Tag Archives: Chili

Meal Planning!

22 Jul

I really like to cook and I love to bake but sometimes dinner is hard. You know, when you’re driving home from work thinking “What am I going to make for dinner?” and the easiest thing is just stop off and pick something up. I never seem to have the groceries I want on hand or the energy to even make a decision about what I want. Last January one of my New Year’s goals was to start planning my meals and it made a huge difference. For about two weeks. I knew what I was going to have for dinner that week, went grocery shopping ahead of time, everything was perfect. Except for the meal planning part. When I sat down on Saturday morning I could never think of what meals I wanted and ended up rotating through the same seven or so.

Well, I’m trying something new this year. Totally inspired by Decor and the Dog’s Meal Planning Tips I made a list of 30 meals – things I’ve served for beer dinners, tried and true family favorites, a few randoms like breakfast for dinner and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Then, I made magnets that listed each of my 30 options. (I also included a “Dinner Out” and “Try a New Recipe” magnets to mix things up.)


Next, I wrote each recipe out on an individual card, listing the perishable vs. non-perishable ingredients separately. Each recipe got it’s own number, too, on both the magnet and card. That way, I can easily look up the ingredients for each meal and make a grocery list.


The idea is that the 30 magnets will go into my cute retro flower jar and on Saturday morning I can pull out 4-6 meals (depending on what the upcoming week looks like) and voila! meal planning done!


I made a frame to contain my magnets on the fridge. I like Decor and the Dog’s suggestion of not assigning a particular meal to a particular night so there’s flexibility. Next up, a trip to Costco to stock up on some of the non-perishables!


Meals I included:

  1. Vegetarian Chili
  2. Tortilla Soup
  3. Black Bean Sliders
  4. Lentil Soup
  5. Potato Soup
  6. Mini Tamale Pie
  7. Shrimp Creole
  8. Taco Casserole
  9. Spinach Manicotti
  10. Veggie Pasta Bake
  11. Fried Rice
  12. Enchiladas
  13. Lasagna
  14. Baked Macaroni & Cheese
  15. Stuffed Potatoes
  16. Stuffed Bell Peppers
  17. Quiche
  18. Potato Galette
  19. Baked Veggies & Rice
  20. Southwestern Egg Rolls
  21. Quinoa Patties
  22. Pizza
  23. Spaghetti or Ravioli
  24. New!
  25. Dinner out!
  26. Grilled cheese & tomato soup
  27. Breakfast for dinner
  28. Black Bean Empanadas
  29. Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  30. Shrimp Fettuccine & Asparagus

April Beer Dinner – Ambers & Reds

17 Apr

It has been forever. Basically three weeks. Probably 20 beers. OK, more like 30. I’m sorry. In my vague defense I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with work. I started full time teaching again after having spent the last year and a half splitting my time between a part-time office job and teaching just a few mornings a week. It’s like being back in my first year of teaching – feeling like I’m going to drown but also being exhilarated to get up and go to work in the morning. I guess things balance out.

IMG_8149So it was a welcome break the first weekend in April to host my third, bi-monthly beer dinner! I was a lucky girl and three of my very good friends came to spend the weekend with me. Between putting them to work hanging decorations and their own amusements playing with my train set, we managed to fit in a quick trip to the University of Beer (thanks for the gift certificate, Mom!). I tried my first white IPA there – Chainbreaker White IPA by Deschutes. It was a lot different than other beers but I really liked it! Some hops goodness without being overwhelming, plus a little something extra.

Back home Rachel, Bonnie, and Ed helped me put the finishing touches on the table setting. Ed proved himself to be surprisingly apt at flower arrangement and I do believe things looked beautiful!



IMG_8159This month we tasted Ambers and Reds, plus some beers from Wisconsin Rachel brought. Sadly, none of them super stood out to me. I found that I favored the Reds over the Ambers, though. My two favorite was probably Knee Deep’s McCarthy’s Bane Imperial Red Ale.



There was actually sooooo much beer that three bottles didn’t even get opened….lucky me! I don’t think Ninkasi’s Spring Reign is an Amber or Red but I do know I like it! And the Rubicon Irish Red was my other favorite. (Sorry there’s no actual descriptions of these beers….I didn’t really write anything down this time and it’s been awhile….)


Dinner was delicious if I do say so myself. To start we had a Vegetarian Tortilla Soup that I paired with Sweetgrass American Pale Ale by Grand Teton Brewing Co. That was followed up with Black Bean Empanadas expertly constructed with the crew’s help. This was paired with Firestone Walker’s Union Jack India Pale Ale and an awesome corn-tomato-avocado salad a la Bonnie.


Dessert was Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes paired with a Chocolate Stout by Rouge Ales. I also got to play with my pastry bag to do the frosting on the cupcakes! It was a bit of a disaster to start but in the end the cupcakes were beautiful!

Now I’m looking forward to June’s beer dinner. We’ll be tasting Summer Seasonals – the perfect way to start summer break!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

25 Feb

I don’t think I’ve ever actually had tortilla soup. As a child I was a very “willful” eater (in other wards, if it wasn’t peanut butter, grapes, or bologna on white bread I wouldn’t eat it). Even when I got older and started to outgrow those tendencies I didn’t like things too spicy. And now of course (if you haven’t caught on yet), I don’t eat meat and you never see tortilla soup in restaurants without chicken. So I managed to get to my late (…sigh…) twenties having never tried tortilla soup.

Starting out I was skeptical. Little things went wrong one after another so I was gearing up for disappointment. First, my grapeseed oil to saute in was rancid (they should really put ON THE BOTTLE that you need to refrigerate it). Then I was out of garlic. And my avocado was bad. But the soup turned out pretty good! A little more stew-like than I think tortilla soup  usually is, but satisfying.

First, you’ve got a lot of spices to throw together: cumin, paprika, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, coriander (which I didn’t have), salt, & pepper.


You start cooking by sautéing the onion and bell peppers until soft. The recipe calls for a green pepper but that’s a willful tendency I’ve held on to – I hate green bell pepper.


But there was a stow-away green pepper in my yellow one! How does that thing get there?


Anyway, next you mix up your spices with the onion and peppers.


Then you start adding cans of things.

Green chili peppers and diced tomatoes.




Vegetable broth.


I recently started using “Better Than Bouillon” anytime I need veggie broth. It’s quick, I can make only what I need for a given recipe, and its more flavorful than those containers of vegetable broth. Finally you add black beans and some lime juice (which I also didn’t have….hmm…maybe this is why the soup wasn’t quite what I expected).


I made the soup Sunday night and paired it with Flying Dog Brewery’s Old Scratch Amber Lager. It was good but a day later nothing stands out to me about the beer. It was an amber. And the label kind of creeped me out.


IMG_7829For dinner Monday I had the soup again (the soup that I was going to have for lunch but left in the fridge) and this time paired it with Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale from Deschutes. Now this beer was good – super piney without a lot of bitterness. The first sip made me pause and consider. I wouldn’t, though, pair it again with the Tortilla soup. The big citrusy-pineness just didn’t go with the spices for me.


I also took out a few frozen Black Bean Empanadas which I had made two weeks ago while my mom was visiting and they reheated awesomely! I had followed my earlier recipe but this time made them bigger and I was super pleased.


Do you have a favorite beer you pair with Mexican-inspired foods? A favorite (vegetarian) tortilla soup recipe I should try next?

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

The original recipe was found at The Cooking Photographer.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Oil to saute
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4-0unce can diced mild green chilies, drained
  • 2, 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 64-ounces vegetable broth
  • 2, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime


  1. In a small bowl, mix together your spices: cumin (2 T), paprika (2 t), chili powder (2 t), garlic powder (1/2 t), onion powder (1/2 t), oregano (1/2 t), coriander (1 t), salt (1-1/2 t), and pepper (1/2 t). Put aside.
  2. In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high, then add the onions and bell peppers and saute until soft.
  3. Add the spices to the onion and peppers and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the green chile peppers, corn, and vegetable broth; cook until warmed through.
  5. Add the black beans and cook 2 more minutes before serving. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve with desired garnishes.

Mini Cornbread Muffins

11 Feb

Quick Monday post to go along with yesterday’s Chili recipe. I love cornbread. Actually, I had some last night and we agreed that cornbread is basically like cake. Cake that you get to put butter on.

I’ve tried several boxed mixes and while they’re good, nothing really beats cornbread from scratch. It takes a little extra time, but totally worth it. Maybe I’ll try putting together a “mix” to have on hand in the cupboard.


First, prep you muffin tin by greasing liberally. I like to use butter instead of those chemical cooking sprays whenever possible. Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Yeah, I’m telling you to do that first because that’s how quick this recipe is.

Next, combine the butter and sugar with a mixer until creamy. (It’s amazing how many of my recipes start out this way…. no wonder I’ve been adding some extra fluff around my middle lately.)

Then, add an egg and continue to mix.


Next add everything else: cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and buttermilk. Mix, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are combined.


Fill the muffin cups halfway and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until oh so golden on top. Easy and delicious!


Mini Cornbread Muffins

The original recipe was found at simplefoodie.com.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/8 cups cornmeal (1/8 cup = 2 T)
  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your muffin tins.
  2. Combine the butter (1/2 cup) and sugar (1/2 cup) until creamy.
  3. Add the egg and continue to mix.
  4. Add the cornmeal (1-1/8 cups), flour (1-1/4 cups), baking soda (1/4 t), baking powder (1/2 t), salt (1/2 t), and buttermilk (1 cup). Mix, scraping sides of bowl to make sure everything is combined.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until golden.