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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  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.

Tip:

  • Substitute other fruit, such as pineapple or apricots.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Go with the Whole Grain this Summer—Take the Challenge!

By Food Science and Human Nutrition student guest blogger

banana_oatmeal_breadwpThis summer try the whole grain challenge. The challenge: Make half (or more!) of your grains whole grains for a week.

The best way to include whole grains in your diet is to substitute whole grain products for refined grains in things you already make and love.

Here are some fun, tasty ideas for how to incorporate whole grains into your busy summer:

Picnic Ideas

Snack Ideas for the poolside or road tripping

Movie Night

  • Enjoy popcorn, with light salt and oil
  • Fix pizza with a whole wheat crust, add veggies for a more nutritious punch

BBQ in the backyard

Adding whole grains to your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Just sub whole grains for refined, and you’ve already won the challenge!

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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Meal Makeovers with Whole Grains

Taco Rice SaladI did not grow up eating a lot of whole grains. Actually, I did not truly know what a whole grain was until I was an adult. Last week, our intern guest blogger wrote about how to find out if a food is whole grain or not. This week, I would like to share with you how I have replaced refined grains with whole grains in my menu.

  1. The first, and easiest, change I made was to start buying whole wheat bread for our toast and sandwiches. With some trial and error, I have found a whole wheat bread that everyone in my family likes. Thankfully, it is also the least expensive whole grain bread at my local grocery store. Try whole grain bread in our Tuna Melt Sandwich.
  1. The second change I made was to use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. This change was a little more difficult because my husband and I were used to the softer texture of white rice and pasta, but now we prefer both the texture and flavor of the whole grain versions. Try brown rice in our Tasty Taco Rice Salad and whole grain pasta in our Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta.
  1. The third, and most challenging, change I made was replacing all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour in our baked goods. One of my husband’s favorite foods is muffins of all kinds. I knew that we could make our muffins healthier by replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. It took some experimenting, but now our favorite muffin recipes include both whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour (the amounts depend on the recipe). Try whole wheat flour in our Pineapple Snack Cakes.

My husband and I started adding whole grains to our menu little by little and now the majority of the grains we eat are whole grains. It has taken time and compromise, but we are happy with the choices we have made.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Beans, Beans, Beans

ThinkstockPhotos-512755114This month at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., we have been talking a lot about beans. We love beans because they are packed with nutrition and they are inexpensive. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite bean recipes from our website. Try one out this week, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Many of these recipes call for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. You can substitute 1-2 cups cooked, dried beans. It is easy to cook an entire bag of dried beans and then freeze them in one or two cup serving sizes to use when you need them.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Lentil Tacos

Lentil TacosTacos are a go to meal for my family. They make the menu almost every week. Our May recipe is a delicious way to change up the typical taco routine. In our lentil taco recipe, lentils are used in place of meat or fish because they are quick and easy to cook and they are inexpensive.

If you have not yet cooked with lentils, this is the perfect recipe to start with. Start by rinsing and sorting your lentils to remove any dirt or other debris. Then simmer the lentils with onion, seasonings, and water for about 30 minutes. Spoon the lentils onto corn tortillas and serve with your favorite taco toppings.

Add lentils to your grocery list this week and try out lentil tacos for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Fruity Fun!

frutWith the weather warming up here in the Midwest, gardens are being planted and farmers markets will open soon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on fresh fruits and vegetables that will be in season. Strawberries and watermelon just say ‘summer’ to me! Adults and children need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day for good health. In my family we usually eat fruit for breakfast or for snacks. There are some recipes on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. that make eating fruit really fun for kids including Fruit Slush, Frozen Fruit Cups, or Fruit Kabobs & Yogurt. These recipes are flexible and can be made with different combinations of fruit depending on what you like and what you have on hand.

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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Breakfast: It Does a Body Good

Make Ahead BBLast week I wrote about making breakfast foods for supper. I ended up making the French Toast  one night and it was a hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. We have a number of breakfast recipes on our website that could be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or supper. I’m not much of a cereal eater but I really like the Crispy Granola. You can make it to your liking by adding different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. Breakfast Splits are a fun one for kids or to have when guests are over. You can set out bananas, different flavors of yogurt, different cereals, chopped fruit and nuts and each person can make their own splits. And my favorite breakfast recipe is our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch to put in the freezer. Then I can grab one out and quickly heat it in the microwave to enjoy on busy mornings. You can also find me enjoying one at supper some nights when I’m not up to cooking!

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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Breakfast for Supper

ThinkstockPhotos-497280057 french toastRecently my husband got groceries and came home with a carton of 18 eggs. I usually only buy a dozen eggs so I asked him if he had something planned for all the eggs. He didn’t so I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I know it’s only 6 more eggs but it seemed like a lot of eggs to use! After eggs are purchased, they can be stored in their original carton in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Usually the “sell-by” date on the carton will expire during that storage period, but the eggs will remain safe to use. I could make hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, but I’ve had my fill of those for a while after all the hard-cooked eggs at Easter! What came to mind next was to make breakfast for supper. Scrambled Egg Muffins, Easy Quiche, or French Toast are all tasty ways to use up the eggs and change up what we have for supper. And my kids like smoothies so I could serve Fruit Smoothie to get in a serving or two of fruit. No sleeping in past this breakfast!

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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Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken-noodle-soup-webChicken noodle soup is a go to meal for me when anyone in my family is not feeling well. I make it often in the fall, winter, and spring and even occasionally in the summer. Our January recipe of the month is Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup – a great soup for cold and flu season.

Even though it sounds too good to be true, chicken noodle soup can actually help you get well faster when you are suffering from the head and chest congestion that comes with cold and flu season. The hot broth can clear congestion and ease a sore throat; it also provides the fluids that our bodies need more of when we are sick. The chicken provides protein, which our immune system needs to fight off the germs. And the vegetables and whole grain noodles provide vitamins and minerals that boost our immune systems.

So, keep this soup at the ready to help your family fight off colds and flu this winter. It freezes well, so put some in freezer containers just in case there is a time you are not feeling well enough to cook.

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/3 cupschicken-noodle-soup-label-web
Serves: 6
Cost Per Serving: $0.60
Ingredients: 
  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 rib)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (about 4 carrots)
  • 2 cups whole grain wide egg noodles (2.5 ounces)
Instructions: 
  1. Put chicken and water in a large stock pot. Bring water to a simmer (slow boil). Cook until chicken reaches 165°F (10-15 minutes).
  2. While chicken is cooking, clean and chop vegetables.
  3. Take chicken out of water with tongs or fork. Cool in refrigerator about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, salt, celery, onion, and carrots to the pot of hot water.
  5. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove bones and skin from chicken and discard. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot of hot water. Bring to a boil.
  6. When water is boiling, add noodles. Cook according to package directions or about 5 minutes.
Tips: 
  • Any chicken part may be used for this recipe. If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, use only 3/4 pound.
  • Soup freezes well. Make ahead and freeze for a cold or sick day.
  • Other seasoning may be used instead of the parsley and Italian seasoning.
  • If you like, remove chicken skin before cooking. This will decrease fat and calories slightly.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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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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