Mar 052014

This post includes a few great recipes I’ve tried lately. I’ve wanted to get back into trying new recipes because we’ve honestly been really lazy with dinners. I like cooking (especially making soups and stuff in the crockpot) and it was time to try something new.

Beef and Barley Stew

I don’t know that this would qualify as a “Fast” dinner but it was fairly easy. I found several recipes for the crockpot but didn’t get around to trying them. I had a free evening last week and decided to give it a try.

Beef Barley Stew

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Calories per serving: 439 for 6 servings



  • 2 Pounds Boneless Beef Butt Tenderloin, trimmed, cubed, and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 Cremini Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped
  • ½ Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, grated
  • ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter
  • ¼ Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 4 Cups Low-Sodium Beef Stock
  • 15 Ounces Canned Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ½ Cup Pearl Barley
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Parsley


  1. Warm a large Dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat for a minute or two. Season beef with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot. Brown the beef on two sides in two batches, takes about fifteen minutes. Once the beef is browned add it to a plate and set off to the side.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Sauté mushrooms for three minutes. Add in the carrot and celery, sauté another three minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the onion, sauté an additional two minutes. Add garlic cook for a minute. Add the beef back to the pot.
  3. Add the butter and stir in until it melts. Add the flour, stir to combine. Cook flour and butter for a minute.
  4. Pour in the beef stock and tomatoes. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Stir to combine the flour butter mixture into the soup. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add in the barley once the soup is simmering. Cover with lid and let the soup simmer over medium/low heat for 45 – 60 minutes, until barley is puffed and tender.
  6. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems. Stir in fresh parsley and remove from heat. Let the stew cool for five minutes before serving.
  7. Stew lasts 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Soup will last up to a month in an airtight container in the freezer.
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I didn’t have celery so I added frozen peas instead. The recipe was actually quite delicious. I loved the flavors of the soup and the barley was fantastic. It might be new favorite thing. I’ve never had barley before and it went great in a soup. The meat, however, was tough. I wasn’t a fan of that and would probably make this recipe again but leave out the steak. I think it would be great as a simple barley and vegetable stew.

I topped the stew with some shredded Parmesan cheese. The dinner was super filling and felt nourishing and homey.

Baked Salmon

This is nothing new on the blog. Salmon is a basic meal in our house; we eat it probably once a week. Michael blackens the salmon in the skillet and we often have that with steamed veggies or on top of a green salad. Another method I use is to mix together Dijon mustard with brown sugar, pour it on top of the salmon and bake it. That’s a great one!

This method is just as easy and quick and it tastes great. I spray foil with some coconut oil, lay the salmon down and season it with Lemon Pepper seasoning, a little salt, regular pepper, dried dill, fresh chopped rosemary from the garden and put lemon slices on top. I loosely wrap the foil around the salmon and depending on the thickness of the cut I bake it at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Perfect salmon every time!


I love the combination of dill, rosemary and lemon. This time around I cooked some jasmine rice in the rice cooker and I also roasted some carrots. For the carrots I sprinkled some grapeseed oil on them, seasoned with salt and pepper, a little of the Costco seasoning and fresh rosemary. I baked the carrots about the same time as the salmon. Everything came together at the same time and was absolutely delicious! The best part: the whole meal was around 600 calories.

Taco Soup

I have a book of soup recipes that I’ve been slowly working my way through. I wish I could say I’ve tried a bunch but somewhere between last winter and this one, I’ve slacked off and only cooked about 5 or 6 of the recipes. There are so many in there to choose from. Of the handful I’ve made, most were pretty decent. The good thing about this book is that it’s broken down into chapters according to the protein and there could be several variations of a similar recipe you can choose from.


For example, this recipe came about because of what we had on hand. I had 1/2 a pound of ground beef I had to use up and looked at the 4 different beef taco soups in the book. I ended up picking this one because I had almost all of the ingredients it called for.

Zesty Taco Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6

Calories per serving: 290 calories

From: "The Ultimate Soup Cookbook" by Taste of Home


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups V8 juice
  • 1 cup chunky salsa


  1. In a large saucepan cook the beef and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Cook for 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced.
  2. Add V8 juice, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Add toppings of your choice.
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I didn’t have green peppers and I didn’t have enough V8 (only 2 cans were left) so I added a can of Rotel. It made up the difference on missing 1 can of V8 juice and it also had diced chilies in it. It worked! I wasn’t too concerned about the spicy V8 being too spicy. It’s the V8 I use when I make my Bloody Mary’s and it’s fantastic.


But…yeah, two cans of spicy V8 is pretty damn spicy! I told Michael I hoped it was edible and not too spicy. I followed the recipe’s instructions and served it up with some shredded Colby Jack cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and some corn tortilla chips.


It was indeed edible and the sour cream and cheese helped to offset the spiciness. The dinner was delicious! I was glad it turned out and marked it as a winner in the cookbook to definitely make again. Even better: it’s less than 500 calories for the soup and toppings!

I will make the taco soup again and probably VERY soon, too!

Nov 052013

For years I never made any recipes that called for chipotle peppers. The reason: I couldn’t find them in the grocery store! I looked everywhere. I looked in the Hispanic foods section. I looked in the spices section. I looked in the bulk area and the organic foods aisle. What the hell? Why can’t I find this item! I stumbled upon chipotle peppers on accident recently. Guess where it was? In the aisle that has the pickles. Random.


I was so excited to finally find them and I’ve been wanting to try them in a recipe ever since. Michael and I were having his mom and stepdad over for dinner while their kitchen was being remodeled and so I found this recipe:

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken & Black Bean Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Calories per serving: 556 calories



  • 2-3 whole, boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 4-6 chicken tenders)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, un-drained
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 2 tbs of the adobo sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  1. Place everything, aside from the chicken in a 4qt slow cooker and stir to combine. Lay chicken over the top and push down a little to cover with sauce.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken is cooked and tender, or cook on high for 3-4 hours.
  3. Optional for garnishing: mozzarella or Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges.
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I love crockpot cooking. It’s easy and there’s always leftovers for lunches. I also had another reason for choosing a crockpot recipe: our oven is broken. It’s been broken for almost a month now. It’s been really inconvenient. 90% of the recipes I make require an oven–baked salmon, baked chicken, etc…At least the stove still works.


I threw this together quickly in the morning before work (another reason I love crockpot dinners). It smelled so amazing! It had smoky aromas from the chipotle. When I opened the can of the peppers, they were in a thick sauce that was added to the pot. I could not wait for dinner! When we got home from work and I walked through the garage all I could smell was the aroma of smoky chipotle peppers! It smelled so amazing!

Michael took Bella for a quick walk while I finished up dinner–shredding the chicken in the crockpot, cleaning the kitchen and setting the table. When he got back his parents were here and they brought a bottle of Trader Joe’s Chardonnay to go with dinner.


On the table was garnishments. Corn tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos (from our garden), lime wedges, sour cream, sliced avocado and shredded colby-jack cheese. Michael informed me that his family has three food groups: the crunchy food group (i.e. chips), the spicy food group (the spicier the better) and of course the cheese food group. I think I hit all of those groups!

The flavors were mild–there was a little bit of spice, but not too much, there was smokiness from the chipotle and savory flavors of the beans and chicken. I added chopped cilantro to the top and crumbled some tortilla chips over all of it. Squeezing the fresh lime over everything made it even better! In fact, next time I’d even add a little more chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and lime and mix it all in together.

The recipe called for 8 servings. I got almost 10 servings out of the crockpot recipe. Everyone had seconds and I have enough leftovers for three lunches this week. So getting 10 servings out of this instead of 8 makes it around 460 calories a serving. Much better if you ask me! I kind if balked at the 560 calories in the original recipe. And here’s the part where I tell you how I changed the recipe: I added a handful of diced onion and about 1/2 cup of veggie broth to the crockpot. The only reason I added the broth was because Michael THINKS he hates chili (which he doesn’t because I’ve made it many times calling it STEW and he LOVED IT) so I added the broth to make it more of a tortilla soup. Either way, it was delicious and worked.

Is there anything you’re dying to try and cook but haven’t attempted yet?