Use these add-ins to turn plain hummus dip into quick easy meals & snacks

9 Ways to Make Hummus Dip That Will Please Everyone!

This post was originally written on October 25, 2012 during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for FAMILY GOES STRONG. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


If you have hummus dip in your refrigerator you have a key ingredient to make quick easy meals and snacks. By using different add-ins you can make hummus go from plain to personalized in minutes! And you’ll save money, too, when you buy a large tub of plain hummus rather than so many separate varieties. Just add 1 tablespoon of your favorite “add-in” to one half cup of plain hummus and stir. You can also put out an assortment of “add-ins” and let the family mix and match their own custom creations. Use whole wheat pita triangles and fresh cut vegetables for dipping to make the meal a nutritional winner.

Roasted Red Pepper: Use freshly roasted sweet red peppers when in season or for convenience, the ones in a jar. They can be chopped and added or pureed to turn your hummus a rosy color and blend the flavor throughout.


Mashed Butternut Squash: You can find this mild-flavored, orange-fleshed squash already peeled and cubed in the produce section and with the frozen vegetables if you don’t have time to start from scratch. Roasting brings out the sweetness and makes it easy to mash into a creamy consistency.


Creamy Peanut Butter A great way to combine two good sources of plant protein and get a spread that has fewer calories per tablespoon than straight peanut butter. Other nut butters, like almond butter and cashew butter are equally good.


Chopped Olives Visit the olive bar in your market to find different types of olives you can buy in small quantities. Stuffed olives can be used, but be sure to choose pitted olives so they’re easy to chop.


Diced Red Onion: The pungent flavor of raw onion takes plain hummus to another level. Sweet Vidalia onion can be used for a milder flavor or you can caramelizing any onion for a sweeter flavor.



Canned Pumpkin: Like mashed butternut squash, cooked pumpkin has a smooth consistency and mild flavor than blends beautifully with plain hummus. Canned pumpkin makes it easy to prepare this add-in any time of year.


Crushed Roasted Garlic Roasting garlic softens the flavor and makes the bulbs easy to mash and add. Peeled cloves can also be placed in a pan with olive oil and roasted if a whole head is not needed.


Sautéed mushrooms: Mushrooms will cook faster and release their juices if finely chopped first. Once all of the liquid evaporates they are ready to blend into your hummus.


Toasted Pine Nuts Toasting nuts help them release some of their oils and reduce their astringent flavor. The crunchy texture of nuts provides a pleasant contrast to the creamy consistency of the hummus. Other nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts are also good choices.


Don’t overlook these healthy side dishes when at your next barbecue

8 Healthy Side Dishes on Your Barbecue Menu

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read blog here.


Barbecues are not known for their healthy side dishes, but there are some exceptions. The best of the lot feature seasonal vegetables that are minimally dressed — meaning not wearing mayonnaise like a winter coat. Look for these sides to fill your paper plate, or add to the grill to make your own healthy sides.


Healthy Side Dishes: Baked Beans: Yes, beans are vegetables! They’re also a good source of protein, but much lower in fat than any meat on the grill, so they can be a side dish that replaces the beef, pork, or poultry on the menu.

Salsa Fresca

Healthy Side Dishes: Salsa: Typically used as a dip for greasy chips, salsa is at its best when paired with barbecued meats and fish since it means “sauce.” Skip the chips and spoon it onto your plate to enjoy as a spicy side dish.


Healthy Side Dishes: Grilled Corn: Brush it with olive oil before grilling to savor the toasty corn flavor without any butter. The extra time it takes to eat it off the cob helps you feel more satisfied by the time you’re done.


Healthy Side Dishes: Garnishes & Condiments: Make your own salad from the burger toppings and garnishes found on the other salad platters. Make a base with lettuce and tomato, then pile on the radishes roses, pepper rings, carrot curls and cucumber slices.

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Healthy Side Dishes: Coleslaw: Crunchy raw cabbage beats potato and macaroni when sizing up the nutritional merits of the 3 most popular mayonnaise-coated salads. Serve yours with a slotted spoon to leave some of the dressing behind.


Healthy Side Dishes: Grilled Crudité: Gather raw vegetables from the crudité and add to the grill for a flavorful side that needs no dip. Try carrot sticks, zucchini strips, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms and more for a flavorful side dish.


Healthy Side Dishes: Roasted Peppers: Salvage some peppers before they end up tossed with the sausage and turn them into a side dish. The more colorful the better.


Healthy Side Dishes: Sauerkraut: This pickled cabbage can be eaten hot or cold and deserves to be more than a frankfurter topping with just 27 calories per cup. The high salt content isn’t for everyone, but can help replace sodium lost in sweat by those who are more active.

There’s no need to waste leftover food when it can be turned into makeover meals

What to Do With Leftover Food? Create Makeover Meals

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.


At one time or another we’ve all had leftover food in our refrigerators and wondered, “Is that still safe to eat?” Maybe we prepared too much for a meal or took a doggie bag home from a restaurant. No matter how it got there, eventually we have to deal with those leftovers.

The dilemma most of us face is having to choose between wasting good food or getting food poisoning. Fortunately, there are some guidelines to help make the right decision.

Identify Leftover Food for Future Meals

There are food safety rules for the correct temperatures and holding times for different foods before they should be discarded. Most cooked foods should not be reused if they have been at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the room temperature was above 90o F. That includes leftovers from restaurants. So the best time to decide if a food should be kept or tossed is when clearing the table or returning home after eating out.

The foods you can safely keep should be transferred to food storage containers or properly wrapped in food grade paper. The goal is to avoid exposure to the air, leaking of any juices, transfer of odors, and cross-contamination through contact with other foods.

It is never advisable to store or reheat food in the one-time-use containers that they are sold in, such as margarine tubs.

Now all you have to do is label that container so there’s no guessing about its identity. Keep some blank address labels in the kitchen so you can record the date and description of what’s in the container before putting it into the refrigerator or freezer. The 20 seconds it takes you to do that can save you countless hours and dollars should you eat the wrong thing.

Plan Makeover Meals From Your Leftover Food

If you decide how you want to use your leftovers before putting them away, you can save even more time and money. Cooked meat, poultry and fish are the most expensive part of the food budget, so should get your immediate attention to avoid waste.


The quickest option is to just wrap cooked meats in single or double portions and freeze them if there’s little chance you’ll get around to eating them in 2 or 3 days. Another is to cut them into cubes or strips before refrigerating so they can easily be added to a stir fry, folded into a fajita, tossed onto a salad, wrapped in a quesadilla, stuffed into a taco or scattered onto a pizza.

If you know you’ll have the chance to recycle that cooked meat into a makeover meal in the next two days you can prep it for its rebirth in a casserole, curry, soup or stew. By removing the bones and skin, cutting or shredding it and seasoning as needed, you are that much closer to a delicious new meal.

Be sure to check these post, too:

  • 6 Ways to Kill Germs & Bacteria in Your Kitchen
  • Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart
Planning is needed to make the best food choices while in the supermarket.

Want to Save Time and Money in the Supermarket?


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Anyone who goes food shopping on a regular basis knows that supermarkets can be intimidating places. With over 80,000 items on the shelves, you are bombarded with decisions from the minute you push your cart through the revolving doors until you pick the right check-out lane on your way out.

What was once a simple trip to buy groceries has now become an excursion where you can purchase everything from pate to patio furniture. Even if you’re shopping for the same items each visit, the displays, prices, and available merchandise are constantly changing, so you’re never sure got what you came for. There are times I’ve felt I’ve needed a Ouija board to figure out where they put the salsa!

If that sounds familiar, don’t despair.

By doing a little preparation before each trip to the supermarket you can over-ride the confusion and take advantage of what’s on sale, avoid impulsive purchases, and have everything you need for all your meals. That adds up to big savings and better food choices for you and your family.

Follow these steps to make each shopping trip an opportunity to invest in good nutrition and have meals your family will love without spending any extra money.

  1. Start by looking at your household calendar to see who will be home for what meals in the week ahead.
  2. Decide what meals you are shopping for and how many people will be eating them from home.
  3. Review the store circular to identify any specials you would like to take advantage of.
  4. Go through your coupons to see which ones you can use.
  5. Create a basic menu plan to cover the days you’re shopping for by filling in the key foods or recipes you want for each meal.
  6. Check your recipe files to see what other ingredients you may need for the dishes you will be preparing.
  7. Write your shopping list in sections based on food categories or store layout, such as Produce, Meats, Dairy, Breads, Frozen, Staples, Condiments, Beverages, etc.
  8. Grab your reusable shopping bags and head to the store ready to cross things off as you load them in your cart.

Would you rather spend 15 minutes to plan your meals before you start shopping or an extra 30 minutes roaming around the store trying to decide what to buy?

Food Trends Forecast What We’ll Eat in the New Year

Best Top Ten Food Trends for 2012 From The Everyday Dietitian


The final predictions have been made for what we’ll see on restaurant menus in 2012 and what foods we’ll be serving at home. Based on all the forecasts from all of the experts, I have prepared my list of the Top Ten Food Trends I found most favorable, foreboding or fascinating for the coming year.

The Hartman Group – This market research firm studies consumer culture and behavior and sees a continuing shift away from traditional meals. Their forecast for 2012 and beyond has is eating alone more, less eating together as a family and more doing your own thing, more snacks/ fewer meals, distinct “food occasions” replacing traditional meal categories and food decisions for “immediate consumption” based on mood or whimsy.

Technomic – The visionaries at this food service research and consulting firm predict the uncertain economy will make consumers less willing to take risks when dining out, so familiar foods will be given a new twist instead. Expect innovations in sandwiches, wraps, pizza and pasta. Cost-consciousness will also be seen by the use of simpler ingredients, such as beans, artisan grains and cheaper cuts of meat, presented as “rustic fare” in place of premium ingredients.

Mintel Group, Ltd. Anticipating ongoing economic and health concerns, these forecasters say restaurants will feature more “Double-Sided” menus giving consumers the choice of healthy options on one side and the usual indulgences on the other. This concept will also allow restaurants to offer premium and value pricing on opposite sides of the menu.

Phil Lempert’s Supermarket NewsSupermarket Guru Phil Lempert describes “Xtreme Home Cooking” as a way people will save money in 2012. Home cooks will strive to make the ultimate “value meal” by placing price and taste ahead of convenience. Lempert also says stores will be catering to the 76 million baby boomers now turning 65 who will control over half of the $706 billion spent on groceries by 2015! As the largest food influencers and purchasers, manufacturers will be motivated to develop more products featuring health and wellness benefits.

Small Business Food Trends – Entrepreneurial restaurant owners looking for an edge will be serving more appetizers or small plate portions on their menus. Customers love them because they allow sampling and sharing, appeal to health-conscious diners and are less expensive than entrees. Chefs like them because they can experiment with new ingredients and recipes without great risk.

Leatherhead Food Research They predict a continuing rise in the sales of “free-from” foods, such as free-from gluten, lactose, soy or nuts, to meet the demands of both the growing aging population and more health and nutrition conscious younger consumers.

Functional Ingredients and Nutraceuticals World – Both of these ingredient suppliers anticipate consumers will continue their search for “clean” labels. They say “pure” is the new “natural” and the meaning of “green” has diversified beyond responsible and sustainable to also mean ethical, less wasteful and more authentic.

The Food Channel A key trend in their sights for 2012 is more “Shopping Schizophrenia” with the revival of butchers, bakers and other specialty food shops right in your neighborhood. These Mom & Pop shops offer a more intimate shopping experience to compete with one-stop shopping in big box stores.

National Restaurant AssociationKids are prominent in the NRA’s vision for 2012. They see more healthful kids’ meals on restaurant menus, children’s nutrition as a culinary theme, more whole grain items in kids’ menus and smaller versions of adult meals served as “children’s mini-meals.”

American Council on ExerciseWeight loss won’t just about diet and exercise in 2012, it will include “lifestyle coaching.” Gyms will staff nutritionists, physical therapists and psychologists in addition to personal trainers to conduct “wellness programs.” Local employers will use these services to try to keep their work force healthy. There will be more mobile apps for interactive and online workouts accessible from smartphones and tablets.

What’s on your list of Top Ten Foods to Eat in 2012?

Good nutritional values can be found in the interior of your grocery store.

Healthy Eating on a Budget


Finding healthy foods to eat while sticking to a tight budget is not a difficult as you may think. Grocery stores circulars feature deeply discounted items each week to attract customers and good values can be found in every aisle all year round if you know what to look for.

The hard part is changing your shopping list to match what’s on sale or a good bargain. But if you’re trying to save money and eat well, it can be done. Let me show you how.

The biggest myth handicapping people who want to shop smart on a budget is the notion that all of the best foods are found on the perimeter of the store. That’s simply not true! Perishable foods that have high turnover and need to be closer to receiving docks or refrigerated storage areas are around the perimeter.

For example, fresh produce is found on the perimeter. Good deals can often be found on seasonal produce, but fresh is not always best. It is, however, more expensive, other than staples like potatoes, onions and carrots whose prices don’t vary much. Fresh produce becomes even more expensive it spoils before you eat it.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit, dried fruit, and canned or bottled 100% fruit and vegetable juices offer good nutrition at a good price every week of the year. Why not replace a green salad with a bean salad using canned lima, kidney and string beans or combine fresh carrots with canned pineapple for another low cost salad option?

Fresh meats, poultry, eggs and milk products are also found on the perimeter walls of the store. It is worth taking advantage of sale items in the meat case if you have the freezer space to store them when you get home. Fresh eggs remain one of the best nutritional values in the store at 20 cents apiece, while individual containers of flavored yogurt are among the worst. It’s far more economical to buy a quart of plain low fat or fat free yogurt and add a spoonful of jam.

You can build everyday menus around the good values found in the interior of the store if you by-pass the more costly versions packaged for convenience, and stick to the basics. These include:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Bagged dry beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines
  • Evaporated milk
  • Nonfat powdered milk
  • Canola oil
  • Whole wheat flour

Of course, you must be willing to learn some new cooking skills and a few new recipes so you can prepare things from scratch, but that provides further nutritional benefits. It’s worth it if you want to make an investment in your health and your wallet at the same time!

How are you saving money at the grocery store?

Buying seasonal foods and storing properly lets you enjoy them all year

Stock Up On These 5 Food Values in Stores Now!

Find the best prices on fall foods while in season

The last two months of year are filled with holidays that feature food. Traditional dishes and favorite family recipes dominate the menu. For many that means stretching the budget to cover all the extra ingredients needed to prepare those special meals. But it also provides an opportunity to stock up on seasonal foods that aren’t as plentiful any other time of year while they are at their lowest price. Take advantage of these bargains to reap their nutritional benefits all year long.

  1. Apples. Buy them in baskets at farms stands and start making applesauce! It’s easy to do and freezes beautifully. Skip the sugar and season with your own signature spice blends using cinnamon, clove and allspice. Freeze it in individual and meal sized plastic containers or zip-top freezer bags. If you have a fruit dehydrator, make dried apple slices to snack on or to add to baked goods, oatmeal and pilafs. Visit the New York State Apple Association or the Washington Apple Commission for the best recipes and information about different varieties.
  2. Fresh Cranberries. Get them in bulk or bags to load up your freezer after rinsing and placing in freezer-grade storage bags to preserve their quality. Use some to make a big batch of homemade cranberry sauce that you can put into little jars and give away as holiday favors to go with all that leftover turkey. They’re also good to have on hand for decorating, garnishing cocktails and dehydrating to make your own “Craisins.” The Cranberry Institute has answers to all your questions about their nutritional content and emerging health research.
  3. Pomegranates. Like apples, the fruit can be stored at refrigerator temperatures (32⁰ – 41⁰ F) for up to seven months. The whole fruit can also be frozen for over a year in heavy zip-top bags. Just defrost completely before using. The arils found inside the fruit are the edible part. To freeze, remove the arils from the fruit and place them in single layer on a sheet pan until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to 6 months. Get more health and nutrition information plus ways to use them from the Pomegranate Council.
  4. Walnuts. They can be stored in their shells for 8 months at room temperature or shelled and frozen for a year or more. Walnuts are ideal on their own as a snack or can be added to everything from appetizers to desserts. You can find all you need to know about these nutritious nuts, including recipes, from the California Walnut Board.
  5. Canned Pumpkin. Storage is no problem, but if you don’t load your pantry now you may not find this powerhouse of good nutrition so easily the rest of the year. A ½ cup serving of canned pumpkin provides more than 100% of your daily allowance for Vitamin A and 20% of the Daily Value for fiber– that’s 5 grams, and has only 40 calories. There are recipes galore on the Libby’s Pumpkin site, and they’re not all pie!
Pumpkin deserves a place on the menu all year long for its high nutritional value.

What’s So Great About Pumpkins? Everything!

Pumpkins are a nutritious addition to the diet all year round

The capital O in October is just one of several reminders that it is the month that celebrates pumpkins! Of course, there is no reason to wait until the 10th month of the year (there’s another big circle) to enjoy this nutritious vegetable, but for most Americans, this is the season when they’re sure to have their fill.

Little Known Facts About Pumpkins

Pumpkins are believed to be native to North America, with the oldest pumpkin-related seeds found in Mexico and dated between 7000-5500 BC. Today they are grown on every continent except Antarctica. The U.S., Mexico, India and China are the biggest producers of pumpkin, with 95% of the U.S. crop grown in Illinois.

Pumpkin is included in cuisines around the world and used by veterinarians as a digestive aid for dogs and cats. It is also used raw as poultry feed and added to other animal food.

The current world record for the largest pumpkin weighed in at 1,810 pounds. There are also pumpkin chucking contests where various mechanical devices are used to see how far a pumpkin can be hurled. The world record was placed on September 9, 2010 using a pneumatic air cannon that fired a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet.

Pumpkins enjoy a special place in folklore where witches turn people into pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns ward off demons. In fiction pumpkins have run the gamut from being turned into a carriage for Cinderella and consumed as a favored drink by the students of the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft in Harry Potter novels.

Important Nutrition Information About Pumpkins

Like most fruits and vegetables, fresh pumpkins are 90% water. And just like every other plant, they contain no cholesterol. One cup of boiled, drained and mashed pumpkin flesh contains these nutrients:

Macronutrients: Calories 49 , Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 12g of which naturally occurring sugar makes up 2g, Fiber 3g, Protein 2g.

Minerals: Potassium 565mg/16%*, Copper 0.2mg/11%, Manganese 0.2mg/11%, Iron 1.4mg/8%, Phosphorus 73.5mg/7%, Magnesium 22mg/6%, Calcium 36.7mg/4%, Zinc 0.6mg/4%, Sodium 2.5mg/0%.•

Vitamins: A 12231 IU/245%*, C 11.5mg/19%, B2 0.2mg/11%, E 2.0 mg/10%, Folate 22.0mg/6%, B1 0.1 mg/5%, B6 0.1mg/5%, Pantothenic Acid 0.5mg/5%, K 2.0mcg/2%

*Percentage of the Daily Value based on a 2000 calorie per day diet

Phytonutrients (plant nutrients that are neither vitamins nor minerals): Alpha and Beta carotenes, which can be converted into Vitamin A once consumed, and both Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes from macular degeneration.

Uses Beyond Your Holiday Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins are members of the winter squash family of vegetables and can be prepared in many of the same ways as members of that group, like butternut, Hubbard and turban squash. Whether you carve and cook your own or buy a canned pumpkin, it deserves a place on your menu all year long.

Here is a sampling of some of the many recipes you can find that include pumpkin:

Biscuits • Bread • Brownies • Brulee • Burgers • Cheesecake • Chili • Cookies • Crackers • Cream Cheese • Curry • Custard • Flan • Hash • Fudge • Muffins • Oatmeal • Pancakes • Pudding • Ravioli • Risotto • Salad • Scones • Smoothies • Soufflé • Soup • Stew • Waffles • Yogurt