Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:

  1. Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
  2. Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
  3. Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/lemon-chia-seed-muffins/


Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Preventing Food Waste at Christine’s House

I live on my own and I LOVE to cook! People often ask me if I make homemade food for just myself and if I end up with a lot of leftovers going to waste. I do cook for myself all the time and I very rarely throw out leftovers. I am excited to share some of the strategies I use and I hope some will work for you too.

Meal Planning: The most important strategy that I use is meal planning. I sit down each week and decide what I would most like to cook. I decide based on the weather, the season and how much time I will have that week. The plan helps me choose what perishable foods I need to buy and helps me feel confident that they will get used without going to waste. The plan also lays out which days I am going to cook. I do not cook dinner every night; I often cook 3 times per week.

My Friend the Freezer: I rarely cook a meal that I will only eat once. When I cook, I normally plan to eat one or two servings within four days of making the dish and I freeze the rest in small containers. I often hear people say that this strategy would not work for them because their freezer is too full. My approach to that problem is that I add prepared dishes to my freezer every week, but I also eat dishes from it every week. I view it like a pantry with a constant stream of food in and out. I use about half of my freezer this way and the other half has frozen meat and vegetables that I keep on hand for longer term storage. As I plan my meals for the week, I always plan at least a few meals that are going to involve taking a prepared dish out of the freezer. That way, I know there will be space freed up for the things I cook fresh that week. The big bonus is that my freezer almost always has a wide variety of tasty things in it that just involve a quick zap in the microwave.

Flexible Recipes: I build a meal into my plan every week or two that is a good ‘use-up’ meal. By that, I mean that the recipe is a good way to use up whatever fresh vegetables that are left in the bottom of the produce drawer before they spoil. Many soups, stews, pastas and stir-fry dishes work well for this. Vegetable Frittata and Sausage Vegetable Skillet from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe collection are flexible to work with whatever vegetables you have.

I hope these strategies help you see how you can enjoy cooking whatever dishes you like even if you live on your own. Watch our blog for the next few weeks to hear from Jody, Justine and Katy on how they reduce food waste in their own homes. Happy cooking!


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.

More Posts

Sloppy Joes or Janes or Jimmys

The name of this blog may be silly, but it is meant to show that this recipe is super flexible. It can be used to make traditional Sloppy Joes or something a little different based on what you have and what you like. We chose to feature this recipe this week because it is a wonderful fit for our current circumstance. Some grocery stores have shorter supplies of meat or a smaller variety due to supply chain challenges. As a result, you may find yourself choosing a product that is not as familiar to you. 

This Sloppy Joes recipe will work with ground beef, turkey, pork, chicken, or venison. You can even use cooked lentils in this recipe. It uses ketchup and mustard in the sauce, and the flavor reminds me of a cookout! Check out the video below and cook along with me using whatever protein you have on hand!

sloppy joes

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.

More Posts

Cooperative Meal Planning

Meal planning and cooking have become a team effort at our house while we are social distancing. My husband and I are balancing work and teaching our three children from home. This usually means that one of us is working while the other is caring for the children. This also means that one of us is usually working right up until mealtime so the other person is responsible for meal prep. With this alternating schedule, we have had to work together to make sure our meals are planned. We have had fun creating meals by balancing his strength of getting meals on the table quickly and my strength of cooking from scratch.

I have been shopping for enough groceries to last us a little over two weeks at a time, so we have started sitting down together every few days to evaluate our meal plan. We double-check the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see what we still have on hand. Then we write down, on a sticky note, what meals will work well for the next few days. The person who is making the meal gets to pick from the list what they want to make.  

When it is my turn to cook, I have started taking votes from the children about which meal they want me to make. Usually someone is disappointed, but they know we can make their choice for the next meal. My children have also become more focused helpers in the kitchen. They do not have the typical distractions (friends, grandparents) that cause them to run off in the middle of helping. I enjoy having an extra set (or two) of hands in the kitchen with me.

While I look forward to the future when I can make weekly grocery trips and meal plans again, I hope my family can continue this cooperative style of planning and cooking that we have started.

Couple cooking

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

A Look Through Gale’s Kitchen

Hi, my name is Gale and I am a nutrition educator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. I got inspired by Katy’s kitchen plans to do a little organizing myself.  I don’t have a family to cook for, which means I should be more organized, right?  Not at all.  As I was looking through my kitchen, I found out that my bad habits include:

  • Buying condiments and other ingredients, but not having a plan to use them.  I have five different kinds of mustard and two different types of pesto – what’s up with that?
  • Forgetting the fresh produce I already have. It gets buried in the bin below the newer fruits and veggies I buy.
  • Putting the groceries I just bought in front of the older ones. Just like the produce, I lose sight of foods like rice and dried beans in the pantry.
  • Finding interesting recipes I want to try, but setting the recipe aside with a stack of others.

Since I have been home-bound, I am trying to get better about using up what I have on hand.  That way I can avoid trips to the store.  So…

  • I am putting those condiments to good use.  What does Thai curry sauce taste like on frozen broccoli?  Pretty good, it turns out.
  • I am making one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes, Easy Quiche. This is a versatile recipe, so I can toss in any fresh veggies that are in my refrigerator. 
  • I am using the slow cooker method of preparing dried beans and making chili with them.  I do not need to buy chili seasoning because, when I searched through my kitchen, I found out that I already have all the spices I need. 
  • I am trying to create meals from what I have on hand instead of relying on a recipe.   Things like canned chickpeas, frozen vegetables, brown rice, cream cheese, and dried peas and beans. Hey, I think I just invented dinner!

Have you gotten creative with the foods you have in your kitchen recently?  If so, please share your ideas with us!

Easy Quiche

Gale Francione is a program assistant with the Buy. Eat. Live Healthy nutrition program in Scott County.  She loves concocting dinner, especially with left-overs so they become something totally new.

What’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen? Part 2

On Monday I shared that my family’s list of favorite meals has been helpful for meal planning while we are spending our days at home. Today I’ll share some of our favorites that I’m planning to make. Normally, we are on the go and I plan meals for specific days based on how much time I will have to cook. Now that we are just home, I have a list of recipes that I can make and I choose in the afternoon what we will have for supper. If I am cooking then I get to pick! Mom’s prerogative! For breakfast and lunch, we are keeping it simple. If you would like some snack ideas, check out my blog on snacking

Here are some of our favorite meals:

Lentil Tacos

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.

More Posts

What’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen?

Last week Katy kicked off our series of sharing how the members of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team are meal planning and cooking during the current pandemic. This week I’ll share what I’m cooking in my kitchen!

I’m currently working from home while also trying to do a little homeschooling with my 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter. Never a dull moment! My husband is in law enforcement so he is still going to work during the day.

When I first learned that I was going to be working from home and my kids would be home with me, I started working on a schedule and thinking about my meal plan. I have to admit though, we didn’t even follow the schedule on the first day. I quickly realized we were going to need to be flexible based on my work commitments. The one part of that schedule that has stuck is when we eat. This helps my kids know when the next meal or snack is coming so I’m not constantly asked if they can have a snack or when we are going to eat. This is also a nice sense of normalcy for them as meals and snacks at school happened on a schedule.

Something that has been helpful for meal planning during this time is a list I keep of my family’s favorit meals. I created this a while ago and have it hanging on a board in my kitchen. I look through it to see what meals use items that I can keep on hand or are easy to adapt. For example, tacos is one of our favorite meals. And I like that they are simple to make! I have a few packets of taco seasoning on hand (and I know I can make some homemade taco seasoning as well)). I’ve bought some extra hamburger and shredded cheese to put in the freezer and I have a couple packets of taco shells in my pantry. I almost always have salsa and sour cream in the refrigerator because we use them frequently. We also like to have spinach leaves with our tacos but if we haven’t been to the store recently and don’t have any, we just go without.

To help with meal planning during this time, I’d recommend making a list of your family’s favorite meals. I find it helps meal planning go quicker and I’m not spending as much time trying to think about what we should have. Sometimes we have to adapt the recipe based on what’s available but are still getting to enjoy foods we like. 

Family Favorite Meals

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.

More Posts

A Glimpse into Katy’s Kitchen – Part 2

On Monday, I shared a few tips on how to better organize your kitchen space. I spent some time using those tips to organize my kitchen and now that it is back to being user-friendly, I want to share what meal planning looks like for my family. With my husband working from home, I find that I need to be a little bit more creative when it comes to planning our weekly meals. 

One of my top goals when meal planning is to ensure that we have a variety of options to choose from each day. Now that we are eating all our meals at home and limiting takeout and restaurant visits, I don’t want to get burned out eating the same meals too often. To help with this, I choose 2-3 new recipes to make each week with the hope that they will become new family favorites to rotate into my weekly plans. Three new recipes that we tried this week (and loved!) included: Stuffed Peppers, Vegetable Quesadillas, and Spicy Tuna Salad.

My next priority when writing down my plan is to limit food waste by using the ingredients I already have in the house. Luckily, the steps I take to limit food waste also help me shop less frequently. I use the Five Day Meal Planner as a guide to creating my weekly meal planning sheet. I look for recipes that use the ingredients I have and some that use similar ingredients for the week to simplify my shopping list. I also plan how we will incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks so I am certain they will be used before they spoil.  

Below is an example of what my meal planning typically looks like each week. Instead of committing to making recipes on specific days, I like giving my family the option to choose from a variety of meals and snacks. Once that meal has been made for the week, we simply cross it off and continue choosing from the other options throughout the week. Doing this keeps me organized and makes it easier to decide what to make each day. 

There is no right or wrong way to make your family’s meal plan- find what works for you! We hope that over the course of this series you will learn some new meal planning tips and find new recipes to try at home. 

Cheers to planning out your meals 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.

More Posts

Now is the Time

Today I would like to share about mindful eating and keeping families healthy. This is especially relevant for these interesting times while we stay close to home because of COVID-19. Many of us are well aware of money-saving strategies and have ideas of how we’d eat better or cook more if we just had time.  We’ve put those ideas in our “back pockets” for the time when we REALLY need them. With the uncertainty of how long the social distancing and disrupted lifestyle may go on, I think it’s a great opportunity to employ some of these great ideas. The gift of time makes it possible to try things that just didn’t seem possible before due to hectic schedules. See if any of these ideas would work for your family!

  1. Include structure in your day with planning set meal times.  Along with that, limit between meal snacking to set times with limited portions to ensure a good appetite at when meal-time rolls around. 
  2. Plan your menus for an entire week, along with a grocery list. Let everyone be part of the process! Set some ground rules for planning, like including items from at least 4 food groups at each meal.  What a great opportunity for nutrition education in the kitchen! Find out more about the food groups at ChooseMyPlate.gov
  3. Trying a new recipe for something that you would usually purchase as a processed food, like chicken strips, refried beans, or maybe using up that leftover can of pumpkin in your cupboard and trying Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes
  4. Cook together and learn some new skills. Check out our variety of videos to get started. 
  5. Get inspired by watching a cooking show as a family and plan a dish from it into your weekly menu.
  6. Eat together as a family at the table, and make plans for sharing responsibilities of setting the table, serving, cleaning up and cooking.
  7. Explore the different recipe categories on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe page together.
  8. Inventory your cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator and brainstorm together about what you could use to create a meal.
  9. Have fun together! 

What better time could there be than now to change up old habits and push re-set on healthy eating at home? If you start now, you just might have time to adopt some new, lifechanging behaviors before it’s back to “business as usual” and the hustle and bustle. Practicing new behaviors when we can be mindful and supportive of each other can be a great positive move toward the habits that you’ve only dreamt of in the past.  

Judy Dittmar is a Registered Dietitian and mom with a wealth of experience in the classroom, kitchen, and garden. She enjoys hiking and running state park trails, and generally being outdoors.

Chocolate cupcakes

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Spicy Tuna Salad

I did not know when I was working on this recipe two years ago how timely it would be today. Our April recipe of the month is Spicy Tuna Salad. This recipe is particularly useful as we social distance and our trips to the grocery store are fewer and farther between. This recipe uses two sources of shelf stable protein – tuna and beans.

When I know I cannot get to the grocery store often, I rely on shelf stable sources of protein. These include tuna and salmon in cans or pouches, canned beans, dried beans and lentils, and canned chicken. If you find yourself reaching for one of these sources of protein to round out a meal this week, here are some ideas for how to use them:

We have many other recipes that can be adapted to using shelf stable sources of protein, if you need help modifying a recipe, please let us know.


Spicy Tuna Salad - Spend Smart Eat Smart

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:


Recent Posts

Posts from the Past