Jody’s Top Picks

Last week Justine started our series on our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes. Today I’m excited to share a few of my family’s favorites. I have to admit, it took me a bit to decide which ones I wanted to share. I have a number of them saved under My Recipes on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. To save a recipe, just find it in the app and click the heart icon near the top. It will be saved in your My Recipes list for easy access. Here are just a few of my top picks.

Main dish: Tamale Pie– This one wasn’t hard for me to choose as my favorite. I tell everyone about this recipe and make it often. It is easy to make and has great flavor. The leftovers (if there are any) are good too! 

Salad: Chicken Salad-I often make this using canned chicken so it comes together quickly. It’s good for a quick lunch or supper.

Soups: Mexican Chicken Soup– My family eats a lot of soup and this one is a favorite. The ingredients are ones that I can keep on hand, so I can make it if I need a last minute meal. 

Desserts: Peanut Butter Balls-My 6-year-old daughter LOVES these. She asks to make them weekly. I like to make a larger batch and freeze them. We eat them for dessert and as snacks. 

Snacks: Berry and Greens Smoothies-I make a batch of these to freeze and we eat them for breakfast. I like to take one to work with me and have for a mid-morning snack. 

If you haven’t already downloaded the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app, do it today and start creating your list of favorites!

Peanut butter balls
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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Mushroom Quinoa

Our December recipe of the month is Mushroom Quinoa.  This recipe includes sautéed mushrooms, and any recipe with sautéed mushrooms is a win for me.  The mushrooms are cooked with onions, garlic, herbs, ground black pepper, and salt. At the end, cooked quinoa is stirred in to make a tasty side dish.  If you are not a mushroom lover like me, you can substitute a different soft vegetable such as bell peppers or zucchini.

Since I love any recipe with mushrooms, this recipe is the perfect lead in for a theme we are going to explore all month.  We are each going to take a week to share our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes with you. To start us off, here are some of my favorites:

  • Soup:  Autumn Soup, I like the smooth texture and the rich flavor of this soup.  I use it often in the fall when winter squash is abundant.
  • Salad:  Croutons, I know this is not technically a salad, but these homemade croutons make it more likely that my family will eat salad.
  • Main Dish:  Black Bean Burgers, my family loves burgers and this is an economical and tasty way to serve them more often.
  • Side Dish:  No Knead Whole Wheat Bread, my family will eat this homemade bread for any meal or snack, it also makes a great grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Snack/Dessert:  Frozen Pudding Sandwiches, my children often request these and they can double as a snack or a dessert.

Please comment below with your favorite recipes, we would love to know.

Enjoy!

mushroom quinoa
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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All Forms Fit!

Last week Christine shared some tips for storing produce so you can enjoy it before it spoils. One of the tips was to mix up the form of fruits and veggies that you use. As she mentioned, all forms can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Using different forms of produce in my meal plans helps my family and I eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables while still staying within my budget and the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen.

Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m deciding which form to buy.

  • Is the produce in season? I buy fresh produce when it’s in season. It costs less and is likely to be at it’s peak flavor. When it’s not in season, I don’t buy it or I buy it frozen or canned. You can freeze extra produce if time and space allow for use at a later time. For more information on freezing produce, check out this handout.
  • How will I use the produce? For example, if I’ll use tomatoes in a soup or stew, I’ll most often choose canned tomatoes. However, if I’m using the tomatoes in a salad, fresh tomatoes are probably a better choice.
  • How much waste is there? If I buy fresh broccoli, I’ll pay for the entire weight, even though my recipe might only call for florets. In this case, I may choose the frozen broccoli florets.
  • How much time will it save me overall? In addition to the cooking time, I also think about the preparation and clean-up time. When I’m short on time during the week, I plan meals that use produce that takes little time to prepare. For me, this means I use more frozen and canned options on weeknights.

Here are some of the different forms of fruits and vegetables that my family enjoys for our meals and snacks. 

Fresh: baby carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries

Frozen: peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, stir fry vegetables, mixed vegetables, blueberries, and mixed berries

Canned: black beans, tomatoes, green beans, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and applesauce

Dried: raisins and cranberries

Juice: 100% orange juice
For more information, watch our video on How to Get the Best Deal on Fruits and Vegetables.

Tomato
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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Fruit and Veggie Staying Power

After I have spent time and money buying groceries, the last thing I want to happen is food going in the trash. I try my best to prevent it through planning meals and snacks that I know will lead to all of my perishable food getting used before it spoils. Even with a solid meal plan for the week, it is important to store fruits and vegetables in the best way to maximize their shelf life. Here are some tips to avoid the dreaded fuzzy fruit or slimy lettuce in your fridge!

  1. Store all cut or peeled fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. Prioritize eating these soon after they are cut.
  2. Mix up your fruit and veggie forms. Frozen and canned vegetables are healthy choices that fit well into many meals. When choosing canned fruits, choose items that are not canned in heavy syrup, which adds a lot of sugar to the fruit. Many canned vegetables are now available in reduced sodium varieties as well.
  3. Store food in the right place. Some go straight to the fridge; some need time on the counter before refrigeration and some can be stored at room temperature for multiple weeks. This one-page document outlines where different types of fruits and veggies should be stored. 
  4. There are products like bags and containers on the market that claim to extend produce shelf life. You may choose to use these, but the tips above will go a long way to preventing fruit and veggie waste without having to buy anything special.

Enjoy making half your plate fruits and veggies without wasting food or money!

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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Soup’s on!

Soup is a favorite meal in my house during the fall or winter. Well, for my husband, soup is a favorite all year round! I enjoy making soup since there are so many different combinations and nearly all of them are a one-pot meal! I also like that I can make many of them in the slow cooker. This allows me to start them before heading to work and supper is ready when I get home.

Of the different soups I make, chili gets a high rating from my family so I thought I’d share some of our chili recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. 

  • 10 Minute Chili: This is a very basic chili recipe that you can make your own by adding different spices, veggies or toppings. It is an easy way to introduce the flavors of chili to children as well. 
  • Vegetarian Chili: This bean and veggie chili is a nice option for a potluck or other occasion where you may not know if there are vegetarians in the group. 
  • Three Can Chili: This chili could not be simpler and it uses products you can keep on hand in your pantry. Depending on your child’s skills and experience in the kitchen, they may be able to make this recipe almost entirely on their own. 
  • Slow Cooker Pork Chili: This is a rich and delicious chili for the slow cooker. It is very tasty leftover as well as fresh from the pot. 

Try one of these soon on a cold winter day!

bowl of chili
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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Golden Cornbread

Our November recipe of the month is Golden Corn Bread. Corn bread reminds me of my childhood. Our school cafeteria made the most delicious corn bread I have ever had. They always served it with chili and then they would put the leftover corn bread on the salad bar the next day. You can bet that I was one of the people who ate it two days in a row.

golden corn bread

The school’s corn bread probably would not have met the nutrition standards we have for our recipes here, so we have created our own version. We substituted in some whole wheat flour to increase the fiber in the bread. We also reduced the sugar and fat. In my opinion, it is still pretty tasty.

Just like my school, I often serve this corn bread at two meals. We eat it with chili for supper at night. Then my children and I eat the leftovers for breakfast in the morning. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Stress-Free Halloween

You were expecting us to blog about handing out pencils instead of candy, right? Though non-candy treats are a way to celebrate the holiday without loading up on sugar, most kids don’t get very excited about that approach and we want happy kids on Halloween. Celebrating with some candy is fun for all ages. 

Since we all know the piles of candy are coming, here are a few ideas for dealing with them in a healthy way.

  1. Eat a healthy and hearty meal before you head out to trick-or-treat. Children will be less likely to overdo it on candy if their tummies are full. Since the evening will be busy, consider a slow-cooker meal that you can put on early in the day like our Slow Cooker Pork Chili.
  2. Some experts think that strictly limiting candy at Halloween makes children even more fanatical about it. Consider allowing children to eat what they want on Halloween night and then set limits that make sense for your family going forward.
  3. Talk with your child about a plan for all of the candy before they get it. Consider allowing a piece or two every night after they eat supper over the course of a week. If they know the expectations in advance, they may be more likely to cooperate. 
  4. Though we generally avoid wasting food whenever we can, candy is a little different. If your child brings home pounds of candy, it is OK to have them choose the ones they like best, eat them over the course of a week or so and toss the others. 

Happy Halloween from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team! Enjoy your candy!

Bowl of halloween candy
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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October recipes you will love

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

It’s October, the air is crisp and football is in full swing. This time of year finds me craving warm and comforting food while I cheer on Iowa State. The fall line-up of vegetables includes squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Squash and pumpkin can be intimidating. Not everyone is used to dealing with these hard vegetables with inedible skins, unless they’re carving one for Halloween of course! I recommend this how-to for squash and pumpkin to get you started:  

How to Prepare Winter Squash This is an easy and quick way to cook squash and pumpkin. After cooking you can then use the squash and pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin (pies, cakes, soups, etc.). 

Note: sweet potato also makes a great substitute for canned pumpkin.  

Consider adding the recipes below to your fall cooking line-up!

For warm and comforting dinners:

Squash

Butternut Squash Enchiladas A fun and creative take on enchiladas. Use corn tortillas for a delicious and nutritious gluten free dinner. 

Autumn Soup You can’t have fall without it. Apples add a nice sweetness to this creamy soup. 

Sweet Potato, Squash, or Cauliflower

Easy Roasted Veggies This versatile recipe does a nice job bringing out the natural sweetness of rich fall veggies.

Sweet Potato

Mashed Sweet Potatoes Three ingredients yield a whole lot of yum in this easy side dish. 

For pumpkin spice lovers:

Pumpkin

Pumpkin Apple Cake Add nuts if you want or substitute chocolate cake mix if you prefer.  This easy cake is great with coffee. 

Pumpkin Pudding A great recipe to make with kids. Dip graham crackers or apples as a fun treat.

Bowl of pumpkin pudding

My Fall Kitchen

The mornings are getting chilly and sweet corn and tomato season is wrapping up. These are sure-fire signs that it is time to switch my kitchen over to fall. This is my favorite time of year to cook, not only because I love to make cozy dishes like soups and stews, but because there are delicious fruits and vegetables that come into season in the fall. 

Apples, kale, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are some of my fall favorites. I did not grow up eating a lot of winter squash, sweet potatoes or kale, so I learned to cook these as an adult. If any of these veggies are not familiar to you, check out our Produce Basics collection to learn how to store, clean and prepare delicious fall veggies. Here are a few to get you started:

What are some of your favorite things to make in the fall? Share with us on our social media!

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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Autumn Soup

Our October recipe of the month is Autumn Soup and I hope you will like it as much as I do. This soup is thick and creamy and has a balance of sweet and savory flavors that I love. Winter squash is cooked with onions and apples in chicken broth. At the end of the cooking time, the soup is blended smooth and a little cream cheese is added to make the soup extra creamy.

autumn soup

This summer, I grew butternut squash (a type of winter squash) in my garden. This was only the second time I have grown butternut squash. My crop was only a little bit successful – I got four large squash from my plant. We have some friendly deer who like to visit our yard at night and they ate most of the blossoms off my plant.

Since I love butternut squash for this soup as well as our roasted veggie recipe, I will have to buy some more this fall. The farmers market is a great place to find winter squash and the grocery store usually has a good supply too. Once I get stocked up on squash, I am going to make a large batch of this soup and freeze most of it, so it is ready for me to use when I need hot soup on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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