Cooking Day

Slow Cooker Black Beans Recipe

by Katie on October 28, 2015


I have a serious fondness for black beans.  I love pairing them with chicken, using them in chili, and have even been known to use them to make healthier brownies.  That being said, we go through a fair number of canned beans each month, which can get a bit pricey after awhile.  So, I decided to try a more budget-friendly recipe for black beans.

I’ve tweaked the recipe a few times, and now I not only love the recipe for being economical, but I also love the taste of the slow-cooker beans so much more than canned beans (okay…I guess that makes me sound like a bit of black bean snob!).  The recipe is super easy, and it’s nice to have a supply of beans ready at my fingertips in the fridge and freezer.

Slower Cooker Black Beans

2 lbs. black beans
7 cups water
1 large onion, halved or quartered
4-5 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt

Sort through beans to removed shriveled or broken beans.  Place beans in slow cooker, cover completely with water, and place the lid on the slow cooker.  Let beans sit in water overnight (I typically do this right before I go to bed at night).

In the morning, rinse the beans using a large colander, and rinse any residue from the slow cooker.  Place the beans back into the slow cooker and cover with 7 cups of water.  Add onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and salt.

As the beans are cooking, be sure that the water continues to cover the beans so they don’t burn.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  After 4 hours, check to see if the beans are done.  Spooning out a few, blow on them gently to see if the skins peel back.  If they do, and they’re soft and tender, they’re done.

Remove the onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.  Either use the beans immediately or store them in large ziploc bags or plastic storage containers once they’ve cooled.  I typically store the beans in the refrigerator for up to a week, and in the freezer for 3 months.

By the way, these beans are delicious in this turkey chili recipe!

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Good, Healthy, & Cheap: Turkey Spaghetti

by Katie on August 19, 2015

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before or not, but I love spaghetti.  In fact, about five years ago, I may or may not have driven my family to boycotting spaghetti due to making it so often….ahem!  That being said, after a spaghetti sabbatical and a little coaxing, I’ve reintroduced spaghetti into our family’s meal rotation.

I’ve tweaked my traditional recipe to utilize ground turkey instead of ground beef, which definitely ups its nutritional value.  As an added bonus, this recipe originated from my dad, bringing back fond memories every time I make it :)!  And although we don’t typically use whole grain noodles (my kids really hate them!), they are obviously a healthier choice compared to regular pasta.

This dish pairs nicely with a spinach salad and fresh fruit.

Turkey Spaghetti

2 lbs. ground turkey
1 large jar Prego pasta sauce ( I either use meat or mushroom)
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons basil
1/4 cup low fat Parmesan cheese

Brown the ground turkey.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.  Serve over noodles with a fresh salad and fruit.

And the cost breakdown?

ground turkey – $1.79 each at Meijer (total cost of $3.58)
pasta sauce – $3.05 at Meijer
oregano – $0.10 at Aldi
basil – $0.10 at Aldi
Parmesan cheese – $0.40 at Meijer
pasta – $1 at Meijer

The total cost for this dish is $8.23, and it serves 8 people – so just $1.03 per serving.

Are you looking for good, healthy, and cheap meals?  You can find more recipes from this series here.

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Summertime is a great time to grill, and burgers are our family’s favorite grill out entree.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been tweaking with different recipes to incorporate ground turkey into our burgers as opposed to ground beef.

Not only is ground turkey a healthier option than beef, but it’s significantly less expensive than ground beef as well.  Last week I put together a recipe for ground turkey burgers that the whole family loved – including my picky kids!

Paired with a whole wheat buns, fresh grilled veggies, and fresh fruit, these burgers are a healthy option for a summertime grill out.

Grilled Turkey Burgers

2 lbs. ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons Weber Gourmet Burger seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley

Beat egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.  Grill on medium-high heat for 10 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

We topped our burgers with low-fat cheese as well as fresh spinach and tomato slices.  Instead of ketchup or mustard, I have a slight obsession love of Caesar dressing that I typically use.

And the cost breakdown?

ground turkey – $1.79 each at Meijer (total cost of $3.58)
egg – $0.18 at Meijer
breadcrumbs – $0.29 at Meijer
soy sauce – $0.12 at Aldi
Weber seasoning – $0.12 at Meijer
parsley – $0.05 at Aldi

The total cost for this dish is $4.34, and it serves 6 people – so just $0.72 per serving.

Are you looking for more good, healthy, and cheap meals?  You can find more recipes from this series here.

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When planning out a menu, a lot of time and attention tends to be focused on the main dish as opposed to the side dishes.  I personally love side dishes as much (if not more!) than any meat-driven main dish.

With all the fresh produce options available in the summertime, I thrive on cooking with fresh ingredients, especially a variety of vegetables.  One of my absolute favorite dishes is roasted vegetables.

Depending on your personal preferences, the options for this dish are virtually endless.  It’s a dish that pairs nicely with marinated chicken, a pork roast, or even burgers fresh off the grill.

Fresh Roasted Vegetables

1-1/2 lbs. zucchini
1-1/2 lbs. yellow squash
1 lb. asparagus
1 lb. fresh green beans
1 medium onion
1 sweet bell pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

Rinse and drain all veggies.  Cut zucchini and squash into thin slices.  Trim ends of asparagus and green beans.  Chop onion and bell pepper into medium-sized chunks.

Place all veggies into a 9×13 pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tender crisp.

And the cost breakdown?

zucchini – $0.88/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $1.32)
yellow squash – $0.88/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $1.32)
asparagus – $1.99/lb. at Meijer
green beans – $0.88/lb. at Meijer
onion – $0.50 at Meijer
bell pepper – $1 at Meijer
olive oil – $0.24 at Aldi
Italian seasoning – $0.10 at Kroger

The total cost of this dish is $7.35 and it serves 8 people – for a cost of $0.92 per serving.

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I love chili…maybe almost to an obsession!  There are so many different varieties of chili recipes, and each one has it’s own great line-up of ingredients.  And it’s an easy way to breathe new life into leftovers and create a unique dish.

I also love that most chili recipes can be made in a crockpot which is perfect for hectic evenings.  Plus, many chili recipes include some type of beans, which not only lends added protein to the meal, but it’s an inexpensive ingredient to add to a meal as well.

One of our family’s favorite chili recipes is white chicken chili.  It has a little bit of a kick to it, and can be paired nicely with a fresh spinach salad.

White Chicken Chili

4 boneless chicken breasts
3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1 can mild chilies
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning mix

Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot.  Pour beans on top of chicken.  Mix cream of chicken, chilies, chicken broth, and taco seasoning together in a medium-sized bowl.  Pour mixture over beans.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  During the last hour of cooking, shred the chicken and add it back into the crockpot mixture.  Serve with lowfat cheese and/or sour cream.

And the cost breakdown?

chicken breasts – $1.98/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $6.71)
white beans – $0.59 each at Aldi (total cost of $1.77)
cream of chicken – $0.79 at Aldi
chilies – $0.85 at Meijer
chicken broth – $1.39 for a carton at Aldi (used half the carton, so total cost of $0.70)
taco seasoning mix – $0.35 at Aldi

The total cost of the meal is $11.14, and it easily serves 8 – for just $1.39 per serving.

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Good, Healthy, & Cheap….Can It Be Done?

by Katie on July 13, 2015

It’s often argued that meal choices present an impossible dilemma that forces consumers to choose only two of three elements…..good, healthy, and/or cheap.  However, having been on a fairly stringent diet for the past two years, I’ve become convinced that the perfect triad can be achieved for most meals.

This past week, I came up with the idea of posting our family’s meals on a routine basis with not only the “how-to” behind the meal, but a cost breakdown as well.  Since I love to cook and enjoy trying new flavor combinations, I’m hopeful that this series will push me to break out of my comfort zone even more to come up with new meals for our family.

The majority of the meals that I cook feature fresh meats, produce, and a variety of spices.  That being said, the meals are typically easy to prepare with ingredients that you definitely don’t have to buy at a specialty store!  And unlike many recipes, they don’t serve a family of 4….they’re based on a larger scale to feed a family of 6-8 (including several hungry teenage boys!).

So, I’d love it if you follow along as I try out new ingredients and put together recipes that hit all three benchmarks…good, healthy, and cheap!  And if you have an ingredient or two that you’d like to see highlighted in a recipe, leave me a message or send me and e-mail, and I’ll see what I can come up with.

Bon appetit!

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Lemon Rosemary Chicken Recipe

by Katie on May 12, 2015

Now that spring has officially arrived, I’m more than ready to start diving into fresh ingredients to complement our family’s meals.  While I still use processed foods from time to time, I love calling upon the flavors of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits to add depth and character to our foods.

At the store last week, I picked up a variety of fresh herbs without having an exact menu plan in mind.  Instead, I wanted to let my creative side come into play, and try out a variety of different flavor combinations .

I especially love the aroma of rosemary, so I decided to start my culinary experimentation with that herb first.  Since we had a particularly crazy day last week where 3 different kids needed to be at 3 different locations at the exact same time, I decided that the crockpot was destined to be my mode of operation.

With a limited amount of time at my disposal, I quickly pulled together ingredients that I thought would play off of each other nicely – rosemary, lemon, and fresh garlic.  By using the crockpot, the flavors of the dish had ample time to fuse together and the result was a delicious chicken dish that even my youngest son liked (and trust me….that’s a monumental accomplishment!).

The best part about this dish is that it’s as healthy as it is simple… my favorite combination!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

2.5 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper for seasoning
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lemon, sliced
4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Place chicken in crockpot.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over the chicken.  Layer the lemon slices on top of the chicken, and top with the rosemary sprigs.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Since I’m part rabbit and eat a salad nearly every evening, I added my chicken to fresh spinach with apple slices and an avocado.  You could also serve the chicken with rice and steamed broccoli which would complement the dish quite well.

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