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.
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.
Have you ever eaten eggplant? Many years ago, I had eggplant at a restaurant and it was not good, so I thought I must not like it. Fast forward to a few years ago, when a student in our office told me I had to try this eggplant recipe – Baba Ganoush. I knew I did not like eggplant, but she ensured me I would like this recipe. So, my children and I went to the farmers market that weekend and bought a beautiful purple and white eggplant and I made Baba Ganoush for the first time. It turns out that, although that restaurant meal was not great, I actually really like eggplant.
Our September recipe of the month is Baba Ganoush thanks to a student who pushed me outside of my comfort zone. If eggplant is also outside of your comfort zone, this recipe is a great way to try it out. You can use Baba Ganoush in the same way you would use hummus – as a dip or a spread or in our Zucchini Hummus Wraps. Eggplant is in season now, so you can easily find one at the grocery store or farmers market. To find out how to choose and store an eggplant, read our Eggplant Produce Basics.
In early June, I wrote about how I decide what to grow in our garden. When planning out our garden this year, I asked my children what they wanted to grow. My oldest son chose to grow four different pepper plants, my daughter chose to grow romaine lettuce, and my youngest son chose to grow zinnias. These choices did not take up a lot of space, so I added two tomato plants and two acorn squash plants.
My children checked the garden every day and helped with the watering and weeding. Their plants took off and were looking good, but nature had other plans. We left for a few days and, while we were gone, the rabbits helped themselves to the lettuce, pepper leaves, and zinnias. The children were disappointed, but they have worked hard to keep two of the pepper plants and a few zinnias alive.
My children have also worked hard to protect the tomatoes and squash. As you can see in the picture below, that hard work has paid off. The tomatoes and squash have nearly taken over the garden. We have enjoyed watching the flowers bloom and then watching those blooms transform into beautiful tomatoes and squash. My children do not like to eat tomatoes and squash on their own, but they do like both in sauces and soups. So, we are planning to cook and freeze much of our harvest to use for meals this winter.
Our August recipe of the month is Crunchy Coleslaw. This refreshing recipe is one of my favorites. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to four days, but I eat it for any meal or snack so it is usually gone in a day or two. To make this recipe, you break apart a package of dry ramen noodles and add them to a bowl with coleslaw mix, green onions, and a homemade dressing. This recipe is best if you let it marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.
Reading about the progress in Christine and Katy’s gardens has me thinking about using fresh cabbage for this recipe instead of a bag of coleslaw. I rarely use fresh cabbage, so I looked it up on our Produce Basics. To use a fresh cabbage for this recipe, all I need to do is remove any wilted outer leaves, wash it, cut out the core, and chop it into thin strips. If I spy a cabbage at the farmers market, I think I will give it a try.
Our July recipe of the month is Brown Rice “Risotto”. This is not a traditional risotto recipe which slowly cooks white rice with broth. This mock risotto recipe is much quicker. It calls for instant brown rice and cooks in about 20 minutes making it ideal for someone who needs a quick meal.
In my opinion, one of the best things about this recipe is its flexibility. It can easily go from a side dish to a main dish by stirring in pre-cooked meat or fish towards the end of the cooking time. I have enjoyed chicken, ham, and shrimp added to this recipe. I also like how the recipe allows for substitutions. You can change out the seasonings and the vegetables depending on what you like and what you have on hand. Mushrooms are one of my favorite vegetables, so adding fresh mushrooms and cooking them with the onion and rice is a treat for me.
At Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we like flexible recipes because you can make them your own with flavors and ingredients you enjoy and have on hand. Here are some other flexible recipes to try out:
My children and I love making smoothies for breakfast or as a special treat to go along with supper. We do not use a recipe very often because it is fun to use what we have on hand to make something tasty. However, our June recipe of the month, Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie, is a recipe we all like.
The first step of this recipe is an important one – freeze your banana for at least four hours before making this smoothie. I usually try to freeze at least one banana per week. Then I always have a frozen banana on hand for smoothies or to thaw for banana bread. You can freeze bananas whole with the peel on, but for this recipe you need to peel the banana, cut it into 4 to 6 pieces, and freeze it in an airtight container.
Once you have your banana frozen, you are ready to make your smoothie. All you have to do is add the frozen banana, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter to a blender and blend until smooth. You can double or triple this recipe to make more servings or to make some extra smoothies for another day. Store the extra smoothies in airtight containers in the freezer. As a bonus, if you bought a bag of chia seeds for our May recipe of the month, you can add a spoonful of chia seeds to this smoothie to add some texture and nutrition.
“What do I grow?” That is a question I ask myself every year when I start thinking about my garden. And the answer is different every year. In my previous home, my garden was much larger, so I had a lot more options. Over the 11 years I worked in that garden, I planted lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, corn, broccoli, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, squash, peas, green beans, potatoes, and flowers. No two years were the same.
Now I live in a home with more shade trees, so my garden is smaller. This will be my third year of deciding what to plant here. Since space is tight, I have to be more selective about what I plant. So, I do three things when deciding what to grow.
I take into account my family’s preferences. I have learned over the years that my family prefers peppers fresh out of the garden, but they prefer it if I make the tomatoes into juice and freeze it for soups and sauces in the winter. This tells me I need to plant several different types of peppers, but I only need to plant tomatoes that are good for freezing.
I ask my children what they would like to plant. I always let my children pick a packet of seeds they want to plant because it makes them more interested in the garden. They do a better job of pulling the weeds when they are motivated to see their little seeds grow into big plants. Some years their choices work out and some years they don’t, and that is ok.
I consider my space. After I have thought about my family’s preferences and found out what my children want to plant, I consider how much space I have left. With my extra space, I may try something new or I may plant something just for me. Last summer I planted a beautiful yellow zucchini plant that was just for me.
Later this summer, when I start to harvest my garden, I will give you an update on my choices for this year.
Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.
Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:
Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.
Our March recipe of the month is Italian Chicken. This is a versatile recipe from beginning to end. You get to choose the number of servings, the cooking method, and how you will serve this recipe.
Before you start, decide how many people you will feed and how many meals you would like to make from the cooked chicken. You can adjust this recipe to make 2 to 8 servings. When you are writing your grocery list, adjust the amount of chicken you buy to meet your needs. One chicken breast half will usually yield about two servings. The size of chicken breasts vary, so make sure to check them closely before you buy them to make sure they are right for you. Keep the amount of tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and seasonings the same. If you use less chicken, you will just end up with more sauce and vegetables with each serving.
When cooking this recipe, you can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker or pressure cooker and then cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. For a slow cooker, cook on low for around 4 to 6 hours. For a pressure cooker, use a cook time of around 10 minutes and a natural release time of 10 minutes.
You can serve this recipe several different ways. I have served this recipe on cooked rice and noodles. I have also served this recipe on toasted bread as a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce as a salad. Be creative!