Category Archives: Cooking

Minimalism, menus and buying in bulk

Right about when I started my official “minimalism” conversion, the much-awaited Costco opened up near me. I had been waiting for this moment for YEARS. Remember, I am a Shopaholic at heart. I was afraid Costco was going to become a major stumbling block in my journey, but that hasn’t actually been the case. In fact, buying in bulk has actually helped me simplify our meals. I never thought of cooking in a minimalist way, but now that I am devouring minimalist literature like there is no tomorrow, I’m finding that nearly every aspect of a simplified life appeals to me. With three kids, a part time job, homeschooling and all the details that come with mom-life, I’ve simplified our menu significantly. Check out some of my easy meal ideas here and here. I want to share a few ways that buying in bulk has actually helped my kitchen become more streamlined, efficient and enjoyable to my family.

I should preface this by saying that my children, especially my girls are remarkable open-minded and cheerful in their diet. All three of my kids try whatever they are given. I know that isn’t typical so some of my ideas will not apply to everyone. If you are dealing with a picky eater, you have my sympathies. My kids eat like champs but none of them ever sleep past 7 AM, if that makes you feel any better.

Also, I would like to say sorry I haven’t included any of the prices. I will try to add this info in the future for a post update.

  1. A signature salad: We have never eaten as much salad as we have this year and it’s totally due to bulk-buying. First, we buy the huge container of Organic Baby Spinach at Costco, the huge bag of Craisins, the huge bag of croutons, the huge bag of bacon bits, and we found a salad dressing we all love: Vidalia Onion Vinegrette (we are still using up this dressing from Sam’s Club, but I would like to try a similar one from Costco next). We mix the salad up in a big bowl and the girls have gotten great at gauging the perfect amount of each add-on. Since we always have these on hand, it’s great to always have a healthy side ready to pull out. (Note: sometimes we throw in other veggies or strawberries or cashews. The nice thing is that the base “recipe” is very simple and shelf-stable. I realize the dressing could be healthier, but I’m striving for small steps. Eating a big pile of organic spinach is still a win, in my book. Also, I’m convinced that when a salad is properly tossed in a large bowl, much less dressing is used.)
    minimalism-and-bulkbuying
  2. Beans & Rice: Sorry to mention it again, but it is still a favorite for the Prescotts and it is so crazy easy in the Instant Pot. At Costco, we can buy pretty much all the ingredients in bulk and just have that recipe ready to make any given day. We have loved having a HUGE bag of black beans and a HUGE bag of rice on hand all the time. minimalism-and-buyingbulk
  3. Parfaits as a main course: I totally get that this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for my kids it’s like they’ve won the lottery. From their response, you would think we were giving them ice cream sundaes for dinner when it’s actually: vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and/or bananas and granola. We really like the big double bags of granola from Costco and they are insanely cheap compared to granola at the regular grocery store.
  4. Limited Options: One more mindset-shift that fits in nicely with minimalism and bulk-buy is limiting options. Now, I know this sounds like a negative thing, but please bear with me. As parents, most of us bend over backwards providing for our children. We want them to have the best of everything that they might want or need and we want them to have all the choices in the world. One thing I have really been working on in an effort to cultivate contentment in our home is limiting our options.
    Examples: instead of having crackers and cheese, tortilla chips with salsa, potato chips, popcorn and pretzels all in my pantry at once, I am aiming for one main snack for the week (or shopping period). Instead of filling the fridge with all the veggies and fruits, we can maybe have pineapple and carrots this week, apples and broccoli next week. (The exception is bananas, we try to always keep those on hand for smoothies and snacking). This is something new for us, but so far it’s working pretty well and there is less produce wasted. This is so much easier than constantly feeling like I need to provide an entire buffet & salad bar of healthy options for the kids at all times. (When I tried to do this, produce was becoming so wasted and I was exhausted from prepping food or guilty when I handed them a Popsicle instead of prepping the rapidly-expiring food. Live and learn.)

chalkboard-magnetic-menuOne last quick thing and it’s an affiliate link for a product I have really loved having! We ordered this HUGE chalkboard style magnetic menu for our fridge and we have really enjoyed it. It totally helps me to have a cute visual reminder of the menu plan for the week and I’ve used the grocery list spot a lot as well. The magnet is super strong and it goes so well with our other chalkboard items in the kitchen.

What are your thoughts on bulk buying and minimalism?

 

Ribs in the Instant Pot

Delicious Ribs in the Instant Pot

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience)

Quick and Easy Ribs in the Instant Pot! This was my first time ever cooking ribs and I was pretty excited at how simple it was in my trusty Instant Pot. I loosely followed a recipe from Great Food Fast, which I highly recommend. I used two racks of country style ribs, seasoned them up really well with garlic, salt & pepper, and onion powder.

Great Food Fast Ribs Instant Pot

Great Food Fast

I added a cup or two of chicken broth plus a squirt of ketchup to the inner pot, closed it and set it for manual 15 minutes. I preheated the oven to 375, I waited 15 minutes for the pressure to come down, released the excess and then put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, then under the broiler for maybe 5 until they browned up beautifully. (These gloves are awesome for lifting out hot stuff with your hands!) I am sure they didn’t need the 20 but I was trying to time dinner a little later (sometimes the Instant Pot is seriously TOO fast!!).

With outside temps being close to 100 this week, I was not going to make my poor husband stand over the grill but these ribs turned out so good I will probably make them this way every time from now on! Total rib success!

Perfect Corn on the Cob

What else can you serve with ribs but Real Mac & Cheese and crisp/tender corn on the cob?  I think I have finally nailed corn on the cob after realizing I had been seriously overcooking it for many years! The trick is to add a couple tablespoons of sugar to the pot along with a generous sprinkling of salt with your ears of corn. Then once it comes to a boil, only let it go for about 1-2 minutes before pulling it off the stove and scooping out to serve! Perfect every time and the spoonful of sugar is the key to sweet corn.

Ice Cream for breakfast

My kids are pretty excited that I let them have Ice Cream for Breakfast. This is an incredibly easy and healthy recipe that really shows how powerful the Vitamix is. So healthy we can serve it at breakfast!

2 frozen bananas (for easy blending, slice and freeze for at least 30 minutes)

12 frozen strawberries

1/2 – 3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp. of vanilla

Toss frozen bananas, then frozen strawberries into the Vitamix, then add 1/2 cup of milk. The trick is to use the tamper constantly to make this recipe. It will be loud and angry, but the results are yummy! Start blending low and then move up to high, constantly tamper-ing the contents down until you get a smooth creamy texture that can be scooped. (Add additional milk if needed).

strawberrycreamcollage

 

 

 

How We Do Dinner Part 2

Welcome to my new blog, Chasing Santee! I’m working on the design bit by bit so thanks for your patience while my content has been on hold. I realized I was becoming more and more frustrated with blogging and that was because I hadn’t been writing as much, I had been researching and tweaking and transferring. But what I have re-discovered in 2016 is that I must write. It’s vital to my emotional health! So I am coming back to posting and trying to tie up the loose ends of some of my two part posts. So, without further ado, here is Part 2 of How We Do Dinner.

In Part 1, I talked about some of our quick meals. For this post, I’m linking to some of our current favorite recipes; some are new and some I have used for the last thirteen years! A few are just quick guidelines (I would like to update with full recipes later). We can really recommend these! (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, some of these may make you want one!)

  • Easy Cheesy Veggie Lasagna: Delicious and freezes great. We really like this better than traditional lasagna.
  • Salad for the win: Our favorite product from Sam’s Club is their huge tub of Organic Spring Mix.  We also grab the big bags of sliced almonds, craisins, crutons, and real bacon pieces. I used to make salads in bowls for each person, but I finally gave in and started tossing my salad together with dressing and tons of toppings in a big bowl. It is JUST BETTER, trust me. There are a million variations, obviously, but we have found keeping those ingredients available with different fruits and veggies means the salad actually gets served….and eaten, rather than languishing in the produce drawer. If some of the spring mix needs to be finished up, I throw it in the freezer for smoothies.
  • Balsamic Chicken Thighs: You will need an Instant Pot for this, but you will love the results. Tender, tangy and perfect with jasmine rice.
  • Wrap it: One of the fun things I realized when I worked at Tropical Smoothie was that almost anything makes an awesome wrap. Flour tortillas are cheap and last forever in the fridge, so I always stock up at Aldi. Try: Chicken salad with fresh spinach and onions, breakfast burritos, leftover turkey, cranberries & dressing (even gravy tastes delicious), and chicken Caesar salad.
  • Mac & Cheese: Ok, I have obviously shared this before, but it’s good enough to repeat. SO easy.
  • Oven Roasted Veggies: These easy instructions work for pretty much any veggies, and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar make them extra irresistible.
  • Healthy Chili: So easy the kids can make it!
  • Homemade pizza: We love the pizza dough sold in the Publix bakery cooler. This way you can really load up on the veggies and cut down on the grease.
  • Taco Soup: One can of chicken, one can of corn, one pack of taco seasoning, one pack of ranch dressing, one can of beans. Dump all together (no can-draining) in a pot,  bring to a boil and simmer for like 20 minutes. Awesome camping recipe! (I imagine….I have never slept outdoors in my life). Serve with chips, sour cream, and , of course, cheese.
  • Copycat Chick-fil-a Sandwiches: It’s fun to try copycat recipes and the pickle juice marinate and powder sugar in the breading bring this pretty close to the real thing. Honestly, we’d rather just go to Chick-fil-a but there is something empowering about re-creating a restaurant favorite!
  • Quick Chicken Pot Pie: Saute your chopped veggie trio (onions, carrots, celery), add some chicken broth and bring to a light boil, add a spoonful cornstarch and stir until thickened. Throw in a bunch of chopped cooked chicken (or make it easy on yourself and use a store-cooked rotisserie chicken. ) Season by preference. Pour it all into a crust (DIY or buy Pillsbury), top with a second crust and bake.
  • Beans & Rice: I have mentioned this recipe before because it is one of our favorites and it literally takes three minutes to throw in the Instant Pot.
  • Stir-Fry: A big bag of broccoli slaw from the grocery store makes the quickest stir fry ever. Throw in whatever veggies you have and lightly saute with EVOO. Add some rice or pasta and leftover pork or chicken. Don’t forget to serve with kid-friendly chopsticks! It makes the whole experience 10 times better (the rule is parents must eat with chopsticks also).
  • Cabbage & Buttered Noodles: This may not sound great, but trust me, served with savory kielbasa (we just buy these from Hillshire Farm) it’s a crowd-pleaser. This was a recipe we started making when we were over-run with cabbage from our CSA and we still love it!
  • Chicken Salad: Chopped Rotisserie chicken or canned chicken plus mayo, salt, pepper, & seasoned salt makes a great chicken salad. Add any of the following: chopped celery, craisins, raisins, grapes, chopped apples, or sliced almonds (again from Sam’s Club) and you’ve got an awesome meal.

That’s it for now! What are some of your go-to family favorites? I’d love to try them!

So-Easy-the-Kids-Can-Make-it Chili

Even my nine year olds can handle this super easy, quick & delicious chili recipe. Pin it for an easy meal in only 20 minutes!v-8 chili

2 lbs. ground beef (or 1 lb ground beef plus 1 lb spicy sausage)

3 medium onions, chopped

3 tbls. chili powder

3 cups Spicy Vegetable Juice (V-8)

1/3 cup ketchup

2 cans beans (any combo of kidney, chili, garbanzo, white chili, etc.)

1 can corn (optional)

Bacon (ok, this is definitely optional, but if you don’t add it, you’ll wish you did)

Cook beef and onion at medium heat in the bottom of a dutch oven on the stove. Drain fat, then add chili powder (sometimes I throw in some extra seasoning like garlic, etc). Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and cook for 15 minutes. This is another one of the most flexible recipes of all time (kind of like my Magic Oatmeal Cake). You can pretty much throw in any beans & meat and this is always a hit!

Real Mac & Cheese in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products I truly believe in or desperately want to try.

This is a crazy easy alternative to boxed mac and cheese.

While it’s not a health food, it is REAL food with real ingredients and definitely tastier than the microwave version.

And guess what you cook it in? That’s right…my favorite thing: the Instant Pot (affiliate link). Are you tired of hearing about this appliance yet? Sorry….not sorry. I can’t help raving about something that saves me SO much time. *note: if you want a normal size portion, you are going to want to half this. I supersize everything.

Real Mac & Cheese Instantly

5 cups elbow macaroni noodles

4 cups water

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp nutmeg

4 tbls. butter

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)

5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Spray the inner pot with cooking spray and stir in 5 cups uncooked noodles, 4 cups water, 2 cups half & half, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, close the pot and seal the vent. Push manual 7 minutes or HIGH pressure 7 Minutes depending on your model. When the timer beeps, do a quick pressure release (QPR). (be careful, this spurts up pretty high so I throw a dishtowel over it.) Next stir in 4 tbls. butter, 1 cup of half & half, and 5 cups of shredded cheese.

That’s it….shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes from start to finish. Enjoy!

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

We have had a fun spring break that has been full of relaxing, family time, waiting around for a nephew to be born, and playing at the park. Before school starts tomorrow, we thought we would have one more treat-fling. These are crazy-easy, surprisingly delicious, grain-free cookies! I stumbled across an easy recipe for peanut butter cookies nearly thirteen years ago, and have repeated it ever since. Tonight I tweaked it a bit and we think it’s the best version yet!

PBcupcookies

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

1 cup Peanut Butter

1 cup Almond Butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk chocolate chips

4 tbls. additional sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Beat 1 cup Peanut Butter, 1 cup Almond Butter, 2 cups sugar and 2 eggs together thoroughly in a large bowl.
  3. Gently stir in 1 cup chocolate chips
  4. Form dough into balls and roll each in additional sugar.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool thoroughly.
  6. Enjoy! Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

How we do Dinner: Part 1

  • Omelettes: We do a lot of breakfast for dinner:eggs/grits/fruit or omelettes & fruit (I spent a long time googling omelettes and finally found a perfect photo tutorial on how to make them easily, but they removed the link). Options: sausage, bacon bits, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli etc. I have also made omelette kits and put them in the freezer with small bags of fresh veggies/shredded cheese/cooked sausage/onions and put it all in a big ziplock to grab in a hurry. This makes it crazy easy and  cheap because you have just enough of everything right when you need it.
  • Oatmeal Bar: Sometimes we even do a “gourmet” oatmeal bar with tons of toppings. Yes, I give my kids a bowl of oatmeal for dinner but if they have a small sprinkle of chocolate chips and some sliced strawberries they say “best dinner ever”. The secret to delicious oatmeal is a big plop of real butter and a drizzle of half and half or whole milk/cream. Options: fruit, brown sugar, nuts (huge bag of sliced almonds from Costco lasts forever and goes into lots of our recipes), coconut, rainsins/craisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter.
  • Nacho Night: This is also an effort free meal that somehow gets my kids very excited. We often do Nacho Night on a blanket on the floor and have movie night, so that could be a big part of the appeal! Aldi has tortilla chips for like $1.20 a bag so we are never without these. Options: shredded chicken (canned works), beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, veggies, ground beef. Nachos “outside the box” can include breakfast toppings (my friend Katy does sausage, eggs, cheese on nachos), or chicken salad with chips (super delicious and lower carb than chicken salad sandwiches).
  • Just add a smoothie! When we have slim pickings for dinner (the end of leftovers, or something my kids aren’t thrilled to eat), we add a smoothie to round out our meal. After years of smoothies, my kids still LOVE them and I can make it healthy to add  to a not-so-fab meal OR decadent to add to a healthy but not exciting meal (big spinach salad with tons of toppings is great with a chocolate peanut butter smoothie on the side). This is when having a vitamix is 100% worth it for us. Seriously, it’s like a magic bullet at our house: “We are having salad…..AND A SMOOTHIE” *big cheers* (affiliate link).
  • Fruit side/treat: Another thing we have been doing is swapping a side out for fruit. So say we have grilled chicken and rice as our main course. Instead of adding broccoli, we add fresh pineapple which is a big treat for us. Suddenly our meal is exciting and  I have found this really helps me not feel like I need dessert also, so it’s a win/win.

Like I said, these are not original ideas or revolutionary ones, but they are in our current rotation and are working for us now. Cooking for a family gets so tiring with all the other obligations of parenting, so anything that makes it easier is valuable in my book! I’d love to hear any ideas you have and I’ll be adding Part 2 soon!

Another Great Vitamix Deal

Another great Vitamix deal!

The first coupon code should apply automatically, if not type in: factorysale3716
Then apply coupon code: 06-004229

This should bring it down to about $280 plus tax, which is a fantastic price.

Check out my review here. We use our Vitamix all the time. This is a refurbished model, but Vitamix usually does a great job with those. Look at this perfectly creamy banana “ice cream”! Just frozen bananas, milk, and a dash of vanilla! Yum.

banana cream

Loaded (with Veggies) Potato Soup in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products that I use or want to try for my own family.

If you are looking for a gorgeous recipe post with mouth-watering photos and fancy cooking terms like “roux” and “parboil”….well, then you are at the wrong blog.

If you are interested in a quick, healthy recipe that tastes good, then proceed.

This meal was my way of using up some veggies that needed to be eaten without having to run out for more ingredients. It’s amazing what I will do to avoid having to go to the grocery store on a Monday afternoon. So this is really Loaded with Veggies Potato Soup.

This was made in my Instant Pot and is incredibly easy to put together. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I don’t know what else I can do to convince you. I’ve already raved all over Facebook, Pinterest and anywhere else I can think of. Check out my review here at EveryWomanBlog.com and then (affiliate link) head on over to Amazon and order one.

I just wish I had bought an Instant Pot sooner because I use it all the time.

Loaded Potato Soup in the Instant Pot

2 chopped onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 head of fresh broccoli

lots of peeled, cubed potatoes (by lots I mean, about as many as I can put in the pot)

2 (14.5 oz) cans of chicken broth

salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg

a dash of half and half

optional: chives, shredded cheese, and bacon

  1. Set Instant Pot to Saute and saute celery & carrots for about 5 minutes with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Or butter. Or both. Add onions and garlic and saute for another 5 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and pour chicken broth over everything. Close lid, close vent, and set for Manual 5 minutes (or high pressure for 5 minutes).
  3. You can either open the IP and let the pressure release (QR) or let it release slowly (NR). Once pressure is released, open it and cream up your soup. To do this, you can use a stick blender, a regular blender, or be super ghetto like me and stick a hand mixer in there. Sure, scalding hot soup may splash at you, but, hey, you’re on the clock here. You can blend it up really creamy or leave lots of chunky pieces in there, it’s really your call.
  4. Add broccoli, give it a quick stir, close the lid, close vent and set it for Manual 1 minute then NPR. (this method leaves the broccoli a little on the crisp side. If you want it to be really blended in with your soup, do a little more time or add it earlier in the recipe. Or leave it on Keep Warm for awhile because you really can’t believe dinner is already done.)
  5. Add, salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and some half and half to taste.
  6. Serve with cheese and, if you REALLY want to go wild, BACON.
soup

Magic Oatmeal Cake

I probably won’t be sharing a ton of recipes here, because cooking is really not my forte (I’m not sure what my forte is, but I’m sure I will one day discover it). This recipe however, is one that I’ve made many dozens of times and tweaked enough that it barely resembles the original I came across years ago. It also has a wonderful flexibility in quantity and ingredient that has made it a go-to breakfast at our house for years. You just can’t fail with this “Magic Oatmeal Cake”.  It’s easy, versatile and healthy. It’s great to reheat on cold mornings, or sometimes I will make it the day before and have my husband throw it in the oven before he goes to work so it is ready when the kids get up.

Magic Oatmeal Cake

Combine:
4-5 cups of oatmeal
 1-2 cups of yogurt
2 cups warm water

Let this sit on the counter for a few hours or until you get around to baking it. Sometimes it sits on my counter all day long.

Preheat oven to 350*

Combine in a separate bowl:
1 cup sweetener: sugar, honey, molasses, turbinado, or whatever you want
3/4 cup oil (applesauce may be substituted)

4 eggs
1 Tbls cinnamon
1 Tbls baking powder
2 Tsp. vanilla

Add the above to oatmeal/yogurt mixture, then add:
1-2 cups of milk to desired texture: more milk makes it custardy, less makes it cake-like.
 1-2 cups fruit of choice (fresh, dried, frozen)

Dump it in a 9″ x 13″ greased pan, bake for 1 hour. Let cool, then keep in fridge, you can reheat or eat cold.

Ideas for add-ins: frozen blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, applesauce, chopped apples, pears, peaches, raisins, golden raisins, canned pineapple, walnuts, almonds, wheat germ, bran, flax seed. Dessert version: cherries and mini chocolate chips.

Enjoy!