Muffin Tin Mania

Today I get to wrap up our series on our favorite kitchen tools and share with you all the ways I use a muffin tin. I love to bake and the thing I love to bake the most is muffins. They are easy to make, they make a great breakfast or snack, and it’s fun to try to different flavors.

A favorite flavor in my house is banana. And muffins are a great way to use up ripe bananas. Our Banana Oatmeal Bread recipe can be made into muffins. They are delicious! I also like to make our Lemon Chia Seed Muffins.

These days I’ve been enjoying eating oatmeal for breakfast. Instead of making oatmeal each morning, I make our Baked Oatmeal Muffins. I make a batch of these and freeze them and then reheat in the microwave when I want one.

And while we are on the topic of breakfast, another type of muffin I like to make is Scrambled Egg Muffins. No need to heat up your skillet to make scrambled eggs. Just pull out a muffin tin and make a batch of these to enjoy.

My muffin tin isn’t limited to just breakfast foods! I also like to make meatloaf muffins for supper. After mixing up my meatloaf mixture, I divide it among the muffin cups and bake. It’s a fun way to eat meatloaf and it reduces baking time!

My daughter also likes to bake and she prefers making dessert.  She likes to make our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes. Or if you’d rather have fruit for dessert, try our Frozen Fruit Cups.

It’s muffin mania!

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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Favorite Kitchen Tool: A Student’s Perspective

This month we have each taken a turn writing about our favorite kitchen tool. My favorite is my frying pan, I use it most days of the week to make eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, stir fry, beans and rice, or quesadillas. However, I thought it would be fun to ask our student staff member, Maggie, about her favorite kitchen tool because a favorite kitchen tool might change depending on our life stage. I know when I was a student my favorite kitchen tool was my toaster. Here is what Maggie shared:

As a college student, I’m always looking for easy and quick ways to make food that fits my busy schedule. Anything that can make my life a little bit easier when it comes to snacks and meals is a definite plus for me! My favorite kitchen gadget that fulfills these wishes is my rapid egg cooker. This is a small appliance that can cook up to 6 eggs in only 15 minutes— and the best part is, you barely have to do anything. You simply place your eggs on the tray, add some water, cover it and click start. You can make hard boiled, soft boiled, or poached eggs all with the touch of a button, and they come out perfect every time.

My favorite way to use mine is to make hard boiled eggs and put them in the fridge to have throughout the week as snacks, sides, or salad toppings. Boiled eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients that I can conveniently eat between classes or as a quick addition to my meals. I purchased mine for under $10, and it gives me multiple days-worth of snacks/sides in a short amount of time. Plus, it’s a foolproof device that spares me the hassle of traditional hot water boiling methods. 

Let us know your favorite kitchen tool and if that has changed depending on your stage of life.

Written by Maggie, student staff member.

Justine Hoover

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

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My Beloved Blender

When I think about the one item in my kitchen that gets the most use it would be my blender.  I have a small kitchen and storing several larger appliances would not work well in my space. Luckily, I have found a variety of ways to use my blender which has cut down on the number of kitchen tools in my cabinets.

You do not need to spend a lot of money on a blender to reap the benefits of owning one. If you care for your blender properly, it should last quite a while! My blender has survived several moves and nearly daily use over the past 5 years. For the longest time I avoided using my blender because I didn’t like the thought of having to clean it. Once I discovered that you could clean the container using the actual blender base, I was sold and now I use my blender on the regular!

Below are a few ways that I like to use the blender at my house. The opportunities are endless!

  1. Smoothies – My daughter LOVES smoothies. Smoothies are an easy way to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables. A few of our favorite smoothie recipes include Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie and the Berry and Greens Smoothie.
  2. Soups/purees– When my toddler was a baby, I used my blender to puree fruits and vegetables to make my own baby food. It was a cost-effective way to introduce her to new foods. I also like making soups in my blender like our Autumn Soup recipe and the Cheesy Broccoli Soup. To create a smoother consistency, simply place prepared soup in the blender for several seconds.
  3. Ice cream/popsicles– My daughter enjoys making Banana Ice Cream with me as a quick treat after dinner, or even sometimes for our breakfast! Popsicles are another easy snack or dessert. Find some great recipes here!
  4. Sauces/dips– I love how easy it is to make sauces and dips with my blender in seconds. Hummus, spinach dip and pesto are some of our family’s favorites.
  5. Batters– Another way that I use my blender is to create smooth batters for pancakes, waffles, and muffins.

*Helpful tip: An easy way to clean your blender after each use is to fill the container halfway with lukewarm water and add a few drops of dish soap. Place the container, with the lid securely on, back onto the blender base and gradually increase the speed on your blender for roughly 30 seconds. Once the soapy water has coated the inside of the container, I simply rinse and let air dry. Anything that I can clean quickly is a plus in my kitchen!

Cheers to trying a new recipe with your blender!

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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Favorite Tools Series – Sheet Pans!

Today begins a fun series with all of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. bloggers. We are going to share our favorite kitchen tools and how we like to use them. It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need a lot of tools and gadgets to cook well and enjoy your time in the kitchen. That is really not true. A few good tools that do a lot of different jobs go a long way.

Personally, I have a small kitchen and a lot of clutter only makes it seem smaller. So, I try to keep things pretty simple. When I think about the kitchen tools I go to most often, a baking sheet is at the top of the list. A baking sheet, also known as a cookie sheet, can be used for so many things. Here are some of my favorite ways to use mine.

  • I roast vegetables every few days. When I do, I fill up my whole baking sheet so that I have leftovers for later in the week.
  • I roast pieces of chicken, pork tenderloin or filets of salmon in the oven. They just go on the baking sheet and into the oven and I can carry on with other things while they cook away.
  • I reheat leftover pizza or hot sandwiches in the oven on a baking sheet. I find that keeps their quality more similar to when they were first made than reheating in the microwave.
  • I use my baking sheet as insurance under casseroles like lasagna that might bubble over while they’re in the oven. The pan sits under the casserole dish and catches any spills. It is much easier to clean the baking sheet than to clean the oven! If you are working with something that may be very saucy or sticky, you can line your pan with foil to make clean-up easier.

I hope you enjoy reading about all of our favorite tools throughout this month. Share your faves with us on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. social media!

Happy Cooking!

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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Kitchen Gifts silly and wasteful or basic and everlasting

I am amazed at the number of dumb (silly) small appliances that are on the market today: cotton candy maker, chocolate fountain, cake pop/donut hole baker, mini pie baker, snow cone maker. And that’s just for the sweets. You also can have a hot dog roller, pretzel maker, corn dog maker, pigs in the blanket maker, and more. Most of them cost around $20 except for the soda maker and a jam and jelly maker that cost around $100! Why do I think they are dumb (silly)? An appliance that cooks just one food is a silly use of money and a waste of space in the kitchen.  It will end up in the landfill in a year or two.

If you are thinking about giving kitchenware this holiday or helping someone set up a home, consider buying the best basic cooking tools you can afford; they will last a lifetime.

More Expensive

Knives –The three I use the most are a paring knife for peeling and trimming, a chef knife for chopping, and a knife with a serrated edge for cutting bread and tomatoes.

Pans –The three pans I use all the time are a medium (3 quart) sauce pan with a lid for cooking sauces, vegetables, rice, etc; a large skillet with a lid (12 inches or more) for stir frying, browning, sandwiches; and a stock pot (10 quarts) for pasta and soups.

Less Expensive

Measuring Cups and Spoons – Correct measuring tools are especially important for baking, but I use them when cooking also. Look for sets to measure dry ingredients that include four measuring cups: ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup and 1 cup measures. Add measuring spoon sets including ¼, teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Complete this gift with a clear cup that has measuring marks on the side and a spout to pour liquids.

Cutting boards – I like the plastic boards because they are inexpensive, flexible, easy to store, and dishwasher safe. I use several boards at once so I don’t mix vegetables and raw meat on the same board. Some people designate one board for meat and poultry, another for vegetables and fruits, and another for breads.
Peeler – I use this all the time for potatoes, carrots, apples, kiwi, and mangos because I don’t trim off as much of the food as when I use a knife.
Wooden spoons – These are great for stirring without scratching your pans, and they don’t conduct heat so you can leave them in the pot if you like.
Rubber spatulas – I have two sizes. The large one I use to stir and fold batter and to scrape the inside of bowls. The small on I use to scrape small cans like tomato paste or peanut butter.
Whisks – These are great for making sauces and beating eggs or thin batters. Even though a cook can get by with a fork, but the whisk works better and is easier to grasp.
Colander/strainer – This is a handy tool for draining pasta, vegetables, berries and more.
Instant read thermometer – Very important for knowing when meat and poultry are done and for reheating food.
Mixing bowls – A basic set is one large and one small.
Can opener – Give a basic turn-the-crank model that can be cleaned when dirty and stored in a drawer.
If you are gifting someone who loves to bake, you might consider:
• 9 x 13 pan  (used for cakes, bars, casseroles)
• Baking sheet (used for cookies and rolls)
• Loaf pan, pie pan, or muffin pan
• Cooling rack
Not necessary, but nice:  garlic press, weight scale, grater

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