Italian Chicken

Our March recipe of the month is Italian Chicken. This is a versatile recipe from beginning to end. You get to choose the number of servings, the cooking method, and how you will serve this recipe.

Before you start, decide how many people you will feed and how many meals you would like to make from the cooked chicken. You can adjust this recipe to make 2 to 8 servings. When you are writing your grocery list, adjust the amount of chicken you buy to meet your needs. One chicken breast half will usually yield about two servings. The size of chicken breasts vary, so make sure to check them closely before you buy them to make sure they are right for you. Keep the amount of tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and seasonings the same. If you use less chicken, you will just end up with more sauce and vegetables with each serving.

When cooking this recipe, you can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker or pressure cooker and then cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. For a slow cooker, cook on low for around 4 to 6 hours. For a pressure cooker, use a cook time of around 10 minutes and a natural release time of 10 minutes.  

You can serve this recipe several different ways. I have served this recipe on cooked rice and noodles. I have also served this recipe on toasted bread as a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce as a salad. Be creative!

Find the full recipe at: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/italian-chicken-slow-cooker-pressure-cooker/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Versatile Winter Vegetable

I moved to Iowa 11 years ago and still have a difficult time appreciating Midwest winters. Although I am not a fan of the snow and brutally cold temperatures, I do look forward to transitioning my family’s meals to dishes that bring us warmth and comfort during the colder months. Many of the comforting foods that are traditional in my family in the late fall and winter are rich and heavy. To add some variety, I have begun to incorporate recipes with winter squash to add in more vegetables throughout the week. Below are a few of my favorite recipes to use winter squash. 

  • Butternut Squash Enchiladas – These enchiladas are a creative way to use winter squash. I loved making these when our daughter was just beginning to try solid foods because the mashed squash was easy for her to eat.
  • Easy Roasted Veggies – Roasting veggies does not require a lot of prep or cooking. Pick out any type of squash to roast or try a combination of a few! I love to roast squash to use as a side dish and will add leftover roasted veggies to quesadillas and quiche.
  • Autumn Soup  – I love a good soup recipe in the fall and winter! This fall inspired soup is creamy and packed with flavor.
  • Wraps “Your Way”– I love using roasted butternut squash as the veggie for these wraps. A warm wrap in the winter hits the spot! Simply add your heated squash to a tortilla with hummus and kale to create a hearty lunch.

Winter squash can seem intimidating if you haven’t prepared one before. Before working with ISU Extension and Outreach, I would walk past winter squash in the produce department because I was unsure how to cook with them. Watch this video for step by step instructions on how to prepare winter squash at home. Grab winter squash next time you pick out produce- you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to preparing squash this winter!

Katy Moscoso

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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Party Boards for Every Day

Have you seen those beautiful party boards that people post pictures of online? They usually have tasty cheeses, meats, crackers and fruit. Mine are not typically fancy, but I absolutely love these as an appetizer or party dish. I have not had the opportunity to throw holiday parties this year and I was really missing these foods. So, I decided to make a party board for a meal at home.

If you think about it, this is a fun and easy way to make a meal. Party boards usually involve multiple food groups and require little to no cooking. In the chart below, I shared some of my favorite things to include on party boards. How fun would it be to make a meal this week picking one item from each category?

BreadsCheesesFruitsMeatsVeggiesExtras
Crackers
Crusty
bread
Pretzels
Breadsticks
Cheddar
Pepper jack
String cheese
Cream cheese  
Apple slices
Grapes
Pear
slices
Dried fruit
Sausage
Pepperoni
Salami
Sliced
turkey
Carrot
sticks
Radishes
Pea pods
Mini
peppers  
Mustard
Pickles
Nuts
Veggie dip  

The picture above is a party board I made for dinner recently. It was delicious and allowed me to pretend that I was at a festive holiday party. If you try this out, snap a picture and share it with us on social media.

Enjoy!
Christine

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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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

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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Hot Pumpkin Drink

My birthday is this month, so I like to think of our November recipe of the month as my birthday recipe. This year, it is Hot Pumpkin Drink, which is perfect because I love pumpkin. I am planning to make myself pumpkin bars for my birthday treat and I will probably buy an extra can of pumpkin so I can make Hot Pumpkin Drink as well.

This recipe is so easy, you just heat any kind of milk you like, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan until it is hot. This takes about 6 minutes and you will need to keep stirring the whole time to prevent the milk from scorching. I usually froth my drink with an immersion blender to get that light, bubbly layer on the top, but you do not have to. I enjoy making this drink as a sweet treat after supper and then I save the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. You can reheat this in the microwave as long as you pause the microwave and stir the drink every 30 seconds until it is hot.

This recipe only uses 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, so it will be important to make sure that the rest of your pumpkin does not go to waste. You can always make more Hot Pumpkin Drink, but you could also make Overnight Oats. You can substitute pumpkin in equal amounts for applesauce or mashed banana in baked goods. You can try it in Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins or Oatmeal Cookies. Pumpkin also stores well in the freezer, so you can freeze it in airtight containers until you need it.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Apple Cinnamon Bread

I suspect that my family’s favorite food for me to make is quick bread. Last week, my four year old told me that my banana bread was the best. It was zucchini bread, but that is ok. I enjoy making quick breads and my family enjoys eating them. Today I am going to share with you our October recipe of the month – Apple Cinnamon Bread.

I like this recipe because it is lower in sugar and fat and higher in fiber than other quick bread recipes. The sugar and fat are lower because applesauce is substituted in for some of the oil and white sugar. The fiber is higher because half of the flour is whole wheat and a diced apple is stirred into the batter. My family likes this recipe because of the cinnamon sugar topping. It adds extra flavor with each bite.

When making quick breads, I like to play around with using different pan sizes. Many quick breads take 45 minutes to an hour to cook in a traditional loaf pan. I rarely have that much time to bake a loaf of bread. So, I will spread the batter out in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. When the batter is spread out, the baking time is cut nearly in half. Sometimes, I split the batter into muffin tins. In that case, the baking time is only around 15 minutes. Try this recipe out in a pan that works for you. Just remember to check the bread every 5 to 10 minutes the first time you are trying it in a new pan so that it does not get overcooked. This bread is done when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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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

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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Green Beans Three Ways

This week our blog is in video form. We have amazing produce right now in Iowa and I am making the most of it at my house. Green beans are one of my favorite summer vegetables. My dad grows them in his garden and I love to pick them up at the farmers market and grocery store. You do not need a recipe to prepare green beans. If you get familiar with a few different methods for cooking them, then you can get creative with the seasonings you like best. Check out the video below to see three different methods for preparing fresh green beans by steaming in the microwave, roasting in the oven and boiling on the stove.

All of the methods start with green beans that have been rinsed and trimmed.

Microwave on high power for 4 minutes in a microwave safe dish with a lid and some water (2 tablespoons of water per cup of beans). Check for doneness. Stir and cook for 1-2 more minutes if needed.

Roast beans with some olive oil and seasoning in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Beans will be crisp tender at 15 minutes. For darker more blistered beans, leave them in the oven for 5 more minutes.

Boil on the stove top for 4-6 minutes. Simply bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, add beans and stir occasionally until they reach the doneness that you prefer. Season with your favorite spices.

Enjoy!
Christine

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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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

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

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Cool Treat for Summer’s Heat

berry banana popsicles

During the summer, I can often find my kids looking through our freezer to see what kind of frozen treat they can find. Usually they can find some sort of popsicles and, once in a while, some ice cream. They also like making their own popsicles. One of Paige’s favorite kind of popsicles to make are the Berry Banana Popsicles from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

I like the recipe too because it is a simple, yet filling, snack for my kids. The only ingredients are strawberries, bananas, and yogurt. We like to chop the fruit up and mix in the yogurt before putting into the molds to freeze. You can also mix all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth before putting into the popsicle molds.

If your family doesn’t like strawberries or bananas, use different fruits such as blueberries, cherries, or raspberries. We also have a recipe for Apricot Pops.

Making the popsicles is a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen. They can chop the fruit up with a butter knife or plastic knife and stir into the yogurt.

Share with us what kind of fruit you would use in your popsicles.

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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