Easy Chili

Easy Chili

To make school lunches easier on our family this year, we stocked up on various rice bag meals and lentil meals. They have been a great, easy way to have a healthy meal without much effort.  One of these meals, the Madras Lentils by Tasty Bite, has worked its way into my chili. 

Not only does it add protein with the mix of lentils and beans, but it serves as a good spice base of cumin and ginger.  I have also swapped out regular diced tomatoes for fire roasted salsa style diced tomatoes, which add the kick of peppers and garlic.  In fact, the built in spices from these two ingredients means I haven’t had to add any other spices – win! One of the other staples of my chili is the butter bean. Using butter beans (which is a mature lima bean) instead of kidney beans adds the right texture and a mild flavor. With the prep time minimal for my chili, I can quickly pull this together for a weekday wintery super or for a game time gathering.

Easy Chili

2 pounds ground beef

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups chopped red onions

Two, 10 ounce bags Tasty Bite Madras Lentils

Two, 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted salsa style diced tomatoes

Two, 15.5 ounce cans butter beans, drained

In a large pot, brown the ground beef over high heat.  Once cooked through, add the celery and onions and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Lower the heat to medium and add the madras lentils, diced tomatoes, and butter beans, stirring to combine.  Simmer over the medium heat for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.


tri-tip marinade

Marinated Tri-Tip Steak

A good steak is hard to beat, and often a must for summer barbeques or celebrations.  I often find myself making tri-tip, as my whole family loves it for its great flavor and tenderness.  Part of what makes the steak so irresistible is the easy marinade of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  The marinade imparts just the right amount of salt and umami for a crowd pleasing steak. You can bet this is on the menu for Father’s Day!

tri-tip marinade

tri-tip marinade

Marinated Tri-Tip Steak

 ¾ cup soy sauce
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4-5 lbs tri-tip steak

Mix the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion flakes, and garlic powder on a large bowl.  Place the tri-tip in a sealable, plastic bag and cover with the marinade.  Place the marinating steak in the refrigerator. Marinade the steak, flipping at least once, for 2-12 hours (longer time makes for a stronger flavor).  When ready to grill, remove the steak from the marinade and grilled to the desired temperature.


Boneless Short Rib Ragu

Short ribs are one of those ingredients that have been on my list to cook with for a long time.  I have recipes such as short rib lasagna saved in my must-try recipe stack since they sounds so decadent, so it was about time I started cooking with short ribs.

 Many recipes call for the bone-in short ribs, but I could only find boneless short ribs this week.  I also don’t own a dutch oven (I know – gasp – a horror for a foodie) so I opted to create a slow cooker recipe, resulting in this Beef Short Rib Ragu.

 Short Rib Ragu

The shortribs get browned in a skillet and then transferred to the slow cooker.  To create a thick, and flavorful sauce I borrowed a technique from the America’s Test Kitchen slow cooker pork roast.  Onions and tomato paste build flavor with a few minutes of cooking in a skillet, as does flour which gains a nutty taste and serves to thicken the sauce made of beef stock and wine. The beef turns tender after a few hours of cooking.

 Now the hard part is determining what to serve the ragu over.  Mashed Potatoes? Pasta?  This week I served it over a bed of spaghetti squash, which the whole family enjoyed.

Short Rib Ragu

Boneless Beef Short Rib Ragu
1 pound boneless beef short ribs
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ cups diced yellow onions
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, removed from the stem
tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
½ cup beef broth
1 cup pinot noir wine
One 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, Italian style

Season the short ribs with the salt and pepper.  Add the oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat over high heat.  Once hot, add the short ribs and brown, 2 minutes per side.  Transfer the short ribs to the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker. Return the skillet to the stove and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, and tomato paste to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and cook for one minute longer, stirring continually.  Slowly whisk in the broth and wine, until a smooth and thick sauce is formed and fond is removed from the bottom of the pan. Pour the sauce over the short ribs in the slow cooker.  Add the can of stewed tomatoes to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours. Shred the short ribs in the slow cooker and stir into the sauce; serve over mashed potatoes, pasta, or spaghetti squash.


Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Sometimes life gets busy, which means taking an easy route to a dinnertime meal is in order.  Take for example last Fall, when I was in the midst of packing and unpacking boxes to move into my newly purchased home and the latest round of our church small group – which we host! – was starting. For our first meal I wanted to serve something made in the slow cooker to keep it simple.  As I was wandering down the aisles of the grocery store one of the new McCormick liquid seasoning packs caught my eye.  Pot Roast with Caramelized Onion and Cracked Black Pepper  – perfect!

Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

I hadn’t tried any of the pre-packaged liquid seasonings before, but it seemed like the perfect time to try.  While you could use the package on it’s own as it suggests, I chose to add some fresh sliced onion, an Italian dressing dried seasoning packet (a slow cooker tip from Iowa Girl Eats for making Italian Beef sandwiches) and a bit of water to make more of a sauce to go with my roast (and the mashed potatoes I served as a side). I have tried sirloin tip roast and eye of round roast and both come out fantastic and have been a hit with the church group as well as my family. Who knew that such an easy shortcut could taste so good? Oh, and it is one of the gluten free seasoning offerings – bonus!

I should end with mentioning that my selection of this seasoning was purely random, and was not sponsored in any way. I’d love to hear what recommendations for the other brands or flavors of liquid seasoning packets you have tried.

Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

3 pounds sirloin tip roast (bound) or eye of round roast ( bound)
1 package (9 ounces) of McCormick’s liquid Pot Roast with Caramelized Onion & Black Pepper seasoning
1 packet of dry Italian dressing mix
1 large onion, sliced in half moons
1 cup water

Add the roast to the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker.  Pour the McCormick’s pot roast seasoning over the roast, then sprinkle the dry dressing packet on top.  Cover the roast with the sliced onions and add the water to the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the cover on the cooker.  Cook on low heat for 6 hours, then remove the roast, discard the cord used to keep the roast together and slice.  Serve with the remaining sauce.


Green Olive Meatloaf

Trusted go-to meal. Comfort food. A super tasty dinnertime feast. Would you believe that I am talking about meatloaf?  That’s right, I said meatloaf.


I know there are many who would argue with me and say meatloaf is not a household favorite, but I would have to firmly inform them that they are wrong.  The haven’t tried either of my meatloafs, one of which is a frequent enjoyed in my house. My Green Olive Meatloaf is a staple meal, and has developed out of a re-creation attempt on my part.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, an old friend of my husband invited us over for dinner.  He made his version of meatloaf which included green olives.  I thought it was such a unique and flavorful addition that I just had to try my own.

First, I actually searched for a good, basic meatloaf recipe. After some online digging I settled on a recipe entitled The Perfect Meatloaf on Southernfood.com.  The recipe makes quite a large loaf, so I have trimmed it back to half the size. I have also kept the saltines as the filler, but replaced the sautéed onions with a generous amount of chopped, green olives.



I have even gotten rave reviews from extended family, who have not broken from their favorite ground turkey meatloaf in years.  See, it pays to try new things!

Green Olive Meatloaf - experimental epicurean .8


Green Olive Meatloaf

1 lb ground beef

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

8 saltine crackers, crushed

1 ½ cups chopped green olives


Heat oven to 375 °F. Add meat to a large bowl along with the egg, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, crackers, and olives. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until well mixed. With wet hands, pat mixture into a 9×5-inch loaf shape on a foil lined and non-stick spray coated baking sheet. Bake until crisp on top and cooked through, about 1 hour. Cool slightly and serve with ketchup.




Healthy Solutions Spice Bends Challenge: Steak & Mushroom Frittata

The first recipe contest I have entered this year is the Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Recipe Challenge.  As a busy, working mom I love the added time-saving feature of premixed spice blends.  With over 15 spice blends to chose from, you are sure to find something your family will enjoy – even those on a low salt or low sugar diet.

It was tough to decide which spice blend to feature, but I ultimately selected the Bold Beef Rub since my mouth watered just thinking of all the new recipes I could create.

My Steak & Mushroom Frittata uses the Bold Beef Rub in two places – as a coating on the skirt steak pieces before they are sauted and as the flavoring in the eggs.


This one-pan breakfast dish is a sure crowd pleaser! The robust flavor of the Bold Beef Rub added great depth to the frittata, and the generous portion of mushrooms and other vegetables made the dish seem hearty without making it too heavy. I’m sure that once you try this steak & mushroom frittata you’ll be tempted to try all of the Healthy Solutions spice blends!


Steak and Mushroom Frittata

6 large eggs

1/8 cup half & half

2 teaspoons Healthy Solutions Bold Beef Rub, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ lb skirt steak, cut into bite sized pieces

½ lb baby Portobello mushrooms, diced

10 grape tomatoes, diced

½ cup diced green onions

1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese (6 ounces)


Preheat the broiler. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and 1 teaspoon of the Bold Beef Rub; set aside. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the remaining Bold Beef Rub over the skirt steak pieces and toss to coat.

Melt the butter in a large (12-inch) cast skillet over medium heat. Add the steak and cook, turning often, until the pieces are evenly browned and the meat cooked to medium, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the steak from the skillet and let rest on a plate, meanwhile add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute until browned and reduced in size, about 4 minutes. Return the steak to the pan, then add the diced tomatoes and green onions in an even layer. Pour the egg mixture over the steak mixture and then evenly top with the cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until the sides are set but the top is still runny, about 3-4 minutes. Place the skillet under the broiler and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the eggs are set, puffed, and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.



Chile con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

I have been waiting all summer for fresh roasted chilies from my local farmers market. While I could roast peppers myself, you just can’t beat the chilies roasted over coals in a hopper. Last week I was informed that there was only one more week of waiting, so I put my name down for two bags of their medium Anaheim roasted chilies, assuming it was the quart sized bags they had last year.

What I hadn’t been told was that the list wasn’t for small bags of chilies, it was for bushels. BUSHELS. I had ordered TWO bushels of roasted chilies. I ended up leaving the market with one bushel, with the assurance that the other would go fast (which I have no doubt, seeing as how many people ask for them).

In case you are wondering, this is what a bushel of roasted chilies looks like . . . Getting through the entire fifteen pound bag may take a while, and will be why chilies may be a frequent ingredient in future postings.


The first thing I wanted to make with my chilies was Chili con Queso, surprisingly with a cheese substitute – Cashew Cheese. Cheese makes up a generous portion of my diet, which is why eliminating dairy from my diet temporarily to rule out a food sensitivity was difficult, and the few dairy-free cheeses I tried didn’t satisfy my craving. Thankfully, my cheese famine was short lived, though I’m always on the lookout for a good alternative, since some of my good friends have had to maintain a longer dairy hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when at a food event this April I stumbled upon cashew cheese.The unique aspect about the Beyond Better® product I picked up is that it is the only dried version on the market, making it a simple option to pack with you that requires only water for reconstitution. It is a diary-free, gluten-free, organic cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese!


To make my Chili con queso, I cooked ½ pound of ground beef , then added the cashew queso dip and water,



then I added a bit of the diced freshly roasted chilies and some diced cherry tomatoes . . .



for a hearty, kid & husband approved, lunch of queso and blue corn chips.


Now I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 14 ½ pounds of chilies. . . .


Chili con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

½ lb ground beef
4 oz package of Beyond Better® Spicy Queso Dip
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly roasted chilies, diced
½ cup diced cherry tomatoes

Cook beef in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked and browned, breaking it into small pieces. Add the queso dip and water and stir until no clumps remain. Heat for 1-2 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the chilies and tomatoes, and then remove from the heat. Serve with corn chips.