What’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen? Part 2

On Monday I shared that my family’s list of favorite meals has been helpful for meal planning while we are spending our days at home. Today I’ll share some of our favorites that I’m planning to make. Normally, we are on the go and I plan meals for specific days based on how much time I will have to cook. Now that we are just home, I have a list of recipes that I can make and I choose in the afternoon what we will have for supper. If I am cooking then I get to pick! Mom’s prerogative! For breakfast and lunch, we are keeping it simple. If you would like some snack ideas, check out my blog on snacking

Here are some of our favorite meals:

Lentil Tacos
Jody Gatewood

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’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen?

Last week Katy kicked off our series of sharing how the members of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team are meal planning and cooking during the current pandemic. This week I’ll share what I’m cooking in my kitchen!

I’m currently working from home while also trying to do a little homeschooling with my 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter. Never a dull moment! My husband is in law enforcement so he is still going to work during the day.

When I first learned that I was going to be working from home and my kids would be home with me, I started working on a schedule and thinking about my meal plan. I have to admit though, we didn’t even follow the schedule on the first day. I quickly realized we were going to need to be flexible based on my work commitments. The one part of that schedule that has stuck is when we eat. This helps my kids know when the next meal or snack is coming so I’m not constantly asked if they can have a snack or when we are going to eat. This is also a nice sense of normalcy for them as meals and snacks at school happened on a schedule.

Something that has been helpful for meal planning during this time is a list I keep of my family’s favorit meals. I created this a while ago and have it hanging on a board in my kitchen. I look through it to see what meals use items that I can keep on hand or are easy to adapt. For example, tacos is one of our favorite meals. And I like that they are simple to make! I have a few packets of taco seasoning on hand (and I know I can make some homemade taco seasoning as well)). I’ve bought some extra hamburger and shredded cheese to put in the freezer and I have a couple packets of taco shells in my pantry. I almost always have salsa and sour cream in the refrigerator because we use them frequently. We also like to have spinach leaves with our tacos but if we haven’t been to the store recently and don’t have any, we just go without.

To help with meal planning during this time, I’d recommend making a list of your family’s favorite meals. I find it helps meal planning go quicker and I’m not spending as much time trying to think about what we should have. Sometimes we have to adapt the recipe based on what’s available but are still getting to enjoy foods we like. 

Family Favorite Meals
Jody Gatewood

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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Mom, I’m hungry!

These are words I hear often in my house these days. As my family spends our days at home, snacking is something my kids want to do more often. If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, here are some tips that I use for snacks (and meals too!) at our house.

  1. Set a meal and snack schedule. This is something we always do, it’s just that our routine has changed. Even though our days are less structured, I still keep a meal and snack schedule so my kids know when the next opportunity to eat is. I offer a meal or snack for my kids every 3-4 hours.
  2. Offer foods with protein, fat, and fiber. These three things provide us with the nutrition we need each day and help to fill us up until it’s time to eat again. For example, Goldfish are a popular snack for kids. However, they are low in protein, fat and fiber. Therefore, if they are offered as a snack, provide a cheese stick with them since it has protein and fat (and calcium!) and will help make this tasty snack more filling.
  3. Eat in the kitchen. At our house, we eat in the kitchen. This keeps us from mindlessly eating in the living room or our bedrooms. And it prevents crumbs from being found all around the house!
  4. Eat from a bowl or plate. One of my daughter’s favorite snacks is popcorn. She likes to get it from the cupboard and start eating it from the bag. Then I gently remind her that we eat our meals and snacks from a bowl or plate. This also helps us not mindlessly eat. 

Here are some snacks we like at our house:

  • Popcorn
  • Cheese sticks
  • Beef sticks
  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Pepper strips, carrots and snap peas with hummus
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peanut Butter Balls
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Muffins 
  • Trail mix
peanut butter balls
Jody Gatewood

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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Meals and Snacks from the Pantry

In the coming weeks many of us will be spending most of our time at home and doing lots of food preparation for ourselves and our families. As you prepare your grocery list and plan your meals for the weeks ahead, below are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that can be made from pantry staples or made ahead and frozen.

These recipes use items I keep on hand to help with quick, nutritious meals for my family.  Some of my go-to staple ingredients are canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned fruit, chicken broth, peanut butter, quick oats, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, frozen chicken breast, and onions. Since most of us are still able to get to the grocery store, there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, but buy some extra items each time you go so you have a good supply on hand and do not need to go as often.

Winter Black Bean Soup

Oatmeal Pancakes

Peanut Butter Balls

Crispy Granola

Make Ahead Burritos

Berry and Greens Smoothies

Mexican Chicken Soup

Vegetable Quesadillas

Lentil Tacos

And to help you with your meal planning, check out our 5 Day Meal Planner.

Stay healthy!

Make Ahead Burritos
Jody Gatewood

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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Strength Training: It does a body good

Last week I shared a sample plan on how to include our at-home workouts into your weekly exercise plan. This week I want to share some more information and tips on strength training. It is recommended to do muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. Strength training is important for everyone. As we age, if we don’t use our muscles, they get weaker and we are less able to do normal daily activities.

I find that most often, people are comfortable doing physical activities that strengthen their heart and lungs such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. And they are less comfortable doing activities that strengthen their muscles such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and core exercises. Often this is because they aren’t sure how to properly perform these exercises. That is where following our Beginner Strength Training video is helpful. 

Good form is very important when strength training to prevent injury. Here are some tips to keep in mind when strength training.

  • Keep your core tight by pulling your belly button in toward your back. This helps to support your low back while being active.
  • Exhale during the difficult part of the exercise. For example, when doing an overhead press, exhale when you push the weight over your head. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. 
  • Choose a weight that allows you to complete the full range of motion for each exercise. For example, if you cannot raise your arms up to shoulder height for front shoulder raises, choose a lighter weight. 

As your fitness level improves, increase the difficulty of the At-home Beginner Strength Training workout by increasing the amount of weight you use or repeat the set of exercises 2-3 times.
For additional strength training exercises, check out the American Council on Exercise website.

Jody Gatewood

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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A Happy, Healthy Heart

February is American Heart month. It’s a time to focus on habits that can help us live heart healthy lives. This is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. 

One habit that makes your heart happy is being active. Any opportunity to move is good for your heart, such as taking the stairs or playing with your kids. It’s also important to include some planned physical activity in to your week to increase your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. 

Last year we added some at-home workout videos to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website that can help you increase your activity. Below is a sample calendar for how to incorporate them into your weekly workout plan

Sample week

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
At-home workoutBeginner Strength Training30 minute walkRest or stretchingAt-home workoutCardio IntervalAt-home workout Beginner Strength TrainingRest or stretching30 minutewalk

Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Exercise Safely – Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
  • Consistency-The most important key to success is consistency. The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week is a goal. However, it is better to be active for a short amount of time on a regular basis than not do anything because of limited time or energy. 
  • Variety-Variety in your workouts and in the intensity of the workouts throughout the week helps prevent boredom. It also allows you to move your body in different ways to strengthen different muscle groups. 
  • Rest days-It is important to include rest days throughout the week. This allows your body time to recover and get stronger. Rest days may also include some gentle stretching. Listen to your body and, if needed, add an extra rest day.
  • Fuel your activity-In order to have the energy and strength to be active, it is important to fuel your body. Use the MyPlate Plan to determine how much you need to eat from each food group. 

Use the Move Your Way Activity Planner to start planning your weekly routine to build a healthy and happy heart!

woman stretching
Jody Gatewood

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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Chopped!

Last July I wrote a blog about challenging myself to eat vegetables at breakfast to help me get more veggies in my day. I have to admit, I’ve not done very well at keeping up with that challenge. However, I’m still being mindful of how I can eat more vegetables throughout the day and during meal time. One item I have started buying at the grocery store is chopped salad kits that seem to be the current trend. Even though there have been salad kits around for quite a while, I have never gotten into the habit of buying them. I gave the chopped salad kits a try and it turns out I really like them! Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The different kits include nutrient dense leafy greens like red and green cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, romaine and green leaf lettuce. A lot of them also include green onion and carrots.
  2. There are many different flavors to choose from. So far I’ve enjoyed Chipotle and Cheddar, BBQ Ranch, Pomegranate, and Thai. 
  3. I can enjoy the salads without having to buy a bunch of different ingredients in full-size packages. This can help reduce food waste because we easily eat all of the salad before it goes bad. Sometimes if we have a larger amount of leafy greens, some go bad before we get to them.
  4. They are easy to mix together and add as a side dish to a meal.
  5. And maybe the biggest reason I like them is because my 10 year old son, who doesn’t like many vegetables, will eat them!

As much as I like them, there are a few things that I see as downsides.

  1. They can be expensive. At regular price they can cost between $3.50 and 4.00. And this is for national or store brands. Each bag has about 3 ½ 1 cup servings. Therefore, I buy them when they are on sale. Recently, a national brand was on sale at one of the stores I shop at for $1.88 so I bought 3 of them. My co—worker mentioned that she has gotten them for $1.00 when they are almost to their ‘best if used by’ date. 
  2. There are three different plastic bags with ingredients. There is the large bag with the salad and then two smaller bags; one with the dressing and one with the toppings. Therefore, I try to reduce my use of plastic bags by bringing reusable grocery shopping bags and a reusable produce bag. 

If you have a goal of eating more vegetables, you might try one of the chopped salad kits as a side dish at an upcoming meal. If you would rather make your own salad, we have many recipes on our website.

plate of Salad isolated on white
Jody Gatewood

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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Jody’s Top Picks

Last week Justine started our series on our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes. Today I’m excited to share a few of my family’s favorites. I have to admit, it took me a bit to decide which ones I wanted to share. I have a number of them saved under My Recipes on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. To save a recipe, just find it in the app and click the heart icon near the top. It will be saved in your My Recipes list for easy access. Here are just a few of my top picks.

Main dish: Tamale Pie– This one wasn’t hard for me to choose as my favorite. I tell everyone about this recipe and make it often. It is easy to make and has great flavor. The leftovers (if there are any) are good too! 

Salad: Chicken Salad-I often make this using canned chicken so it comes together quickly. It’s good for a quick lunch or supper.

Soups: Mexican Chicken Soup– My family eats a lot of soup and this one is a favorite. The ingredients are ones that I can keep on hand, so I can make it if I need a last minute meal. 

Desserts: Peanut Butter Balls-My 6-year-old daughter LOVES these. She asks to make them weekly. I like to make a larger batch and freeze them. We eat them for dessert and as snacks. 

Snacks: Berry and Greens Smoothies-I make a batch of these to freeze and we eat them for breakfast. I like to take one to work with me and have for a mid-morning snack. 

If you haven’t already downloaded the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app, do it today and start creating your list of favorites!

Peanut butter balls
Jody Gatewood

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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All Forms Fit!

Last week Christine shared some tips for storing produce so you can enjoy it before it spoils. One of the tips was to mix up the form of fruits and veggies that you use. As she mentioned, all forms can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Using different forms of produce in my meal plans helps my family and I eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables while still staying within my budget and the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen.

Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m deciding which form to buy.

  • Is the produce in season? I buy fresh produce when it’s in season. It costs less and is likely to be at it’s peak flavor. When it’s not in season, I don’t buy it or I buy it frozen or canned. You can freeze extra produce if time and space allow for use at a later time. For more information on freezing produce, check out this handout.
  • How will I use the produce? For example, if I’ll use tomatoes in a soup or stew, I’ll most often choose canned tomatoes. However, if I’m using the tomatoes in a salad, fresh tomatoes are probably a better choice.
  • How much waste is there? If I buy fresh broccoli, I’ll pay for the entire weight, even though my recipe might only call for florets. In this case, I may choose the frozen broccoli florets.
  • How much time will it save me overall? In addition to the cooking time, I also think about the preparation and clean-up time. When I’m short on time during the week, I plan meals that use produce that takes little time to prepare. For me, this means I use more frozen and canned options on weeknights.

Here are some of the different forms of fruits and vegetables that my family enjoys for our meals and snacks. 

Fresh: baby carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries

Frozen: peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, stir fry vegetables, mixed vegetables, blueberries, and mixed berries

Canned: black beans, tomatoes, green beans, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and applesauce

Dried: raisins and cranberries

Juice: 100% orange juice
For more information, watch our video on How to Get the Best Deal on Fruits and Vegetables.

Tomato
Jody Gatewood

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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Soup’s on!

Soup is a favorite meal in my house during the fall or winter. Well, for my husband, soup is a favorite all year round! I enjoy making soup since there are so many different combinations and nearly all of them are a one-pot meal! I also like that I can make many of them in the slow cooker. This allows me to start them before heading to work and supper is ready when I get home.

Of the different soups I make, chili gets a high rating from my family so I thought I’d share some of our chili recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. 

  • 10 Minute Chili: This is a very basic chili recipe that you can make your own by adding different spices, veggies or toppings. It is an easy way to introduce the flavors of chili to children as well. 
  • Vegetarian Chili: This bean and veggie chili is a nice option for a potluck or other occasion where you may not know if there are vegetarians in the group. 
  • Three Can Chili: This chili could not be simpler and it uses products you can keep on hand in your pantry. Depending on your child’s skills and experience in the kitchen, they may be able to make this recipe almost entirely on their own. 
  • Slow Cooker Pork Chili: This is a rich and delicious chili for the slow cooker. It is very tasty leftover as well as fresh from the pot. 

Try one of these soon on a cold winter day!

bowl of chili
Jody Gatewood

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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