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Slow Cooker Pork Chili

slow-cooker-pork-chiliHappy New Year from the SpendSmart.EatSmart team!

We would like to start 2015 off with a new chili recipe for you. If you are like me, you have your own special way of making chili and you do not want to make any changes. When I first saw this recipe, I agreed to try it, but at the same time I told myself that I would make this new chili only once and then I would go back to my usual recipe. I was wrong! Since first trying Slow Cooker Pork Chili over a year ago, I have made my old recipe only once.

Here are some reasons why this chili has become my new favorite:

  • It uses pork. My grocery bill has been increasing, so I try to save money any way that I can. Recently, the grocery store where I shop had pork shoulder for $2.99 per pound. A similar cut of beef cost $4.49 per pound.
  • It makes enough pork for two recipes. You cook the pork in the slow cooker and use half of it for the chili and save the other half for our February recipe (or for another batch of Slow Cooker Pork Chili).
  • It is made in my slow cooker. I have a toddler and a preschooler – this means the hour before supper time can get a little crazy. If I have something ready to go in the slow cooker, it cuts down on the stress of making supper. Find out more about making meals in a slow cooker by clicking on our video or tip sheet.
  • It uses ingredients I typically have on hand – green pepper, onion, salsa, beans, and tomatoes. This saves me time and money because I do not have to go to the grocery store and search for and buy an ingredient I will only use once.
  • It tastes great! Serve it with some milk and fruit and you have an easy and great tasting meal.

Resolutions don’t have to be about giving something up, resolve to have some fun in the kitchen and try this new healthy recipe!

-Justine

 

Slow Cooker Pork Chili                

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 ¼ cups | Cost Per Serving: $1.52

slow-cooker-pork-chili-labelIngredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt, roast, or shoulder
  • 1 cup bell pepper, diced (1 medium pepper)
  • 1 cup onion, diced (1 medium onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa
  • 1 can (15 ounces) low-sodium pinto beans
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Trim visible fat from the pork. Cut into 2 inch chunks. Place in slow cooker.
  2. Add pepper, onion, and salsa.
  3. Cook on a low setting for 6 hours or a high setting for 3 hours.
  4. Pull the meat apart into shreds with a fork. (You should have about 4 cups.)
  5. Put half (2 cups) of the shredded pork in the refrigerator or freezer. (We’ll post a pork sandwiches recipe in February that will call for shredded pork!).  Freeze pork if it will not be used within 4 days.
  6. Return the rest of the pork to the slow cooker. Add pinto beans and diced tomatoes.
  7. Cook another 30 minutes until hot.

Tips:

  • Pork chops, boneless pork rib, or pork loin can be used. They will be more expensive but have less fat.
  • Trim fat from pork with a clean knife on a clean cutting board.
  • This recipe freezes well.
  •  Other beans can be used.
Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Last Minute Gifts

granola jarIf you find yourself racing to find a last-minute gift, look no further! Here is a collection of Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that make great low-cost gifts.

  1. Oatmeal Pancakes – Simply combine the dry pancake mix and oatmeal in a plastic bag or jar and attach a label with the cooking directions.
  2. Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes – Bake a batch and separate them into plastic bags or containers with festive ribbons or tags.
  3. Whole Grain Cereal Treats – These are a twist on everyone’s favorite. Add some sprinkles or top with a bit of colored sugar for a festive look.
  4. Crispy Granola – You can make a big batch of this granola and put it in small jars or bags to share with friends.

People love to receive recipes so make a point of attaching the recipe for each of the “gifts” you give. A healthy and homemade gift is a great way to show you care!

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Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Holiday Entertaining- Snacks and Desserts

pumpkinpuddingThe temperatures are dropping, and the holiday season is right around the corner. The holidays are a great time to celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends. The month is filled with parties and good cheer – and plenty of food! Here are some ideas to keep the holidays delicious without throwing nutrition to the wind.

Flavored popcorn

Popcorn is a perfect healthy whole grain snack to have around when entertaining, but plain popcorn doesn’t always get my mouth watering. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to spruce up an old favorite! Check out all these twists. I recommend Vanilla Corn and Nut Corn (Yum!).

Rhonda’s Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are one of my favorite snacks to munch on this time of year. They’re easy and relatively inexpensive to make, and they are a fun dish to bring to a holiday potluck. Packed with plenty of protein, an egg is filling enough to keep you from raiding the cookie table all night.

Pumpkin Pudding

There’s nothing wrong with a sweet little treat after dinner, but traditional holiday pies are often packed with sugar and extra calories. This pumpkin pudding is a healthy alternative that doesn’t sacrifice great flavor. It just might become your family’s new favorite!

Maddie

ISU Dietetics Student

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Scrambled Egg Muffins

Scrambled Egg MuffinsI often have overnight company around the holidays and many times I am looking for tasty, simple dishes I can serve hot from the oven with toast, fruit and milk. Scrambled egg muffins work for guests and they are very versatile. I have used a lot of different veggies such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.  I have even added ham or Canadian bacon.  If you’re in a real hurry, you can skip the muffin pan all together and make it in a 8 x 8-inch pan. It will take about 20 minutes in an 8 x 8 pan. To be sure, bake to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Other tips for this recipe include:

  • Diced means to cut into small pieces (1/4 inch or less).
  • Vegetables can be chopped up the night before and stored in the refrigerator to make the recipe even faster.
  • Serve extra leftover egg muffins chopped up in tortillas or with a green salad and roll for another meal.

 Scrambled Egg Muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin | Serves: 6 | Cost Per Serving: $.59

scrambled egg muffin labelIngredients: 

  • 2 cups washed vegetables, diced (broccoli, red or green bell peppers, onion)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  2. Add chopped veggies to the muffin tin.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  4. Pour eggs into the muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. To add cheese, remove the tin from the oven during the last 3 minutes of baking. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the muffins and return the tin to the oven.
  5. Bake until the temperature reaches 160°F or a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Peggy Signature

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Tackling Thanksgiving Leftovers with Flair

turkey stuffing dinner supper mealThe fall and winter holidays are my absolute favorite! I love it when we start to get a chill in the air and look ahead to holiday cooking. This week is filled with anticipation of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Yum!

But what happens on Friday? There are always so many leftovers from Thanksgiving and you can only eat so many turkey sandwiches. Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that don’t taste anything like Thanksgiving but get those leftovers used up.

Chicken Club Salad Use turkey instead of the chicken in this recipe for a light and refreshing meal. You can also use up those leftover veggies from your relish tray!
Quick Pad Thai The Asian flavors in this dish will be a nice change of pace after all that holiday food. Use turkey instead of chicken and fresh veggies if you have them.
Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes Did you buy one too many cans of pumpkin? This recipe is delicious and takes no time at all to make. These are perfect if you have someone in your house who doesn’t like pumpkin because they just taste like chocolate.

 

Enjoy the holiday and share your Thanksgiving photos with us on Facebook!

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Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Pre-Made vs Homemade Lunch-Sweet and Sour Rice

sweet and sour riceWhen it comes to eating lunch at work, I have a few options:

  1. Take my lunch.
  2. Go out to eat.
  3. Raid the vending machine. (note: this never turns out well!)

Of these choices, my preference is to take my lunch to work because I save money and know that I’m getting the nutrition I need. Most often what I take for lunch is leftovers. When I don’t have anything to take for lunch, I do occasionally eat out but that can get expensive and the portions are usually more than I need.

I’ve tried those frozen meals for one. I don’t know about you, but those just don’t fill me up! I end up looking for chocolate by 2:00. Not only are they kind of skimpy for my liking, but they also tend to be high in sodium.

I decided I could make something similar to those frozen meals to have on hand that would provide me with better nutrition and fill me up for less money. Looking at our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes I chose to make Sweet and Sour Rice. Rice dishes tend to freeze well and this recipe is easy to make.

The recipe makes 5 servings that I easily packed into freezer-safe containers and froze until I needed something quick to grab and take for lunch. I put a container in the refrigerator at work the morning I planned to eat it for lunch so it could thaw some before I reheated it. The cost per serving (2/3 cup rice and 1 ¼ cup topping) of the Sweet and Sour Rice is $1.39, less than a frozen meal. Here is how they compare:

sweetandsourrice Chart

The homemade sweet and sour rice takes more time, there’s no denying that. But I am left with food for the whole week that I feel really good about eating. For me, 25 minutes is not a big commitment to know that I have healthy lunches all week. The homemade Sweet and Sour Rice has 50 more calories and 2.5 grams more fat but the amounts are right on target for me to have for lunch. In addition, with the higher fiber and protein in the homemade meal, it is more filling. After eating the homemade Sweet and Sour Rice, I will be less likely to look for a sweet or salty snack in the afternoon. One big plus for the Sweet and Sour Rice dish is that I can use whatever veggies I want. This is a great use-up for veggies that might otherwise not get eaten.

Do you have a favorite dish you love to eat leftover for lunch? Share it with us on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Facebook page!

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Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Eating protein foods on a budget

protein foods blogMy total is what?!? There has been a lot of sticker shock at the grocery store lately. Food prices in general have increased in the last couple of years, but meat prices have gotten a lot of attention lately. Foods from the Protein Foods Group are important sources of protein, iron, vitamins B and E, zinc and magnesium. Therefore, it’s necessary to determine how to fit them into your diet but stay within your food budget.

Here are four tips for including protein foods in your diet and staying within your budget:

  1. Use www.choosemyplate.gov to determine how much food you need from the Protein Foods Group. The amount needed for the average person is 5-6 ounces. If you’re eating meat, this is just about the size of two decks of cards. Most Americans consume much more than this. By not eating larger portions than you need, you can stay within your food budget.
  2.  Choose both animal and plant-based sources of protein. As seen by this chart, the cost of a serving of protein varies by type. Some protein foods like hot dogs are inexpensive, but also higher in fat and sodium than other protein foods. By including a variety of protein sources in your diet, you can enjoy the kinds of protein you prefer but balance the cost. Be sure to consider nutritional value along with cost when choosing what sources of protein to eat.
  3. Watch for sales at the grocery store. When meat your family enjoys is on sale, buy extra and put in your freezer for use at a later time.
  4. Choose recipes that help stretch protein foods. For more expensive sources of protein, use them in recipes that make them go further. Soups, casseroles, stir-fry, and salads combine meat and poultry with beans, grains, vegetables, and dairy to make more servings.

Common sources of protein foods that I eat include ground beef, chicken breast, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and nuts. Here are some of the dishes I like to prepare with protein foods:

Ground Beef

Tacos
Spaghetti
Skillet lasagna
Homemade pizza
Chili

Chicken Breast

Mexican Chicken Soup
Quick Pad Thai
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Enchiladas

Eggs

Scrambled Egg Muffins
Breakfast Burritos
Egg Sandwich

Beans

Mexican Chicken Soup
Chili
Make Ahead Mexican Rollups

According to MyPlate, I need 6 ounces of protein foods per day. If I eat an egg and cheese on an English muffin for breakfast, 2 servings (2 cups) of Mexican Chicken Soup for lunch, and a serving of Skillet Lasagna for supper, I will eat the 6 ounces of protein foods recommended for me. There will also be enough Mexican Chicken Soup and Skillet Lasagna for my family to eat and we will still have leftovers for another day.

Protein foods are necessary for good health. With some planning and some go-to recipes, you can eat your favorite protein foods and stick to your budget. Do you have a favorite trick for making meat go further? Share it on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart Facebook page.

Jodi Signature

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Save time with Freezer Meals

freezing leftoversToday my 4-year-old son started preschool. That means summer has officially ended. While I’m a bit sad that summer has ended, I’m looking forward to our schedule getting into a more regular routine. However, I also know life will continue to be busy with activities. Therefore, I spent some time in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago preparing some meals to freeze. I enjoy freezing meals ahead of time because:

  • When I am busy I can have a meal on the table in just a few minutes.
  • I am less likely to run to the drive thru or buy convenience food that isn’t as healthy for my family.
  • My husband (not a fan of cooking) can make dinner on his own because all he needs to do is reheat.

 

When planning what dishes I would make, I browsed through the recipes on our Spend Smart Eat Smart website. I wanted to be sure to select recipes that used a variety of protein sources and flavors. The recipes I decided to make were Chicken Fajitas, Ham and Brown Rice, Sloppy Joes, and Mexican Chicken Soup. I also thought it would be nice to make a couple of recipes that would help us have a quick, healthy breakfast. For these dishes I chose Scrambled Egg Muffins and Crispy Granola.

frozen meals blog

After I had the list of recipes I wanted to make, I looked through my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer to see what ingredients I already had on hand. Some of the items I already had were chicken broth, eggs, onion, frozen peas, carrots, a couple of peppers, different spices, and hamburger. I then made a grocery list and bought the other ingredients that I needed the day before I planned to do my cooking.

I started the morning of my cooking day by chopping vegetables that I needed. Three of the recipes called for onions and peppers so I chopped those so they were ready for each of the recipes. I also chopped some broccoli for the Scrambled Egg Muffins. My family doesn’t like cooked celery so I chopped carrots to use in the Sloppy Joes in place of celery.

I made the Scrambled Egg Muffins first so they could bake while I started on the other dishes. This recipe is easy to double so if you have a larger family or just want to freeze more muffins that can easily be done.  The Ham and Brown Rice makes 9 cups so it could be split and frozen separately to get two meals if your family is smaller.

The Sloppy Joes and Chicken Enchiladas were easy to make. I just cooked the meat and vegetables for each recipe to freeze. When we are ready to eat them, all I have to do is warm them up and have the other ingredients ready to go to assemble the sandwiches or fajitas.

The Mexican Chicken Soup and Granola simmered and baked while I made the other recipes. It only took me about 3 hours to make all of the dishes and get them packaged to freeze and I have 5 meals ready to go in my freezer (Yes, my children were out of the house. Otherwise it would have taken me double the time to get this doneJ) I froze the egg muffins individually until firm so they wouldn’t freeze together, then I put them in a plastic bag in the freezer. The other dishes, I let cool for about 20 minutes at room temperature before putting in plastic bags, labeling, and putting in the freezer.

For best quality when freezing food, use containers that seal well and keep air out. If using plastic freezer bags, be sure to press out the air before sealing. Air is what causes freezer burn. Check out our ‘How to Freeze Leftovers’ video for more information on freezing food. For best quality, use frozen food within 3-4 months.

I’m looking forward to the nights this fall when I can come home from work and will just have to heat up one of the meals for supper!

Jodi Signature

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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What I have learned being part of the SSES Team

I joined the Spend Smart Eat Smart Team as a junior here at Iowa State University, a little over a year after I no longer had an on-campus meal plan so I was buying my own groceries and preparing my own meals. I liked to cook but struggled when it came to knowing how to budget my spending on groceries as well as how to reduce food waste in my kitchen.

I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work, grow and learn both professionally and personally through this job experience. Because this is my final blog post as a part of the Spend Smart Eat Smart Team I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a few lessons I’ve learned through working on this team as well as my favorite Spend Smart recipes.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through working with the Spend Smart Eat Smart team is how to use my freezer in a way that saves me time, money, and stress.
1. Buy frequently used items in bulk when they are on sale to save money.

frequent frozen items

Rather than buying frequently used frozen items at full price when I need them or occasionally getting lucky with a sale, I watch for the sale and then purchase multiple packages. This saves me money in both the price of the actual item as well as a trip to the grocery store because I already have it on hand.  See the table below for recommended freezer storage time.

freezer storage chart

“Freezing and Food Safety.” Food Safety and Inspection Service. USDA, 15 June 2013. Web. 30 July 2014.

2. Freeze leftovers or make a meal specifically for freezing with a future hectic day in mind.

As a college student I had a few hectic days (the group project meeting that was suppose to take an hour and ended up taking 3….) that left me staring into my refrigerator at 8 pm – starving, grumpy, tired and wondering what to eat. While it is hard to control things not going as planned, it is not hard to plan dinner for those days! I learned to simply freeze a portion or two of leftovers or I would anticipate a stressful week and prepare and freeze an entire meal. Nothing was better than coming home exhausted from a long day and knowing I was a few minutes away from having a delicious home cooked meal.

Soups, Enchiladas, and Ham and Brown Rice are my go-to freezer meals.

Finally, I thought I would highlight my top 7 all-time favorite Spend Smart recipes (my top 10 would spill the beans about upcoming recipes so stay tuned!!). If you are looking for a budget friendly, delicious, quick meal definitely check these out.

1. Quick Pad Thai
2. Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce
3. Whole Grain Cereal treat
4. No Knead Whole Wheat Bread
5. MmmmmGood Fruit Pizza
6. Ham and Brown Rice
7. Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

I’m excited to take the lessons I have learned and recipes with me to Peoria, IL as I begin my dietetic internship. I look forward to keeping in touch with Spend Smart Eat Smart via the Facebook page.

-Liz

2014 ISU Dietetics Graduate

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Apricot Pops

apricot popsI remember when we were kids we made our own popsicles in the summer time using a flavored drink mix like Kool-Aid. We had an ice pop mold that we used. Since we were making them out of sugary water they were very hard (basically ice on a stick) and they didn’t provide many nutrients.

Our featured apricot pop recipe has only two ingredients, yogurt and fruit, so it is more nutritious than my childhood favorites. It tastes much better too!

You don’t even need a mold for this recipe. Just use the little paper cups sold for bathroom drink dispensers and plastic spoons. To get them out of the mold you can run the bottom of the pop under hot tap water and then peel off the paper.

You can make frozen pops with all sorts of fruit, juice and yogurt or Greek yogurt combinations. I have made these without a blender or food processor by mincing the apricots on a cutting board and then stirring the fruit and yogurt together.

You can also serve the pop mixture like ice cream. Just freeze the mixture in a covered container for 3-4 hours or until firm. Thaw 20 minutes before serving. Scoop into bowls and serve.  It’s very refreshing!

Pointers from

Peggy Signature

Apricot Pops

Serving Size: 1 pop (1/2 cup) | Serves: 8 | Cost Per Serving: $.49

Ingredients:

apricot pops label

  • 1 can (15 ounces) apricots, packed in juice or light syrup
  • 2 cartons (6 ounces each) of low fat, sugar free vanilla yogurt

Supplies:

  • 8 small paper cups
  • 8 plastic spoons (for handles)

Instructions:

  1. Drain apricots.
  2. Chop the apricots finely and mix with the yogurt or blend the fruit and yogurt until smooth with a blender or food processor.
  3. Pour mixture into 8 small paper cups and put in freezer. After half an hour (when they start to freeze), stand a wooden stick or plastic spoon in the pops.
  4. Freeze 3-4 hours or until pops are solid.
  5. Remove from cup to serve. Place bottom of cup under hot running water for 20 seconds. Peel off paper cup.