Recipe of the Week: Quick Veggie Dinner

Tonight I made one of my favorite dishes. My kids are kind of blah about it, but my husband and I love it. It’s from Damn Delicious, which is one of my favorite and most trusted blogs. Here’s the link to the recipe:

I love this recipe for a couple of reasons. 1) It’s meatless, which I’m always looking for recipes that keep our budget, and myself, lean. 2) It’s delicious. 3) It’s quick; only 30 minutes from beginning to end, including prep. 4) It’s a one pan dish, meaning less for my husband to wash. 5) Most of the ingredients are from the pantry. The only exception is a jalapeno, which I omit, lime and garlic, both of which I usually have on hand. 6) Related to five, but a key component in my mind, almost no chopping is involved.

So, here’s how I tweak this recipe:

  1. I omit the jalapeno because… kids.
  2. I use whatever broth I have on hand. Tonight it was chicken broth.
  3. I use whatever canned tomatoes I have on hand. Tonight it was petite diced.
  4. I omit the fresh herbs, unless I happen to have them on hand.

    A shortcut to make this recipe even easier involves mincing the garlic:

    I’m not sure how you usually mince your garlic, but I used to do mine by hand. I don’t particularly like buying jarred minced garlic, but I understand some people do out of convenience, and I do not turn up my nose at convenience. But I recently discovered grating garlic. It is the best thing ever and as far as my somewhat dull taste buds can tell, works even better than trying to mince garlic by hand. So for this recipe, I did not need to pull out my cutting board! That is always a win in my book.

    What do you look for in quick and easy recipes? One pot recipes? A quick cook time? Crock pot recipes?


    Recipe of the Week: Dark Sweet Tea

    So today’s recipe is a drink recipe and it came about, as most drink recipes do, out of a need for alcohol. Well, my husband’s need for alcohol. We went to this fantastic local distillery and my husband came home with a bottle of Blue Fish Clear, a kind of moonshine. One of the recipes the distillery recommended called for iced tea and simple syrup. Instead of making simple syrup, I decided to make him sweet tea. It struck me as simplifying an otherwise simple recipe. But here’s what I did that was different:


    4 quarts of cold, filtered water

    1/2 cup of granulated sugar

    1/2 cup of light brown sugar

    4 bags of black tea (I use decaffeinated)


    Heat water in a pan over medium heat. Turn off burner before your water starts to boil (there should be bubbles forming at the bottom, but they haven’t risen to the top yet), but keep the pan on the burner. Add the sugars. Stir until all of the sugar has melted. Then add the bags of tea. Let steep for at least 30 minutes, or all day. Serve it over ice. If you’re like my husband and have a taste for an adult beverage, feel free to add a clear alcohol. He’s also added orange juice to great reviews.



    *It’s important to turn the burner off before the water begins to bubble vigorously. Tea can burn if the water is too hot. This prevents that bitter taste tea can sometimes have. If you’ve tried tea before and haven’t like it because it’s bitter, you probably had tea that was burnt. Tea should NOT taste bitter.

    *Because this uses brown sugar, feel free to reduce the amount of sugar. I’d actually recommend reducing the brown sugar to 1/3 of a cup, but because this tea is actually being used as a mixer, the higher sugar content is better. If you’re drinking this by itself, play around with the ratio a bit.

    *But the great thing about this tea is that the flavor is a lot deeper than traditional sweet tea. If you leave the tea to steep for a long time, you can taste the tea at the very end.

    LIFT Auction is LIVE! Plus two Giveaways


    It’s LIVE!! The LIFT 4 Autism Auction is open for bidding!

    Win a $25 Winner’s Choice Gift Card in the LIFT Celebration Giveaway!

    The Lift 4 Autism Auction is a bookworm’s dream! Featuring hard-to-get, much-sought items from romance favorites like Nicola Yoon, Kristen Ashley, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Corinne Michaels, T.M. Frazier, Marie Force and more than 200 others in celebration of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.

    Authors Ginger Scott and Kennedy Ryan founded LIFT 4 Autism a few years ago as a charitable initiative rallying the romance community around autism. All proceeds go to this year’s charitable partner Kulture City, who is doing amazing things for the autism community. Learn more at

    Specifically, LIFT 2017 will benefit Kulture City’s lifeBOKS program, which provides families with free kits to curtail wandering, a common and potentially life threatening challenge. Proceeds will also benefit Kulture City’s tablet program, which provides iPads to improve communication for non and limited verbal children on the spectrum to families who cannot afford them.

    Learn more about the mission of Kulture City and the dangers of wandering in today’s USA Today HEA feature here.

    Watch the lifeBOKS video:


    1. Online Auction, featuring many of your favorite romance authors!

    Browse all the amazing items up for bid here: (Must register to bid)

    Auction Frequently Asked Questions:

    Find the full Author list here:

    The auction is LIVE until Friday, April 28, 8:00pm.


    1. Make a financial donation through the LIFT Campaign.

    DONATE here:


    1. Buy LIFT Wear (T-shirts, totes, mugs, etc…)

    LFIT 2017 t-shirt
    4. Buy the YA Fantasy Anthology Ever In the After for 99¢

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    *All proceeds go to Kulture City!


    Connect with LIFT!

    *Subscribe to the LIFT mailing list at

    *Join the LIFT Facebook group:

    *Follow us on Instagram:

    *Follow us on Twitter:


    NOTE FROM CHRISTINE: I will give away 2 copies of the YA Anthology in support of LIFT here on my blog. Simply watch the lifeBOOKS video and leave me a comment here on the blog with one thing you learned, or one fact the video talked about. I’ll pick two winners randomly on May 05, so you have until May 04 to enter!

    Recipe of the Week: Simple Hamburger Stew

    I have been totally exhausted the last few days so when my husband came home yesterday from work, I really didn’t want to make dinner. Instead of making an awesome veggie chili, I decided to fall back on a meal my dad used to make me growing up. I don’t think it would hurt my dad’s feelings to say he wasn’t the best cook when I was younger. We mostly ate fast food or hamburger helper. This is a simple version of hamburger helper that you can dress up or down, depending on your mood.

    WARNING: This is not a dish to serve guests, or even a dish for those with fancy palates. This is a quick and easy meal that you can fall back on when you’re exhausted and can’t imagine cooking, but you cook anyway because you’re on a budget and you have to eat something.

    Simple Hamburger Stew


    1 lb ground beef (I used 70% because that’s the cheapest beef I can buy in the store. Use whatever you like to get, including ground turkey.)

    1 can condensed vegetarian vegetable soup

    Ketchup to taste

    Salt and pepper to taste

    A starch: cooked rice, baked potato, a couple of pieces of bread


    Brown the ground beef in a large pan until cooked all the way through. Once it’s cooked, drain the grease, leaving the beef in the pan. Add the condensed soup to the beef and cook on low heat until the soup is warm. Add ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. I generally use about 2 tbsp of ketchup and a tsp of salt. Serve immediately with your starch.


    You can make any number of changes to this recipe, depending on how much energy you have, but the point of this recipe is to eat at home and save money even when you are too exhausted to think. It has some veggies from the soup, protein, and your choice of starch depending on what you have in your pantry. It’s not going to win any awards, but I try to keep veggie condensed soup and rice in my pantry at all times so I always have something to make.

    • If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll saute chopped garlic and onion in the pan before adding the beef.
    • I may also season with garlic salt for more flavor.
    • You could easily replace the condensed soup with diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and a frozen foursome medley of vegetables.
    • I like to eat this with white rice, but it tastes great on a baked potato and is also an easy alternative to sloppy joes.

    What is your go-to recipe when you are too tired to cook? What are some staples you keep in your pantry so you have a meal to make no matter what else you have in your fridge?

    Confessions from a Single-Income Family

    There is no right or wrong way to manage your money, just so long as you manage it, but these days it seems like you either have to struggle to keep up with the Joneses or compete to see who can live in the tiniest house. I’m not sure when it became taboo to eat out once in a while or have satellite TV with NFL Game Day, but sometimes it feels like if I don’t use 20 coupons at the grocery store, I’m failing at managing our money.


    PHOTO: Rafael J M Souza

    I have to remind myself that budgeting isn’t a competition and life isn’t a game to be won or lost. Who cares how much money I’ve saved if I’m not living a life I love and am proud of? There was a time when I tried to save more money and control all of our spending to the point where my husband and I had unnecessary arguments about beer. It’s taken a while, but after years of living on a single income, we’ve found a way to make financial decisions without fighting and without guilt: we align our decisions with our values.

    Warning: this technique only works if you are in agreement about your values. But, the real benefit to this approach is once those values are established, you never have to feel guilty about what you spend your money. You don’t believe in having cable television because it rots our brains and drives consumerism? I agree completely. You binge watch Netflix shows while drinking wine from a box? Awesome, me too! My main point is it doesn’t matter what I do personally because I’m not you, you’re not me, and quite frankly, your finances are none of my beeswax business. But if you’re curious how this values thing plays out in real life, I’ll use our values and budget as an example…

    read more here: Don’t Feel Guilty About Eating Out…



    Recipe of the Week: Pinto Beans

    I am not a big fan of beans. I’ve learned to eat them as I’ve grown older, but I primarily make them because my husband likes them. He’s convinced that if he didn’t have me to make dinner, he’d eat beans and rice every day. And by beans he means beans from a can. Since I think that’s a little bland, I try to make beans in a variety of ways. This is one of my favorites.

    The recipe is from a blog called The Black Peppercorn. Even though it’s called Mexican Pinto Beans, I’ve never had beans like this in a Mexican restaurant. And our family from Mexico do not make beans like this either. But, because I love them, I’ve made it regularly for a couple of years now and I pretty much follow the instructions step-by-step. This is a great vegetarian recipe, and it could easily be vegan if you swapped out the butter. I think coconut oil would work well, but I’ve never tried it. These are not spicy beans; instead they remind me of a baked bean.

    I almost always pair them with plain rice. The first time I made this recipe, I paired it with Mexican Rice, but I found the flavors to be overwhelming! It tastes much better with simple white or brown rice, whichever you prefer. I made these on Sunday and paired it with a simple Shepard’s Bread that I found on sale at the grocery store. It was delicious! Beans, bread and some sweet corn and my family was pretty happy to settled down to dinner.

    How do you usually prepare your beans? Are you a straight out-of-the-can type like my husband? Or do you prefer to throw in some spices or salsa? Do you have any bean recipes you’d like to share?

    Tell Me: What do you do on date night when you’re sleep deprived?

    My husband and I started Friday night date nights three weeks ago. Tonight would/will be our third date night. Since we have a 4 month old, our “dates” are on our couch in front of the tv. We eat junk food and popcorn and spend 45 minutes deciding what to watch.

    However, tonight I need some advice. We are going on three nights of very little sleep. Our beautiful baby has decided to wake up at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, finally falling asleep at 5 am. Since my husband works full-time, I try to get up with the baby so he can sleep. This means I am totally exhausted. Plus, I need a lot of sleep anyway. In my perfect life, I’d get 9 hours every night. (I can hear you laughing from here)

    So, do we keep our date? Do we reschedule? What do you do when life gets in the way of romance? Give me your best advice, because my brain is not firing today!

    Recipe of the Week: Secret Ingredient Chili

    So one of my lovely readers asked me to share some recipes. I largely look for recipes on Pinterest, in health magazines, or in my cookbooks (Better Homes among others). The recipe I am talking about today I found on Pinterest.You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here or by looking me up (ChillyHawaiian).

    Because yesterday was a snow day, I had a bit of extra time and cooked up some chili, which I normally only cook vegetarian. I tried a recipe with meat for the first time and it was fabulous! I made a bunch of changes, so the recipe outlined below has the changes I made. Here’s the original recipe from Certified Pastry Aficionado, There are a bunch of great tips about making it, including a note about cooking times and vegetable options.

    This is NOT a food blog, so I don’t have any of those fancy print icons or anything like that–I’m sorry! But if you want to give this a try, it makes a ton of food. The secret ingredient in my recipe is cinnamon. Yes, you read that correctly–cinnamon! I love the taste along with the ancho chili pepper. I served it with some boiled potatoes and extra sharp cheddar cheese. Note: this is a mild chili.

    Meat Chili Recipe


    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 -1 1/2 pounds ground meat lean (or ground turkey)
    • 1 large onion diced
    • 1 red bell pepper diced
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground Ancho chili pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1 can petite diced tomatoes (28-ounces), or 2 cans (14.5-ounces), or fresh tomatoes
    • 1 can white kidney beans (15.5 ounces)
    • 1 can pinto beans (15.5 ounces)
    • toppings (cheese, sour cream, onions, cilantro, etc)


    Heat a dutch oven or other oven safe pot (not cast iron, see CPA’s note) over medium heat. Add oil and ground meat of your choice. Once its cooked all the way through, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon. If you use the cheapest ground beef option, which is what I always assumed you should use with chili, then it’s probably about 70 or 80%, in which case you need to get rid of some of the grease. I’d leave about a tablespoon of grease, if you can eyeball it. If you use a leaner ground meat, then you can leave all the grease in the pan.

    Add the diced onions and cook until brown (about 5 min.). Add the bell pepper and cook until softened (about 5 min). Make a well inside the pan and cook the garlic in the middle of the pan, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. It only takes about 30 seconds until its fragrant, at which point you mix all of the veggies together.

    Add all of the spices to the pot. If you like spicy, add more chili pepper. The original recipe calls for cayenne pepper, so you might want to add that. We have two picky eaters, so we leave off the spice. My recipe here has zero heat and my two year old was happy to eat it. Stir the spices until it’s fragrant and evenly distributed throughout the veggies. This is an important step! Don’t skip it because this is where you get all that flavor!

    Add back in the ground meat and then add in the chicken broth. Stir to deglaze the bottom of your pan a bit. Then put a lid on it until it begins to simmer. Uncover, reduce heat, and let simmer 45-60 min. I did 45 min and was happy with the slightly soupy consistency.  If you like thick chili, then you need to cook it longer. You can see the original recipe for more notes on that.

    Once it’s the consistency you like, add in your diced tomatoes and beans. You can also use fresh tomatoes if you’d like and you can use any kind of bean you’d like. Simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes to heat up the tomatoes and beans. Taste test to see if you like it and add more of anything you think you need. I didn’t add any more salt or seasoning when I was done, so be sure to taste it before adding things like salt.

    Serve with your favorite toppings. Makes 8 servings (seriously, I counted). We had enough for leftovers and I froze some for later.

    Do you have a favorite chili recipe that you’d like to share or link to this post? Did you make my recipe? How’d you like it? Any suggestions for serving leftover chili?

    LIFT 4 Autism 2017: Auction & Anthology


    LIFT 4 Autism Online Auction: Monday, April 24 – Friday, April 28

    Enter the GIVEAWAY celebrating LIFT!


    A mystery to some. A way of life for others. A cause for all since it is now the fastest growing and most common disability in the US. 1 in every 68 children are diagnosed with Autism. Many of these kids will rely on their parents to some degree, depending on severity, all their lives, with estimated costs between 5 to 7 million dollars in services and care over their lifetime. Many of the services those living with Autism require are not covered by insurance. It is an expensive and difficult lifelong diagnosis to navigate.

    Authors Ginger Scott and Kennedy Ryan started LIFT 4 Autism a few years ago as a charitable initiative rallying the romance reading community in April, which is Autism Awareness/Acceptance month. All proceeds go to this year’s charitable partner Kulture City, who is doing amazing things for Autism families. Discover more about them at Specifically, LIFT will benefit Kulture City’s lifeBOKS program, which provides families with free kits to curtail wandering, a common and potentially life threatening challenge. Proceeds will also benefit Kulture City’s tablet program, which provides iPads to improve communication for non and limited verbal children on the spectrum to families who cannot afford them.


    1. Online Auction, featuring many of your favorite romance authors!

    Find the full list here: If you are an author and want to donate, sign up here.

    Browse all the amazing items up for bid here:

    The auction will be LIVE and open for bidding Monday, April 24 – Friday, April 28.


    1. 1-Click the YA Fantasy Anthology Ever In the After for 99¢

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    *All proceeds go to LIFT 4 Autism!


    1. Buy LIFT Wear! (t-shirts, mugs, totes, etc…)

    LFIT 2017 t-shirt

    1. Make a financial donation through the LIFT Campaign.

    DONATE here:


    Don’t miss a thing this month!

    *Subscribe to the LIFT mailing list at

    *Join the LIFT Facebook group:
    *Support the LIFT Thunderclap Campaign:

    *Follow us on Instagram:

    *Follow us on Twitter:

    “Excel”ling at Meal Planning

    During the first six years of my marriage (before children), going grocery shopping was done only as often as necessary to survive. It could be pushed to three to four weeks between shopping trips. This is arguably the worst method unless your grocery goal is to waste money, food, and time. However, my family grew and needs changed, so my routine required the same. I needed more fresh fruits and vegetables, to be cost efficient, and throw out less food. Below are the 3 changes I made:

    Weekly Shopping Trips
    Since incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet was a priority, this decision was a no-brainer. To no one’s surprise, I was throwing out less food because I was only buying what I needed for the week. The unexpected benefits were things like becoming more aware of what produce was in season and when, and rotating what I bought (except bananas… my kids go bananas over them and they are on my list every week). And this task/chore/headache that used to be pushed off until our cupboards resembled old Mother Hubbard’s, hasn’t been so bad. In fact, I enjoy it (and that doesn’t have anything to do with it being the only consistent alone time I get on the weekends).

    Planning Ahead
    In order to be cost efficient on my weekly shopping trips, I have to plan ahead. And by planning ahead, I mean writing a list that I intend to stick to. I bury any spontaneity deep down inside and stick to the list. Instead of Master Kenobi’s words echoing in Luke’s mind to use the force, he tells me to stick to the list.
    Unless I see that pint of lemon cookie ice cream or macadamia milk, then screw the list. Before going to the store, I’ll write down the things I need to get weekly (bananas, veggies, milk, shredded cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese, and of course, cream cheese). Then I’ll do a quick inventory on what basic items
    may be needed (bread, rice, cereal, eggs). The most laborious part of planning ahead is deciding what will be for dinner. I may choose a meal based on what I want, on what ingredients I need to use or what’s on sale/has a coupon. Once the decision is made, I just need to add the required ingredients to my list, and voilà my list is complete.

    Excel Spreadsheet
    I have some of those classic cookbooks that you get when you do your wedding registry, a Pinterest board for food, and also receive daily emails with new recipes. So it was not surprising with so many formats, I was having a hard time remembering what was where when it came to my planning. So my “Meal Planner” was the byproduct of my administrative office background and organizational obsessiveness. I created an excel spreadsheet with all of the recipes I’d collected over the years and pull it up on my iPad. The first tab is the “Planner” with meal ideas. When you click on the recipe you want, it takes you to the ingredients and directions for that meal. So that’s how I easily make my shopping list for the week. I can then click the “Home Page” cell within the recipe tab to take me back to the
    “Planner” tab. I can easily delete a meal from my planner if it is a tested “failure” and add anything great I found on Pinterest.