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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Cooking with Venison

ThinkstockPhotos-499155002It is hunting season, so venison is a source of protein that is both inexpensive and easy to find.  Unfortunately, many people do not know how to cook with venison, so it goes to waste.   Venison is similar in structure and taste to beef and pork, so it can be substituted for beef or pork in most recipes.  If you have it, try one of our Spend Smart.Eat Smart. recipes (Skillet Lasagna or Meatloaf) with ground venison instead of ground beef.

Here are some interesting facts on venison (source:  The New Food Lover’s Companion):

  • People often think of deer when it comes to venison, but venison actually refers to meat from deer, elk, moose, reindeer, caribou, and antelope.
  • The quality of venison depends on many factors including the age of the animal (younger animals are more tender), what the animal eats, the time of year (fall is best), and the skill with which the animal was field dressed and transported.
  • Cuts of venison are similar to cuts of pork and beef when it comes to tenderness and cooking methods.  However, venison is somewhat less tender than beef or pork because the animal gets more exercise and, thus, has less fat and more muscle.  For more information on cooking methods, check out this poster from Penn State University Extension on the cuts and cooking methods for venison.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Gifts for the Cook

kitchen scissors

Last week I wrote about food gifts I’m planning to give to family and friends. This got me to thinking about what gift ideas for me I could share with my family. As someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen cooking, I looked around my kitchen to see what I needed. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  1. Kitchen shears- I used to have a pair but they seemed to have disappeared. Kitchen shears can be used for many things like cutting up fresh herbs, cutting pizza into slices or quesadillas into wedges, or cutting poultry joints.
  2. Plastic cutting boards- I have put my cutting boards to good use. They have a lot of nicks in them where bacteria could hide even with thorough cleaning so it’s time to get new ones. I will ask for 2-3 so I can keep one for cutting raw meats or poultry and the other for cutting fruits and vegetables or ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
  3. Food Clips- I like to use food clips to clamp shut open bags of fresh spinach, frozen fruits or vegetables, or crackers. By keeping them shut tight, less air gets into the bag and keeps the food fresher and better tasting.
  4. Skillet with a lid- I use my skillet a lot when cooking for my family and it is starting to show. I like a skillet with a lid since a number of the recipes I make, like Lentil Tacos, include covering the food while it cooks.

In addition to giving a kitchen tool as a gift, consider sharing the link to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website or blog with the cooks in your life so they have a whole new set of recipes to try!

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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Keep your Thanksgiving Dinner out of the Garbage

ThinkstockPhotos-99120786Thanksgiving will soon be upon us! This holiday causes me to reflect and be thankful for what I have. It also gets me thinking about what I take for granted on a daily basis that others would be grateful to have. One example of this is food. I have enough food, and sometimes too much, which can cause me to waste it at times.

The average daily food waste in the United States in 2010 was 1.18 pounds of food per person. This leaves us plenty of room for improvement! I am going to approach Thanksgiving being mindful of how much food my family is preparing. I also plan to use this holiday as an opportunity to reduce the amount of food we are wasting by following the tips below.

My four tips to reduce food waste at Thanksgiving:

1. Consider purchasing a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey. The turkey breast can be cooked in a shorter amount of time, is easier to cut and prepare, and results in fewer leftovers.

2. Keep your sides simple – less is more. Focus on two or three great side dishes rather than the “full spread”. This will save you time and  stress. Three of my favorite side dishes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.:

•  Zesty Whole Grain Salad: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/zesty-whole-grain-salad
  Easy Roasted Veggies: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/easy-roasted-veggies
•  No Knead Whole Wheat Bread: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/no-knead-whole-wheat-bread

3. Pack up leftovers to eat later. For safety, leftovers should be chilled to below 40 degrees within two hours of when they finish cooking. If your family will eat the leftovers within four days, store them in the refrigerator. If you will not, freeze them. Click here for ideas for using that leftover turkey, pumpkin and chopped veggies.

4. Donate to those in need: Find your local food bank, and donate excess or unused food to those in need. Or even better yet, consider donating a few dollars to your local food bank or pantry.

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and enjoy doing more with less!

Rachel
Rachel Wall is a registered dietitian and Iowa native who enjoys family, friends, food, and the Cyclones!

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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Healthy and Homemade Meals Calendar – Final Quantity Available Now

2016 Chalkboard CoverHow would you like to start each month of 2016 with a tasty new recipe to try?

Whether you’re just learning your way around the kitchen or you’re an experienced cook looking for some fresh recipes, the Healthy and Homemade Meals Calendar is for you!

Each month features an easy, healthy, low-cost recipe as part of a full meal modeled after MyPlate. Here is a taste of some of our featured recipes:

  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Pineapple Snack Cakes
  • Lentil Tacos
  • Simple Apple Dessert
  • Baked Oatmeal Muffins

The recipes and fitness tips in the calendar make it a helpful tool for those hoping to establish healthy habits in the new year and it makes a great holiday gift.

You can purchase the calendar in English or Spanish for just $3.00 from the Extension Online Store. Supplies are limited, so order yours today!

Here’s to a healthy year in 2016!

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 Are ‘Ancient Grains’?

quinoa seed grainsThere is no official definition of ‘ancient grains’. However, the Whole Grains Council defines ancient grains loosely as grains that are largely unchanged over the last several hundred years. Therefore, modern wheat, which has been bred and changed over time, is not an ancient grain. Grains like quinoa, amaranth, Kamut®, spelt, farro, millet, and teff would be considered ancient grains.

Here is some information about 3 of the more common ancient grains:

Quinoa: A versatile grain that cooks quickly and is good in soups, salads, and baked goods. Quinoa is a small round grain that is similar in appearance to sesame seeds. It is also high in protein.

Kamut®: It is a large, oversized grain that is two to three times bigger than wheat. It has a rich, buttery flavor and is easily digested.

Farro: This grain is popular in Italy. It is a dark, earthy grain that is often used in salads and risottos.

Ancient grains are certainly healthier than refined grain products like white bread or refined crackers. However, healthy whole grains do not need to be exotic. Common foods like brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole wheat bread offer many health benefits and often at lower prices. To get the different nutrients each grain has to offer and balance cost, eat a variety of grain foods.

Try an ‘ancient grain’ like quinoa or Kamut® in our Zesty Whole Grain Salad.

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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