Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Black Bean and Kale Soup

It’s May and thus it is supposed to be Summer-like weather, right? Well, in Minnesota, it seems like that kind of weather is taking its sweet time getting here. I normally wouldn’t imagine making soup for dinner at the end of May but on this cool, rainy day it just hit the spot.

I originally wanted to make my Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup but didn’t have any white beans. I only had black beans. So, things got inventive in the kitchen and this is what I came up with. It was warm, delicious, and filling.

Tip: I used Aidells Manchego Cheese with Fire Roasted Onions Smoked Chicken Sausage (Phew… what a mouthful!). It has a nice smoky adobo pepper taste to it that went really well with the soup. If you can get it, I would recommend it; mine came from Costco. It is nitrate free with no hormones or antibiotics in the chicken, so a relatively natural option.


Black Bean and Kale Soup

1 lb. spicy chicken sausage, sliced (see tip above)
5 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. chili powder
1 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
3-4 c. greens, chopped (I used a combination of kale, spinach, and swiss chard)
6 c. chicken broth
1-2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or coconut oil

Optional toppings: avocado, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream (or use plain greek yogurt in its place – you can’t tell the difference!)


In a large pot, heat oil. Add onion and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onions are tender. Add the garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds before adding the chicken sausage. Cook for another 5 minutes or until everything is hot and aromatic. Stir in the greens and cook until just starting to wilt. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the entire mixture to a boil. REduce heat and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot with optional toppings.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco Packets

First of all, I just have to share my excitement at the birthday present I got this week – new stainless steel cookware!  I feel like a real chef now!  🙂 Aren’t they pretty!!!  I do realize I will have to do a bit of retraining as I was using non-stick before but I am up for it.  Not only are they great for cooking with, they are toxin free – nothing getting into my food from the non-stick coatings of my previous set!  Yay! image

Now, onto tonight’s dinner which was a complete winner (and I think it was because I got to use my new pans!). Just kidding… but truly, this meal was amazing!  I have been trying to use up the meat in our deep freeze because we are planning on buying a 1/4 of a grass-fed cow and will need the space.  I also didn’t have time to grocery shop this past weekend so have been just cooking from what is available in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.  With that being said, I am glad that I had on hand what I did because this dinner was a 10!!!

And, Wilford clan, you will get to try this as I plan on doing this for our meal over the 4th of July at the cabin.  It was so easy to make that I know I can easily do it for our group of 8 adults and 3 kids.  Although I cooked this recipe inside (due to our lovely unpredictable MN weather), I think it all could easily be grilled too!


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco Packets

1 lb. beef sirloin
1/4 c. lemon juice or lime juice (I used lemon simply because I was out of lime but either would be tasty)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1 can tomato sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Seasoning for foil packets: oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper (*see note below re: amounts)

2 Tbsp. grape seed oil or coconut oil
taco shells (I found some G/F ones made with organic corn at Trader Joe’s)
shredded sharp cheddar

Optional: tomatoes, guacamole, avocado, salsa

*Seasonings Note: I didn’t actually measure the amounts of seasoning I put in the foil packets… just did a few shakes of each.  However, if you are someone who needs measurements, I would recommend using your favorite taco seasoning and just put about a 1-2 teaspoons of it in each packet.


In a large zipper bag, combine olive oil, juice, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt/pepper. Mix together and add sirloin. Marinate for at least 4 hours – the longer you marinate, the more tender the steak will be. Cut into bite-sized pieces. (If grilling, see “Food for Thought” before cutting up.)

Set out 6 squares of tin foil. In each square, add 1/6 of the sweet potato, spinach, tomato sauce, and black beans. Add a pat of butter and seasonings. Seal the packets (see below) and place in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Add sirloin pieces and cook in medium high heat for 2-4 minutes or until desired done-ness.

Carefully open foil packets. Layer each taco shell with meat, shredded cheese, and sweet potato fillings. Add any other optional toppings you wish to add and enjoy!

Husband Rating: 10 out of 10

Food for thought: If you are grilling this meal, I would recommend leaving the steaks whole and grilling to your desired done-ness and slicing afterwards.  Just make sure you let them sit for a few minutes after you remove them from the grill to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.  The foil packets should take a similar amount of time on a grill at a medium-high heat.

I also think that if you are looking for a good meatless meal option, simply have just the foil packets on tacos and leave out the steak.  It definitely could stand on its own and be a great meal!

Quinoa Chickpea Salad

One of my favorite summer recipes is the Chickpea and Bulgar Salad. But, now I can no longer enjoy bulger due to my gluten intolerance. So, a revamp of that recipe was in order. The dressing is still the same but I mixed up the ingredients and came up with a combination that is delightful and easily as delicious as the original recipe. I ate it as my lunch today but it could also serve well as a side dish.



Quinoa Chickpea Salad

1 c. tri-color quinoa
2 c. vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
1/2 c. cucumber slices
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, dry-packed and soaked to rehydrate
1/4 c. sliced kalamata olives
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 red onion, finely diced

1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. olive oil


In a small sauce pan, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and then add to boiling broth. Cover and reduce heat, simmering for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine remaining salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss dressing with salad ingredients. Enjoy! (This salad tastes even better the second or third day if you have leftovers that last that long! Just give it a quick stir to redistribute any dressing that may have settled to the bottom.)

Almond Flour Waffles

I have had this recipe recommended to me by several people as THE g/f waffle recipe to try. Because it’s my birthday today, I decided to make them for the boys and me for breakfast today. They are SOOOOO good! I enjoyed mine with a little butter and some fresh blackberries and sliced strawberries and the boys had them, of course, with pure maple syrup (their fav.)! I am glad we made a double batch as we ate a ton and yet I still have a few to stick in the freezer for another day. I cut back the amount of honey from the original recipe and added some cinnamon for flavor. Delish!


Almond Flour Waffles

Recipe adapted from

1 c. almond meal
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine almond meal, salt, soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry.

Heat waffle maker. (Ours has a 1-5 temperature setting. I cooked these at a 3 but think I would do them at a 2 next time as they were a little darker than I would like.) Pour about 1 c. batter into waffle maker. Cook until done!

Enjoy with pure maple syrup or fresh fruit and butter.

Eggplant Marinara

Spaghetti is a staple to what we eat on a regular basis. But, I like to create variety within that framework. Tonight I wanted a sauce that really packed a veggie punch! Enter the eggplant, zucchini, and spinach! I have been looking for something new to try with the boys and they have never had eggplant.  One of them was willing to eat it… the other did not.  Can’t win them all!  I served the boys sauce on some brown rice pasta and ate mine on some baked spaghetti squash. I thought it was very good either way!


Eggplant Marinara

1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small zucchini, finely diced
2 c. spinach, chopped
1 jar organic tomato basil marinara (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
1 pk. sun dried tomato and basil chicken sausage, casing removed (Again, got it at Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add eggplant cubes, dried oregano, dried basil, and salt/pepper. Saute eggplant until it starts to turn golden on all sides (about 7-9 minutes). Remove from the pan.

Cook chicken sausage in same pan until no longer pink. Add spinach and zucchini and cook until the spinach wilts. Add the tomato sauce, basil, and eggplant into the sauce. Simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes or until hot through.

Serve on pasta or spaghetti squash.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10

Taco Bake

So, today I am officially done with my sugar detox.  It went better than I thought and I am surprised at how even though I am “free” to eat whatever I choose, I don’t really find myself seeking sugar-containing foods.  I did have grapes today in my chicken salad and a few crackers on the side. I loved having a bit of fruit but really, the crackers were just filler… I didn’t need them and almost wished I hadn’t had them.  I really think I need to take reintroducing “sugar” foods into my diet slowly.  Perhaps stick with just fruit for a while, and even that at a moderate pace.

So, this dinner is also a sugar-free meal.  It was satisfying – at least three of our four ate it and relatively easy to toss together.  There is a great variety of veggies in it, which I like as well.  And, it is one of those meals that you could really add just about any veggies from your fridge that needed using up.  I served it with a side of fresh guacamole.


Taco Bake

Recipe adapted from

1 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 zucchini, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 c. cauliflower rice (directions for cauliflower rice here)
1/2 each red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, finely diced
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cumin
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
salt/pepper to taste
2 c. diced tomato
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 Tbsp. coconut oil


In a large skillet, melt coconut oil.  Add turkey and break up.  Once turkey is cooked about halfway though, add onion and bell peppers.  Continue cooking until the turkey is completely cooked through. Add zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, and seasonings.  Continue to cook until carrots begin to turn tender.

Remove from heat and spread in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Top turkey mixture with diced tomatoes and add cheddar cheese to the top of that.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Husband Rating: 7 out of 10

Food for thought: I think another tasty addition to this meal would be olives or red onion.  It would also probably be a tasty combination to serve as filling for tacos, rather than a stand alone dish.

I also think this has potential to be a freezer dish – simply assemble and freeze prior to baking.  You could easily make a double batch and then split it into two pans before baking.  For our family, one and a half batches would suffice to make two meals, based on the leftovers we had.

Mayo-Free Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad is a great, easy meal. I like it for picnics or lunches on the go. I also like that you can toss many ingredients into it depending on what you like or even what you have around your house! I kept this recipe fairly basic but also do other variations using things like celery, red onions, other nuts, small diced apples, etc. Enjoy!


Mayo-Free Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. red curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
sea salt/pepper to taste
1 1/2 c. red grapes, halved
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Combine Greek yogurt and seasonings. Pour over the chicken, grapes, and walnuts. Enjoy plain, with g/f crackers, or as a wrap.

Garlicky Grilled Veggies

I love being able to toss everything from dinner onto the grill – means minimal clean-up in the kitchen!  I needed to branch out a little from the usual peppers, zucchini, red onions, etc…  So, tonight I tried something different.  And, I think that it turned out great!  The veggies were perfectly cooked and with a good flavor.  It’s even better when they get a little charred on the bottom as well!  Yummy!


Garlicky Grilled Veggies

Recipe adapted from

1 head cauliflower
1 bunch broccoli
1 medium tomato
2 Tbsp butter (melted) or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt/pepper to taste

Chop the cauliflower and broccoli into bite-sized florets.  Dice the tomato.  Combine the veggies with the butter/olive oil, garlic, and seasoning.  Wrap in a tin foil packet.  Place on a hot grill, and cook for about 20 minutes flipping once in the middle.  Enjoy!

Grilled Lime Chicken with Fresh Guacamole

Finally it seems like the warmer weather will stick around.  And so, I feel the need to get grilling again!  Forget all this baking and roasting nonsense… let’s get outside!  I thought this recipe seemed fresh and summery.  We had it with some grilled broccoli and a side salad. I love summer cooking!

P.S. I forgot to take a picture of my meal tonight… but I am sure we will be having this again so I will add the photo in later. 🙂

Chicken Marinade

1 c. lime juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
salt/pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts

Combine first six ingredients and mix well. Place chicken breasts in a shallow bowl and pour marinade over the top. Marinate for at least 3 hours (up to 48 hours). Heat grill to medium heat. Cook chicken about 5-6 minutes per side or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Enjoy!


2-3 ripe avocados
1-2 small tomatoes
splash lime juice
splash olive oil
splash red wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste
optional: jalapeno, seeded and minced

Remove the pit (and save) the pit from the avocadoes. Mash in a bowl. Add tomatoes, lime juice, olive oil, and salt/pepper. Replace pits into the guacamole until just before serving to help preserve the green color.

Husband Rating: 8 out of 10

Food for Thought: This would be an easy marinade to make ahead of time.  Combine all the ingredients (including the chicken) and toss in a freezer bag.  Just thaw and cook as directed!

This would also be delicious shredded up and eaten as part of a taco or taco salad.  The flavor was versatile and not spicy, which was good for my kids!

Grain-Free/Low-Sugar Banana Bread

My friend, Angie, sent me this recipe for banana bread.  I finally got around to making it and it was SOOOOO delicious.  It was super simple and very low in sugar – the only sugar in the bread comes from the bananas themselves.  If you use green-tip bananas (slightly under ripe), it is even better – less sugar.  One tip I have found for using under ripe bananas and being able to mash them more easily is to freeze them first.  Then, when they thaw they typically are easier to mash.  The boys all loved this bread and I am happy to give it to them knowing how good it is for them!


Grain-Free/Low-Sugar Banana Bread

Recipe adapted from

4 green (or under ripe) bananas,  mashed
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup coconut flour
1 heaping tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Lightly grease a loaf pan (preferably using coconut oil).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Food for Thought: Easy add-ins for this recipe would be chopped nuts or dark chocolate chips.  I also think it would be interesting to use this as a base recipe for other fast breads, perhaps substituting pumpkin or applesauce in place of the mashed bananas.  It was about 1 1/2  to 2 cups of bananas when mashed.  Just a thought I had…  If you try it, let me know!  I will report back as well after trying a few options…

Another tip, since I haven’t mentioned it in a long time, is how to make it also egg-free if you need to.  An easy 1:1 substitute for an egg is to combine 3 Tbsp. warm water with 1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal.  Set aside allowing the flaxseed meal to absorb the water and then add to the rest of the ingredients.  I have, many times, completely taken out all eggs from a recipe like this and used the substitute with no noticeable difference.

Also, as always, treats like this can easily be made in larger batches so that you have a loaf or two of banana bread to freeze for future use.  I always figure, if I am going to dirty the kitchen to bake, might as well make it in bulk!  🙂

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