Tag Archives: cooking

Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore

crock-pot chicken cacciatore I know, I know, it’s kind of too hot to break out that Crock-Pot, but sometimes a busy girl has to do what a busy girl has to do. And sometimes that means cranking up the Crock Pot to make Chicken Cacciatore as the thermometer climbs into the 100s. It’s just too easy to use the Crock-Pot on those days when you know that 5,000 things will need your attention and you still have to work out and sleep and be a person. This meal is great for those days because you can throw everything in the Crock-Pot at breakfast and it will be ready for dinner or throw it in the Crock-Pot the night before and take it for lunch. It’s just good planning, people.

easy chicken cacciatore (Stupid) Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of chicken, cut up in pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 6 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 -4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Throw everything in the Crock Pot and let cook for approximately 7 hours on low. Serve over pasta, rice or quinoa if you wish. I just eat it plain. No time for all that.

super easy, crock-pot chicken cacciatore

love,
melanie

 

12 Ways to Eat More Meals at Home and Save Some Dough!

eat more at home The old me used to eat out every couple of days and think nothing of it. “Oh piddle dee dee, I thought, I spend a lot of money on dining out. But it’s just a fact of life, I suppose!” In my head, I’m apparently an old British woman. But then I moved to a tiny town and the dining options were few and far between. We ate out less because there were less choices. I unintentionally saved money on food, I unintentionally learned how to cook more meals, and I unintentionally got into the habit of eating at home. It was an unintentional blessing.

Here’s how I’ve learned how to eat more meals at home.

1. Cut back on your eating out gradually
If you are eating out every day, you won’t go from being besties with the cashier at Chipotle to becoming Julia Child. You have to work your way up to it. Set a realistic goal for the week and work towards it. Your goal could be to learn one new dish or only eat out every other day. Set a reachable goal and give yourself a small treat when you reach your goal. Giving yourself small rewards creates habits.

2. If you are a beginner, learn the basics
One of the hardest parts of just starting out in the kitchen is starting out. Learn how to do simple things like sautéing vegetables, scrambling an egg and boiling rice. Once you learn those things, you’ll have the base for all kinds of meals!

3. If you are an intermediate cook, expand your repertoire
Cooking can get tiresome. Cooking is a project with no end because we need to eat every day. The way I fight the cooking drudgery is expanding my repertoire. I love perusing Pinterest recipes that make me excited to cook again. Just check out my recipe board for proof!

4. Make meals in advance
We are all stupid-busy. We don’t always have time to cook up a four course meal. Let’s be honest, I never have time to cook up a four course meal. I make most of my meals in advance. I’ll cook up a big batch of crustless quiche on Sunday night and crank up my slow cooker.

5. Automate your meals
I’d love all my food to be interesting and beautiful, but that’s just not a priority. Getting something warm and filling in my belly is a priority. My weekday meals are on auto-pilot. For breakfast I have eggs, my lunch is leftovers and dinner is usually something from the crock pot. Not always super exciting, but I can live up my culinary fantasies on the weekend when I have more time.

6. Put your slow cooker to work!
I love my slow cooker. I don’t know how I ever cooked without her. Her name is Sue, btw. Slow cooking is so easy. You can crank it on low, throw just about any meat and veggie in there with a little salt and pepper and you have a meal when you get home from work or when you wake up in the morning!

7. Leftovers are your friend
If you are going go through all the effort to cook, you might as well make enough for yourself and a small army. There’s so many ways to use up leftovers. For tips on reusing leftovers click here!

8. Cook with a buddy
Cooking all alone can be a lonely job. Enlist your husband or wife and kids to help out in the kitchen. Or at least sit with you and keep you company in the kitchen. You could also invite friends over for a freezer meal cooking spree. Sounds like a good time to me.

9. Make it enjoyable
Cooking can be stressful. Turn on some tunes, pour yourself a glass of wine and slow down. Dinner isn’t a life or death experience. It’s just dinner. Enjoy it.

10. Use paper plates
One of the worst parts of cooking is the clean up. Sometimes I’d go out to eat just so I wouldn’t have to do the dishes. To curtail this thinking, I mostly use paper plates and minimize my clean up. Worried about the environmental impact? Me too. That’s why I use compostable plates.

11. Host a dinner party
Hate cooking for one? Need to spice things up a bit? Dying for the company of a restaurant? Host a dinner party! Dinner parties don’t have to be a one woman (or man) show. Ask your friends to bring a dish and serve it up family style!

12. Keep frozen foods on hand
And if all else fails, keep food in the freezer for those times when you are too tired or hungry or just plain don’t want to cook. Frozen leftovers are culinary gold. But a couple of chicken breasts, a bag of frozen veggies and some soy sauce will do just fine in a pinch. Instant stir fry. Instant dinner.

What tricks do you have for eating more meals at home? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas

We’ve been snowed in for the past couple days and things are getting pretty weird around here. Last night we screamed at each other just to scream. Not fighting, just yelling. My butt hurts from laying in bed for a prolonged period and I’m afraid we’ll run out of wine soon. It’s not the most romantic of Valentine’s Days, for sure. But tonight I’m planning on making dinner and maybe tomorrow we’ll get to venture out into the snowpocolypse for more romantic sustenance. Or at least sustenance that requires changing out of pajamas.

Here’s some ideas for tonight’s meal:

Baked Brie with raspberry jelly and walnuts This baked brie with raspberry sauce would be a great way to start your meal.

Pork Chops I don’t think it gets more romantic than bacon. Who’s with me? Check out the recipe for these bacon-wrapped pork chops.

Pizza with an egg on top!

Pizza is my favorite Friday night meal. It’s quick, easy and cheesy. Doesn’t get much better than that. Click here to learn more about my favorite way to serve pizza.

pudding2This rice pudding is a great way to end a meal. I affectionately refer to it as love puddin’.

how to make snow cream And since we’re snowed in, it’s only appropriate to serve snow cream! Learn more about snow cream here.

Are you cooking at home for Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments!

love and happy Valentine’s!
melanie

 

 

 

Tips and Tricks for Campfire Cooking

Tips for campfire cooking We’re pretty much cave people now. Livin’ in the woods, not brushing our hair, makin’ jerky. Before we start picking bugs off each other to eat, I thought I’d share tips on my new favorite, cave (wo)man way to cook– AN OPEN FLAME!

The thought of a large open flame near my beautiful home still scares me a bit. I usually make George actually start the fire, but I’m not afraid to saute and grill like I’m Bobby Flay once the flame dies down.

Here’s some of the best tips I’ve learned from our campfire adventures.

1. You don’t have to go camping to cook over a fire. Building a fire in your backyard (if it’s permitted) is even more fun because you don’t have to lug all that stuff around. Plus, if you are cooking something a little stinky, like fish, it doesn’t smell up your house!

2. Build your fire with dry, untreated wood. You’ll never get a fire started with wet wood and you definitely don’t want to build a cooking fire with chemically treated wood. Umm, gross.

3. Learn how to correctly build a fire. We’re partial to the pyramid or tenting method.

4. Don’t limit yourself! Campfire cooking doesn’t have to be all hotdogs and hamburgers. I’m all for a good greasy burger and some Heb Natties, but campfire cooking can also be adventurous! If you have a cast iron skillet, you can cook almost anything on a fire! Which brings me to the next tip…

5. Have the right equipment. You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook on a fire. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Cave men cooked with sticks. A lighter, a cast iron skillet and an old oven or grill grate works great. (Get it?!) It’s what we use! You can make almost anything in a cast iron skillet. I should be their spokesperson, I love ’em so much. I’d also recommend a heat-proof oven mit, like the Ove Glove. I thought that thing was an infomercial joke, but, man it works!

6. Remember the oil and spices! Throw some olive oil, salt, pepper, your favorite spice and a potato or protein into a tin foil envelope. And voila! You’ve got a hobo packet. Really, that’s what they’re called and it’s delicious.

Cooking on Campfire Coals

7. Be patient. Don’t try to cook when the flame is still high. Wait until the flame dies down, or wait until there are only coals or wood chips left. You can even cook directly on the coals or wood chips! (See photo above!)

8. Be safe. If you are ready to go to bed or leave the area, be sure to douse your fire with water. Fires can get out of control real quick and “only you can prevent forest fires.”

9. Keep it fun. Campfire cooking is all about fun. It always requires marshmallows and maybe a few beers.

Have you been campfire cooking? Got any tips? Let me know in the comments.

love,
melanie

 

 

 

Love Weekends: October, Schmoctober

Airstream trailerAs much as I wax poetic about how much I love the fall and in particular, October, it always means things speed up. And let’s be real, I like to take it slow. October means something is happening every weekend and I’ve got a million social (and work-related) events. October means I need to prioritize or I end up getting sick.

I’ve already been feeling the heat (or cool?) of October and it isn’t even upon us. I’ve already fallen victim to a fall cold and I’ve been slacking on the blog. There’s just not enough hours in the day.

Woodchuck pumpkin But enough excuses. I did carve out a little time this weekend to eat dinner outside with friends. I even enjoyed the elusive Woodchuck Pumpkin flavor. Although, I wasn’t super impressed. Can someone PUH-LEASE make a gluten-free beer that tastes like pumpkin pie? My life would be complete.

Cookout

What did you do this past weekend?

love,
melanie

 

14 Ways to Eat Gluten-Free on a Budget

Gluten-free on a budget

Learning a foreign language is hard. Doing math is hard (at least for me). Keeping your nice, “work pants” clean while chowing down on a burrito is hard. Eating gluten-free on a budget isn’t hard. At least it isn’t as hard as everyone makes it out to be. Read on for my all-knowing wisdom, my friends.

1. Become a member of a CSA
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a network of members who have pledged to support local farms and in turn, get a share of the bounty. I’m a huge supporter of my CSA and more than anything, I think it has helped me to stay on budget. Read more about that here.

2. Farmer’s Markets
Almost everything at farmer’s markets are “safe” foods, like produce. Foods at farmer’s markets are generally cheaper because you don’t pay for transportation. And the food is local! For us U.S. folks, you can find your local farmer’s market here: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

3. Buy local
I know, this kind of sounds like the tip above, but I want to expand a little. Not everyone lives close to a farmer’s market. I know, I’ve been there. But there are roadside stands and entrepreneurial farmers eve-ry-where. I’ve saved myself some serious dough by buying produce out of the back of some guy’s truck. Or by picking at a local farm. And it supports your local economy. Wins all around.

4. Grow your own!
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a green thumb. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned, but if you do have the gift, growing your own food can be a super saver. Learning to grow my own food is definitely on my life to-do list.

4. Eat seasonally
Strawberries are cheaper in the early summer. Eat them then, and freeze the leftovers for when you get a hankerin’ in December. And nothing tastes better than fresh berries during the depths of winter. In other words, eat your favorite fruits and veggies when they are cheap and in-season and freeze the leftovers. So easy.

5. Buy in-bulk for select items
Buying in bulk is hard when you have no space to store everything. I get it. I live in an RV. But sometimes buying in bulk really does pay off. I make a bi-annual trip to Costco with my mom (who has a membership) to buy staple items, such as quinoa, spices and toilet paper. (TMI?) Take a page out of my book, find a friend with a bulk foods membership card and mooch.

6. Buy naturally gluten-free foods
Naturally gluten-free foods are always, always cheaper than imitation glutenous foods. Go check out the price of gluten-free bread and then check out the price of regular bread. Are you in shock? Do I need to call 911? Yeah. Stick with the naturally gluten-free foods to avoid budget explosion.

7. Stay away from prepackaged foods
Prepackaged gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available. They’re awesome and I’m super happy that I can easily find a granola bar now, but I could drain my entire life savings on the price of some of those gluten-free bars. If you must, must, must have gluten-free breads and goodies, to save some cash, I would…

8. Learn to cook!
Before I learned that I had a gluten intolerance my culinary skills mostly consisted of turning on the microwave and heating up a Lean Cuisine. Perfecting the art of cooking has helped my budget tremendously. And now I totally impress people with my skillz.

9. Be flexible
When you are adapting recipes to make them gluten-free or just whipping up a quick dinner, be flexible and don’t be scared to try something new. If you are feeling a little uninspired, sites like Supercook and Recipe Key can help. Just enter the ingredients you have in your pantry, some internet magic happens and out pops recipes for those ingredients.

10. K.I.S.S.
Keep it simple, stupid! I try to apply the K.I.S.S. philosophy to every aspect of my life, but it is especially important to K.I.S.S. when cooking and shopping for gluten-free goods. Recipes with less than five ingredients will always be cheaper, and easier, and often time better than super complicated ones!

11. Check out other blogs
There are some ahhhh-mazing gluten-free blogs out there. Por ejemplo (that’s for example in Español) I adore Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna, the blog’s author, is an amazing story teller. Together, she and her chef-husband create some of the most gorgeous gluten-free dishes I’ve ever seen. There’s so many blogs out there that I admire, but my favorites are a post for another time. Blogs just give recipes away! It’s so crazy.

12. Shop international markets
Shopping at international markets is a blast. George and I have spent hours just giggling at the packaging in our local Indian and Hispanic markets. I’m sure my international friends do the same at American stores. And, not only am I entertained, but international markets often carry food at unbeatable prices. I always stock up on corn tortillas, rice, beans and coconut oil.

13. Order online
It’s no secret that I love Amazon.  I’m an Amazon Prime member just for the free shipping. Yes, I’m on a savings spree, but Amazon carries many gluten-free items for much less than your local big grocery. Take an hour out of your next weekend to visit your local grocery store, write down the prices of the food you normally buy, then compare it to online retailers. You’ll be happy you did.

14. Ask for reduced costs when ordering in restaurants
When you are gluten-free, eating in a standard restaurant can be a land mine. I always recommend cooking at home for your meals, but sometimes you just need to/have to/want to eat out. Most restaurants will tweak their menu items for the gluten-free, but there’s always the possibility of cross-contamination. I hate doing it, but I quiz the waiter on the practices used and while I’m being super annoying, I might even ask for reduced cost. If I want a burger without a bun, I shouldn’t have to pay for the bun. Am I right? Some restaurants will oblige and others won’t. (I also make sure to tip the waiter well!)

What tips or tricks do you have for eating (gluten-free or not) on a budget? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Low Sugar Holiday Nuts

Maple, Holiday Nuts

Hello, my name is Melanie and I’m a snacker. I feel like there should be a support group for people like me. If I don’t have a little nosh, I’m completely ravenous during the next meal and I’ll eat everything in sight. Snacks are essential.

But snacks aren’t as easy as they might be for the glutinous. I can’t just grab a granola bar and call it a day. But that’s where nature comes in, nature’s granola bar is nuts! And I eat a lot of ’em. But lately I’ve been wanting a way to spice things up. The old, raw nut routine wasn’t cutting it anymore. I’ve also been on a low sugar kick lately, so I didn’t want to just douse them in cinnamon sugar like most holiday nuts and call it a day. Although, that would probably be delicious. And yes, I’m already talking about the holidays. Don’t act like you haven’t been mentally adding everything in Target to your wish list already. WE ALL DO IT.

Holiday Mixed Nuts

Here’s the recipe for Low Sugar, Holiday Nuts 

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
3/4 cup raw, unsalted pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp maple syrup
Sea salt

Melt the coconut oil over low heat. I used a cast iron skillet, but you could probably get away with any kind of skillet. I just think cast iron makes everything taste better. Ok, so once you’ve got the coconut oil melted, toss in the cashews and pecans, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir frequently and toast until tan. I always like toasting cashews because they’re light in color and you can tell when they are done. It’s nature’s timer. When everything looks nice and toasty, add the maple syrup, give it a good stir and just a little more toast to caramelize the syrup. Finish with a healthy dose of sea salt.

Confession: I ate this whole plate. Worth it.

love,
melanie