Tag Archives: vegetables

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.

Eating for Weight Loss on a Budget

Quick update: I’m now down 28 pounds. A quarter of the way to my goal!

I mentioned when I talked about losing weight on a budget that I am not spending more on food than I was previously. It’s a little early to tell, but I actually think I might end up spending less.

I’m sharing this today not because I think that everyone can follow what I do, but hopefully to give you some ideas of what you might be able to do yourself.

I don’t buy diet foods. Almost everything I eat, I make from scratch. This is absolutely how I can control the ingredients and keep the calories within the range I need to eat.

I no longer am eating for pleasure (though I do enjoy what I eat). I’m eating for fuel, and I believe that these are the choices that are not only going to help me lose weight, but also stay healthy.

Might be eating healthier if all but one thing from today’s grocery shop needs fridge/freezer.

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on


I work evenings, so my “breakfast” is at noon. As it is my only meal at home, I make a smoothie with my Nutribullet.

Ronnica’s smoothie recipe
1 cup no-fat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup frozen fruit
1 cup spinach
1 small piece of kale
1/3 medium carrot
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/2 cup water

I’ve had these every day (travel excluded) for the past 6 weeks, and I’ve not gotten bored. I vary the fruit according to my fancy. I will probably also start varying the veggies some, too.

To keep costs down, I’ll be shopping around for good deals on fruit this summer and freeze them.

To keep the spinach and kale fresh for a few weeks, I wash it, dry it, then place it in paper towel lined plastic containers. (I really need to invest in tea towels!).


My 4:00 “lunch” at work is always muffins. I make my own, usually with a fruit or veggie in it. I make a week’s worth of muffins on my cooking day (currently Saturday). This has my only added sugar for the day: 1 tablespoon of sugar per day.


Dinner varies from week to week, but it is the same every day in any given week, as I make a batch of it on my cooking day. I’ve made carrot-infused turkey meatloaf, mini quiches and stews with various spices. My favorite has been Mexican-flavored stew with a little bit of chicken and a lot of veggies. At one large chicken breast per week, this is all the meat I usually eat.


If I have not reached my calorie count for the day, I’ll end my day with a snack. So far, I’ve been eating up the snacks I already had, but I’ll probably lean towards snacks of nuts or cheeses.

I’ll also be adding in more fresh veggies as the growing season allows. The great thing about veggies is that they allow you to feel full without adding in a lot of calories.


Weekends I start my day with a smoothie, but tend to vary my evening meal. Lately, I’ve  gotten on a cheese bread kick (made with homemade, whole-wheat dough which I freeze). Though this is more calories than I eat in one meal any other time in the week, I usually replace both lunch and dinner with it.

What healthy, from-scratch meals do you make?

Pantry Staples

unnamed (6)After a recent post about groceries, I was talking with a friend about how we manage to go grocery shopping so “rarely”–anywhere from one week to three weeks.

That got me to thinking about how we pull it off, and what it boils down to is this:  we keep certain things (foods, spices, etc.) in our kitchen that can be utilized by many different dishes.  Here are a few examples:

1.  A broad assortment of spices.  In addition to the standard spices, like cinnamon, salt and pepper, make sure to have a few other options available too.  Ones I find I use a lot include ginger, cumin, parsley, and (surprisingly) crushed red pepper flakes.

The benefit to having a variety of seemingly random spices is that if you don’t have a spice on hand that a recipe calls for, a quick internet search often yields an appropriate substitute, thus eliminating the need to go out to the store and spend money.  For example, I did not have poultry seasoning on hand for a recipe, but I did have rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, and thyme that Google told me would make a decent DIY poultry seasoning.  It worked!

2.  Protein source.  Be it lentils, peanut butter, chicken, beef, fish, or lamb, keeping a protein source at the ready can help you create the skeleton of a recipe.  Plus, if you stock up when meats are on sale, you can also save money!

3.  Veggies.   It is a well-known fact that I incorporate almost-rotten foods in my cooking because I hate the idea of wasting food (and thus wasting money), but don’t discount frozen and canned vegetables either.  Toss them in with your spices and protein source, and you are well on your way to a tasty casserole of your own making.

4.  Cream of something soup.  Ronnica makes her own cream of chicken soup; I prefer to buy mine.  No matter your soup origin preference, if you have cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup on hand, then you have a critical component of hundreds of recipes.

What food staples do you keep handy?

Ronnica’s Garden Plan, 2016

balcony garden in evening sunThis may be the blog post that I’ve spent the most time on. I know that I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 hours before I even started typing the first sentence.

Clearly, I take gardening very seriously.

Daydreaming about gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Before you have planted your first seed, you can imagine months of produce. Powdery mildew, late-coming spring and windy days do not appear in my daydreams, so the fruit is always abundant.

I think that is one of the exciting things about gardening: you’re always trying to game the weather, elements and pests. What choices will provide the highest yields this year?

What’s New

The biggest new thing I’m attempting this year is to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I plan on completing the transition of part of my living room into a plant nursery in order to make the most advantageous environment for them.

I want to grow my plants from seed for a few reasons:

1. Save seeds. I’ve had a dream to save my own seeds for a while now. In order to do so, you have to have heirloom (not hybrid) plants.

2. Save money. I spent $8.50 for heirloom seeds, instead of twice as much for hybrid plants. If I’m successful in saving seeds, this may be my last expenditure for these seeds until I want to add another variety when I have more garden space.

3. It’s a fun challenge. There’s a reason kids get excited about growing their own plants from seed: it’s exciting.

What I’m Growing

garden seedsVeggies: cucumbers, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, tomatoes (Amish paste), spinach, zucchini
Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Flowers: lavender, nasturium, likely some others

Last year I only grew nasturium, but I want to up my ante for flowers. They are the best use of my hanging baskets, and I want to grow varieties that will be useful for bees and butterflies as well as good companions for my veggies and herbs.

I still have a couple of weeks before I can start to plant, even indoors. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready!

What are you wanting to grow this year?

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 grit.com.  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…

Healthy Snacking

Full disclosure:  it’s tough for me to snack healthy.

This flies in the face of my own personal conviction that healthy eating is the ideal, especially in a family with young children.  I have found it possible (if challenging) to do healthy meals on a budget, and with a bit of preparation and planning is fairly easy to implement.

Meals are easy.

Snacking?  Not so much.  For example, I don’t know what it is about naptime and bedtime that makes me crave sugar (honestly, it’s probably a good indicator I’m tired), but that seems to be the time I cave into my unhealthy yearnings the most.  I also love to bake–another strike in the healthy eating endeavor.

I’m trying to make eating healthy snacks more of a priority for me, so have been keeping my eyes out for healthy snack recipes.  The requirements are pretty basic:  healthy, cheap, and easy to make…in that order.

To that end, I wanted to share my two secret weapons in this battle:  avocados* and Greek yogurt.  Put in any recipe (or eaten by themselves) and you have a winner.


I found this recipe recently in the free magazine Eating Well and knew I had to share.  Paired with raw veggies like baby carrots, it is the perfect snack (or small meal!).

Avocado-Yogurt Dip

1 ripe peeled pitted avocado

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I use plain Greek yogurt)

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro (I don’t use this much–personal preference)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season with hot sauce to taste, if desired.  Serve with crunchy vegetables, pita chips or pretzels or use as a sandwich spread.  Serves 8.

As a final note, I need more healthy (and cheap) snack ideas.  Got any?  Please send them my way!

*If you are new to the healthy eating game, I wanted to give you a tip I wish I’d had when it comes to avocados.  Avocados defy logic in that you’d think you want a firm, green one with which to cook, but that’s not the case.  Ripe avocados can be a dull green, and should be soft, rather than firm.  

A Year of Vegetables

assortment of vegetablesI have a not-so-secret interest in “a year of…” books and have probably read at least a half dozen. If I haven’t read it, chances are Amanda has (or one of us have it on our to-be-read list). There’s just something fascinating about watching someone commit to something and sharing the lessons they’ve learned.

For some time now I have tried to figure out my own “year of” project. So many good ones have been done, but I finally figured it out. And my project starts today.

A year of vegetables.

I’ve been wanting to eat more vegetables anyway, so this seems like a great way to kick start. Plus, it’s almost gardening time, so I’m going to have lots of fresh vegetables at my finger tips.

During my Buy Little Month, I learned that I really can make myself eat what I don’t want to. I’m going to put that knowledge to good use and revamp my diet.

So until March 31, 2016, I’m going to eat vegetables and herbs exclusively. Taking a look at this list from Wikipedia, and it’s clear that I’ll have plenty of variety of this next year. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to fall into new eating ruts, but I’m going to attempt to try every vegetable on that list that I can get my hands on.

I anticipate eating a lot of vegetable smoothies, salads and roasted vegetables. I can’t wait!

When I add in all the vegetables I’ll be able to grow, I’ll be able to shave $100 a month off my grocery budget (even more in the summer). I’ll also be able to eliminate my eating out budget…that’s $140/month I’ll be able to put towards my student loans (and soon, straight into savings)!

Have any vegetable recipes you like? Please share…I’m going to need them!

Or, you know, Happy April Fool’s!

Photo by thebittenword.com

Amanda’s Garden Plan

1901644_10101943096750499_2078924995_nYesterday, Ronnica discussed her plans for her garden.  Today, it’s my turn!

Having married into a green thumb family, I am relatively new to gardening, besides growing an occasional cucumber or flower as a child, but I love the idea of growing our own food, and giving the kiddos the opportunity to play in the dirt—with purpose!

Last year, due to a few issues, we weren’t able to dedicate a lot of time to the garden; read:  we didn’t weed and it got a bit Amazonian out there.  While I’m not sure how our garden will work around our family vacations this summer, it’s still our hope to change that this year.

Perhaps to get into the spirit of all that gardening entails, I found myself reading The $64 Tomato, by William Alexander—a humorous read about what hardcore gardening can really look like.  We don’t have anywhere near the two-thousand-square-foot garden Alexander and his family have, nor do we have the passion (or, frankly, energy) for gardening that he does.

That said, we do have about 144 square feet to work with.  Years past have found us swimming in cucumbers (among other vegetables), but a bit lacking in tomatoes (among others), so this year, I’d love to spend time cultivating that which we know thrives in our backyard:


The only problem with this one is that it takes up a great deal of room and resources and only yields a small amount.  Oh well—crisp, delicious corn straight from your garden can’t be beat!


As mentioned above, cukes seem to thrive in our environment, for whatever reason.  Our first harvest here resulted in us actually having people over to help us can the extra.  Bumper crop, but again…fresh produce from your own hands just can’t be beat.


I don’t know what variety we will try this year, but being a city-dweller, I will ‘fess up and say I had no idea you pick lettuce by taking leaves off the top and letting it continue to grow.  No doubt there are other varieties that you harvest differently, but I love the fact that I can go out and grab a few leaves for my lunchtime salad.

The only problem with that salad is what we won’t plant:  tomatoes.  This seems to be a garden staple, but they just don’t grow for us (unless you are going for a teeny green look and unripened flavor).  Another veggie that doesn’t make the cut this year but that we have attempted in years past is peas (too much shelling involved).

We have even tried our hand at fruit–specifically blueberries–but didn’t know a thing about caring for them (who knew cross-pollination played such a huge role?).  Perhaps when the kiddos are older!

Fortunately, there is a farmers market somewhere in the metro area seven days a week, so fresh, local, and (usually) organic produce is in plentiful supply.

…but if you have any tomato-growing tips, I’m all ears!

Ronnica’s Garden Plan

balcony container gardenOne of my favorite things about spring is getting to plant my garden. This will be 6th year to plant a garden, but only my 2nd in Denver. Each year has been a learning experience and new challenges have presented themselves. By far, last year’s greatest challenge was getting used to a new climate with a shorter growing season.

I have a strong heritage of gardening. Summers were marked by eating garden-fresh cucumbers (my favorite), strawberries, radishes and beets. Garden onion flavored every dish.

Though this is my 6th year gardening, I’ve never had a plot of land to do it in. Instead, I’ve gardened in containers on apartment balconies. Container gardening has it’s own challenges, but I love the opportunity of taking advantage of the space and light I do have to grow much of my summer veggies (and increasingly, feeding myself year-round).

To add to my inspiration, this winter I’ve been reading several books that have encouraged me towards sustaining myself like Depletion and Abudance and Year of Plenty.

So what am I planning on growing this year?

garden plan
My garden mock-up. We’ll see where everything really goes when it’s time to plant!


Please don’t hold me to my plans: I’m constantly changing my mind! Still, this is what I’m thinking:

3 tomato plants
9 cucumber plants (3 per pot)
3 bell pepper plants
3 basil plants
2 window planters of onion
2 pots of carrots
1 window planter of spinach
1 window planter of lettuce
1 window planter of radishes
balcony container garden1 zucchini plant
1 pot of snap peas

This is the most ambitious garden I’ve tried yet, trying the greatest variety I have ever had. I wanted to increase my variety because that will make it more likely that I’ll not need to buy many vegetables.

I’m antsy to get started, but in Denver, I can’t plant even the earliest vegetables until mid-April. Make sure to consult an almanac or your local agriculture extension office to know when to plant.

Be sure to check in tomorrow when Amanda shares her garden plan this year. What are you plans for gardening?