Veggie-dense chili recipe - weekday lunch lifesaver!

10.29.2015

I'm totally excited to finally share this recipe with you since it's seriously been an important part of my weekday life for a couple months now!! A while back we discovered we could make it through work lunches the first part of the week by making a big batch of hearty chili on Sunday, full of veggies and simple ingredients. Having enough leftovers for weekday lunches is often on my mind, but this way I can get a lot of them out of the way on Sunday afternoon rather than rushing around on a weekday evening. This chili is easy, tasty, and a great one dish meal with protein, fat, and veggies so it's all we each need to bring for lunch at work!

It's also a totally flexible recipe, and seasonal - you can use whatever veggies you have! We use grassfed beef from our cow share but you could also sub lamb, turkey, or a combo of a couple ground meats. This is a bean-free chili recipe since we don't often eat legumes, but you can certainly add some beans (I do this sometimes if I remember to soak them the day before before cooking them) and it won't mess up the ratios or flavors!

It's hard for me to get enough veggies into my lunches so I pack this chili FULL of them!!

Veggie-dense chili recipe


Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp heat-safe fat of choice (I use home-rendered lard or tallow or saved bacon fat)
  • Sprinkle sea salt
  • 3 large carrots (and/or beets or other root veggie)
  • 1 small eggplant (or 2-3 zucchini or summer squash, whatever's in season/on-hand)
  • 2 bell peppers, any color (and/or celery)
  • 2 jalapenos, no seeds (optional)
  • 1.5-2 lbs. grassfed ground beef
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 28 oz. can tomato sauce, no flavors added
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, no flavors added

    Instructions:


    1. Chop onions, press garlic, and combine in a heavy-bottomed deep pan (Dutch ovens are the best real deal/knock-off/great budget knock-off) with fat and salt. Cover and cook on medium until onions soften.

    2. Add chopped carrots; cover and cook on medium until carrots begin to soften.

    3. On the eggplant... husband doesn't like eggplant he can see so I've gotten good at chopping it up super tiny. To do this, cut ends off, cut in half lengthwise, and make more lengthwise cuts to make discs. Then chop lengthwise from the top of the pile, then cut across.

    Add eggplant to pan and toss with other ingredients; cover and cook on low.

    (Note: If using zucchini instead of eggplant, add peppers first.)

    4. Add chopped bell peppers and finely chopped jalepenos, if using.

    Toss with other veggies and cook on medium, covered.

    5. Cook ground beef and break up with a spoon or handy ground meat chopper/stirrer like this or this. Add spices and stir well.

    6. Add tomato sauce and petite diced tomatoes to the veggie mixture and stir. Cook while ground beef gets completely cooked (continue to break it up).

    7. Add ground beef to veggie mixture. (If using beans, add them (fully cooked) at this point). Stir and cook, covered, on medium-low for 30-45 minutes until flavors are well-combined and peppers have fully softened.


    Serve hot! Good all by itself!

    We normally pack the whole batch up into 4-6 glass food storage containers for our lunches for the next few days. It's SO handy to start the week with lunches so we can have some relaxed evenings not worrying about leftovers for a while.

    The chili is so delicious that I'm excited to eat it every day at work. Of course, it would also be great for a group dinner! Wonderful on a chilly night. Let me know if you try it, and what special ingredients you like in your chili! 

    When you really want to use that plaid flannel you bought last year... (new DIY tunic top!)

    10.26.2015

    So many DIY projects are born from a need. In this case, it was the need to make something flannel, and the need to use up the fabric I bought last year...

    Okay, they weren't really urgent needs. But I was frustrated. I bought this pretty, soft flannel check last winter and never made anything out of it. I loved the pattern, but cotton flannel DIYs aren't exactly easy to fit into a wardrobe. The fabric weight isn't right for dresses, and no way am I making myself a flannel button-up from scratch (and this fabric is too heavy, anyway). It's really best for potholders or something. You can barely even do decor projects with it! But it's so pretty, and comes in so many patterns and colors!

    So, I decided to make it work for apparel. I looked around at non-button-up tops that could be made of cotton flannel. Mostly simple, tunic shapes, some loose peplums...

    Here are my inspirations: (Yes, some of these are sweaters, and some aren't flannel, but they all could be!)
    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

    My version was most similar to the Anthropologie red/white plaid pocket top in style, but the red/grey checkered pattern has a funky woodsy look like some of the others! More cabin-ey than a preppy plaid.

    I used Simplicity 2584, which I have used A LOT in the past couple years. It's a super simple shift dress pattern if you strip down the optional yokes, sleeves, and waistband. See how versatile it is??! I cut it short (to the View C/D length) for this one and used the short sleeves but tapered them in a little. I widened the neckline for more of a boat neck.

    *And yes, I did match the pattern on the side seams! Why, thank you!*

    Of course it goes great with denim! It would also be perfect with a lightweight vest.
    Jacket: Old Navy (similar). Tote bag: Target (similar/similar). Necklace: ?? Boots: Target. Top: DIY!

    Also, it's finally getting to the right weather for my new leather riding boots. Just barely.

    Bonus of the flannel? It's suuuper soft and cozy! Even after pre-washing the fabric, it's soft and smooth. I want to wear thick flannel all the time now!

    9 tips & inspirations for a clean & functional kitchen

    10.22.2015

    Tracking Pixel As I shared earlier this month... we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride with selling our house and buying another, and I've put a LOT of thought into homes since this summer! We toured tons of homes and looked at even more online, and I've thought a lot about what's important in a house. There are a lot of factors we have on our list for our next home, whenever we find it, but one thing that's really important and a big selling point is the kitchen.

    The lastest in our house-buying saga is, we want to buy a small, "cosmetic fixer" that we can put some work into and increase the value on. We have an offer accepted (by the seller) on a short sale and there's a tiny chance we may go through with it if the bank accepts the offer as well, whenever that is... so sometimes, when my mind wanders, I redecorate that house in my mind.

    The kitchen in particular. It's dark, closed off, and outdated. I could do a LOT with some new paint, tile, sink, appliances... I even have a spreadsheet going of all the updates we'd want to do and how much it may cost. I recently got an offer from Sears Home Appliances and Services for this and future sponsored posts about their affordable appliances and great service. (They have competitive pricing, sell great brands, and take care of repair, parts, and warranties. They are actually the leading retailer of home appliances in the US (installing 4.5 million appliances each year) and are #1 in home services, parts, and protection agreements.)

    So I've been thinking about new appliances and kitchen updates for our potential new home, and have figured out some tips from our current kitchen and the many we've looked at! Follow along with me on these kitchen design tips with some of my fave inspirations from my dream kitchens pinboard.

    9 Tips for a Clean & Functional Kitchen Design


    We've learned a lot from living in our new, relatively basic kitchen (we got to pick out the finishes in our townhome). So here are the top 9 things I want to differently on our next home!

    1. Minimal elements above the stove. Grease splatter is a major pet peeve of mine. Now, every time I look at a stove in its place in a kitchen, I think about having to wash everything around it. Our microwave and a cabinet are above our stove and it seems like they are never clean (although I clean them!). A smooth backsplash up the wall behind the stove (to the hood) would be pretty and easier to clean!
    Source

    2. A smooth cooking surface. I know gas is great for cooking, and we chose it for our current kitchen, but again... the grease splatter kills me! I've cooked on smooth glass elements before and they work great and are SO easy to clean up!!
    Source

    3. A countertop I can see crumbs on. Our granite has so much variation and pattern, it's really hard to see when it's clean and when there's salt or water or whatever on it. I know some people might like this... but I hate not knowing when it's really clean! I'd love a more uniformly colored countertop.

    4. Dark grout instead of white? Perfect! Conversely, there are some things you'll just never be able to keep perfectly clean. The white grout we have on our subway tile backsplash looks nice, but some areas (near the sink, near the blender where we blend coffee...) are no longer pure white despite cleaning. But dark grout is a beautiful option, too! I'm seriously considering white tile with dark grey grout in our next place!
    Source

    5. French door refrigerator. I imagine there are as many fridge preferences as there are styles, but we've lived in places with all different kinds and I really love the French door, freezer-on-the-bottom, no ice maker model we have now. It's so nice to have the full width of the fridge (unlike in a side-by-side model) but small, easy to open doors that let out less cold air than a big hinged one. One change I might make next time we buy a fridge... I might spring for the water filer/ice maker inside the fridge door! (Like this one.) I don't love the ones on the outsides since they're hard to clean.
    Source

    6. Splurging on the dishwasher might be worth it. We do rinse our dishes!, but even on the heavy setting things sometimes come out less than spotless. If we buy a new one for the new place, I definitely won't buy the cheapest option!
    Source

    7. One wide sink would be much easier to keep clean than a split one. The two sides are so small, I have to tip things in weird angles and sometimes splash water outside it. Also, I chose not to do an undermount sink when we got this kitchen because you can't replace it if you need to when it's trapped under the countertop, but... the odds of that are slim so I might choose an undermount next time--so much easier to wipe messes into the sink without the lip and edges!
    Source

    8. Small compost bin. We once bought a special compost container, taller, matching lid... but it was so big that by the time it got full, it smelled awful. A small, open bowl that you take out to the compost pile or can every day (Portland has curbside composting now for residential customers) prevents smells!

    9. Lighting is SO important. One overhead light just doesn't cut it for most kitchens. I'd love to replace a fluorescent or boob light with DIY recessed can lights (we watched a YouTube video on it so now we're experts, right?) but under-cabinet lighting is also so helpful. My parents have a strip light under a food prep counter in a darker side of their kitchen and it makes all the difference. It's not that expensive to add to an existing kitchen but will make a big difference.
    Source

    Please click over to Sears Home Appliances and Services to check out their great prices and styles!

    Thanks to Sears Home Appliances and Services for sponsoring this post!

    Double layer pumpkin brownie bars - grain-free, gluten-free, Paleo-friendly

    10.20.2015

    It's fall and I'm in the mood for baking!

    Anything layered is fancier than something not layered, right??! I don't often bother with more than 2-part recipes because you have to dirty more than twice the equipment and read more than twice the recipes when you could just use a simple dessert recipe, like... regular brownies. But, my desire for something festive and pumpkin overrode my desire for fewer dishes and I came up with this recipe!

    (Last fall I did a round-up of great real food pumpkin recipes. This year I wanted to make my own!)



    The brownie layer is very similar to my chunky, fudgy, dark chocolate Paleo brownies with a few minor tweaks. Grain-free baking is quite an art and I'm no master, but I do have brownies figured out in a way I like!!

    Adding the pumpkin mixed things up a bit but the method is surprisingly similar to the brownie method. Check it out!

    Paleo double layer pumpkin brownie bars


    Brownie Layer Ingredients: 

    • 1/3 c. unsalted butter or coconut oil, room temperature
    • 2 eggs, room temperature
    • 1/2 c. natural sweetener of choice (I used coconut palm sugar)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1.5 tbsp almond butter or nut butter of choice (like my homemade cashew/sunflower butter!)
    • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/4 c. coconut flour

    Pumpkin Layer Ingredients: 

    • 1/4 c. unsalted butter or coconut oil, room temperature
    • 2 eggs, room temperature
    • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
    • 1/2 c. natural sweetener of choice (I used coconut palm sugar)
    • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp almond butter or nut butter of choice
    • 1/8 c. (2 tbsp) coconut flour
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp allspice
    • 1/8 tsp sea salt

    Topping:

    • 1-1.5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped/broken into tiny pieces

      Instructions:


      1. Ideally, get eggs and butter (or coconut oil) out several hours before making this recipe. Cold fat doesn't blend well!
      2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8"x8" or 9"x5" pan with coconut oil. 
      3. For the brownie layer: In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a mixing bowl with hand mixer, combine ingredients through almond butter; mix on medium speed until well combined. Mix dry ingredients separately, then combine with wet mixture. Spread into prepared pan.
        1. (TIP: If your brownie layer is sticking to the spatula and won't flatten, put in the preheated oven for about 2 minutes to soften. Then flatten with your fingers or a spatula over a layer of plastic wrap.)
      4. For the pumpkin layer: In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a mixing bowl with hand mixer, combine ingredients through almond butter; mix on medium speed until well combined. Mix dry ingredients separately, then combine with wet mixture. Spread into prepared pan on top of brownie layer.
      5. Sprinkle dark chocolate chunks on top of pumpkin layer. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a fork in the center comes out clean.

      Let cool a little before cutting (mine made 8 pieces). They're pretty dense so even a small piece is a good-sized dessert! Would be delicious with vanilla ice cream or vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

      Extra bonus: while these bake your house will smell like pumpkin pie AND chocolate!! Mmm.....

      When you need a new graphic tee... remember how easy it is to DIY?? Silhouette lettering tee

      10.15.2015

      I got the graphic tee bug over the weekend and was inspired to make a new one! I've done tee lettering projects before, but not in a while and not with my Silhouette machine, which makes it SO easy to create designs and text in the size and style you want. (See all my Silhouette projects here.)

      So, I pulled out my Silhouette Cameo machine and a newer plain black tee, and made a tee with the sentiments I had in mind at the time!

      HELLO, WEEKEND!!

      I keep the machine in an empty file cabinet drawer, but it's easy to pull out and plug in for projects.

      I played with the fonts and size in the Silhouette Studio program that comes with the machine on CD... there are LOTS of fonts to choose from, and designs and shapes... I've barely begun to test the limits of what you can do! I love working with the vinyl package since the vinyl lettering is so perfect for ironing onto fabric and SO easy to use. The negative space around the letters peels off but the vinyl stays in place so you don't have to place the insides/multi-part letters. (See my most detailed tutorial about Silhouette vinyl lettering here.)

      I highly recommend the Silhouette Cameo machine (and specifically the vinyl starter bundle) if you want to make super easy one-of-a-kind designs with iron-on vinyl or any of the other ooooodles of materials you can use with it!

      Hoping to try something new (like the Fabric Ink Starter Kit I have but haven't used yet) soon! Any suggestions for projects to branch out with??

      Butternut squash chips recipe!

      10.13.2015

      This was a crazy experiment! I saw the idea for DIY dehydrated butternut squash chips somewhere in passing (a store recipe card? a magazine in a waiting room? I don't remember) and was kind of surprised that simply dehydrating a raw butternut squash could make it tasty and crunchy... so I had to try it.

      Especially because I've recently discovered those crunchy veggie chips they sell in bulk at specialty grocery stores... usually taro, green beans, carrots, squash, and beets, salted and fried or baked in some kind of mystery oil. I'd much rather make my own if I can!

      Homemade Butternut Squash Chips

      Ingredients:


      You will also need a dehydrator--or try it in the oven, I'm not sure how it would work! The ultimate in dehydrators is this one, but we have this one and it works great (and is lighter weight and easier to store).

        Instructions:


        1. Chop squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
        2. Slice squash very thin. Like, as thin as you can. I tried cutting mine on a mandoline, but the squash was too tough and it didn't work. Just do it slowly and carefully with a very good, large knife.
        3. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and sea salt (toss, salt; toss, salt, etc.).
        4. Spread on a dehydrator and turn on high. Ours goes up to 158 degrees. Dehydrate for 24-36 hours, checking occasionally toward the end.
        Store in an airtight container (I've been storing mine in the fridge).

        So, did this crazy experiment work?? Well, sort of... the chips I cut the thinnest were delicious!! The thicker ones were super hard and crunchy while also being chewy (and hard to chew). Not great.

        A really tasty, fun snack-ey use for butternut squash, so plentiful this time of year. I wonder what dips they'd be good with??!

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