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!
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.
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.
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:
Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Last week I shared with you our recipe for Banana Ice Cream. This week I am going to share one of our older recipes, Banana Oatmeal Bread. Just like last week, I made a video to go along with the recipe, which you can check out down below. Unfortunately, the video is not quite as exciting because none of my children felt like helping out in the kitchen when it was time to make the bread.
As I mentioned last week, I am making a lot of banana recipes right now because bananas ripen quickly in the hot weather. In fact, my local grocery store will often sell bags of overripe bananas for only 99 cents. When I am able to grab one of those bags, I will make several banana recipes in a week. Banana bread is a recipe that I make regularly because everyone in my family likes it, it is filling, it makes a good side dish at any meal, and it makes a good snack.
I like to bake banana bread in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan because it takes less time (about 20 minutes) and because it cooks more evenly in my oven. Cooking it in that pan saved me about 35 minutes of baking time compared to using a bread pan. Sometimes I will use a muffin pan for this recipe, which takes only 12-14 minutes of baking time. You can bake this bread in the pan that works best for you – I hope you like it. Enjoy!
Our July recipe of the month is Banana Ice Cream. This is a tasty summer treat that my family likes to make and eat together. My daughter, Eliza, helped me make some over the weekend and she did a great job! You can watch our kitchen adventures in the Banana Ice Cream video.
Banana Ice Cream is one of our summer favorites because:
It is a great use for overripe bananas. I find that bananas ripen very quickly in the summer, so I have to find creative ways of using them before they go bad.
It is a simple recipe. It only requires bananas and a little bit of milk. In the evening, Eliza helped me slice and freeze the bananas. The next morning, she ran the blender while I added the milk.
It works for any meal or snack. Eliza likes to have Banana Ice Cream for breakfast because she likes to tell people that she is allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast.
It is ice cream on demand if you keep sliced bananas in the freezer. No need to go out and wait in line at the ice cream shop on a hot night.
If you have some bananas ripening too fast like we did, give Banana Ice Cream a try. I think you will like it. Enjoy!
During the summer months the grill on our deck gets a lot of use. My family spends a lot of time outside in the afternoons and evenings. Using the grill gives us the chance to enjoy playing outside without having to do a lot of actual cooking. With the days getting significantly warmer, I jump at any recipe that doesn’t require me to preheat my oven!
To spice it up, I like creating simple marinades to add variety to our protein before grilling. Growing up, my family spent a lot of time grilling and I learned how to create simple marinades with very basic ingredients. The ratio I use to create my own marinades is three parts oil to one-part vinegar or lemon juice and then add a variety of seasonings or spices. Some of my favorite additions are garlic/garlic powder, Italian seasoning, dried herbs and to keep it simple, salt and pepper. You can also use bottled dressings to marinate your protein like Italian dressing or other oil-based dressings. Other family favorites at my house are the Homemade Teriyaki Sauce and the Honey Mustard Dressing recipe on Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
I have found that I get the best flavor when I marinate my protein in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours. Meat proteins like chicken, pork and beef can soak in a marinade overnight if they are in a covered dish in the fridge. Fish is more delicate and 1 or 2 hours is plenty of marinating time. After you begin grilling, make sure you discard any leftover marinade that has been in contact with the uncooked meat because it is not safe to consume or re-use. Use clean plates and utensils after your protein is done cooking to avoid cross contamination. If you prefer meatless dishes, you can also marinate beans and tofu before cooking to add additional flavor. Pair your marinated protein with a quick side dish like Broccoli Salad or Pasta Salad to create a well-rounded summer meal! Watch this quick video on preparing honey mustard dressing as a marinade. I would love to hear your favorite summer recipes–share your go-to marinades with us! Cheers to creating your own marinades at home!
Over the weekend, I decided to make a couple of batches of dried beans to have on hand to make quick meals over the next couple of weeks. My son, Miles, took a break from his summer schedule of playing with his brother and sister to help me out. Miles and I used these Preparing Dried Beans instructions to make our beans. Watch our video below to see us in action.
Since we made two batches of beans, we used two different cooking methods. One was the slow cooker method, which I prefer. First, we sorted through our beans to remove any rocks, dirt, or bad beans (Miles is really good at this). Then we added them to our slow cooker with about 8 cups of water and cooked them on low for 7 hours. Miles and I decided to make our slow cooker beans into refried beans for supper that night, so, once they were cooked, we drained them and mashed them. After supper, I stored the leftover beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator to use in other meals later in the week.
I only have one big slow cooker, so we used the stovetop method for the other batch of beans. After sorting through our beans, we put them in a large pot, covered them with water, and put the lid on. We placed the pot on the stove and brought the water to a boil for two minutes. Then we took the beans off the heat and let them soak for a couple of hours. Soaking the beans makes them easier to digest and helps them cook more quickly. Next, we drained and rinsed the beans, covered them with fresh water and cooked them on medium on the stovetop for two hours. We put these beans into freezer bags and froze them. Now, I can grab a bag of beans out of the freezer to make our two favorite bean recipes anytime – Black Bean Burgers and Vegetable Quesadillas.
Beans are a staple in our house because everyone likes them, they can be used in many different recipes, and they fit into our budget. If you would like to learn more about beans, check out our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Pantry Picks page and click on beans. Enjoy!
Have you heard of lentils? Do you cook with them? I did not grow up eating lentils, so I did not know what they were until I started working for Iowa State. I learned that lentils are tiny, disc-shaped legumes. Legumes are plants that have seed pods, like beans and peas. In the kitchen, lentils are used as a quick-cooking and inexpensive plant protein that is tasty in main dishes or as a side dish.
If you are interested in learning more about lentils or cooking with them, we have you covered here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. We have some great ways for you to use lentils in your kitchen:
Our June recipe of the month is Roasted Broccoli. Broccoli is in season right now, so that means it may be ready to eat from your garden, available at your local farmers market, and less expensive at the grocery store. If you are interested in learning more about seasonal vegetables, check out this Fresh Vegetable Guide. An important thing to remember when buying broccoli is that it is less expensive to buy broccoli in a bunch rather than pre-cut.
This recipe is a great way for my family to eat up the broccoli that is available right now. In my home, there are two different types of children – those who like their vegetables cooked and those who like them raw. When I have fresh broccoli on hand, I cut it all up then I leave some raw and roast the rest of it. This makes everyone happy.
To make this recipe, cut up your broccoli. If you are new to cutting up broccoli, check out this quick video for some pointers. Next, coat the broccoli with oil, salt, and pepper. Finally, bake the broccoli for about 15 minutes. If you have never roasted broccoli before, give this recipe a try, I think you will like it.