Mushroom Quinoa

Our December recipe of the month is Mushroom Quinoa.  This recipe includes sautéed mushrooms, and any recipe with sautéed mushrooms is a win for me.  The mushrooms are cooked with onions, garlic, herbs, ground black pepper, and salt. At the end, cooked quinoa is stirred in to make a tasty side dish.  If you are not a mushroom lover like me, you can substitute a different soft vegetable such as bell peppers or zucchini.

Since I love any recipe with mushrooms, this recipe is the perfect lead in for a theme we are going to explore all month.  We are each going to take a week to share our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes with you. To start us off, here are some of my favorites:

  • Soup:  Autumn Soup, I like the smooth texture and the rich flavor of this soup.  I use it often in the fall when winter squash is abundant.
  • Salad:  Croutons, I know this is not technically a salad, but these homemade croutons make it more likely that my family will eat salad.
  • Main Dish:  Black Bean Burgers, my family loves burgers and this is an economical and tasty way to serve them more often.
  • Side Dish:  No Knead Whole Wheat Bread, my family will eat this homemade bread for any meal or snack, it also makes a great grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Snack/Dessert:  Frozen Pudding Sandwiches, my children often request these and they can double as a snack or a dessert.

Please comment below with your favorite recipes, we would love to know.


mushroom quinoa
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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All Forms Fit!

Last week Christine shared some tips for storing produce so you can enjoy it before it spoils. One of the tips was to mix up the form of fruits and veggies that you use. As she mentioned, all forms can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Using different forms of produce in my meal plans helps my family and I eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables while still staying within my budget and the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen.

Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m deciding which form to buy.

  • Is the produce in season? I buy fresh produce when it’s in season. It costs less and is likely to be at it’s peak flavor. When it’s not in season, I don’t buy it or I buy it frozen or canned. You can freeze extra produce if time and space allow for use at a later time. For more information on freezing produce, check out this handout.
  • How will I use the produce? For example, if I’ll use tomatoes in a soup or stew, I’ll most often choose canned tomatoes. However, if I’m using the tomatoes in a salad, fresh tomatoes are probably a better choice.
  • How much waste is there? If I buy fresh broccoli, I’ll pay for the entire weight, even though my recipe might only call for florets. In this case, I may choose the frozen broccoli florets.
  • How much time will it save me overall? In addition to the cooking time, I also think about the preparation and clean-up time. When I’m short on time during the week, I plan meals that use produce that takes little time to prepare. For me, this means I use more frozen and canned options on weeknights.

Here are some of the different forms of fruits and vegetables that my family enjoys for our meals and snacks. 

Fresh: baby carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries

Frozen: peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, stir fry vegetables, mixed vegetables, blueberries, and mixed berries

Canned: black beans, tomatoes, green beans, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and applesauce

Dried: raisins and cranberries

Juice: 100% orange juice
For more information, watch our video on How to Get the Best Deal on Fruits and Vegetables.

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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Soup’s on!

Soup is a favorite meal in my house during the fall or winter. Well, for my husband, soup is a favorite all year round! I enjoy making soup since there are so many different combinations and nearly all of them are a one-pot meal! I also like that I can make many of them in the slow cooker. This allows me to start them before heading to work and supper is ready when I get home.

Of the different soups I make, chili gets a high rating from my family so I thought I’d share some of our chili recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. 

  • 10 Minute Chili: This is a very basic chili recipe that you can make your own by adding different spices, veggies or toppings. It is an easy way to introduce the flavors of chili to children as well. 
  • Vegetarian Chili: This bean and veggie chili is a nice option for a potluck or other occasion where you may not know if there are vegetarians in the group. 
  • Three Can Chili: This chili could not be simpler and it uses products you can keep on hand in your pantry. Depending on your child’s skills and experience in the kitchen, they may be able to make this recipe almost entirely on their own. 
  • Slow Cooker Pork Chili: This is a rich and delicious chili for the slow cooker. It is very tasty leftover as well as fresh from the pot. 

Try one of these soon on a cold winter day!

bowl of chili
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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Golden Cornbread

Our November recipe of the month is Golden Corn Bread. Corn bread reminds me of my childhood. Our school cafeteria made the most delicious corn bread I have ever had. They always served it with chili and then they would put the leftover corn bread on the salad bar the next day. You can bet that I was one of the people who ate it two days in a row.

golden corn bread

The school’s corn bread probably would not have met the nutrition standards we have for our recipes here, so we have created our own version. We substituted in some whole wheat flour to increase the fiber in the bread. We also reduced the sugar and fat. In my opinion, it is still pretty tasty.

Just like my school, I often serve this corn bread at two meals. We eat it with chili for supper at night. Then my children and I eat the leftovers for breakfast in the morning. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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October recipes you will love

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

It’s October, the air is crisp and football is in full swing. This time of year finds me craving warm and comforting food while I cheer on Iowa State. The fall line-up of vegetables includes squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Squash and pumpkin can be intimidating. Not everyone is used to dealing with these hard vegetables with inedible skins, unless they’re carving one for Halloween of course! I recommend this how-to for squash and pumpkin to get you started:  

How to Prepare Winter Squash This is an easy and quick way to cook squash and pumpkin. After cooking you can then use the squash and pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin (pies, cakes, soups, etc.). 

Note: sweet potato also makes a great substitute for canned pumpkin.  

Consider adding the recipes below to your fall cooking line-up!

For warm and comforting dinners:


Butternut Squash Enchiladas A fun and creative take on enchiladas. Use corn tortillas for a delicious and nutritious gluten free dinner. 

Autumn Soup You can’t have fall without it. Apples add a nice sweetness to this creamy soup. 

Sweet Potato, Squash, or Cauliflower

Easy Roasted Veggies This versatile recipe does a nice job bringing out the natural sweetness of rich fall veggies.

Sweet Potato

Mashed Sweet Potatoes Three ingredients yield a whole lot of yum in this easy side dish. 

For pumpkin spice lovers:


Pumpkin Apple Cake Add nuts if you want or substitute chocolate cake mix if you prefer.  This easy cake is great with coffee. 

Pumpkin Pudding A great recipe to make with kids. Dip graham crackers or apples as a fun treat.

Bowl of pumpkin pudding

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 recipes my 9-year old can make

Last week Kat shared breakfast recipes that can be made ahead or are quick to make. Today, I’d like to share some breakfast recipes that older kids can make themselves.

My husband goes to work early so I need to get myself, Parker, and my 5 year-old daughter Paige ready and out the door. Parker is an early riser and is often hungry when he wakes up. If I’m finishing my morning workout, he sometimes makes his own breakfast, which is helpful. Here are some recipes that many kids can make themselves.

  • Crispy Granola– Crispy Granola freezes well so it’s easy to pour into a bowl and add milk. Sliced banana could also be added.
  • Yogurt Parfaits– Kids can have fun layering fruit, yogurt, and toppings into a bowl to create their own yogurt parfait. The Crispy Granola is also a good option for this.
  • Peanut Butter Pita Pockets– For kids who like peanut butter, this is a fun way to eat it.
  • Berry and Greens Smoothies– This recipe makes eight smoothies that you can store in individual jars in the freezer. Move a smoothie from the freezer to refrigerator the night before and they will be ready for kids the next morning.

For kids who are ready to start preparing their own breakfast, remind them of the importance of washing their hands before food preparation.

crispy granola
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 for Busy Mornings

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

We’ve made it through another summer. School is back in session and so are busy mornings. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in the morning; making sure everyone is ready, out the door, and fed. Figuring out a quick, nutritious, and tasty breakfast can be the most challenging part of the school routine. Luckily, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app have a lot of good recipes that you can either make ahead or make quickly. 

scrambled egg muffin

Make Ahead

These recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just microwave and send them on their way! 

These make ahead baked goods have an added bonus of going great with coffee or doubling as an easy snack time solution. 

Quick Fix

Looking for something that you can make in a hurry? Look no further. 

I hope these recipes help to lighten the load of busy mornings. Sending our best to you and yours this school year.

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