Healthy Quinoa Summer Salad

There are a lot of great things about the return of warm weather: more sunshine, more time outside, and of course, more fresh veggies. This quinoa salad makes the perfect addition to any backyard barbeque or porch picnic. Filled with a bright colorful mix of spring and summer veggies, you’ll enjoy how easy this healthy dish comes together. —Erika Gruszewski

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Quinoa Summer Salad
Veggie Mix
Veggie Mix
  1. Add the quinoa/rice mix, water and salt to a medium sauce pan. Heat to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover for about 20 minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, cut up all of the veggies and place in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a smaller bowl or dressing container, mix in all of the dressing ingredients.
  4. When it has finished cooking, add the quinoa to the large mixing bowl and top with the dressing and feta cheese. Toss everything together.
  5. Serve and enjoy! Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week.
Recipe Notes
  • Beans of Choice: You can’t go wrong here, so try your favorite bean. I like using chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans or black beans.
  • Quinoa: Don’t like quinoa? Swap in another grain like brown rice or couscous.
  • Vinegar: Don’t have rice vinegar or red wine vinegar on hand? Try apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or even balsamic vinegar.

Freezer Meal: Prepare-ahead Chicken Parmesan

Prepare this Crock-Pot meal ahead of time. Freeze the food in gallon Ziploc bags for future chow-downs. -Ted Byrnes

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Chicken Parmesan Pasta
  1. Place the diced chicken and the sauce into a bag and place in the freezer.
  2. When you’re ready to use the Crock-Pot, take the bag out of the freezer and cook the contents in the Crock-Pot on low for 5 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to eat, cook the bowtie pasta.
  4. Drain and ladle the chicken and sauce, mix with the pasta, and add the parmesan cheese.

Tasty Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff

I love this recipe because I can prepare most of it the night before and still provide my family with a solid meal. You can always substitute vegetable noodles and fat free sour cream for an even healthier alternative. The recipe definitely beats a microwave pre-processed meal when you don’t have a lot of time! –Christine Brown

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Tasty Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff
  1. Cut stew meat and coat with salt and pepper. Put in Crock-Pot with onion. Mix garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon and ketchup. Pour over meat and cook on low for 6 - 8 hrs.
  2. Turn Crock-Pot to high and add the mushrooms. Dissolve the flour in a small amount of water and stir with a whisk. Add it to the Crock-Pot and stir until blended. Cook for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream and turn off heat. Serve with noodles or rice.
Recipe Notes

*Optional: Instead of using 1 1/2 cups of beef bouillon, use 1/2 cup wine and use only 1 cup beef buillon.

Stealthy Zucchini Meatballs

Place the meatballs in a crock-pot and have them cook all day while you’re at work. I’ve never been the most “exact” chef, so please note that these measurements are estimates. I love adding in a little zucchini to fool my kids into eating more veggies! This crockpot  recipe for Stealthy Zucchini Meatballs is a real crowd pleaser!

—Joy Auch

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Stealthy Zucchini Meatballs
  1. Mix the first six ingredients together.
  2. Shred the zucchini into the mixture. Mix everything together.
  3. Mold the mixture into 1 1/2 –inch meatballs.
  4. Place meatballs in the crock-pot. Pour the jar of sauce over the meatballs. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Turmeric makes dishes healthier and taste better

Hidden Gems: Turmeric

It all started with this stew. Scanning the ingredient list, I saw a spice I’d never cooked with before: turmeric. I was hesitant at first but decided to try it. I picked up the bright yellow-orange spice from the grocery store and got cooking on a cold, winter day. While the stew simmered, wonderful smells of warmth wafted through my home. While eating, my head and heart were filled with words of comfort –like savory, cozy, rest. It was amazing.

Turmeric is an ingredient in a buttnernut, sweet potato and red lentil stew

Erika tries her hand at “Cozy Butternut, Sweet Potato, and Red Lentil Stew”

That was it. I became obsessed. Each week, I hunted for one or two new recipes that included turmeric as an ingredient. Our house became regularly filled with the comforting smell while making curried coconut pumpkin soup with chicken and Afghan braised chicken in yogurt. I soon discovered turmeric could also be added to tea, smoothies, milk, and even ice cream. I’m looking forward to making these next, and trying out turmeric in the crockpot.

What’s the secret?

Haven’t cooked with this spice before? I was wary too, at first. Turmeric is bright orange and smells very different from the spices and seasonings I grew up with (salt, pepper, basil, oregano).

But if you love comfort food or eating things that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, you’ll probably love turmeric too.  

A delicious stew made with turmeric simmering on the stove.

A delicious stew made with turmeric simmering on the stove.

The Details

Turmeric (pronounced either “ter-mer-ic” or “tu-mer-ic”) is a member of the ginger family. It has been used for centuries in Asian and Indian cuisines. Turmeric has an earthy, warm flavor that is slightly peppery and a little bitter. You can find it at your local grocery store, either ground or fresh (which looks a lot like ginger root).

Turmeric is available at all major grocery stores

Turmeric is available at all major grocery stores

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, preliminary studies have demonstrated that turmeric and curcurmin (a component of turmeric) may improve many health conditions ranging from arthritis to skin irritation.  Should it be considered a “miracle cure-all” spice? Well, recent research suggests more robust studies are needed to know for sure.  Ready to try it?

Turmeric Highlights:

Erika hard at work on her stew with turmeric as the hidden gem

Erika hard at work on her stew with turmeric as the hidden gem

Cooking with turmeric, as well as other spices from basil to vanilla, can help lower your intake of fat, salt, and sugar. Cooking with a spice, for example, is often healthier than cooking with a high-fat ingredient, such as butter.

“Most spices are also very low in calories and inexpensive for the small amount used in most recipes,” said Pat Salzer, registered dietitian, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Personally, when I cook with turmeric, I find I also eat more vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. I love breaking out of my spice comfort-zone while making delicious, healthy food for my family.

Don’t Miss:

These delicious and easy recipes starring turmeric:

Mealime – Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup with Chicken
Mom’s Kitchen Handbook – Afghan Braised Chicken in Yogurt
Oh She Glows – Cozy Butternut, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Stew


9 easy ways to add vegetables to your meals

9 Easy Ways to Add Vegetables to Your Meals

Vegetables suffer from a bad reputation. “Ugh,” you might think. “They taste terrible and they’re too hard to cook.”

It’s no surprise that despite the health benefits of veggies, few people eat enough of them.

Most adults should eat at least two to three cups of vegetables daily. But barely one in 10 adults actually meets this guideline.

Why are vegetables important?

They’re low in calories, packed with nutrients and may help reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease. Vegetables high in potassium – sweet potatoes, spinach, etc. – can help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.

Vegetables are also full of fiber, which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. They also fill you up so that you’re less hungry for unhealthy stuff.

Here are nine tasty and easy ways to slip more vegetables into your day:

  1. Soups and StewsSoups and Stews
    Fall and winter are the perfect time for comfort food. Be creative and clean out your produce drawer. You can add a variety of vegetables, including carrots, cabbage, spinach, and celery, to your soups and stews. Other good additions are onions, winter squash, potatoes, and tomatoes.
  2. Roasted VegetablesRoasted Vegetables
    Oven roast vegetables at high temperatures with a small amount of olive oil and garlic for sure-fire palate pleasers. For extra flavor, sprinkle them with fresh herbs or a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Add a can of chickpeas and grated cheese and serve over brown rice or vegetable penne to round out the meal. If you’re looking for a tasty side dish, consider this whole roasted cauliflower with pomegranate and pine nuts recipe. I recently made this dish, and it tasted as good as it looks! I had leftovers the next day for breakfast because I was too excited to wait until dinner to eat this delicious dish.
  3. Stir FryStir Fry
    Get out your wok and stir fry a medley of red peppers, green beans, eggplant or cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil. Serve as a side dish, use them to top a baked potato or make the medley a meal by adding it to rice and stir-fried beef, chicken or pork. Watch this video for quick stir-frying tips.
  4. SaladSalad
    The deeper the color and the more variety of vegetables you add to a base of spring greens or lettuce, the healthier and more eye-appealing your salad will be. Here are a few suggestions for vegetables to add to your salad: carrots, red onions, mushrooms, cucumbers, beets, avocados, tomatoes, red cabbage, zucchini and red, green or yellow peppers.
  5. PizzaPizza
    Instead of topping your pizza with pepperoni, experiment with different vegetables, including asparagus, beets, zucchini, eggplant, artichokes or Brussels sprouts. Make your pizza even healthier by using a whole grain crust and grated low-fat mozzarella cheese. Try this kid-friendly veggie pizza.
  6. BeveragesBeverages
    Drink your greens. Add spinach or kale to a fruit and yogurt-based smoothie. Whether you make your own smoothie (it takes less time than toasting a bagel) or buy it ready-made, you won’t taste the added vegetables, but you’ll be getting an extra serving of produce without even trying. Freeze the leftover mixture in a freezer pop mold for a refreshing snack.Check out this recipe.  Combine the following in a blender and enjoy: 1 tablespoon of almond butter, ½ cup of fresh spinach, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, ½ a frozen banana and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. One serving is about 190 calories.
  7. SnacksSnacks
    Keep a supply of washed, cut-up raw vegetables in the front of your refrigerator. When you’re looking for something quick to eat, you can grab and go. For added flavor, dip them in a hummus or a yogurt mix.  Check out the calorie count on this  snack: 1 cup carrots (45 calories), broccoli (30 calories), or bell peppers (30 calories) with 2 tablespoons of hummus (46 calories).
  8. BreakfastBreakfast
    Add fresh or cooked vegetables to an omelet or scrambled eggs or make a breakfast burrito by wrapping scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, tomatoes and reduced-fat cheese in a flour tortilla. For a tasty treat, try this veggie quiche; reheat leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner.
  9. Seasonal ProduceSeasonal Produce
    Always check to see which fruits and vegetables are in season in the fall, winter, spring and summer. When you eat fruits and veggies that are in season, you’re eating foods that are at their peak for flavor and freshness.

Hidden Ways to Save Money on Breastfeeding Gear

As a new mom, I didn’t have the time or energy to search for the best deals on baby stuff.

This was especially true for the amount of gear needed to breast-feed my little bundle. We’re talking breast pumps, breast milk storage bags, lanolin cream, nursing pads, sterilization bags, pump replacement parts and other accessories.

As a first-time mom, I spent $50 a month just to rent a breast pump. That’s $600 a year! It wasn’t long before I lost track of how much I spent on all the paraphernalia needed to help my baby get a good start in life.

But with baby #2, I was a thriftier mom— thanks to a new federal law and the discovery that I could use certain tax breaks for breast-feeding equipment.

When Breast-feeding, Flexible Spending Accounts are Your Friend

  1. With the federal Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover the costs of breast-feeding equipment and counseling. Different health plans have different rules for coverage, so check with yours before making a purchase.
  2. You might be able to use pretax money from a workplace flexible spending account (FSA) to purchase breast pumps and supplies.
  3. If you don’t have a FSA, you may be able to deduct these costs when filing your taxes. 
  4. Low-income moms who qualify for their local Women’s Infants and Children’s (WIC) program may also receive breast-feeding support and equipment.

Armed with this new knowledge, I used my health insurance to buy an electric breast pump.  I spent nothing out of pocket to buy the pump, which usually retails for about $150.

I also used my FSA funds to purchase breast milk storage bags, sterilization bags and other gear. When using an FSA, money comes out of your paycheck before taxes are deducted. You’ll save an amount that’s equal to the taxes you would have paid on the money you set aside

Overall, you might save an average of about 25 percent if you use your FSA plan, according to Lifetime Benefit Solutions, which administers FSA plans for companies.

Additional Ways to Save on Breast-feeding

Do you have an FSA, but wished you had earmarked more money to be put into the account? If you just had a baby, you may be able to change your contributions.  Having a newborn is often considered a “qualifying event” that allows moms and dads to change their FSA contributions.

If you’re still hunting for other ways to save money, here are a few more ideas:

  1. Ditch disposables: Save money by ditching the disposable breast pads and purchasing cloth breast pads that you can wash and reuse. You can throw them in the wash when you launder your baby’s clothes.
  2. Skip the specialties: You don’t need special nursing pillows, covers or shirts. A regular bed pillow will work just fine when you’re nursing your little guy or gal. Same thing for breast-feeding covers; toss a light blanket over your baby as you nurse. No need for special nursing shirts either. Choose clothes that button up the front and you’re good to go. While special nursing equipment is not essential, you might prefer it or receive one or two items as gifts.

Once you have a handle on the costs of breast-feeding gear, you may be able to use a different type of FSA for another big baby expense. Check to see if your plan has a dependent care FSA that allows you to defer up to $5,000 a year in pre-tax money to cover daycare costs. Again, the birth of a baby may be a qualifying event that allows you to open up or contribute more to your FSA.

The choice to breast-feed (or not) your baby is a personal decision. For more information, check out

6 ways to save on breast-feeding gear

For help paying for a breast pump and supplies, consider the following:

  1. Flexible spending accounts
  2. Other tax breaks
  3. Your health insurance plan’s coverage for pumps
  4. The local WIC program

You may also want to . . .

  1. Try reusable cloth breast pads instead of disposable ones
  2. Skip the nursing pillows, covers and shirts