Homemade Chili

Autumn is one of our favorite times of year in the Hood House and one of my favorite autumn-like dishes to make is chili! It’s so easy, so delicious, and makes great leftover meals for the rest of the week.

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We had a group of friends over for football and chili last night which made me want to share a delicious and easy recipe with you all! I found this recipe in Rachael Ray’s magazine a few years ago and it has become my go-to chili recipe.

You will need:
– 1.5 pounds ground beef
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1.5 T garlic
– pinch chili powder
– 1/2 T cumin
– 1/2 T oregano
– salt & pepper to taste
– 1/2 t. cayenne (optional)
– 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
– 8 oz can tomato sauce
– 1 can red kidney beans

Side note: You can add veggies into this recipe if you like. Also, I use only one pot to make this chili which makes even easier cleanup. In my mind, there is no reason to use a skillet in addition to your stock pot. I am also not an expert, so…maybe there is a reason I am unaware of. 🙂

Start by browning your ground beef and add the onions into the mix. I also throw in my seasonings at this time to allow them to mingle with the meat flavor. Once the beef is cooked through, add in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Give everything a good stir and then add in the beans. Stir again. Let the chili simmer on the stove for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Once it is heated through, it’s ready to serve!

We like to top our chili with sour cream [greek yogurt for me…a healthier alternative] and cheese and dip tortilla chips in it. It’s basically a bean dip at that point, but it is the best!

What other chili ideas are out there? Does your family have a secret ingredient? Share your ideas in the comments below! Have a wonderful week!

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Easy Breakfast Burritos

Hey everyone! I hope your weeks have been going well. I’ve been extra-exhausted lately so please excuse my absence. 😊 Work has been crazy town and when I get home I exercise, eat dinner, and binge watch Friends for 2 hours. I swear, that show is so distracting! But I love it. Too much. Chandler is my favorite person ever. I wish he were real. His sarcastic wit gets me every time. Sighhhhh…

Anyway, back to my exhaustion. The LAST thing I want to do at night when I am tired is cook dinner, but I’ve found a simple weeknight recipe that is both delicious and inexpensive.

Enter the breakfast burrito! Isn’t it yummy-looking? It was good, trust me.

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All you need for this quick little dish (makes 4 burritos) is the following:
4 eggs
2 T milk
1 cup diced ham
1/2 cup diced green peppers
1 avocado, sliced
Cheese
4 large tortillas

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Whisk your eggs and milk together until well-mixed.

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Cook the eggs in a skillet on the stove over medium heat. You can mix your green peppers in your eggs to cook them. If you want to keep them crunchier, add them after the eggs have cooked through so they can heat up a bit. I warmed the ham in the microwave.

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When the eggs are cooked and your ham and peppers are warm, it’s time to pile it all into the tortilla! Soooo good….

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We topped ours with avocado, cheese, salsa, peppers, and Nate used hot sauce. You can be as simple or creative as you like and it will always taste good. And you’ll have a happy belly which is always a good thing… 😉

Thanks for tuning in for this easy & tasty recipe. Let me know if you give it a try and what toppings you decide on.

Which Friends character is your favorite?

Have a great night. Happy Thursday!

4 Healthy Meals for $4

News flash, friends: healthy eating does not have to be expensive! I was getting a bit bored of my standard lunches for work and needed a change. This week I mixed up my routine a bit and bought about a pound of SALMON (yum!) to bake up and take to work. Salmon is an incredibly healthy source of fats and protein, so that makes it even better! I was able to get 4 healthy meals prepped on Monday night for about $4 per serving.

We are heading into the holidays where we indulge in food & relaxation so I’m doing my best to keep my healthy eating up to par. It’s especially challenging to stay fit & healthy when you’re surrounded by Christmas goodies at work. We get a big thing of honey roasted peanuts and Christie Cookies sent to our office every Christmas. Ahh, keep the temptation away!!

Anyway, I topped the slabs of fish with a mango/sea salt seasoning, a bit of garlic powder, black pepper, and two scoops of coconut oil (about a teaspoon on each one) as a substitute for butter.

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While the salmon was baking in the oven, I chopped veggies and lettuce to prep four small side salads. I usually have a bit more oomph to my salads, but I was shorthanded on veggies this week. 🙂 The salmon baked up gorgeously and I divided it into four portions that are easy to grab in the morning before work.

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At Thanksgiving last week, my uncle introduced me to this amazing yogurt ranch dressing. There are only 45 calories per two tablespoons! And it tastes so good. I love the taste of ranch dressing so I’m glad to have found a version I don’t need to feel guilty about!

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Salmon: $2.40/serving
Lettuce: $.90/serving
Carrots: $.40/serving
Dressing: $.25/serving
TOTAL: $3.95/SERVING

So there you have it! Four healthy meals for about $4 per serving. It’s better than eating out every day, and you’re getting some great nutrients into your diet.

What are some healthy, cost-effective recipes you enjoy for on-the-go lunches?

Meal Planning on a Budget

Now that you know the basics of planning your meals and have some tools to do so, let’s talk about the budget part of shopping. Each budget is different. I am a modest Dave Ramsey fan (I haven’t drank all the kool-aid in my cup yet, just about half 😉 ) and Dave recommends setting aside 5% to 15% of your monthly budget for food, including eating out. I like to maximize our percentage and cook as many meals as possible at home, including taking lunches to work.

Eating out can be one of the biggest budget drainers you will ever know, hands down. But that is why we are exploring this. If you plan to eat all of your meals at home except 2 or 3 a week, you can get a week’s worth of groceries for the same price as 2 nice meals out. Perspective much? I think yes…not to mention how much better for you a home-cooked meal is. Yum!

You could have all of this (about $80 in groceries, some are not pictured)….

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Ooooor this… About $10. It looks great and it was tasty. But mulitply it by a spouse and you’ve got $20. Plus tip. So, $25. $27 if you’re feeling generous… 🙂

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There’s just not much of a way around it. Eating at home is just better. So what can you do to make sure you stay within your budget whenever you venture out to the store?

Number one… MAKE A LIST! I know you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the key to the list is sticking to it. Make the list, check it twice…so you can make sure you’re not naughty, but nice! It’s not nice to blow your budget on things you don’t need. So be good and only buy the things you set out to get.

Number two…ties into number one. Don’t go to the store hungry. I’ve done it and ended up buying a LOT of things I didn’t need because my stomach was doing the shopping instead of my head. So eat something! And do it before you walk into the store everything you see looks glorious and you end up buying it all!

Number three…use a calculator to keep track of how much you’re spending. I remember when I was a kid and some of the grocery carts at the store had calculators built onto them. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. How naive I was. Most of us have cell phones and those cell phones have calculators built in, so you have no excuse to not do this. The prices are funky with our tax not being included and such, so I like to round up. Better to be under budget than over. For example, if an item is $2.29, I’ll go ahead and add it in as a $3 item. At the end of your list, if you’re over, it’s time to take a look at your cart and see what you can put back. If you honestly can’t do without the item, keep it there, but remember next week’s shopping budget will need to be a little less.

Number four…maximize the meals you prepare. Waste nothing. Do your best to use up all the leftovers. They make for fantastic lunches the next day at work. They also work well on lazy weekends when you don’t feel like cooking. Get creative. Search Pinterest for a good idea on how to use up the beans or the fajita filling. Most items go well on a salad, so there’s an idea. 😉

Time for me to run. Instead of eating out tonight, we are cooking up some tasty fall chili and then heading out to see Interstellar. Have a good Saturday evening, friends!

Do you have any tips or tricks for saving money at the store? Feel free to share with the class!

Getting Started With Meal Planning

Cooking. Some of us dread it, some of us [like myself] enjoy it. Either way, you have to agree that cooking at home saves a TON of money. Not only that, but cooking at home allows you the control of what you put in your food and into your body.

Remember the days when you were kid and pretended to go grocery shopping?

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But it’s such a hassle, right? It doesn’t have to be. When I was first married and we were getting settled into our new life managing our own home, I would wander around the grocery store aimlessly, wondering what I should buy, what I could make with the things that I bought. Inevitably I would get home and realize that I spent a chunk of money and didn’t come away with everything that I needed. So another trip to the grocery store was in order. And I spent more money. I knew this way of “planning” had to stop and I needed to find a better way.

My friends, this was in the days pre-Pinterest, so there weren’t a ton of awesome recipes being pinned in front of my eyes. There were no amazing meal-planning posts that gave me the idea of sitting down and planning. But somehow, the idea finally came to me… “I should sit down and make a list of all the types of dishes Nate and I enjoy.”

So I did. I found a little notebook and listed out all the meals we enjoyed, sorted by chicken, beef, pork, or vegetarian based dish. Soon I had quite a few things to look at and plan our week of meals.

My next logical step was to make a meal list for the week:

Monday – Spaghetti
Tuesday – Taco Salad
Wednesday – Tomato Basil Pasta w/Chicken
Thursday – Fajitas & Guacamole
Friday – Stir Fry

Now I had something going, here! From there, I built my grocery list. I figured that I usually buy one bag of frozen chicken tenderloins and one pound of ground beef per week. I knew I could make about three meals from the chicken and two meals from the beef. I took inventory of what I already had on stock and filled in the blanks on the grocery list. I set my budget and then it was off to the store.

This is how I’ve continued to shop each week, stay in budget, and relieve myself from the stress of having to ask “What’s for dinner?!” It has helped us avoid spending extra money on groceries or running out to buy a quick [unhealthy] greasy meal from a drive-thru.

There are, of course, different ways to plan and shop for your groceries. I used to shop weekly but started realizing how much I hate spending 2 hours of my Saturday at grocery stores. So I recently started stocking up for 2 weeks worth of meals. I do buy our produce weekly, but a 15 minute visit versus an hour is just a better deal to me.

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If you’ve never meal-planned effectively before and would like to start, I recommend starting with a plan like this. If you’ve been meal-planning for awhile but would like to be a bit more organized and intentional, I’d recommend checking this out. The second link is the system I currently use and really enjoy, but whatever works for you is what I would ultimately say to do.

What are some ways you like to save money regarding meals? 

Have a great night, friends!