Beans with Miles and Justine

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!

apreparing dried beans

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Sloppy Joes or Janes or Jimmys

The name of this blog may be silly, but it is meant to show that this recipe is super flexible. It can be used to make traditional Sloppy Joes or something a little different based on what you have and what you like. We chose to feature this recipe this week because it is a wonderful fit for our current circumstance. Some grocery stores have shorter supplies of meat or a smaller variety due to supply chain challenges. As a result, you may find yourself choosing a product that is not as familiar to you. 

This Sloppy Joes recipe will work with ground beef, turkey, pork, chicken, or venison. You can even use cooked lentils in this recipe. It uses ketchup and mustard in the sauce, and the flavor reminds me of a cookout! Check out the video below and cook along with me using whatever protein you have on hand!

sloppy joes

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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Container Gardening: Big Benefits in Small Spaces

The interest in growing our own produce increases daily. Everyone can garden, even apartment dwellers and those with limited outdoor space. The Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep series is helping Iowans learn to grow their own food at home. This week’s “Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep” video from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach addresses how to start a container garden to grow tasty foods at home. 

Container gardens offer many benefits including:

  • Requires less space than a traditional garden.
  • Can be done on a porch or patio.
  • Can be placed at a height that reduces bending.

There are many ways to create a container garden. You can use a variety of flower pots or larger containers, such as large plastic buckets, or build raised bed gardens. Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container garden. The best plants are those that are smaller and bushier and do not require staking. Check out the ISU Extension and Outreach publications Container Vegetable Gardening and Container Gardening FAQs.

ISU Extension and Outreach will continue hosting weekly “Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep” quickinars. The quickinars offer 5-15 minute online lessons of seasonally appropriate topics for the garden, food preparation and food preservation. Some upcoming topics include:

  • Cool and warm season crops (lettuce, spinach, peas)
  • Freezing produce
  • Freezer jams (strawberry)
  • Scouting for garden pests
  • Weeding and watering basics
  • Produce food safety
  • Canning produce

For additional resources and publications, visit the Sow, Grow, Eat, and Keep website. Send your food or garden questions to sowgroweatkeep@iastate.edu.

Written by guest bloggers Ruth Litchfield and Sarah Francis. Doctors Litchfield and Francis are faculty in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

flower pot

Filling the Gap

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team has been sharing their kitchens with you and what menu planning looks like for each of them, including tips and recipes.  Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many families to provide enough food due to lack of resources.  This is particularly true for households with young children.  In an effort to ease the burden on families, I would like to share information about a program available in your community that provides nutritious meals and snacks to children, 18 and under, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming summer months.

The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to fill the gap when children lose access to meals when schools are closed.  Most often this occurs during summer vacation. However, during school closures related to the pandemic, meals are also being made available.  You have the opportunity to supplement the food you have at home with meals and snacks for your children from local schools and community organizations.  In an effort to maintain social distancing, USDA has made temporary changes that allow parents or guardians to pick up meals and take them home for their children.  Organizations have come up with creative ways to make these nutritious meals available in your community through grab and go curbside pickup, providing meals for multiple days at one time, and some including “take and bake” options, and weekend meals.

You can find a meal site in your area via three easy options:

  • Text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877
  • Call 2-1-1, 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479), or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (for Spanish)
  • Visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids

Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals and snacks to your children by participating at a site near you!  Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!

Stephanie

Stephanie Dross is a Registered Dietitian with the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services.  She coordinates the Department’s Summer Food Service Program and loves to garden and cook with her family.

Free Consultations with Family Finance Specialists

This week, our blogs focus on the financial challenges COVID-19 has created for many families. Extension can help. We don’t have a magic wand, but we do have trustworthy information and planning strategies to help you consider your options and make decisions that will work for you in the long run. 
Whether it’s sorting out your priorities, figuring out how to contact creditors, finding ways to stretch dollars further, or addressing some other issue, your local Human Sciences specialist in family finance can provide tools or suggest strategies that will help you make decisions with confidence. Find the specialist who serves your region and contact us by phone or email. Over the phone, by video chat, OR by email, we’ll help you find tools and resources for moving forward, even in this difficult time. Click play below to learn more.

Iowa Concern

One-on-one consultations are available with ISU Extension and Outreach Family Finance Specialists. Call 1-800-447-1985 to get connected with your local specialist.

Posted by Spend Smart. Eat Smart. on Saturday, May 16, 2020

Weighing Financial Priorities During the Pandemic

Guest Blogger, Barb Wollan, Family Finance Specialist

This week, we welcome guest blogger Barb Wollan. Barb is a Family Finance Specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach and her blog relates to weighing priorities during times when money is tight. 

As we focus on what we can control in our personal finances, the most obvious thing we control is our spending. Due to COVID 19, you may have already cut back on some of your normal expenses, like entertainment, but when money is tight, these cuts may not be enough. Choosing your top priorities is critical. Prioritizing includes considering all necessary expenses like groceries and utilities, and it often requires us to separate the things we need from the things we want. Before skipping a bill or making a partial payment, start by getting a complete picture of all your bills and debts – total monthly payments, total owed, current standing (i.e. are you currently caught up), and interest rate or fees for late payment. 

The next step is to consider each bill’s importance. All bills will need to be paid eventually, and it is never desirable to leave bills unpaid or partially paid. However, in times of real financial shortfall, people sometimes have to make tough choices. So how do you choose among your many bills?

Consider what you have to lose if a bill is unpaid. Losing housing, core utilities or a vehicle is generally the greatest possible loss to a household. Therefore those payments may be top priorities for many families. By contrast, getting behind on a credit card account or medical bill payment plan may not affect your immediate well-being. Missing a payment could hurt your credit report, but you can recover from it.  Due to COVID 19, some of your service providers and creditors may be offering assistance to extend your payment deadline and/or help reduce your payment obligations. In most cases, making a minimum payment is better than making no payment. Missing a payment has different consequences on your credit report. Plus, some consequences start immediately, while others may only start after a significant delay in payment. For example, some auto lenders repossess a vehicle after a single missed payment while others wait 60 days. If you take advantage of a COVID-19 payment assistance option, there are a few factors that will determine how creditors report your account to credit reporting companies, learn more about credit reporting under the CARES Act.

In addition to prioritizing among your existing bills, it is also wise to consider what bills you will or will not continue to incur. You may have ongoing monthly subscriptions to video services, cable, newspapers, program memberships or mail-order clubs. Stop and think about whether to continue them during this time. Those are often things we enjoy, and we don’t like the idea of giving them up, but if you’re worried about paying the car insurance or water bill, then it’s appropriate to include these subscriptions as you consider options. Consider your bills that have temporarily stopped, like childcare or federal student loan repayments that are suspended until September 30, 2020. How can these savings be used to pay priority bills? And don’t forget your bills on autopay, if you want more flexibility to prioritize your bills consider removing the auto payment.

If you have to miss a bill payment, check out the website of your service providers or creditor to see if they are offering greater payment flexibility.  And as much as you might dread the phone call, communicating with creditors is essential if you cannot pay on time. The fact that you called and explained your situation will make a huge difference in their willingness to work with you. This is especially true if you have previously been a reliable customer.  Creditors recognize the losses people are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Consider these suggestions for a conversation with a creditor:

  1. Be prompt – call them before your payment is due.
  2. Be honest with them – tell the truth without embellishment or exaggeration.
  3. Ask if they have a pandemic relief option, or a “hardship plan”, that would increase payment flexibility or reduce or eliminate the fees or interest that come with late payments.
  4. Be realistic about your options. If they ask you about when you will be able to make your next payment, give a realistic answer. 
  5. Keep a record of what phone number you called, who you talked with, the date and time of the conversation, and what exactly was agreed.
  6. Monitor your credit report. The 3 national credit reporting companies are offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2021.

Need help with all this? In many communities, a non-profit credit counseling service is available to help you negotiate the process.  To find a reputable credit counselor near you, check with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling; either by phone or on-line, they can do a zip code search to find the member agency nearest you.

On Thursday, Barb will share another resource available to help when making difficult financial decisions.

one dollar bill

Overcoming food shortages with substitutions

Most of us have been stuck at home for weeks, many of us homeschooling while working or wishing we were working. Thinking back to how nice it was to miss our family occasionally, while still trying to treasure every moment. It seems unfair that during these uncertain times we also have to worry about grocery stores being fully stocked. Know that you are not alone and Extension and Outreach is here to help. 

It seems that people are stocking up on frozen and canned items that will last longer, which can make it difficult to find the grocery items that you are used to buying. 

For frozen and canned vegetables 

The understanding that most vegetables are interchangeable is helpful here. Substituting carrots, peas, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, kale, even celery or cabbage for each other will not negatively impact a recipe’s final product. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary slightly, so check your vegetables for doneness before serving. I recommend picking vegetables you know you like, but if you’re feeling adventurous try out a new one!  

Use any frozen or canned vegetables/beans you want in the following recipes:

Vegetable Quesadillas – Kids love helping to build their own.

Quick Pad Thai – A fun take on takeout, try with tofu or edamame for protein if you’re low on chicken.

Pizza on a Potato– Another dish that’s fun for kids and good as a side dish or the main course!

Four Layer Supper– Substitute any canned vegetable or 1 cup frozen vegetables in this recipe in place of green beans.

Making fresh produce last

If you want to extend the shelf life of your fresh produce, Extension and Outreach has some great resources here. This is also helpful to have in mind as summer starts up and farmers markets and gardens start filling up with Iowa’s bounty. 

Substitutes for meat

It has been especially difficult for us to find the cuts and type of meat we are used to lately, so I have taken to using more beans, tofu, and eggs to get our protein. Like vegetables, these items are fairly easy to exchange for each other. Beans and tofu* can be added with the vegetables in a recipe, as they don’t need to be pre-cooked. 

*A note on tofu: We usually buy extra firm (non-silken) tofu, as it holds its shape and substitutes well for meat. Silken tofu is good for soups and smoothies, as it has a much softer texture. I like to marinate my extra firm tofu up to a day ahead of time (use your favorite seasoning and a tsp of oil). If it is your first time using tofu and you are worried about your family liking it, then fry it in a little oil and season it before serving it alongside something they enjoy. 

Here are some of our favorite recipes that work well with non-meat protein sources.

Frittata– Quick and easy weekend breakfast, or we have even been known to have it for a weeknight dinner!

Teriyaki Rice Bowl– Substitute tofu for the protein here for a truly Asian-inspired dish.

Sausage and Vegetable Skillet– Try substituting beans for sausage here, just skip the second step and add beans in with the vegetables.

Black Bean Burgers – Kids love to help form the patties!
Now more than ever it is important to rely on each other and be adaptable. When you are planning your week, stick to recipes that you feel comfortable using different vegetables and protein sources for. AnswerLine is always available if you have any questions regarding substitutions 1-800-262-3804 (9 am-12 pm and 1-4 pm CST). We are all in this together.

Written by Kathryn Standing, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

What’s Cooking at Christine’s House

On Monday, I shared my approach to planning meals. The strategy I use allows me to make good use of what I have and minimize trips out for groceries. I maintain a list of what I have on hand and I arrange it by food group so that I can make improvised meals and recipes by pulling from each part of the list. I also create some detail within the lists like separating out fresh vegetables from frozen or canned ones. This allows me to spot which items I should eat first to prevent waste.

Here are some examples of improvised meals I can create from my current list. 

  • I have spinach, various veggies and canned beans to make chopped salads for lunch.
  • I can make a Mediterranean-inspired chicken and rice bowl with grilled chicken, spinach, brown rice and feta cheese. 
  • I have tuna, celery, onions and whole wheat bread. Sounds like tuna salad to me!
  • I have fresh veggies, frozen peas and whole wheat pasta to make a tasty pasta primavera. 

My list also helps me think about what recipes I can prepare. I can see that I have all of the ingredients for Scrambled Egg Muffins. I like having these in my refrigerator right now so I can have a healthy breakfast instead of just snacking through the morning. I also have everything for Quick Pad Thai. This tasty meal comes together quickly and uses mostly staple ingredients. Cook Quick Pad Thai along with me!

Happy Cooking!
Christine

Quick Pad Thai

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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What is Justine Cooking?

On Monday, I shared how my family is working together on the planning and cooking of meals during this strange time. Today I would like to share with you some of the meals we are relying on right now. 

The most important factor for us in planning meals is making sure there will be leftovers. Since we are now feeding five people for lunch in addition to breakfast and supper, we are taking advantage of those leftovers.

Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes I am using:

  • Broiled Salmon – Leftover fish is versatile, it can be used in sandwiches, wraps, or a stir fry. 
  • Easy Roasted Veggies – I have been doubling roasted veggies because they taste so good when reheated and they are an easy vegetable to add to any meal.
  • Banana Oatmeal Bread – I have been making banana bread weekly. We can make it for supper with scrambled eggs one night and have the leftover bread for breakfast and snacks the next day.
  • Skillet Lasagna – We can eat from a pan of skillet lasagna for three meals, especially if we add a side salad and garlic bread. 
  • Vegetable Quesadillas – I usually make 6 to 8 of these at a time, they come together quickly and they reheat well.

I would love to hear what you are cooking right now!

Skillet Lasagna
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cooperative Meal Planning

Meal planning and cooking have become a team effort at our house while we are social distancing. My husband and I are balancing work and teaching our three children from home. This usually means that one of us is working while the other is caring for the children. This also means that one of us is usually working right up until mealtime so the other person is responsible for meal prep. With this alternating schedule, we have had to work together to make sure our meals are planned. We have had fun creating meals by balancing his strength of getting meals on the table quickly and my strength of cooking from scratch.

I have been shopping for enough groceries to last us a little over two weeks at a time, so we have started sitting down together every few days to evaluate our meal plan. We double-check the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see what we still have on hand. Then we write down, on a sticky note, what meals will work well for the next few days. The person who is making the meal gets to pick from the list what they want to make.  

When it is my turn to cook, I have started taking votes from the children about which meal they want me to make. Usually someone is disappointed, but they know we can make their choice for the next meal. My children have also become more focused helpers in the kitchen. They do not have the typical distractions (friends, grandparents) that cause them to run off in the middle of helping. I enjoy having an extra set (or two) of hands in the kitchen with me.

While I look forward to the future when I can make weekly grocery trips and meal plans again, I hope my family can continue this cooperative style of planning and cooking that we have started.

Couple cooking
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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