True Stories from the School Cafeteria

The past couple of weeks our blogs have focused on breakfast. Today, I’m going to change it up and talk about lunch. School lunch to be more specific. A couple of weeks ago I ate school lunch with my daughter who is in kindergarten. It was the week of her birthday and she was so excited to have me come.

school lunch tray of food

At the school my kids attend, they get to choose between three entrée options, one option is always a simple sandwich. The day I visited, the other two options were a yogurt parfait or chicken tenders. As you can see in the picture, I chose the chicken tenders. Along with those I had baked beans, a roll, apple slices, broccoli salad, and milk. Another option was applesauce. Overall, I thought the food was good. It just so happens that on the day I planned to visit, my daughter begged me to take lunch from home. I don’t think it was that she didn’t like the chicken tenders as much as it seems that taking your lunch is a ‘cool’ thing to do in kindergarten as there were a number of kids who had brought their lunch.

I generally have my kids eat school lunch because:

  1. I think the school lunch provides them with a balanced meal. They don’t often choose the vegetable option but do they get the fruit, grain, protein, and dairy groups. 
  2. It allows them to try new things. They might not take new things every day but I do think they try things at school that they might not try for me at home. 
  3. The cost of the meal is reasonable for what they get, including fruits and vegetables. And for families who have limited budgets, free and reduced price meals are available.  For more information on reduced price meals, contact your child’s school.

If you have the opportunity to eat school lunch with a child, I encourage you to do so. They will enjoy having you come!

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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Breakfast recipes my 9-year old can make

Last week Kat shared breakfast recipes that can be made ahead or are quick to make. Today, I’d like to share some breakfast recipes that older kids can make themselves.

My husband goes to work early so I need to get myself, Parker, and my 5 year-old daughter Paige ready and out the door. Parker is an early riser and is often hungry when he wakes up. If I’m finishing my morning workout, he sometimes makes his own breakfast, which is helpful. Here are some recipes that many kids can make themselves.

  • Crispy Granola– Crispy Granola freezes well so it’s easy to pour into a bowl and add milk. Sliced banana could also be added.
  • Yogurt Parfaits– Kids can have fun layering fruit, yogurt, and toppings into a bowl to create their own yogurt parfait. The Crispy Granola is also a good option for this.
  • Peanut Butter Pita Pockets– For kids who like peanut butter, this is a fun way to eat it.
  • Berry and Greens Smoothies– This recipe makes eight smoothies that you can store in individual jars in the freezer. Move a smoothie from the freezer to refrigerator the night before and they will be ready for kids the next morning.

For kids who are ready to start preparing their own breakfast, remind them of the importance of washing their hands before food preparation.

crispy granola
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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Breakfast for Busy Mornings

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

We’ve made it through another summer. School is back in session and so are busy mornings. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in the morning; making sure everyone is ready, out the door, and fed. Figuring out a quick, nutritious, and tasty breakfast can be the most challenging part of the school routine. Luckily, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app have a lot of good recipes that you can either make ahead or make quickly. 

scrambled egg muffin

Make Ahead

These recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just microwave and send them on their way! 

These make ahead baked goods have an added bonus of going great with coffee or doubling as an easy snack time solution. 

Quick Fix

Looking for something that you can make in a hurry? Look no further. 

I hope these recipes help to lighten the load of busy mornings. Sending our best to you and yours this school year.

Breakfast Cookies

A few years ago, I was browsing through some old recipe files that a co-worker sent me.  We were looking forward to the upcoming anniversary of one of the programs we both work for and she thought some of the recipes might be fun to bring back.  I was skeptical, but I like recipes, so I started reading. It turned out that she was right and I found quite a few recipes that we have been able to bring back over the past year. 

breakfast cookies

One of those throwback recipes is our September recipe of the month, Breakfast Cookies.  These cookies check off a lot of boxes for me.  

  • They combine fresh apples and dried fruit with shredded cheese to give the salty/sweet flavor combination that I love.  
  • The oatmeal provides some fiber, which makes me feel full longer.
  • They store well, so I can make them at night and they are ready to go for breakfast in the morning.

These cookies are great for a quick breakfast, which is important to me on school days.  I like to sit down to breakfast with my children before they head off to school, but I usually do not have time to make a big meal.  If I make these the night before, we feel less rushed in the morning and we can enjoy our meal together before they are off for the day.  Follow along with our blog for the rest of the month for more ideas on eating meals with your children and eating breakfast.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Meal Planning at My House – Jody

This past month we have been sharing how we each like to do meal planning. To see how Christine and Justine like to do meal planning, check out their blogs here and here.


In addition to the ideas Christine and Justine have shared, I also like to make and freeze main dishes ahead of time. On occasion, I like to spend a Saturday morning making 4-5 main dishes to put in the freezer. Then when I’m making my meal plans for the next few weeks, I can include a meal from the freezer.


Since my kids went back to school this past week, now is a good time for me to get some meals in the freezer.


Here are some of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that freeze well.

For more recipes, check out the Freezes Well section of Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

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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Meal Planning at My House – Justine

Meal planning can look different in every home. In my home, meal planning is flexible. I like to keep it flexible because, with a family of five, things can change very quickly. Today I will share the process I use to plan supper meals at my home.

The first thing I do is choose our main dishes for one week. I usually choose four or five main dishes because I like to double recipes and serve leftovers two or three times per week. Next, I choose side dishes. I usually do not want to cook both main dishes and side dishes, so I keep it simple with sides. I buy a variety of canned, fresh, and frozen fruits and vegetables for sides. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are especially important for our family because they store well and they are quick and easy to prepare.

I do not assign specific meals to days of the week. I just post the list of meals I have available on the refrigerator and then make the meal that will be best for my family on a particular day. For example, I tend to go grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday, so I will cook larger meals over the weekend that can be saved for leftovers on a busy night later in the week.

This past weekend, I cooked a pork roast in the slow cooker. So far, we have had two meals from the pork and I think we can get two more. Even though our main dishes will be similar for these meals, I can use the fruits and vegetables I have on hand to change things up a little. This flexible approach to meal planning works well for my family. Stay tuned next week for the approach that works best for Jody and her family.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Meal Planning at My House – Christine

Our theme for blogs this month is meal planning. Each of our primary bloggers will share how they approach meal planning at their own home. We hope that you will be able to take some ideas from each of us to make meal planning go a bit easier for you.

easy roasted veggies

Meal planning is important to me because I want to make meal prep easy and I like to avoid food waste as much as I can. Most of the time I plan meals for just one person, so my strategies look different from someone who is planning for a whole family. Justine and Jody will have tips for families throughout the month.

Here are some of my favorite go-to strategies.

  1. I start with what I have. I begin my meal plan for each week with what I already have to reduce food waste. I often cook up a stir-fry or soup on Sunday with any vegetables from the previous week to get them used up before they spoil. One recipe that is great for this is our Easy Roasted Veggies.
  2. I do not cook for one. I generally cook a full batch of whatever I am making and I freeze leftovers in small containers. This way, I cook once and I know there are lots of yummy things in my freezer. The containers in the freezer make super-fast lunches and dinners.
  3. I pre-prep ingredients. When I get home from work at night I am usually very hungry and not in the mood to start cooking from scratch. I try to do myself a favor and be ready for this situation by having pre-prepped ingredients in my fridge or freezer. Here are some of my standbys:
    • Chopped onions in an airtight container in the freezer. These are great for cooking. If you will use the onion within a few days, you can store it in the refrigerator. I will often chop up 4 or 5 onions and keep them in the freezer to use for many meals. This works with peppers as well!
    • Cooked proteins. This time of year, I grill outside a lot. If I light my grill, I fill it. This means that I often have many frozen protein foods like grilled chicken and hamburgers. I can heat these up very quickly to get a meal started and cut my cooking time way down.
    • Cut fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. I know that I am much more likely to reach for fruits and vegetables for snacks when they are cut and ready to go. I tend to purchase fruits and vegetables that can be cleaned and/or prepped ahead, such as:
      • Carrots
      • Celery
      • Pea pods
      • Peppers
      • Watermelon
      • Grapes

I hope one of these ideas is helpful to you and stay tune all month for Justine and Jody’s meal planning routines!

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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Zucchini Hummus Wrap

Our August recipe of the month is Zucchini Hummus Wrap. Zucchini are cut into rounds, sautéed, and then combined in a tortilla with hummus, sliced cheese, and sliced vegetables.

These wraps make a delicious meal that fits in your hand. I think this recipe is perfect for August for three reasons:

  1. Zucchini – zucchini are in season and plentiful in August. My family and I love zucchini bread and muffins, but I like to use zucchini in other ways too.
  2. Time – I do not like to spend much time cooking in the summer because my family and I would rather be outside. This recipe comes together quickly, so it is a great August meal for my family.
  3. Temperature – August is hot, so I try to use the oven as little as possible to avoid heating up the house. You only need to sauté the zucchini rounds for about 6 minutes for this recipe, so the heat from the stovetop is minimal.

Before you try this recipe, there are a couple of things that I think are important to know. The first is to choose small sized zucchini for this recipe because they will fit better in your tortilla when it is time to wrap it up. Save your larger zucchini to shred for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. The second is to eat these right away. They taste best when served right after the zucchini are sautéed and they do not store well. Use some of your August zucchini and try our Zucchini Hummus Wraps this month.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Veggies for Breakfast

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, about 85% of Americans eat fewer vegetables than we should. That means only 15% are eating enough. Potatoes and tomatoes are the most commonly eaten, followed by lettuce and onions.

Therefore, the Dietary Guidelines recommend making small shifts to eat more vegetables. This includes
eating more vegetables that are prepared in ways that are lower in calories, saturated fats, and sodium
and eating a wider variety of vegetables.

I follow someone on social media who has been encouraging her followers to eat more vegetables. One of the ways she gets in her vegetables is eating them at breakfast. Unless I’m eating eggs with vegetables or a smoothie with spinach, I don’t often eat vegetables at breakfast. However, there’s no reason I can’t! So, I’ve been challenging myself to do so. Some ways Some breakfast veggies that work for me are: leftover roasted vegetables, eating carrot sticks and pepper strips, and eating celery with peanut butter. These are all things I do other times of the day. Now I just eat them earlier to help me get in more vegetables. Here are a few other ways you might try eating more vegetables.

  • Think of vegetables as part of your main dish as well as a side dish. We have lots of recipes that
    include vegetables as part of the main dish.
  • Make a vegetable tray and keep it in your refrigerator to grab out for snacks and meals. Make Vegetable Dip or After School Hummus to go along with the vegetables. Vegetable trays seem to
    make vegetables more exciting!
  • Eat them fresh, frozen, and canned. All forms of vegetables count, so don’t let the worry that
    fresh vegetables will go bad or the time to cut them up prevent you from eating more
    vegetables. Eat canned vegetables that are low in sodium and frozen vegetables without sauce
    in addition to fresh.

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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Corn on the Cob

This week we have one more new produce video to share with you – corn on the cob. This is perfect timing here in Iowa because corn on the cob is delicious right now.

Our new video gives some tips on preparing fresh corn on the cob. Start by shucking the corn, which is removing the husks that surround the ears of corn. Then scrub the ears of corn under running water.

Cook the corn right on the cob by boiling, grilling, or microwaving it. I usually put our ears of corn in a microwave safe 9-inch by 13-inch pan, add about 1/3 cup of water, cover with plastic wrap, and cook for two minutes per ear of corn.

However, this year, my daughter’s two front teeth are very loose, so she is having a hard time eating corn on the cob. This is where the preparation method shown in the video comes in handy for me. I use a paring knife to cut the kernels off the ear of corn. Then, I cook the cut kernels following the same steps for microwaving a whole ear of corn. This method is also useful if you want to use fresh corn in place of canned or frozen in a recipe like our Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.

Check out the video and enjoy your corn on the cob this summer!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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