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 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 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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Versatile Veggie

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables because of how versatile it is. You can use this inexpensive summer squash in several ways when cooking and baking. I didn’t appreciate zucchini as much as a child, but now that I do most of the cooking at my house, I love how easy it is to transform this veggie to meet everyone’s needs! Below are a few of my favorite ways to use this tasty green veggie. 

  • Sauté– I love to sauté diced or chopped zucchini in a little bit of olive oil with spices and other summer squash or tomatoes. It is a quick, tasty side dish that everyone enjoys! I also like using sautéed zucchini in recipes like Zucchini Hummus Wraps and Vegetable Quesadillas.
  • Bake– I like to add shredded zucchini to meatloaf, muffins and cakes. One of my favorite muffin recipes is the Chocolate Chip and Zucchini Muffins from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. My family also likes to have sliced zucchini baked in the oven with parmesan cheese for a crunchy snack.
  • Grill– As mentioned in a previous blog, we LOVE to grill at our house. We like to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and cook it on the grill with a drizzle of olive oil and a blend of spices. I use leftover grilled zucchini in pasta and on grilled cheese sandwiches. 
  • Steam– If I want to have a lighter pasta, I make zucchini noodles with a cheap spiralizer I purchased several years ago at a home goods store. The noodles can be steamed and used as an alternative to heavy pasta dishes. When our daughter was a baby, I would steam zucchini to make baby food since it was inexpensive.

One of my favorite things about using zucchini in a recipe or as a side dish is that zucchini does not take long to prepare or cook. I love how zucchini takes on the flavor of what you cook it with, making it easy to prepare in a variety of ways. Watch the video for some additional tips on how to prepare this versatile summer veggie. Grab a zucchini next time you pick out produce- you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to trying a new zucchini recipe this week!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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More Onions?

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:

  1. Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

My favorite onion recipes are:

  1. Chicken Fajitas – I love onions and peppers cooked together in a skillet.
  2. Chicken and Rice Soup – This is a recipe where I rely on my frozen, chopped onions.
  3. 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.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Banana Oatmeal Bread

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!

banana oatmeal bread

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Banana Ice Cream

Our July recipe of the month is Banana Ice Cream. This is a tasty summer treat that my family likes to make and eat together. My daughter, Eliza, helped me make some over the weekend and she did a great job! You can watch our kitchen adventures in the Banana Ice Cream video.

Banana Ice Cream is one of our summer favorites because:

  • It is a great use for overripe bananas. I find that bananas ripen very quickly in the summer, so I have to find creative ways of using them before they go bad.
  • It is a simple recipe. It only requires bananas and a little bit of milk. In the evening, Eliza helped me slice and freeze the bananas. The next morning, she ran the blender while I added the milk.
  • It works for any meal or snack. Eliza likes to have Banana Ice Cream for breakfast because she likes to tell people that she is allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast.
  • It is ice cream on demand if you keep sliced bananas in the freezer. No need to go out and wait in line at the ice cream shop on a hot night.

If you have some bananas ripening too fast like we did, give Banana Ice Cream a try. I think you will like it. Enjoy!

banana ice cream

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Spice up Your Protein!

During the summer months the grill on our deck gets a lot of use. My family spends a lot of time outside in the afternoons and evenings. Using the grill gives us the chance to enjoy playing outside without having to do a lot of actual cooking. With the days getting significantly warmer, I jump at any recipe that doesn’t require me to preheat my oven! 

To spice it up, I like creating simple marinades to add variety to our protein before grilling. Growing up, my family spent a lot of time grilling and I learned how to create simple marinades with very basic ingredients. The ratio I use to create my own marinades is three parts oil to one-part vinegar or lemon juice and then add a variety of seasonings or spices. Some of my favorite additions are garlic/garlic powder, Italian seasoning, dried herbs and to keep it simple, salt and pepper. You can also use bottled dressings to marinate your protein like Italian dressing or other oil-based dressings. Other family favorites at my house are the Homemade Teriyaki Sauce and the Honey Mustard Dressing recipe on Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

I have found that I get the best flavor when I marinate my protein in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours. Meat proteins like chicken, pork and beef can soak in a marinade overnight if they are in a covered dish in the fridge. Fish is more delicate and 1 or 2 hours is plenty of marinating time. After you begin grilling, make sure you discard any leftover marinade that has been in contact with the uncooked meat because it is not safe to consume or re-use. Use clean plates and utensils after your protein is done cooking to avoid cross contamination. If you prefer meatless dishes, you can also marinate beans and tofu before cooking to add additional flavor. Pair your marinated protein with a quick side dish like Broccoli Salad or Pasta Salad to create a well-rounded summer meal! Watch this quick video on preparing honey mustard dressing as a marinade. I would love to hear your favorite summer recipes–share your go-to marinades with us! Cheers to creating your own marinades at home!

honey mustard marinade

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Roasted Broccoli

Our June recipe of the month is Roasted Broccoli. Broccoli is in season right now, so that means it may be ready to eat from your garden, available at your local farmers market, and less expensive at the grocery store. If you are interested in learning more about seasonal vegetables, check out this Fresh Vegetable Guide. An important thing to remember when buying broccoli is that it is less expensive to buy broccoli in a bunch rather than pre-cut. 

This recipe is a great way for my family to eat up the broccoli that is available right now. In my home, there are two different types of children – those who like their vegetables cooked and those who like them raw. When I have fresh broccoli on hand, I cut it all up then I leave some raw and roast the rest of it. This makes everyone happy. 

To make this recipe, cut up your broccoli. If you are new to cutting up broccoli, check out this quick video for some pointers. Next, coat the broccoli with oil, salt, and pepper. Finally, bake the broccoli for about 15 minutes. If you have never roasted broccoli before, give this recipe a try, I think you will like it.

Enjoy!

Roasted Broccoli

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Overcoming food shortages with substitutions

Most of us have been stuck at home for weeks, many of us homeschooling while working or wishing we were working. Thinking back to how nice it was to miss our family occasionally, while still trying to treasure every moment. It seems unfair that during these uncertain times we also have to worry about grocery stores being fully stocked. Know that you are not alone and Extension and Outreach is here to help. 

It seems that people are stocking up on frozen and canned items that will last longer, which can make it difficult to find the grocery items that you are used to buying. 

For frozen and canned vegetables 

The understanding that most vegetables are interchangeable is helpful here. Substituting carrots, peas, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, kale, even celery or cabbage for each other will not negatively impact a recipe’s final product. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary slightly, so check your vegetables for doneness before serving. I recommend picking vegetables you know you like, but if you’re feeling adventurous try out a new one!  

Use any frozen or canned vegetables/beans you want in the following recipes:

Vegetable Quesadillas – Kids love helping to build their own.

Quick Pad Thai – A fun take on takeout, try with tofu or edamame for protein if you’re low on chicken.

Pizza on a Potato– Another dish that’s fun for kids and good as a side dish or the main course!

Four Layer Supper– Substitute any canned vegetable or 1 cup frozen vegetables in this recipe in place of green beans.

Making fresh produce last

If you want to extend the shelf life of your fresh produce, Extension and Outreach has some great resources here. This is also helpful to have in mind as summer starts up and farmers markets and gardens start filling up with Iowa’s bounty. 

Substitutes for meat

It has been especially difficult for us to find the cuts and type of meat we are used to lately, so I have taken to using more beans, tofu, and eggs to get our protein. Like vegetables, these items are fairly easy to exchange for each other. Beans and tofu* can be added with the vegetables in a recipe, as they don’t need to be pre-cooked. 

*A note on tofu: We usually buy extra firm (non-silken) tofu, as it holds its shape and substitutes well for meat. Silken tofu is good for soups and smoothies, as it has a much softer texture. I like to marinate my extra firm tofu up to a day ahead of time (use your favorite seasoning and a tsp of oil). If it is your first time using tofu and you are worried about your family liking it, then fry it in a little oil and season it before serving it alongside something they enjoy. 

Here are some of our favorite recipes that work well with non-meat protein sources.

Frittata– Quick and easy weekend breakfast, or we have even been known to have it for a weeknight dinner!

Teriyaki Rice Bowl– Substitute tofu for the protein here for a truly Asian-inspired dish.

Sausage and Vegetable Skillet– Try substituting beans for sausage here, just skip the second step and add beans in with the vegetables.

Black Bean Burgers – Kids love to help form the patties!
Now more than ever it is important to rely on each other and be adaptable. When you are planning your week, stick to recipes that you feel comfortable using different vegetables and protein sources for. AnswerLine is always available if you have any questions regarding substitutions 1-800-262-3804 (9 am-12 pm and 1-4 pm CST). We are all in this together.

Written by Kathryn Standing, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

White Bean Dip

Our May recipe of the month is White Bean Dip. Last month, our recipe was Spicy Tuna Salad and, along with that recipe, I shared about using shelf stable sources of protein. I keep coming back to this topic as I see less meat available during my (on-line) grocery trips. 

As the weather warms up, my family likes to eat simple meals so we can get back outside and play. Our White Bean Dip served with crackers and vegetable slices makes a quick and tasty lunch alongside some slices of cheese and fruit.  Here are some other ideas for quick meals that use beans as a shelf stable protein:

The best thing about all of these recipes is that you can make them when you have a little free time and then they are ready to go whenever you need them. 

Enjoy!

white bean dip

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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