It is 3:18pm on a Monday afternoon as I write this blog. How do you usually feel around 3:00 in the afternoon? If you’re anything like me, you get a little sleepy and a little hungry – or maybe a lot hungry!
This week’s blog is all about a go-to snack that can rescue you on a busy weekday afternoon when you just need a pick-me-up. Peanut Butter Balls are a sweet, chewy snack that can help you tackle the day.
As you might guess, they contain peanut butter, yum! They also contain two surprising ingredients. The first is dry oatmeal. The oatmeal binds this recipe together and provides whole grain carbohydrate for energy and fiber. You may be shocked to learn that these little snacks also get a protein boost from mashed beans in addition to the peanut butter. Weird, I know! Trust me, they’re delicious and you would never know the beans are in there once they’re dressed up with some peanut butter and honey.
I hope you’ll take my word for it and give these little treats a try. You can whip up a whole batch at once and keep them in the freezer for a quick snack anytime. Perhaps best of all, two Peanut Butter Balls cost just $0.15 to make. I challenge you to find a granola bar or trail mix for that price!
Peppers are one of my favorite veggies. During the winter, I buy them at the grocery store most weeks. During the summer, I love to grow them myself. They are rich in vitamin C, low in calories and add lots of flavor to whatever I am cooking.
You can grow peppers in pots or in the ground. If you choose to use a pot, you’ll want it to be at least two gallons in size for a single pepper plant and you may want to use a dowel or stake to support your plant as it grows.
Keep in mind that most peppers start green and some varieties ripen to be yellow, orange, red or purple. The Iowa State University gardening experts have a publication that will help you pick the pepper type that is best for you. Peppers that are not green tend to be much more expensive. You can save a lot of money by growing peppers yourself, but be prepared that peppers that are not green will need more time on the plant to change colors, which means you may lose more to rot, pests or weather damage.
I hope you will give a pepper plant a try this summer. If you would like some tips on cutting up whole peppers, we have a video to get you started.
Our May recipe of the month is sure to get you in the mood for spring produce if you are not already. A salad of spring greens (spinach, leaf lettuce, or Swiss chard), chopped spring vegetables (broccoli or snow peas), and chopped spring fruit (strawberries or pineapple) tastes delicious with our homemade Orange Dressing.
Our homemade Orange Dressing is made of ingredients that are easily found in most kitchens. This recipe needs only four ingredients – orange juice, vinegar, sugar, and oil. Pour them into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake until the ingredients are combined. Then use this tasty dressing to top a salad made with your favorite springtime produce.
Orange Dressing with Fruit and Greens
Each spring I love watching the plants pop up out of the ground. Some days I feel like I can see the plants growing in my yard. Now that we are in April, more and more fresh spring produce is popping up in the stores and in gardens.
Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season gets you the tastiest produce for the least cost. Here are some fruits and vegetables that are in season in the spring:
- Asparagus – snap off the woody ends and grill, steam, or roast.
- Broccoli – cut into florets and eat raw, steam, or roast.
- Rhubarb – eat only the reddish stalk; find out more on the AnswerLine Blog.
- Snow peas – eat raw or add to stir-fry.
- Spinach – eat in a salad, top off a sandwich, or add to a smoothie.
- Strawberries – eat on their own or as a topping to your favorite dessert.
I hope you get to enjoy some fresh spring produce this week!
The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe of the month for April is Baked Fish and Chips. There are many reasons that I love this recipe. Here are a few:
- It is lower in calories and fat than fish and chips from a restaurant.
- Fast food fish and chips – 720 calories, 35 grams fat
- Baked Fish and Chips – 410 calories, 7 grams fat
- It is less expensive than fish and chips from a restaurant.
- Fast food fish and chips – $5.99 per serving
- Baked Fish and Chips – $1.24 per serving
- It works with any kind of fish you have on hand or that you like.
- It is delicious – my family eats every last bite of this meal when I make it.
If, like me, you like tartar sauce with your fish, but do not want to buy an entire bottle – you can make your own. Just mix two tablespoons of mayonnaise with two tablespoons of pickle relish. You can adjust the amounts of mayo and relish to your tastes.
I hope you enjoy our April recipe – Baked Fish and Chips!
How much should my child be eating? This is a question that every parent asks themselves. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. The answer depends on the age of the child, whether or not they are going through a growth spurt, the health status of the child, and other factors that we do not even understand.
When I am concerned about how well my children are eating, I go to sources I trust. First and foremost is their physician. She has followed them since they were born, so she knows them, she has tracked their growth, she has documented their health concerns over the years, and we trust her. If you have major concerns about your child’s growth or eating habits, go to a trusted health care provider first.
If you are simply curious about how much your child needs to be eating or if you want to make sure your child is on track, I have two other sources you can trust.
First is the Ellyn Satter Institute. On this website, you will find many resources on how to feed your child and how to make mealtime enjoyable for everyone in the family. There are even suggestions for children who are picky eaters. At our home, we follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding and it has worked for us.
Second is Choose MyPlate. On this website, you will find many resources on what and how much to feed your child. This website focuses on choosing a variety of foods from the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. A general guideline that I try to follow is choose foods from three food groups at breakfast, four food groups at lunch and supper, and one or two food groups at snack times. On this website, you can check out each food group for a suggested amount that your child needs from that group each day. You can also find this information on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website in the Aisle by Aisle section.
Feeding children can be a challenge, but remember you are not alone. There are good resources out there to help you.
‘I don’t like that’ is heard more often than I’d like in my kitchen! Often my children tell me they don’t like what I’ve made for supper, even before they’ve tried it. It’s normal for young children to prefer foods they are familiar with and to have periods of time where they may only want to eat 1 or 2 different foods. However, there are ways you can help your child try new foods.
- Offer choices. Instead of asking, ‘Do you want broccoli for supper?” ask “Would you like broccoli or cauliflower for supper?”
- Name a food your child helps make. Make a big deal of serving “Paige’s Sweet Potatoes” or “Kenny’s Super Salad” for supper.
- Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food.
- Offer small portions of new foods. Let your child try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. The first few times the child might just smell the food, than they might lick the food. This helps the child become more familiar with the food. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
- Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.
To help children develop positive eating habits, offer the same foods for the whole family. It is okay for your child to eat more at some meals and less at others. Lastly, make eating family meals together fun. If meals are time for family arguments, your child may learn unhealthy attitudes towards food. Talk about fun activities family members did during the day. Or use our Mealtime Conversation Cards to get the conversation going.
Most cooks have tried a recipe that did not turn out how they planned. Sometimes it’s a cake that collapses on the counter, other times it’s a roast that ended up raw in the middle. The best thing to do when this happens is to try to learn from the mistake, so it does not happen again. We have rounded up a few common mistakes people make with slow cookers to try to help you avoid them in your kitchen.
- Be sure your slow cooker is working properly. It is critical that your slow cooker get to the right temperature to avoid problems with food safety. If you’re like me, you may have your grandmother’s old slow cooker. The good news is – you can test it. Just fill your slow cooker halfway with water and turn it on. It needs to heat to at least 170 degrees within two hours. You can test it with a food thermometer. If after two hours, the water is cooler than 170 degrees, your slow cooker is likely not heating your food fast enough and should not be used.
- Prep ahead the smart way. It is helpful to prep ingredients ahead so you can drop them into your slow cooker in the morning. However, do not mix raw meat and other ingredients together in advance. The safest approach is to keep meat separate from other ingredients until you are ready to cook.
- Cook foods to their usual safe temperatures. This helpful guide shows safe temperatures for meat, poultry, casseroles and more. You can measure temperatures using a food thermometer. Once foods reach a safe temperature, you can hold them in the slow cooker at or above 140 degrees.
Follow these simple tips to make safe and tasty meals in your slow cooker. Happy slow cooking from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!
We often get request for recipes that can be made in a slow cooker. It’s not surprising since you can add the ingredients to the slow cooker, turn it on, and then go about your day while the food cooks. No need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when you have other things you need to do! Here are some tips to keep food safe when using a slow cooker.
- Cook foods using the low or high heat setting. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time. Do not use the warm setting to cook food. It is designed to keep cooked food hot.
- Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they will not reach 140°F quick enough and could possibly result in a foodborne illness. If possible, cut the meat into small chunks. The temperature danger zone is between 40°F and 140°. If food is in this temperature zone for more than 2 hours, harmful bacteria may grow to unsafe levels.
- Place vegetables on the bottom and near the sides of the slow cooker. Vegetables cook the slowest, so you want them near the heat.
- Keep the lid in place. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
- Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the slow cooker.
- Reheat food on the stove top or microwave and transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm (140°F or above). Do not reheat food or leftovers in a slow cooker.
For additional information on slow cookers and food safety, visit:
My family has never had any New Year food traditions. I have been reading up on some New Year food traditions from around the world and everything I read sounded so good that I am thinking I need to start one of these traditions with my family.
If I am going to start a New Year food tradition with my family this year, it is going to have to be simple. So, I think black eyed peas are going to be the new tradition for us. January’s recipe – Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup – is one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever made. All you need to do is cut up the vegetables, dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it on low, and wait patiently.
Black eyed peas served with greens and cornbread is a New Year food tradition from Southeastern America. Many eat this meal in hopes of good luck and prosperity in the new year. This soup pairs well with cornbread and a side of greens can easily be added for those who want to stick closely with this tradition. Try out this black eyed pea recipe for your New Year meal. Enjoy!