vegetarian chili

Everyone has that one recipe that tastes like it took hours of prep work and days over the stove to bring to fruition. This is one of those . . . bonus: it makes a TON of food, so it’s perfect for that church potluck, family dinner, neighborhood get-together, or football party. FYI: Even though it tastes homemade, absolutely everything in this recipe (if you so choose) comes out of a can. (You can totally soak and cook all of your own beans, use frozen corn or corn from your garden, and stewed/roasted fresh tomatoes, if you’d rather. And admittedly, that would be a healthier route). It’s completely up to you!
If you like a little protein in your chili, brown up some spicy Italian sausage, burger, diced steak, chicken, or tofu, and toss it in the mix.


2 cans black beans
2 cans chili beans
2 cans whole-kernel corn
1 can baked beans
3 cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 jar of salsa
3 cups vegetable broth

Over medium heat, empty all the cans and broth into a large soup pot, stir and heat through. Allow to cook on low for an hour or so to incorporate all the flavors. Adjust spice to your liking with pepper/chili pepper/salt/fresh garlic.
Serve hot with grated cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream or plain greek yogurt, and diced scallions.



fire-roasted cream-of-tomato-soup

I love food with history—food that invokes a memory, both with its preparation and its enjoyment. This particular soup recipe comes with story and memory and a long history for me. It was passed down from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, and to me. It has some inherited some variations along the way, specifically in regard to the tomatoes.

(It can be easier to pick up a couple cans at the grocery than it is to head down to the cellar and grab a couple jars off the shelf from last summer’s canning session —as my great-grandmother did. I love canning and tomatoes are definitely on that list, but for this recipe, feel free to get yours at the grocery store, unless you happen to have a few Ball canning jars of summer’s bounty tucked away).

I have this distinct memory of my mom with her hands on her hips, my sisters and I lined up in front of her, while the classic question was posed:
“What should we have for lunch, girls?”
I was probably no more than nine or ten at the time. But I remember the smile on her face when she suggested, with a mysterious grin, “How about Cream-of-tomato soup?”
At that point, we had never had cream of tomato soup, but the look on her face told us it would be wonderful, so we agreed happily and helped as she pulled out a saucepan, a couple cans of tomatoes, whole cream, garlic, onion, butter, and cheese. And I distinctly remember thinking, this is how memories are made.
So from my family to yours,

3 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced onion
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
3/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan melt butter over med-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and simmer until both caramelize and begin to brown. Open tomatoes and empty all three in the the pan with the garlic, onion, and butter. Stir to combine. Add broth and heat through. Turn off heat and balsamic and cream. Stir and taste. Adjust salt and pepper to liking.
Serve hot the grated cheddar on top (and with a side of grilled cheese!)

cauliflower rice with fresh guac and cucumbers

Lunch is hard.

By lunch I’ve usually exhausted any energy my coffee addiction provided, the kids are clamoring for something super healthy like Kraft MacNCheese, chips, and bread, and all I can think about is eating something that will make the noise stop for just a few minutes. That, or a second to pee by myself.
Lunch is hard.

But sometimes, lunch can be less hard—and this usually happens when you thought to plan ahead, or when whatever you made for dinner last night can ride in on a sliver spoon, reimagined as something new and tasty.

And thusly lunch rode in today. It was quick, easy, whole30 friendly (!) and while it didn’t make any of the clamoring cease, it did give me a little extra energy where coffee failed. Winning. Happy lunching friends!



Cauliflower rice is a staple I try to have on hand all the time. It’s a great vegetarian base for almost any meal and it goes with everything. It’s a little odiferously strong, but the flavor is fantastic and it keeps in the fridge for about three to four days—though my batch rarely lasts that long.

1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons (or more as needed) Olive or Avocado oil
1 tablespoon Sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (+ additional to taste)

Chop a head of cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, and then in a food processor, pulse into rice-sized bits. I have a 7-cup processor and it takes several batches to get the whole head of cauliflower processed. This is the messy part of the recipe.


In a large wok or deep skillet, heat olive (or avocado) oil on med heat. You’re not going to fry the cauliflower, you’re going to cook it, so make sure your pan isn’t too hot or it will splatter and burn. (Believe me, I learned this the hard way!) Add the cauliflower to the oil, sprinkle in salt, and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Feel free to taste and adjust salt as desired. Continue stirring occasionally until the rice begins to soften a bit and stick together. It will not be as sticky as actual rice, but it will clump a bit when moved around the pan. You don’t want it too soft or mushy (like a paste) so be careful not to overcook.

Once cooked through, remove the pan from heat and set aside. For this recipe, the rice can be served either hot or cold, your choice.

2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons chunky salsa
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a food processor, pulse the ingredients until combined but not soupy. You’ll want to be able to tell what the ingredients were, before they were combined. So, kinda chunky. (Good foodie terms there, I know).

In a bowl, spoon cauliflower rice (hot or cold) and top generously with fresh guac. Throw on handful of fresh cucumber slices (the baby ones are my fav!) for a nice fresh crunch and call it good. Good lunch.




zucchini noodles and shrimp with garlic-horseradish yogurt sauce

Nine days stuck indoors with sick kids makes you do some funny things. Not the least of which includes totally abandoning healthy eating resolutions/Whole 30, because when you are trying to survive it is not a good idea to give up pie.
Temporarily abandoning blogging is another one of those survival things.
And cooking real food. Pjb? Cereal? Pancakes? Fruit basket? All reasonable meals come day nine with four small sick children and no escape.
Anyway. I’m back.
And I’m eating pie. Whatever.

But I’m also eating this: Zucchini noodles and shrimp with garlic-horseradish yogurt sauce.
Tasty? Check.
Good for you? Check.
Pretty? Check.
All the requirements met.

Enjoy and stay healthy out there!



5 small green and/or yellow zucchini (Spirilized into noodles or cut in thin rounds)
1 lb peeled shrimp
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 tablespoon diced garlic
2 tablespoons horseradish
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan, melt clarified butter, and simmer garlic and horseradish. Add lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Continue simmering and toss pealed, tail-free shrimp into the pan. Cover and allow to simmer for a few more minutes. Then throw zucchini noodles (or rounds, halved) into the pan. Toss to coat with butter sauce and cover until the zucchini is more noodle-like than vegetable-like. —About 8 minutes.

Remove the zucchini and shrimp from the pan but retain as much of the cooking liquid as possible. I even go so far as to use a strainer/colander with a plate underneath, draining the zucchini and shrimp, and then adding the liquid from the plate back into the pan.

Turn the heat off the liquid and allow it to cool a bit. You’ll add the yogurt and mayo to this liquid and if it’s too hot it will separate.
Once cooled (20 minutes or so) add ½ cup homemade mayo and 1 cup honey yogurt. I like a creamy greek yogurt for this—so tasty! Whisk until the yogurt and mayo are well incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Spoon over plated zucchini noodles and shrimp. Serve hot.

spicy coconut chicken soup

In the Midwest, we are really good at winter. We’ve got that department mastered like it’s our JOB. I’d much rather be known for summer, but that’s what places like Florida and California and Georgia are good at. Someone’s got to do winter. *sigh*
Also, in the midwest, we are good at thick creamy soups. Because we are trying to stay warm. Anything with cream, or milk, or butter, or cream-of-anything additions to rice and chicken and broccoli and potatoes . . . Yah. You get the idea. Hey, it was -15 for the past week where I live (-25 and lower with wind chills). I’ve got cold on the brain. And also thick creamy soup.

But what happens when you crave that sort of thing but you’re all, “Oh shoot. Whole 30. No dairy . . .”?

Well, then you turn to the glorious creamy sweetness that is coconut milk. No lie, this stuff really is amazing. Chilled in the fridge overnight it separates and all the heavy vegetarian fat rises to the top and thickens. You can scoop it out with a spoon and drop it in your coffee. Or if you whip it (like with a hand-mixer) the consistency changes to something reminiscent of whipped cream. Great for topping pumpkin pie, brownies, or yaknow, coffee. And in this case, it provides an exotic note to an otherwise ordinary soup. Paired with the heat of some Sriracha sauce it’s the perfect blend of east and west—Midwest, in this case. Midwest on Whole30. In winter. Burrrrrr.



1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon clarified butter
¼ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup Celery, diced
2 cups yellow summer squash, cut in rounds
2 cups of arugula
bean thread noodles
1  13.5 oz can of coconut milk
Sriracha sauce

In a stockpot, over medium high heat, melt clarified butter and cook onions and celery until caramelized. Add chicken stock and heat until boiling. Carrots, diced, can be added next. Turn down the heat and scoop the coconut milk/cream into the broth and whisk until well incorporated. The broth will have a sweet-savory flavor at this point. How much sriracha you add is totally dependent upon preference. I like enough heat to warm my soul. —Not burning, but I want my mouth to remember what it feels like to be warm during a mid January freeze in northern Minnesota.

The noodles can be dropped into the soup and the heat raised again to boiling. Cook them through—they’ll be translucent and soft, but shouldn’t be chewy. Bean thread noodles are my new fav. Their texture is unique and a nice alternatives to egg noddles or a standard pasta.

Lastly, add the squash and arugula as these two soften quickly.

Serve in hot steaming bowls on a cold day.

packing lunches for picky eaters and those with texture sensitivities

There are a lot of options for school lunches in the blog world these days! Vegan, Bento box, Paleo, nut free, Gluten free, sugar free, lunches for busy families, lunches for minimalists . . . I even found a post on how to pack a lunch for your pet.
So there you go.


I know the world probably doesn’t need another blog post on school lunches, but if you have a picky eater or two in your home, especially for Littles that deal with texture sensitivities or food aversion, then maybe this will come in handy.

My kids are picky eaters.
Like whoa.
My oldest kiddo has severe texture sensitivity issues that have taken a long time to work through. And we are far from done. If he decides he can’t eat something, he can. not. eat it. *cue gagging and worse*
My second oldest has general food aversion issues. If it looks strange, smells strange, is the wrong shape, color, or texture, comes in a new box, or no box at all, then these are good reasons to be less-inclined to eat. At all. Many a meal has been skipped at my house because I cannot force food down throats.
These issues continue to stretch me as a mom. —My patience, and my creativity at mealtimes. I’ve heard all the advice, read all the books, and believe me, I’ve tried it all. It can be devastating, heartrending, to work hard at feeding your people only to have them go hungry by choice. Parents work to meet basic needs. It’s part of our job, and when we can’t do our jobs no matter how hard we try, it gets discouraging.
So maybe, if you’ve ever found yourself dealing with yet another untouched plate, or lunch box full of uneaten food (because it wasn’t hard enough to get up at the butt crack of dawn and pack the darn thing only to have no one eat it!) then just maybe, something you find here will be useful.

Here’s how I plan school lunches.
1. Pack the night before when my brain is caffeinated. (Most mornings even my coffee needs coffee before I can walk straight).
2. Make a list of foods I know the kids will eat. (It’s a short list so this doesn’t take long).
3. Do the prep work (cutting, slicing, building sandwiches, filling beverage containers, etc).
4. Write a note. (“I love you, child! EAT YOUR FOOD. —Mom”

I try and build school lunches by rotating several main foods I know my kids will eat/tolerate.
• Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
• Turkey sandwiches.
• Mac-N-Cheese.
• Egg-Salad sandwiches.
• Cheese quesadillas.
I realize none of the above are going to win blue-ribbons on health food lists, but I make what I can from scratch, use wheat bread*, real peanut butter and homemade jam, etc. There are always options if you can get your kids to accept them. (*Wheat bread is tricky with my second-oldest because she refuses to eat nuts/seeds/oatmeal/flax/grain, or any other such addition in her bread).

Once I’ve decided on the main meal ingredient, I choose sides based on texture, keeping food groups in mind.
• Crunchy: Popcorn, crackers, etc., or Carrots, Apples, Celery with peanut butter and raisins, etc.
• Creamy/Smooth: Yogurt, cheese sticks, pudding, applesauce, banana, etc.
• Small Pieces: Raisins, Fish crackers, cheerios, grapes, pretzels, etc.
• Something new: (This is a difficult one because this food often comes back home untouched in my kids’ lunch boxes. But I keep trying anyway. (Try try again. Solidarity, friends). This category can include pretty much anything. Lunch meat cut up in slices and paired with cheese and crackers. A vegetable cut up in small pieces and made to look interesting with toothpicks as eating utensils. —Same with new fruits, like mango or kiwi. New crackers, nuts, or dried fruit. You name it. If they’ve not eaten it before, give it a shot.
• A treat: This is a wild card for me. If their lunch is already packed full of sugary foods, I skip it. But it’s called a “treat” for a reason, and if I want to throw a little something extra in their lunches, a homemade cookie, brownie, pudding cup, or the like goes a long way in the smile department.
• Beverage: Lots of schools provide milk (1%) as an option, but due to the fact that getting my kids to consume enough calories is a struggle, I prefer to give them whole milk. I usually skip juice/gatorade/etc because these are mostly full of empty calories anyway.

• The more dainty/intricate/interesting food looks, the more readily my kids will eat it. Or at least try it.
• Give up the crust battle. I cut the crusts off bread because it means my kids will consume more sandwich in the long run.
• Peel all the things. Apples, oranges, hard-boiled eggs, etc. If it takes too much work, kids won’t bother. Same with excessive wrappers or packaging.
• Add food dye (as long as it’s not an allergy issue!) My second-born adores anything pink and will happily drink her milk if it contains a drop of two of red food coloring. Same with my first born in regard to the color green. Actual food containers: same story. Use color to your advantage.

Lastly, write a note. Nothing makes a meal more palatable (to ANYONE) than knowing that whatever the heck it is, it was made with love.

Happy packing and good luck!