All about Peppers

Peppers are one of my favorite veggies. During the winter, I buy them at the grocery store most weeks. During the summer, I love to grow them myself. They are rich in vitamin C, low in calories and add lots of flavor to whatever I am cooking.

You can grow peppers in pots or in the ground. If you choose to use a pot, you’ll want it to be at least two gallons in size for a single pepper plant and you may want to use a dowel or stake to support your plant as it grows.

Keep in mind that most peppers start green and some varieties ripen to be yellow, orange, red or purple. The Iowa State University gardening experts have a publication that will help you pick the pepper type that is best for you. Peppers that are not green tend to be much more expensive. You can save a lot of money by growing peppers yourself, but be prepared that peppers that are not green will need more time on the plant to change colors, which means you may lose more to rot, pests or weather damage.

I hope you will give a pepper plant a try this summer. If you would like some tips on cutting up whole peppers, we have a video to get you started.

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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How to Drain Ground Beef

Growing up on a farm where we raised cattle, ground beef was often part of our meals. Today, I use ground beef about once a week in my family’s meals. Since meat is a more expensive item on my grocery list, I look for ways to help keep the cost down. One way to do this is to buy ground beef that has a higher fat content since it is cheaper. For example, currently at my grocery store 1 pound of 85% lean ground beef is $3.99 while 1 pound of 93% lean ground beef is $5.49. If I’m going to be browning the meat to use in a dish like tacos or spaghetti, I can drain the fat from the meat after I have browned it. That why I’m saving money but still keeping the fat down in my meals.

Watch our new video on How to Drain Ground Beef so you can save money and reduce the fat the next time you use ground beef.

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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Recipes for Little Hands

There is no way around the fact that cooking with children can be a little messy. Crumbs and spills aside, cooking with children is a great way to spend quality time and teach important skills like measuring, counting, fractions and following directions. Not to mention the fact that children will be more likely to taste something they helped to make. Below is a recipe roundup of dishes that are fun to make and eat with kids.

  • Crunchy Apple Roll-up: This recipe is quick and easy to make for a simple snack or super-quick breakfast. Young children will learn how to measure ingredients, practice spreading peanut butter and older children can practice cutting the apple.
  • Scrambled Egg Muffins: These delicious little egg muffins help you start the day off right. Children can practice cracking eggs and whisking them with a fork, measuring ingredients and dividing them between the muffin cups.
  • Fruit Pizza: Fruit Pizza is perfect for a party or a special treat at home. The cookie crust will make your home smell delicious. Children can practice measuring and fractions with this recipe. Younger children can mix up the creamy sauce while older children can wash and cut fruit for the topping. We recorded a video showing this recipe being prepared with some little ones; we think you’ll enjoy it!
  • Pizza on a Potato: We all love to customize what we eat to suit our tastes. Pizza on a potato allows you and your children to be creative in the kitchen. You can choose your favorite pizza toppings and add them to a baked potato for a complete meal. They can help you plan the meal and make a shopping list and when the time comes to cook, they can chop, measure and add their favorite toppings.

I hope you and your little ones enjoy the recipes above and that you have fun making them together!

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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Simple Apple Dessert

simple-apple-dessert-web“What’s for dessert?”  That is a question I hear a lot at my home.  Thankfully, my children are usually satisfied with a dish of fruit for their dessert. But, sometimes they want something special – something a little sweeter to top off their meal.  Our October recipe of the month, Simple Apple Dessert, makes that fruit special.

Simple Apple Dessert combines two of my children’s favorite foods, fruit and yogurt, into a tasty and quick dessert.  Simply microwave chopped apples with caramel syrup.  Top the cooked apples with yogurt and toasted nuts and you have a sweet way to top off your meal.

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/simple-apple-dessert

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Confetti Rice and Bean Salad

Confetti Rice and Bean SaladHappy Labor Day from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team!  Our September recipe of the month is perfect for a Labor Day picnic – Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.

A delicious homemade lime salad dressing tops fresh tomatoes, carrots, and onions along with frozen corn and (as the name says) brown rice and beans.   This recipe makes a great side dish on its own or as a dip served with tortilla chips.  It can also be served as a main dish – wrapped in a tortilla or lettuce leaf.  No matter how you serve it, have fun with this recipe by using different types of beans and vegetables.

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/confetti-rice-and-bean-salad

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Produce Basics

Produce Basics - PeppersHave you ever wondered how to peel a kiwi or how to prepare a fresh beet? Are you not sure how to store or prepare fresh produce from the farmers market or grocery store? We’re with you! It can be tricky to manage fresh fruits and vegetables that you’re not used to eating at home.

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team has put together a collection of Produce Basics handouts that describe how to wash, store and prepare common fruits and vegetables.

Whether you’re looking to clean your kale and collard greens or bake some sweet potato fries, Produce Basics can be your guide. Check out the collection today!

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 on Earth is a Legume?

200253767-001The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. You might wonder, ‘where in the grocery store would I find the legumes?’

These are actually common foods that you are probably already familiar with. Legumes include beans like kidney beans, lima beans, or pinto beans. They also include peas, lentils and chickpeas.

It is a good idea to eat both animal and plant based proteins. Legumes are nutritious, low cost plant-based protein food. They are typically high in protein and fiber and they’re simple to cook. If your family isn’t sure about trying legumes, you can mix them with meat in dishes they like. This is a good way to stretch your dollar while introducing new foods gradually. Check out the slow cooker pork chili below, it’s a winner!

Here are some of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that call for legumes:

Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Slow Cooker Pork Chili

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Enjoy!

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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One Fish Two Fish

Pan Fried FishFish is a nutrient-rich, high-quality protein that provides many health benefits. Most fish can be classified into two major categories, oily or “fatty” fish and non-fatty fish. In this case, “fatty” should not worry you. Fatty fish are very healthy to eat.

Fatty fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for growth, development, and brain function. Omega-3’s also may help prevent chronic disease. Some examples of fatty fish include tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel.

Non-fatty fish are typically white-fleshed fish. White fish still contain some healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of white fish include tilapia, cod, and haddock.

For those of us living in the center of the United States, access to fresh fish is pretty limited and when it is available, it is very expensive. Taking advantage of frozen fish options can make eating seafood more affordable, and in many cases, frozen fish can be just as delicious as the catch of the day. Here are some of our favorite fish recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek

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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The Salty Six

We have blogged on the Salty Six before, but since so many of our readers are interested in reducing their blood pressure, we decided it was worth another post!

Many people think that reducing sodium means putting down the salt shaker. There is some truth to this. However, most of the sodium we eat doesn’t come from salt we add at home, but rather from sodium added to packaged foods and restaurant dishes.

The American Heart Association created the Salty Six list to educate Americans about the foods that tend to hide an unexpected amount of sodium. These foods aren’t always particularly ‘salty’ in taste, but they pack a sodium punch!

the salty six

If some of your favorite foods are on this list, there are a few things you can do:

  • Check Nutrition Facts labels, you may find that some brands don’t add as much sodium as others.
  • Look for reduced sodium or no salt added varieties.
  • Enjoy the foods you love, just eat them less often.

Remember the Salty Six next time you make your grocery list and check those Nutrition Facts labels while you’re shopping!

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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Meal Planning: Less Stress, More Money

Last year I wrote a blog on menu planning and mentioned that my son’s famous first words after we got home at night were, “I’m hungry.” Now that my daughter is two, I have two kiddos telling me this! Therefore, I find meal planning even more important so I can get a healthy meal on the table fast.  Since I find it so helpful, I’d like to share tips for successful meal planning again.

  • Determine what meals you will plan. Since the meal my family eats together is supper that is the meal I spend time to plan. However, you can plan for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks. I go to the grocery store once a week so I plan my meals a week at a time. You might choose to plan them for more or fewer days.
  • Write the plan on a calendar. I write my meal plan on a calendar that hangs in my kitchen. This calendar includes other family activities so I know if we will be gone for a meal at night or have a really rushed evening. My husband knows to look at the calendar to see what we are having. If you use an online calendar for planning activities, you could also write your meals there.
  • Check what you have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards for foods that need to be used up in the next few days. Think of ways to include these items in your meals. I always plan a night to have leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
  • Review the grocery ads for specials you can use. Save money by purchasing items on sale that you can pair with the foods you have on hand to help complete your meals.
  • Keep a list of the recipes your family likes best. Having a list helps make meal planning go really quickly because you can easily spot the recipes that use things you have on hand or are on sale. Some recipes my family likes are Lentil Tacos and Chicken Alfredo Pasta.

To help you get started, check out our Meal Planning Calendar. This week-long menu features recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

How to Plan Meals CALENDAR

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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