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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Spend Smart and Eat Smart for the Holidays

December 9th, 2013

young girl drinking mugI’ve just returned from vacation in North Carolina. One of the things I am grateful for is food prices here in Iowa. We don’t appreciate how good we have it until we shop on either coast for groceries. Since my cupboard was bare, I needed to make a trip to the grocery store. Big surprise, my store finished a renovation while I was gone which includes a much larger produce section, which is great. However, they have also devoted half of an aisle to holiday candy. Halloween candy is hardly gone when the Christmas candy moves in. Add in all the holiday baking and no wonder budgets and weights get out of control at this time of year

We can take different approaches to spending smart and eating smart this time of year. Some sticklers would say “I’m going to diet and make a strict list of how much to spend on every gift” while others pledge to “enjoy the season and eat and spend what I want”. I have used both approaches over the years with insignificant success.

Here’s my list of strategies to enjoy the holidays while keeping my budget and health in check.

1. Keep it simple. We eat and spend more when we have multiple entrees, side dishes and desserts. Let the flavor of the food shine instead of adding lots of ingredients, calories and cost.  Serve fresh green beans instead of green bean casserole, roasted sweet potatoes instead of mashed with marshmallows and butter, and fresh vegetable platters instead of rich appetizers.
2. Eat the dishes you want, but take half a portion. You get to enjoy festive holiday flavors with half the calories.
3. Limit eating out. Entertain with a theme such as game/card night; movie night, skating or sledding. Serve soup, crusty bread, and holiday cookies or another simple menu.
4. Make it from scratch. You can make lots of cookies, rolls or quick breads for the same price as a pound of purchased chocolates. Plus you can make your goodies healthier.

      • You can alter most recipes by cutting the fat, sugar and salt a little and no one will notice a difference in taste. You can reduce a cup of fat or sugar to 2/3 cup and you can cut the salt by half.
      • If you are interested in more ideas for substitutions check out this free publication from Texas A&M Extension, (Altering Recipes for Good Health).

5. Give gifts of food.  It’s not too late to make cocoa, tea, or soup mix. I like to give prepared meals that I put in freezer containers.

    • I put a whole meal (entrée and sides) in the container for friends and relatives who live alone.
    • corn chip chiliFor young families I make family size entrees and put them in larger containers.
    • You can buy inexpensive containers and add a kitchen towel or mixing spoon to complete the gift.  I remember years ago I kept this gift going for several months by taking the container home and refilling it for my grandpa.
    • Check our post Food Gifts: Give of your time and talent, save dollars for more ideas.

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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Pork Loin Roast with Veggies

November 4th, 2013

pork loinHere’s a Feast for the Eyes, Nose and Taste Buds.

Roasted pork loin and vegetables is one of my “go to” recipes when I’m having family and friends over. It’s easy, it tastes wonderful and the preparation is done long before the guests come. I usually serve it with fresh or frozen fruit salad, rolls, and a fruit crisp since I am heating the oven.

Oh, I forgot to mention two more benefits. The house smells wonderful while the roast is cooking and the cost is very reasonable for such an impressive meal!

When choosing a roast make sure you buy a loin roast, not a tenderloin roast. A loin roast is about 3-4” in diameter and usually sold in pieces that weigh 2-4 pounds. In central Iowa, pork loin costs about $2 a pound on sale. A tenderloin is much smaller in diameter and costs about twice as much.

I use a rub to add flavor to the roast and I have a trick that dials up the flavor even more. I brown the meat in a big skillet before I put it in the oven to roast.

The only way to determine when your roast is done is to use a meat thermometer and take it out at 145 degrees. You’ll want to avoid overcooking the roast. Allow the meat to rest for at least five minutes before slicing.

When I make this recipe I make more vegetables than the recipes calls for. Roasted vegetables have a sweeter more intense flavor than raw or boiled vegetables and I love the leftovers. Cut the vegetables so they are all roughly the same size. I typically shoot for about 1 inch chunks, so they will be done at the same time.

I serve the pork sliced on a platter with the vegetables around the outside. Delicious!

 

Pork Loin Roast with Veggies

Serving Size:  3 ounces meat and 1 cup veggies | Servings:  6

 

IngredientsFoodProSQL PDF File

  • 2 cups potatoes, diced (about 12 ounces or 2 medium)2 cups onion, cut in wedges(about ½ pound or 2 medium onions)
  • 2 cups baby carrots or ¾ pound regular carrots, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1¼ pound pork loin

The Rub

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a bowl mix the cut veggies with oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Lay veggies around the edge of a 9 by 13 pan (or jellyroll pan).
  4. Use a small bowl to make the rub. Mix the brown sugar, garlic, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the bowl.
  5. Sprinkle the rub over the loin. Press gently so the rub sticks to the roast. Wash your hands after handling the raw meat.
  6. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the loin. Brown the sides of meat. Turn after about 2-3 minutes per side.
  7. Transfer the pork to the center of the pan with veggies. Bake for about 40 minutes. Check the temperature after 30 minutes in the oven. Take the meat out when a meat thermometer reads 145°F.
  8. Remove from oven. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

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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Sweet Potato Fries

October 7th, 2013

sweet potato RGBI love sweet potato fries. I like the flavor plus I’m getting great fiber and Vitamin A. They are one of those red/orange vegetables we are supposed to eat 5-6 cups of each week. Sweet potatoes cost more than white potatoes, but they are in-season in fall/winter so expect the best prices right now.

Making sweet potato fries can be tricky. Even restaurants that deep fry them have a hard time getting them crispy and not mushy in the middle. Our recipe doesn’t add a lot of fat by frying them and they have a nice texture, just don’t expect that they will be super crispy and brown.

One of the keys for making this recipe successfully is making sure the potato is sliced evenly.  Because raw potatoes are so hard, we suggest that you cut the potatoes lengthwise and then put the cut side down on the cutting board and slice them crosswise. This will give you a flat, stable surface when you’re cutting.

Sometimes my store sells yams and sometimes sweet potatoes. I use them both in recipes like this, but if you are curious about the difference this article is helpful. What’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

 

Sweet Potato Fries

Serving Size:  about 1/2 c fries and 1 T dip | Servings: 6sweet potato label

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 1 T  vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • DIP:
    • 1/4 c light mayo
    • 1 T ketchup
    • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, chili powder,  or paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse potatoes under running water. Peel if desired or just scrub potatoes well.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise.
  3. Lay each potato half flat and cut into half-moon shapes.
  4. Combine potatoes, oil, and salt in a bowl. Stir so potatoes are covered with oil.
  5. Grease cookie sheet with cooking spray or vegetable oil and lay potatoes in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.
  7. While potatoes are baking, mix the dip ingredients.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

 

Peggy Signature

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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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Tomato Time – Yum

August 5th, 2013

tomato and spinach pastaTomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable grown in our gardens, and for good reason. They are tasty, nutritious, versatile, relatively easy to grow, and return high value for the space they occupy.

I love tomatoes, especially those sweet cherry and grape ones that give you a burst of flavor when you bite into them. Our featured recipe this month packs a lot of flavor into a fresh tasting, light pasta dish.

When I make this dish I substitute basil for some of the spinach and when I have garden tomatoes, sometimes I use large tomatoes. When I use large tomatoes I take the seeds out and cut the tomatoes into large chunks before I roast them. I think you could grill the tomatoes instead of roasting them, but I haven’t tried this yet. I usually serve a green salad, fruit and milk with this dish. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Servings: 4

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta Label

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup oil (divided)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups fresh spinach or a 10 ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes under running water. Cut in half. Spread on greased baking pan.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil (2 tablespoons), salt, pepper, and garlic powder on tomatoes. Stir to coat.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Prepare spinach and spaghetti as tomatoes bake.
  5. Rinse fresh spinach in water, slice in strips OR thaw, drain, and pat dry the frozen spinach. Set aside.
  6. Follow package directions to cook spaghetti. Drain.
  7. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, Italian seasoning, spinach, and baked tomatoes to the spaghetti. Stir until heated through. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Peggy Signature

 

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Try Canned Salmon in Wraps

June 3rd, 2013

salmon Wrap with noteI can’t remember ever having salmon when I was a kid. The only canned fish we ate was tuna. As an adult I love to order grilled salmon, but I was not familiar with canned salmon until a couple of years ago. I started actively trying to get fish into my diet a couple of times a week, as advised by the 2010  Dietary Guidelines for Americans to increase my intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and discovered canned salmon in the process.

 

Here are a few things about salmon I have learned:

  • Generally, the redder the salmon the more expensive it is and the more fat it contains.
  • Pink and chum salmon are your best buy.
  • Canned salmon comes in a variety of sizes: the tall, 15½-ounce can contains about 2 cups; the 7¾-ounce can contains 1 cup; the 3¾-ounce can contains about ½ cup.
  • Canned salmon contains high-quality protein. It has a higher fat content than  white fish, but 3½ ounces of canned salmon contains less fat than 3½ ounces of broiled, lean ground beef.
  • The canning process makes salmon bones soft and digestible. When you mash the bones with a fork and mix into the flaked salmon no one will notice and you will get about 290 mg of calcium in a half cup of salmon (that’s the same amount as you get in a glass of milk).
  • Salt is added to canned salmon during processing. Draining and rinsing salmon reduces the sodium by about half.

These Salmon Wraps are a great for hot summer days. No cooking to heat up the kitchen and you can make them ahead. I have served them as both an entrée and as an appetizer. The most important thing to remember is to make sure all the ingredients are not too juicy. Pat the lettuce leaves dry, scoop the center out of the cucumber etc.  You can use tuna in the recipe, but you will get fewer omega-3 fatty acids.

Salmon Wraps

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 wrap | Per Serving: $1.27

Ingredients:

salmon wraps label

4 ounces low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

1 can (14.75 ounces) salmon

3 tablespoons light Italian dressing

¼ teaspoon black pepper

6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

Rinsed lettuce or spinach leaves

1 cucumber

1 tomato

Directions:

1. Soften cream cheese in medium bowl or microwave for 10 seconds.

2. Wipe top of salmon can before opening. Drain salmon in a colander and rinse with water.

3. Add salmon, dressing, and pepper to cream cheese in medium bowl. Stir to blend.

4. Spread ⅓ cup filling on each tortilla. Spread to the edges.

5. Slice tomato thinly and cut slices in half.

6. Peel cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut in half crosswise. Lay on flat side and cut into narrow strips (⅓ inch in diameter).

7. Lay lettuce or spinach leaves in the center of the tortilla. Top with tomato and cucumber down the center of the tortilla.

8. Roll up tightly. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Peggy Signature

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Tips for Low Stress, Low Cost Entertaining

May 20th, 2013

caufliflower saladThis weekend is Memorial Day. Are you entertaining friends or family? If so, a little advance planning will save dollars and make your weekend less stressful.

Here are some tips:

  • Grocery stores will feature picnic foods this week. If your family grills or picnics frequently, you may be able to stock up and save.
  • If you are barbequing, consider having everyone bring their own main dish and a side dish to share. Assign appetizers, fruit sides, vegetable sides, and desserts. Then you can supply the beverages, grill, tableware, etc.
  • If you aren’t grilling, consider using the more inexpensive beef or pork roasts to make a batch of shredded meat to put on buns or serve with rice. Another idea would be Any Day Chicken Salad.
  • If you are making the sides for the party, don’t go overboard with choices. The greater the variety, the greater the expense, more time spent in preparing, and usually more leftovers. I plan one starchy side like potato salad/baked beans/macaroni salad, a fruit or vegetable salad/tray, plus a simple dessert like bars or cookies. If you are having shredded meat as I mentioned before, think about a big bowl of rice (very cheap and super easy to make, especially if you cook it in the oven or a rice steamer). Here are some ideas from our recipe collection. These are all very simple to make so your kids can help you (kids tend to enjoy eating food they help make).

Creamy Cauliflower Saladfruit kabobs and yogurt

Pasta Salad

Fruit Salad

Fruit Kabobs with Yogurt Dip

Crunchy Cabbage Salad

Waldorf Summer Salad

As for the beverages make ice tea, lemonade or a drink mix and have water and lemon slices on hand.

Keep it simple and enjoy your guests.

Peggy Signature

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Cookin’ it up for Mom on Mother’s Day

May 6th, 2013

justin and parker cooking

Even though I enjoy cooking meals for my family, it’s always nice to have someone else, like my husband, doing the cooking once in a while. When my husband cooks I request that he makes quiche and butternut squash soup, since those are his specialties. My 3-year-old son also likes to ‘cook’ but his plastic play food or imaginary food just is not very filling!

Mother’s Day, which is on May 12, is a good time to cook for mom. There’s always the option of going out to eat but we have a lot of tasty recipes that are easy to make and easy on the pocketbook on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart website to try. Here are a few ideas:

To Make Mom Breakfast in Bed, Try: For Lunch or Supper, Try:

Yogurt Parfaits

French Toast

Easy Quiche

Oatmeal Pancakes

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Skillet Lasagna

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake

Fish Tacos

mothers day fruit pizza

And for a sweet treat for mom, make Fruit Pizza!

Tip: If you’re a mom, make a copy of this blog and strategically place it for your family to see to give them a hint! :) Jodi Signature Read more…

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