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!
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.