Sweet Potato Burritos

Our October recipe of the month is here with special thanks to Jody’s family. Usually my family has to put up with eating the same thing over and over as I test a recipe. But for Sweet Potato Burritos, Jody and her family tried them out first and then passed the recipe on to me. The first time I tried these burritos, I knew we had a winner. Sweet Potato Burritos include two of my favorite ingredients to cook with – sweet potatoes and black beans.

Here are some reasons I include sweet potatoes on my grocery list:

  • They are available year-round. Sweet potatoes are in season now, but they store easily in a cool, dry place, so you can find them any time of year.
  • They fit in with any meal. Sweet potatoes make a great tasting side dish, whether baked, roasted, or mashed.
  • They are nutritious. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and fiber.

If you open my pantry, you will almost always find a can of black beans. I keep canned black beans on hand because:

  • They are easy to prepare. Pop off the lid, drain, and rinse and canned black beans are ready to add to any meal.
  • They are inexpensive. Where I shop, I can usually get a can of black beans for $1 or less.
  • They can replace meat. When meat prices get high, black beans can replace meat in soups, casseroles, salads, and other mixed dishes.

Try out two of my favorite ingredients in Sweet Potato Burritos: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/sweet-potato-burritos/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Baba Ganoush

Have you ever eaten eggplant? Many years ago, I had eggplant at a restaurant and it was not good, so I thought I must not like it. Fast forward to a few years ago, when a student in our office told me I had to try this eggplant recipe – Baba Ganoush. I knew I did not like eggplant, but she ensured me I would like this recipe. So, my children and I went to the farmers market that weekend and bought a beautiful purple and white eggplant and I made Baba Ganoush for the first time. It turns out that, although that restaurant meal was not great, I actually really like eggplant.

Our September recipe of the month is Baba Ganoush thanks to a student who pushed me outside of my comfort zone. If eggplant is also outside of your comfort zone, this recipe is a great way to try it out. You can use Baba Ganoush in the same way you would use hummus – as a dip or a spread or in our Zucchini Hummus Wraps. Eggplant is in season now, so you can easily find one at the grocery store or farmers market. To find out how to choose and store an eggplant, read our Eggplant Produce Basics.

To give eggplant a try, you can follow the full Baba Ganoush recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/baba-ganoush/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals

There are sixteen days until my kids start school! Along with school starting, my kids will also be starting football, dance, and piano so our schedule is going to get busy. One thing that helps me feel less stressed when life gets busy is meal planning. By spending 30 minutes on the weekend planning meals for the week, I spend less time worrying about what we will eat for supper each night. I know my family isn’t the only one looking ahead to a busy fall, so today I wanted to share three tips I use when meal planning that you might find helpful.

  1. Pick a theme for each night. Some common themes I’ve heard before are Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Pizza on Friday. When you have a theme, it’s one less decision you have to make. On Tuesday, you know you are going to have tacos so you just have to decide what kind of tacos you want. The ‘themes’ I use are a little different. I have a different protein food for each night. And one night is always leftovers or make your own. I stock up on meat, fish and chicken when it is on sale and put it in my freezer. Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes for each kind of protein you might like to try. Not only does this make planning easy for me, but it also helps us vary our proteins which is important for good nutrition.
Beef/PorkFishChickenVegetarianLeftovers
Slow Cooker RoastBroiled SalmonQuick Pad ThaiStuffed Pasta ShellsWraps “Your” Way
Beef and Vegetable Stir-FryBaked Fish and ChipsChicken FajitasVegetable Frittata
Sweet Pork Stir-FryFish and Noodle SkilletCheesy Chicken CasseroleVegetable Quesadillas
  1. Make one dish meals. I make a lot of one dish meals because it makes my life easier. There are fewer dishes to do afterward and the only other thing I have to add to the meal is some fruit and something to drink, like milk or water. My kids don’t eat a lot of vegetables so I always include a fruit I know they will eat.
  1. Keep side dishes simple. Even though I like to cook, after a busy day when everyone is hungry I need to get supper done quickly. So in addition to making a lot of one dish meals, I always keep my side dishes simple. We eat a lot of cut up fruits and vegetables as sides. Some of our favorites are apples, carrots, and pepper strips. I also use a lot of frozen vegetables that I can heat quickly in the microwave. In the colder months, I like to make roasted vegetables.

For more ideas and resources on meal planning, check out the menu planning section of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.

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.

More Posts

Planning for a Picnic

Picnics are a fun way to spend time outdoors while sharing a snack or a meal with friends and family. Now that the weather is getting nicer, picnics are a top priority for my family. Our two-year-old has become a food grazer so picnics are a fun way for us to take our snacks and meals outside. Picnics allow her to eat at her own pace in a new environment while also tiring her out as she explores a park or playground; a win-win for any parent!

My favorite thing about picnics is that they don’t have to be picture worthy or take a lot of preparation. Most of the time, our picnics are spontaneous, and we toss items that we have on hand in a basket or tote and off we go! Below are a few staples that we take with us on our picnic adventures.

  • A blanket or a sheet is a must have! You can’t rely on a park or playground to have a shelter area with tables. Because of this, we always bring a blanket or a sheet to place on the grass to eat or rest. I keep a blanket or a sheet in my car for those impromptu picnic stops to make it easier.
  • Easy recipes are key to making your picnic experience stress-free. If we don’t feel like packing up a full meal, sometimes we pack for quick picnics with easy grab and go snacks like veggies with Vegetable Dip, Crunchy Apple Rollups cut into pinwheels, or Energy Bites with some cut up fruit. On days when I have more time to prepare, I like taking Chicken Salad with crackers or Zucchini Hummus Wraps. Just remember that if you are making items that require refrigeration to pack them in a cooler or lunchbox with plenty of ice/ice packs to keep them safe in the heat.  
  • I always pack sunscreen, hats, and even an extra pair of clothes…just in case! You never know when you may find a fun creek to explore or get extra dirty on a climbing adventure. Packing an extra pair of clothes for my toddler makes the ride home more comfortable and keeps the car significantly cleaner!

Picnics don’t require a lot of time and can be a fun, inexpensive way to spend time outdoors. My favorite memories are from the picnic adventures that were thrown together last minute. You can be picnic ready all season long without requiring a lot of extra work. What new parks and playgrounds will you explore this season?

Cheers to your next picnic adventure!

Katy

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.

More Posts

Brown Rice “Risotto”

Our July recipe of the month is Brown Rice “Risotto”. This is not a traditional risotto recipe which slowly cooks white rice with broth. This mock risotto recipe is much quicker. It calls for instant brown rice and cooks in about 20 minutes making it ideal for someone who needs a quick meal.

In my opinion, one of the best things about this recipe is its flexibility. It can easily go from a side dish to a main dish by stirring in pre-cooked meat or fish towards the end of the cooking time. I have enjoyed chicken, ham, and shrimp added to this recipe. I also like how the recipe allows for substitutions. You can change out the seasonings and the vegetables depending on what you like and what you have on hand. Mushrooms are one of my favorite vegetables, so adding fresh mushrooms and cooking them with the onion and rice is a treat for me. 

At Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we like flexible recipes because you can make them your own with flavors and ingredients you enjoy and have on hand. Here are some other flexible recipes to try out:

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/brown-rice-risotto/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Smoothie Smackdown: Homemade vs. Fast Food

Summer is here, and with the hot weather comes everyone’s cravings for a sweet treat! I enjoy fruit smoothies because they can be nutritious while also hitting the spot. Going to grab a smoothie at a fast food joint seems like the perfect idea for a hot day, but these smoothies can be pretty expensive… and high in sugar. Could making your own smoothies solve this issue?

This week, I tested out two smoothies: one that I made at home from scratch, and one from a popular smoothie franchise in Ames. Both of them were peanut butter, banana, and yogurt smoothies. I compared the taste, nutritional value, and simplicity of the two. Which one do I think is better? Let’s find out!

HomemadeFast Food
Amount16 oz.16 oz.
Time it took5 minutes20 minutes
Cost$1.08$5.87
Nutrition:
Calories320463
Fat9 g11.5 g
Carbohydrate50 g70 g
Sugar34 g53 g
Protein16 g22 g

My thoughts:

Homemade: This smoothie was quick, easy, and DELICIOUS! All I did was throw the ingredients (which I already happened to have) in a blender. It had the perfect touch of sweetness along with a thick, creamy consistency. This smoothie provides a good amount of protein and has a reasonable amount of sugar and calories for me—and you can’t beat the price! Recipe from: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/peanut-butter-banana-smoothie/

Fast Food: This smoothie was very tasty, but also really sweet. It tasted similar to my homemade one, but almost as if you had added ice cream to it! It provides a good amount of protein and kept me full, but also has a steep amount of sugar and calories especially when compared to the homemade version. Paying $6 for a smoothie that I could make at home doesn’t seem very practical to me, especially when I had to drive there and back to get it. (The whole container was 24 oz., but I only ate 16 oz. to stay consistent with the homemade one.)

The Verdict:

I prefer the homemade smoothie! It’s delicious, easy, and cost-friendly. Another perk of making your own smoothie is that you know exactly what’s going into it. Fast food or store-bought smoothies can be high in added sugar. The homemade smoothie I made contains mostly natural sugar (which comes from fruit and dairy), along with just a touch of added sugars which come from the flavored yogurt and peanut butter. Over time, making your own smoothies will be better for your bank account and your overall health, without sacrificing any of the yumminess.

Written by Maggie Moeller – Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

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.

More Posts

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

My children and I love making smoothies for breakfast or as a special treat to go along with supper. We do not use a recipe very often because it is fun to use what we have on hand to make something tasty. However, our June recipe of the month, Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie, is a recipe we all like.

The first step of this recipe is an important one – freeze your banana for at least four hours before making this smoothie. I usually try to freeze at least one banana per week. Then I always have a frozen banana on hand for smoothies or to thaw for banana bread. You can freeze bananas whole with the peel on, but for this recipe you need to peel the banana, cut it into 4 to 6 pieces, and freeze it in an airtight container.

Once you have your banana frozen, you are ready to make your smoothie. All you have to do is add the frozen banana, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter to a blender and blend until smooth. You can double or triple this recipe to make more servings or to make some extra smoothies for another day. Store the extra smoothies in airtight containers in the freezer. As a bonus, if you bought a bag of chia seeds for our May recipe of the month, you can add a spoonful of chia seeds to this smoothie to add some texture and nutrition.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/peanut-butter-banana-smoothie/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:

  1. Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
  2. Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
  3. Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/lemon-chia-seed-muffins/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

What to do with Dried Beans?

I recently bought a bag of dried beans on clearance at the grocery store.  I usually buy canned beans, but it was too good of a deal to pass up.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to prepare them! Years ago, I tried to cook dried beans and they ended up crunchy and undercooked.

I discovered a recipe to prepare dried beans using my slow cooker.  The slow cooker cooked the beans overnight! It was so easy. I froze the beans in containers so I have cooked beans ready to use whenever I need them.

Beans are a great way to add protein to meals and save money on groceries. Beans give you long-lasting energy and help you feel full for a long time.  Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to eat beans:

  1. We top salads with beans. Try black or pinto beans for a taco salad or navy or kidney beans for a Mediterranean salad.
  2. We make dips with beans.  Adding beans to dips makes a quick snack full of protein!  Our favorites are Hummus, Black Bean Salsa, and Cowboy Caviar.
  • We add beans to pasta dishes.  A quick dinner my family loves is a box of cooked whole wheat pasta, a jar of pesto (found in the grocery aisle near spaghetti sauce), and a few cups of garbanzo beans.  We mix it all together and it’s ready in 30 minutes.  We serve it with a garden salad or steamed green beans or broccoli.
  • We add black beans or pinto beans to eggs and wrap in a tortilla for a Southwest breakfast burrito!  Try this recipe for a fun weekend breakfast!
  • We make soups with beans.  Soups are a great way to use up a lot of beans.  We like Vegetarian Chili and Minestrone Soup.

Katie Sorrell is a Registered Dietitian who likes to try new recipes. She meal plans and shops at the grocery store on the weekend for the upcoming week.

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.

More Posts

Cooking with Lentils

Last week Brianna wrote about our Garlic and Herb Lentils recipe. If you get a bag of dried lentils to try that recipe, you might be wondering what else you can cook with lentils to use them up. Here are some other ways to add them to your meals:

  1. Use them in our Lentil Tacos.
  2. Substitute cooked lentils for meat in chili, stews and stuffed pepper fillings.
  3. Make a pasta sauce thicker and heartier by adding cooked lentils.
  4. Add cooked lentils to rice, salad, or cooked whole grains to make a protein-rich main dish.
  5. Puree 1/2 cup cooked lentils with 2 tablespoons water. In recipes for baked goods like brownies and muffins, substitute half of the fat with 1/2 cup pureed lentils.

My husband and I really like the lentil tacos. And I’ve made muffins with lentils in them that my son and I liked. I think next I will try adding them to rice or a salad and see if my family enjoys them that way. Lentils are inexpensive, nutritious, and can be used in many ways so I encourage you to pick up a bag and try them out!


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.

More Posts

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:

Categories

Recent Posts

Posts from the Past