I am happy to share one of my favorite recipes with you today. I have made this Split Pea Soup recipe since my husband and I were first married. Now, quite a few years later, it made its way on to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
Early on, my husband and I both drove long distances to and from work each day, so we were always very hungry and not interested in doing much cooking in the evenings. We would make Split Pea Soup on the weekend and the two of us had several weeknight meals for the following week. During that time, I enjoyed how this soup is actually even better as leftovers than it is when it is freshly made. In recent years, our commute time has decreased, giving us more time to make meals in the evenings. Now, after making this soup, I immediately divide it in half. Our family eats half of it for one or two meals and I freeze the other half for a quick meal on another night.
One thing to remember about this soup is that it thickens as it cools. This does not bother me because I enjoy thick soup; however, my husband prefers thinner soup. So, if you prefer a thinner soup like he does, you may want to add some water or broth when you reheat it.
Happy New Year from all of us on the Spend Smart.Eat Smart. team!
To start off 2021 we have our first recipe of the month – Stuffed Pasta Shells. This is not a new recipe for us, it is an older recipe that we updated a little. This recipe can feel labor intense because you do have to fill each shell with the cheese and spinach filling. However, there are several reasons why I think this recipe is worth your time.
Stuffed Pasta Shells can be made ahead of time. If you have a free half hour, you can get the shells filled and in the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking and serving.
This recipe makes more than one meal. My family of five gets two meals out of this recipe, especially if I serve it with salad, fruit, and garlic bread.
Leftovers freeze well for quick meals later on. You can eat part of this recipe while it is hot and fresh and then freeze the rest in single serving containers for quick and easy microwave meals.
This recipe feels special. I always feel fancy when I make this meal because it looks and tastes like something I would get in a restaurant.
Two weeks ago, Christine shared the ways she reduces food waste in her home. I like the way Christine thinks of her freezer as a pantry and ensures that foods are coming out and being eaten just as often as they are going in. That is something I plan to be more purposeful about going forward. Today I am going to tell you about one of the ways I reduce food waste in my home – I call it the food waste challenge.
Over the course of a week or a month small amounts of food build up in my pantry and refrigerator that do not fit into my meal plan for the coming week. It may be a couple of tortillas, half an onion, or some tomato sauce at the bottom of a jar. This does not seem like much uneaten food at the time, but it adds up as the weeks go on. So, about every two months, I do my food waste challenge. I commit to using up this extra food for meals and snacks before I allow myself to go back to the grocery store.
I just completed a food waste challenge this week and I am proud of how it went. The main meal I made was chicken noodle soup. In the refrigerator I had a partial container of chicken broth and some vegetables that needed to be used up, in the freezer I had some chicken and a bag of frozen peas that was nearly gone, and in the pantry I had half a bag of egg noodles. The hardest meal of each day was breakfast because we did not have a lot of traditional breakfast foods left. One morning my children enjoyed a breakfast buffet that included cottage cheese, crackers, dry cereal, and applesauce.
As a final disclaimer – sometimes this challenge works and sometimes it does not. There are times when I have to go to the grocery store for some essentials to get through the week. There are also times when I have to throw food away, but I hope that it is less food than what I would have thrown out had I not challenged myself to use what I could.
Let me know if you ever do your own food waste challenge and tell me how it went.
Welcome to the last month of 2020 and the last recipe of the month for this year – Chicken and Rice Soup. When we start working on these recipes several years in advance, we never know what might be going on when the recipe is finally published. This recipe turned out to be very timely – just as 2020 has been a struggle for so many of us, this recipe was a struggle to get published.
This recipe started as a vague idea. My husband prefers chicken and rice soup to chicken noodle soup, so that seemed like a good place to start. Once this recipe began to take shape, it started having problems right away. I had trouble getting it to meet our nutrition guidelines, the cooking time was not working out right, and it kept coming out too thick or too thin. On top of that, my family was getting very tired of eating chicken and rice soup. Once I got to the point of scrapping the whole recipe, my colleague Julie stepped in and volunteered to start testing the recipe with her family. Between Julie and I (and our very patient families) we finally made this recipe work.
Now that I am a few years removed from the struggle of this recipe, I can tell you all of the things I love about it:
It cooks in the slow cooker or the stove top. You can choose the method that works best for you.
It is an entire meal in one bowl. It is filled with vegetables, whole grains, and protein.
It freezes well. I have some of this soup in my freezer right now so that I can warm it up for lunch on a cold day.
It tastes really good. This is the most important thing, in my opinion.
I hope you give this recipe a try as we finish out 2020.
My birthday is this month, so I like to think of our November recipe of the month as my birthday recipe. This year, it is Hot Pumpkin Drink, which is perfect because I love pumpkin. I am planning to make myself pumpkin bars for my birthday treat and I will probably buy an extra can of pumpkin so I can make Hot Pumpkin Drink as well.
This recipe is so easy, you just heat any kind of milk you like, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan until it is hot. This takes about 6 minutes and you will need to keep stirring the whole time to prevent the milk from scorching. I usually froth my drink with an immersion blender to get that light, bubbly layer on the top, but you do not have to. I enjoy making this drink as a sweet treat after supper and then I save the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. You can reheat this in the microwave as long as you pause the microwave and stir the drink every 30 seconds until it is hot.
This recipe only uses 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, so it will be important to make sure that the rest of your pumpkin does not go to waste. You can always make more Hot Pumpkin Drink, but you could also make Overnight Oats. You can substitute pumpkin in equal amounts for applesauce or mashed banana in baked goods. You can try it in Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins or Oatmeal Cookies. Pumpkin also stores well in the freezer, so you can freeze it in airtight containers until you need it.
I suspect that my family’s favorite food for me to make is quick bread. Last week, my four year old told me that my banana bread was the best. It was zucchini bread, but that is ok. I enjoy making quick breads and my family enjoys eating them. Today I am going to share with you our October recipe of the month – Apple Cinnamon Bread.
I like this recipe because it is lower in sugar and fat and higher in fiber than other quick bread recipes. The sugar and fat are lower because applesauce is substituted in for some of the oil and white sugar. The fiber is higher because half of the flour is whole wheat and a diced apple is stirred into the batter. My family likes this recipe because of the cinnamon sugar topping. It adds extra flavor with each bite.
When making quick breads, I like to play around with using different pan sizes. Many quick breads take 45 minutes to an hour to cook in a traditional loaf pan. I rarely have that much time to bake a loaf of bread. So, I will spread the batter out in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. When the batter is spread out, the baking time is cut nearly in half. Sometimes, I split the batter into muffin tins. In that case, the baking time is only around 15 minutes. Try this recipe out in a pan that works for you. Just remember to check the bread every 5 to 10 minutes the first time you are trying it in a new pan so that it does not get overcooked. This bread is done when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
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.
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:
Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!