes well. I value recipes that freeze well because they make future meal prep so much easier. I freeze individual servings for lunches and I freeze larger batches for a quick evening or weekend meal.
It is versatile. I do not need to make this recipe the same way twice, so no one gets bored with the same old thing. The vegetables and seasonings can be changed and adjusted based on what I have on hand and what is on sale at the grocery store. And, if I want to add protein to this soup, I simply need to add in a can of beans or some leftover chopped meat. A note of caution if you do change things up with this recipe, watch it closely because you may need to add water.
Try our Vegetable Pasta Soup – it may just make its way in to your menu plans for the cool fall and cold winter ahead.
Vegetable Pasta Soup
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cups chopped or sliced vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
6 cups fresh spinach leaves (about 1/2 pound), thoroughly washed (or kale, collard greens, or 10 ounces of frozen spinach)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened. This should take about 3 minutes.
Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
Cook until the pasta is tender, using the time on the package for a guide.
Notes: Prewashed or ready to eat spinach does not have to be washed. Use plain diced tomatoes for less spiciness.
Soup freezes well.
Use washed and diced garden tomatoes and homemade broth if they are available. Keep cut tomatoes cold until you need them.
Wash fresh vegetables under running water before preparing.
When breakfast time rolls around each morning, I am very hungry. This is a good thing because it is certain that I will eat the most important meal of the day. The problem is that my husband and children are not big breakfast eaters – they are satisfied with milk, fruit, and cereal or toast. That is just not enough for me, especially now that I am expecting child #3.
To solve my problem, I looked to our August recipe – Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch of the burritos, freeze them, and then grab one out of the freezer and reheat when I need it. These are perfect for me on the mornings when I need more to eat than the rest of my family. On top of that, these burritos are full of the nutrients I need to keep myself and my baby healthy. I get fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the vegetables and whole wheat tortillas, protein from the eggs, and calcium from the cheese.
Even if you are not a big breakfast eater, this recipe is still great because it cuts down on breakfast prep and clean up time. Busy fall schedules are going to be starting up again, so this recipe gives you a quick, yet filling, breakfast before you head off to work or school for the day. I think I am going to make another batch of these soon, so they are in the freezer when “back to school” time rolls around.
Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Serving Size: 1 burrito | Serves: 8
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup potatoes, diced (1 medium potato)
1/2 cup onions, diced (1/2 medium onion)
1 cup bell peppers, diced (1 medium pepper)
8 eggs, beaten
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup 2% fat cheddar cheese, shredded
8 flour tortillas (8″)
Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook the potatoes for 6-10 minutes over medium heat.
Add onions and peppers to the potatoes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the potatoes are browned.
Add beaten eggs to the vegetable mixture. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Stir off and on until there is no liquid.
Stir in the garlic powder and pepper.
Roll up each burrito. Use 2 tablespoons of cheese and 1/2 cup of the egg mixture. Serve or freeze.
You can freeze the burritos. Wrap each burrito tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Seal wrapped burritos in a freezer bag when they are frozen.
To reheat the frozen burritos. Remove the plastic wrap. Wrap burrito in a damp paper towel. Set microwave on medium power. Heat burrito for 3-4 minutes.
Wash hands after handling raw eggs and before making burritos.
Wash vegetables under running water.
Add hot peppers, salsa, or cayenne pepper for a spicier burrito.
My family and I love pasta with alfredo sauce, but I am not a fan of the fat and calories that go along with traditional alfredo sauce recipes. Our recipe for June is Chicken Alfredo Pasta and it is an alfredo sauce makeover that you will enjoy. It has all the creamy cheesiness of a traditional recipe with fewer calories and less fat.
The goal of a meal makeover is to improve the nutrition of a recipe. This can be done by adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by reducing or replacing ingredients that are high in fat, sodium, or added sugar. In this alfredo sauce makeover, nonfat milk and low fat cream cheese are used in place of cream and butter. This switch reduces both the fat and calories. Combine the alfredo sauce with whole wheat noodles, broccoli, and chicken then add some fruit on the side and you have a complete meal.
Put this recipe on your menu soon, and you will have your whole family asking for more!
Chicken Alfredo Pasta
Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups
1 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
1 cup nonfat milk
8 ounces low fat cream cheese, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Remove fat from chicken and cut meat into bite sized pieces on a cutting board. Wash hands.
Begin heating water to boiling in a large pot for pasta.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet when oil is hot and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken for 20 seconds before stirring again. Cook the chicken for 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the chicken cubes every 20 to 30 seconds.
Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and is 165ºF. Cover it to keep it warm.
Cook the pasta using directions on package. Add the frozen broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot. Do not cover.
Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
Add the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.
• You can use boneless chicken thighs and legs or leftover chicken instead of chicken breasts.
• You can use other vegetables instead of broccoli.
• Add a few red pepper flakes for color and spice.
• Be sure to use a clean cutting board. Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
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.
Banana bread is one of my favorite foods. I can make it a part of any meal or snack. Luckily my family agrees with me. Our April recipe is banana oatmeal bread, and it is delicious!
In February I got a great deal on bananas at the grocery store. There were bags of about four bunches of bananas for $0.99 per bag. The bananas were starting to get brown and soft, but that was fine with me. I bought two bags and froze them when we got home from the store.
I like to freeze bananas for banana bread whole with the peel still on. When I am ready to make the bread, I grab three or four bananas and thaw them under running water. Once they are thawed, I pull the bottom off the banana, squeeze the flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork.
I like to freeze bananas for snacking and for smoothies already peeled and sliced. I peel and slice the bananas, place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and put them in the freezer until they are solidly frozen. Then I transfer them to a freezer bag. This makes it easy to grab a few banana slices for a cool snack or to thicken up a smoothie.
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.