More Onions?

Do you ever wonder why so many of our recipes here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. have onions in them? Just last week I shared our August recipe of the month, Cool Cucumber Salad, which is another recipe with onions in it. Below I share my top three reasons for including onions in recipes and my top three onion-containing recipes.

I include onions in recipes because:

  1. Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
  2. Onions are inexpensive and available year-round. Since they are easy to store, onions can be found at a reasonable price any time of year.
  3. Onions freeze well. I do not enjoy the tears that come with chopping onions, but I do like that I can chop a large amount of onions at one time and store them in the freezer. Then, when I need onions for a recipe, I just reach into my freezer and dump in some onions.

My favorite onion recipes are:

  1. Chicken Fajitas – I love onions and peppers cooked together in a skillet.
  2. Chicken and Rice Soup – This is a recipe where I rely on my frozen, chopped onions.
  3. Cowboy Caviar – The flavor and crunch of a fresh onion is a perfect complement to the milder beans and corn in this recipe.

Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we think onions are a pretty great vegetable and we encourage you to try using one in your cooking this week. If you would like to know more about how to chop an onion, check out the short video above.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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What are Lentils?

Have you heard of lentils? Do you cook with them? I did not grow up eating lentils, so I did not know what they were until I started working for Iowa State. I learned that lentils are tiny, disc-shaped legumes. Legumes are plants that have seed pods, like beans and peas. In the kitchen, lentils are used as a quick-cooking and inexpensive plant protein that is tasty in main dishes or as a side dish.

If you are interested in learning more about lentils or cooking with them, we have you covered here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. We have some great ways for you to use lentils in your kitchen:

Watch the video below to see my son, Kenny, and I make a batch of lentils for lunch. We served them wrapped in tortillas with shredded cheese, vegetables, and sour cream. They were a hit! Enjoy!

cooking with lentils

Justine Hoover

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

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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Soup’s on!

Soup is a favorite meal in my house during the fall or winter. Well, for my husband, soup is a favorite all year round! I enjoy making soup since there are so many different combinations and nearly all of them are a one-pot meal! I also like that I can make many of them in the slow cooker. This allows me to start them before heading to work and supper is ready when I get home.

Of the different soups I make, chili gets a high rating from my family so I thought I’d share some of our chili recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. 

  • 10 Minute Chili: This is a very basic chili recipe that you can make your own by adding different spices, veggies or toppings. It is an easy way to introduce the flavors of chili to children as well. 
  • Vegetarian Chili: This bean and veggie chili is a nice option for a potluck or other occasion where you may not know if there are vegetarians in the group. 
  • Three Can Chili: This chili could not be simpler and it uses products you can keep on hand in your pantry. Depending on your child’s skills and experience in the kitchen, they may be able to make this recipe almost entirely on their own. 
  • Slow Cooker Pork Chili: This is a rich and delicious chili for the slow cooker. It is very tasty leftover as well as fresh from the pot. 

Try one of these soon on a cold winter day!

bowl of chili
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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Autumn Soup

Our October recipe of the month is Autumn Soup and I hope you will like it as much as I do. This soup is thick and creamy and has a balance of sweet and savory flavors that I love. Winter squash is cooked with onions and apples in chicken broth. At the end of the cooking time, the soup is blended smooth and a little cream cheese is added to make the soup extra creamy.

autumn soup

This summer, I grew butternut squash (a type of winter squash) in my garden. This was only the second time I have grown butternut squash. My crop was only a little bit successful – I got four large squash from my plant. We have some friendly deer who like to visit our yard at night and they ate most of the blossoms off my plant.

Since I love butternut squash for this soup as well as our roasted veggie recipe, I will have to buy some more this fall. The farmers market is a great place to find winter squash and the grocery store usually has a good supply too. Once I get stocked up on squash, I am going to make a large batch of this soup and freeze most of it, so it is ready for me to use when I need hot soup on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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How to Prepare Winter Squash

Fall is my favorite time of year! I grew up on a farm so fall meant harvest time and I loved riding in the combine. Plus both of my kids were born in the fall! Another reason I love this time of year is the food that is in season, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, and pears! I enjoy cooking and baking with all of these.

butternut squash enchiladas

However, some of these are easier to prepare than others. with a particularly tricky fall vegetable is butternut squash. People tend to shy away from using it because of its hard outer skin. We created our How to Prepare Winter Squash video to help you feel more comfortable breaking them down using a few simple steps. 

Give butternut squash a try using our recipe for Butternut Squash Enchiladas. And next week Justine will share with you a recipe for Autumn Soup that uses butternut squash.

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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Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Our November recipe of the month is Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup.  It is perfect for a busy day. All the ingredients go into the slow cooker in the morning, cook on low for 8-10 hours, and you have a delicious soup ready to eat in the evening.

There are some wonderful things I love about this recipe.

  • It is easy to put together. There is no cutting up or chopping needed to get this recipe into the slow cooker.  The chicken just needs to be shredded right before serving this soup.
  • It uses dried beans. Dried beans are tasty, inexpensive, and nutritious.  They take a little longer to cook, so they are perfect for the slow cooker.  Fair warning, the dark color of the black beans changes the outer color of the chicken.
  • It freezes well. This recipe is great to measure out into single serving containers and freeze for lunches.  Or, you can eat half of the soup one night and freeze the other half of the soup for another night.
  • It is great for a party. This soup tastes delicious with different toppings – avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese.  You can serve the soup out of the slow cooker and let your guests add any toppings they would like.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup

Slow cooker black eyed pea soupMy family has never had any New Year food traditions. I have been reading up on some New Year food traditions from around the world and everything I read sounded so good that I am thinking I need to start one of these traditions with my family.

If I am going to start a New Year food tradition with my family this year, it is going to have to be simple. So, I think black eyed peas are going to be the new tradition for us. January’s recipe – Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup – is one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever made. All you need to do is cut up the vegetables, dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it on low, and wait patiently.

Black eyed peas served with greens and cornbread is a New Year food tradition from Southeastern America. Many eat this meal in hopes of good luck and prosperity in the new year. This soup pairs well with cornbread and a side of greens can easily be added for those who want to stick closely with this tradition. Try out this black eyed pea recipe for your New Year meal. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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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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Chicken Stock – An Easy Kitchen DIY!

I am a soup lover from way back. I eat it most days in the winter and it is one of my favorite things to cook when the weather gets chilly. Homemade soup is often much healthier than soup from a can and it tastes so much better. Even though I love to make soup, it took me years to get up the guts to try making my own stock. It seemed like the people who I saw doing it were chefs on TV and that’s just not me.

I jumped the hurdle and did it myself and was pleased to find that it really is easy and the stock tastes much richer than what I was buying at the grocery store. Here is a link to a general guide on making your own stock. The guide involves making a few choices, here are the exact steps I took. My apologies for the extra-long blog, but I thought you all would want the details!

1. Put bone-in chicken pieces in the bottom of a large pot. I used a mix of thighs and breasts because that’s what I had. I used about two pounds or so. You can use bones from roasted chicken instead of chicken pieces, but since I wanted the chicken meat, I went ahead and used pieces. chicken in pot
 2. Add a few carrots, a few ribs of celery, a garlic bulb cut in half the long way and two large onions (I used three because mine were tiny). You can add other root vegetables like turnips or parsnips if you have them. This is a great use up for veggies that may be getting close to spoiling. Just clean the veggies, there is no need to cut them up, they’re going to get strained out anyway.  veggies in pot
3. Fill the pot with water so the vegetables are covered.
 4. Top off with herbs and spices. I chose the following:

  • 2t dried parsley
  • 2t black pepper
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 15 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
 herbs 1
 *Note: fresh herbs are not necessary, dried versions of these herbs would have been fine too. I just happened to have them growing in a pot on my back patio. If you choose dried, use two teaspoons thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. You’ll see I didn’t include salt. This is because the recipes I use this stock for will call for salt and I can add it at that time. I can keep the sodium in my recipes down if I don’t salt it twice.
5. Pop a lid on the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it go for about two hours. In the meantime, enjoy the awesome aroma!  lid on pot
6. Once the stock is finished cooking, fish out the chicken pieces using a pair of tongs and set them aside to cool. Once cool, remove the skin and bones and refrigerate the chicken for your next recipe.  chicken chopped
7. Once the stock has cooled a bit, place a large strainer over an even larger bowl and pour the stock through the strainer. The big pieces of vegetables will get caught in the strainer and they can be discarded. You’ll be left with beautiful golden stock. Having a helper for this step is a good idea. My apologies for no picture of this step, I got a bit distracted with trying not to burn myself!
8. At this point, you’ll want to refrigerate or freeze your stock. Once it is cold, the fat from the chicken will harden and you can spoon it right off.  fat on top
9. You’re ready to use your homemade stock for soups, steaming vegetables, cooking rice or thinning sauces.  strained stock

Let’s be honest, it took a while to make my own stock, but most of the time I was able to do things around the house. I didn’t need to tend the stock for the full two hours and my homemade stock is healthy, delicious and inexpensive. I made six quarts of stock for about $10. The stock at my grocery store costs about $2.50 per quart, so six quarts would cost about $15. It feels good to know I can do it myself. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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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