Monday, March 5, 2012

Thrifty Recipe- Meatiest Vegetarian Chili

My husband and I are not "tofu people." We love a good steak, pulled pork, chicken, you name it. Until the past two weeks or so, I had only purchased tofu once, and that was to cube and put in a crock pot soup recipe. However, several factors have led me to begin to integrate it into our diet:

My dear friend Kimberly's blog, Badger Girl Learns to Cook, often mentions the virtues of tofu and other meat-free, clean eating meal alternatives. She wore me down! :)

We are adventurous eaters, and I always like to try cooking new things, so tofu seemed like a fun new challenge. It is also very quick to prepare.

Tofu is a very reasonably-priced protein. I've been getting two packages of extra firm organic tofu for $5 at my new favorite store, Sunflower Market. Have I mentioned how I am slightly obsessed with this grocery store? Ever since I started shopping there, I have found myself eating so many more fresh fruits and vegetables because their produce selection is amazing and very reasonably-priced. I see the store as a combination of the best parts of Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Aldi.

Anyway, here is the recipe. The version on was for eight servings. I edited to make a half-recipe and made a few other tweaks as well. It turned out great. A good level of spice, and the tofu pieces stayed together and worked well with the bell peppers, onion, and beans. Even better, our two year old devoured two bowls.

Meatiest  Vegetarian Chili


1/3 cup olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped

1 each green, yellow, and red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14 ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cubed

2 (15.5 ounce) cans black beans, drained

1 (15 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon liquid hot pepper sauce, such as Green Tobasco

1. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions; cook and stir until they start to become soft. Add the bell peppers; cook and stir until vegetables are lightly browned and tender, the whole process should take about 10 minutes. Lower heat and stir in garlic for about 30 seconds, then remove pan from heat.
2. Meanwhile in a seperate pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat and add cubed tofu, turn and flip tofu until golden brown on each side.
3. Pour the black beans into the slow cooker and set to Low. Stir in the vegetables, tofu, and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, vinegar and hot pepper sauce. Stir gently and cover. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Fun and Thrifty 2nd Birthday

Last week was our daughter Autumn's second birthday. Wow, how time flies- she is getting to be such a big girl already. We had some family in town so I planned a lunch-time birthday celebration. After a few years of going Dollar Tree for party supplies, their offerings just didn't do it for me. I took Autumn to the Target party supply aisle and gave her some choices. She picked a fun plate with zoo animals on it- once she saw the hippo she was hooked. This played into my plan since one of her gifts from us was a stuffed hippo. I couldn't bring myself to spend $3.50 for a plain plastic tablecloth so it was back to the dollar store for a purple one- her current favorite color. I also grabbed a Happy Birthday banner to use to decorate the table.

You may notice stickers on the tablecloth. I let her pick out three types of stickers- she went with animals, party hats/cakes, and Elmo. Throughout the week we would sit at the table and she would get to decide where the stickers went, decorating her own tablecloth! It was a cool way to involve her in the birthday preparations.

Next I had to figure out the cake. I held up a box of yellow cake mix and a box of chocolate cake mix and thank goodness she went with chocolate- that's my girl! Autumn got to help bake her cake, too. Cream cheese frosting is great on anything in my opinion, so I whipped up a batch from scratch to top the cake. She had also picked out some colored star candles so I added them to the number 2 candle I had already found. (Side note- we now live at 6000 feet and yes, baking at altitude is different. Even though we followed the high altitude directions the cake ballooned up in the middle and then collapsed! I tried to cover it as best I could with the frosting.)

It was a fun and festive celebration, Autumn really seemed to enjoy herself, and we even got a dusting of snow on her birthday morning for her to play in- maybe it reminded her of Minnesota.

As a reminder, I recently started a new blog to document our process of moving from Minnesota to New Mexico and getting settled in. You can find it at

Monday, January 30, 2012

Double blogger?

I did it! As I mentioned here, I was thinking about starting new blog to document our move from Minnesota to New Mexico. Here's a link: MN2NM. I guess I'm a double blogger now! Hoping to still do periodic posts here, but you will probably see more from me over there.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

MN to NM?

Wow, it's been awhile. We have been deep in the process of unpacking, organizing, and getting connected in our new home- Albuquerque. Things have been going great so far. People here are really friendly and we've been able to make a lot of connections.  Having a toddler really helps with meeting people- you just go to a park and start talking to the parents of the other kids! The fact that the high has been at least 50 almost every day helps with the whole park thing. Back in Minnesota, we didn't really make it to the park from November through most of April because of the weather. Which brings me to the topic of my post:

I'm thinking of changing the focus of my blogging, and maybe just starting over at a new blog. This process of relocating/moving across the country and getting settled has taught me a bunch of lessons. And I continue to learn new things about our new hometown, the process of getting to know a new place, and the nitty gritty logistics of moving and making new friends. While being thrifty is still a big part of our daily life, this process of going from MN to NM and making it our home is a bigger focus right now.

So don't be surprised to see a new focus on this blog or maybe even a completely new blog taking its place! More to come.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thrifty Recipe: Butternut squash stew

I'm back to blogging! Now that we're kind of settled into our new (rental) home I made a great new recipe last night. It was super easy and my daughter was a fan because of the raisins and garbanzo beans. More posts on road trip/moving/etc soon. However, we don't have internet at our new home yet so it might be awhile.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Stew
From Women's Day website
  Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Stew
From Woman's Day Magazine


•1 can(s) (28-oz) whole tomatoes

• 1/2 cup(s) raisins

•2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin

•1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground ginger

• 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon

• Kosher salt and pepper

•1 red onion, cut into ½-in. wedges

• 1/2 medium butternut squash, (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-in. pieces (I used a bag of Archer Farms frozen squash from Target. Worked great)

•1 cup(s) couscous

• 1/4 cup(s) fresh cilantro, chopped

•1 can(s) (15-oz) chickpeas, rinsed


1.Place the tomatoes (and their juices) in a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker and break them up slightly. Add the raisins, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and mix to combine.

2.Add the onion and squash and cook, covered, until squash is tender, 5 to 7 hours on low or 3 to 5 hours on high.

3.Ten minutes before serving, cook the couscous according to package directions; fold in the cilantro. Gently fold the chickpeas into the stew and cook, covered, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve over the couscous.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Almost ready to move

We are still here in the Twin Cities. The moving van takes our stuff to Albuquerque (otherwise known as ABQ) on December 21. Hard to believe that by New Year's we will be in our new city and on January fifth we will move into our house there. For those who don't know, ABQ is known for a yearly hot air balloon festival. Here's a picture:

Meanwhile, the Christmas season is in full swing. Because of the timeline for our move and everything that has to be done, I got most Christmas-related stuff finished in November. It feels great to have the cards sent, presents bought and wrapped, etc.

A few of my past blog posts that are useful this time of year and some strategies that we've been using because of our upcoming move.
- Take a look at this post from last year. Now that the year is nearing the end, make sure you take care of any financial or tax-related to-do's before 2012 hits.
- Love me some Shutterfly. I've taken care of our cards and a gift or two, and saved some major money with their coupons.
- Craigslist is our friend! (See all posts I've done about Craigslist here) sold a few pieces of furniture and a chandelier in the past couple weeks. We've also bought three area rugs for our new home. The home in ABQ is all tile with no carpet, so we're basically collecting area rugs at this point.
- We have hit the Room and Board Outlet recently to look for rugs and a couple other things for the place in ABQ. No purchases but it's fun to look.

In other news, we're almost at 4000 disposable diapers avoided by using cloth. Awesome.

Merry Christmas, next time I post it might be from ABQ!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking a blogging break

We got some big news this week. My husband is being promoted/transferred for work. We have just over a month to move to Albuquerque New Mexico! In light of this, I am going to take a blogging sabbatical. If I come up with some thrifty moving tips, maybe I will share. However, my number one tip would be to get your employer to move you (as we are) so you don't have to deal with the cost/hassle of moving yourself!

Have a great month or two.