Bowl of bean burger stew

Hearty Bean Burger Stew

It’s that time of year when the weather starts turning colder, and we start turning to soups and stews for dinner to warm us to the bone!  Although it still isn’t too chilly here in south Florida, I’m jumping on the bandwagon and whipping up some delicious soups and stews for the season.

This particular recipe has been in my family for three generations!  It has been handed down to me by my mother, who used to eat it growing up as prepared by her mother.  As a child, my mom used to prepare this dish for my family all the time – it’s so easy to make that it’s perfect for a night in which you only have a short time to prepare supper.  It’s a simple and easy dish, but so delicious!  It’s made with budget-friendly ingredients, and with the few tweaks I have made is quite healthy as well.  Enjoy this time-tested recipe for hearty bean burger stew!

Hearty Bean Burger Stew

You will need:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef (about 1-2 hamburger patties’ worth), broken into small chunks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 16-oz. cans Pork and Beans
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (you can use plain or flavored ones)
  • Medium frying pan

(Click here for a printable PDF version of this recipe!)

First, gather your ingredients together.

Bean burger stew ingredients

Dice the onion into medium or small pieces.

Diced onion

Add the ground beef and chopped onion to the frying pan, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until the ground beef is cooked through and the onion is starting to become translucent.

Ground beef and onion cooking

Open the cans of pork and beans, and discard the fatty piece of “pork” usually floating on the top.  Add the cans of beans and the can of tomatoes to the frying pan – don’t drain either.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Bean burger stew in the pan

Serve up your hearty bean burger stew and enjoy!

Bowl of bean burger stew

I hope you liked this recipe!  If you try it, let me know how it turned out in the comments section below!

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Served pork chop

Asian Honey Pork Chops

Asian food makes me happy – Chinese buffets, Japanese steakhouses, and Mongolian grills are some of my favorite places to go out to eat.  However, those places are a rare treat for me because of the cost and fattiness of the food.  Thus, I have embarked on a journey to create delicious Asian food at home for a fraction of the price and calories.

Although I generally don’t eat a lot of pork because of the cost, this week at my local grocery store pork chops were on a BOGO sale!  I immediately snapped up a couple packages, and began to wonder what Asian masterpiece I could create with them.  After pondering different flavors that might taste good together, I mixed together several ingredients for a marinade and hoped for the best.

I was extremely pleased with the results of my experiment!  The Asian-inspired dish only has a few ingredients, but tastes absolutely lovely.  The marinade is great with pork chops, as written, but can also be used with chicken with wonderful results.  The simplicity and quickness of this recipe makes it great for a day you know you won’t have much time to cook in the evening – just whip up the marinade, stick the meat in it, and place it in the fridge that morning.  Then all you need to do is cook the chops and sauce, then serve!

Asian Honey Pork Chops 

You will need:

  • 3 lean, boneless pork chops
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1½ tsp. cornstarch or flour
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Gallon-sized baggie
  • Frying pan

(Click here for a printable PDF version of this recipe!)

First, assemble your ingredients.

Ingredients for Asian pork chops

Trim any visible fat from around the outside of the pork chops.

Trimmed fat from pork chop

Put all the ingredients besides the pork chops and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl, and mix well to thoroughly combine.

Sauce mixed

Place the pork chops in the baggie and add the sauce.  Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 4-8 hours, turning the bag halfway through the time so that both sides of the pork get marinated.

Pork chops marinate

After marinating, take the pork chops out of the sauce and place them in the frying pan.  Set the sauce aside for later.  Cover the pan, and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes per side (or until the pork chops are cooked through – they shouldn’t look at all pink when cut into if they are done).

Pork chops cooking

Take the pork chops out of the pan and set them aside for now.  Take the pan and dump out the fatty pork juices that have come out while cooking.  Return the pan to the stove, and add the sauce from the baggie to the pan.  Mix in the cornstarch with the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until thickened.

Sauce

To serve, place a pork chop on the plate and pour a spoonful or two of sauce over it.

Served pork chop

This yummy recipe is perfect served with roasted broccoli and a baked potato, or whatever other vegetables you desire!  Enjoy this simple, delightful meal without worrying about busting your waistline or your budget!

Completed thigh!

Tips & Tricks: Chicken Thighs

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I tend to use chicken thighs, rather than chicken breasts, for my chicken recipes. Since all my recipes are supposed to be healthy, you might wonder why this is – after all, chicken breasts are a lot healthier for you than chicken thighs, right? Well, not necessarily.

Although it is true that chicken thighs are fattier and contain more calories than chicken breasts, they aren’t actually that  much fattier or calorie-filled, and they are certainly still healthier for you than other meats such as beef and pork. Preparation also has a lot to do with how healthy chicken thighs are; removing the skin and bone of the thigh goes a long way in bringing down the fat content. Also, since thighs are naturally juicier and more flavorful than breasts, they are less likely to end up being dry and tasteless when cooked. With chicken breast recipes, I often find that extra fat is added while cooking in an attempt to make the breasts moister, which negates any nutritional benefit they would have had over thighs in the first place. (Check out this article, or this one, if you want to learn more about the nutrition of chicken thighs.)

Of course, there is one other significant reason I most often use chicken thighs rather than breasts – the price. Chicken thighs are often at least a couple dollars cheaper per ounce than chicken breasts, and this adds up quickly.

Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs are the cheapest – and the best part is, the skin and bones can be easily and quickly removed at home! Why pay a couple extra dollars for something that takes you a minute or two to do yourself? Although I almost never cook with skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs because it greatly ups the fat content, I buy them that way all the time and then just remove the skin and bones myself. Let me show you how easy it is!

How to De-skin, De-bone Chicken Thighs

Start out with your chicken thighs and a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife. (If you don’t have a good pair of kitchen shears, I encourage you to invest in some! They make cutting meat SO much easier! However, a good, serrated knife will work as well.)
Chicken thighs and shears

Slip your finger under the skin, and it should start to peel off immediately with no cutting necessary.
Peeling the skin off

Once the skin is mostly peeled away, snip it off where it is still clinging to the chicken.
Skin off!

Now, on to the bone! Flip the chicken over to the side where you can tell the bone is closest to the skin, and make one long cut along the right side of the bone.
Cut next to the bone

Make another long cut along the left side of the bone, leaving only the underside of the bone clinging to the chicken.
Another cut

Make one more long cut along the underside of the bone, cutting it away from the thigh altogether.
Final cut

Ta da! You have now de-skinned, de-boned a chicken thigh, and it is ready for you to use in a recipe! The whole process shouldn’t have taken more than a minute or two for one thigh. Repeat the process with however many chicken thighs you want to use at the time.
Completed thigh!

Although your first thought is probably to toss out the bones, don’t give into the temptation! The skin is fatty and should be discarded, but keep and freeze the bones for later use. When you get enough, you can use them to make a scrumptious homemade chicken stock or soup. I have a bag in the freezer that I add to whenever I de-bone chicken thighs, and when I have 10-12 of them it’s soup time! (Look out for my chicken bone soup recipe on the blog in the near future!)

Bag of chicken bones

My frozen bag of chicken thigh bones

I hope you found these instructions helpful! If you de-bone chicken thighs using this method, let me know how it worked out in the comments section!

Casserole on plate

Creamy Chicken Vegetable Casserole

I don’t know about you, but I love grocery shopping.  I know, I know, most people hate it and look upon it as just another annoying chore they have to get done.  However, I love picking out ingredients for foods that will soon be on the menu, looking around for the best prices, and feeling the satisfaction of loading up the refrigerator with my prizes when I get home.

Campbell's soup on saleTherefore, I’m sure you’ll understand that I get excited when I see awesome sales at my local grocery store – especially if the sale saves a significant amount of money, is for a product I use fairly often, and will keep for quite a while on the shelf.  As it so happens, this is exactly what happened last time I went shopping!  Campbell’s soups were on sale, and I stocked up on “Healthy Request” cream of chicken, mushroom, celery, and a few others.

As you have probably already guessed, then, today’s recipe features soup as one of the main ingredients!  This rich tasting chicken vegetable casserole is what my mom would refer to as “comfort food,” perfect for any night you’re in the mood for a simple, homey dish to enjoy.  It’s loaded with veggies and low-fat ingredients, making it quite healthy, but all the ingredients are so inexpensive and it tastes so delicious that you’d never know!

Creamy Chicken Vegetable Casserole 

You will need:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved (or 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 8 pieces total)
  • 1 can low-fat or “Healthy Request” cream of celery soup
  • 1 can low-fat or “Healthy Request” cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 4 oz. reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 liter (or slightly larger) baking dish

(Click here for the printable PDF version of this recipe!)

Assemble your ingredients, and preheat the oven to 350°.

Ingredients for chicken vegetable casserole

Place all the frozen vegetables in a large microwavable bowl, and microwave for 2-3 minutes to thaw them.  (Although I used mixed vegetables, broccoli, and lima beans, you can use whatever kind of frozen vegetables you have on hand – just make sure that they add up to 6 cups veggies in total.)

Thawed veggies

Dump the cans of soup, milk, and poultry seasoning in with the vegetables, and mix all the ingredients together well.

Soups and veggies mixed

Pour into the baking dish, and add the chicken pieces.

Chicken in casserole

Push the chicken pieces down into the veggie mixture, covering completely.

Casserole before baking

Cover the dish, and bake for 1 hour (or until the chicken pieces no longer look at all pink when they’re cut into).

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After an hour, take the dish out of the oven and top with the grated cheese.  Bake an additional 10-12 minutes uncovered, until the cheese is melted and just starting to get brown.

Completed casserole

Serve up the casserole, giving each person 1 piece of chicken along with a heaping serving of vegetables.

Casserole on plate

This recipe makes 8 generous portions, and works quite well as leftovers too.  Enjoy this luscious dish that is guaranteed to satisfy!

Served lasagna

Wholesome Chunky Lasagna

I love Italian cuisine.  The cheesy traditional dishes make my mouth water – fettuccine alfredo, ravioli, pizza, and all the rest.  I don’t think I’ve ever had an Italian meal that I didn’t like.

Unfortunately, although most Italian dishes are loaded with flavor, they are also loaded with fat and calories.  This recipe is a healthy, vegetarian take on traditional lasagna.  It’s laden with the same delicious taste as the original, but with much less fat and more healthier ingredients (like veggies).  It’s not a “vegetable lasagna,” as those (while still being quite good) usually don’t taste like “real” lasagna.  This recipe strives to taste like the real thing, just healthier.

I’m not a big meat eater in the first place, so I don’t miss the beef usually used in lasagna.  If you absolutely must have meat, though, you could try adding in a few ounces of lean ground beef to the sauce while it’s cooking.  Don’t use a lot – just a little will give you that meaty taste and some meat chunks to chew on.

Enjoy this nutritious, easy, inexpensive, flavorful Italian meal!

Wholesome Chunky Lasagna

You will need:

  • 1 box whole wheat lasagna
  • 1 28-ounce can plain tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups frozen spinach
  • 4 tsp. garlic powder (divided)
  • 4 tsp. parsley (divided)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • ¼ tsp. basil
  • 1 32-ounce container fat free or part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 16-ounce (1 pound) block of part skim mozzarella cheese (divded)
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • Large pot
  • Large saucepan
  • Large mixing bowl
  • 2 9×13 baking dishes

(Click here for a printable PDF version of this recipe!)

First, gather your ingredients together and preheat the oven to 350°.

Lasagna ingredients

Boil a large pot of water on the stove, and cook the lasagna according to the time listed on the box.

Lasagna boiling

In a large saucepan, add the can of tomato sauce, the diced tomatoes, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. parsley, onion powder, oregano, and basil.  Mix together well, and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes.

Sauce ingredients

After 5 minutes, add the frozen spinach and stir well to mix.  Continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

Spinach added to sauce

While the lasagna noodles and sauce are cooking, grate the block of mozzarella cheese and divide it into approximately one 3 cup and two 1 cup piles.  Dump the container of ricotta cheese, the 3 cup pile of mozzarella cheese, milk, 2 tsp. garlic powder, and 2 tsp. parsley into the large mixing bowl, and stir well to combine.

Ricotta cheese mixture

When the pasta is done cooking, drain it with a colander, and then lightly grease both 9×13 baking dishes.  Now, it’s time to make the lasagna!  Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of one of the baking dishes.

Sauce layer

Now add a layer of noodles…

Noodle layer

…then a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture.

Cheese layer

Repeat once more: sauce layer, noodle layer, ricotta cheese layer.  Next, spread out one final layer of sauce, then sprinkle 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese on the top.

All ingredients

Repeat the process with the other baking dish.  (When making both pans, be careful how much sauce and ricotta cheese you put down for each layer!  You will need 6 layers of sauce and 4 layers of ricotta cheese in all, so plan ahead – don’t use up most of the sauce or cheese on the first pan and then not have enough to finish the second!)

Both lasagna pans

Bake in the oven for ½ hour, or until the lasagna is bubbly and the cheese on top is browned.

Baked lasagna

Now, if you’re like me, you usually don’t have to feed enough people at once to warrant baking both pans of lasagna at a time.  If that is the case, don’t bake one of the pans and instead freeze it for another day!  To freeze, cover tightly with foil and put a rubber band around both ends to hold it in place.  This keeps well for months, and is perfect for a day you don’t have time to make a meal.  Just uncover it and pop it straight into the oven from the freezer, baking 1 to 1½ hours until bubbly and browned on top.

Freeze lasagna

Each pan should hold about 8 servings of lasagna, making 16 servings out of this recipe in total.  Relish in this guilt-free Italian dish, and let me know what you think in the comments section!

The served salsa chicken

Scrumptious Salsa Chicken

I love chicken.

It’s versatile – can be prepared in an innumerable number of ways and taste different every time.  It’s inexpensive – one of the cheapest meats on the market.  It’s healthy – one of the leanest meats you can buy.  And, most importantly, it’s delicious – no matter how it is cooked, it’s almost always yummy!

Because of the above reasons, I thought that a chicken recipe would be a perfect choice for my first blog post.  This recipe for Salsa Chicken is one of my all-time favorites, and includes the four factors that make a recipe magical – it is healthy, takes almost no time to throw together, is budget-friendly, and is so tasty!  I could easily eat this every day and be content.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of spicy or Mexican food, I encourage you to give this recipe a try anyway – I guarantee that it will win your heart as it has won mine!

Scrumptious Salsa Chicken

You will need:

  • 2 16-ounce jars of chunky salsa (whatever strength you want)
  • 1 can low-fat or “Healthy Request” cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can any type beans (kidney, pinto, navy, etc.)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, or one large boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 4 oz. (½ small block) reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • Crock pot (or large regular pot, if don’t want to use a crock pot)

(Click here for the printable PDF version of this recipe!)

First, gather all your ingredients together!

All the ingredients needed to make salsa chicken

Next, open your can of beans, then rinse and drain them using a colander.

Rinsed beans

Dump the jars of salsa, soup, and the beans into the crock pot…

The beans, salsa, and soup in the pot

Then mix them up!

The salsa, beans, and soup mixed together

Next, take your chicken pieces and place them in the crock pot with the salsa mixture.

The chicken with the salsa mixture

Now push the chicken down into the salsa mix, covering them completely.  You shouldn’t even be able to tell that they’re there!

The chicken submerged in the salsa mixture

Place your crock pot on the base, and cook on medium for about 6 hours.  (If you don’t have a crock pot or don’t remember to put the recipe in the pot earlier in the day, you can achieve the same effect by placing all ingredients in a regular large pot and cooking on the stove over low heat for 1½ – 2 hours).

The crock pot on medium heat

In the meantime, grate the cheese and set it aside for later.  I used Cabot 75% reduced fat “sharp extra light” cheddar – I stock up on it when there’s a BOGO sale at my local grocery store, because it keeps for a long time and is an excellent low-fat alternative to a regularly fatty ingredient.  However, if you can’t find it on sale, feel free to use any reduced fat cheddar cheese – there’s usually a store brand of a cheddar cheese made with 2% milk, which is healthier than the full fat kind.

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After the cooking time is up, the chicken should fall apart easily.  Shred the chicken into small strips in the pot with the side of a spoon, and mix it in with the salsa.

The chicken broken into strips

Now, serve it up!  Place the salsa chicken on a plate, top with a bit of the grated cheese, and scoop it up with tortilla chips.  Mmmmm!

The served salsa chicken

Now you too have experienced the delicious event that is salsa chicken!  This recipe makes six generous portions, and is great as leftovers (in the rare event that you are able to refrain from eating it all, that is!).  Let me know in the comments if you made this recipe and enjoyed it (or not!), or if you have any questions or suggestions for me!