Slow-Cooker Smoky Beef and Bean Chili

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I can’t think of anything better and more tummy-filling on a chilly fall night than a nice big bowl of spicy, beefy/beany chili with a side of warm cornbread from the oven. ย It hits the spot every time and warms me to the core! ๐Ÿ™‚ ย It also happens to go great with football! ย (I know some people will argue that REAL chili doesn’t have beans, but I prefer chili with beans…so there.)

This is a recipe that I stumbled upon a few years ago from Real Simple Magazine and I’ve added and changed things and made a bean-less version (for my non-bean-eating husband).

I love this recipe because I can throw everything into the slow-cooker and not worry about it until dinner (FABULOUS!). ย This is also great because I throw the leftovers in the freezer and warm them up when we want chili again! Can’t get any easier than that!

I’m going to post my two versions of the recipe.

The first is my take on the original WITH beans.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1-15.5 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1-15.5 ounce can of black or pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1-28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 12 ounces lager beer
  • ยพ pound beef chuck, cut into ยพ-inch pieces (stew meat can be substituted)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons chopped chipotles in adobo sauce (depending on your heat tolerance level)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, sear beef. Drain on paper towel. Set aside.

2. In 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, mix together the beans, tomatoes and their juices, beer, beef, yellow onion, garlic, tomato paste, flour, chili powder, chipotles, cumin, and ยพ teaspoon salt.

3. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Serve with corn bread, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

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(NOTE: The picture above is actually the bean-free version with some beans added, because I wanted beans in my bowl when we had this the other night!)

The second version is bean-FREE!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1-28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 12 ounces lager beer
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs 90/10 ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons chopped chipotles in adobo sauce (depending on your heat tolerance level)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, brown beef. Drain on paper towel. Set aside.

2. In 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, mix together the bell peppers, tomatoes and their juices, beer, beef, yellow onion, garlic, tomato paste, flour, chili powder, chipotles, cumin, and ยพ teaspoon salt.

3. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours. A few minutes before serving, stir in the corn just until corn is warmed through. ย Serve with corn bread, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

Either version is yummy and super-tummy-filling. Our favorite side with this recipe is good-old-fashioned cornbread! MMM!!

What’s your favorite Fall recipe??

Happy Fall! ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy!

Easy Sugar Cookies!

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Mac, my wonderful husband, loves sweets, but he LOVES sugar cookies.

Particularly sugar cookies from a little bakery cafe back home, Elegance Bakery.

Well…I love to bake, but I’m not a huge fan of sugar cookies because they tend to need to be refrigerated and then rolled, and cut, and decorated. ย They are just a lot of work. Usually.

So Mac has been asking for the past few weeks if I could make him some sugar cookies and today, since it was chilly outside, I decided to give in and bake him some sugar cookies.

(I’m such a good wife!) ๐Ÿ™‚

I researched various different sugar cookie recipes and read the reviews so that I could get an idea of what I was about to dive into…I finally decided on this simple recipe from callmepmc.com.

This recipe seemed simple (I had all of the ingredients) and NO REFRIGERATION needed!!! (YAY!!) ๐Ÿ™‚

That means no waiting around for an hour or more before rolling, cutting, decorating, and baking! Whoop, whoop!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used Gluten-Free, All-Purpose Flour from Trader Joe’s because that’s what I had on hand.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Various colored sugars or sprinkles for decorating (you can also frost/glaze these if you prefer)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes. (Note: I let my butter get SOFT-almost mushy-before putting it in the bowl. I think this helps get it nice and fluffy!)

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Once creamed well, add egg and vanilla.

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In a separate bowl, SIFT together flour, baking powder, and salt. (NOTE: I find sifting makes cookies seem fluffier….it could just be me, but I always sift.)

Spoon the flour mixture into the butter mixture a little at a time until well combined.

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Split dough into two parts, and roll one half of the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. (NOTE: I use powdered sugar in lieu of flour on my rolling pin and counter-top.)

Dip cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting. (NOTE: I don’t have any cookie cutters, so I use a small juice glass.) Roll and cut until all dough is used.

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Decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles.

Bake on and ungreased cookie sheet, or use parchment paper for 6 to 7 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to cooling rack to cool completely.

TA-DA!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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If you want to frost or glaze these, do that after they have cooled completely.

Here is a recipe for a yummy, but simple glaze.

What you’ll need:

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Fresh Lemon or Orange Juice
  • Food Coloring (optional)

In a small bowl, combine a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar with some fresh lemon or orange juice until smooth (will be slightly liquidy). If too thin, add more sugar. If too thick, add more juice. Add food color of choice to create desired color.

I hope you had a SWEET Sunday like me! ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Baking!

Quinoa for Breakfast?!?!

I’m sure you’ve heard of, and probably even tried, or LOVE quinoa….am I right? ๐Ÿ™‚

Well….It has taken me a while to get used to the texture and smell of quinoa…but I kind of like it! My parents recently gifted me with a box of Trader Joe’s Organic Quinoa and I had heard all the great things about it (“it’s a perfect protein,” “super healthy,” etc.), so I decided I wanted to find some ways to use it.

Off to Pinterest I went…and as I pinned away, I wondered if there were any recipes to use quinoa for breakfast… you know, like oatmeal. I figured having it for breakfast would be a great way to start off the day and keep me full until lunch.

In my searching and pinning, I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart for Breakfast Quinoa.

I decided to give it a shot, but since it is only me eating it, I didn’t think I needed to make the full cup of quinoa (if you haven’t made it before…1 cup makes 4 servings! it EXPANDS a lot!). ย The first time I made this recipe I tried to make it before I went to work, but I didn’t give it enough time to fully absorb all of the milk…so it was still a little crunchy and soupy. Not great. But OK enough that I’d give it another go.

Since my first run, I now make it at night and make enough for 4 servings, divide it into microwave safe containers and pop it in the fridge. Then in the morning all I have to do is pop it into the microwave for a minute or enjoy it cold!

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You may be wondering what that black stuff is on top of the quinoa in the picture….it’s Chia seeds. They are full of all kinds of HEALTHY GOODNESS and can be added to baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and more!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups milk or water
  • 4 tsp brown sugar (or other sweetner)
  • 4 tsp chia seeds (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup blueberries (1/4 cup per serving-added before serving; fresh or frozen; not pictured)

Rinse and drain the quinoa and add to a medium saucepan with milk or water. ย Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. ย When cooked you can see the germ ring around the edges of the quinoa. ย Divide into 4 equal servings, add 1 tsp brown sugar and chia seeds to each serving. Enjoy while warm with 1/4 cup blueberries on top, or refrigerate and add blueberries before serving.ย 

This is a great grab-and-go breakfast when it’s already prepped! It is also very tummy filling! ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

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Easy Veggie Breakfast Hash & Eggs

I love to be in the kitchen. I mean…I LOVE to be in the kitchen.

The kitchen is where good things happen and delicious memories are made.

I have so many wonderfully comforting memories of spending time in my Gramma’s and mom’s kitchens baking and cooking old favorite recipes, and creating new favorites with love and laughter. I love the special little methods and techniques in cooking and baking that only moms and grandmas can teach you. I also love the wonderful smells and delicious vittles that come out of the kitchen and ROCK my taste buds! ๐Ÿ™‚

One thing I have learned from both my mom and Gramma is to not be afraid in the kitchen. ย Sure…start with a recipe, and maybe make it from the recipe a few times, but then….make it your own. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Missing a recipe ingredient? Find a suitable substitute and toss it in!

My mom is a pro at making up her own recipes…sometimes things don’t work out so great….BUT most of the time, it is AWESOME!ย 

Kind of like my Easy Veggie Breakfast Hash & Eggs:

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This morning I wanted something a little different from my usual green smoothie or my avocado & egg pizza for breakfast, and I had a bunch of fresh veggies in the fridge that I needed to use.

So, being my mother’s daughter…I decided to dice up and toss together the veg and cook up a couple of eggs to top it all off…AND it was AMAZINGLY yummy! (And super easy!! BONUS!) ๐Ÿ™‚

You can really make this with whatever veg you have on hand…but here is what I used (it seems like a lot of veg, but it will cook down a bit):

  • 1 small eggplant, diced (roughly about 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 large zucchini squash, skin on, diced
  • 1/2 large orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano
  • 2 eggs

I diced up all of my veggies and tossed them into a skillet over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil. I seasoned the veggies with salt and pepper and let them cook for about 1-2 minutes. ย I threw in a few dashes of garlic powder, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a couple dashes of dried oregano. I gave it all a big stir and added in 1 tbsp of the fresh basil and let it cook another minute or so. ย I piled it all into the middle of my plate and set aside.

I added my eggs to the pan, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and cooked them to a nice over-easy…or dippy egg (if you are from the East). I plopped the eggs right on top of that beautiful mountain of veggie hash and added 1 tbsp of fresh basil on top for garnish.

This is a low-cal, high-protein meal….and did I mention it was YUMMY!?!? ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunday Breakfast: French Toast! YUM!

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love sleeping in on a chilly Sunday (or Saturday) morning…snuggling close under the covers, and enjoying the lazy comfort of being together.

A chilly September morning like this calls for continued comfort after you finally decide to drag yourself out from under the deliciously warm covers and throw on your favorite pair of worn-in sweats and that old, ratty, full-of-memories sweatshirt…

Something that will keep your tummy comforted on this lazy Sunday, where you will lounge in your sweats and watch football (Yay! FALL!) all afternoon….

Something sweet…and savory…and DELICIOUSLY naughty.

Something that you might not have everyday, but as a special treat….

FRENCH TOAST!

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What could be more comforting than that warm, egg-soaked, cooked slice of bread, with melted butter and doused in warm maple syrup and a side of savory, salty bacon?!?! (Are you drooling yet??) ๐Ÿ™‚

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You can’t go wrong with this recipe….so good and so easy!

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (optional, or you can use sugar substitute)
  • Healthy Dash of Cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 8 slices bread (you can use your favorite sandwich bread)

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for bread.ย 

Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture until coated on both sides.

Set aside in a baking dish until all slices are dipped.

Pour extra egg mixture over the dipped slices in the baking dish, while you heat up your lightly greased skillet.

Cook each slice until golden brown on both sides over medium heat.

(**Note: I usually set a clean baking/serving dish in a warm oven (170 degrees) and place the cooked slices in the oven to keep warm while I finish cooking the rest of the slices)

Serve with warmed maple syrup and your favorite savory breakfast meat!

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This is a recipe I came up with after trying various different French toast recipes. This recipe is a crowd-pleaser with the surprising hint of Orange that comes through.ย 

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One of my favorite breads to use for this recipe is Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, or sourdough bread. ย The slight sourness in the bread works really well with the orange flavor from the orange juice in the egg mixture.ย 

Enjoy!

Happy Fall & Happy Comfort!! ๐Ÿ™‚

Easy-Peasy (& Crowd-Pleasing) Taco Salad!!

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Do you love tacos or taco salad?

WE DO! ๐Ÿ™‚

This is a staple recipe in our house and it was shared by my mother-in-law (and then tweaked by me). We love this and use this taco meat for tacos, taco salads, in burritos, etc. ย BONUS: It’s even better as leftovers!! This is one thing my husband will eat as leftovers (IF there are any leftovers)!!

The recipe couldn’t be easier, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

What You’ll Need for the Meat:

  • 1 lb. 90/10 or leaner ground beef (or you can use ground turkey or meatless substitute)
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilesย 
  • 1 green long hot pepper (very mild), diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or diced finely
  • 1/2-1 cup corn kernels
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium skillet, brown up your meat and season well with salt and pepper. Once browned well, drain any excess fat/liquid.

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Add to meat your diced jalapeno, diced long hot pepper, and garlic. Cook for about a minute. (In these pictures, I used a 1/4 habanero pepper and 1 red jalapeno…both SPICY!!)ย 

Next, add your can of Rotel tomatoes and chiles and stir. Cover and cook on low-heat for about 30 mins, stirring occasionally.

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After 30 minutes, add the corn kernels and cook for just a couple minutes longer…just to warm the corn through.

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For Taco Salad:

Serve with lettuce, chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa, beans, guacamole (really whatever you like in a taco salad).

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For Tacos or Burritos:

Enjoy with your favorite crunchy or soft taco shells and taco toppings, or wrap up in your favorite tortillas with your favorite burrito fillings!

This is a GREAT recipe to use for parties and big groups (just double or triple the recipe) because everyone can make it the way they prefer! Just serve with a large variety of toppings! ย It’s a real crowd-pleaser! ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Easy Painted Striped Curtains

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Happy Post-Labor Day!!

I hope you all had a wonderfully relaxing, or productive weekend. My parents were here visiting us this weekend from PA and they brought us lots of stuff…including two things we cannot get here in MI.

We CANNOT find a good cheesesteak anywhere (it’s all about the roll!) and we also cannot find decent hamburger and hot dog rolls. We prefer Martin’s potato rolls…so here is what they brought us (all freezer-friendly):

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THANKS MOM & DAD!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

So we spent our weekend touring around Eastern MI and relaxing…

You may have spent your weekend, as many people do, fixing up, organizing, cleaning, or doing other household chores!

I actually made these easy curtains a few weeks before Labor Day, but I thought they’d be a good post for today. I got my inspiration here.

What You’ll Need:

  • Curtains (I used 84″ panels that I bought at Target on Sale; I would have made my own, but I don’t own a sewing machine.)
  • Acrylic Paint (I used black and white to make gray)
  • Textile Medium (I found this at Michael’s Craft Stores)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • A yardstick
  • Fabric pencil
  • A small paint roller & tray

Step One:

Lay your curtains out on a flat surface (the floor), measure the curtains to double check the length (mine were about 83″ instead of the advertised 84″), decide on the size of your stripes (mine were just shy of 12″ a stripe).

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Step Two:

I used navy curtains and used a white fabric pencil and yardstick to mark off my stripes. I then took the painter’s tape and taped the OUTSIDE of each stripe that will be painted.

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Step Three:

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After your stripes are taped off, mix your paint and textile medium according to the bottle (I think it’s 2 parts paint to 1 part textile medium). ย Our bedroom colors are gray and navy so I mixed black and white paints until I got the shade I wanted.

(Ignore the DVD rentals in the background AND note my nifty-and FREE-paint tray!) ๐Ÿ™‚

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Step Four:

Paint! Glob it on pretty thick because the fabric will absorb the paint and you may have to go back for a second coat if it’s not thick enough. (I put an old, flattened moving box under my curtains to protect from any bleed-through.)

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Step Five:

After painting all of your stripes, while the paint is still wet, SLOWLY peel the painter’s tape off. ย (** This is when I started to squeal with glee because the lines were so crisp and it was so pretty!!) ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

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Step Six:

Allow to dry COMPLETELY. ย I set mine up with a small fan pointed on it to speed up the process a bit. ย Once the paint is completely dry, use your iron (dry-no steam) and a pressing cloth to iron over the painted stripes. ย This will set the textile medium so that your curtains will be washable!!

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Step Seven:

HANGย those beautiful curtains! ๐Ÿ™‚ ย 

(This took a while because I didn’t want to put big holes in the walls of our rented apartment and I thought I had a BRILLIANT idea…a stroke of GENIUS! I thought I could hang our curtain rod using the 3M Command velcro strips!! Well…sadly…it didn’t work and I ended up having to drill holes in the wall anyway.) ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

(This picture isn’t the best…but you get the idea! They look much better in person!!)

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We LOVE our curtains! We love that the sun peeking through the blinds early every morning doesn’t wake us up anymore and we can sleep in a little on the weekends! I also love that they add a little something to our bedroom with it’s boring white walls.

I Hope you were able to have a productive Labor Day weekend!

Happy Crafting! ๐Ÿ™‚

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