This week we have one more new produce video to share with you – corn on the cob. This is perfect timing here in Iowa because corn on the cob is delicious right now.
Our new video gives some tips on preparing fresh corn on the cob. Start by shucking the corn, which is removing the husks that surround the ears of corn. Then scrub the ears of corn under running water.
Cook the corn right on the cob by boiling, grilling, or microwaving it. I usually put our ears of corn in a microwave safe 9-inch by 13-inch pan, add about 1/3 cup of water, cover with plastic wrap, and cook for two minutes per ear of corn.
However, this year, my daughter’s two front teeth are very loose, so she is having a hard time eating corn on the cob. This is where the preparation method shown in the video comes in handy for me. I use a paring knife to cut the kernels off the ear of corn. Then, I cook the cut kernels following the same steps for microwaving a whole ear of corn. This method is also useful if you want to use fresh corn in place of canned or frozen in a recipe like our Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.
Check out the video and enjoy your corn on the cob this summer!
How do you like the new Pantry Picks collection on our website? I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about my pick – brown rice. Brown rice is definitely a pantry pick in my house! I love it and I eat it pretty much every week. It tastes great, it’s hearty and it is a healthy choice for me. I try to make sure that at least half of the grain foods I eat are whole grains and brown rice helps me do that.
One of the things I like the best about brown rice is that it is so fast. I can cook a big pot of rice once and then split the rice up into freezer containers and freeze it for up to six months. Then I can have rice for many meals with just a quick zap in the microwave.
I use brown rice all year. In the winter, it goes into soups and casseroles and in the summer I make stir fry and salads. I put a little round-up of some of my favorite recipes that use brown rice below.
I hope you try one of these today and share your favorite ways to use brown rice with us in the comments or on our social media!
Last week Justine introduced you to the new feature on our website called Pantry Picks and shared some ways to use whole wheat bread. I am excited about this new collection of resources because it highlights how we can make the best use of ingredients that are inexpensive, long-lasting and really easy to prepare. This week I’m highlighting our Pantry Pick on whole wheat tortillas.
We use a fair amount of tortillas in my house. We like Mexican flavored foods so I make a number of meals using whole wheat tortillas. And if I need a quick lunch or supper for my kids, they often choose a simple cheese quesadilla. My son prefers a white flour tortilla for his quesadilla but will eat the whole wheat tortillas for other meals.
Here are a few ways to use whole wheat tortillas:
This week try a new recipe using whole wheat tortillas!
We are excited to announce a new feature on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. called Pantry Picks. Pantry Picks
provide tips on nutrition, storage, and preparation for foods that you might commonly find in your
pantry or cupboard. Each week this month, we are going to look at a different Pantry Pick. We hope you
learn some new ways to use these staple foods.
Today, I am going to introduce you to our first Pantry Pick – whole wheat bread. You can almost always
find a loaf of whole wheat bread in my pantry. Find out why I like whole wheat bread on my post from
last week. We usually use whole wheat bread for sandwiches and toast. If you or your family prefer
another type of bread for sandwiches and toast, fear not!. Here are some other great uses for whole
Make sure to check out our new Pantry Picks section on our website for more information about whole
wheat bread. Next week Jody will be sharing about tortillas.
Our June recipe of the month is homemade croutons. If you enjoy store-bought croutons on your salad, on your soup, or for a quick snack, you are going to love these. When I make these, my children, my husband, and even my mom devour them – there are never any leftovers.
The thing I like about homemade croutons is that they are made with whole wheat bread. Using whole wheat bread is important to me because it has more nutrients than wheat bread or white bread. In particular, it has more fiber, which is something we all need to get more of. Fiber helps protect against chronic diseases and it helps keep our digestive system healthy.
If you are like my children, you will just eat these croutons on their own. But, if you are like me, you will want some recipes to use along with your croutons. My favorite recipe to top with these croutons is Autumn Soup. I also like croutons on a salad, such as Whole Meal Salad. Regardless of how you serve your croutons, I hope you try this recipe soon.
Our May recipe of the month is Crispy Baked Chicken and it is a popular one. Boneless, skinless chicken is coated in crushed cornflakes and baked. Serve this tasty chicken with a fruit and a vegetable and you have a complete meal. Many people I have talked to about this recipe like to season the crushed cornflakes beyond the garlic powder. Some suggestions I have received include basil, Italian seasoning, chili powder, lemon pepper, and oregano. If you have a favorite herb or spice give it a try!
Recently, we have been talking a lot about unit pricing on the blog. This recipe is a great chance to use your unit pricing skills when buying the chicken. The recipe calls for 1 ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken. This can take several forms, so lets look at the unit price below to see what is the best buy.
$3.49 per pound
$2.49 per pound
$4.39 per pound
In this case, the chicken thighs were the best buy. Remember, prices will change from week to week, so make sure to double check the unit price before you buy.
Back in 2013, I wrote a blog comparing the cost and nutrition of different vegetable oils. That blog was recently shared by a national outlet and it received a lot of attention. As a result, we got a lot of questions related to what type of fat or oil is best to use so we thought it was time to write another blog on that topic.
When talking about fats and oils, it helps to define each term. Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature like butter or lard. Solid fats mainly come from animal foods. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like canola or olive oil. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. However, coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils (tropical oils) are solid at room temperature because they have high amounts of saturated fatty acids. Therefore, they are classified as a solid fat rather than as an oil.
All fats and oils are a mixture of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Here is a chart that shows the different amounts of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in different types of solid fats and oils.
*Information from the USDA National Nutrient Database https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?home=true
There has been some research lately that has led some people to believe that saturated fats aren’t as harmful as once thought. Along with that, coconut oil is widely promoted as having many health benefits. However, in July 2017 the American Heart Association issued an advisory recommending against using coconut oil. Analysis of more than 100 published research studies reaffirmed that saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol. In addition, seven controlled trials showed that coconut oil raised LDL levels.
To learn how much oil is recommended for you, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/oils. Currently, most Americans eat more solid fat than recommended while consuming fewer oils than recommended. Therefore, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend shifting from solid fats to oils. This includes using oils (except tropical oils like coconut oil) in place of solid fats when cooking. And to increase the intake of foods that naturally contain oils, such as seafood and nuts, in place of some meat and poultry. This week for an evening meal you might consider making the Broiled Salmon Justine shared at the beginning of the month!
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I rarely ate fish growing up. However, fish is a favorite of my children. We usually eat it for dinner once a week.
You may be wondering if I am worried about my children being exposed to mercury in the fish I feed them. The answer is no because I choose fish that the EPA and FDA have designated safe to eat including cod, pollock, salmon, and tilapia. This chart has great advice on the appropriate types and amounts of fish for children and pregnant women. It is safe for children ages 2 years and older to eat one or two servings of fish per week. Eating fish may even have lifelong health benefits. These include brain function and prevention of chronic disease.
Adding fish, or any food, to the menu at home can be tricky. Family members of all ages may not be comfortable with new foods. Here are some of the things I try:
- Stick with it for the long haul. The more they see the food, the more likely they are to try it (and like it). It may take weeks, months, or years, but they will eventually try it.
- Serve it with other things they like. Favorite side dishes can make a new food more appealing. * Serve it as part of a mixed dish. Our Fish and Noodle Skillet is a great way to include fish with other tasty foods your family members may like.
Try adding fish to your weekly menu. Let us know how it goes!
We are starting to get a few days of beautiful weather here in Iowa and for me that means firing up the grill! I love to cook food on my grill and one of my favorites is salmon. I have heard from several friends that they are unsure about cooking fish at home and sometimes they are concerned about food safety and seafood. Today I have rounded up some top safety tips related to seafood to help you feel confident cooking fish at home.
- Choose fish that has been kept at a safe temperature. In Iowa, that often means that fish is frozen when we buy it. Frozen fish is often very high quality and some fish in the fresh case at my store was previously frozen. Fish should smell mild. Flesh should be firm and eyes should be clear on whole fish. When buying frozen fish, choose packages that are free of frost.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw fish and keep raw fish separate from ready-to-eat foods. Clean surfaces and kitchen tools that touched raw fish with hot soapy water.
- If you plan to eat your fish within two days, you can store it in the refrigerator. If it will be longer before you eat it, store it in the freezer. You can defrost fish in the microwave, but for the best results, thaw fish in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cook fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cooked fish is safe at room temperature for up to two hours unless the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. On very hot days, refrigerate fish within one hour.
- If you enjoy fishing, put fish you plan to eat in a cooler of ice immediately.
The Food and Drug Administration has a helpful website related to keeping seafood safe. I hope these tips help you feel confident cooking seafood at home. Next week Justine will share some information related to serving seafood to children. Please share your favorite seafood dishes on our social media!
Our March recipe of the month is an old favorite here in Iowa. Four Layer Supper is a casserole that has been a staple recipe here for many years. The name says it all, this recipe is a casserole made up of four layers – potatoes, green beans, ground beef and onions, and cheese.
Over the years, we have learned from this recipe and made some updates. These updates make the recipe easier, more nutritious, and less expensive.
- To save time, prick the potatoes with a fork and microwave them for 5 minutes before cutting them up. This will reduce the baking time by 15-20 minutes.
- To add nutrition to this recipe, substitute sweet potatoes for all or some of the white potatoes. Sweet potatoes boost the fiber and vitamin A in this recipe.
- To save money on this recipe, check your grocery ads and substitute a less expensive meat for the ground beef. This could even be leftover cooked meat from a previous meal.