Gardening Starts With the Seeds

Each year, as the days get longer and temperatures rise, garden catalogs begin to fill our mailbox and planning for our garden begins once again.  My husband and I each grew up in homes with large vegetable gardens.  His mom had a separate potato garden and my family sold sweet corn and tomatoes at our farm.  I remember dad putting the sign up at the end of our driveway each summer.   My family used the money we made selling tomatoes and sweet corn for a summer vacation just before school started.   As you might imagine, my husband and I have enjoyed planning, planting and harvesting our own vegetable garden through the years.  What we plant and how big our garden is has changed through the years, as the season of our life dictates. Some years, our schedule for the summer hasn’t allowed time for gardening, and what we plant has also changed as our interest in certain vegetables has changed.   

So, what do we grow?  We enjoy growing tomatoes, onions, peppers, several kinds of herbs, carrots, broccoli, kale, lettuce and spinach. 

Questions we ask ourselves as we decide what to grow include: What do we like to eat?  How much space will it take to grow?  Is there another way to obtain this food?  How expensive is it to buy?  How difficult is it to grow?

Once we decide what we are going to grow, it’s time to find the best way to grow it.  You can buy seeds and you can also buy small plants to transplant into your garden.  As seasonal stores open up in grocery store parking lots and at local nurseries, you will find seed displays and often small plants to purchase.  One place you can check with for seeds is at your local county extension office.  They sometimes give away free seeds.  These seeds are typically last season’s seeds—but are still a great source for free seeds.  You can also use your SNAP benefits to buy seeds. 

The next step is to plan your garden.  You will need to consider how much space each item you plant will need, how deep to plant them and how much product you can expect. The seed packet will have information on it to help you answer these questions. Be sure and read both sides to help you be successful with your garden.  It’s a good idea to keep track of when you plant the seed. We write the date on our calendar.  Keeping track of the date will help you know when to expect to be able to harvest the produce.   

The seed packet will tell you:

  • The company the seed is from and how much seed you will get in the packet.  
  • A picture of what you will be growing.
  • The kind of seed and the name of the variety. 
  • How much sun the growing plant prefers and the height of the mature plant. 
  • Where and when to plant the seed.  There are often also brief statements about how to prepare and use the item you will be growing. 
  • How to plant the seed, how long of row or how many hills the seeds will plant. 
  • How many days it will take after planting for the seeds to germinate or sprout. You will be able to find how many days it will take after planting for the seeds to mature and you will be able to harvest a crop.
  •  Conditions the plant will grow in, what the plant prefers.
  • How to harvest and use the produce.

You may think gardens require a big piece of land, but they do not have to. If your schedule is busy, or you don’t have access to a garden plot, consider container gardening.  Tomatoes and peppers grow well in containers on a porch or front step.  Some communities also offer community garden plots where you can rent space to grow your garden. 

If you would like additional garden information, check out this publication from ISU Extension and Outreach.  Want Yard or Garden Information? Ask Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Written by Jill Weber

Human Sciences Specialist, Nutrition and Wellness

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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Use a Chair to Move your Body…What?

You probably don’t think about grabbing a chair when wanting to move your body, but with our Chair Workout video, you do just that. With this video you can strengthen muscles and add activity to your day with just a chair and your body – and in less than 10 minutes!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week. Strengthening our muscles 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. Many people are hesitant to do muscle-strengthening activities because they don’t know what to do. The Chair Workout is easy to follow and doable for a wide range of abilities. So grab a sturdy chair, that doesn’t move, and give it a try!

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 to do with Dried Beans?

I recently bought a bag of dried beans on clearance at the grocery store.  I usually buy canned beans, but it was too good of a deal to pass up.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to prepare them! Years ago, I tried to cook dried beans and they ended up crunchy and undercooked.

I discovered a recipe to prepare dried beans using my slow cooker.  The slow cooker cooked the beans overnight! It was so easy. I froze the beans in containers so I have cooked beans ready to use whenever I need them.

Beans are a great way to add protein to meals and save money on groceries. Beans give you long-lasting energy and help you feel full for a long time.  Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to eat beans:

  1. We top salads with beans. Try black or pinto beans for a taco salad or navy or kidney beans for a Mediterranean salad.
  2. We make dips with beans.  Adding beans to dips makes a quick snack full of protein!  Our favorites are Hummus, Black Bean Salsa, and Cowboy Caviar.
  • We add beans to pasta dishes.  A quick dinner my family loves is a box of cooked whole wheat pasta, a jar of pesto (found in the grocery aisle near spaghetti sauce), and a few cups of garbanzo beans.  We mix it all together and it’s ready in 30 minutes.  We serve it with a garden salad or steamed green beans or broccoli.
  • We add black beans or pinto beans to eggs and wrap in a tortilla for a Southwest breakfast burrito!  Try this recipe for a fun weekend breakfast!
  • We make soups with beans.  Soups are a great way to use up a lot of beans.  We like Vegetarian Chili and Minestrone Soup.

Katie Sorrell is a Registered Dietitian who likes to try new recipes. She meal plans and shops at the grocery store on the weekend for the upcoming week.

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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Cooking with Lentils

Last week Brianna wrote about our Garlic and Herb Lentils recipe. If you get a bag of dried lentils to try that recipe, you might be wondering what else you can cook with lentils to use them up. Here are some other ways to add them to your meals:

  1. Use them in our Lentil Tacos.
  2. Substitute cooked lentils for meat in chili, stews and stuffed pepper fillings.
  3. Make a pasta sauce thicker and heartier by adding cooked lentils.
  4. Add cooked lentils to rice, salad, or cooked whole grains to make a protein-rich main dish.
  5. Puree 1/2 cup cooked lentils with 2 tablespoons water. In recipes for baked goods like brownies and muffins, substitute half of the fat with 1/2 cup pureed lentils.

My husband and I really like the lentil tacos. And I’ve made muffins with lentils in them that my son and I liked. I think next I will try adding them to rice or a salad and see if my family enjoys them that way. Lentils are inexpensive, nutritious, and can be used in many ways so I encourage you to pick up a bag and try them out!


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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Garlic and Herb Lentils

Personally, I had never cooked with lentils before trying this recipe. Lentils always had a way about them that was kind of scary. Not quite a bean, but not a pea either. What are these things? Well, I am here to tell you that what was once scary is now a household favorite.

After doing some research, I realized that lentils were full of great nutrients like protein, fiber, and iron, while very low in sodium and fat. They were also only 98 cents for a pound, which is a low price for nutrient-dense food.  I figured, why not give it a try? I used this recipe as a side to baked salmon and sauteed sweet peas, and my husband said it was one of his favorite meals.

It required very little prep time (only cutting the onion and rinsing the lentils), and it turned out very flavorful with the seasonings and chicken broth included. I served the meal with fresh lemons, and my husband used the juice to enhance the flavor even more.

So next time you look at a lentil, don’t be afraid. They are packed with nutritious qualities, fit in your budget, and taste great.

Find the full recipe here: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/garlic-and-herb-lentils/

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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Activity Snacks

Have you ever heard of activity snacks? These are like food snacks, but in physical activity form! Sometimes I dread going to start a workout- whether that be at the gym or at home, I do not want to put in a chunk of time to move. Days can become busy, but I often feel discouraged and defeated when I feel I did not get enough movement in. This is where activity snacks can fit in your everyday.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should move more and sit less getting in 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity each week. This is about 22 to 43 minutes of activity per day.

This can be a great goal to accomplish through activity snacks. This is when you dedicate 5 to 15 minutes 3 times a day to be active whether that be in your living room, at your desk, or in-between meetings. This totals 15 to 45 minutes of your day dedicated to movement without the burden of setting up a huge space of your time for the gym.

It is as simple as waking up and doing morning stretches, pushing through a chair workout over lunch hour, and going for an evening walk. Every little thing adds up to big numbers at the end of the day.

Check out some activity videos we have on our website for some easy activities to work into your day! All you need is your body and a chair- perfect for your busy life.

Ideas for movement:

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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ISU Extension and Outreach offers training for child care providers

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans include recommendations by life stage, from birth through older adulthood. ISU Extension and Outreach is offering training for child care providers in Iowa that include the new recommendations for feeding infants and toddlers.

Read more at: https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/new-dietary-guidelines-feeding-infants-and-toddlers

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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Perspective is Key

Energy is contagious! Have you ever been around a person who has nothing nice to say? How did that make you feel? If the answer is negative, then that makes sense. Out of a negative perspective, you can only see bad things. On the other hand, have you ever been around someone who is full of life and kindness? How did that make you feel? I have a feeling the answer is positive.

Sometimes I get in the slump of thinking, Why me? I had to prepare for my own wedding last July in the middle of a crisis, graduate from school with no ceremony, and had my honeymoon cancelled in December. I had bad day after bad day, and then I remembered- responding to my self-talk is how I set the tone for how I respond to everyone around me.

I understand- this past year has been anything but ordinary. Not only are we still in a pandemic, but there are lots of things to do like pay bills, make dinner, and honestly- just do life. We cannot change things around us like the pandemic, economy, or other people, but we can change our mindset toward situations that come about our day. Try to remember that only you are in control of how you view the world, and you can impact those around you. One simple mind-shift can create a positive atmosphere not only your family will like being around, but your brain as well.

4 easy tips for changing your perspective:

  • Take time to reflect on your blessings by keeping a journal and writing 3 blessings in your life every morning to start your day off in a positive tone.
  • For every 1 negative thing you say, practice saying 2 positive things about that topic.
  • Acknowledge your stress and listen to your body. It is important to take a break when your body needs it so you can be at your best mindset moving forward. Check out our Strength in Stress blog post on some ways to recognize stress.
  • Know how to recognize and respond to your negative self-talk. For more on how to do that within your family, check out The Science of Parenting. In their recent podcast, Talk it Up, Mackenzie and Lori break down self-talk as a parent.

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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Canned Beef

When I first heard of canned beef I really did not know what to think. There was a fat layer on the top when I opened the can and a lot of liquid, but the texture and smell of the meat were normal for beef. I ended up enjoying it and adding it to some of my recipes as an easy and money-saving alternative to cooking with fresh beef. You don’t have to jump on the canned-beef train, but I do want to show you why canned beef isn’t all that bad, and how you can use it in your kitchen.

Why does canned beef sound scary? Most likely it is because you just aren’t familiar with it. I bet you eat other sorts of canned beef without even realizing it:

  • Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs
  • Beef Ravioli
  • Beef and vegetable soup
  • Chili Mac

Now that we’ve got that covered, it doesn’t seem as scary- does it? With those meals, you pour the can into a pot, warm it up, and eat it. Canned beef is almost the same. Because the meat is already cooked, you just need to open the can, dispose of the fat layer, and drain the meat from the liquid. After that, you are good to go! Save time cooking some of your favorite dishes by starting with the pre-cooked meat.

Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that call for ground beef:

Here are other suggestions to add it to dishes:

  • Beef Tacos
  • Casserole Dishes
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Soups

You can find canned beef in some of your local food pantries, Walmart, Fareway, and online at Amazon.

What are you waiting for? Go try it out!

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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New Videos for At-Home Workouts on Frigid Days

As I write this blog, snow is swirling in the air and it is cold outside. Like really cold. As much as my kids and I enjoy sledding and being active outdoors, it’s not possible right now, since it is recommended to limit your time outside. This also means my kids are having indoor recess at school which usually isn’t very active. Therefore, I’m thinking of different ways we can be active inside our house.

This past week we’ve been doing different workout videos after school. We’ve done a couple that they do in school. And I also introduced them to the new stretching and workout videos we have on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. We have four new videos: Chair workout, Upper Body Stretches, Cardio Pyramid Exercises, and Chair Stretches. My 11 year old son and I did the Cardio Pyramid together. He thought it was pretty fun watching mom on the video! The videos are short so they work well when you need to add a little movement to your day or when you are short on time. And you don’t need a lot of space to do them.

If, like my family, you need to find ways to be active indoors, check out the new videos and let us know what you think.

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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