Kitchen Safety: Knife Safety

You may remember from last week’s blog, I love prepping meals at home! I often make recipes that require quite a bit of cutting and chopping, especially when using fresh meats and produce. Knife accidents are common in household kitchens, but can be avoided if you use some good habits.

  • Always pick up knives by the handle. Never touch the blade, even when it is dull.
  • Choose the correct size knife for the task that you are doing. For instance, if you’re cutting a strawberry, use a small knife like a paring knife. If you’re cutting large cuts of meat into smaller pieces, then a larger, sharp knife would be the best choice. It is most important to choose a knife that feels comfortable and controlled in your hand.
  • Cut food items away from the body and always use a flat surface. Cutting foods away from the body decreases the chances of an accident. Cut food on a flat surface (such as a cutting board), so it stays in one place. Do not hold food in your hand while you cut it. Be sure to keep it on the cutting board at all times to avoid having your knife slip and hurt you.
  • Wash knives immediately after use. Do not place knives in a sink of soapy water to soak with other dishes. Be sure to take caution when cleaning the knife blade and let the knife air dry. When not in use, store knives safely. Knives are safe in a shield or in a drawer where the blade will not rub against other tools that could dull or damage the blade. Most importantly, keep them out of the way of kitchen traffic or reach of small children.

Next week, the last blog in our kitchen safety series will be on fire safety.

Written by Annie Contrady, ISU Dietetic Intern

Kitchen Safety: Getting Started

Cooking at home is becoming more and more popular, which is great because it usually means healthier food and money saved! I love prepping my own meals at home. It’s a chance to make something new and delicious while controlling what I want to go in it. A home kitchen can be a wonderful spot to explore recipes, try out new skills, and even spend more time with your family and friends; however, kitchens can easily become a spot for accidents if you are not taking the correct safety precautions. Here are some quick tips to get you started and keep you safe while cooking.

1. Wash your hands. Having clean hands is one of the best techniques to prevent foodborne illness and contamination. This Wash Your Hands poster gives a great example of how to correctly wash your hands. Also, if you have long hair, be sure to tie it back before washing your hands to keep it away from your face and out of the food.
2. Have a clean work area and clean tools. Having a clean area can cut down on the chances of food contamination and keep you organized. Who wants to work in a dirty kitchen anyway? Be sure that all equipment you use, such as knives, cutting boards, bowls, and other tools are clean and dry before use. Also, keep all cabinet doors and drawers closed to avoid injury and spills.
3. Wash and check your ingredients. If you’re using fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them thoroughly with cool, running water, being sure to remove all signs of dirt. Also, check them over for signs of spoilage. If you see soft spots, mold, or other signs of spoilage, be sure to throw out the piece of food to avoid food borne illness.
4. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Cold foods should be kept below 40°F and hot foods should be kept at 140°F or above. This helps to keep ingredients from spoiling. This means that if you need a cold ingredient, such as milk, only take it out of the fridge when you need it, and be sure to put it back when you are done.

Next week, I will share the second blog in our kitchen safety series with tips on knife safety.

Written by Annie Contrady, ISU Dietetic Intern

A Three-Week Meal Plan

 

Last week Justine shared with you how she does meal planning for her family. I use a similar strategy for my family of four. If you are new to meal planning or starting as a new years’ resolution, we have just the thing for you, a sample three-week meal plan. It includes ideas for meals and snacks as well as links to recipes!

Our sample is a place to start and can be adapted for your family’s needs based on what they like, how many snacks they need each day, and family activities. When creating a meal plan, here are some tips to keep in mind:

 

  • Plan for leftovers – To help keep food costs low and reduce food waste, make leftovers a part of your meal plan. You will see in the sample meal plan that we planned to have leftovers from supper the next day for lunch occasionally. Depending on the size of your family, you may need to increase the size of the recipe if you want to have leftovers to use at another meal.
  • Prepare extra – To maximize the benefit of your time in the kitchen, plan recipes that use similar ingredients so you can cook extra of an ingredient to use in a recipe another day. For example, if you make Chicken Alfredo Pasta one night, cook extra chicken to use in Chicken Club Salad the next day for lunch. This will also help with food costs and food waste. For food safety purposes, you should use extra cooked meat in a recipe within a day or two of it being cooked.
  • Keep variety in mind – Even though we recommend using leftovers and preparing extra ingredients to use in multiple recipes, it’s also a good idea to include variety in your menu plans. This helps keep meals exciting and makes sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals. Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Try different kinds of protein like beef, chicken, or fish and non-meat sources like eggs, beans and nuts. Use different grains like whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
  • Plan the fruits and vegetables – Many times the main meal is planned, which is often a source of protein, but not the side dishes. Be sure to plan what fruits and vegetables will be a part of the meals and snacks. This helps to be sure they are included in meals and snacks and are part of your shopping list. Use different kinds of fruits and vegetables including fresh, canned, frozen, and dried.

 

Meal planning may take a little time when you first get started, but it saves time when it comes to getting a meal on the table. No extra tips to the grocery store and stressing about what you are going to have for supper.

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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A Meal Plan For My Family

Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we talk about planning meals a lot.  This is because it is easier to save money and make healthy food choices when you have a plan.  I know that on the weeks that I do not have a plan, or on the weeks when my plan goes wrong, I end up making more trips to the store, spending more money, and making less healthy choices.  

My colleagues have written many great blogs about meal planning here, here, here, and here.  If you want more information about meal planning, take some time to read this helpful information.  Today, I am going to tell you about how meal planning works for my family of five.

I do a lot of cooking on the weekend, so I usually plan out my meals and write my grocery list on Friday.  First, I look at what I have on hand and think of what meals I can make to use up these foods before they go bad.  Then, I write down all of the meals I am going to make that week.  Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet can be helpful for this step.  Finally, I write my grocery list and go shopping.

Now it is time for a confession, I rarely stick to my meal plan as written.  We are an active family and things come up, so I give myself a break here.  If it is 5:30 on Monday night and everyone is hungry but I have not even started supper, I will pull out Sunday’s leftovers and re-heat them.  This pushes Monday’s meal to another night, but that is ok.  Just remember, if you have raw meat in your refrigerator, it is only good for 3-4 days, so stick it in the freezer if you will not be using it soon.

Meal planning is a great way to get your healthy new year’s resolutions off to the right start.  So, give meal planning a try!

How to Plan Meals CALENDAR

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Don’t like Leftovers? Eat Planned-overs

Last week Christine gave four tips for saving money on holiday groceries. She mentioned that during the holidays stores will occasionally have deep discounts on items like turkeys or hams. This is a good time to include planned-overs in your weekly menu to save money. During the busy holiday season, it can also save you time in the kitchen.

Planned-overs are leftovers you plan into your weekly menu. When you have a day off or an evening free, you can make an entire extra meal such as a casserole or prepare extra ingredients that can be included in recipes later in the week. Let’s imagine we bought an extra ham during a great holiday sale. Below is a sample menu that uses the ham we got on sale and includes some planned-over shortcuts to use throughout the week.

Sunday Ham and Easy Roasted Veggies (cut up the ham to use Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday)

Monday It’s a Meal Strata (cut up extra vegetables to use for Tuesday and Wednesday) 

Tuesday Mama’s Pizza Boats

Wednesday Whole Meal Salad

Thursday Ham and Brown Rice (make extra rice for Saturday)

Friday Slower Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup

Saturday Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Prepared dishes and cooked ingredients will only last four days in the refrigerator. If you won’t be able to use them within four days, freeze them to use at a later date.

For more dinner menu ideas using planned-overs, check out our How to Use Planned-overs video.

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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Save Money on Holiday Groceries

The holidays bring lots of festive fun and time with family and friends, but they can also mean extra expenses. I love it when I get the chance to prepare special meals and plan parties, but it can get very expensive. Grocery stores often offer sales and specials around the holidays that can help if you know how to use them.

Here are some tips to help you spend smart while you shop for holiday cooking.

  1. Check your cupboards and refrigerator before you shop. Holiday cooking sometimes involves ingredients we do not use very often. Knowing what you have will help you avoid buying a duplicate while you shop.
  2. A sale price only saves you money if you know you will use the item you purchase. Avoid buying food products just because they are on sale if they are not part of your meal plan. That could lead to wasted food and money.
  3. Remember that sales are used as advertising for a product. The sign may be large and inviting, but the price may not be as good as it seems. Check the unit price to make sure it is really saving you money. You can learn more about unit pricing on our website and our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a unit price calculator built into it. You can download the app free from your app store.
  4. Occasionally stores will have deep discounts on holiday items like turkeys or hams immediately before and after a holiday. I review the grocery store ads to make my meal plan for a couple of weeks after the holiday. This allows me to work these discounted items into my plan and know they will not go to waste.

I hope these tips help you save a bit of money and stress this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving 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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Company is Coming!

“Company is coming, what are we going to eat?”  There are many online recipe sources, but I always come back to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.  Here is a menu with a few of my favorite recipes for entertaining.

Breakfast or Brunch

I substitute sweet potato for all or part of the white potato and make them with whole wheat flour tortillas. I make a double or triple batch, wrap them individually in foil or parchment paper, and stack in the slow cooker to keep warm.

The strawberries, kiwi and banana look festive for the holidays. They are best when partially thawed which takes at least 30 minutes.  

I add ½-cup mini chocolate chips as an optional ingredient.  

 

Appetizers

For holiday entertaining I make the Fruit Salsa with frozen strawberries, Granny Smith apple, and substitute 1 cup drained, crushed canned pineapple for the peach. It is beautiful in a clear glass bowl surrounded by the cinnamon chips.

Heat the bean dip in the microwave or put it in a small snack size slow cooker. Serve with raw vegetables or homemade Baked Tortilla Chips.

 

Dinner and Sides

A family favorite! I roast the vegetables on a separate baking sheet and increase the quantity and variety.

This is a simple and delicious side dish that goes with just about anything.

I use apples, fresh or frozen strawberries, bananas, drained canned pineapple chunks, and whatever other fresh, frozen or drained canned fruit I have on hand.  I suggest using a red gelatin in the sauce and serving it in a clear glass bowl. It will look beautiful on the holiday table.  

 

Dessert

This pie is easier to make and has less fat, sugar and calories than regular pumpkin pie but tastes great.

 

I hope you will try some of the recipes that I use when ‘company is coming’ and explore the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site for your own favorites.  

Written by Renee Sweers, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

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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Turkey Vegetable Quiche

At our Thanksgiving meal there is always too much food and an abundance of leftovers.  There is just something about the holiday that compels us to cook and cook and cook.  Which brings us to our November recipe of the month – Turkey Vegetable Quiche.  This recipe is the perfect way to use up some of your leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Start with a pie crust – you can buy one during the pre-Thanksgiving sales or you can make an extra when you make your holiday pies.  Prepare the crust then fill it with sautéed vegetables, leftover turkey, and eggs that are beaten with milk and seasonings.  Top everything with a sprinkle of cheese and bake for about 35 minutes.  Make sure to let this quiche rest outside of the oven for about 5 minutes to make it easier to slice and serve.

This quiche tastes great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Sweet Potatoes vs. White Potatoes

Which is better, sweet potatoes or white potatoes?potatoes

The honest answer is they are both delicious and nutritious. There is certainly room for all types of potatoes in a healthy diet. Potatoes of all kinds can be prepared simply and in a wide variety of ways. They both provide nutrients that are important for good health and they taste great when mixed together in recipes. Here is a snapshot of what white and sweet potatoes have to offer.

White Potatoes* Sweet Potatoes*
Calories 130 180
Fiber (if skin is eaten) 3 grams 7 grams
Protein 3 grams 4 grams
Carbohydrate 30 grams 41.4 grams
Fat Less than 1 gram Less than 1 gram
Sugar 2 grams 12 grams
Vitamins 29% of your daily vitamin C needs 65% of your daily vitamin C needs
More than 100% of your daily vitamin A needs
Minerals 21% of your daily Potassium needs
13% of your daily Manganese needs
27% of your daily Potassium needs
50% of your daily Manganese needs

*Information based on a one-cup serving including potato skin

Potatoes are delicious, nutritious and low cost. The healthiest potato recipes don’t add a lot of fat and calories. Here are a few from our website that I particularly enjoy.

Add some potatoes to your grocery list today!

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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Preparing a Zucchini

This time of year gardeners tend to have an abundance of zucchini. The challenge is to use it before it goes bad. In our newest video, we show how to prepare a zucchini. The different ways of cutting a zucchini are useful for different recipes. Watch the video today and find out how to slice rounds, cut matchsticks, cube, dice, and grate zucchini.

If you have the time and a zucchini, grate one up this weekend so you have it ready to make our September recipe of the month next week.

Enjoy!

 

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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