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.
At last, a recipe for whole wheat bread that does not have to be kneaded. This bread is delicious, easy, and less expensive than whole wheat bread you buy at the store. Just don’t expect it to rise as high as other yeast breads with white enriched flour.
Here are a few tips for making bread:
Heat cold milk in microwave for 45-60 seconds for lukewarm temperature. Test a drop on the inside of your wrist. It should feel very warm but not hot.
Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator or freezer for storage. Bring flour to room temperature to make bread.
Instant yeast is also called fast rising, rapid rise, quick rise, and bread machine yeast.
Grease the sides and bottom of an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Combine the lukewarm nonfat milk, juice, and honey in a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously for 3 minutes. Dough will be very thick. Scoop the dough into prepared pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 45-75 minutes, until almost double. Time varies according to room temperature.
When dough is almost doubled, preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove towel and bake bread for about 30 minutes. Dough will pull away from sides of pan when bread is done. Let bread cool 30 minutes before slicing.
Make 2 smaller loaves using half sized loaf pans. Bake for 23-27 minutes.
Make herb dinner rolls. Mix 4 teaspoons of dried herbs such as oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, or thyme into the batter. Use muffin tins and bake 15 minutes.
Make 100% whole wheat bread. Use 3 cups whole wheat flour instead of white and wheat flour and 3 tablespoons molasses instead of honey.
Ready 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!
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:
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.
Whether 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.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup meat and one bun | Serves: 5
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
Combine ground beef, onion, celery, and pepper in a medium skillet. Add water.
Cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Stir as needed. Cook until beef mixture reaches at least 160°F.
Put ground beef mixture in a colander. Pat mixture with paper towels and rinse with warm water to remove fat.
Return to skillet. Add ketchup, mustard, and sugar. Heat 5-10 minutes on low heat.
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.
This 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!
Desserts 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!