Choose Your Own Adventure Enchiladas

choose your own adventure enchiladas

“Mom’s Chicken Enchiladas.”  Ever since I moved away from home and had a kitchen of my own, I’ve been making some variation of this recipe.  More recently, I’ve been trying to eat fewer processed foods, so my latest varieties have involved various substitutions for the two “cream of” soups that my mom’s original recipe calls for, while still maintaining the flavor and texture of the original.  (Mom’s recipe doesn’t actually list enchilada sauce as an ingredient, but trust me, it’s supposed to be in there.  She always used one can of mild and one can of hot and mixed them together.)


I’ve included some of my favorite variations, but feel free to make this your own!  Let’s go on an enchilada adventure…

1.  Choose your pan.  This recipe makes a 9×13 pan-full of enchiladas, or you can make two 8×8 pans of enchiladas and freeze one for later.

2.  Choose your tortillas.  I like corn, but flour tortillas are fine too if that’s how you roll.  (Enchiladas…roll…ha!)

3.  Choose your protein.  Chicken, ground beef, shredded beef, shredded pork, beans… I’m sure it would be delicious with seafood or venison too, but I’ve never tried it.  You’ll need about 1 1/2-2 pounds of protein.

4.  Choose your veggies (and cook them).  My mom’s original recipe uses one onion and one green pepper, but I say the more veggies the better.  Lots of colorful bell peppers would be great, or even some sauteed spinach.  Go for about 1 1/2 cups of veggies.

5.  Choose your sauce.  So many options!  For the enchilada sauce, you can go red or green, store-bought or homemade.  I like red sauce with beef and green sauce with chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups (or 2 cans).

6.  Don’t forget other stuff.  The original recipe also calls for 1 can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, so for a healthier twist you could make your own or use a cup of sour cream.  You’ll also need 4 oz. of green chiles and about 2-3 cups of shredded cheese.

7.  Choose your assembly method.  Rolling the enchiladas would be traditional, but they taste just as good and are much easier when assembled in layers.

Here we go!

Coat your baking dish with cooking spray.

If you’re rolling your enchiladas, turn to the next page: In a large bowl, combine protein, cooked vegetables, soups/sour cream, and green chiles.  Soften corn tortillas in chicken broth or fry ever so briefly in oil (so bad for you but OMG good), fill each one, roll up and place in baking dish.  Cover with enchilada sauce and top with cheese.

If you’re layering your enchiladas, turn to page 17: In a large bowl, combine cooked vegetables with soups/sour cream, and green chiles.  Begin layering ingredients, in this order: tortillas, protein, sauce/veggie mixture, cheese, and then drizzle enchilada sauce over the whole thing.  Repeat all layers.

Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly, 30-45 minutes.


What’s your favorite kind of enchiladas?

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Sarah’s Famous Steel-Cut Oatmeal: Fall Remix #pumpkinspice

pumpkin oats

Fall’s cool mornings just cry out for warm, filling breakfast, right?  Save yourself some money on those overpriced fall-spiced lattes and coffee shop muffins the size of your head, and and make a bowl of pumpkin spice oatmeal instead.  You can get your pumpkin spice fix without hurting your wallet or your waistline.

Steel cut oats are a tasty and nutritious way to start your day, but whenever I mention them, people raise some objections.  The two most common ones I hear are:

They take so long to cook!


Oatmeal?  Isn’t that kind of boring?

Let’s start with the first one.  It’s true — Ain’t nobody got time for simmering oatmeal on a hot stove for thirty minutes in the morning.  But as long as you don’t have an aversion to microwaving, you can have delicious steel-cut oatmeal in your life without waking up early to cook.  Make them in the evening while you’re cleaning up from dinner.  They really are just as good reheated — I promise!

And boring?  Not if you add all of your favorites things! way.  I love oatmeal because there are so many different ways to make it your own.

The Basic Recipe (makes 4 servings):

1 c. steel cut oats

4 c. water

Pinch of salt

Combine ingredients, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Add your favorite oatmeal toppings and enjoy.

Fall Remix – Pumpkin spice oatmeal mix-ins:

I like to add mix-ins to the whole batch of oatmeal while it’s warm, then portion it out into individual pyrex bowls for storage and easy reheating.  If you have a variety of food preferences in your family, though, you could certain do this bowl-by-bowl as you reheat in the morning.  Down with boring oatmeal!

For a full batch, add:

1/2 can of pumpkin puree

1 T. (or more!) of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

Handful of dried cranberries, unsweetened applesauce, and/or a drizzle of maple syrup for sweetness (add to taste – I like cranberries for the texture)

Chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts would be excellent) or a big dollop of nut butter (I like the crunch of actual nuts, but use what you have on hand)

To reheat:

Microwave a single bowl, then add a splash of milk or almond milk to thin it (I will admit, refrigerated oatmeal can be a little gloppy) and cool it off.  It lasts for a week in the fridge!

Have I convinced you to give steel cut oats a try?  What’s your favorite warm breakfast food? 

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Healthy homemade pancake mix


Before we had kids (and even when we only had one small, highly portable kid), we loved to go out to eat breakfast on Saturday mornings.  Our favorite place was a old-fashioned pharmacy-turned-diner that serves excellent omelettes, pancakes, and constantly refilled cups of coffee.  We loved to sit at the old soda fountain counter, read the paper, and watch the hipster waitstaff rush around while we waited for our breakfast.  It’s a popular place, so sometimes the wait would be pretty long.

These days, between trying to save money, a busy preschooler who doesn’t appreciate long waits (even for yummy breakfast food), and a strong desire to stay in my pajamas on Saturday mornings — we usually stay home and make our own big breakfasts on the weekends.  I like my pancakes topped with almond butter, slices bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Or blueberries, sliced almonds and real butter.  Or a couple of extra crispy slices of bacon and an over-easy egg.

No matter what your favorite pancake toppings are, this super-simple (and cheap!) homemade pancake mix will ensure that you never have to buy Bisquick again.  (Please steal my idea and tape post-its with the instructions to the side & top of your mix container.)


To put together the MIX:

4 c. flour (I use whole wheat, but any mix of flours should work)

2 T. baking powder

2 t. salt

4 T. sugar (optional, but I think they taste better with just a hint of sweetness.  Another option would be to add a squirt of honey when you mix in the wet ingredients)

When you’re ready to make PANCAKES:

To make 8 6-in. pancakes (I can’t flip them when they’re any larger) // serves 2-3 adults

1 c. MIX

1 egg

1 scant c. milk

3 T. oil (anything will work here — melted coconut oil, melted butter, vegetable oil, etc.)

To make 16 6-in. pancakes // serves 4-6 adults

2 c. MIX

2 eggs

1 3/4 c. milk

6 T. oil

What’s your favorite weekend breakfast?

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Cooking School: Veggie Haters

Photo Credit: Nati's Cakes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nati’s Cakes via Compfight cc

New Year’s Resolutions – love em or hate em, you’ve got to admit that trying to eat a little healthier (a very common one) is a pretty good goal.  But what if you just don’t like vegetables?  Or if you like them, but you’re trying to cook healthier meals for your family and you’re getting some major push-back from someone else in the house?  It’s time to deal with cooking for the veggie hater.

This post was inspired by a question I got from a friend of mine.  She’s a young wife and her husband hates vegetables.  In her words, he “will eat a kiwi or baby carrots about once a month, but it’s very difficult to get him to eat non-meat/bread/processed things.”  Whether you eat vegan, paleo, or something in between, I think we can all agree that eating baby carrots once a month is not going to cut it in the fruits and veggies department.  Here are my top three strategies for cooking vegetables for the veggie hater.

Hide them.  Stay with me.  I’m not going to go all Jessica Seinfeld on you here, but I do think that hiding veggies has a place in a healthy diet.  I don’t mean hide as in don’t tell the person they’re eating veggies (although you might have to try it), but hide as in make them as unobtrusive as possible.  We could all stand to eat more vegetables in our diets, why not make a few servings really easy?  Shredded or pureed vegetables can be added to many foods with little or change to the flavor of texture.  

Try adding pureed red or orange vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, or red bell peppers into chili or other creamy soups.  (The really easy approach is to use pureed pumpkin, since you can buy it already pureed.)  Speaking of chili and soups – if you’re making anything soupy, you should be able to substantially increase the vegetables without affecting the flavor much.  Shredded carrots or zucchini can be added to muffins.  It’s pretty hard to sneak spinach into most foods, since the color gives you away, but if you have a willing participant who just doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, you can eat tons of spinach without ever eating a salad — put it in smoothies, meatloaf, baked pastas, and soup. I’ve even heard of people putting spinach in muffins!  (Tip: spinach releases a lot of water when cooked, so frozen spinach that has been thawed and squeezed out works better when extra water would mess up the recipe.)

Minimize them.  I don’t know why, but something about chopping vegetables really small seems to make them more palatable to many people.  Try a chopped salad, or just dicing everything smaller or shredding next time you make a vegetable side dish or something with vegetables in it, and see if your veggie hater will eat it a little better.

Sweeten them.  Have you ever heard of super-tasters?  Basically, they’re a small segment of the population who have really super-charged taste buds.  It sounds awesome, but when it comes to vegetables, it’s curse because super-tasters taste the bitterness in vegetables that many plants have developed to fend off predators.  To combat this, we have to figure out how to sweeten them up.  (The vegetables, not the super tasters.)  Step away from the sugar!  Cooking vegetables at a high heat — like roasting or stir-frying — will caramelize their natural sugars and make them taste sweeter without any added sweeteners.

Good veggies to roast are carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and bell peppers.  Cauliflower is surprisingly good roasted, especially with a favorite seasoning blend on top.  (Penzey’s Northwoods or curry powder are totally different but equally delicious on cauliflower.) Hard squashes (like butternut and acorn) are good to roast too, but they can be difficult to peel when raw, so try roasting the squash cut in half with the seeds removed, then scoop it out of peel and cut it up afterwards.

Here is my roasted vegetable un-recipe:  turn oven to 400, chop veggies into uniform-sized pieces (smaller will cook faster if you’re in a hurry) and toss in a little olive oil. Put everything on a cookie sheet and sprinkle on a little salt. You can add other spices later — sometimes they burn. Put veggies in the oven to cook and stir them around every 15 minutes or so. Cook until they look browned and are soft on the inside.

Copycat them:  Are there vegetables that your veggie hater will eat in a restaurant?  Other than a Bloomin’ Onion?  What about fajita vegetables at a Mexican restaurant, stir-fried veggies floating in soy sauce at a Chinese restaurant, etc?  You might be able to recreate these as side dishes at home, and even if you do use a heavy hand on the salt, sauce, etc., I can guarantee you it’s probably still healthier than what you get at a restaurant, and YAY they’re eating vegetables.

Normalize, normalize, normalize:  Veggies at every meal, no exceptions.  (Okay, I give you a pass on breakfast.)  Make vegetables a normal part of the food culture at your house, and eventually eating them will become less of a foreign concept.  Yes, it’s frustrating to cook things that you know other people won’t eat, but they’re never going to change unless presented with the opportunity.

I want to encourage you to try, try, try again when it comes to presenting the veggie hater with new foods.  Recommendations for feeding picky children often state that you should present the same food to a kid up to 12 times before you should expect them to eat it without a fight.  I see no reason that a picky adult should be any different — if anything, they will probably be more resistant and set in their ways!
Have you overcome your veggie hating ways?  Tell me how!  What’s a vegetable you hated as a kid that you love now?
Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!
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Cooking School: Fall Favorites

Photo Credit: donsutherland1 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: donsutherland1 via Compfight cc

 It’s officially fall.  We can start replacing fresh salads with roasted or steamed veggies, cook more beans, grains or meat for warmth and energy, increase nuts for fat and incorporate the produce that grows around you.  Fall is also the ideal time to slow down your lifestyle to help remove toxins and de-stress your body.  Fall’s foods are naturally immunity-boosting and prepare our bodies to be healthy and balanced as we enter the cooler season.  Excerpt from “The One Diet That Works for Everyone,” posted on the blog “Mommy Run Fast,” Sept. 25, 2013.

This week’s Cooking School post was inspired by a blog post I read recently about the health benefits of eating seasonally.  The paragraph above is just a snippet, but I’d encourage you to check out the whole post if you’re interested in learning more about the concept of eating seasonally or according to your Ayurvedic type.

It makes perfect sense to me that nature produces the foods we need to keep us healthy as the seasons change.  And doesn’t it just seem like the right thing to do to start eating warm, cozy foods in the fall and crisp, fresh foods in the spring?  Sadly, few restaurants (especially of the drive-through variety) seem to recognize any change in the weather and continue to dish up the same heavy, greasy fare year-round.  To help you cook your own healthful, seasonal foods, here are some of my favorite recipes for fall.  These aren’t just recipes I found on Pinterest with a pretty picture — I have made all of these recipes many times, and I can personally vouch that they are easy, healthy, and delicious.

Cheater’s Pulled Pork (it’s a “cheater” recipe because you make it in a crockpot, not a smoker.  But it’s still pretty darn good!)

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes I’m sure I’ve mentioned this recipe before, but it bears repeating — it’s a great vegetarian recipe that even meat-lovers like!

Roasted pumpkin or squash seeds

Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal (this one takes some advance planning, but it’s sooo good, and great for feeding overnight guests because you mix it up ahead of time.)

Homemade Granola with seasonal add-ins like dried cranberries, dried apples, pecans, walnuts, and extra cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.  (The recipe calls for honey and brown sugar, but I only use the honey and it’s sweet enough.)

Gumbo-laya (my own invention)

Roasted Vegetables — chop an assortment of fall vegetables (like sweet potato, squash, brussels sprouts & cauliflower) into equal-sized pieces, stir in a bit of olive oil and salt, and roast at 400 degrees F until they look roasty toasty.  Top with seasoning of choice, stir, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Healthy-ish Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chicken & wild rice soup — I don’t have a link to the recipe I normally use but this one looks very similar.

Curry — I keep promising a post about curries, and it certainly seems appropriate to make it next week’s topic — stay tuned!

What are your favorite fall foods?  Do you think eating seasonally can help you stay healthy?

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment! I try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.


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Cooking School: Slow Cooker 101


Photo Credit: nemuneko.jc via Compfight cc

Cooking in a slow cooker (or Crock-Pot) is a little bit of an obsession for me. I own three crock-pots of various sizes, several cookbooks specifically dedicated to slow-cooking, and I cook at least one meal a week in a crock-pot during all but the hottest parts of the year. Done right, a slow cooker meal is truly a busy person’s best friend — there is nothing like coming home from a long day at work to a delicious-smelling meal that is hot and ready to eat. You take off your uncomfortable work shoes, change clothes, and pour yourself a refreshing beverage. Ahh… Dinner is served.

Of course, it doesn’t always turn out that way. My slow cooker mishaps include tough, overcooked meats, mushy vegetables, and – somehow – rice that was both undercooked AND burned. (Yes, I have had some truly amazing kitchen disasters. Remind me to tell you about the time the cookies I was baking started dripping out the front of the oven.)

Here are my top tips for successful slow cookery:

Choose the right meat. This is not the time for boneless skinless chicken breasts or super lean pork chops. Dark meat generally works better than white meat, and a well-marbled cut will be better than very lean meat. Since it cooks for such a long time, the fat has time to soften and keeps the meat moist, while leaner cuts turn dry and tough. (Cutting off big chunks of fat is usually a good idea, though.)

Use the right amount of liquid. Actually, that makes it sound much harder than it really is. Slow cookers are basically sealed while they’re cooking, so no moisture is coming in or out during the cooking process. If you forget to add liquid (or enough liquid), then you’re stuck (ha ha) cleaning dry, burned-on food out of your crockpot. Add too much, and you’ve got Insert-Recipe-Name-Here-Soup, complete with watered-down spices and soggy vegetables. Really, as long as you’ve got a cup or so of liquid, you should be fine, but be aware that some ingredients will soak up liquid during cooking, like rice, other grains, or beans. Fresh vegetables will release some moisture so you can get by with a little less liquid in recipes with a lot of veggies.

Understand how the slow cooker works. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your crockpot will prevent a lot of frustration. The crockpot is not an oven, a skillet, or a grill. Don’t expect food to come out browned or crispy or you’ll be disappointed. Think stew, braise, and simmer.

Plan for side dishes or extras. One of the great things about the slow cooker is how it melds the flavors into a harmonious whole while bubbling away all day. But, if you put everything you plan to eat for dinner in the crockpot, you may end up feeling like everything on your plate tastes the same (and the mushy-ness factor might be overwhelming). I like to add a little variety to the meal by either adding something crunchy after cooking (such as crumbling chips or crackers over chili) or planning a contrasting side dish like a cold, crunchy green salad or a toasty dinner roll.

Here’s one of my favorite crockpot recipes. It tastes great on its own, but it also makes awesome leftovers, shredded up and turned into burritos.

Crockpot Chile Verde Serves 6

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 T. olive oil

4 oz green chiles, diced (any can of green chiles will do, but if you’re lucky and have New Mexico green chiles in your freezer like I do, use them!)

1 jalapeno, diced

7 tomatillos, coarsely chopped (yes – tomatillos. Little green tomatoes with a weird papery husk that you peel off. Ask the produce manager, you might be surprised to find them at your local grocery store! They are firmer than normal tomatoes, so don’t worry if they seem hard.)

2 lb. lean pork, trimmed and cubed

2 t. oregano

2 t. sage

1 t. cumin

1 t. red pepper flakes

salt & pepper

1/2 c. beer (oh darn… I guess you’ll have to finish off the rest of the bottle! Water or chicken broth would be good substitutes if you’re not a beer drinker)

Optional toppings: cilantro, sour cream, tortillas, diced avocado, shredded cheese

  1. First, saute onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil and add to the crockpot. (If you don’t have time to cook everything, it’s okay. Just put it into the crockpot raw.)
  2. Next, throw in the diced green chiles, jalapeno, and tomatillos.
  3. Brown the meat and add to the crockpot. (Again – it tastes a little better with the meat browned but it’s not essential. If I had to choose one thing to pre-cook in this recipe, this would be it.)
  4. Grind the spices in a mortar (I use a cheap coffee grinder dedicated to spices), add a few dashes of salt and pepper, and add to the crockpot.
  5. Finally, add the beer.
  6. Cook in the crockpot on low heat for approximately 8 hours (a little longer won’t hurt it).
  7. Traditionally this is served in bowls with hot flour tortillas, salsa, and cilantro. You can also serve with sour cream, grated cheese, olives, and pickled carrots and jalapenos. I like to make Spanish rice (brown rice mixed with Rotel) and refried beans for side dishes. For leftovers, mix pork with rice for yummy burritos!

For more slow cooker recipe inspiration, check out three more good recipes here (chicken pot pie, jambalaya, and BBQ chicken). I also highly recommend the cookbook The Gourmet Slow Cooker. Vegetarians and veggie lovers should check out Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

I’ve also started a new Cooking School Pinterest board where I’ll post recipes and other things I find that go along with my posts here.

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment! I try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.

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Cooking School: Mediterranean Flavors

Photo Credit: ric_w via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ric_w via Compfight cc

Mmm… this is a favorite of mine!  When I think Mediterranean flavors, I think:

  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Sesame (tahini sauce)
  • Vinegar
  • Oregano
  • Feta cheese
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Yogurt
  • Chickpeas
  • Fresh summer vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers


At my house, we sometimes have a meal we affectionately call “Greek Night.” It’s really more of a mishmash of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes, but they all work pretty well together. We usually have 2-3 of the following dishes:

  • Greek salad (tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers, cucumbers, feta, and olives, either with lettuce or “village style” — no lettuce, just the good stuff!)
  • Falafel (I make my falafel from a mix — it doesn’t have any unpronounceable ingredients in it, so I feel pretty good about it)
  • Hummus (if you have a food processor, you should absolutely be making your own hummus. It’s just chickpeas, olive oil, salt, lemon, garlic, oregano, and tahini. Play around with flavors until it tastes the way you like it.  Yeah, yeah… tahini is a bit of a specialty ingredient, but the jar will last in your fridge indefinitely — or not, if you eat as much hummus as we do. Plus, you’ll be able to make the yummy Greek salad dressing that I share below.)
  • Grilled chicken with Greek seasoning
  • Tzatziki sauce (plain Greek yogurt, diced cucumber, and Greek seasoning)
  • It’s not part of our regular rotation yet, but I’d love to add tabbouleh salad to our “Greek Night.”

Don’t be afraid of looking a little silly! Anyone can add Mediterranean flavors into their cooking repertoire.

Even though all these dishes are simple to make, it is a little time consuming to put all this together, especially on a weeknight after work. You can do a lot in advance — make the hummus & tzatziki, grill the chicken with a previous night’s meal, and you could even be a real overachiever and pre-chop veggies for your salad.

And... step right this way for a delicious salad dressing recipe!

And… step right this way for a delicious salad dressing recipe!

Greek Tahini Dressing
1 oz. (1/8 c.) Olive oil
1 oz. tahini
1 oz. white wine vinegar
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 t. Salt
1/2 t. Oregano
1/2 t. Parsley
1/2 t. Honey or Sugar

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine.

Tastes great on a "village style" Greek salad of chopped cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, kalamata olives, green peppers, and feta cheese

This tahini dressing tastes great on a “village style” Greek salad of chopped cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, kalamata olives, green peppers, red onions and feta cheese.  Or… eaten with a spoon.  Your choice!

If you love Greek flavors as much as I do, you should also try these Greek burgers — they’re a little more work than a regular burger, but they are seriously delicious.  Plus, they’re a great way to sneak some spinach and bell peppers to your favorite veggie-hating carnivore.

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment! I try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.

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Cooking School: Quick Dinners

It’s 6:15pm, you just walked in the door to your home, you’re starving, and you don’t have dinner planned.  What do you do?

A) Order pizza or Chinese take-out

B) Stick a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and hope for the best

C) Rummage around your fridge, pantry, & freezer and come up with a reasonably healthy and tasty meal.

This happens to all of us from time to time (less if you’re meal planning and grocery shopping on a regular basis, but still – it happens!)  Sometimes you’ve just had a crazy day and pizza or a take-out sandwich is all you can handle.  But I think a homemade meal (that would be C!) can do a world of good for getting me back to feeling normal, especially when I’ve been traveling (or eating out a lot already).  Here are a few go-to meals that can be made with inexpensive pantry or freezer staples.

Stir-fry with noodles

  • Food: spaghetti noodles, some vegetables (fresh or frozen), onion & garlic if you’ve got it, leftover cooked meat (optional), soy sauce, hot sauce if you like spicy food (sriracha is great, but Tabasco or anything hot sauce will do!), vegetable oil.
  • Tools:  Pot to boil pasta noodles, large-ish frying pan
  • How to: Get a pot of water boiling.  While you’re waiting, chop your veggies & meat into smallish, evenly sized pieces (about the size of your thumb).  Defrost frozen veggies slightly in the microwave.  When the water is boiling, put the pasta in to cook, set a timer for 8 minutes.  In a frying pan, heat a glug of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Cook onions and garlic first, stirring often.  after a couple of minutes, add other veggies, stirring often.  Add meat last, if using.  Strain pasta and add to frying pan, pour in a couple of glugs of soy sauce and a bit of hot sauce to taste.  Stir it all together & eat!

Hearty scrambled eggs

  • Food: 2-4 eggs, any combo of the following: veggies (fresh or frozen), cheese, beans, leftover cooked meat, vegetable or olive oil
  • Tools: Non-stick skillet, rubber spatula (don’t use metal in a non-stick pan, it will flake off the coating!)
  • How to: Scramble eggs in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Chop your meat & veggies into smallish, evenly sized pieces (about the size of your thumb).  In a frying pan, heat a glug of oil over medium heat. Defrost any frozen vegetables by cooking quickly in the frying pan.  Add the remaining meat, beans or veggies and cook/heat through.  (This is pretty similar to the stir-fry recipe if you haven’t noticed!)  Add egg mixture to pan and allow to cook on bottom (it will turn white or lighter yellow).  Scrape the cooked part off the bottom of the pan and stir, breaking it up.  Repeat “cook a little while then stir” process a few more times, until eggs are almost cooked (not too shiny).  Stir in the cheese & eat!

Popcorn dinner

  • Food: popcorn, cheese, fruit, veggies (drag out those wilty old carrots from the crisper, celery & peanut butter, canned green beans aren’t really that bad!)  You know — eat your food groups!
  • Tools: popcorn popper (or — did you know you can pop popcorn in a plain paper bag in the microwave, without all those sketchy chemicals in the regular microwave popcorn.
  • How to: Eat up!

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!  I try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.

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Italian Roast Beef

IMG_1328I Italian-ified my very non-Italian grandma’s Sunday roast beef last weekend, and it turned out great!  As long as you’re not scared of leaving the house with your oven on…

Modified from my grandma’s “Sunday Roast” recipe in the Cassville, MO United Methodist Church cookbook


1 large Rump Roast

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 onion sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes (with juice)
4-5 large Carrots sliced
1 bay leaf


Heat oven to 300 F. Sprinkle roast with salt & pepper. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium to med-high heat. Sear/brown roast on all sides. Turn off heat. Add all remaining ingredients (onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and bay leaf).  Cover pan and move to oven.  Cover and bake until after church (approximately 3 hours).


If you want to get really fancy, serve with polenta and tomato, mozzarella, and veggie salad.  Molto buono!


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Almond Joy green smoothie

I’ve been drinking a lot of green smoothies this month as part of a month-long Love Your Greens series on the Unconventional Kitchen blog.  Last week they challenged us to invent our own original smoothie recipe and post it to the facebook group.  I had been craving chocolate all week (since I was doing the Sugar Detox thing) so here’s what I invented.  It’s definitely dessert-y, but still a great way to get your greens (and some healthy fat to boot)! 

Almond Joy Smoothie

2 handfuls spinach
3/4 c. vanilla unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 frozen bananas
2 T. cocoa powder
3 T. unsweetened flaked coconut (soak overnight in the almond milk to soften, otherwise your smoothie could be a little gritty)

1 date
1 heaping spoonful of almond butter

Here are some tips I’ve learned for making the best green smoothies:  Freeze your greens (it sounds weird but it actually works.  Just throw a bag of prewashed spinach into the freezer).  Soak dates overnight for better blending.  Blend the greens and liquid together first on high, then add the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have a high-powered blender (I don’t) make sure frozen fruit is in small pieces and allow it to defrost slightly.

I need some protein to make this type of smoothie a meal.  Try adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder, some greek yogurt, or a couple of eggs on the side.

This is the 22st post in a series, 31 Days of Eating Unprocessed, which was inspired by October Unprocessed, hosted at the Eating Rules blog.

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