Muffin Tin Mania

Today I get to wrap up our series on our favorite kitchen tools and share with you all the ways I use a muffin tin. I love to bake and the thing I love to bake the most is muffins. They are easy to make, they make a great breakfast or snack, and it’s fun to try to different flavors.

A favorite flavor in my house is banana. And muffins are a great way to use up ripe bananas. Our Banana Oatmeal Bread recipe can be made into muffins. They are delicious! I also like to make our Lemon Chia Seed Muffins.

These days I’ve been enjoying eating oatmeal for breakfast. Instead of making oatmeal each morning, I make our Baked Oatmeal Muffins. I make a batch of these and freeze them and then reheat in the microwave when I want one.

And while we are on the topic of breakfast, another type of muffin I like to make is Scrambled Egg Muffins. No need to heat up your skillet to make scrambled eggs. Just pull out a muffin tin and make a batch of these to enjoy.

My muffin tin isn’t limited to just breakfast foods! I also like to make meatloaf muffins for supper. After mixing up my meatloaf mixture, I divide it among the muffin cups and bake. It’s a fun way to eat meatloaf and it reduces baking time!

My daughter also likes to bake and she prefers making dessert.  She likes to make our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes. Or if you’d rather have fruit for dessert, try our Frozen Fruit Cups.

It’s muffin mania!

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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Favorite Kitchen Tool: A Student’s Perspective

This month we have each taken a turn writing about our favorite kitchen tool. My favorite is my frying pan, I use it most days of the week to make eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, stir fry, beans and rice, or quesadillas. However, I thought it would be fun to ask our student staff member, Maggie, about her favorite kitchen tool because a favorite kitchen tool might change depending on our life stage. I know when I was a student my favorite kitchen tool was my toaster. Here is what Maggie shared:

As a college student, I’m always looking for easy and quick ways to make food that fits my busy schedule. Anything that can make my life a little bit easier when it comes to snacks and meals is a definite plus for me! My favorite kitchen gadget that fulfills these wishes is my rapid egg cooker. This is a small appliance that can cook up to 6 eggs in only 15 minutes— and the best part is, you barely have to do anything. You simply place your eggs on the tray, add some water, cover it and click start. You can make hard boiled, soft boiled, or poached eggs all with the touch of a button, and they come out perfect every time.

My favorite way to use mine is to make hard boiled eggs and put them in the fridge to have throughout the week as snacks, sides, or salad toppings. Boiled eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients that I can conveniently eat between classes or as a quick addition to my meals. I purchased mine for under $10, and it gives me multiple days-worth of snacks/sides in a short amount of time. Plus, it’s a foolproof device that spares me the hassle of traditional hot water boiling methods. 

Let us know your favorite kitchen tool and if that has changed depending on your stage of life.

Written by Maggie, student staff member.

Justine Hoover

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

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My Beloved Blender

When I think about the one item in my kitchen that gets the most use it would be my blender.  I have a small kitchen and storing several larger appliances would not work well in my space. Luckily, I have found a variety of ways to use my blender which has cut down on the number of kitchen tools in my cabinets.

You do not need to spend a lot of money on a blender to reap the benefits of owning one. If you care for your blender properly, it should last quite a while! My blender has survived several moves and nearly daily use over the past 5 years. For the longest time I avoided using my blender because I didn’t like the thought of having to clean it. Once I discovered that you could clean the container using the actual blender base, I was sold and now I use my blender on the regular!

Below are a few ways that I like to use the blender at my house. The opportunities are endless!

  1. Smoothies – My daughter LOVES smoothies. Smoothies are an easy way to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables. A few of our favorite smoothie recipes include Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie and the Berry and Greens Smoothie.
  2. Soups/purees– When my toddler was a baby, I used my blender to puree fruits and vegetables to make my own baby food. It was a cost-effective way to introduce her to new foods. I also like making soups in my blender like our Autumn Soup recipe and the Cheesy Broccoli Soup. To create a smoother consistency, simply place prepared soup in the blender for several seconds.
  3. Ice cream/popsicles– My daughter enjoys making Banana Ice Cream with me as a quick treat after dinner, or even sometimes for our breakfast! Popsicles are another easy snack or dessert. Find some great recipes here!
  4. Sauces/dips– I love how easy it is to make sauces and dips with my blender in seconds. Hummus, spinach dip and pesto are some of our family’s favorites.
  5. Batters– Another way that I use my blender is to create smooth batters for pancakes, waffles, and muffins.

*Helpful tip: An easy way to clean your blender after each use is to fill the container halfway with lukewarm water and add a few drops of dish soap. Place the container, with the lid securely on, back onto the blender base and gradually increase the speed on your blender for roughly 30 seconds. Once the soapy water has coated the inside of the container, I simply rinse and let air dry. Anything that I can clean quickly is a plus in my kitchen!

Cheers to trying a new recipe with your blender!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Favorite Tools Series – Sheet Pans!

Today begins a fun series with all of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. bloggers. We are going to share our favorite kitchen tools and how we like to use them. It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need a lot of tools and gadgets to cook well and enjoy your time in the kitchen. That is really not true. A few good tools that do a lot of different jobs go a long way.

Personally, I have a small kitchen and a lot of clutter only makes it seem smaller. So, I try to keep things pretty simple. When I think about the kitchen tools I go to most often, a baking sheet is at the top of the list. A baking sheet, also known as a cookie sheet, can be used for so many things. Here are some of my favorite ways to use mine.

  • I roast vegetables every few days. When I do, I fill up my whole baking sheet so that I have leftovers for later in the week.
  • I roast pieces of chicken, pork tenderloin or filets of salmon in the oven. They just go on the baking sheet and into the oven and I can carry on with other things while they cook away.
  • I reheat leftover pizza or hot sandwiches in the oven on a baking sheet. I find that keeps their quality more similar to when they were first made than reheating in the microwave.
  • I use my baking sheet as insurance under casseroles like lasagna that might bubble over while they’re in the oven. The pan sits under the casserole dish and catches any spills. It is much easier to clean the baking sheet than to clean the oven! If you are working with something that may be very saucy or sticky, you can line your pan with foil to make clean-up easier.

I hope you enjoy reading about all of our favorite tools throughout this month. Share your faves with us on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. social media!

Happy Cooking!
Christine

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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Energy Bites

As the new dietetic intern for extension and outreach one of my jobs is recipe testing. It is a big perk of the job; I get to make and eat delicious food! This week I was able to recipe test the November recipe of the month – Energy Bites!

I am always looking for a quick and healthy treat during the working week. Meal prepping these bites helps to alleviate the stress of trying to pack my snacks for the day and looking all over the kitchen for something to bring to work with me for a snack. I can instead make the bites ahead of time and just grab them and go! The bites contain omega 3 fatty acids and fiber from the chia seeds, healthy fat and protein from the peanut butter and complex carbohydrates and more fiber from the oats to help give lasting energy through the day.

I have one tip you might find helpful for making the bites! I washed my hands and then used my clean hands to mix up the “batter” as I found that it didn’t come together as well with a spoon. It came together nicely with my hands and didn’t take much time at all. I then let it sit a couple minutes before rolling the batter into bites and putting them on a tray to go into the fridge.

Chia seeds usually come in large bags, and you may be wondering what else you can do with them? Other ways to use the chia seeds you bought for this recipe can be our Lemon Chia Seed Muffins, or you can also throw some into a smoothie or oatmeal for added nutritional benefits!  

Here is the link to find the recipe for Energy Bites: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/energy-bites/

Samantha Riess is a dietetic intern who loves cooking, hiking, and spending time with her husband and dog.

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 do I really need?

Recently my son has been asking if we can get an air fryer. He sees and hears people talk about all the things they make in their air fryers and wants to join the party! And for the past year, I’ve been debating if I should get an Instant Pot. However, when I look around my kitchen, I realize I don’t really have any place to put those items. And when I think about it, do I really need those items to make food for my family? Do I want to spend my money on them? I know some people love their Instant Pots and air fryers while others don’t see a need for them. It doesn’t mean one way is right or wrong. Everyone has different things that are useful to them.

However, there are a few kitchen tools that are more essential and useful in most kitchens. Here are the basic kitchen tools our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team recommends:

  • Measuring: Measuring spoons, dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cup
  • Cutting: Paring knife, chef knife, cutting boards, can opener
  • Mixing: Mixing bowl, mixing spoon, rubber spatula
  • Cookware: Skillet, sauce pan, casserole dish, pot holder, baking sheet, food thermometer, spatula
  • Draining: Colander, slotted spoons
  • Handy Extras: Blender, rolling pin, stock pot, cooling rack, whisk, muffin tin, slow cooker, tongs, mixer

During the month of November our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. bloggers are going to share our favorite kitchen tools and ways we use them. Any guesses on what Christine’s favorite tool is? Read the blog on November 8 to find out!

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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Check Out Science of Parenting

As many of you know, I am the parent to three children. This year they are in kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade. The start to a new school year is always a challenge with new routines, new teachers, and meeting new friends. With my youngest heading to kindergarten this year, I have been reminded of all the challenges my older two children faced when they started school. One child refused to participate in reading at school and the other would not go to the bathroom at school. All three of my children were absolutely exhausted at the end of each day of kindergarten. Exhaustion leads to tough situations at home. When I have moments where I do not know how to handle a situation, I either turn to my family or to the internet for help.

Turning to the internet is a risky option because I cannot be sure if the site I found is research-based information. One online resource I know I can rely on is Science of Parenting. If you are a parent, grandparent, caregiver, aunt, uncle, or educator, Science of Parenting has something for you when you are facing a challenge with a child in your life.

Science of Parenting balances the research with the reality of caring for children of all ages. If you have a child in your life, check it out today.

Justine Hoover

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

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Switching out Protein Sources in Recipes

In August, I wrote a blog on ‘Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals’. In the blog I mentioned that the ‘themes’ I use when meal planning are to include a different protein food each night. I use beef, pork, chicken, fish and then have one night that is vegetarian. By doing this I am helping my family vary the kinds of protein foods we eat.

There are lots of vegetarian recipes available but today I wanted to share how I make a recipe vegetarian if the one I want to make originally calls for meat. (When I say meat, I’m referring to anything that is an animal protein.)

Protein is an important piece of good nutrition and meat is an excellent source of protein. So, if I am going to remove meat from a recipe, then I want to be sure and replace it with another source of protein. Some other sources of protein that I use include eggs, dairy, beans, peas and lentils. Tofu would be another good substitute for meat.

Beans, peas, and lentils work well in place of meat in soups and casseroles. Beans also work well in pasta dishes. I use one 15 ounce can of beans in place of one pound of meat.

Cottage cheese is high in protein and I use it in stuffed pasta shells to add protein.

Tofu is a good substitute in dishes that call for marinating meat. The marinade helps to flavor the tofu. A 16 ounce package of tofu could be used in place of one pound of meat.

If you want to try making some recipes vegetarian, here are two Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that provide tips on how to use beans in place of meat.

Chicken, Corn, and Rice Casserole

Tamale Pie

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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Sweet Potato Burritos

Our October recipe of the month is here with special thanks to Jody’s family. Usually my family has to put up with eating the same thing over and over as I test a recipe. But for Sweet Potato Burritos, Jody and her family tried them out first and then passed the recipe on to me. The first time I tried these burritos, I knew we had a winner. Sweet Potato Burritos include two of my favorite ingredients to cook with – sweet potatoes and black beans.

Here are some reasons I include sweet potatoes on my grocery list:

  • They are available year-round. Sweet potatoes are in season now, but they store easily in a cool, dry place, so you can find them any time of year.
  • They fit in with any meal. Sweet potatoes make a great tasting side dish, whether baked, roasted, or mashed.
  • They are nutritious. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and fiber.

If you open my pantry, you will almost always find a can of black beans. I keep canned black beans on hand because:

  • They are easy to prepare. Pop off the lid, drain, and rinse and canned black beans are ready to add to any meal.
  • They are inexpensive. Where I shop, I can usually get a can of black beans for $1 or less.
  • They can replace meat. When meat prices get high, black beans can replace meat in soups, casseroles, salads, and other mixed dishes.

Try out two of my favorite ingredients in Sweet Potato Burritos: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/sweet-potato-burritos/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

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You’re the Chip to my Dip

I love it when I can make a meal out of a bunch of snacks. The trend of creating party boards with a variety of crackers, veggies, cheeses and dips is right up my alley. If you like this style of eating as much as I do, consider making your own pita chips for a fun, homemade addition. They are simple to make and they hold up really well to hearty dips and spreads. Don’t you hate it when your chip or cracker breaks into a million pieces in the dip! Try them with this month’s recipe, Baba Ganoush. They also pair well with Tzatziki, or Cowboy Caviar.

You can find our recipe for Homemade Pita Chips within our recipe for Tzatziki. When you make them yourself, you can choose your favorite type of pita to use. You can even use the pita bread from your favorite Mediterranean restaurant. I like whole wheat pita bread. You will need to separate your pita bread into halves and then cut it into triangles. Spray or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and bake. Usually one side of pita bread is thicker than the other, so when you bake them, the thin ones will need less cooking time than the thick ones. Putting them on two separate pans or in two batches will help with this.  

Whether you have a tailgate coming up or just a fun night at home, give these a try!

Enjoy!
Christine

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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