Switching out Protein Sources in Recipes

In August, I wrote a blog on ‘Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals’. In the blog I mentioned that the ‘themes’ I use when meal planning are to include a different protein food each night. I use beef, pork, chicken, fish and then have one night that is vegetarian. By doing this I am helping my family vary the kinds of protein foods we eat.

There are lots of vegetarian recipes available but today I wanted to share how I make a recipe vegetarian if the one I want to make originally calls for meat. (When I say meat, I’m referring to anything that is an animal protein.)

Protein is an important piece of good nutrition and meat is an excellent source of protein. So, if I am going to remove meat from a recipe, then I want to be sure and replace it with another source of protein. Some other sources of protein that I use include eggs, dairy, beans, peas and lentils. Tofu would be another good substitute for meat.

Beans, peas, and lentils work well in place of meat in soups and casseroles. Beans also work well in pasta dishes. I use one 15 ounce can of beans in place of one pound of meat.

Cottage cheese is high in protein and I use it in stuffed pasta shells to add protein.

Tofu is a good substitute in dishes that call for marinating meat. The marinade helps to flavor the tofu. A 16 ounce package of tofu could be used in place of one pound of meat.

If you want to try making some recipes vegetarian, here are two Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that provide tips on how to use beans in place of meat.

Chicken, Corn, and Rice Casserole

Tamale Pie

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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You’re the Chip to my Dip

I love it when I can make a meal out of a bunch of snacks. The trend of creating party boards with a variety of crackers, veggies, cheeses and dips is right up my alley. If you like this style of eating as much as I do, consider making your own pita chips for a fun, homemade addition. They are simple to make and they hold up really well to hearty dips and spreads. Don’t you hate it when your chip or cracker breaks into a million pieces in the dip! Try them with this month’s recipe, Baba Ganoush. They also pair well with Tzatziki, or Cowboy Caviar.

You can find our recipe for Homemade Pita Chips within our recipe for Tzatziki. When you make them yourself, you can choose your favorite type of pita to use. You can even use the pita bread from your favorite Mediterranean restaurant. I like whole wheat pita bread. You will need to separate your pita bread into halves and then cut it into triangles. Spray or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and bake. Usually one side of pita bread is thicker than the other, so when you bake them, the thin ones will need less cooking time than the thick ones. Putting them on two separate pans or in two batches will help with this.  

Whether you have a tailgate coming up or just a fun night at home, give these a try!

Enjoy!
Christine

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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Update from Justine – What do I Grow?

In early June, I wrote about how I decide what to grow in our garden. When planning out our garden this year, I asked my children what they wanted to grow. My oldest son chose to grow four different pepper plants, my daughter chose to grow romaine lettuce, and my youngest son chose to grow zinnias. These choices did not take up a lot of space, so I added two tomato plants and two acorn squash plants. 

My children checked the garden every day and helped with the watering and weeding. Their plants took off and were looking good, but nature had other plans. We left for a few days and, while we were gone, the rabbits helped themselves to the lettuce, pepper leaves, and zinnias. The children were disappointed, but they have worked hard to keep two of the pepper plants and a few zinnias alive.

My children have also worked hard to protect the tomatoes and squash. As you can see in the picture below, that hard work has paid off. The tomatoes and squash have nearly taken over the garden. We have enjoyed watching the flowers bloom and then watching those blooms transform into beautiful tomatoes and squash. My children do not like to eat tomatoes and squash on their own, but they do like both in sauces and soups. So, we are planning to cook and freeze much of our harvest to use for meals this winter.

Justine Hoover

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

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Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals

There are sixteen days until my kids start school! Along with school starting, my kids will also be starting football, dance, and piano so our schedule is going to get busy. One thing that helps me feel less stressed when life gets busy is meal planning. By spending 30 minutes on the weekend planning meals for the week, I spend less time worrying about what we will eat for supper each night. I know my family isn’t the only one looking ahead to a busy fall, so today I wanted to share three tips I use when meal planning that you might find helpful.

  1. Pick a theme for each night. Some common themes I’ve heard before are Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Pizza on Friday. When you have a theme, it’s one less decision you have to make. On Tuesday, you know you are going to have tacos so you just have to decide what kind of tacos you want. The ‘themes’ I use are a little different. I have a different protein food for each night. And one night is always leftovers or make your own. I stock up on meat, fish and chicken when it is on sale and put it in my freezer. Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes for each kind of protein you might like to try. Not only does this make planning easy for me, but it also helps us vary our proteins which is important for good nutrition.
Beef/PorkFishChickenVegetarianLeftovers
Slow Cooker RoastBroiled SalmonQuick Pad ThaiStuffed Pasta ShellsWraps “Your” Way
Beef and Vegetable Stir-FryBaked Fish and ChipsChicken FajitasVegetable Frittata
Sweet Pork Stir-FryFish and Noodle SkilletCheesy Chicken CasseroleVegetable Quesadillas
  1. Make one dish meals. I make a lot of one dish meals because it makes my life easier. There are fewer dishes to do afterward and the only other thing I have to add to the meal is some fruit and something to drink, like milk or water. My kids don’t eat a lot of vegetables so I always include a fruit I know they will eat.
  1. Keep side dishes simple. Even though I like to cook, after a busy day when everyone is hungry I need to get supper done quickly. So in addition to making a lot of one dish meals, I always keep my side dishes simple. We eat a lot of cut up fruits and vegetables as sides. Some of our favorites are apples, carrots, and pepper strips. I also use a lot of frozen vegetables that I can heat quickly in the microwave. In the colder months, I like to make roasted vegetables.

For more ideas and resources on meal planning, check out the menu planning section of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.

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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Crunchy Coleslaw

Our August recipe of the month is Crunchy Coleslaw. This refreshing recipe is one of my favorites. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to four days, but I eat it for any meal or snack so it is usually gone in a day or two. To make this recipe, you break apart a package of dry ramen noodles and add them to a bowl with coleslaw mix, green onions, and a homemade dressing. This recipe is best if you let it marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

Reading about the progress in Christine and Katy’s gardens has me thinking about using fresh cabbage for this recipe instead of a bag of coleslaw. I rarely use fresh cabbage, so I looked it up on our Produce Basics. To use a fresh cabbage for this recipe, all I need to do is remove any wilted outer leaves, wash it, cut out the core, and chop it into thin strips. If I spy a cabbage at the farmers market, I think I will give it a try.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/crunchy-coleslaw/

Enjoy!


Justine Hoover

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

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Planning for a Picnic

Picnics are a fun way to spend time outdoors while sharing a snack or a meal with friends and family. Now that the weather is getting nicer, picnics are a top priority for my family. Our two-year-old has become a food grazer so picnics are a fun way for us to take our snacks and meals outside. Picnics allow her to eat at her own pace in a new environment while also tiring her out as she explores a park or playground; a win-win for any parent!

My favorite thing about picnics is that they don’t have to be picture worthy or take a lot of preparation. Most of the time, our picnics are spontaneous, and we toss items that we have on hand in a basket or tote and off we go! Below are a few staples that we take with us on our picnic adventures.

  • A blanket or a sheet is a must have! You can’t rely on a park or playground to have a shelter area with tables. Because of this, we always bring a blanket or a sheet to place on the grass to eat or rest. I keep a blanket or a sheet in my car for those impromptu picnic stops to make it easier.
  • Easy recipes are key to making your picnic experience stress-free. If we don’t feel like packing up a full meal, sometimes we pack for quick picnics with easy grab and go snacks like veggies with Vegetable Dip, Crunchy Apple Rollups cut into pinwheels, or Energy Bites with some cut up fruit. On days when I have more time to prepare, I like taking Chicken Salad with crackers or Zucchini Hummus Wraps. Just remember that if you are making items that require refrigeration to pack them in a cooler or lunchbox with plenty of ice/ice packs to keep them safe in the heat.  
  • I always pack sunscreen, hats, and even an extra pair of clothes…just in case! You never know when you may find a fun creek to explore or get extra dirty on a climbing adventure. Packing an extra pair of clothes for my toddler makes the ride home more comfortable and keeps the car significantly cleaner!

Picnics don’t require a lot of time and can be a fun, inexpensive way to spend time outdoors. My favorite memories are from the picnic adventures that were thrown together last minute. You can be picnic ready all season long without requiring a lot of extra work. What new parks and playgrounds will you explore this season?

Cheers to your next picnic adventure!

Katy

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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Brown Rice “Risotto”

Our July recipe of the month is Brown Rice “Risotto”. This is not a traditional risotto recipe which slowly cooks white rice with broth. This mock risotto recipe is much quicker. It calls for instant brown rice and cooks in about 20 minutes making it ideal for someone who needs a quick meal.

In my opinion, one of the best things about this recipe is its flexibility. It can easily go from a side dish to a main dish by stirring in pre-cooked meat or fish towards the end of the cooking time. I have enjoyed chicken, ham, and shrimp added to this recipe. I also like how the recipe allows for substitutions. You can change out the seasonings and the vegetables depending on what you like and what you have on hand. Mushrooms are one of my favorite vegetables, so adding fresh mushrooms and cooking them with the onion and rice is a treat for me. 

At Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we like flexible recipes because you can make them your own with flavors and ingredients you enjoy and have on hand. Here are some other flexible recipes to try out:

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/brown-rice-risotto/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

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Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:

  1. Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
  2. Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
  3. Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/lemon-chia-seed-muffins/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

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What to do with Dried Beans?

I recently bought a bag of dried beans on clearance at the grocery store.  I usually buy canned beans, but it was too good of a deal to pass up.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to prepare them! Years ago, I tried to cook dried beans and they ended up crunchy and undercooked.

I discovered a recipe to prepare dried beans using my slow cooker.  The slow cooker cooked the beans overnight! It was so easy. I froze the beans in containers so I have cooked beans ready to use whenever I need them.

Beans are a great way to add protein to meals and save money on groceries. Beans give you long-lasting energy and help you feel full for a long time.  Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to eat beans:

  1. We top salads with beans. Try black or pinto beans for a taco salad or navy or kidney beans for a Mediterranean salad.
  2. We make dips with beans.  Adding beans to dips makes a quick snack full of protein!  Our favorites are Hummus, Black Bean Salsa, and Cowboy Caviar.
  • We add beans to pasta dishes.  A quick dinner my family loves is a box of cooked whole wheat pasta, a jar of pesto (found in the grocery aisle near spaghetti sauce), and a few cups of garbanzo beans.  We mix it all together and it’s ready in 30 minutes.  We serve it with a garden salad or steamed green beans or broccoli.
  • We add black beans or pinto beans to eggs and wrap in a tortilla for a Southwest breakfast burrito!  Try this recipe for a fun weekend breakfast!
  • We make soups with beans.  Soups are a great way to use up a lot of beans.  We like Vegetarian Chili and Minestrone Soup.

Katie Sorrell is a Registered Dietitian who likes to try new recipes. She meal plans and shops at the grocery store on the weekend for the upcoming week.

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 Lentils

Last week Brianna wrote about our Garlic and Herb Lentils recipe. If you get a bag of dried lentils to try that recipe, you might be wondering what else you can cook with lentils to use them up. Here are some other ways to add them to your meals:

  1. Use them in our Lentil Tacos.
  2. Substitute cooked lentils for meat in chili, stews and stuffed pepper fillings.
  3. Make a pasta sauce thicker and heartier by adding cooked lentils.
  4. Add cooked lentils to rice, salad, or cooked whole grains to make a protein-rich main dish.
  5. Puree 1/2 cup cooked lentils with 2 tablespoons water. In recipes for baked goods like brownies and muffins, substitute half of the fat with 1/2 cup pureed lentils.

My husband and I really like the lentil tacos. And I’ve made muffins with lentils in them that my son and I liked. I think next I will try adding them to rice or a salad and see if my family enjoys them that way. Lentils are inexpensive, nutritious, and can be used in many ways so I encourage you to pick up a bag and try them out!


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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