Eat Your Beans at (Almost) Every Meal

This month is all about incorporating more plants into meals. To switch it up at my house, I try to make vegetarian meals at least twice a week. Not only does it help my family save money, but it helps add variety to our meals. 

Beans are a great source of protein and they are easy to add to our meals. I love cooking with beans; they taste great and tend to be less expensive than meat. Brynn, our 17-month-old, loves beans and will eat them straight out of the can! My husband on the other hand would prefer beans added to a meal, not eaten as a snack, so I am always on the search for quick, easy bean dishes to try at home. Several Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that highlight beans have become family favorites at our house.  

One of our favorite dishes is Lentil Tacos where the filling is smashed lentils cooked in taco seasoning. We add our favorite taco toppings and make Black Bean Salsa on the side to get an even greater variety of beans. Another fan favorite at my house is hummus. For easy meals, we will make the Zucchini Hummus Wraps and add black beans. These wraps are a great way to use up vegetables in your kitchen before they go to waste. With Brynn being a fan of black beans, the Black Bean Burgers are a quick meal that I make when I am running low on groceries and time. I will make several batches and stick them in the freezer to use for lunches or a snack- this girl really loves her beans!

Cooking dry beans saves money and allows you to add flavor while the beans cook. Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has a great resource for how to cook dry beans at home. In my house, we generally use canned for convenience. When cooking with canned beans, look for cans with labels that say, ‘less sodium’ or ‘no salt added’. If I am unable to find those options at the store, I will simply place the beans in a colander and run them under cool water to rinse off extra salt. If you are a fan of hummus but don’t always like the price at the store, you can make your own hummus at home for a fraction of the cost. Add your favorite seasonings and you have the perfect snack or addition to your meal. I hope this blog gives you a few ideas on how to add beans into your weekly meals while saving you a little bit of money on your next grocery bill. 

Cheers to swapping out your protein this week!

Zucchinni humus wrap meal
Katy Moscoso

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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Make Veggies the Star

Adults should eat an average of two to three cups of vegetables per day depending on age and sex. Does this sound like a lot to you? If you are balancing a busy schedule, a tight grocery budget and often eating meals on the go, this may seem like a high bar to reach. I have found that making vegetables my main dish once per day helps me reach 2 ½ cups per day, which is the recommendation for me. 

At lunch, I do this by packing salads to take to work. Some of my favorites from our recipe collection are Zesty Whole Grain Salad, Summer Bounty Salad and Chicken Club Salad. Each of these packs up well and gets me at least half-way to my 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Generally, I eat the rest of my veggies as snacks and as a side dish at dinner. 

Soup can also be a very vegetable-rich main dish. I make soup nearly every week and keep a variety of soups in single-serve containers in my freezer. I will admit that I improvise soup a lot. I make soup out of the veggies that I have left in my fridge at the end of the week. Sometimes I use other leftovers such as herbs, potatoes, meat, beans and grains as well. This not only leads to a tasty meal, but also helps me prevent food waste and make good use of the food I have before I buy more. When I feel like using a recipe, one of my favorites is Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

How do you make veggies the star of your meals? Please share your ideas in the comments or on our social media.

Take care!

Chicken Club Salad
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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Christine’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Favorites

We are having a lot of fun this month sharing our personal favorites from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe collection. Maintaining our website, app and blog is really fun and one of the best parts is trying out new recipes to share with all of you. Here are some of my favorites!

  • I am a big fan of simple vegetables that do not take a lot of fuss to make. Roasted Broccoli is super simple and my favorite way to eat broccoli.
  • Pancakes have been one of my favorites since I was a little girl and our Blueberry Pancakes are delicious!
  • On busy weekday mornings, breakfast at my house has to be fast. I can bake these Scrambled Egg Muffins on Sunday when I have a bit of time and then just heat them up in the microwave when I need them. They can stay in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or I can freeze them if I need to make them further ahead.
  • I love hearty salads; especially ones that can be made ahead. Our Zesty Whole Grain Salad is so tasty and the ingredients are available all year-round. 
  • After a long day, I love to have dinner in one bowl with all kinds of tasty things mixed together. Sweet Pork Stir Fry has protein, veggies and whole grain noodles in a tasty sauce. Another bonus – it is really pretty!

We would love to hear some of the recipes you have tried from our site and how they worked for you. Please share in the comments section on this blog or send us a message on social media. Happy Cooking!

Sweet Pork Stir Fry
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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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

As a new mom to a 14-month-old, getting into a new routine when it came to meal time was hard! I work part-time for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and am a full-time wife and mom. I need quick, healthy meals and snacks to prepare and Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has been a lifesaver in my home!

As the holidays are fast approaching, below are some of my family’s favorite recipes. We tend to entertain a lot during December and these yummy recipes have become quite the hit with our friends and extended family around the holidays. 

*Main dish: Turkey Vegetable Quiche 

*Side dish: Easy Roasted Veggies 

*Soups: Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup 

*Desserts: Pumpkin Apple Cake 

*Snacks: Hurry Up Baked Apples

If you are stumped on what to make for a holiday gathering, pick one (or all!) of these tried and true recipes to really wow your guests.

Happy Holidays!

Written by: Katy Moscoso


Turkey Vegetable Quiche
Katy Moscoso

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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Altering Recipes for Better Health

As a mom, I want to make foods for my family that taste good and are good for them. Sometimes I do this by altering a recipe to make it a bit healthier but still taste good.  For some recipes, I reduce the amount of an ingredient. In others, I substitute one ingredient for another. Small changes can make a big difference in the amount of fat, salt, sugar and fiber in a dish.

Here are some ways I alter recipes to make them healthier:

  • Reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3.
  • Replace ¼ to ½ of refined flour with whole-wheat flour.
  • Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Substitute skim or low-fat milk for whole milk.
  • Use whole grains in place of refined grains.

 

For more ways to alter recipes for better health, use this guide by Purdue Extension.  Try making one change at a time so you can see what works best for your recipe and what your family likes. And some recipes, like family traditions, might be best to enjoy as they are!

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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Add Some Fiber to Your Day!

Has all of our talk about fiber this month got you thinking about adding more fiber to your meals? I sure hope so! Today I have two meal plans to share with you. Both include three meals, one snack, and 25-30 grams of fiber.

Enjoy!

 

Meal Plan 1: (Fiber in grams)

Breakfast 

Lunch   

  • 1 1/2 cups Zesty Whole Grain Salad (5)
  • 1 sandwich with
    • 2 slices whole wheat bread (4)
    • 1 slice cheese
    • 3 ounces deli meat
  • Water

Supper

Snack

Total grams of Fiber: 29 grams

 

Meal Plan 2: (Fiber in grams)

Breakfast

Lunch   

Supper

Snack

  • 4 cups popcorn (3)

Total grams of Fiber: 25.5 grams

 

Note:  If you need more or less fiber depending on your age and gender, adjust amounts of food up or down to meet your personal needs.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cowboy Caviar

Our May recipe of the month is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe is easy to make, tastes amazing, and packs a nutritional punch. All you have to do is combine some beans, chopped vegetables, and a chopped avocado with a quick homemade salad dressing. With that, you are ready to serve, or, in my case, eat!

I am not sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before, but, in addition to being a lover of great food, I am a dietitian. The food lover part of me drools over this recipe because it tastes so good and it is versatile. I can serve it as a dip for a party, I can scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a wrap for lunch or supper, or I can simply grab a spoon and eat up (I have been known to do all three). The dietitian part of me loves this recipe because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In the coming weeks you are going to hear a lot from us about the wonderful nutrient fiber. Next week, Christine is going to tell us about what fiber can do for our bodies and foods that have fiber in them.

In the meantime, make a batch of Cowboy Caviar and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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“Mommy, Can I Help?”

Sometimes I enjoy cooking with my children and sometimes I do not. Depending on the recipe and the cooking skill we are working on it can be a lot of fun or it can be frustrating. It is almost always messy. Regardless of how it comes out, I know that it is important because they are learning valuable skills.

My children are currently 2, 5, and 7 years old. That means they have vastly different abilities in the kitchen as well as different interest levels and attention spans. So, I need to match up each child to recipes that work well for them. Below I have broken down some age groups and matched them up with recipes that would work well with children in those age groups.

 

  • Two years old: children this age are good at washing fruits and vegetables. They also like to help with set up and clean up. My little guy loves to set the table and, at the end of the meal, he
    uses his little broom to help sweep up.

  • Three years old: children this age are good at pouring and dumping ingredients. They can also help with clean up by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or the sink.
    • Try making Banana Oatmeal Bread with your three year old. They will enjoy pouring all the ingredients into the bowl.
  • Four years old: children this age are good at peeling oranges, bananas, and hard cooked eggs; kneading dough; and mixing with a spoon.
    • Try making Creamy Egg Salad Sandwich with your four year old. They can peel the eggs, dump the ingredients into a bowl, and mix everything together.
  • Five years old: children this age are good at cutting with a blunt knife, cracking eggs, and measuring ingredients. My five-year-old daughter’s favorite way to help in the kitchen is measuring.
    • Try making Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup with your five year old. They can peel the carrots, cut the celery, and measure out the water, seasonings, and noodles.
  • Six years old: children this age are developing their reading and writing skills, so they are good at writing grocery lists and starting to follow recipe directions.
  • Older children: as children develop their reading and cooking skills they can become more independent in the kitchen. My oldest son is seven years old and is usually the first child awake
    in the morning, so he has started preparing simple breakfasts on some mornings while I am helping the younger ones get ready for the day.

Remember that kitchen skills are cumulative, so what was learned as a two or three year old carries on into their older years. I especially like this when it comes to having extra helpers at clean up time!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Mac and Cheese

Our March recipe of the month is Homemade Mac and Cheese. This recipe is an easier (and healthier) way to make a classic favorite, so it is a good way to get children involved with a meal. In the coming weeks, our blogs will focus on different ways that children can grow a love of cooking by helping out in the kitchen.

This recipe starts with cooking whole wheat pasta in boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, children can measure out the spinach into the bottom of a colander. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and then pour the rest of the water and the cooked pasta over the top of the spinach in the colander. Children can see how the spinach changes from raw to cooked simply by adding the hot water.

To make the sauce, you only need to put the cooked pasta and spinach back in the pot and stir in the remaining ingredients – cooking water, shredded cheese, plain yogurt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Children can practice measuring, pouring, and mixing.

The only thing left to do is eat. Enjoy!

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Honey Mustard Dressing

 

Our February recipe of the month is Honey Mustard Dressing.  This is a super easy homemade dressing that can be used for more than just salads.

To make this dressing, combine ¼ cup each of only four ingredients – Dijon mustard, honey, cider vinegar, and oil – in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well and serve.  This dressing has many uses:

Try our Honey Mustard Dressing this month; I think you will like it!

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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