Winter Black Bean Soup


3 cups cooked black beans
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ cup onion, chopped (about ½ medium onion)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 can (14.5-ounce) Mexican-style diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (optional)
Nonfat yogurt or lowfat sour cream and cilantro for garnish (optional)


  1. Prepare beans as directed on package.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook. Stir until onion begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add chili powder. Add cumin, if you like. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes covered.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lime or lemon juice, if you like.
  5. Garnish before serving.

Serving size: 1 ¼ cup
Serves 4

Nutrition information (per serving):

230 calories
3.5 g total fat
0 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
240 mg sodium
39 g carbohydrate
13 g dietary fiber
6 g sugars
13 g protein


Strawberry Spinach Salad


12 packets Splenda®
Dash paprika
½ tsp prepared mustard
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp onion, minced
¼ cup vinegar
1 (9-ounce) bag of fresh spinach
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
¼ cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Dressing Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except spinach, strawberries, and nuts.
  2. Blend with a fork or wire whisk until blended.

Salad Directions:

  1. Clean spinach and pat dry. Cut off stems and place in bowl.
  2. Add sliced strawberries.
  3. Drizzle with dressing lightly to taste over spinach and strawberries. Toss to coat.
  4. Sprinkle nuts over top.

Note: You may add other fruits like drained pineapple chunks, grapes, or blueberries.

Serves 6.  Serving size: 1 cup

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 196
Total Fat: 16 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 12 grams
Dietary Fiber: 3 grams
Sodium: 140 mg

Super Stir Fry

Choose 5 vegetables (1/2 cup of each)

  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower

Choose 1 sauce (about ¼ cup)

  • Lite/Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Teriyaki Marinade
  • Bottled Stir Fry Sauce

Choose 1 starch (1 cup cooked per person)
Cook according to package directions

  • White rice
  • Brown rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Whole wheat spaghetti noodles


  1. Wash and chop selected vegetables into small evenly sized pieces. You may cut them into circles, strips, or cubes as desired. A variety of shapes will make the stir fry more pleasing to the eye.
  2. Heat a small amount (1 tablespoon or less) of vegetable oil over high heat in a 10-inch frying pan, electric skillet, or wok.
  3. Keeping the heat high, add vegetables to the pan in order of firmness—harder foods first and ending with the softest foods.
  4. Toss vegetables to keep from sticking until they are cooked. When stir frying, vegetables should still be crisp and retain their bright color.
  5. Add sauce to taste (about ¼ cup). Stir Fry until all vegetables are thoroughly coated.
  6. Serve with starch of choice.

Serving size: 1 cup
Serves 2

Nutrition information (per serving)*:

270 calories
0.5 g total fat
0 g saturated fat
6 g protein
9 g total carbohydrate
2 g dietary fiber
2 g sugars
560 mg sodium

*Recipe was analyzed using onions, green pepper, broccoli, celery, carrots, and low-sodium soy sauce. Nutritional information will vary with other vegetable combinations. Analysis does not include rice or noodles.

Tortellini Tuscan Stew


1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large zucchini, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow summer squash, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 ounces thin green beans, trimmed and cut in 2-inch lengths
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14.5 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic
¾ tsp salt
1 package (9 ounce) fresh cheese tortellini
1 bag (5-ounce) baby spinach
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese


Combine all ingredients, except tortellini, spinach and Parmesan cheese, in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 3 hours or low 6 hours.

Uncover. Turn slow cooker to high and stir in tortellini. Cover and continue to cook 15 minutes,  or until pasta is almost tender.

Uncover. Gently stir in spinach and Parmesan. Cover and cook 5 minutes until spinach is cooked down and tortellini is tender.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

254 calories
5 g Total Fat
48 g Carbohydrate
12 g Protein

Slow Cooker New Orleans Red Beans


1 lb dry red beans
2 quarts water
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 bay leaves
1 cup chopped sweet green pepper
3 Tbsp chopped garlic
3 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper


  1. Pick through beans to remove bad beans. Follow soaking directions on bean package.
  2. After soaking, drain and rinse beans.
  3. In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cook over low heat for 8 to 9 hours, or until beans are tender.
  4. Stir and mash beans against side of slow cooker until creamy. Remove bay leaves.
  5. Serve over hot cooked brown rice, if desired.

Serves 8.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

171 calories
0.5 g total fat
0.1 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
285 mg sodium
7.2 g fiber
32 g carbohydrates
10 g protein

Going Meatless One Day Each Week Benefits Budget, Health

If your grocery bill seems to increase with every shopping trip, it’s not your imagination.  A trip to the supermarket costs about 4% more than it has in the past.  This has many looking for ways to save on food costs. A simple way to save 5%—no coupon clipping required—is to go meatless one night a week.

The most recent estimates from the USDA put food costs at nearly $1,000 a month for a family of four. However, going meatless one night a week can save a bundle—$50 a month.  Before deciding that your family will never go for even one meatless meal, consider the benefits for your budget and your health.

Going meatless does not mean sacrificing protein. Protein, essential to a healthy diet, comes from both animal and plant sources. In fact, some nonmeat protein sources included in MyPlate, the government’s newest effort to encourage a healthy diet, are beans and peas, soy products, nuts and  seeds.  These foods supply many nutrients, including protein, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Among the many options for a meatless meal are beans and peas.  Choose from black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and navy or pinto beans.  You might choose processed soy products such as tofu, or nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts.  Peanut butter is also a protein source, as are seeds like pumpkin, sesame and sunflower.

Replace meat one day each week with plant-based protein sources and your family could reap the health benefits of reduced intake of saturated fat, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. This easy change will also increase the amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber consumed.

One meatless evening meal each week will make your wallet healthier as well.  Meat products are the most costly items in the grocery store. Going meatless just one day per week reduces meat consumption about 15% and grocery bills about 5% per week.  The most recent monthly food cost estimates from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion put a family of four spending up to $998 per month on a “moderate” cost plan. Going meatless only one night each week can save nearly $600 per year.

Here are some meatless main dish ideas:

Slow Cooker New Orleans Red Beans
Super Stir Fry
Winter Black Bean Soup
Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies
Tortellini Tuscan Stew
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Pink pork can be safe to eat

After decades of hard to remember minimum internal cooking temperatures for meat and poultry, the USDA recently simplified their recommendations. The change should make it easier for consumers to follow the guidelines and may make eating pork more enjoyable.  

Previous USDA recommendations suggested consumers cook pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a level that many consumers felt left the meat tough and sucked dry of its flavorful juices. Food scientists have now declared it perfectly fine to cook pork—and all other whole cuts meat—to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees.

3-minute rest time

One important additional step accompanies this change in cooking temperature:  the meat needs a 3-minute rest time before carving or consuming.  The new 3-minute rest time rule allows the meat’s temperature to remain constant or continue to rise and kill any harmful pathogens.

3 temperature levels

This change in cooking temperature for pork means that consumers only have to remember three different temperature levels:

  • 145 degrees for whole cuts of beef (like steak), pork, veal and lamb
  • 160 degrees for all ground meats
  • 165 degrees for all types of poultry, whether whole or ground.

Use a food thermometer

When cooking, there is only one way to tell if meat and poultry has reached a safe internal temperature: use a food thermometer.  One in four hamburgers turns brown before it reaches a safe temperature, so color is not a reliable indication of doneness. Pork that has reached the minimum internal temperature may still be pink, but has been deemed safe to eat by the USDA. Some consumers may choose to cook pork to higher temperatures due to personal preferences.

Habits are hard to change. Those who don’t use a food thermometer in cooking may consider it bothersome and unnecessary, but it is important to keep certain high-risk groups healthy.  Older adults, those with certain chronic diseases, young children, and pregnant women are particularly at risk for food borne illness.

If those considered high risk will be consuming your cooking, be considerate of their health and use a food thermometer. This handy tool can also help avoid overcooking meats, which is considerate of others’ taste buds.

To use a food thermometer for thin meats, like hamburgers and steaks, insert the thermometer probe horizontally from the side of the burger or steak into the center. For whole cuts of meat, insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat. Be careful not to touch bone; this can cause an inaccurate temperature reading.