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Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Pre-Made vs Homemade Dinner

October 27th, 2014

Skillet dinnerReady to go dinner in a box! The convenience is certainly tempting, but what is the trade-off?

At my grocery store I can purchase a pre-made meal kit for about $2.39. It calls for 1 pound of ground beef and that costs $3.99. That brings the total cost to $6.38 for 5 servings or $1.28 per one-cup serving. Not bad!

But wait…

I’m left with a meal that doesn’t include any vegetables, fruit or whole grain and very little dairy! I guess it wasn’t such a great value after all.

One of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes is Skillet Lasagna. It is also a one skillet meal and it delivers the same creamy goodness as the boxed meal for less money. It is also much healthier using whole grain pasta, spinach and low-fat cheeses. Even better, it’s less expensive at just $1.16 per one-cup serving.

Here is how the two compare:

homemadepremadedinner

The choice seems pretty clear to me! I would gladly invest a little more effort for a much healthier meal. Plus, the Skillet Lasagna makes enough for me to have leftovers for my lunches throughout the week.

If your family really loves boxed meals, think about how you can make them a little healthier by adding veggies like broccoli, spinach or chopped tomatoes.

If you try our Skillet Lasagna, let us know what you think on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart Facebook page!

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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

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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!

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Crisp Fruit Salad

September 1st, 2014

Fresh Fruit SaladThis recipe is so easy it is almost embarrassing, but it tastes so good we had to include it. The dressing is what makes this a hit. Adding just a little mayonnaise to the yogurt really ups the flavor. The lemon juice prevents the apples and pears from turning dark.

Like most of our recipes you can vary this one to suit your family. Some ideas include:

• Use dried cranberries or cherries instead of raisins.
• Add 1/2 cup celery, chopped (about 1 stalk).
• Add 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped.
• For a main dish salad, add chicken chunks, canned tuna, or salmon.
• Try with lemon, plain, or plain Greek yogurt

Crisp Fruit Salad

Serving Size: 3/4 cup | Serves: 6 (makes about 4 1/2 cups) | Cost Per Serving: $.64

Ingredients:Fresh Fruit Crisp Label

  • 1 red apple
  • 1 pear
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 container (6 ounces) low fat, sugar free vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise-type salad dressing

Instructions: 

  1. Wash fruit under cool running water.
  2. Chop apple and pear (leave skin on). Add to large serving bowl and toss with lemon juice.
  3. Add grapes and raisins to bowl.
  4. Combine yogurt and salad dressing in a small bowl and spread over fruit.
  5. Stir to combine. Refrigerate. Best eaten the day it is prepared.

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Easy Quick Pad Thai

August 4th, 2014

PadThai_closeup smallIn August I eat salads, grill, or do quick stove-top meals. Quick Pad Thai is one of those stove-top all-in-one meals I usually serve in a bowl. We modeled it after the street food in Thailand but with ingredients you can easily find in the Midwest. Ours uses whole wheat spaghetti but you could use the more traditional rice noodles. When I make this in the summer I use whatever vegetables are ready in the garden and in the winter I use frozen vegetables. Bright colored veggies such as red pepper, broccoli, and snap peas look great.

I use either chunky or smooth peanut butter, whatever I have open and I make light soy sauce by mixing equal parts water and regular soy sauce.

One caution, after you cut up the chicken make sure you wash the cutting board knife and your hands with hot water and soap so you don’t transfer bacteria to the other ingredients.

Quick Pad Thai

Serving Size: 1 1/4 cups | Serves: 6 | Cost Per Serving: $1.06

Ingredients: Quick Pad Thai label

  • 6 ounces whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 24 ounces frozen vegetable mix or chopped fresh veggies
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts

Instructions: 

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain in colander and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.
  2. Defrost vegetables in microwave for 5 minutes and drain well (as spaghetti cooks).
  3. Combine soy sauce, water, peanut butter, and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken pieces and cook and stir until no longer pink (heat chicken to at least 165°F).
  5. Crack eggs into a small bowl and beat. Add to pan with chicken and scramble until firm. Add the vegetables and spaghetti to the pan with the chicken mixture. Stir to heat through.
  6. Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan and stir to coat veggies and spaghetti.
  7. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle peanuts on top.

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Chicken Fajitas

July 7th, 2014

chicken fajitasWhen it is hot outside heating the oven to cook seems counterproductive and sometimes I’m just too lazy to start the grill. A dish that will cook quickly on the stove top seems to work the best. This recipe does require some chopping, but it goes together very fast. Plus, when you make it yourself you control the amount of fat used, which can be an issue with restaurant meals.

As the first step indicates, partially freezing any meat or poultry will make these slices possible.  Likewise, a sharp knife for cutting the onion, peppers and tomatoes will make your life much easier. Just make sure to wash your knife and cutting board after you work with the chicken.

As with all of our recipes, you need to adjust this one to your family’s tastes and what is available. Use the color of peppers and onions you like or have on hand. Use corn or wheat tortillas and substitute beef or pork for the chicken. You could also go meatless and use 1 can (15 ounces) of drained and rinsed black beans.

Chicken Fajitas

Serving Size: 1 tortilla with 2/3 cup filling

Serves: 6 (makes 4 cups of filling)

Ingredients: chicken fajitas label

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas, 8-inch
  • Optional Toppings:6 ounces shredded low fat cheddar cheese; 1 cup chopped tomato;, chopped cilantro; sliced jalapeno

Instructions: 

  1. Freeze chicken 30 minutes until firm and easier to cut. Cut chicken into 1/4-inch strips. Place in a single layer on a plate. Wash hands, knife, and cutting board. Sprinkle both sides of strips with chili and garlic powder.
  2. Add oil to a 12-inch skillet. Heat to medium high. Add chicken strips. Cook about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add bell peppers and onion. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink. (Heat chicken to at least 165°F).
  4. Scoop chicken mixture ( 2/3 cup each) onto tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings.
  5. Serve flat or rolled

Tips:

  • Heat cold tortillas to make them easier to fold. Cover tortillas with a moist paper towel and heat 30 seconds in microwave.
  • Wear plastic gloves to handle hot peppers. No gloves? Wash hands with soap and water before touching your face, your cooking utensils, or another person.
  • 3 cups of pepper = 2 medium peppers

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MmmmGood Fruit Pizza

June 9th, 2014

photo

Recently my four-year old son and I made MmmmGood Fruit Pizza for snack time. Fruit pizza tastes good any time of the year, but we especially like to make it in the summertime when we can use fruits that are in season. This time we chose to use fresh blueberries and raspberries along with some canned pineapple and mandarin oranges.

Now that school is out and kids are home for the summer, fruit pizza is a healthy and tasty snack that everyone loves. Instead of making one large crust, consider making individual sized crusts and let each person make their own mini fruit pizza. I did this with my son’s preschool class and they enjoyed getting to spread the yogurt ‘sauce’ on and choosing which fruits to use on their pizza. Since some kids are picky about fruit, letting them choose which fruits to use and eating it on ‘pizza’ may be just the trick to get them to eat more fruit.

Kids love pizza so you know this pizza is worth making when my son says, “This pizza is the goodest pizza I’ve ever had.”

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Featured Recipe: Tzatziki with Pita Chips

June 2nd, 2014

tzatzikiLast month I went to a nice restaurant with my sisters and friends before a play. I ordered a Greek Salad plate. It was delicious, but as I looked at it I thought, “I could make this so easily at home”. The salad was a combination of romaine and other lettuces, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onion, and feta cheese with some pita bread on the side. The dressing looked and tasted just like our Tzatziki recipe which is so simple and inexpensive to make. Just remember, the flavors in the Tzatziki only get better if you make it the day before you plan to use it. It keeps for 4 days in the refrigerator.

Besides using the Tzatziki as a dressing, it is a great dip for vegetables and pita chips. It is so fresh tasting. Homemade pita chips are also super easy to make and allow you to control the amount and type of fat you add to them.

Tzatziki with Pita Chips

Serving Size: 1/4 cup Tzatziki with 6 chips | Serves: 8 (makes 2 1/2 cups) | Cost Per Serving: $.57

Ingredients:

  • 1 unpeeled cucumber, washed and sliced lengthwisetzatziki label
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, peeled and minced (about 1-2 cloves)
  • 2 containers (6 ounces each) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill and/or fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Ingredients for Pita Chips:

  • 6 whole wheat pita pockets (6”)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon spice (choose one or combine dried rosemary, basil, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper)

Instructions: 

  1. Use a spoon to scrape out cucumber seeds. Dice the cucumber into small pieces or shred using a grater.
  2. Spread cucumber on two or three layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Roll up the towels and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Transfer dried cucumber to a large bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. Cover and refrigerate until served.

Pita Chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut pita in 8 wedges, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with seasoning.
  3. Toast chips 4-5 minutes, then turn and toast 1-2 minutes more. (Watch carefully at the end because they can quickly turn brown.)

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Breakfast at the Campsite (Making Homemade Granola)

May 19th, 2014
justine camping
Daniel and I resting by the lake after a long hike during a camping trip.

My husband (Daniel) and I grew up in families that loved to go camping. Some of our best childhood memories are from camping trips. When we began dating we discovered our mutual love for camping and began planning some of our own camping trips. Meals are a big part of camping, so we work together to plan meals for our camping trips.

We found out right away that our families had enjoyed many of the same foods for lunch and supper – fresh fruit (especially grapes and berries), foil packets (meat and vegetables wrapped in foil and cooked over the camp fire), grilled burgers and hot dogs. However, we clashed when it came to breakfast. Daniel was happy to pack a box of cereal and grab a handful to munch on whenever he got around to eating in the morning. I wanted a full breakfast with eggs, sausage, toast, and orange juice.

Even after more than 10 years of camping trips, we have not really been able to solve our breakfast dilemma. This summer, we are going to try homemade granola to see if it satisfies us both. Daniel will be able to satisfy his hunger for cereal and I will be able to satisfy my hunger for a full meal when I add nuts and dried fruit and stir in some yogurt.

Even if you are not a camper, you can try out our Crispy Granola recipe for any meal or snack. You can also check out this video on How to Make Homemade Granola.

Enjoy,
Justine

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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.

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