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Baked Oatmeal Muffins

baked-oatmeal-muffins-webA few years ago I wrote about a baked oatmeal recipe my husband’s grandmother had shared with me. That year it made an excellent holiday breakfast for our family. That recipe has made its way to our table many times and in many different ways since then. After a lot of trial and error, we now have our December recipe of the month for this year – Baked Oatmeal Muffins.

This recipe is just as delicious, nutritious, and satisfying as the original. However, we made a few changes. First, the oatmeal mixture is baked in muffin tins. This makes leftovers easy to freeze and re-heat for busy mornings. Next, we saved back some of the cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top of the baked oatmeal muffins. This ensures that the delicious cinnamon sugar flavor hits your taste buds first. Last, we cut back on the amount of some ingredients which helps avoid food waste.

You can bake these today and put them in the freezer. When you find yourself in the middle of a busy holiday morning, just pull them out of the freezer, re-heat in the microwave, and serve for a perfect breakfast. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Featured Video – Scrambled Egg Muffins

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team is very excited to share some new resources with you. This week, we are unveiling the first in a series of short, new videos that teach basic recipes and cooking skills. We hope you love them as much as we do!

This week’s featured videos is for Scrambled Egg Muffins. These are delicious for a weekend breakfast for company or a make-ahead breakfast to eat throughout the week. Each serving has vegetables and protein to get your day started right. In addition, in our part of the country, this recipe costs just $0.59 per serving!

Check out our new video and get the recipe for Scrambled Egg Muffins from our website.

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Fresh, canned or frozen veggies?

Vegetables steamedAs a dietitian I’m often asked which is better, fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables? My response is they all have benefits and can all fit into a healthy eating plan.

You want to buy fresh vegetables when they are in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor. However, when not in season, frozen or canned versions are often a smarter buy. For example, buy fresh sweet corn in the summer but frozen or canned corn during other months.

Commercially frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of picking. Therefore, their flavor is retained and nutrient loss is reduced. Buy plain frozen vegetables instead of those with special sauces or seasonings, which can add calories, fat and sodium, as well as cost.

Canned vegetables tend to be the least expensive. And if you don’t end up using them, they won’t go bad quickly. When buying canned vegetables, buy those that have reduced or no sodium. Or drain and rinse regular canned vegetables to reduce the sodium.

When deciding whether to buy fresh, canned or frozen vegetables, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Which kind of vegetable is most appropriate for your needs? If you are making a soup or stew, canned tomatoes might make more sense than fresh.
  2. How much waste is there? If you are buying fresh carrots or broccoli, consider that you’ll pay for the entire weight, but you’ll throw away the stems/peels. You’ll need to have a plan to eat fresh vegetables before they spoil while frozen and canned vegetables can be stored for longer periods of time.
  3. How much time will it save overall? Don’t just consider the cooking time but preparation and clean up as well. If your schedule for the week is busy, you might decide to use frozen or canned vegetables if they will save you time.
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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Halloween is Coming

Parent Taking Children Trick Or Treating At HalloweenYou were expecting us to blog about handing out pencils instead of candy, right? Though non-candy treats are a way to celebrate the holiday without loading up on sugar, most kids don’t get very excited about that approach and we want happy kids on Halloween.

Since we all know the piles of candy are coming, here are a few ideas for dealing with them in a healthy way.

  1. Eat a healthy and hearty meal before you head out to trick-or-treat. Children will be less likely to overdo it on candy if their tummies are full. Since the evening will be busy, consider a slow-cooker meal that you can put on early in the day like our Slow Cooker Pork Chili.
  2. Some experts think that limiting candy at Halloween makes children even more fanatical about it. Consider allowing children to eat what they want on Halloween night and then set limits going forward.
  3. Talk with your child about a plan for all of the candy before they get it. Consider allowing a piece or two every night after they eat supper over the course of a week. If they know the expectations in advance, they may be more likely to cooperate.
  4. Though we generally avoid wasting food whenever we can, candy is a little different. If your child brings home pounds of candy, it is OK to have them choose the ones they like best, eat them over the course of a week or so and toss the others.

Happy Halloween from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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An Apple a Day… In These Fun Ways

Asian Little Chinese Girl Dressed up as DoctorYou know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s not hard to enjoy a nice crisp, juicy apple this time of year when apples are in season and there are so many options to choose from. However, if you’d like to jazz up your apples a bit, here are some of our favorite apple recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Hurry Up Baked Apples

Fruit Crisp

Homemade Applesauce

Crunchy Apple Roll-Up

Check out the blog from last week to help you decide which apples to use for each recipe.

Enjoy!

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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Is it safe for my family to eat GMO foods?

Choosing ripe bananasThere is a lot of buzz out there about GMO foods and some of it sounds really scary. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, so right there you are probably saying ‘no way do I want to eat that!’ The fact is that GMO is a process of changing the way a plant or animal expresses genes. Farmers have been putting in and taking out genes from living things for ages using hybridization and selective breeding. Red Delicious apples, seedless watermelons and broccoli do not grow in the wild. They are cultivated crops, as are the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores.  In fact, almost all of our food is created through genetic manipulation. Modern technology allows these changes to be done more precisely.

So how do GMOs end up in food? You may have heard that ‘70% of all foods contain GMO’. This is due to the fact that many foods use corn, soybean or canola oil, corn-derived sweeteners or starch, soy proteins, or other compounds produced from these plants – and almost all of the corn and soybeans grown in the US, and the canola grown in Canada are GMO. But should that be a concern? No and here is why. This may come as a surprise, but we eat DNA whenever we consume a plant or animal food! Strawberries, carrots and eggs contain DNA and when we eat those foods our digestive system breaks the DNA down into basic components.  We do not absorb the DNA into our bodies. This is the same for GMO DNA. It is broken down along with all the other DNA in the food when we eat it. Claims that eating GMOs will alter DNA or reproductive health or cause cancer are unscientific and false. The other fear that sometimes is linked to GMO foods is that the DNA produces a protein in the plant or animal which could cause an allergic reaction. Rest assured that no allergenic response to a GMO food has ever been documented and the FDA and USDA make sure that no potential allergenic proteins are used in GMOs that could end up in the food system. One last reason to not worry about GMO in foods, especially oils and sweeteners, is that these ingredients are highly purified and contain no DNA or proteins at all.

Major health organizations around the world have reviewed the safety of GMO foods and have concluded that there is no reason to worry. GMO foods have been part of the food supply for over 20 years now with no link to any illness or disease. You can be confident that eating foods that have GMO ingredients or have been developed using GMO technology are healthy and safe for you and your family. Some food producers are taking advantage of consumers’ misunderstanding of GMOs and using the non-GMO label as a marketing tool. You do not need to buy higher priced, non-GMO foods or avoid foods that have GMO ingredients. If you want to learn more go to www.GMOanswers.com

Dr. Ruth MacDonald
Professor and Chair
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University

Approach your football tailgate with a game plan!

Football season is back! With football comes tailgating and lots of yummy foods. Between the sour cream dip with chips and brats on the grill, I find it quite difficult to plan healthy menu options when rooting on my team. It always seems more convenient to run to the store shortly before you leave for the game to grab some treats for the tailgating party. With a little planning and prep work, you can make some quick, easy, and healthy recipes the night before to bring with you.

Here are two nutrition labels comparing our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Mango Salsa recipe and a store bought Peach Mango Salsa.

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When comparing the two recipes you notice that the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe offers roughly 50% less sodium per serving than the store bought brand. Although 160 mg per serving is low, that is only for 2 tablespoons of salsa. I know when I am attending a football tailgate I’m not always conscious about the amount of food or even sauces I am consuming so would likely consume more than 2 tablespoons. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Most people consume 3,000 or more milligrams per day. Preparing food at home is one way to keep your sodium intake down. Making the homemade salsa with fresh mangos will also give you 25% of your needed vitamin C intake. The store bought salsa only provides you 4% of your daily Vitamin C needs.

So, this fall when you are planning for your weekend football tailgate party, create a game plan to make some dishes from scratch. This will provide a more healthy option for the rest of your party and a cheaper option for you as you cheer your team on to victory!

Written by Cassie Pappas, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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Confetti Rice and Bean Salad

Confetti Rice and Bean SaladHappy Labor Day from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team!  Our September recipe of the month is perfect for a Labor Day picnic – Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.

A delicious homemade lime salad dressing tops fresh tomatoes, carrots, and onions along with frozen corn and (as the name says) brown rice and beans.   This recipe makes a great side dish on its own or as a dip served with tortilla chips.  It can also be served as a main dish – wrapped in a tortilla or lettuce leaf.  No matter how you serve it, have fun with this recipe by using different types of beans and vegetables.

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/confetti-rice-and-bean-salad

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Choosing the Perfect Melon

Many big sweet green watermelonsHave you ever bought a melon thinking how wonderful it will taste, only to find that when you cut it up, it doesn’t have any flavor? How frustrating that is! Here are 5 steps to picking a ripe melon.

1. Look for damage.
Choose a melon that’s not damaged on the outside. It should not have any bruises, soft spots, or cracks.

2. Check the color.
When buying watermelon and honeydew, choose a melon with a dull looking appearance. A shiny outside is an indicator of an underripe melon. Honeydew melons should be pale yellow in color, not overly green. For cantaloupe, the skin underneath the net-like texture should be golden or orange in color. Avoid cantaloupes with green or white color skin.

3. Check the size.
Pick up a few melons and see how they feel. Choose a melon that is heavy for its size.

4. Check the stem.
The stem end should give to gentle pressure but not be soft.

5. Smell it.
This works best with cantaloupes and honeydew. Ripe melons should smell sweet but not be overwhelming. If it smells really sweet, it might be overripe.

Good luck choosing your next melon!

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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Not Your Average Steak Sandwich

Not Your Average Steak SandwichOur recipe this month is Not Your Average Steak Sandwich. I am a huge fan of steak, but the steak is not the star of this recipe. To make this sandwich above average it is topped with sautéed onions and fresh spinach. The onions add delicious flavor and aroma to the sandwiches while the spinach adds refreshing crunch and nutrition.

Keep in mind that beef prices fluctuate, so, if steak is not in your price range right now, hold on to this recipe until you find a good deal. If you find a good price on steak while the weather is nice, grill the steak for these sandwiches. However, if you do not have a grill or if it is too cold outside, the steak can be sliced and fried in the same pan used to sauté the onions.


Not Your Average Steak Sandwich
Serving Size: 1 sandwich
Serves: 5
Cost Per Serving: $1.87

Not Your Average Steak Sandwich LabelIngredients: 

  • 1 medium onion, cut into slices or rings
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 pound lean steak, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups spinach
  • 5 whole wheat hamburger buns

Instructions: 

  1. Heat a small pan to medium. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add onions and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 5–7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  2. Put the steak in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the steak on both sides until heated through to 145°F.
  3. Assemble the sandwich:
    1. Place 1/4 cup spinach on one side of the hamburger bun.
    2. Place 1/5 of the steak on top of the spinach.
    3. Place 1/4 cup caramelized onions on top of the steak.
    4. Top with other half of bun.

Tips: 

  • When it is nice outside, grill the steaks instead of frying.
  • Toast the buns right before putting the sandwiches together.
  • Use the leftover spinach to make a Whole Meal Salad for lunch the next day.
  • Add cheese to make it like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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