Stuffed Pasta Shells

Happy New Year from all of us on the Spend Smart.Eat Smart. team!

To start off 2021 we have our first recipe of the month – Stuffed Pasta Shells. This is not a new recipe for us, it is an older recipe that we updated a little. This recipe can feel labor intense because you do have to fill each shell with the cheese and spinach filling. However, there are several reasons why I think this recipe is worth your time.

  1. Stuffed Pasta Shells can be made ahead of time. If you have a free half hour, you can get the shells filled and in the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking and serving.
  2. This recipe makes more than one meal. My family of five gets two meals out of this recipe, especially if I serve it with salad, fruit, and garlic bread.
  3. Leftovers freeze well for quick meals later on. You can eat part of this recipe while it is hot and fresh and then freeze the rest in single serving containers for quick and easy microwave meals.
  4. This recipe feels special. I always feel fancy when I make this meal because it looks and tastes like something I would get in a restaurant.

https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/easy-stuffed-pasta-shells/

Enjoy!


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Preventing Food Waste at Jody’s House

Over the past few weeks you have heard lots of great ideas from Christine, Justine, and Katy on how they prevent food waste in their homes. As we wrap up our series today, I will share a few things we do at my house to prevent food waste.

Leftovers: In my house, we love leftovers. So each week when I do my menu planning, I include a day for leftovers. That means I don’t have to cook and we use up food before it spoils. We also like leftovers for breakfast and lunch. Leftover soup for breakfast, why not! Taking leftovers for lunch also means we save money because my husband and I aren’t going out to lunch.

Flexible Recipes: Christine mentioned using flexible recipes as one way she uses up leftover vegetables. I also like to use flexible recipes at my house. However, I like to use flexible recipes that allow my 11 year old son and 7 year old daughter to personalize the meal to their preferred taste. That way I know they are more likely to eat it and less food will be thrown away. These recipes allow children to help out in the kitchen and turn leftovers into something new:

*Instead of a large cookie crust, we like to make individual cookies. That way we each get to put on our favorite toppings. This works well to use up leftover canned, fresh, or frozen fruit.

Freezer: I use my freezer to extend how long I can keep food so that I can use it up before throwing it out. Right now my freezer has a number of ripe bananas in it that will soon be turned into bread or muffins! I also freeze leftovers if we aren’t able to eat them up within 2-3 days. Watch our video on freezing leftovers for tips on how to preserve the flavor, texture, and color of food.

I hope the tips we’ve shared during the past few weeks will be helpful for you in preventing food waste at your house.


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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Chicken and Rice Soup

Welcome to the last month of 2020 and the last recipe of the month for this year – Chicken and Rice Soup. When we start working on these recipes several years in advance, we never know what might be going on when the recipe is finally published. This recipe turned out to be very timely – just as 2020 has been a struggle for so many of us, this recipe was a struggle to get published.

This recipe started as a vague idea. My husband prefers chicken and rice soup to chicken noodle soup, so that seemed like a good place to start. Once this recipe began to take shape, it started having problems right away. I had trouble getting it to meet our nutrition guidelines, the cooking time was not working out right, and it kept coming out too thick or too thin. On top of that, my family was getting very tired of eating chicken and rice soup. Once I got to the point of scrapping the whole recipe, my colleague Julie stepped in and volunteered to start testing the recipe with her family. Between Julie and I (and our very patient families) we finally made this recipe work.

Now that I am a few years removed from the struggle of this recipe, I can tell you all of the things I love about it:

  • It cooks in the slow cooker or the stove top. You can choose the method that works best for you.
  • It is an entire meal in one bowl. It is filled with vegetables, whole grains, and protein.
  • It freezes well. I have some of this soup in my freezer right now so that I can warm it up for lunch on a cold day.
  • It tastes really good. This is the most important thing, in my opinion.

I hope you give this recipe a try as we finish out 2020.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Fall Favorites

Fall has always been my favorite season. I love watching the leaves change color, being able to swap out my shorts for cozy knit sweaters and taking in all the fun fall activities. 

One of my family’s favorite activities is going to the orchard. Our two-year-old loves picking apples for us to bring home which means I need a variety of fall recipes to make sure the apples we pick don’t go to waste. Apple Cinnamon Bread, Hurry Up Baked Apples and Homemade Applesauce are some of our go-to recipes for apples. I love the aroma of cinnamon and cooked apples throughout our home during this time of year.

After visiting the orchard, I love coming home and warming up with a comforting meal. As the weather begins to shift and the air becomes crisper, I find myself reaching for more soup and slow cooker recipes. Below are a few of our favorite recipes to make after our visits to the orchard. Add some warm bread on the side for a nice, hearty meal.

After enjoying your favorite fall activity, try one of my family’s go-to fall recipes to bring you some extra comfort and warmth during this season.

Happy fall!

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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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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Ways to Enjoy Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a nutritious legume grown all over the world and popular in many cuisines. Garbanzos are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They are very inexpensive and can be found canned or dry. They can be used in many dishes and can be swapped for other beans or lentils in your favorite recipes.

Try them:

Here are some ways to cook dried chickpeas:

  • In a large pot, using 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until desired tenderness (usually anywhere between 1 hour to 2 hours)
  • In a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours
  • In a pressure cooker with a sealed lid (12 minutes if pre-soaked or 50 minutes without pre-soaking), and naturally releasing the pressure for 10 minutes

My favorite way to prepare garbanzos is to cook them until soft and mix them with a stew made of pureed carrots, onions, peppers, and garlic. The veggies can be cooked (without chopping them) with the garbanzos and then pureed separately to make the stew. You can add whatever spices on hand to the stew such as salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric to taste. I then add the garbanzos to the stew and serve over rice.

I encourage you to give garbanzo beans a try!

Written by: Paula Gutierrez, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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Vegetable Quesadillas

Would you like to know what my family’s favorite recipe is to make when we are short on time? It is our September recipe of the month, Vegetable Quesadillas. I can get this recipe on the table in 15 minutes or less, and I think you can too.

I keep this recipe in my back pocket for times when I feel rushed to get a meal on the table or when my children need to eat – NOW! I do not usually put this recipe on my meal plan for the week, but I do try to keep the first three ingredients (tortillas, cheese, and beans) on hand. For the vegetables, I use whatever I have in the refrigerator or freezer like chopped onion, chopped pepper, or frozen corn. You can cook the vegetables first or put them in raw.

If you have never made quesadillas before, this is the perfect recipe to learn how. You heat your skillet over medium heat and place the tortilla in the skillet. Put the cheese, beans, and vegetables on half of the tortilla. Then fold the empty half of the tortilla over, like closing a book. Cook the quesadilla for a couple of minutes, flip it, then cook a couple minutes more. You want the tortilla lightly browned and the cheese melty.

My children eat these plain, my husband and I top them with salsa. You can get creative and top these with avocado, tomato, sour cream, a squeeze of lime juice, or whatever sounds good to you.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Super Snacks for Super Kids

The return to school can be hectic for both children and parents. This year, school may look different for your family, but no doubt, your children will still be hungry come snack time! The good news is that snacks are a good way to make sure your child is meeting their nutritional needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to meet these needs simply through food at mealtimes.

While it is easy for kids to grab a bag of chips to snack on, there are some ways you can make snacking both hassle-free and nutritious!

  • Choose snacks that your kids enjoy: Make a list of snack options and ask your kids which ones they like the most.
  • Plan ahead: Choose and prepare nutritious snacks ahead of time so that they are ready to go. Your kids may be able to help in preparation as well!
  • Keeping them accessible: Keep nutritious snacks where kids can easily see or grab them.
  • Make snack time fun: Having snacks with bright colors and different textures is visually appealing to kids.

Luckily, there are many different ways you can incorporate nutritious food into your child’s diet through snack time. You can find them in every food group, so you can always switch it up to fit your child’s needs. Here are some quick and easy snack ideas you can try at home:

For additional snack and recipe ideas, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Written by Jonnee Sulzberger, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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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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