Have you ever heard of a chocolate cupcake that provides 60% of the Vitamin A you needed in a day? Today is your lucky day!
My first experience with surprise cake was a layer cake made with spice cake mix and pumpkin pie spice. It tasted good. However, if it is not chocolate I usually don’t spend the calories on cake. We experimented a bit and came up with chocolate cupcakes made with pumpkin and apple juice. Believe it or not, there is no oil added at all.
I love this recipe because it is super simple, lower in calories than the usual cupcake, and more nutritious. I bought a pack of 6 juice boxes which I use just for this cake. It is super moist so I freeze what I am not going to use in the next 4 days .
What 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 $2.50 each). This is a little more than I usually spend on frozen vegetables, but there are some added nutritional benefits to eating edamame along with other vegetables. It is a good source of protein, fiber, some B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. This makes it a good partner for vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C, such as peppers, and vitamin A, such as carrots or winter squash.
Edamame can be used in many ways. I have served it as a side dish with a little salt and pepper. It can also be added to any dish you add frozen vegetables to such as soups, stir-fries, or casseroles. I have added it to my children’s favorite, tuna and noodles. A small amount (1/2 to 1 cup) of thawed edamame could be added to any of these SpendSmart.EatSmart recipes to boost the nutrition:
Whether you are a Broncos fan, Seahawks fan or just watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, you might be pondering what to serve while the big game is on. Consider our Make Your Own Tostadas. They are super economical (about .40 each) and easy. If you prepare the toppings and bake the tostadas the day before or during the pregame you won’t have to be in the kitchen while everyone else is watching the game.
For special occasions like this I like to set up a buffet table so everyone can help themselves. In addition to the tostadas, I would add a big platter of fruit and tray of brownies/cookies. To keep the refried beans warm I would put them in a slow cooker on low. If they get dry, add a little water or tomato juice and stir.
Make Your Own Tostadas
Serving Size: 1 tostadaServes:10 Cost Per Serving:$.36
10 corn tortillas (6-inch)
1 can (16 ounces) fat free refried beans
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Nonfat sour cream
1 cup tomato, chopped
1/2 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded
3 cups lettuce, shredded
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place tortillas in a single layer on baking sheets. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for 5-7 minutes, flip over, and bake 5-7 minutes more until crisp.
Put refried beans in microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave while tortillas bake. Stir beans so they heat evenly.
Spread a thin layer of hot beans on baked tortillas.
Serve with your choice of toppings.
OptionsCut tortillas into snack size servings before baking. Use as dippers.
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.
Save extra baked tortillas in an airtight container.
I 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: 6
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
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
Add water to veggies in pot. Heat to boiling.
Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add lentils to pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not drain.
Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.
Rinse kale leaves, cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces.
Stir kale, salt, and pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
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.
I’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.
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.
For 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.
The 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.
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
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
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a bowl mix the cut veggies with oil, salt, and pepper.
Lay veggies around the edge of a 9 by 13 pan (or jellyroll pan).
Use a small bowl to make the rub. Mix the brown sugar, garlic, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the bowl.
Sprinkle the rub over the loin. Press gently so the rub sticks to the roast. Wash your hands after handling the raw meat.
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.
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.
Remove from oven. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.
I 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.
I 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.
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.
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.