Category Archives: Slow cooker

Weekly Eating – 10/29/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Last weekend’s Halloween party was a blast! I bet you can’t guess correctly what both of our costumes were.

halloween costumes

It was nice enough that we could all hang out outside and play cornhole and beer pong and enjoy the bonfire. And the trick or treat shots were a hit! We did three rounds, and used almost all of them. Yes, I came up with 50 different liquids. They included everything from juiced celery to tequila to bean cooking water. And people were really good at guessing correctly!

trick or treat shots

I also had time on Sunday to whip up a batch of homemade mayo, and some hemp milk since we ran out of almond. Uhhh sidenote, how did she get all the milks to stay clear?? Am I the only one, every time I make any plant milk (almond, coconut, hemp, cashew, rice, oat…) it separates in like 0.4 seconds. I swear I do filter it… maybe I need cheesecloth. But then the yield is lower.  🙁

Monday:

Breakfast – sad bowl of cocoa puffs… I’ve been less inspired about breakfasts lately. Normally I turn to warm oatmeal when fall rolls around but that isn’t sounding so great. I may need to try intermittent fasting as a double win…

Lunch – big warm bowl of leftover white bean & barley soup

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Some ravioli I defrosted with corn on the cob, microwaved broccoli and cauliflower, and a big salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and homemade apple cider dressing

ravioli and tons of veggies

Tuesday:

Breakfast – it is not possible to take a good picture of oatmeal. It had peaches in it though.

Lunch – Rest of the barley soup & a salad

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Tuna salad puffs! Throwback Tuesday, to 2014.

tuna salad puffs with guac

Wednesday (Halloween!):

Breakfast – a breakfast boo-rito

egg and potato boo rito

Lunch – potluck at work!

halloween potluck

Dinner – more Booritos! (we didn’t want to stand in line at Chipotle)

halloween boo-rito

Thursday:

Breakfast – coffee and tangerines

coffee and tangerine

Lunch – leftover bowl: potatoes and cauliflower and stuffed mushrooms from the party

bowl of leftovers

Dinner – the rest of the empty the refrigerator Dal

finishing the Dal

Friday:

Breakfast – golden grahams with hemp milk

golden grahams and crockpot of pumpkin chili

Lunch – Pumpkin chili when we get to the cabin!

Dinner – I think we are grilling brats tonight

The Weekend

This weekend we are going up to a friend’s family cabin in the mountains!! I can’t tell you how excited we are. We got to go last year, and it is such a blast. There will be almost a dozen people, which may be cramped, but it will be such a great opportunity for community. It is miles away from civilization, so it is perfectly silent and pitch black at night.

the cabin

Watching the sun rise over the lake, with steam coming off the water, kayaking into the middle and laying back to look up at the stars… I can’t wait to totally relax and refresh. We all take turns cooking, plus people bring crafting projects like knitting, and there are games galore from ping pong and frisbee to board and cards.

I’ll be bringing the crock pot full of pumpkin chili, along with the fixings for tacos and lentil sloppy joes. A build your own taco bar is always filling and fun. And for the lentil sloppy joes, I stuffed all the ingredients into a near empty pasta sauce jar. Just dump into a pan and simmer for 40 minutes!

jar full of lentil tacos

Food Total: $52.50 + 49.58

Weekly Produce Box = Grape Tomatoes, Broccoli Bunch, Potatoes- Yukon Butter Gold , Red Onion (1), Lettuce – Field Grown Romaine (1), Navel Orange (1), Green Beans

Then I also added on quite a few things: kale, pears, persimmons (because there’s a persimmon tree I’ve spotted near me; I want to know if I like them before risking my neck climbing it to pick some), and I also went for it and ordered a pound of ground chicken and some tenders from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem, NC.

fall produce box

I’m hankering for some white chicken chili, and when we eat meat now, I want it to be sourced very carefully.  The chickens on this farm were not crammed into cages with their beaks cut off, fed a diet of antibiotics and ‘vegetarian’ corn (chickens are not vegetarians, by the way). I know these chickens lived as chickens were meant to live, out in the grass, happily foraging for seeds and bugs.

And I stopped by HT for some sale items, organic potatoes, tons of yogurt since we were out, and more cabin things.

Lessons Learned

Leftovers are the best, worst thing. They are awesome to have, for when you just don’t feel like cooking, or don’t have the time. And I’ve been not feeling like it often lately. Which is great, because we also really needed to finish up all the things from the party and clear out the fridge since we will be gone all weekend.

But sometimes leftovers keep getting left, because you don’t really want to eat them again. Then there’s the “should I throw it out” struggle, because we both hate food waste. So sometimes, leftovers can be quite unfortunate. We both just powered through a few times just so we didn’t toss it. It’s always a lesson, sometimes that lesson is ‘don’t make that again’.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 10/15/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Last weekend was great fun! You can read all about the farm adventures and refillable soap here. Then on Sunday I went to my first Cary Food & Flea Market to represent Triangle Food Tours. It was a drizzly day, but we still had a good turnout.

triangle food tour

I also got the last of the fall seeds planted, and we had a lovely bonfire in the evening, complete with farm fresh milk hot cocoa.

fall bonfire time

This week I processed several of the giant pile of Carolina Reapers still hanging around my kitchen. Their season is nearly over, so I’m trying to stock up as much as I can to get us through the cold winter with some heat. I think we will have more than enough… in fact those tiny containers are literally just reapers and vinegar, destined to be traded with some brave soul at the next Food Swap!

Monday:

Breakfast – banana muffins

Lunch – leftovers

Dinner – I made a white bean stew with butternut squash steamed in the pressure cooker and blanched sweet potato leaves. Served over quinoa, it was healthy, local, seasonal, and delicious.

white bean and squash stew over quinoa

Tuesday:

Breakfast – blue berry oatmeal

blueberry oatmeal

Lunch – leftover Chinese from the weekend & berries

chinese and berries

Dinner – summer squash, peppers and onions stir fried over quinoa

stir fry over quinoa

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with berries and kefir and frozen banana

fruit and kefir smoothie

Lunch – leftover brisket, roasted carrots, and steamed sweet potato leaves, with peppermint tea + ginger & lemon

leftover brisket lunch with tea

Snack – a friend at work gave me this Kind banana and chocolate bar because she didn’t like them. It was certainly weird, but okay, and kept the hangry at bay until it was dinner time.

KIND chocolate banana bar

Dinner – Cod in the instant pot with fresh green beans, red potatoes, a sprinkle of cranberries and walnuts. IT WAS SO GOOD GUYS. So simple, so tasty, and so fast (15 minutes). I get why people are all about the instant pot now.

instant pot cod with potatoes and green beans

I bet this same combo would also be amazing with Thanksgiving turkey! Or just minus the cod as a delish side dish.

instant pot cod with potatoes and green beans

Thursday:

Breakfast – more blueberry oatmeal! This time I sprinkled them on after cooking rather than cooking them in with the oats, and added a few walnuts too.

more blueberry oatmeal

Lunch – kale salad and carrot/sweet potato soup

kale salad with carrot sweet potato soup

Dinner – summer squash ‘zoodles’ with rustic tomato & kale sauce and chickpeas. Basically threw a bunch of things from the fridge together in a pot and called it dinner!

squash zoodles with tomato kale sauce

Friday:

Breakfast – uhhh just coffee oops! I’m off, and slept in, then got caught up packing and cleaning and doing things around the house

Lunch – whatever is left in the fridge; probably red beans and rice

Dinner – hopefully, deep dish pizza!

The Weekend

We will be in the Windy City this weekend for a family wedding! By the time you’re reading this we will probably be home already. My cousin has excellent taste so I can only assume the wedding/ reception dinner will be excellent. I’m sure there will be at least one deep dish pizza involved, and probably a glass or five two too many of wine. But that’s what celebrating love is all about right??

Food Total: $61.62

Not bad at all, especially when you consider half of that was decorations for the fall/upcoming Halloween party! I didn’t have a Produce Box delivery this week since we’re out of town for a wedding, and we have plenty of produce/ dairy/ pantry items that need used up prior to that. Next week will be a big spend for party food items and beverages though.

Staples $1.87 Fruit/Veg $19.15 Extras $37.11
Baking soda 0.49 Strawberry quart 1.99 Mums x3 8.97
Baking powder 0.99 Blueberry 2 pint 2.99 Pumpkins 2 big 4.98
Iodized salt 0.39 Acorn squash 1.19 Halloween candy 100pc 9.99
Butternut squash 1.96
Bananas 0.97 Winking owl 3L 10.89
Lemons 2.79
Red onions 1.19 tax 2.28
Avocados 6 3.49
Yellow onions 1.09
Pineapple 1.49

Lessons Learned

This week was all about quick, easy, and healthy. Sometimes you just go through phases in life where you don’t feel like cooking big or complicated recipes. (For some, this is every night). And that’s okay. Actually, sometimes the simplest things are the healthiest, a quick steam or stir fry of some frozen veggies and you’re good to go.

It’s also helpful to prep a big batch of something to have on hand, like a grain, some steamed veggies, some fruits, and some proteins. Then you can just mix and match for almost instant dinner. Having already cooked quinoa, pinto beans, rinsed and shredded kale, and washed berries ready to go was great all week long.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 10/1/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

As promised, I spent a big part of the weekend planting the fall things and ripping up the summer things. Tomatoes and beans are now composting, and kale/beet/radish/broccoli/cabbage are in the ground. Fingers crossed we get something edible. I’m already planning next spring’s garden.

Monday:

Breakfast – Avocado and egg sandwich, quite filling and tasty

avocado and egg toast

Lunch – Leftover from the weekend roasted vegetables, with a small piece of steak under there (hah, I bet at least one person thought “under where?”)

roasted fall vegetables

Snack  – homemade creamy hummus and raw veggies (I ended up not being hungry enough to eat the peaches I canned)

creamy hummus and raw vegetables and canned peaches

Dinner –

 

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Peach oatmeal

Lunch – out to lunch with a coworker

Dinner – Lentil sloppy joes! My new favorite. With dill pickles and homemade purple sauerkraut

sloppy joe with lentils pickles and sauerkraut

Wednesday:

Breakfast – A friend at work keeps chickens, and she brought me a gift of a dozen free range eggs! I was so thrilled, because happy healthy free range chickens make the best eggs. I had a tasty breakfast burrito with bell peppers and onions and hot sauce and eggs and cheese. Nomnom.

free range egg breakfast burrito

Lunch – Leftover lentil sloppy joes! Not mad about it.

lentil sloppy joes

Dinner –I made a big batch of my crispy oven baked tofu

oven baked tofu

And whipped up a quick teriyaki stir fry to go with it

tofu teriyaki stir fry

Oh and I also have a jar of homemade apple cider vinegar that’s finally getting going! It’s a great way to use apple cores and peels and scraps. Just fill a jar 2/3, cover with water. Add about 1 tbsp sugar per cup of water needed, and cover. That’s it. Let it sit in a dark place for 2 weeks, strain, and let it sit again until tart enough.

bubbling apple cider vinegar

Thursday:

Breakfast – Another breakfast burrito!

breakfast burrito

Lunch – Out again! Shocking, I know, twice in one week. The down side of trying so hard to make friends for 2 years is that now I have them haha but at least our work meal card gets us 10% off so this was just over $4

chinese at work

Dinner – Ya’ll! Remember how when I went home for a wedding shower, I ended up coming home with a pressure cooker my mom didn’t want? I finally used it! My first item: baked potatoes.

potatoes in a pressure cooker

The good news is, it didn’t blow up! The better news is, it steamed perfect soft potatoes in 15 minutes. These things are pretty legit. And WAY less energy used than an oven at 350 for an hour.

loaded baked potatoes

Friday:

Breakfast – At the grocery store, I found an insane sale on smoked rainbow trout (like 75% off). Given my love of smoked salmon, I figured it might be similar. So I got it, because luckily for me someone brought leftover Panera, and I nabbed an everything bagel with cream cheese, the perfect lox canvas. Turns out, definitely not the same as salmon. But pretty good.

smoked rainbow trout bagel

Lunch – Leftover tofu teriyaki stir fry

leftover stir fry

Dinner – My second experience with the pressure cooker. Some tiny acorn squash that came with my Produce Box.

acorn squash in pressure cooker

Took 15 minutes yet again, perfectly fork-tender. They got whipped into a creamy cheese sauce for acorn squash mac n cheese.

acorn squash mac n cheese

Dessert – Wooo what a crazy week, out for lunch twice AND dessert on Friday! I had 2 peaches that desperately needed used up, so I cut them into a bowl with an also-near-death banana and some frozen pineapple. Topped it with some butter/brown sugar (crack) and granola, then I microwaved it for about 8 minutes and bam. Instant sweet tooth satisfaction.

fruit cobbler with ice cream

The Weekend

Saturday is a busy day! My pal Steveonomics is in town, his company is trying to convince him to move here. And so am I.   🙂  Then I have a downtown Food Tour afterwards. So definitely getting my steps in!

Then Sunday is the opposite, no plans whatsoever. Well, just getting down the Halloween decorations from the attic, because you know I’m having a party! Gotta brainstorm a good costume.

Food Total: $98.19

Uhhh… oops. I swear I went to the store with a list in hand… and then there were just a lot of good sales. At least most of the things I got were staples and fruits & veggies. The canned goods will stay for a long time, and we were down to almost nothing on rice. We had like 3 rice based meals this week, and burritos are a main way the boy stays alive, so running out of rice would be a disaster.

Meats $23.57 Staples $40.27 Fruit/Veg $30.32
smoked rainbow trout 4oz 2.97 wheat bread 3 bag spinach 2 4
frozen whiting fillets 2lb 4.97 tomato sauce 1.18 bananas 2.28
frozen cod fillets 2lb 9.97 tortillas 1.48 avocados 4 3.58
Stew meat 1.5 lb 5.66 long grain white rice 10lb 2.99 cucumber 0.69
basmati rice 5lb 8.99 carrots 10lb 5.99
brown rice 3lb 4.49 sweet onion 1.21
cereals x3 5.89 bell peppers 9 8.91
Pasta – various x4 3.96 Limes 0.99
4pk org garbanzos 3.29 Pears 2 1.88
Pasta sauce x3 5 Lemon 1 0.79

Lessons Learned

Ugh guys. I need to admit that I am not doing as great with Zero Waste as I’d hoped. But this blog is supposed to be safe space though right? How do I get better? My biggest issues continue to be cheese (sliced and shredded) and anything frozen. The boy is the main cheese consumer, and he will definitely not shred or slice his own, I’ve tried buying blocks before and they just get moldy. And I’m not that much of a saint to do it for him weekly.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

 

Minestrone soup is one of my favorite soups out there. Not only is it packed with veggies, it is also super easy to adapt to whatever odds and ends you have in your refrigerator, and is very filling.

Many soups leave you ravenous a few hours later, but with all the lovely fiber and nutrients from the veggies, and extra staying power from beans and noodles, this hot and hearty soup keeps your tummy from growling all day long.

You can thicken it up easily by pureeing half the beans, or using mashed potatoes rather than chunks of potatoes. Or you can thin it out by doubling up on the stock, adding extra water before serving, or adding extra tomato juice.

I’ve written before how easy it is to make minestrone in ten minutes, but sometimes you want deeper flavors. That is where the slow cooker comes in.

slow cooker minestrone soup

The slow cooker is a great option because you can just “dump and go”, then come home to a delicious smelling house and a hot and ready meal. It’s also great because, unlike a boiling pot on the stove, you don’t need to constantly watch and stir. The soup won’t burn or stick to the bottom, and there’s no risk of boiling over.

And a programmable slow cooker is the best option yet, that way there is no risk of over-cooking it either! But don’t worry, if you don’t have the kind with a timer it will still work just fine.

Leave it on longer, on low rather than high, for the lowest risk of burning or over cooking. You can add the pasta noodles at the beginning, if you want a truly one-step meal and don’t mind soft pasta. If you want “al dente” slightly harder pasta, it’s best to boil it separately and add just before serving.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Ingredients:

  • ~1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen green beans
  • ~1.5 cups cooked pinto beans (or any bean you prefer)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, small dice
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can tomatoes (whole, stewed, diced, etc)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen spinach
  • Either: 1 cup mashed potatoes or 2-3 small potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups broth, stock, or water
  • 1/2 pound pasta noodles, any shape you like

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 1: Dice up your veggies, by hand or in a food processor.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 2: In slow cooker, combine all ingredients (except noodles, if you are cooking them just before serving). Cook on low 6-10 hours, or on high 3-4 hours.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 3: When you’re ready for dinner, just boil your pasta according to the directions. I prefer shapes, such as elbow macaroni, shells, or bowties, but any noodle works. Drain, mix in the noodles, and serve!

soup, salad, and smoothie

This soup is hearty enough to be a meal on its own, but it also pairs well with salads, or a nice thick garlic bread for dipping. It is super healthy, vegetarian but meat eaters will also love it, and quite cheap! Especially if you have a garden to get some of the vegetables.

You can easily change it up, for example if you hate green beans but have some fresh zucchini, go right ahead and swap. Bell peppers go great here, and you can use fresh diced tomato or canned or even juice. Or forget the tomato altogether and just use broth, you’re in charge!

5 Freezer Meals for 1 or 2 in 30 minutes

 

I know that’s a lot of numbers in the title, but what do you expect from a finance & food blog? 😉 There are many ways to save money on one of most people’s biggest budget categories (after housing): food.

  1. Eat at your parents house
  2. Eat only Ramen noodles
  3. One meal per day
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Freeganism
  6. Vegetable garden/farming
  7. Bulk buying
  8. Couponing
  9. Meal planning
  10. Freezer meals

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

But every tip will not work for every person and every situation.

If you are in a dorm with just a small refrigerator and 6 months until you move again, your life is drastically different from a family with four children in the suburbs with two chest freezers.

I’ve designed meal plans for the Dollar Tree, one week of dinners from one pork roast, and 10 freezer meals in one hour.

The Freezer Meals For 2 Plan

This plan is designed for smaller households, who have a freezer.

One or two people.

I made all of these meals for a friend who was about to have a baby. Having freezer meals on hand makes feeding yourself when sleep deprived and stressed so much easier! But these meals are also great for single people or couples who don’t like to cook, as they are super easy and stress free.

So if you have a big family or a big appetite, these recipes might not be for you. However they are very easy to scale up, simply double or triple the ingredients, and use larger freezer bags.

This is also designed to go straight from ingredients –> bag –> freezer –> thaw in refrigerator –> oven or crock pot.

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

To complete these 5 freezer meals, in addition to the food ingredients you will need:

  • 5 quart sized freezer bags
  • Sharpie or other permanent marker
  • Container in which to thaw the bags in the refrigerator (otherwise they will leak condensation all over)

The ingredients are pantry staples (at least in my house!) and items you can easily find at most any grocery store. You can of course step up your game slightly and use dried beans you cook yourself, or produce straight from your garden. These tricks will lower the total cost even further.

But the total for this should be less than $30, for 5 nights of meals for 2 servings each, possibly with leftovers. I will also include some tips at the end on how you can jazz up each one to make it your own.

Per serving total = $3 or less

Recipes included:
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili
  • White Bean & Barley Soup
  • Corn & Potato Chowder

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

Entire Ingredients List:

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn (can use frozen)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut in half, or 2 total
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1-2 large baking potato
  • 1 onion, diced, or dried onion
  • Garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • Italian seasonings
  • Chili powder
  • Bouillon
  •  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup rice

You will be using half or a third of some of these cans, I did not measure it out, I just eyeballed it. If you feel more comfortable with exact numbers, go ahead and get out a measuring cup.

Step 1: Cut up your carrots and potato and onion into a small dice. I did not peel either the potatoes or carrot, but you can if you want. You can also use canned potatoes, though the end product will be soggier. You can also use dried onion, like I did.

Step 2: Label your bags and write the instructions out. Trust me, you want to do this part before the bag is full and possibly wet outside.

Step 3: Open and drain all your cans.

Step 4: Cut a large boneless skinless chicken breast in half, or use two smaller cuts. You can leave the breast whole, or dice it up, either way works. You could also use canned chicken, 1 per recipe.

 

Once you have your labeled bags ready, just dump the ingredients into them, in the order listed. You want to put the meat in last, so it is the first thing to come out when you cook it. Then push out any air in the bag, and seal. Freeze laying flat if possible, as they are then easier to stack and take up less freezer space.

 

Chicken & Rice Casserole

  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw overnight. Bake at 350 in a casserole dish for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, shred chicken before serving.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 can pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1/3 can diced tomatoes or 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Diced or dried onion
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw, simmer on stove for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low 2-3 hours. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado…

 

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili

  •       1 can of 3 different kinds of beans
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes
  •       Dried onion, garlic powder
  •       2 tbsp chili powder

*Thaw overnight. Add to slow cooker with 3 cups water, cook on low 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour or so if possible.

 

White Bean & Barley Soup

  •       1 cup white beans (or 1 can)
  •       1 cup barley
  •       ½ – 1 cup cut up carrots
  •       ½ white onion, diced
  •       1-2 cubes bouillon
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes

*Thaw overnight. Add 6 cups water, simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

 

Corn & Potato Chowder

  •       2 potatoes, diced
  •       ½ can corn
  •       ½ cup flour
  •       Garlic, onion, bouillon
  •       Optional: 1tbsp Italian seasoning

*Thaw, add 2 cups water and simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in slow cooker on low 4-6 hours.

 

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

 

 

 

Best Black Bean Soup

My whole life up to this point, I have thought “Bean soup? Why would anyone just eat pureed beans?” I’ve read dozens of black bean soup recipes and thought either that it sounded way too simple, so how could it possibly be tasty, or that it was too complex because “toast your cumin seeds lightly  until fragrant and then grind in a spice grinder”; ain’t nobody got time for that.

But then one day, I had a big batch of fresh slow cooker black beans and several jars of slow cooker chicken stock in the refrigerator at the same time. And I thought to myself, self, broth based soups are very good for you and low in calories, and so are black beans.

Why not give it a try?

Lo and behold, with some very simple staple spices, I put together a black bean soup that was out-of-this-world tasty. You can probably pull this together in minutes at any time with what you already have in your home. It would also be very easy to adapt to a slow cooker, just add everything and cook on low for a few hours. Additionally, it would freeze beautifully to be enjoyed at a later date.

I wolfed down half a batch, felt guilty, checked the calorie count, and felt guilty no more, because the whole thing will cost you less than 1000 calories total. And it’s super filling because of all the fiber from the black beans, so you can easily get 3-4 bowls from this recipe.

I used chicken stock that I made in the slow cooker from a whole chicken carcass. I recommend using homemade because you can control the amount of sodium, or add extra flavors you like such as bay leaves, lemon juice, or jalapenos to the broth while it cooks. If you want to keep it vegetarian, just make vegetable broth by putting a bunch of veggies in a slow cooker with some water for hours, and then strain it.

I also usually add a can of stewed whole tomatoes to my broth, and I loved that one tomato got added into this broth. I think it adds a nice layer of flavor, but your black bean soup won’t suffer without it. Feel free to leave that part out, or add more based on your taste buds.

This recipe makes a little more than a liter of soup, enough for 3-4 good sized bowls with some chunky bread and/or a salad on the side, or two really hearty meals. It takes approximately 10 minutes total, which does not include cooking time for the beans themselves or the chicken stock if you make that as well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cooked black beans^
  • 2 cups chicken stock*
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried chopped onion
  • Optional: 1 whole tomato, quartered
  • Optional: 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Step 1: If cooking your own beans, soak them at least 8 hours, then cook them on low overnight or over 6-8 hours, and drain. If using canned beans, drain 2 cans but don’t rinse. Add the vegetable or chicken stock and the spices to your beans in a large bowl.

Step 2: Use an immersion blender or an upright blender to blend the soup to your desired thickness. I enjoy a few beans left whole, so I just pulsed it several times, but you can also blend the crap out of it until totally homogenized.

And that’s all there is to it! Since I regularly cook up large batches of dried beans on the weekend, I think this will become a standby recipe in my repertoire. It is super healthy, low calorie, very filling and crazy cheap.

Price Breakdown

Black beans: $8.84 for 12 lbs
2 cups dried = ~.66lb = 4 cups cooked
$8.82/lb /12 lb * 0.66 lb = $0.48

Chicken stock: I consider it free because most people throw away the carcass after eating the meat. But if we consider the cost of the whole chicken just to make stock: $3.61 + maybe $2 of other ingredients (1 jalapeno, 1 can tomatoes, 1 onion, spices) = $5.61
This makes approximately 1 gallon stock, 1 cup = $5.61/16 = $0.35

Onion: $5.98 for about 96 tbsp
1 tbsp = $5.98/96 = $0.06

Garlic powder: $8.94 for about 96 tbsp
1 tbsp = $8.94/96 = $0.09

Whole chicken 5.47 lb 3.61
12lb Black beans 8.84
Minced onion 5.98
Garlic powder 8.94

 

Total: 0.48 + 0.35 + 0.06 + 0.09 = $0.98! Total!

Therefore, even if you only get 2 bowls, that’s $0.49 per serving. Not too shabby at all.

^You can use 2 cans of black beans, drained but not rinsed, if you don’t want to make them from dried.

*You can also used canned or boxes of chicken stock if you don’t want to make your own, or use vegetable stock, to keep it vegetarian/vegan.

 

Best Black Bean Soup

Yield: 4

Best Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked black beans
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 whole roma tomato, quartered
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried chopped onion
  • Optional: 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. If cooking your own beans, soak them at least 8 hours, then cook them on low overnight or over 6-8 hours, and drain. If using canned beans, drain 2 cans but don't rinse. Add the chicken stock and the spices to your beans in a large bowl.
  2. Use an immersion blender or an upright blender to blend the soup to your desired thickness. I enjoy a few beans left whole, so I just pulsed it several times, but you can also blend the crap out of it until totally homogenized. 
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Weekly Eating – 10/10

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Ha, do y’all remember those commercials for 10-10-220? This week’s date made me think of it. Sheesh, I’m old…

Wow, there is so much going on in this with the grungy guy, the flirty lady, the cops and donuts routine… we won’t go there. Has anyone actually used this? Does it still work? No I kind of want to make a call to, say, Ecuador or Kazhakistan just to see.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – granola bar

Lunch – mason jar salad

Dinner – Buffalo chicken grilled cheese & soup

I saw this recipe online somewhere last week, and knew I had to have it! We had plenty of shredded cooked chicken from a whole one I roasted in the crock pot. I added in some Ranch and Yum Yum Sauce too, because why not?

I had mine with some homemade chicken noodle soup, and the boy had some tomato soup with his. They were quite tasty!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast

Lunch – Cabbage vegetable soup, actually very flavorful and like, 20 calories per bowl! I may have had a few…

Dinner – Burritoes. Because there is never a bad time for a burrito.

Snack – M&Ms, peach yogurt

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Chocolate peanut butter bar & yogurt

Lunch – Black beans & rice. I had made about a half pound of black beans from dried over the weekend, so combined with some leftover brown rice this is a super simple lunch I pack quite often.

Dinner – Lemon Honey Chicken Breasts in the slow cooker with steamed veggies & potatoes. I didn’t get a picture of this one, mostly because we were hungry and ate it too fast, but also it just wasn’t pretty. But it tasted good! Just 2 chicken breasts on low in the crock pot all day with a dash of lemon and a drizzle of honey.

Snack – raw veggies & blender hummus

Thursday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast. For whatever reason, I’ve been in a scrambled eggs mood this week.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Lunch – Homemade chicken noodle soup <3

Dinner – Stir Fry! Stir Thursday… Stursday? I sorta cheated and used a pre-packaged mix for this. But ya know, sometimes you just don’t want to chop a bunch of veggies, and it would also be more expensive for me to buy a tiny quantity of snow peas, carrot, broccoli slaw, etc. So when I saw this on sale, of course I snagged it.

I had some shredded chicken still left from my whole chicken, and between  the veg and chicken it was the perfect amount of food for the two of us. I made a big batch of brown rice in the rice cooker, and kept the rest in the fridge for later meals.

Snack – Granola bar

Friday:

Breakfast – scrambled egg wrap with salsa

Lunch – Rice & beans, mason jar salad

Dinner – Friday the 13th party! This is the only Friday the 13th all year, and it just so happens to be in October. So we decided to have a fall/Halloween dinner party for the occasion. It was a small affair, with good food, corn hole, good conversation and a lot of laughs.

I roasted 2 big pork loins, along with some potatoes with rosemary and acorn squash with nutmeg. Some homemade stuffing, homemade sauerkraut, and whole wheat dinner rolls rounded out the meal. It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself!

I also had made some rosemary lemonade (since I have a gigantic rosemary bush by the mailbox that needs harvesting), and a special spooky rum punch.

The Weekend

I decided to finally stop procrastinating and bake something to welcome a few new neighbors. In the past 2 months, 3 houses on our block had been sold, and I desperately wanted to welcome them to the ‘hood. So I took some applesauce I had made last weekend, and turned it into cinnamon apple muffins! Everyone knows the quickest way to befriend someone is to feed them. 🙂

Sunday was quite productive too, I did some recording (potentially some exciting announcements coming soon…) and along with the muffins made a huge batch of my #1 recipe: Buffalo chicken potato bake.

Also prepped several mason jar salads, and a pitcher of smoothie for quick breakfasts. Cleaned out the refrigerator of some very old stowaways (green tomato salsa… from Connecticut? Ew!) and took everything out of the freezer, reorganized it, and made the rest of the month’s meal plan based off of what we have. Phew!

Food Total: $166.04 (less booze = $67.35!)

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Ouch… But we were having a fall/Halloween/Friday the 13th party, so I stocked up on several seasonal and variety packs of beer and some wine. I also picked up some dry ice, to make the punch extra bubbly and spooky. There was also a good price on honey, and since we want to dabble in making mead I grabbed some, so about $20 of that is honey. Without the party costs, food this week was actually way below budget!

There were some great sales on chicken breasts, so even though they weren’t on the meal plan I snagged a few. We can adapt the weekend or next week’s meals or freeze as needed. I also found a great discount on 70/30 ground beef, which we ALWAYS need, so I grabbed that too and froze it.

Lessons Learned

Honestly, in terms of what was on my grocery list this week, the cost was under $40! Not bad. But stocking up ahead of time when there are great sales is one of my favorite grocery tricks to keep overall spending and cost per meal low.

Another lesson here is that alcohol is not a frugal beverage! Of course, the best beverage choice is free: water. But we both enjoy a glass of red or a cold beer now and then, and especially in social situations. Sure, we could tell everyone to BYOB and maybe even get a few free leftover 6 packs, but I prefer to be generous when hosting. And hubs loves variety!

It did bring up the conversation of homebrewing again though. We might have to follow Mr. Picky Pincher’s lead on this one!

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

 

As we roll into the autumn months and the days get shorter and colder, we crave comfort foods. There’s nothing I like more than coming home to a house that smells amazing with a crock pot full of dinner bubbling away! It’s low work, high reward.

This is a chili recipe I decided to try based on what was in my refrigerator. We had some Hershey’s dark chocolate sauce from the sun-dae bar for the eclipse, so I got a little crazy! And you know what? It turned out great! Sometimes, the experiment that is cooking goes well. I’m glad this was one of those days.

This makes enough for 4-5 healthy sized servings. You can change up the types of beans, adding 4 or 5 kinds or using all one kind. If you drain them first, the chili will be thicker, but you can just open the cans and dump them in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2-4 tbsp hot sauce (optional!)
  • 1/2 cup coffee or dark beer

Step 1: Open and drain all your beans, and dump into the crock pot. In a blender, add one whole can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic, and pulse. This breaks it up into smaller pieces, and the longer you blend the more juice-like it becomes. Add to the crock pot.

Step 2: Brown the ground beef or turkey. Drain off excess fat, and add to the pot.

Step 3: Add the coffee, chili powder, and chocolate sauce, and any other spices you want. I used some red hot sauce, but you can use ancho chilies, jalapenos, cayenne powder, whatever you like. Or leave the spice out completely. Cook on high 1-2 hours or low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours.

The best thing about chili is that it gets better over time! Leftovers the next day have more time to meld flavors and usually it tastes even spicier. We throw a tablespoon or two of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream in to cut the heat. You can also top with shredded cheese, diced green onion, avocados…

Chili makes a great topping for chili cheese dogs and chili stuffed baked potatoes too! Oh, and it freezes beautifully! What are you waiting for? Get some chili cooking right now.

 

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

Yield: 5

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2-4 tbsp hot sauce (optional!)
  • 1/2 cup coffee or dark beer

Instructions

  1. Open and drain all your beans, and dump into the crock pot. In a blender, add one whole can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic, and pulse. Add to the crock pot.
  2. Brown the ground beef or turkey. Drain off excess fat, and add to the pot. 
  3. Add the coffee, chili powder, and chocolate sauce, and any other spices you want.
  4. Cook on high 1-2 hours or low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours. 
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/comfort-food/crock-pot-chocolate-chili/

Easiest Ever Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs

 

Sometimes you need to bring a dish to a potluck or birthday party. Or there’s a big game on and you’re hosting. Or maybe you just want to try something different for dinner, but don’t have the energy or time for something complicated.

Allow me to help!

This recipe for sweet and sour meatballs is a longtime classic in my family. There are only three ingredients, though one of them may be surprising to you. Trust me, the finished product is delicious!

Using a slow cooker makes this as simple as: pour, mix, turn on. Done.

Three ingredients sweet and sour meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar cocktail sauce
  • 1 bag mini meatballs
  • 1 ~12oz jar jelly (grape or blackberry work best)

Optional: You could add some vinegar for more tang, or some cayenne or other red pepper for a bigger bite.

sweet and sour crock pot meatballs

Step 1: Pour the meatballs in the crock pot. I poured them in right from frozen and it works just fine.

Step 2: Pour in the cocktail sauce & jam, and mix well. Turn to low for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours.

sweet & sour meatballs in a slow cooker

You could serve these on buns, or with toothpicks, or on skewers like a kebab. The flavor is surprisingly complex for just two ingredients!

 

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How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/how-to-cook-dried-beans-in-a-slow-cooker/

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