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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Pumpkin seeds in bowl

Simple Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Just before Halloween, a few friends and I got together for a pumpkin carving party.  I hadn’t carved a pumpkin in years, and some of them had never carved one!  Thus, it was great fun for us all to go pick out our pumpkins, bring them back, scoop out the goopy insides, and carve faces into the sides.  We all did pretty traditional jack-o-lantern faces, and I think they turned out really well for novices!  In the end, we had five pumpkins carved, but also large amount of stringy material and seeds from five pumpkins lying around.  After our party was over, I sorted through the insides and picked out most of the seeds – of which there were a lot!

Jack-o-lanterns

The jack-o-lanterns my friends and I carved

I didn’t want to throw out the seeds, even though I wasn’t really sure what to do with them!  I did some research, and found that although pumpkin seeds (like most nuts and seeds) are high in calories, they are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (the good kind of fat that helps lower bad cholesterol).  Thus, I was set on finding a frugal, easy, yummy way to prepare them them.

After combing through multiple pumpkin seed recipes online, I combined elements found in many of them to create this recipe.  It is probably one of the easiest recipes I have ever made!  It only takes 3 ingredients besides the seeds themselves: sugar, salt, and pepper.  Almost everyone is guaranteed to have those ingredients, and they are all cheap to buy.   Whether you have leftover seeds from carving a jack-o-lantern or seeds from a pumpkin bought to make a pie, this recipe is a perfect choice for you!  Eaten in moderation, these pumpkin seeds are both nutritious and delicious, and quick and frugal to make!  Enjoy!

Simple Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

You will need:

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet

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

First, gather your ingredients together.  Preheat the oven to 375°, and move a rack in the oven to the topmost position.

Pumpkin seeds ingredients

Add the pumpkin seeds to the mixing bowl.  Try to get out as much of the orange stringy stuff as possible, but if a few strings remain that’s okay.  Add the sugar, pepper, and salt to the bowl.

Pumpkin seeds with spices

Mix the seeds with the other ingredients well, until the seeds are well coated.

Pumpkin seeds mixed

Place the coated seeds on a baking sheet in as much of a single layer as possible.  (If you want, you can line the baking sheet with foil first – it makes cleanup a lot easier!)

Pumpkin seeds uncooked

Place the seeds on the top rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the seeds turn golden brown. Check them carefully as the time nears 15 minutes – you don’t want to overcook them at all or they’ll taste burned!

Pumpkin seeds cooked

Let cool 10 minutes, then remove the seeds and place them in a sealed container.  (They will stick to the pan or foil, so you will have to pry them off!)  These will last for a couple weeks on the counter in a sealed container, just as sticky and delicious as ever!

Pumpkin seeds in bowl

Enjoy this super simple toasted pumpkin seed recipe, and let me know how you liked it in the comments below!

Served vegetables

Garlic Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

I’ll admit right up front: I don’t like vegetables.  Oh, I’ve always liked them if they were in something, like soups or casseroles, but a serving of plain vegetables on the plate by themselves?  Forget it.  However, vegetables are so healthy that I was determined to find a way to prepare them tastily.

When I first found a recipe for roasted vegetables, I thought, why not try it?  I wasn’t optimistic that I would like them, but I was willing to give it a try.  After I made my first batch of roasted broccoli, I was shocked!  I loved it!  I had never loved any vegetable before, but this recipe turned broccoli from a mushy green tree to be choked down into a crispy morsel to be savored.  And the recipe is so easy and quick to make, it’s almost unbelievable that the vegetables can taste this good!

The following is a very basic recipe for roasted broccoli and cauliflower.  You can roast other vegetables too, of course – I have also tried asparagus, beets, carrots, and potatoes, all with fantastic results.  However, broccoli and cauliflower are still my favorite roasted vegetables, and are thus the focus of this post.  This method of preparing vegetables is perfect for kids and those who don’t usually like vegetables, as the flavor changes so much that it is hardly recognizable as being the same plant.  Enjoy this simple, healthy, frugal, and most of all delicious recipe!

Garlic Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

You will need:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Large bowl
  • Baking sheet

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

First of all, gather your ingredients and preheat the oven to 400°.  Move a rack in the oven to the topmost shelf in the oven.

Ingredients for roasted vegetables

Place the broccoli and cauliflower in a large bowl, then drizzle the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder over the veggies.  Toss well so that the vegetables get totally coated with the oil and spices.

Vegetables in bowl

Place the broccoli and cauliflower on the baking sheet in a single layer, separating the vegetables from each other as best you can.

Vegetables before roasting

Place the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven, and bake for 8 minutes.  Take the pan out of the oven and flip the veggies to the other side, then place back in and cook for an additional 8 minutes or until the veggies are crispy and browned.

Vegetables after roasting

Serve right away!  The roasted veggies taste best right out of the oven, and will get soft and cold if they are out of the oven too long.

Served vegetables

Enjoy this delicious way to eat vegetables that everyone is guaranteed to like!  If you try this recipe, let me know in the comments below!

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!

Key lime pie slice

Healthy Florida Key Lime Pie

Key limes are a small species of citrus fruit, grown (among other places) in the Florida Keys, from where they get their name.  Key limes are generally used to make key lime pie; this simultaneously tart and sweet dessert is a typically Floridian treat, and if you’ve never had it you’re definitely missing out!

I know, we’re in the middle of the autumn season, and key lime pie is usually considered a summer treat. However, when someone with a key lime tree and too many key limes for their own personal use recently gave me a bunch of key limes for free, I had to make a pie out of them!  Of course, I wanted to put a healthy spin on this treat that is typically made with fat-filled ingredients such as egg yolks and whipped cream.  This simple key lime pie recipe differs from many others out there in that both the crust and filling are healthy, making this dessert a guilt-free indulgence!

I realize that outside of Florida, both key limes and key lime juice may be hard to come by.  Thus, you can always use regular limes or regular lime juice in this recipe instead – the taste will be a bit different, as key limes have a distinctive tang, but it will be approximately the same and still delicious!  Savor this flavorful, frugal, easy, and definitely healthy dessert!

Healthy Florida Key Lime Pie

You will need:

  • 11 graham cracker sheets, or about 1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. light olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. fat free milk
  • About 16 small to medium key limes, or 2/3 cup key lime juice
  • 1 can (14 ounces) fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz. fat free cream cheese
  • 8 oz. container Lite Cool Whip, or other brand lite whipped topping (you can use fat free if you want, but I’ve found that fat free whipped topping usually has an odd flavor…using the lite still gives you a good flavor, but with less fat)
  • 9.5 or 10 inch deep dish pie pan (a regular pie pan will be too small!)
  • Gallon sized baggie
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer

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

Gather together your ingredients.

Ingredients for pie crust Ingredients for filling

If using whole graham cracker sheets, place them in the gallon sized baggie and get out all the air before sealing.  Pound  the crackers on a hard surface with a mallet or other heavy object until the crackers are reduced to fine crumbs.

Crackers in baggie

Place the graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl, and add the oil and milk.  Mix well so that all the crumbs get moist.

Graham cracker crumbs

Dump the crumbs into the pie pan, and press very firmly against the bottom and sides, making sure the crumbs are evenly distributed.

Graham cracker crust

Now, on to the filling!  If you’re using whole key limes, you will need to juice them.  I used a small hand juicer that you place over a bowl to catch the juice; however, after later doing some research, I found this video which shows you how to extremely easily juice key limes using a garlic press!  If you have one of those, I highly recommend using that method, as it is a bit time consuming to juice the small key limes with a hand juicer!

Key lime juicer

After you have juiced your key limes, place the cream cheese in a large microwavable bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds to soften.

Cream cheese

Add the key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk to the cream cheese, and stir to mix.  Then beat the mixture with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes on high, or until there are no small lumps of cream cheese left and the mixture is smooth.

After electric mixing

Fold in the container of whipped topping to the key lime mixture.  You will want to make sure the whipped topping is combined well, but don’t stir vigorously – you don’t want to lose all the fluffiness!

Mixing together

Pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust you prepared earlier, smoothing it out on the top.

Key lime pie

Cover with foil and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, before serving (else the filling will be runny). Alternatively, you can freeze the pie – it tastes delicious that way as well!  If making a frozen pie, let sit in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving to make sure that it is frozen through.

Key lime pie with foil

Once the pie has chilled adequately, slice into it and eat up!

Key lime pie slice

Enjoy the delicate balance of sweet and tart as you savor this dessert, knowing that you aren’t ruining your healthy eating habits or hurting your wallet!

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).

198

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!

Mug of pumpkin spice chai tea latte

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

If you’re like me, you love chai tea lattes from Starbucks.  Since I don’t drink coffee, I almost always order a chai tea latte on the rare occasion I go there – however, it’s a guilty treat, because according to the official nutrition information it’s full of sugar, fat, and calories, not to mention the exorbitant price.  Therefore, I embarked on a quest to find a similar recipe I could make at home, minus the unhealthiness and expense.

Upon doing a web search for chai tea latte recipes, I found a multitude of various formulas – however, I couldn’t find one that I thought was perfect.  Many used instant powdered tea and powdered non-dairy creamer, both of which are chock full of fake ingredients.  I decided to experiment on my own, ending up with an amalgam recipe inspired by ideas I found online, but not exactly like any one of them.

The following recipe can be used to make a regular chai tea latte, a vanilla chai tea latte, or (my favorite!) a pumpkin spice chai tea latte.  The recipe still has quite a bit of sugar in it – that could hardly be avoided.  So while this recipe might not be healthy per se, it is definitely a good deal healthier  than a Starbucks latte, and certainly includes the other three factors essential for a good recipe – simplicity, frugality, and deliciousness!

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk powder
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (this is an expensive ingredient – I paid $8.99 for a 2 ounce bottle.  However, it lasts forever because you don’t use much of it at a time, so for me it was worth the price.  You can omit it if you want, though.)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/16 tsp. ground black or white pepper
  • 1 tea bag of regular or decaf black tea
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract  (for vanilla or pumpkin spice latte)
  • 2-3 tbsp. pure canned pumpkin (for pumpkin spice latte)
  • Blender or food processor
  • Mug
  • Small container

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

Gather your ingredients together.

Place the milk powder, powdered sugar, and all spices in the blender or food processor.

Ingredients in blender

Blend on high for a minute or two, until the ingredients are very well blended and the mix turns into a fine powder.

Blended ingredients

Brew yourself a mug of plain black tea.

Mug of black tea

Add 2-3 tablespoons of the chai tea powder, and stir to mix well.

Chai tea mix in tea

If you want a regular chai tea latte, drink up!   For a vanilla chai tea latte, add 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract to the mug and mix in well.  For a pumpkin spice chai tea latte, add both 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract and 2-3 tbsp. of pure canned pumpkin to the mug and mix well to get out any lumps of pumpkin.

Mug of pumpkin spice chai tea latte

Place the rest of the chai tea mix in a small container to save for next time.  This recipe makes several mugs of chai tea, but if you want to make more either for yourself or to give as gifts, just double or triple the blended ingredients.  Bon appétit!

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!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love the autumn season.  Here in south Florida, where I live, the trees unfortunately do not change colors (at all), and the temperatures remain much the same as they did in summer until the very end of October into November, when they might fall a few degrees.  Because of this predicament, we Floridians have to slightly psych ourselves into thinking it’s fall by buying fake autumn leaf wreaths and lighting pumpkin scented candles around the house.

Fall wreath

Ironically, my fall wreath is hung around my air conditioning controller, which in the upper left reads the outside temperature as 90°!

Although as you can see, I do have a fall wreath up, I don’t light candles – instead, I bake pumpkin cookies!  They make your house smell amazing while they’re cooking, and definitely create an autumn atmosphere while being consumed.

I created this recipe because a), I was just in the mood for pumpkin cookies!, and b), I have a ton of boxed cookie mixes to use up.  A while back, I bought a bunch of them in a BOGO sale at the grocery store; although as prepared with the directions on the box they are quite unhealthy, I bought them as quick desserts to make for parties or church get-togethers where I knew I wouldn’t be the one eating them.  However, I began to wonder if I couldn’t just use the box mix and add my own ingredients to it to make it healthier for my own pleasure.  I experimented a bit, and voila! This recipe was born.  Enjoy!

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

You will need:

  • 1 17.5-ounce package chocolate chip cookie mix
  • 1 cup canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 egg (or 2 egg whites, if you want to cut down on cholesterol)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. extra light olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves

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

Preheat the oven to 350°, and gather your ingredients.

Ingredients for Pumpkkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Place the pumpkin, egg, applesauce, oil, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl…

Liquid ingredients for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

…and combine them together well.

Combined liquid ingredients for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Add the cookie mix and the spices, then stir them into the pumpkin mixture.

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookie mix

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls on a lightly greased baking sheet, flattening them slightly with the back of a spoon.  In the oven the cookies will rise in height, but not spread out any more.

Unbaked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Bake 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly browned on the top and bottom.

Baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

This recipe makes 32 medium cookies.  Enjoy the taste of fall as you consume these treats!  They are perfect served warm out of the oven, or cold from the refrigerator.  And, best of all, you’d never know that these rich cookies were “healthy!”

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!