Chinese Restaurant Green Beans

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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These green beans with a sweet garlic ginger Chinese restaurant glaze are always a crowd pleaser, but they’re also great to eat at home, because they’re also terrific reheated!

We have an ongoing debate in my house: what cut of green beans is best?

French style? The skinny whole bean? The squat cut version?

Each member of the family has their own preference. (Skinny whole is mine!)

But no matter who wins the green bean cut debate, we always ALWAYS want green beans to taste like the magical green beans at a Chinese restaurant.

Do you want to know what the secret is to the magical Chinese restaurant beans?

No, really, do you want to know?

SUGAR.

So. much. sugar. (It’s like the owners of these restaurants know the way to our hearts, or something!)

So, I use honey. I try to lighten up my version of the beans at home a little, although it still is pretty sweet. We really don’t need more sugar in our lives!

I try to keep this recipe fairly casual. I taste and taste again until I like the flavor. I find that the flavor can vary greatly depending on the quality of ingredients you buy, especially the soy sauce, the fish sauce and the ginger.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or more, depending on if beans begin to stick to the skillet)
  • 1 lb bag of frozen green beans, any cut
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (approx 4-5 cloves fresh)
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • a dash of fish sauce (This is a magical ingredient! Can be purchased at any Asian grocery store.)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger (Fresh ginger would also be great! I just usually don’t take time to mess with it.)

Instructions:

  1. Pour about a tbsp of olive oil into a large skillet or wok. Warm over a medium heat.
  2. Dump green beans into skillet, and stir occasionally. (If the skillet is hot, this may spit!)
  3. Cover with cookie sheet or lid utnil beans are warmed. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking and encourage even cooking.
  4. When beans are no longer frozen, turn the burner down to medium-low and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine ingredients evenly, and then stir occasionally so that the sauce doesn’t burn.
  5. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Pesto Ricotta Pita Pizzas

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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Personal pita pizzas smothered in a garlic three cheese mixture (ricotta, mozarella, parmesan) and topped with a thin decadent layer of pesto. Such a simple recipe. This personal pizza only takes minutes to assemble and bake. Perfect for a quick meal or even as a snack!

There are days when you just need to partake in something distinctly adult.

(Especially when you are a stay-at-home parent.)

Some people turn to wine. Some people turn to coffee. Some people turn to chocolate.

On this particular day, I chose to make myself a personal pita pizza. (Just look at those pretty little colorful tomatoes from my produce co-op! LOVE!)

These pizzas never fail to amaze me with their simplicity and their elegant flavor.

Plus, pizza = fun. I need more fun in my life, always!

Smothered in pesto and a ricotta-mozzerella-garlic mashup, this pizza is a recipe passed down from my mother to me. On busy days, these are a must make for me.

After my last final of college, I remember coming home to an empty house and quickly making myself one of these. It’s really the ultimate comfort food! Especially when things are feeling rushed or stressful.

It only takes minutes to assemble and uses ingredients that are often already stocked in my fridge. And, if you use foil like me, making this only dirties one bowl.

ONE BOWL. How often are you able to quickly make yourself a warm, cheesy comfort food without leaving a trail of dishes behind??! ALMOST NEVER.

Pop it in the oven until the garlic-y cheese ooze and the pesto glistens. Then enjoy as slowly as life allows!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c Mozzerella
  • 1 tbsp fresh Parmesan (plus additional for topping)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (jarred)
  • 1/2 c fresh Ricotta
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 pitas
  • 2 tsp jarred pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit
  2. Combine first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a fork until combined.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil, and set pitas out on pan.
  4. Using fork, place half of the cheese mixture onto each pita and gently smooth evenly across surface.
  5. Spoon a tsp of pesto onto the middle of each pita. Gently smooth across cheese until there is an even coating.
  6. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  7. Allow a few minutes to cool, add salt/pepper/parmesan as desired, then enjoy!

3 Cookbooks to Save Time in the Kitchen

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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As much as I love to cook, I do have a few cookbooks which remain on the shelf gathering dust.

Here are some of my FAVORITES over the years! I own all of these suggestions, and I am recommending them to you!

Most of these I own a physical copy, but I’ve started buying the Kindle version instead! Why?

  1. With the invention of Pinterest, I am always cooking from my phone or my ipad. Why not keep my cookbooks there too?
  2. It saves space. I have a small kitchen!

The following post uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. This allows I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you!

These cookbooks have saved me tons of time in the kitchen!

  1. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fattening! Over 150 Ridiculously Easy Recipes for the Super Busy (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

Despite the buzzword laden title, this book could be found open on my kitchen counter from the years 2010-2013 (when I had finally memorized our favorite recipes by heart). The Mexi Mac-n-Cheese and the Scoopy Joes are still in rotation. The author, Devin Alexander, is both a nutritionist and a comfort food lover.

What I like:

  • It’s full of recipes for healthy comfort food! What’s not to love??
  • All of the recipes take less than 20 minutes to make, in my experience.
  • Ingredients are simple and commonly sold in most stores.

What I don’t like:

  • Not every recipe is pictured. That always bugs me a little.
  • Occasional use of processed ingredients. I’m fine with this once in a while, but I try to keep it fresh whenever possible.

Another book by her that I own and have used many times (but not as often, personal preference) is The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook (affiliate).

2. Dinner: The Playbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

I know, I keep recommending this book over and over! I reviewed it once already (bonus recipe!) But, as a busy parent, it is WORKING for me. It is the new book that lives on my countertop, and I have loved every recipe so far!

What I like:

  • It’s so strategic and easy to follow!
  • I really appreciate how this book is organized! It contains both quick and easy recipes and more challenging recipes. Each type are contained in their own section, so there’s no getting mixed up!
  • I just appreciate Jenny’s voice. She’s sarcastic yet encouraging, and it’s really keeping this dinnertime thing going on difficult/impossible evenings.

What I don’t like:

  • The pictures. I like that they’re included with every recipe, but they look like polaroids from the early 90’s. They’re not really mouth-watering to me. (I’m really just being super picky here! I genuinely like just about everything in this book.)

Another bonus book by Jenny Rosenstrach is Dinner: A Love Story (affiliate). This book is also working well for me right now, and it has a special place in my heart, but it’s just not getting used as often. I think it’s because of the way it is organized. The Gameplan is much more “down to business.”

3. The Southern Pantry Cookbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

This is another book that I use often (and reviewed here). This cookbook very much inspired my own FOREVER Grocery List, as it sticks to a pantry list of ingredients.

What I like:

  1. It has both simple, delicious dinner recipes AND special holiday recipes. I already know that I will be pulling it out around Christmas to make the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars for my family!
  2. The southern-style recipes are introducing my family to some new flavors and styles of food! I love when cookbooks inspire you to try new things!
  3. It reminds me of my grandma’s cooking.

What I don’t like:

  1. Not all the recipes are quick and easy. In fact, some take quite a bit of time.
  2. Many of the recipes are very much “stick to your ribs” style food. Definitely not diet friendly and intended to be enjoyed in moderation!

What did I miss?

Do you have a favorite time-saving cookbook that isn’t mentioned here? Mention it in the comments below!

When You Are Stuck In A Dinner Rut (Cookbook Review and BONUS Recipe!)

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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I have been stuck in a dinner rut recently.

It’s been bad.

Like, frozen pizza bad. (Which is soooo not my style.)


It didn’t help that the weather in Kansas went from warm pleasant spring to WINTER. Snow, ice, the whole tamale. Again. It was so hard to get motivated to cook new recipes when all I wanted was familiar comfort.

Then, when a warm, rainy spring day finally returned, I still reached for a familiar favorite: Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad. I wanted to enjoy the lighter flavors that come with warmer weather but wasn’t willing to stretch far from my comfy regime.

I had just finished the recipe, but a TORNADO WARNING popped up unexpectedly.

If you’re not familiar, a tornado warning means go to your basement now because there’s literally a tornado swirling around in the sky and heading your direction. In this situation, if we have time, I head to my parent’s basement, about a mile away, because our current house is built on a slab foundation.

(If we don’t have time, two different neighbors with basements in our cul-de-sac have offered to shelter us. Or, we could get into an interior closet. We have lots of options.)

Anyway, to recap, I had just finished cooking a favorite recipe on a rainy spring day when I got word that a tornado had been spotted one town away and was heading my direction.

I grabbed the diaper bag, threw on shoes, and headed to the car while my husband strapped our son into his car seat. But then I had an idea. Why not bring dinner? I had made more than enough to share, and it was just sitting there completely ready in the pot getting cold.

So I hopped back inside toward the kitchen, but my feet were now wet. As soon as I touched the kitchen tile, whoop!

I fell.

Now, I’m lying on the floor. My first thought: oooouuuccch, I think I sprained my ankle. My second thought: thank God nobody saw me do that. My third thought: I am so glad I wasn’t holding dinner while I fell, because I’m still looking forward to eating that!

I grab dinner and hobble out the door as fast as I could (because remember, TORNADO!).

But, yeah, I totally sprained my ankle. A couple of days of ice followed by a doctor’s appointment, x-rays and the following instructions: rest, wear this little brace, and “no sports.”

So, aside from one memorable meal, the dinner rut continued.

THIS BOOK SAVED ME FROM MY DINNER RUT! (Affiliate link)

I had requested it at my local library weeks ago, and while I was laid up with hurt ankle and hurt pride. It was so inspiring! As soon as I was feeling up to going on a grocery run, I wrote out a meal plan, including three new-to-us recipes, and went shopping! 

And this recipe, Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Paprika, is an instant hit with my family. It’s going into my permanent rotation!

It reminded me of another favorite recipe of mine: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta from CookingLight. But, as much as I LOVE that recipe, I never have enough time to make it on a week night. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Ingredients

  • 3 c chopped butternut squash (use frozen to save time!)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (again, use frozen to save time, if you want!)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (or leaves from 4 or 5 fresh thyme springs)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 lb any pasta
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • fresh ricotta for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. in a baking dish lined with foil, toss together squash, onions, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and browning around the edges.
  3. While the squash is in the oven, prepare the pasta per package directions, reserving 1/4 c of pasta water before draining.
  4. Return the drained pasta to the pot and toss with the squash.
  5. Add the Parmesan with half of the reserved pasta water to thin and evenly distribute the cheese. (Note: I have to admit, I was a doubter on this step. A sauce made with starchy water and cheese? Noooope. BUT, I stuck with it, and it turns out just fine in the end!!)
  6. Serve immediately, topped with ricotta and more Parmesan.



Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It’s my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cookies were one of the first things I was allowed to bake in the kitchen all on my own. 

(My mother was just reminiscing the other day about a batch of cookies some friends and I made in late elementary school. The amounts of sugar and salt called for in the recipe were switched.)

I imagine that for some people baking cookies is a way to express love, and maybe I am like that. Often I select a cookie recipe because I have a specific person in mind who I think would enjoy it.

But the act off baking is for me. Baking cookies is how I  mark special days on the calendar and prepare for holidays.  A little ritual to embrace whatever needs celebrating in life and make thh day a little bit sweeter.

It doesn’t really feel like a special day until the house smells like vanilla, sugar, and butter, does it?


I push the resulting cookies into the hands of the people I love, but the act of baking is mostly selfish becasuse I lose myself in it.

I just love that smell. Once I take off my rings and get over the initial ick factor, digging my hands into dough to form balls makes me feel more youthful and alive. I relax into the rhythm of spacing rolls of dough and trading out for the cookie sheet as soon as the timer goes off. 

Somewhere between the nerdy science of baking and the creative outlet of flavor is my happy place.

But, as much as I appreciate all the little joys found in baking cookies, I hold them in moderation. They are reserved for special days and holidays. There is too much of a good thing.

While often I bake certain cookie dough recipes with other people in mind, these cookies are all about me. Sweet and salty combos are my favorite!  I do share, of course, but the act of baking and the final product is all Brohgan. Thankfully, other people are willing to enjoy the things I like with me!

I first tried a chocolate, toffee, pretzel cookie at a favorite deli lunch counter located on my town’s main downtown street. I sniffed out these cookies through their plastic packaging before I saw them! I ate the cookie before my meal (of course!), and I was already googling chocolate toffee pretzel cookie recipes on my phone before I finished my lunch.
I found the PERFECT recipe! It tasted exactly like the cookies from the deli. As a fan of sweet and salty snacks, it quickly became my favorite cookie recipe. I even looked it up online before a Christmas cookie exchange this last December and took honorable mention in a contest out of about 40 cookies!

BUT THE RECIPE DISAPPEARED! It was nowhere to be found on their internet! The blog that originally published it allowed the url to expire, and extensive searching led nowhere.

I had no choice to recreate the recipe, and I am so excited to share it with you!

Lesson learned: if you like a recipe on the internet enough to make it more than once, write it down!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 (8-oz.) package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Baking Bits (or substitute 2 full sized toffee chocolate full size candy bars, crushed)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
  • Parchment paper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate chips, heath bar pieces, and crushed pretzel sticks just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment Dpaper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. After taking the pan out of the oven, immediately move cookies to wire racks to cool.

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It's my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cold Brew Coffee

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.

Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer’s day?
(…except it’s February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

But how thou rough grounds in cold water doth create terrific cold brew,
which I enjoy very most after the rough winds of May have blown through.

(Uh I think I just heard Shakespeare roll over in his grave. Sorry, Billy.)

As a warm chinook blew through Kansas at the end of January and melted all the snow, I started dreaming of mornings on the back porch (I don’t have a back porch) with my feet up (with a one year old, ha) and with a glass of smooth homemade cold brew coffee in my hand (I didn’t know how to make cold brew).

So I thought I would maybe try to bring about this dream in the one area I have control over, and thus began my journey to achieve the perfect glass of cold brew coffee. In February.

I have spent a lot of money on cold coffee over the years, for better and for worse.  My problem is that I’m a bit of a coffee snob.

I have always been a picky coffee drinker.  I like it very strong and fresh and prefer it to be made with filtered water instead of our hard mineral water in Kansas. And with my face hidden, I admit that I don’t drink coffee at our local beloved roastery because I think that the flavor is inconsistent, and it bothers me.

New York City is one of my favorite places in the world to wander, but I have to tell you that I had nothing but horrible iced coffee on my last summertime trip there.  I dragged my family into every deli advertising iced coffee just to spend $2 on yet another stale, extremely bitter slosh that I inevitably tossed after just a couple of sips. I eventually came to realize that what I was buying was probably yesterday’s unused coffee poured over ice. Ew.

I do like Starbucks iced coffee. I have a friend who is a professional barista at Starbucks, and I asked her about why the Starbucks iced coffee is so yummy. The reasons? First, it only has a shelf life of 12 hours. If it sits any longer than that, they toss it. Second, Starbucks brews the iced coffee double strength to account for the ice melting.

But this post isn’t about iced coffee.  It’s about cold brew.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well, essentially, just the temperature it is brewed at and the length of time it takes to make.

Iced coffee is brewed hot, normally in a drip coffee maker, and it’s much more acidic but can also have a fuller body taste due to the hot brew processes. Cold brew coffee is never hot. Instead, the cold brew process allows the water and coffee grounds to come together over time (12 hours or so) in a cold refrigerator, which results in a much more caffeinated and sweeter coffee with notes of dark chocolate.

 

And now that I’ve successfully made it myself, I am OBSESSED with cold brew. I can’t believe how easy it was!

I will admit, I was completely intimidated by the process at first! I remember when the Pioneer Woman wrote about Perfect Iced Coffee back in 2011. I loved the idea, but I took one look at her gigantic 12 quart container and her cheese cloth filtering system, and I thought NOOOPE. Way too hard. I’ll just drop grab one on my way to work.

That was years ago! Think about all the times I was seriously craving awesome homemade cold brew coffee just to be at the mercy of all those cups of yesterday’s slush over ice. I could have easily made it for myself this entire time!

Alas, it was reading this account of drinking horrible iced coffee in NYC on Jamie Oliver’s site, in his charming accent of course, that finally made me brave enough to give at-home cold brew a chance. I completely identified with that story!

I pulled out a trusty mason jar, my mesh strainer, and a regular coffee filter. I bought the cheapest coffee in the store. I actually just used water from the tap.

And the results were AMAZING. I was so pleased! The cravings of this coffee snob were completely satisfied!

I do have to admit, that this coffee didn’t store well.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED it when it was fresh the first day, but when I tried a sip on the second day it was drinkable but stale. I think that making this in small batches for the next day is best.

INGREDIENTS
-Coffee, coursely ground
-Water
-Cream or sugar, optional to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add coffee to the bottom of a mason jar(or other tightly sealing container) and cover in warm water in a 1:4 ratio. For instance, 2 oz coffee per 8 oz water, 4 oz coffee per 16 oz water, and 8 oz coffee per 32 oz water. (I prefer my coffee very strong. You can adjust this ratio to your tastes. In his post, Jamie Oliver recommends a 1:8 ratio.) TIP: measurements are printed on the side of the mason jar!
  2. Stir contents of the jar to ensure that they are well mixed. Or, shake it up!
  3. Place in refrigerator for between 12 and 24 hours to allow it to brew.
  4. Once brewed, strain using a mesh strainer lined with a basket shaped coffee filter. (This process takes a few minutes, almost as long as brewing hot coffee.)
  5. Drink over ice black or with cream or sugar.

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.  Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer's day? (...except it's February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?) Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

3 Things That Are Not In My Grocery Cart

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It’s been a few days since I released the FOREVER Grocery List.  Have you had a chance to check it out yet?

Take one look at that list, and I think you will realize that I’m WEIRD when it comes to grocery shopping.  It’s true, and I admit it. I’m very fine with my own weirdness in this area.

I graduated from college in the height of the recession. After turning in about 200 job applications, a family connection landed me a job as a cashier at a grocery store.

I’m picky about what I buy, because I’ve seen what people buy.

I really don’t care if you make a million dollars a year or if you have to dump a jar of pennies on the counter to pay, BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT.  It’s the only way to get ahead and make your money work for you. I don’t throw away money at the store; instead, I try to go in with a plan and stick to it.  I’m a careful shopper, and I make sure that every dollar I spend is on nutrient-rich foods that give me my bang for my buck.

That being said, I don’t always buy the cheapest or easiest option.  We are all voting with our dollars, and there are some highly unethical practices that appear on grocery store shelves today.

The biggest issue has recently been cleaned up, but only just this year: we were purchasing goods made by slaves in other countries.  That just baffles my mind! Another: we have been purchasing items where the farmer/rancher in another country was not fairly compensated or in an unsafe environment. So many items are available through fair trade certified route: alchohol, beans, grains, chocolate, coffee, fruits and veggies, spices, honey, nuts, sugar, tea. The products that are not fair trade certified are probably corrupt.

The last issue I am going to bring up: the average food travels 1500 miles before it lands on our plate, and that’s just not ok. It’s contributing to environmental issues and global warming, and consumers have no idea what they’re actually putting into their bodies. I buy from local farmers and ranchers whenever possible. And know what? The quality is AMAZING! Gotta love life in Kansas!

So here are a few things that are typically not in my shopping cart.

Here’s a disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist.  I took one class in college, and I read, but I don’t know your specific circumstances, and I’m not at all qualified to give you nutritional advice. If you have questions at all, I would advise that you speak to a medical professional.

Here are 3 things that are not in my grocery cart:

1. Snacks!

No chips, no crackers, no cookies. Or at least, very sparingly.

Why?

(1) These foods are typically high in sodium. Did you know that 90% of Americans are eating WAY TOO MUCH and it’s probably killing us? These foods are also high in calories and low in actual nutritional value.

(2) These foods are EXPENSIVE.  You can easily spend $20 or more and with 30 minutes of mindless eating, it’s all suddenly gone. And you’re hungry again an hour later.

2. Foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.

I have a fear of high-fructose corn syrup (and yes, it’s different than the corn syrup you can buy in the baking aisle, btw).

While the rest of America is fretting over our new clown epidemic, the thought of high-fructose corn syrup hiding out in my kitchen cabinet watching me has my knees knocking.

It’s in our juice, our soda, our breakfast cereal, our yogurt, our salad dressings, our bread, our candy, our energy snacks, our tomato sauces including ketchup, our peanut butter.

Basically, our society is consuming toxic levels of this stuff, but it’s not allowed in my house.

3. Meat.

Here’s a famous, old headline for you: the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain that livestock eat.  But, it’s true.  It’s much more efficient to eat plants than the animals who eat plants.

I’m picky about meat.  I don’t eat chicken that is injected with saline (paying $1.50/package for salt water, btw).  I don’t eat beef that wasn’t grass fed.

I actually barely eat meat at all!

Bonus: Yogurt.

Ok, this is a bonus, because I haven’t actually made my own yogurt before, but I plan to very soon!

Did you know that you can make yogurt?  Apparently it’s easy, but I haven’t tried yet!

non-chef-1

The FOREVER Grocery List!

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I have hinted that I was planning a FOREVER Grocery List. A lot.

Sign up by clicking HERE or on the photo below!

non-chef

I get it, you’re busy. I can help. Here’s how: the Non-Chef Blog is committing to making delicious meals from a standard list of common ingredients that can easily be stockpiled in a pantry.  

A well-stocked pantry is the first step to simplifying your meal prep.  So, I created a Forever list!

WHY THIS LIST?

  • Free yourself by eliminating the foods from your diet that leave you feeling badly!
  • It’s easier on your budget by allowing you to stockpile the items you use while they are on sale.
  • Save time shopping by limiting yourself to easy to find ingredients.
  • MOST OF ALL, save time on planning meals and cooking because you will already have everything you need in your pantry!

You will already have EVERYTHING you need in your pantry!

 

BUT… WHAT ABOUT SNACKING???

If you’re first thought was about snacks, you’re not alone. Snacking was the first thing my husband and I struggled with when we started playing around with this idea. It takes some adjusting, but we’ve discovered some amazing benefits.

  1. Limiting snacking saves money.
  2. We have lost excess weight and feel healthier!

Turns out prepackaged cookies, crackers, fruit snacks, candy, and all the other mindless snacks are not only empty calories, they’re entirely unnecessary! Instead, here are a list of snacks included on this list that are always on hand:

  • Apples
  • Baby carrots
  • Bananas
  • Bell peppers (green and red)
  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Celery
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate chips

WILL I GET BORED?

Not at all! The possibilities are endless!  I’ve been sticking to this list for a couple of months now, and I haven’t gotten bored yet! By stocking your kitchen with this list, ALL of the Non-Chef recipes are already hiding in your Forever pantry including:

Do you actually keep ALL of these ingredients on hand all the time?

No way, Jose! We’re always out of SOMETHING. And, we actually don’t each much meat, so I only stockpile if I land a major sale. I do try to keep the ingredients we use most often stocked: rice, beans, cereal, milk, bread, frozen fruit/veggies, peanut butter, spices. Adjust the list to make it work in your kitchen!

Sign up to receive your Non-Chef Forever Grocery List today!

Cookbook Review: Southern Pantry Cookbook

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

This review of The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen by Jennifer Chandler includes a FREEBIE RECIPE for Weeknight Red Beans and Rice! Don’t miss out!

I didn’t intend to buy this book. I was bored and flipping through cookbooks looking at the food photography was a way to pass the time while my husband shopped.

Now, I don’t impulse buy things.  I’m a thrifty person, and I normally think long and hard before I make a cookbook purchase. I read amazon reviews. I check my local library.  My cookbook shelf is reserved for a very select few permanent figures.

I bought this book upon first glance, and I’ve had ZERO regrets.

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This book has nestled in comfortably among its peers on the shelf, but it hasn’t stayed on the shelf for very long! It’s extremely useful.

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!

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I have fallen in love with the idea of using existing pantry ingredients creatively.  I was already compiling the Non-Chef FOREVER Grocery List before this book–which will be ready early next week! Yay!

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Weeknight Red Beans and Rice

(Or, like this photo, black beans and rice, because that’s what I had on hand.)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb Andouille smoked sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinced and drained
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 4 cups brown rice

Instructions

0. If you would rather use dried beans, put beans in water to the brim in a crockpot on low in the morning and allow beans to soak in water for 8 hours. While preparing dinner, rinse with water before adding .

1. Start cooking the rice per package instructions.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, warm oil. Add the sausage, onion, green pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in oregano, thyme, and bay leaf (or, if you were out of oregano and thyme like I was, substituting a tsp of Italian Seasoning mix was still absolutely yummy). Salt and pepper to taste, and add beans and stock.

4. Bring pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow flavors to meld for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Discard the bay leaf, and serve beans over rice.

TIP: If you are watching your carb intake, I have read that you can substitute black soy beans, which have a lower carb and higher protein trade-off.  Also, give cauliflower rice a try! 🙂

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Cookbook Review: Breakfast for Dinner

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

This week’s cookbook review is over Breakfast for Dinner: Recipes for Frittata Florentine, Huevos Rancheros, Sunny-Side-Up Burgers, and More! with a recipe for Huevos Rancheros Tacos!

I love breakfast so much! It’s what I ask for on my birthday, and it’s something I look forward to on Christmas. If, for some reason, I was allowed endless ingredients for only one food category on a dessert island, it would be breakfast foods.

I am no stranger to eating breakfast for dinner. I have cracked an egg over a pizza before.  I keep pancake mix in the cabinet primarily for when I need a quick weeknight meal or a late night snack for a crowd. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to savory waffles (a secret board, of course, because it’s getting embarrassingly obsessive).

I took one look at the huavos rancheros tacos recipe, and immediately added it to the meal plan this week. (It doesn't hurt that my fridge was filled with eggs I found on sale for about 60 cents/dozen either.) These tacos were MESSY but in such a good way! If you’re not a fan of runny egg yoke, my husband, Adam, made some awesome cheddar garlic scrambled eggs to fill the rest of our tacos.

When you’re not morning people, breakfast doesn’t often happen before 10 am or so. After 6 pm is even better!

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I am LOVING this book! Lindsey Landis and Taylor Hackbarth came up with some very creative breakfast food spins.  Cornflake-crusted chicken tenders, mini pesto quiches, lemon poppy seed thumbprint cookies, dessert pancakes. I didn’t have time to make everything I wanted to this week!

I always appreciate a cookbook that has a full page picture of every recipe, too.

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I took one look at the huavos rancheros tacos recipe, and immediately added it to the meal plan this week. (It doesn’t hurt that my fridge was filled with eggs I found on sale for about 60 cents/dozen either.)

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Seriously, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, where have you been all my life? That little can of peppers is the real hero in the ranchero sauce!

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These tacos were MESSY but in such a good way! If you’re not a fan of runny egg yoke, my husband, Adam, made some awesome cheddar garlic scrambled eggs to fill the rest of our tacos. I’ve included the recipe below!

Ingredients

Ranchero Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 largejalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (15 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce + 1/2 tbsp sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Tacos:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of refried beans
  • 8 soft corn tortillas
  • 8 large eggs

Cheddar Garlic Scrambled Eggs:

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 c cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan, add onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat until beginning to soften. Stir in tomatoes with their juices, chipotle, adobo sauce, and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the sauce simmers, heat refried beans per package instructions, either on stovetop or in microwave.
  3. Use olive oil to grease a skillet or a griddle. Arrange a single layer of 3-4 corn tortillas and crisp over a medium heat 1-2 minutes on each side, or until the edges are browning.
  4. After sauce has simmered, blend in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Cook the eggs last.  Sunny side up can be made four at a time in a covered skillet over a medium-high heat for 4 minutes (5 for firmer yokes).  Scrambled eggs can be made all at once: crack eggs into skillet over medium-high heat, add milk, and stir constantly. Add cheese and garlic when eggs are almost firm.
  6. Spread beans on the tortillas and top with eggs and ranchero sauce. Enjoy!

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