Category Archives: Recipes

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili over Roasted Potatoes

healthy chiliI love football. As in, I love watching others play football. (Boomer! Sooner!)

Watching football always makes me hungry for a few things: Diet Dr Pepper, junk food and chili. This is my first full football season without the first two.

But there is no reason why I can’t do chili.

Though generally, I want to eat my chili with Fritos and a lot of cheese and sour cream…that’s not happening these days.

So how do I make a tasty chili and fixings that also comes in at under 450 calories? Here’s how I did it:

Black Bean Chili

1.25 cups dried black beans (soaked in water overnight)
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce (hopefully homemade one day)
1 white onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 cups vegetable broth (I now make my own)
seasonings to taste (I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper…basically, chili powder)

To make the chili, dump all the ingredients in a small crock pot. This recipe makes 5 servings, but can be easily doubled for a big batch in a standard-size crockpot. Cook on high until the beans are soft when bitten (6-8 hours).

Roasted Potatoes

5 medium russet potatoes or 3 large ones
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
Seasonings to taste (I used garlic salt, onion powder and paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub and chop potatoes (with peels still on), in chunks smaller than 1″. Place potato pieces on greased tray or casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add seasonings. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30-40 minutes until potatoes are soft when pierced, stirring every 10 minutes. This recipe makes 5 servings.

Serve chili over potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese and plain Greek yogurt, if desired. I topped mine with 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 2/5 cup nonfat Greek yogurt.

This meal’s nutrition facts (topped as I did):

447 calories
27 grams protein
62 grams carbs
10 grams fiber
13 grams fat

Not bad for a filling football-watching meal that costs less than $2 a serving! And did I mention it’s delicious?

Practical Vegetarianism

I am not a vegetarian. I love bacon, burgers and pepperoni. While other people may crave meat, my cravings have always been more on the carbohydrate and dairy side: bread, cheese, and ice cream.

Since I started eating better, I just haven’t felt the need to spend some of my 1200 or so calories a day on something I don’t really even enjoy. While meat can provide good protein and nutrients, it doesn’t give me the best bang for my buck (calorie wise or budget wise). As such, I’ve almost entirely given it up.

Now, if it’s not a special occasion or a meal with others, I’m not eating meat. I get my protein mostly from dairy, whole grains and beans. I still enjoy the occasional burger, but I’m not missing meat.

Below is one of my recent recipes that I’ve concocted. I’m not sure if it is technically vegetarian since I added chicken bouillon, but I plan on making and freezing my own veggie stock soon. Just another step in making my food from scratch.

While it may seem like extra work to have to pre-cook the beans, veggies and rice, it really takes no more hands-on time than it would to brown meat.

creamy rice and bean bakeCreamy Rice and Bean Bake
Makes 5 servings

Nutritional info per serving:
411 calories, 26 g protein, 60 g carbs, 10 g fat, 7 g fiber

1.25 cups dry black beans, cooked (I add some onion, cumin, thyme and chicken bouillon while cooking) 
1 cup brown rice, cooked (I add chicken bouillon while cooking)
2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
1 yellow squash
2 bell peppers
1/2 onion
1 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt to taste

Pre-cheese and baking
Pre-cheese and baking

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut and grill or saute the squash, peppers and onion. I grill mine on a George Foreman. Cut them into bite-sized or smaller pieces before or after cooking.

3. Combine cooked veggies, beans and rice in a greased 9 x 13 casserole pan. Leaving shredded cheese to the side, add in remaining ingredients and mix.

4. Top with shredded cheese.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I tried to keep track of the spices I used and in what quantities, but really, use what you like. The good thing about a recipe like this is that it’s very customizable…use what you like.

A Favorite Summer Recipe

51F9MMASVHL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_It’s hot here in Kansas.  Hot and humid.

That makes me far less inclined to spend time cooking over a hot stove with the oven on, so I rely pretty heavily on my slow cooker.

Here is one that has been on heavy rotation lately, courtesy of Crazy About Crockery, which has to be one of the best cookbooks EVER.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Chicken Tetrazzini

4 whole chicken breasts, split, skinless

2 cans cream of chicken soup (or use Ronnica’s recipe)

1 can cream of mushroom soup (Since we aren’t big mushroom fans, I usually omit this.)

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 pkg (8 oz) spaghetti pasta or other shaped pasta (we like egg noodles)

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

2 teaspoons basil

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker.  Cover with cream of chicken soup and 1 cup water.  Cover with lid and cook on high for six hours  Remove chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Return chicken to slow cooker.  Add all remaining ingredients except pasta and cheese.  Cover slow cooker and reduce heat to low.  Continue cooking for about 1-3 hours.  About 30 minutes prior to serving, stir in sour cream.  In separate saucepan, prepare pasta according to package directions.  Cook until tender, but firm.  Rinse and drain.  Serve slow cooker mixture over pasta.  Top with shredded cheese.

Wintry Weather Recipes

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263I don’t know about where you are, but as I write this post, it is sleeting.  Winter is very definitely here–what better way to keep warm than in a toasty kitchen?

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some recipes, especially ones of the “use it up” variety.  Here are a couple that have been on heavy rotation over the last several weeks.

Baked Potato Soup (borrowed from Grit Magazine)

4 baking potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (I use plain Greek yogurt.)

3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided (I use dried minced onion instead.)

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (We aren’t bacon people, so I omit this.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce potatoes with fork and bake for about one hour, or until tender; cool.  Peel potatoes and discard skins (Since much of a potato’s nutrition is in the skin, I omit this step).  Coarsely mash potatoes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with knife.  Place flour in large Dutch oven (or pot); gradually add milk, stirring with whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, about eight minutes.  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cups cheese, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese melts.  Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat for ten minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Do NOT boil.

Ladle soup into individual bowls and sprinkle each with equal amount remaining cheese, onion, and bacon.  Yield:  8 (1/2 cup) servings.

We always serve this with a homemade biscuit or cornbread.  A delicious way to use up those old potatoes and soon-to-expire milk you may have!

Daddy Granola

8 cups oatmeal

1.5 cups flax seed

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup finely chopped almonds

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup honey

1 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 9×13 baking dishes with nonstick spray.

Combine oatmeal, flax seed, sunflower seeds and almonds in a large bowl.  Stir together the brown sugar, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.  Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking dishes.

Bake until crispy and toasted, approximately twenty minutes.  Cool, then stir in the raisins (or other dried fruit).  Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Riley (the “Daddy” of the title of this recipe) and Bean will eat this dry for breakfast; Peanut and I prefer to eat it with some yogurt.  It is a tasty treat, even if it doesn’t strictly follow the limited sugar diet we prefer.  It is also worth noting that a little goes a long way–the flax seed and oatmeal do a great job ensuring regularity (if you know what I mean…)!

Got any tasty recipes I should try?


Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

Now that it has started to get cooler here in Denver, I’ve been craving warm foods. I have enjoyed the ease of throwing a few things together in my slow cooker and make enough for my dinner-time meals at work while I’m busy completing other chores.

One of the most versatile ingredients when making a casserole or slow cooker dish is a can of good ol’ cream of ______ soup. I’ve never really questioned what was in it…I just stuck the gelatinous stuff right in.

Some time back, I read of someone who made their own cream of ______ soup. It got me thinking about this go-to ingredient: would it be possible to make it in bulk, saving money and knowing more about what I was eating?

So that’s exactly what I did.

I highly recommend freezable mason jars. These are 12-ounce jars and are perfect for so many things.
I highly recommend freezable mason jars. These 12-ounce jars and are perfect for so many things, and you’re not creating unnecessary waste by using Ziploc bags.

I followed this recipe for cream of chicken soup and quadrupled it (though I made it in 2 batches, to fit in my saucepan). I used white whole wheat flour and skim milk. It came out to 12 12-ounce jars of cream of chicken soup.

So is it really cheaper than store-bought cream of chicken soup?

To make 12 jars I used:

10 cups of chicken broth, $4.27
6 cups of skim milk, $1.11
3 cups of white whole wheat flour, $0.60
garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper, $0.20

Total: $6.18

That makes each jar (similar size as a small can) $0.52 each. The cheapest cans of cream of _______ soup I’ve bought in the last year were $0.99 after tax, so I’m saving $0.47 a jar. I am also avoiding unnecessary soy and corn additives, MSG (though check out the chicken broth you use to be sure) and am using less-processed flour.

What am I going to do with 12 jars of cream of chicken soup? Well, I already used 2 to make chicken and rice for meals at work. The other 10 jars I stuck in my freezer for later. I’ve been told that the texture can be different after freezing, but I don’t anticipate that being a problem as I only use them in things and not by themselves.

Hunting and Gathering

unnamed (3)Although I have gotten back on the grocery planning wagon, there are still many folks who are really, really passionate about grocery prep–even more so than I am.  Some of the ways some people prepare is by meal planning and/or freezer meals.

While I do try to have a good idea of what to make for meals in between grocery trips, I confess my planning is a bit more haphazard than I would like (for photographic evidence, one need look no further than the picture at left, depicting my “gathered recipes.”)  This is mostly due to the fact that I subscribe to a couple of cooking magazines courtesy of Recyclebank, and when those arrive each month, I manage to find some recipes that sound delicious that I must try as soon as possible.  (I am also a social media junkie, and when a great recipe comes up, I add it to the “to try” list.)

Another reason I may deviate from my meal planning is because I have too much (or too little) of a particular food or seasoning, or it needs to get used up quickly.  When that happens, I find myself searching online for a good way to use up that ingredient.  Many times, those recipes become new family favorites that enter the meal rotation!

One such recipe was for baked potato soup, courtesy of  We had several pounds of potatoes that would be going bad soon, and it has been soup weather here in the Midwest, so cook soup I did.  It was fantastic!  Check out the recipe here.

We also had lots of carrots set to expire, and in true “Use it up” fashion, I put my love of baking to work and made carrot cake.  Maybe not the most nutritionally sound, but it was delicious.  It’s my grandmother’s recipe, but not a secret, so here it is for your culinary enjoyment.

Grandma’s Carrot Cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

3 cups grated carrots (I grated in a food processor)

Mix all ingredients together, and spoon into a 9×13 greased pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Grandma’s Carrot Cake Frosting

1/4 cup butter

4 ounces cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix all together and spread on cooled carrot cake.  (And this made me laugh–from my grandmother’s original recipe:  “[Papa] always liked a lot of frosting, so I doubled that recipe.” So I did too!)

Now to organize my cookbooks…

Sourdough Foray

I have mentioned before my desire to keep thing as simple and wholesome as possible when it comes to food and cooking.  Bread is one of the items that we try to keep as unprocessed as possible.

We have a breadmaker that has seen increasing use in recent years, and we buy sprouted grain breads to keep our sugar intake at a minimum and nutritional content at a maximum.

Since I love sourdough bread, I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at it.

It didn’t sound too complicated when I browsed various recipes online.  How hard could it be to set out flour and water and let the yeast in the air work its magic?

I ultimately decided to go with this one.

Through no fault of the aforementioned recipe, for various reasons (including one house occupant accidentally throwing one out), I had to go through five different sourdough starter attempts.  The last one seemed like it would be “the one”:  bubbly, yeasty-smelling…perfection!

unnamed (38)

But on Day 4 of starter prep, I started to notice a rancid odor coming from the top of the refrigerator (where the bowl was kept).  I didn’t think much of it–the instructions indicate the odor would get stronger as the prep progressed.

Then I looked in the bowl, and was greeted by this:

unnamed (39)

The picture really doesn’t do the contents justice.  I was torn between gagging and crying in frustration (I’m a pretty emotional person).

I don’t know what microbes and mutant yeast are growing in my kitchen, but clearly something went awry.

After more than a month attempting sourdough, I’m taking a break from it.  Living the simple life is supposed to be gratifying, not maddening, and this was a battle I was not up for fighting right now.

I hope to try sourdough again in the future–I maintain it can’t be that hard, so it must be user error–but in the meantime…add sourdough to my list of things I splurge on.

Bad Bananas

In the last post, I discussed my pursuit of a healthier diet and how pervasive sugar is nowadays.

Today, I share a recipe that involves sugar.  Go figure.

Hear me out though:  in addition to being passionate about healthy eating, I am equally passionate about preventing food waste.  Oftentimes, even with a grocery list, impulse purchases find their way on the list, or a recipe seems like a good idea but never comes to fruition.

Fresh produce, in particular, always seems to fall victim  to the best of intentions.  “Use it or lose it” comes to mind–and usually it is the latter when it comes to fresh fruits and veggies.  As great as composting is, it is best to use food for its original purpose whenever possible, plus the environmental and financial toll of food waste are significant.

So when some bananas were starting to go bad, I immediately considered what delicious creation I could make from them, before they would have to be tossed:

unnamed (35)

…and I came up with banana bread.

Having never attempted banana bread before, I needed it to be easy.  A quick online search did not leave me disappointed, and it was such a hit, the loaf didn’t stick around long enough for a picture.  (Next time, I’d like to try this one–and it’s sugar-free!)

What ways do you prevent food waste?

Praises of the Bean

beansGrowing up, I remember disliking beans, except for baked beans and the occasional bean in chili.

I think us Americans often discount beans for being the food of the global poor. But we’re no better off for eschewing this humble food.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate this  basic food substance. I even considered challenging myself to eat beans every day for a month, but I don’t think that a gimmicky challenge does the bean justice.

Instead, I’ll share my favorite things about beans:

1. They’re cheap. I buy mine dry from Walmart. The most expensive bean among my regulars is the black bean, at $0.17 a serving (1/4 cup dry beans).

2. They’re easy to prepare. The crockpot is my friend. After soaking the beans overnight, I throw them in the crockpot on high with some spices and some veggies. Stir every hour, and they’re ready in 6-8 hours. It’s really that easy.

3. They’re versatile. Of course I’ve made beans into chili. I’ve cooked them with cumin and thyme for a Mexican flavor or with oregano and basil for an Italian one. I’ve prepared them with corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots and celery. I’ve cooked kidney, black, pinto and lentils. I’ve eaten them with rice, corn bread or standing alone.

Even then, I’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities.

4. They’re filling. Beans have a great combination of carbohydrates, fiber and protein to get me through the day.

5. They are healthy. Obviously, the fiber and protein is good, but so are the vitamins.

Do you eat beans? If so, how do you like them?

Making Your Own Mixes

Several years ago I remember thinking that anyone who made brownies or cakes from scratch (rather than from a box) were crazy. Why work harder than you have to?

Then I started to care more about cost and ingredients. My desire to cut out over-processed, white flour led me away from boxed mixes.

For similar reasons, I’ve moved away from spice mixes and store-bought dressings. By mixing them myself, not only do I save money and use spices and herbs that I already have, while they’re still potent, I can mix them to my tastes. Soon, I hope to be able to grow most of my own herbs as well.

I’m thankful for the Internet for helping me figure out recipes that work for me. I’ve including the links to these recipes below as well as my thoughts on them.

Baking Mixes

Yellow cake mix – One of my favorite type of muffins to make have 2 ingredients: a can of pumpkin and a box of yellow cake mix. This is the  recipe I use to replace the yellow cake mix.

Jiffy corn muffin mix – Jiffy cornbread is my favorite thing to eat with chili. Homemade vegetarian chili and homemade muffins is a very filling, cheap and healthy meal and easy to take to work.

Bisquick – I’ve only ever used this to sausage balls. If you do what I did and replace the flour with white whole wheat flour, you’ll want to reduce the flour a little to make the balls easier to form. I’ll add a little flour at a time next time.

Brownies – I live in Denver, so I use this high-altitude recipe. When I get more comfortable baking at the high altitude I will be swapping the eggs out for applesauce.

Spice mixes

Taco seasoning mix – I’m a weenie about spicy food, so this allows me to up the flavor without the heat (I make it without the red pepper flakes).

Chili powder – Before I found this recipe, I had never thought about what “chili powder” really is. Again, I can decrease the pepper to make it more palatable for me.

Ranch mix – I use this to substitute dry ranch packets in recipes (like ranch potatoes). But for ranch dressing…

homemade ranch dressing


Ranch dressing – Ranch is my all-time favorite dressing and goes with just about everything. I’ve tried other recipes before, but this is the first one I can see giving up the (ranch) bottle for. I throw everything in my Bullet (a half-batch at a time) so it’s super easy, and I use it up in a week.

I hope to start tweaking it to replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt to make it healthier.

Ceasar dressing – This dressing recipe is super easy and tasty.

Cilantro lime vinaigrette – This is a good summer recipe and hope to making it soon with fresh cilantro over garden lettuce and radishes.

How about you? What have you learned to make from scratch?