Safe Seafood

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!

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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Broiled Salmon

Fish is not a food that I ate very much growing up, so I did not really know how to cook it when I was on my own. For several years, I did not even try to cook it. I kept hearing about the health benefits of eating fish, so I decided to give it a try.

After a few failed attempts, I found a way to bake fish that my (then new) husband and I both liked. I baked fish that same way for about 10 years until Christine introduced me to our April recipe of the month – Broiled Salmon. Now I broil salmon, and other types of fish, regularly. Here is why:

  • We love the flavor that the lemon adds to the fish.
  • It is easy to make with just a few ingredients.
  • It is quick to make. With this recipe, I can pull together a full meal in 15-20 minutes!
  • My family gets the health benefits from the fish.

If you are considering adding fish to your menu, I hope you give this recipe a try.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Shredded, sliced, or string cheese: Which one is a better buy?

Last week I wrote about our new video on unit pricing and how the unit price calculator on our app can help save you money. This week I want to share how I use the unit price calculator to help me determine the best buy on different forms of cheese.

My family loves cheese. Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese. We like it all. Cheese can be one of the higher priced items on my grocery list so I always try to buy it when it’s on sale. This week I decided to use the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. unit price calculator on my phone to determine the unit price for each of the different forms of cheese I usually buy. This is what I found.

 

Form Total Price Size Unit Price (price per ounce)
Shredded 1.99 (on sale) 8 ounces 25 cents
Slices 2.89 8 ounces 36 cents
String 3.79 10 ounces 38 cents

Shredded cheese is what we use the most, so I was glad to see that it had the best unit price. Since shredded cheese freezes well and it was a good price, I bought a few extra bags for later use. Often, the whole block of cheese has a lower unit price, but for my needs, I prefer the convenience of the pre-shredded cheese and I am willing to pay a bit more for it. We use sliced cheese for sandwiches and snacks. I planned ham and cheese sandwiches for a quick supper on one of our busy nights this week, so I did buy a packet of the sliced cheese as well. We use string cheese for snacks, but this week I decided to not buy any since we had the sliced cheese that could be used for a snack as well.

Next week Christine will share with you how she uses unit pricing to help her determine the best buy based on package size.

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 with Unit Pricing

Unit pricing is a great way to save money. It helps you determine which brand, which size, or which form is the best deal. It can even save you from being tricked by flashy ‘Sale’ signs. But who wants to stand in the grocery aisle doing math to figure out the unit price? Now you don’t have to! Watch our new video on unit pricing to learn how to use the unit price calculator on our app to help you get the best deal without all the hassle.

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 for the Health of It

Last week Rachel shared five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice. In the blog, she
mentioned learning new skills that can improve your health, like meal planning, instead of focusing
solely on weight. Meal planning is a popular practice; especially at the beginning of the year when
people are trying to eat better, save money and be more organized. It can help you check off all three!
Today I’m going to share with you five tips for meal planning with health in mind.

  1. Include foods from each of the food groups. This allows you to get a variety of nutrients provided by
    each of the food groups needed for good health. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet has a checklist at
    the bottom to help you determine if you included something from each food group.
  2. Balance the food groups throughout the day. Aim to have 1-2 food groups at snacks and 3-4 food
    groups at meals. For example, at breakfast you might have a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast,
    an orange, and glass of milk. Then at snack you have celery sticks with peanut butter.
  3. Include two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. This is a general guide for each person
    per day. An example would be a banana for breakfast, an apple and broccoli for lunch, and vegetable
    soup for dinner. To determine the specific amount you need and for information on what counts as a
    serving, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
  4. Include whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for health. It is recommended
    to make half your grains whole grains. Therefore, if your family prefers white pasta, balance that out by
    including other whole grains in your menu plan like brown rice or whole wheat bread.
  5. Include both plant and animal proteins. Animal proteins are a good source of iron while plant
    proteins are higher in fiber. If you have chicken at lunch, consider having lentil tacos for supper. Or mix
    both beans and meat with pasta instead of just meat.
    If you’re new to meal planning, use our sample meal planning calendar to help get started. We also have
    a new sample vegetarian meal planning calendar.

Next week Justine will share a recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole that you just might want to include
on your meal plan!

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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Give Your Brain a Boost with Breakfast

Written by Amber Baughman
ISU Dietetic Intern

Mornings can be extremely busy, and sometimes it is hard to find time to fit in breakfast. I am not a morning person, so I need an easy and fast breakfast option every morning. Breakfast has been called the most important meal of the day and for good reason. Studies have shown that eating breakfast has many benefits, including feelings of well-being and better cognitive performance. Eating breakfast is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Although breakfast is important for adults, it is even more crucial that children have breakfast every day. Eating breakfast can help children and adolescents do better in school by improving memory, test grades, school attendance, and mood.

Sadly, breakfast consumption has been declining among youth in the U.S. However, with some planning ahead, breakfast can be ready in just a few minutes. One of my favorite breakfast items to make is Scrambled Egg Muffins. They are like a blank canvas, you can use whatever vegetables, meat, or cheese you have leftover in the fridge. They are also packed full of protein, so they will help you stay full longer! I make six of them on Sunday and then warm one or two up each morning for breakfast. Now you can sleep in those few extra minutes in the morning and still enjoy an easy, healthy breakfast!

Oatmeal Cookies

It is the time of year for sharing food, especially cookies.  Our December recipe of the month, Oatmeal Cookies, is perfect for sharing.  Take these delicious cookies to a party, family gathering, or cookie exchange.

You can also make these cookies into a gift.  Start with a quart sized glass jar. Pour in any optional ingredients you would like to include from the recipe such as dried cranberries, raisins, white chocolate chips, or coconut.  Then pour in the oatmeal. Top that with the brown sugar. Pour in the rest of the dry ingredients – the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Close the lid tightly on the jar so there are no accidental spills.  Write out the instructions to the recipe on a card to give with the jar. Make sure to include amounts for the wet ingredients that are not included in the jar. You could even give out an individual serving size cup of applesauce with each jar – these are the perfect amount for this recipe.  Finally, share your jar as a gift! It is so fun to give and receive homemade gifts like this.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Dried Onion Soup Mix

Last week, I shared our homemade taco seasoning mix.  This week, I would like to share our homemade dried onion soup mix.  This dried onion soup mix is useful in seasoning soups, dips, and meats.  To make this mix, stir together dried minced onion, sodium free beef bouillon granules, onion powder, and sugar and store in an airtight container for up to six months.

This mix makes the equivalent of three packages of store bought dried onion soup mix.  This homemade mix is more expensive than the store bought version. Homemade costs $3.72 for the equivalent of three packages and the store bought is $0.72 for two packages.  However, the extra cost is more than balanced out by the savings in sodium. The homemade version has 15 mg of sodium in 1/3 cup (about the same as one store bought package) while the store bought version has 4,560 mg of sodium in one package, which is 570 mg of sodium per serving.   

The savings in sodium in this mix is important because reducing sodium consumption has health impacts.  Find more information about the connection between sodium and high blood pressure here and sodium for children here.

Try our homemade Dried Onion Soup Mix in our Slow Cooker Roast or any other recipe that calls for dried onion soup mix.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco seasoning mix is a staple in many people’s cupboards.  It adds great flavor to taco meat, beans, soups, and dips. You can buy pre-packaged taco seasoning mix at the store or you can use our homemade version.  To make homemade taco seasoning mix, you simply need to combine minced onion, chili powder, cornstarch, crushed dried red pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and ground cumin in a container with a tight fitting lid.  This seasoning mix lasts a year in your cupboard.

 

This seasoning mix makes the equivalent of six packages of store bought taco seasoning mix.  The homemade seasoning mix costs about the same as store bought. Homemade is $2.46 for six packages and the store brand at my local grocery store is $0.44 for one package, which comes out to $2.64 for six packages.  

 

The big difference between the two mixes is the sodium content.  One package of store bought taco seasoning mix contains 2,580 mg of sodium, which is 430 mg per serving.   Two tablespoons of our homemade taco seasoning mix (the equivalent of one store bought package) contains 80 mg of sodium, which is about 13 mg per serving.

 

Use our Taco Seasoning Mix in Lentil Tacos, Slow Cooker Lentils, or in your own favorite taco recipe.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Our November recipe of the month is Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup.  It is perfect for a busy day. All the ingredients go into the slow cooker in the morning, cook on low for 8-10 hours, and you have a delicious soup ready to eat in the evening.

There are some wonderful things I love about this recipe.

  • It is easy to put together. There is no cutting up or chopping needed to get this recipe into the slow cooker.  The chicken just needs to be shredded right before serving this soup.
  • It uses dried beans. Dried beans are tasty, inexpensive, and nutritious.  They take a little longer to cook, so they are perfect for the slow cooker.  Fair warning, the dark color of the black beans changes the outer color of the chicken.
  • It freezes well. This recipe is great to measure out into single serving containers and freeze for lunches.  Or, you can eat half of the soup one night and freeze the other half of the soup for another night.
  • It is great for a party. This soup tastes delicious with different toppings – avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese.  You can serve the soup out of the slow cooker and let your guests add any toppings they would like.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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