My Fall Kitchen

The mornings are getting chilly and sweet corn and tomato season is wrapping up. These are sure-fire signs that it is time to switch my kitchen over to fall. This is my favorite time of year to cook, not only because I love to make cozy dishes like soups and stews, but because there are delicious fruits and vegetables that come into season in the fall. 

Apples, kale, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are some of my fall favorites. I did not grow up eating a lot of winter squash, sweet potatoes or kale, so I learned to cook these as an adult. If any of these veggies are not familiar to you, check out our Produce Basics collection to learn how to store, clean and prepare delicious fall veggies. Here are a few to get you started:

What are some of your favorite things to make in the fall? Share with us on our social media!

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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Autumn Soup

Our October recipe of the month is Autumn Soup and I hope you will like it as much as I do. This soup is thick and creamy and has a balance of sweet and savory flavors that I love. Winter squash is cooked with onions and apples in chicken broth. At the end of the cooking time, the soup is blended smooth and a little cream cheese is added to make the soup extra creamy.

autumn soup

This summer, I grew butternut squash (a type of winter squash) in my garden. This was only the second time I have grown butternut squash. My crop was only a little bit successful – I got four large squash from my plant. We have some friendly deer who like to visit our yard at night and they ate most of the blossoms off my plant.

Since I love butternut squash for this soup as well as our roasted veggie recipe, I will have to buy some more this fall. The farmers market is a great place to find winter squash and the grocery store usually has a good supply too. Once I get stocked up on squash, I am going to make a large batch of this soup and freeze most of it, so it is ready for me to use when I need hot soup on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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How to Prepare Winter Squash

Fall is my favorite time of year! I grew up on a farm so fall meant harvest time and I loved riding in the combine. Plus both of my kids were born in the fall! Another reason I love this time of year is the food that is in season, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, and pears! I enjoy cooking and baking with all of these.

butternut squash enchiladas

However, some of these are easier to prepare than others. with a particularly tricky fall vegetable is butternut squash. People tend to shy away from using it because of its hard outer skin. We created our How to Prepare Winter Squash video to help you feel more comfortable breaking them down using a few simple steps. 

Give butternut squash a try using our recipe for Butternut Squash Enchiladas. And next week Justine will share with you a recipe for Autumn Soup that uses butternut squash.

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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Breakfast Cookies

A few years ago, I was browsing through some old recipe files that a co-worker sent me.  We were looking forward to the upcoming anniversary of one of the programs we both work for and she thought some of the recipes might be fun to bring back.  I was skeptical, but I like recipes, so I started reading. It turned out that she was right and I found quite a few recipes that we have been able to bring back over the past year. 

breakfast cookies

One of those throwback recipes is our September recipe of the month, Breakfast Cookies.  These cookies check off a lot of boxes for me.  

  • They combine fresh apples and dried fruit with shredded cheese to give the salty/sweet flavor combination that I love.  
  • The oatmeal provides some fiber, which makes me feel full longer.
  • They store well, so I can make them at night and they are ready to go for breakfast in the morning.

These cookies are great for a quick breakfast, which is important to me on school days.  I like to sit down to breakfast with my children before they head off to school, but I usually do not have time to make a big meal.  If I make these the night before, we feel less rushed in the morning and we can enjoy our meal together before they are off for the day.  Follow along with our blog for the rest of the month for more ideas on eating meals with your children and eating 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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Meal Planning at My House – Jody

This past month we have been sharing how we each like to do meal planning. To see how Christine and Justine like to do meal planning, check out their blogs here and here.


In addition to the ideas Christine and Justine have shared, I also like to make and freeze main dishes ahead of time. On occasion, I like to spend a Saturday morning making 4-5 main dishes to put in the freezer. Then when I’m making my meal plans for the next few weeks, I can include a meal from the freezer.


Since my kids went back to school this past week, now is a good time for me to get some meals in the freezer.


Here are some of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that freeze well.

For more recipes, check out the Freezes Well section of Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

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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Meal Planning at My House – Justine

Meal planning can look different in every home. In my home, meal planning is flexible. I like to keep it flexible because, with a family of five, things can change very quickly. Today I will share the process I use to plan supper meals at my home.

The first thing I do is choose our main dishes for one week. I usually choose four or five main dishes because I like to double recipes and serve leftovers two or three times per week. Next, I choose side dishes. I usually do not want to cook both main dishes and side dishes, so I keep it simple with sides. I buy a variety of canned, fresh, and frozen fruits and vegetables for sides. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are especially important for our family because they store well and they are quick and easy to prepare.

I do not assign specific meals to days of the week. I just post the list of meals I have available on the refrigerator and then make the meal that will be best for my family on a particular day. For example, I tend to go grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday, so I will cook larger meals over the weekend that can be saved for leftovers on a busy night later in the week.

This past weekend, I cooked a pork roast in the slow cooker. So far, we have had two meals from the pork and I think we can get two more. Even though our main dishes will be similar for these meals, I can use the fruits and vegetables I have on hand to change things up a little. This flexible approach to meal planning works well for my family. Stay tuned next week for the approach that works best for Jody and her family.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Meal Planning at My House – Christine

Our theme for blogs this month is meal planning. Each of our primary bloggers will share how they approach meal planning at their own home. We hope that you will be able to take some ideas from each of us to make meal planning go a bit easier for you.

easy roasted veggies

Meal planning is important to me because I want to make meal prep easy and I like to avoid food waste as much as I can. Most of the time I plan meals for just one person, so my strategies look different from someone who is planning for a whole family. Justine and Jody will have tips for families throughout the month.

Here are some of my favorite go-to strategies.

  1. I start with what I have. I begin my meal plan for each week with what I already have to reduce food waste. I often cook up a stir-fry or soup on Sunday with any vegetables from the previous week to get them used up before they spoil. One recipe that is great for this is our Easy Roasted Veggies.
  2. I do not cook for one. I generally cook a full batch of whatever I am making and I freeze leftovers in small containers. This way, I cook once and I know there are lots of yummy things in my freezer. The containers in the freezer make super-fast lunches and dinners.
  3. I pre-prep ingredients. When I get home from work at night I am usually very hungry and not in the mood to start cooking from scratch. I try to do myself a favor and be ready for this situation by having pre-prepped ingredients in my fridge or freezer. Here are some of my standbys:
    • Chopped onions in an airtight container in the freezer. These are great for cooking. If you will use the onion within a few days, you can store it in the refrigerator. I will often chop up 4 or 5 onions and keep them in the freezer to use for many meals. This works with peppers as well!
    • Cooked proteins. This time of year, I grill outside a lot. If I light my grill, I fill it. This means that I often have many frozen protein foods like grilled chicken and hamburgers. I can heat these up very quickly to get a meal started and cut my cooking time way down.
    • Cut fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. I know that I am much more likely to reach for fruits and vegetables for snacks when they are cut and ready to go. I tend to purchase fruits and vegetables that can be cleaned and/or prepped ahead, such as:
      • Carrots
      • Celery
      • Pea pods
      • Peppers
      • Watermelon
      • Grapes

I hope one of these ideas is helpful to you and stay tune all month for Justine and Jody’s meal planning routines!

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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Zucchini Hummus Wrap

Our August recipe of the month is Zucchini Hummus Wrap. Zucchini are cut into rounds, sautéed, and then combined in a tortilla with hummus, sliced cheese, and sliced vegetables.

These wraps make a delicious meal that fits in your hand. I think this recipe is perfect for August for three reasons:

  1. Zucchini – zucchini are in season and plentiful in August. My family and I love zucchini bread and muffins, but I like to use zucchini in other ways too.
  2. Time – I do not like to spend much time cooking in the summer because my family and I would rather be outside. This recipe comes together quickly, so it is a great August meal for my family.
  3. Temperature – August is hot, so I try to use the oven as little as possible to avoid heating up the house. You only need to sauté the zucchini rounds for about 6 minutes for this recipe, so the heat from the stovetop is minimal.

Before you try this recipe, there are a couple of things that I think are important to know. The first is to choose small sized zucchini for this recipe because they will fit better in your tortilla when it is time to wrap it up. Save your larger zucchini to shred for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. The second is to eat these right away. They taste best when served right after the zucchini are sautéed and they do not store well. Use some of your August zucchini and try our Zucchini Hummus Wraps this month.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cauliflower is Having a Moment

It seems like food manufacturers are making just about everything out of cauliflower nowadays. I have seen cauliflower ‘rice’ and cauliflower ‘pizza crust’. I have also seen cauliflower flavored to taste like Buffalo wings and boxed macaroni and cheese with cauliflower added to the pasta. Cauliflower is certainly having a moment.

I think this is largely because cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that takes on the flavor of whatever you use to season it. If you would like to jump on the cauliflower train, skip buying the cauliflower that is already cleaned and chopped and prepare it yourself instead. We have a new cauliflower video that will walk you through how to break down an entire head of cauliflower. I find that when I start with a whole head of cauliflower, it often stays fresher longer and is less expensive. The pre-prepped cauliflower may have been chopped several days or even a couple of weeks before it arrives at your grocery store.

Once you have your cauliflower broken down, you’re ready to make a variety of recipes. My favorite way to cook cauliflower is roasting. Check out our Roasted Cauliflower recipe for the details. I also like it raw in salads like Summer Bounty Salad.

I hope these recipes and video help you enjoy this trendy vegetable!

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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Avocado

Now that summer is in full swing and lots of fruits and vegetables are in season, we will be sharing some new produce videos we’ve created. Today I’m sharing with you our video on how to prepare an avocado.

My husband and I both really like avocado and more specifically, guacamole. Sometimes my husband just happens to buy avocados, even if they aren’t on the grocery list, hoping I will make guacamole. I also put avocado in wraps, in a dip like Cowboy Caviar, or in fajitas. If I use the avocados to make guacamole, then after I get them peeled, I mash them up with a fork instead of slicing them. Sometimes I like my dips to be chunky, so I dice the avocado instead of mash it.

If you’d like to start using more avocado but you are not sure how to choose one in the store, check out our Produce Basics.

Next week Christine will share with you our video on cauliflower.

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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