Friday, February 24, 2017

Southwest Steak Bowls

Whew! That was a close one.  I almost let this week slip by without posting a recipe for a rice bowl. 

I just can't get over how easy and flavorful and inexpensive they are. We have started portioning the leftovers into containers and Joseph and Jarren have been taking them for lunch.  

Plus I get to look like I am making this amazing food, and really I am just standing in my kitchen thinking, "what else can I put on this" With that thought in mind, here are some additional things you might want to consider adding to yours. 

  • Olives
  • Sliced Tomatoes or Pico de gallo 
  • Any type of beans - perhaps kidney?
  • Caramelized onion
  • Onions and peppers - like in fajitas (or a whole fajita bowl... YUMMY!) 
  • Cilantro
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos
  • Cheese
  • Experiment with your rice, try brown rice, or flavor your rice with lime & cilantro or chili powder

This "recipe" essentially takes any of the ingredients that cost more and cutting the portions very small and then bulking up the meal with as many veggies and other healthy low cost items (like beans)

I used 5.99$ worth of steak in this recipe and I made 6 bowls. 


For the Steak
¾ - 1 lb. flank or skirt steak
1½ Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp salt
1 medium lime

For the Rice
1½ cups uncooked brown rice
3 cups chicken broth


1 can black beans ( But I used ones that I made myself. Here's the Recipe) 
corn kernels
sour cream
your favorite salsa
Avocado (We used pre-made guacamole that I found on a screaming deal)
green onions

or see your list above...


To make the steak marinade, mince the garlic and combine it in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin, salt, and the juice from half of the lime. Add the marinade and steak to a zip top bag, make sure the steak is coated in the marinade, and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes while the rice cooks.

Cook the rice according to the package instructions, but substitute chicken broth for the water.
While the rice is cooking and steak is marinating, gather your toppings. Slice your olives or avocado, cut your tomato, make your pico, thaw your corn and drain your beans.

To cook the steak, heat a large skillet over medium-high until very hot. Add the steak and cook for 3-5 minutes on one side, or until deeply golden brown. Flip and cook in the same manner on the second side. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and allow it to rest for five minutes.

Once the steak has rested for a few minutes, slice it thinly against the grain (look for the lines in the meat and cut across them).

To build the bowls, lay down one cup of rice, your desired amount of beans, corn, and salsa, a few slices of steak, a bit of guacamole, and a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mujaddara or Lentils and Rice

On my Food $ense journey somewhere along the way, I realized that I wasn't actually a horrible cook. I still have my kitchen disasters, but they are happening less and I am having lots more successes. 

This has started to spark an interest in me in food. I have become very curious about foods from different people's cultures especially comfort foods.  You know those foods that we are passionate about, that our grandmas made that we can't imagine not ever eating. People all over the world have those same feelings about food. 

Another thing that makes me so curious about comfort foods from other cultures is that almost without exception - they are low-cost. (A Big favorite of mine!) and easy to prepare, because who had the time to spend making a meal that took hours and hours over a wood stove while the chickens needed to be fed. 

When I found this Mujaddara recipe, I was instantly intrigued. It actually comes from a lot of places and the recipe can actually be traced by thousands of years.  If people have been eating for thousands of years, it has GOT to be good, right?  

I had all the ingredients - so I was prepared to make it, but to be honest, I didn't want to make it and have no one eat it.  That always hurts my feelings and wasting the food / eating it for every meal for 3 days straight is a tough position to be in. 

So last weekend, our 18 year old started talking nutrition and eating with us. He has gotten pretty serious in the gym and realizes that he isn't going to see the results he wants if he keeping in boxes of holiday snack cakes as a meal.  So he ventured deep into our pantry to look for things to cook and plan his meals for the week. He was reading labels on boxes of rice-a-roni and bags or organic quinoa. He decided to cook himself some chicken breast and was looking for something to put with it.  And I suggested lentils.  He pulled up the information on his phone and it blew his mind. He couldn't believe that there was something out there with this much protein in it.  -- 

Anyway, Long story short, I saw this as my perfect opportunity to make Majaddara. I would get to taste this recipe that I have been waiting forever to make and I could eat a few bowls and he could pack the rest for his lunches during the day. Win / Win!

I made them that night and ate some (they were SO good) And then I left them on the stove for him to pack his lunches. I could tell the exact moment he tasted them. He actually yelled, "holy crap! this is so good!"  

Since then, he has cooked them into a breakfast burrito in the morning, ate them everyday with his lunch and had them as a late night snack.  YES! that is a LOT of lentils, I probably don't recommend that you eat that many of them. But be aware, you are going to want to!


2 Tbsp olive oil 
4 yellow onions 
1 tsp cumin 
1 tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves 
2.5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup rice (you can use any type - be bold and experiment) 
1 cup brown lentils 

Thinly slice up your onions and add them to a large pot ( I used my cast iron dutch oven) with the olive oil. Cook on low heat, while you stir often for one hour, or until they are really golden brown, sticky, and caramelized.

Remove half of the onions and set them aside in a bowl to use to top the dish after cooking

Add the cumin, allspice, and cloves to the pot with the remaining onions. Sauté for about one minute to lightly toast the spices.

Add the vegetable broth and stir the pot well to dissolve any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Add the rice and lentils to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat up to high. Bring the contents to a boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes without removing the lid. Finally, remove the lid, fluff with a spoon or fork, then top with the reserved caramelized onions.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sheet Pan Sweet and Sour Chicken

Don't you just love things that make life easier! Sheet pan suppers are such a fantastic idea. They take a little bit of time to get things chopped up, but you put it all in the oven at once, start your rice and then you're done! 

Sweet and sour chicken is one of my favorite foods.  But the take-out kind is really yucky to me now. I hate the gross chicken parts that they use and I really dislike all the batter that they fry it in, and frankly, there is never enough pineapple for me. 

So on my quest to take back all the delicious foods that we think we can only get at restuarants... I made Sweet and Sour chicken. Oh it was So Good! As I was eating I kept asking everyone at the table... isn't this good? isn't this Good?  I can be annoying like that. It was such a kitchen success for me. I am absolutely putting this recipe on my list of things that I am going to make often. 


1 large onion
2 green bell peppers
20 oz. can pineapple chunks
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp cooking oil 
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground ginger 
Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar 
⅓ cup rice or apple cider vinegar 
1.5 Tbsp soy sauce 
1.5 Tbsp cornstarch 

3 green onions, sliced 
6 cups cooked rice 


Preheat the oven to 400ºF. 

Cut the onion, bell peppers, and chicken breasts into one-inch pieces. Drain the pineapple well, reserving the juice for the sauce. 

Place the onion, bell pepper, chicken, and pineapple chunks on a large sheet pan in a single layer. Use two sheets, if needed, to prevent the chicken and vegetables from piling on top of each other. They need a little room to brown correctly.

Drizzle the cooking oil over the ingredients on the sheet pan, followed by the garlic powder, ground ginger, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Toss the chicken, bell peppers, onions, and pineapple until they are evenly coated in oil and spices.

Bake the chicken and vegetables in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until they are slightly browned on the edges. Stir half way through the baking time to redistribute the heat and allow excess moisture to evaporate.

While the chicken and vegetables are baking, prepare the sauce. In a small sauce pot whisk together the reserved pineapple juice (about 1 cup), ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. 

Heat the mixture over medium flame, stirring often, until it begins to simmer. When it begins to simmer the cornstarch will begin to gel and thicken the sauce. Once the sauce has thickened to a glaze, remove it from the heat and set it aside until ready to use.

When the chicken and vegetables have finished baking, remove them from the oven and pour the prepared sauce over top. Stir until everything is coated in sauce.

Serve the sweet and sour chicken over cooked rice with sliced green onions sprinkled over top.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Exercise Can Save You a Ton of Money

Now days, it is almost impossible to be unaware that exercise and being physically active is good for our bodies and our minds.   Your productivity, self-esteem and energy all receive a boost after you work-out. But not just those things, -- Your digestion, skin health and immune system all function better.  We all know about the huge benefit of you heart being healthier and your body becoming stronger, But Guess What?! Being active can have a huge effect on your wallet.

I recently read about a report that American Heart Association  did on a study which found significant healthcare savings for people who exercise regularly.  What? YES!

Here are the basics of the study : Adults who had cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, heart attack and arrhythmia, and who participated in regular physical activity, spent an average of $2,500 less on health care costs per year than those who were sedentary and also plagued by cardiovascular disease.

But there was no magical recipe for health success, it was exactly the same stuff we have been told all along - 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, aerobic exercise taking place five times a week.  The very best thing we do for ourselves is basically being active. No complicated routines, no required memberships, no special devices or equipment, just being active.

People without diagnosed cardiovascular concerns also benefited from staying active in the form of $500 per year saved, compared to those who didn’t exercise.

Perhaps there are people who make excuses and say that expensive gym memberships would eat into those savings quickly, but you absolutely do not need a gym membership to be active in your life. You can step out your front door and take a walk. You can find exercise videos with dancing, weights or yoga for free on you tube. You can ride your bike around the neighborhood if you have one, or take a hike on a local trail. You can do jumping jacks during the time you wait for your kettle to boil water in the morning.

Most of us find it (very) challenging to get started with a workout routine or to find something they feel complements them well. (Read: That they don't hate or dread or avoid at all costs)  Your personality will determine the kind of exercise plan that will work for you, as well as how much time you have available and resources you have. Plus sometimes our preferences for so many things in life change over time—and that can include exercise. At some point in your life you might find yourself so in love with hiking, and the next year you decide that weight lifting is what inspires you. Be flexible. Not to mention how much weather plays a role in what we are able to do.

Staying motivated is another reason that being active can be hard for us. But that is why I wanted to share this reason with you. One day, when you are feeling like that last think you want to do is work out, think about how much money you are saving and INVESTING in yourself.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quick & Spicy Black Beans

With all the rice bowl making I have been doing, I have been cruising through my pantry stash of beans. For me, the beans are a really critical part of those recipes. I have been able to use proteins that cost a little more, but I have been able to use a lot less of them because I add beans to the dish. 

Plus, I LOVE beans. I think they are so darn good. Seriously, when I made this, I ate a bowl of them before I divided them up and put them in the freezer.  

Taking the time and effort to make beans at home from dry beans might seem like such a waste. I thought that way for a long time.  I would tell myself, But beans are so cheap anyway. (They are EVEN Cheaper when you cook them from dry) How much better could they really be (Significantly!) Does it make them better for you? ( These are completely sodium FREE!) 

Plus, the flavor from these is so amazing.  I don't like to buy my beans already flavored, I think it adds a lot of chemicals and stuff that I don't want or need, plus I don't know how I am going to use them and a can of flavored beans really limits me.  It takes me about 3 hours from start to finish to cook a pot of beans. But that is almost completely unattended time. It really only takes about 15 minutes of "work" in the kitchen. 

1 1lb bag of dry black beans
2 medium jalapeno 
2 cloves of garlic 
1 tsp cumin 
2 Tbsp olive 

Soak with one of these methods:

Hot Soak or Quick Soak. “Hot soaking” helps dissolve some of the gas-causing substances in beans and most consistently produces tender beans. In a large pot, add 10 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for at least 1 hour (Quick Soak) or up to 4 hours (Hot Soak).

Traditional Overnight Soak. This is the easiest method. Place dry beans in a large container; for each pound (2 cups) beans, add 10 cups of cold water. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse beans soaked by either method with fresh, cool water.

Cooking the Beans
Place beans in a large pot; cover with fresh water and your chopped jalapenos as well as the garlic and cumin and bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until beans are tender but firm.

At about 45 minutes start testing your beans, try a taste test or mash a bean against the side of the pot with a fork or spoon. 

Check occasionally if you need to add more water. Most beans will cook in 45 minutes to 2 hours.

If you choose to add salt, so it when beans are tender as it will toughen them. 

Refrigerate cooked beans in shallow pans if they are to be eaten later. Freeze any extra beans within 4 days after cooking them.

Some interesting bean facts:

  • A 15-ounce can of beans provides about three 1/2-cup servings of beans.
  • One pound of dry edible beans yields about 6 cups of cooked beans.
  • The cost of a 15-ounce can of beans ranges from about 33–67 cents per 1/2-cup serving, depending on whether people buy the store brand instead of the national brand.
  • A half cup of dry beans, cooked from scratch, costs about 17 cents.
  • One type of bean can usually be substituted for another type in recipes. Taste and color may vary slightly.