Berry Crisp

Fruit crisp is one of my husband’s favorite foods. He often requests it for his birthday or other special meals. I do not mind because it is a dessert that gives my family some fruit and some whole grains (oats). Plus, it is an easy dessert to make. The only problem is that it can be expensive. Below I have some tips for making a fruit crisp fit into your budget.

  1. Make your fruit crisp with in season fruit – it will taste the best and be the least expensive. In the spring and early summer, fresh berries and cherries are in season. Later in the summer, peaches will be in season. In the fall, apples will be in season. For a useful guide to seasonal produce visit this website.
  2. Make your fruit crisp with canned fruit – it is affordable all year around. Drain the juice from the canned fruit and prepare your fruit crisp according to the instructions for this recipe.
  3. Make your fruit crisp with frozen fruit. When the fresh fruit you want is out of season, the frozen version may be less expensive. You just need to compare the prices before choosing which to buy. Our Berry Crisp recipe provides instructions for using frozen fruit instead of fresh.
  4. Make your fruit crisp with leftover fruit – any fruit can combine into a crisp. If you have some extra fruit that needs to be used up, you can add it to your recipe. This could include a handful of berries, an apple with a bruise, or some uneaten canned fruit.

To make your own Berry Crisp, find the full recipe here


Justine Hoover

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

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Jody’s Top Picks

Last week Justine started our series on our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes. Today I’m excited to share a few of my family’s favorites. I have to admit, it took me a bit to decide which ones I wanted to share. I have a number of them saved under My Recipes on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. To save a recipe, just find it in the app and click the heart icon near the top. It will be saved in your My Recipes list for easy access. Here are just a few of my top picks.

Main dish: Tamale Pie– This one wasn’t hard for me to choose as my favorite. I tell everyone about this recipe and make it often. It is easy to make and has great flavor. The leftovers (if there are any) are good too! 

Salad: Chicken Salad-I often make this using canned chicken so it comes together quickly. It’s good for a quick lunch or supper.

Soups: Mexican Chicken Soup– My family eats a lot of soup and this one is a favorite. The ingredients are ones that I can keep on hand, so I can make it if I need a last minute meal. 

Desserts: Peanut Butter Balls-My 6-year-old daughter LOVES these. She asks to make them weekly. I like to make a larger batch and freeze them. We eat them for dessert and as snacks. 

Snacks: Berry and Greens Smoothies-I make a batch of these to freeze and we eat them for breakfast. I like to take one to work with me and have for a mid-morning snack. 

If you haven’t already downloaded the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app, do it today and start creating your list of favorites!

Peanut butter balls

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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Company is Coming!

“Company is coming, what are we going to eat?”  There are many online recipe sources, but I always come back to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.  Here is a menu with a few of my favorite recipes for entertaining.

Breakfast or Brunch

I substitute sweet potato for all or part of the white potato and make them with whole wheat flour tortillas. I make a double or triple batch, wrap them individually in foil or parchment paper, and stack in the slow cooker to keep warm.

The strawberries, kiwi and banana look festive for the holidays. They are best when partially thawed which takes at least 30 minutes.  

I add ½-cup mini chocolate chips as an optional ingredient.  



For holiday entertaining I make the Fruit Salsa with frozen strawberries, Granny Smith apple, and substitute 1 cup drained, crushed canned pineapple for the peach. It is beautiful in a clear glass bowl surrounded by the cinnamon chips.

Heat the bean dip in the microwave or put it in a small snack size slow cooker. Serve with raw vegetables or homemade Baked Tortilla Chips.


Dinner and Sides

A family favorite! I roast the vegetables on a separate baking sheet and increase the quantity and variety.

This is a simple and delicious side dish that goes with just about anything.

I use apples, fresh or frozen strawberries, bananas, drained canned pineapple chunks, and whatever other fresh, frozen or drained canned fruit I have on hand.  I suggest using a red gelatin in the sauce and serving it in a clear glass bowl. It will look beautiful on the holiday table.  



This pie is easier to make and has less fat, sugar and calories than regular pumpkin pie but tastes great.


I hope you will try some of the recipes that I use when ‘company is coming’ and explore the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site for your own favorites.  

Written by Renee Sweers, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

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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Let ‘em eat cake!!

Today’s post is from guest blogger, Holly Van Heel, a Human Sciences Specialist in Nutrition and Wellness at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Tpumpkin apple cakehere is nothing better than a homemade cake with frosting and sometimes you get hungry for one. But I’m never enthused about gathering all the ingredients out of the cupboard, measuring, and dirtying a bunch of dishes.

Someone in my office suggested I try the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Pumpkin Apple Cake recipe they use. I liked it right away as it uses a cake mix and just 4 other ingredients. Only two of the ingredients need to be measured!  I quickly mixed it up (cake mix, 3 eggs, 1 can pumpkin, apple juice and a little cinnamon), baked it in a bundt pan, took it to work, and shared it with my colleagues. They were surprised to learn the deliciously moist cake they were raving about had no oil or other fat added and was providing 60% of their vitamin A needs. As a bonus, when this cake bakes and cools, it makes its own light, sweet glaze.

It just supports my theory; there is nothing better than a homemade cake with frosting (or light glaze) to satisfy one’s dessert craving.

Justine Hoover

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

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How to Make Fruit Crisp

Raise your hand if you like the ‘crisp’ part of apple crisp. If you could see me, I’m raising my hand! Honestly, I really just like apple crisp all around.

You can also make Fruit Crisp with canned fruit, like canned peaches. Fruit Crisp is an easy dessert to make, is easy on the budget, and it tastes delicious. So it is a good idea for a family reunion or barbeque with friends this summer.

Our Fruit Crisp recipe makes enough for eight people but you could easily double the ingredients to make a larger amount if needed. Watch our How to Make Fruit Crisp video to see just how easy it is to make!

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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Pineapple Snack Cakes

pineapple snack-webAt the grocery store where I shop, they often have canned pineapple on special. It is usually a great deal on a great tasting and nutritious fruit. My family loves canned pineapple as a side dish for any meal, so I buy it often. My husband and son even like to drain the juice off and save it to drink later. Our April recipe is a new way to use canned pineapple – as a snack cake.

A 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple is drained and patted dry then mixed with typical muffin ingredients and baked to make Pineapple Snack Cakes. These snack cakes are versatile and can be used as a snack, side dish, or dessert. Next time you find a deal on crushed pineapple, try out this Pineapple Snack Cake recipe!

Pineapple Snack Cakes

Serving Size: 1 muffinpineapple snack label-web
Serves: 12
Cost Per Serving: $0.14
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in 100% juice
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Drain juice from the pineapple into a cup or bowl. Save the juice for step 4. Dab pineapple with a paper towel to dry.
  3. Whisk whole wheat flour, all purpose white flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat sugar, oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the saved pineapple juice until combined. Beat in eggs. Stir in the crushed pineapple.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Divide the batter into the muffin tins.
  6. Bake until the snack cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a snack cake comes out clean, about 18–20 minutes.
  7. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Pineapple Snack Cakes are great as a side dish to any meal or as a snack.
  • Use pineapple tidbits or chunks instead of crushed pineapple. Drain well and finely chop.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut or walnuts on top of each snack cake before baking.
  • Save extra pineapple juice to add to a salad dressing, fruit salad, or smoothie.

Justine Hoover

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

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Mini Berry Pie

mini-berry-pieOne of my family’s favorite foods is berries. I can set a bowl filled with berries on the table and in the next instant they are gone. This time of year, we do not have access to the fresh berries they love, so I often buy frozen berries at the grocery store.

My children will just eat frozen berries right out of the bag, but my husband would rather have them as part of a recipe. So, I usually make a compromise – if my children help me make a recipe with the frozen berries, we will set some of the frozen berries off to the side for them to eat as a treat after they are done helping. Our recipe of the month for November is Mini Berry Pie and this is the perfect recipe for my children to help with and get their treat at the end.

Here are some ways that children can help with Mini Berry Pies:

  • Spray tortillas with cooking spray,
  • Stir cinnamon sugar mixture and sprinkle it on the tortillas,
  • Fit the tortillas into the muffin tins,
  • Add berries, sugar, and cornstarch to the saucepan (mom does the cooking),
  • Older children can pour the berry filling into the tortilla bowls.

I enjoy having my children help out in the kitchen because it teaches them about the food they are eating, makes them more likely to taste the food, and teaches them basic cooking and safety skills.  For more about including children in the kitchen, check out this video and this handout.

Mini Berry Pie

Serving Size: 1 shell with 1/4 cup fillingmini-berry-pie-label
Serves: 5
Cost Per Serving: $0.83
Pie Crust
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 5 whole wheat tortillas (6″)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pie Filling
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) frozen mixed berries (2 ½ cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Lay tortillas flat. Spray one side of each tortilla with cooking spray.
  4. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture on the tortillas.
  5. Place the tortillas in the muffin tin. Fit them into the muffin bowls. The cinnamon and sugar will be on the inside of the bowls. Bake the tortillas for 13 to 15 minutes. They will be light brown and crisp.
  6. Put berries in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  7. Stir sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add mixture to thawed berries.
  8. Cook over medium heat. Mixture will start to get thick and bubble. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
  9. Put 1/4 cup berry filling into each tortilla bowl.
  • Mini pies have a great fresh taste in the middle of winter.
  • Make tortilla bowls ahead of time. Store in an airtight container. Do not add filling until serving.
  • Add a spoonful of yogurt to the top of the filling.

Justine Hoover

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

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Hurry-Up Baked Apples

I like baked apples, but when it’s just for me, I don’t want to heat the oven up. Our featured recipe this month, Hurry Up Baked Apples, uses the microwave to do the baking. These are great as a dessert, snack, or for breakfast.

Stacie noticed this recipe on our website and commented, “I stumbled across your website when looking for healthy, easy to freeze recipes for my family and now I’m hooked on this site! I made this recipe for my 1year-old twins and they loved it! I only did two apples. They got one half and I ate the other. The second apple I saved for their snack at daycare. So easy, so good, and smells great!”

Hurry Up Baked Apples

Serves: 4 Serving Size: 1 apple half


  • 2 medium-size tart apples (Granny Smith, Braeburn, Cortland, Jonathan, Fuji)
  • 1 teaspoon white or brown packed sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons (total) raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or other nuts
  • 1 (6-ounce) container low-fat vanilla yogurt


  1. Cut apples in half lengthwise. Use spoon to remove cores and hollow out a space 1 inch or more deep. Arrange apple halves, cut sides up, in microwavable dish. Cut thin slices off bottoms to keep from tipping.
  2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, oatmeal, raisins, and nuts. Fill each apple half.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap. Fold back one edge ¼ inch to vent steam.
  4. Microwave 3 to 3 ½ minutes, or until apples can be cut easily. Take from microwave. Let sit a few minutes.

Spoon yogurt over the top.

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