Tasty Summer Treat

With temperatures outside steadily rising, my family and I love to finish the day with a cold summer treat. As a parent, any dessert that I can make that incorporates fruit and doesn’t contain a lot of extra sugar is a win!

A favorite treat at our house is Magical Fruit Salad. I love how versatile this recipe is- you can use whatever fruit and pudding mix you have on hand to make some yummy combinations! I have made this recipe with a mix of berries, diced oranges, and peaches. If you don’t have any fresh fruit on hand you can also use canned or frozen. A personal favorite at our house is a spinoff of a banana split. I use banana or chocolate pudding mix with diced strawberries, banana chunks, and pitted cherries. Experimenting with different combinations of pudding and fruit has been a great way for our 21-month old to try new fruit.

Magical Fruit Salad is a fun alternative to ice cream and popsicles, especially when you are looking for a cold treat to beat the summer heat. This recipe is quick and can be ready to eat within minutes of mixing your ingredients. I like to divide the recipe batch into mini mason jars and place in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This is by far my family’s perfect summer treat!

Cheers to trying Magical Fruit Salad this week!

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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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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Berry and Greens Smoothie

When it is smoothie night at my house, my children get so excited.  Mostly because they love smoothies, but also because they love to help make smoothies.  If you are trying to get your children involved in the kitchen, our February recipe of the month – Berry and Greens Smoothie – is a great place to start.

My oldest children are 6 and 4, so I let them peel and cut up the bananas and measure and add everything into the blender.  My son enjoys turning the blender on and off, while my daughter hides in her bedroom when it is blender time (it is too loud for her).  An older child would be able to prepare this recipe on their own with a little help from an adult to gather the ingredients, double check amounts, and keep an eye on blender safety.

In addition to being a great way to involve children in the kitchen, this smoothie recipe has many benefits:

  • It includes three food groups (fruit, vegetables, and dairy) in one glass, so it is packed with nutrition.
  • It makes a perfect snack or it can go along with any meal.
  • It freezes easily, so you can have smoothies available in your freezer for a quick breakfast. Find out more here.
  • It tastes delicious and can be made any time of the year because the ingredients are always available in the grocery store.
  • It looks beautiful because of the rich, dark colors added by the berries.

Please try our Berry and Greens Smoothie today.


Justine Hoover

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

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My family loves kiwi fruit. One of my favorite stories of my oldest son involves kiwi fruit. One night, my husband had washed two kiwis and set them on a paper towel to air dry. He intended to put them in his lunch the next morning before he headed to work, but he forgot. At lunch that day, I peeled and cut up the kiwis and shared them with my son who was two years old at the time. I told him that these were daddy’s kiwis and, since he forgot them, we were going to eat them. He thought it was so funny that we were eating “daddy’s tiwis”. That night when my husband returned home, my son started laughing so hard that he could hardly speak. Finally, we heard him say, “we ate your tiwis daddy!”.

Each time I eat a kiwi, I think of my two year old son mispronouncing the word kiwi. For a long time, I wondered if I was eating kiwi the right way. I just did not know the best way to get at them. As it turns out, there really is no right or wrong way to eat a kiwi – you can eat the whole thing, you can cut it in half and scoop out the inside, or you can peel it. If you would like to use kiwi slices to decorate a fruit pizza or kiwi dices to put in a fruit salad (or feed a hungry two year old), peeling the kiwi is the way to go. We have a new video that shows the quickest and easiest way to peel a kiwi – the spoon method.

Justine Hoover

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

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An Apple a Day… In These Fun Ways

Asian Little Chinese Girl Dressed up as DoctorYou know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s not hard to enjoy a nice crisp, juicy apple this time of year when apples are in season and there are so many options to choose from. However, if you’d like to jazz up your apples a bit, here are some of our favorite apple recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Hurry Up Baked Apples

Fruit Crisp

Homemade Applesauce

Crunchy Apple Roll-Up

Check out the blog from last week to help you decide which apples to use for each recipe.


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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It’s Apple Season!

It is Apple Season! October is National Apple Month. These days, there are so many varieties of apples available that you may be wondering which variety to buy.  Which apple is best for a specific use, how to store apples for best quality, or how many apples are in a pound or bushel?

Apples are considered a great snack food as an average sized apple contains about 90 calories and is about 85% water. That makes them thirst quenching and a quick energy provider with their natural sugars, plus the bulky pulp makes the eater feel full.  They also make a great portable snack; take one along to work, school, or when you are running errands.

Apples may be displayed in a fruit bowl at room temperature for a short period of time but that will dramatically reduce their usable life. Apples will last the longest when kept close to 32 degrees. For most of us that would mean the refrigerator. Apples stored near 32 degrees in perforated plastic bags or covered containers will last 8-10 times longer than if stored at room temperature.

Here are some fun apple math facts:

3 medium sized apples equal approximately 1 pound
Pared and sliced, 1 pound apples yields 2 3/4 cups
A peck of apples weighs 10.5 pounds
A bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds
A bushel of apples will yield 15 – 20 quarts of applesauce

The best baking apples offer a balance of sweet and tart flavors as well as flesh that doesn’t break down in the oven. Granny Smith apples are generally thought of as the go-to baking apples but there are others that hold up well under heat and balance the sweet-tart flavor. The crisp texture of the Honey Crisp apple will hold firm when baked or caramelized. Pink Lady apples will retain a distinct shape when diced and added to coffee cake or muffins.  Jonathans are tart and tangy and have been pie favorites for many years.


Bred to be an eating apple, Red Delicious are not good for baking. They are mild-flavored, sweet, and juicy. Other apples good for eating fresh are Gala, Fuji, and Braeburn.  These apples also work well in salads.

Enjoy apple season this year and have fun experimenting with different variety combinations in your baking.

Written by: Liz Meimann, Beth Marrs, Marcia Steed, and Marlene Geiger- Answerline Staff

Is it safe for my family to eat GMO foods?

Choosing ripe bananasThere is a lot of buzz out there about GMO foods and some of it sounds really scary. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, so right there you are probably saying ‘no way do I want to eat that!’ The fact is that GMO is a process of changing the way a plant or animal expresses genes. Farmers have been putting in and taking out genes from living things for ages using hybridization and selective breeding. Red Delicious apples, seedless watermelons and broccoli do not grow in the wild. They are cultivated crops, as are the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores.  In fact, almost all of our food is created through genetic manipulation. Modern technology allows these changes to be done more precisely.

So how do GMOs end up in food? You may have heard that ‘70% of all foods contain GMO’. This is due to the fact that many foods use corn, soybean or canola oil, corn-derived sweeteners or starch, soy proteins, or other compounds produced from these plants – and almost all of the corn and soybeans grown in the US, and the canola grown in Canada are GMO. But should that be a concern? No and here is why. This may come as a surprise, but we eat DNA whenever we consume a plant or animal food! Strawberries, carrots and eggs contain DNA and when we eat those foods our digestive system breaks the DNA down into basic components.  We do not absorb the DNA into our bodies. This is the same for GMO DNA. It is broken down along with all the other DNA in the food when we eat it. Claims that eating GMOs will alter DNA or reproductive health or cause cancer are unscientific and false. The other fear that sometimes is linked to GMO foods is that the DNA produces a protein in the plant or animal which could cause an allergic reaction. Rest assured that no allergenic response to a GMO food has ever been documented and the FDA and USDA make sure that no potential allergenic proteins are used in GMOs that could end up in the food system. One last reason to not worry about GMO in foods, especially oils and sweeteners, is that these ingredients are highly purified and contain no DNA or proteins at all.

Major health organizations around the world have reviewed the safety of GMO foods and have concluded that there is no reason to worry. GMO foods have been part of the food supply for over 20 years now with no link to any illness or disease. You can be confident that eating foods that have GMO ingredients or have been developed using GMO technology are healthy and safe for you and your family. Some food producers are taking advantage of consumers’ misunderstanding of GMOs and using the non-GMO label as a marketing tool. You do not need to buy higher priced, non-GMO foods or avoid foods that have GMO ingredients. If you want to learn more go to www.GMOanswers.com

Dr. Ruth MacDonald
Professor and Chair
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University

Choosing the Perfect Melon

Many big sweet green watermelonsHave you ever bought a melon thinking how wonderful it will taste, only to find that when you cut it up, it doesn’t have any flavor? How frustrating that is! Here are 5 steps to picking a ripe melon.

1. Look for damage.
Choose a melon that’s not damaged on the outside. It should not have any bruises, soft spots, or cracks.

2. Check the color.
When buying watermelon and honeydew, choose a melon with a dull looking appearance. A shiny outside is an indicator of an underripe melon. Honeydew melons should be pale yellow in color, not overly green. For cantaloupe, the skin underneath the net-like texture should be golden or orange in color. Avoid cantaloupes with green or white color skin.

3. Check the size.
Pick up a few melons and see how they feel. Choose a melon that is heavy for its size.

4. Check the stem.
The stem end should give to gentle pressure but not be soft.

5. Smell it.
This works best with cantaloupes and honeydew. Ripe melons should smell sweet but not be overwhelming. If it smells really sweet, it might be overripe.

Good luck choosing your next melon!

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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On the Counter or in the Fridge?

grocery-bag-and-producewpMy kids and I have been faithfully watering our tomato plant (we’re not getting much rain where we live!) and watching it grow this summer. We’re growing the plant in a large container and it’s the only produce we are growing this year, so we’re giving it extra good care. There are 3 green tomatoes on it so far, but lots of flowers so I think we could get quite a few tomatoes!

If you’re growing your own produce or shopping at a farmers market, it’s just about time for all that wonderful produce to be ready. It’s great to eat when it is so fresh, but when you aren’t able to eat it fast enough, it’s good to know how to properly store the produce so it lasts longer.

Here’s a quick look at how to store some types of produce:


Apples, berries, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, and anything that is cut up

Keep at Room Temperature:

Melons, tomatoes, squashes (store on the counter but away from direct sunlight)

Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes (best if kept in a dark area such as a pantry)

Ripen on Counter then Refrigerate:

Nectarines, peaches, pears, plums

For more information on storing fruits and vegetables, watch our video on How to Store Fruits and Vegetables.

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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Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas

sweet_tangy_chicken_quesadillaswpHappy 4th of July from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team! Today we are celebrating with our recipe of the month – Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas.

I enjoy using sweet and savory flavors in a meal, but, I confess, I had never had fruit in a quesadilla until I tried this recipe. I was skeptical when I first made these quesadillas, but now I enjoy trying different fruit and vegetable combinations in my quesadillas. This recipe combines canned peaches, chicken cooked in the juice drained from the peaches, and cheese in a whole wheat tortilla to make a delicious quesadilla.

This recipe is easy to adapt to the foods you have on hand. I have substituted beans for the chicken to make a meatless meal and I have used canned pineapple when I was out of peaches. You can have fun making many tasty combinations.

chicken-quesadillas-webSweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas
Serving Size: 1 quesadilla | Serves: 4
Cost Per Serving: $1.04


  • 1 can (15 ounces) peaches in 100% juice
  • 1 cup boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas

Optional: black beans, cilantro, corn, jalapeño pepper, onion, salsa, tomato


  1. Strain the juice from the peaches into a bowl. Cut peaches into small bite-sized pieces. Set the peaches aside.
  2. Heat a skillet to medium. Spray it with cooking spray. Add chicken and peach juice.
  3. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until internal temperature reaches 165°F.  Remove chicken and peach juice from skillet.
  4. Put 1/4 of each ingredient (chicken mixture, peaches, cheese, and optional ingredients) on half of each tortilla.
  5. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the cheese, chicken, and fruit like closing a book.
  6. Cook quesadillas in skillet until lightly browned on both sides. Make sure they are warmed through and cheese is melted.


  • Substitute other fruit, such as pineapple or apricots.


Justine Hoover

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

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