Vegetable Quesadillas

Would you like to know what my family’s favorite recipe is to make when we are short on time? It is our September recipe of the month, Vegetable Quesadillas. I can get this recipe on the table in 15 minutes or less, and I think you can too.

I keep this recipe in my back pocket for times when I feel rushed to get a meal on the table or when my children need to eat – NOW! I do not usually put this recipe on my meal plan for the week, but I do try to keep the first three ingredients (tortillas, cheese, and beans) on hand. For the vegetables, I use whatever I have in the refrigerator or freezer like chopped onion, chopped pepper, or frozen corn. You can cook the vegetables first or put them in raw.

If you have never made quesadillas before, this is the perfect recipe to learn how. You heat your skillet over medium heat and place the tortilla in the skillet. Put the cheese, beans, and vegetables on half of the tortilla. Then fold the empty half of the tortilla over, like closing a book. Cook the quesadilla for a couple of minutes, flip it, then cook a couple minutes more. You want the tortilla lightly browned and the cheese melty.

My children eat these plain, my husband and I top them with salsa. You can get creative and top these with avocado, tomato, sour cream, a squeeze of lime juice, or whatever sounds good to you.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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More Onions?

Do you ever wonder why so many of our recipes here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. have onions in them? Just last week I shared our August recipe of the month, Cool Cucumber Salad, which is another recipe with onions in it. Below I share my top three reasons for including onions in recipes and my top three onion-containing recipes.

I include onions in recipes because:

  1. Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
  2. Onions are inexpensive and available year-round. Since they are easy to store, onions can be found at a reasonable price any time of year.
  3. Onions freeze well. I do not enjoy the tears that come with chopping onions, but I do like that I can chop a large amount of onions at one time and store them in the freezer. Then, when I need onions for a recipe, I just reach into my freezer and dump in some onions.

My favorite onion recipes are:

  1. Chicken Fajitas – I love onions and peppers cooked together in a skillet.
  2. Chicken and Rice Soup – This is a recipe where I rely on my frozen, chopped onions.
  3. Cowboy Caviar – The flavor and crunch of a fresh onion is a perfect complement to the milder beans and corn in this recipe.

Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we think onions are a pretty great vegetable and we encourage you to try using one in your cooking this week. If you would like to know more about how to chop an onion, check out the short video above.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cool Cucumber Salad

When the weather gets hot, I rarely feel like cooking a meal. I want to be able to reach into my refrigerator for something that will cool me off and fill me up. Our August recipe of the month is Cool Cucumber Salad and it is a cool recipe for a hot summer day.

The base for this recipe is chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Stir in some feta cheese, oil, lemon juice, and ground black pepper and you have a side dish or a whole meal. I like to let this salad cool in the refrigerator for a few hours before eating it to let the flavors come together. I also tend to have more cucumbers than the recipe calls for, so I double or triple this recipe depending on how many cucumbers I have. This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.

The three vegetables in this recipe are currently in season so they are plentiful in gardens, farmers markets, and stores. If you have a lot of any of these vegetables, check out our produce basics below for information on how to store, clean, and use them.

Try a bowl of this salad for lunch or dinner on a hot summer day, I think it will be just what you need to cool off and fill up.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Banana Oatmeal Bread

Last week I shared with you our recipe for Banana Ice Cream. This week I am going to share one of our older recipes, Banana Oatmeal Bread. Just like last week, I made a video to go along with the recipe, which you can check out down below. Unfortunately, the video is not quite as exciting because none of my children felt like helping out in the kitchen when it was time to make the bread.

As I mentioned last week, I am making a lot of banana recipes right now because bananas ripen quickly in the hot weather. In fact, my local grocery store will often sell bags of overripe bananas for only 99 cents. When I am able to grab one of those bags, I will make several banana recipes in a week.  Banana bread is a recipe that I make regularly because everyone in my family likes it, it is filling, it makes a good side dish at any meal, and it makes a good snack.

I like to bake banana bread in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan because it takes less time (about 20 minutes) and because it cooks more evenly in my oven. Cooking it in that pan saved me about 35 minutes of baking time compared to using a bread pan. Sometimes I will use a muffin pan for this recipe, which takes only 12-14 minutes of baking time. You can bake this bread in the pan that works best for you – I hope you like it. Enjoy!

banana oatmeal bread
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Banana Ice Cream

Our July recipe of the month is Banana Ice Cream. This is a tasty summer treat that my family likes to make and eat together. My daughter, Eliza, helped me make some over the weekend and she did a great job! You can watch our kitchen adventures in the Banana Ice Cream video.

Banana Ice Cream is one of our summer favorites because:

  • It is a great use for overripe bananas. I find that bananas ripen very quickly in the summer, so I have to find creative ways of using them before they go bad.
  • It is a simple recipe. It only requires bananas and a little bit of milk. In the evening, Eliza helped me slice and freeze the bananas. The next morning, she ran the blender while I added the milk.
  • It works for any meal or snack. Eliza likes to have Banana Ice Cream for breakfast because she likes to tell people that she is allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast.
  • It is ice cream on demand if you keep sliced bananas in the freezer. No need to go out and wait in line at the ice cream shop on a hot night.

If you have some bananas ripening too fast like we did, give Banana Ice Cream a try. I think you will like it. Enjoy!

banana ice cream

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Beans with Miles and Justine

Over the weekend, I decided to make a couple of batches of dried beans to have on hand to make quick meals over the next couple of weeks. My son, Miles, took a break from his summer schedule of playing with his brother and sister to help me out. Miles and I used these Preparing Dried Beans instructions to make our beans. Watch our video below to see us in action. 

Since we made two batches of beans, we used two different cooking methods. One was the slow cooker method, which I prefer. First, we sorted through our beans to remove any rocks, dirt, or bad beans (Miles is really good at this). Then we added them to our slow cooker with about 8 cups of water and cooked them on low for 7 hours. Miles and I decided to make our slow cooker beans into refried beans for supper that night, so, once they were cooked, we drained them and mashed them. After supper, I stored the leftover beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator to use in other meals later in the week.

I only have one big slow cooker, so we used the stovetop method for the other batch of beans. After sorting through our beans, we put them in a large pot, covered them with water, and put the lid on. We placed the pot on the stove and brought the water to a boil for two minutes. Then we took the beans off the heat and let them soak for a couple of hours. Soaking the beans makes them easier to digest and helps them cook more quickly. Next, we drained and rinsed the beans, covered them with fresh water and cooked them on medium on the stovetop for two hours. We put these beans into freezer bags and froze them. Now, I can grab a bag of beans out of the freezer to make our two favorite bean recipes anytime – Black Bean Burgers and Vegetable Quesadillas

Beans are a staple in our house because everyone likes them, they can be used in many different recipes, and they fit into our budget. If you would like to learn more about beans, check out our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Pantry Picks page and click on beans. Enjoy!

apreparing dried beans

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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What are Lentils?

Have you heard of lentils? Do you cook with them? I did not grow up eating lentils, so I did not know what they were until I started working for Iowa State. I learned that lentils are tiny, disc-shaped legumes. Legumes are plants that have seed pods, like beans and peas. In the kitchen, lentils are used as a quick-cooking and inexpensive plant protein that is tasty in main dishes or as a side dish.

If you are interested in learning more about lentils or cooking with them, we have you covered here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. We have some great ways for you to use lentils in your kitchen:

Watch the video below to see my son, Kenny, and I make a batch of lentils for lunch. We served them wrapped in tortillas with shredded cheese, vegetables, and sour cream. They were a hit! Enjoy!

cooking with lentils

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Roasted Broccoli

Our June recipe of the month is Roasted Broccoli. Broccoli is in season right now, so that means it may be ready to eat from your garden, available at your local farmers market, and less expensive at the grocery store. If you are interested in learning more about seasonal vegetables, check out this Fresh Vegetable Guide. An important thing to remember when buying broccoli is that it is less expensive to buy broccoli in a bunch rather than pre-cut. 

This recipe is a great way for my family to eat up the broccoli that is available right now. In my home, there are two different types of children – those who like their vegetables cooked and those who like them raw. When I have fresh broccoli on hand, I cut it all up then I leave some raw and roast the rest of it. This makes everyone happy. 

To make this recipe, cut up your broccoli. If you are new to cutting up broccoli, check out this quick video for some pointers. Next, coat the broccoli with oil, salt, and pepper. Finally, bake the broccoli for about 15 minutes. If you have never roasted broccoli before, give this recipe a try, I think you will like it.

Enjoy!

Roasted Broccoli
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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White Bean Dip

Our May recipe of the month is White Bean Dip. Last month, our recipe was Spicy Tuna Salad and, along with that recipe, I shared about using shelf stable sources of protein. I keep coming back to this topic as I see less meat available during my (on-line) grocery trips. 

As the weather warms up, my family likes to eat simple meals so we can get back outside and play. Our White Bean Dip served with crackers and vegetable slices makes a quick and tasty lunch alongside some slices of cheese and fruit.  Here are some other ideas for quick meals that use beans as a shelf stable protein:

The best thing about all of these recipes is that you can make them when you have a little free time and then they are ready to go whenever you need them. 

Enjoy!

white bean dip
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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What is Justine Cooking?

On Monday, I shared how my family is working together on the planning and cooking of meals during this strange time. Today I would like to share with you some of the meals we are relying on right now. 

The most important factor for us in planning meals is making sure there will be leftovers. Since we are now feeding five people for lunch in addition to breakfast and supper, we are taking advantage of those leftovers.

Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes I am using:

  • Broiled Salmon – Leftover fish is versatile, it can be used in sandwiches, wraps, or a stir fry. 
  • Easy Roasted Veggies – I have been doubling roasted veggies because they taste so good when reheated and they are an easy vegetable to add to any meal.
  • Banana Oatmeal Bread – I have been making banana bread weekly. We can make it for supper with scrambled eggs one night and have the leftover bread for breakfast and snacks the next day.
  • Skillet Lasagna – We can eat from a pan of skillet lasagna for three meals, especially if we add a side salad and garlic bread. 
  • Vegetable Quesadillas – I usually make 6 to 8 of these at a time, they come together quickly and they reheat well.

I would love to hear what you are cooking right now!

Skillet Lasagna
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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