Butternut Squash Chili

I love Chili and all things beans, but sometimes they don’t love me.  And beans never love my teenage son.

With butternut squash we can have a nice thick beanless chili without spending a fortune on extra meat. Originally I planned to cut the squash into bite sized squares for a nice texture similar to beans.  Then I remembered my kids aren’t big fans of squash…yet.   I have all sorts of secret plans to turn them into squash fans, mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha.  It’s a work in progress.

I sauteed the squash in a skillet with a little coconut oil and chopped onion, then pureed it in a blender with a can of broth.  When I stirred it into the crushed tomatoes, the squash and onion disappeared.  Chili powder’s dark color made the camouflage complete.  You could totally save a step and use canned pumpkin puree instead.

Butternut quash’s mildly sweet flavor complements the spicy seasonings perfectly.  The kids gobbled this up.  It’s a hearty, comforting autumn meal that is lower carb and won’t cause bloating or other gastric distress.

Butternut Chili Con Carne

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 onion, diced

1 can, 15 oz beef or chicken broth  (or 2 cups homemade, cool in temperature)

2 lbs ground beef or turkey, browned and drained

1 can, 28 oz crushed tomatoes

3 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

Saute squash with onion in a little bit of coconut oil until fork tender, about 15 minutes.  Add to a blender or food processor with broth.  Puree.  (You can leave it whole if you like the texture.)  Combine everything in a stock pot and warm through.  The longer it simmers the better the flavors will meld.  This can be stirred together in the morning and held in a slow cooker on low until dinner.

Topping ideas: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped chives, chopped tomatoes, olives, crushed tortilla chips, oyster crackers….

1/8th of the recipe prepared with 93% lean ground beef = 318 calories, 9g fat, 19 net carbs, and 34 grams of protein

This is day 11 of 31 Days of Pumpkin Recipes

1 Pumpkin spice mix

2 Homemade pumpkin puree

3 Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

4 Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

5 Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

6 Pumpkin Bagels

7 Butternut Chicken Stew

8 Healthy Pumpkin Pecan Scones

9 Pumpkin Waffles

10 Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

11 Butternut Squash Chili

12 Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

13 Pumpkin Muffin/Drop Cookie Mix

14 Easy Pumpkin Cake

15 Pumpkin Dump Cake

16 Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

17 Pumpkin Mousse

18 Pumpkin Cheesecake

19 Pumpkin Latte

20 Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

21 Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

22 Pumpkin Biscuits

23 Maple Pumpkin Butter

24 Stuffed Sugar Baby Pumpkins

25 Pumpkin Pancakes

26 Pumpkin English Muffins

27 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

28 Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

29 Pumpkin Biscotti

30 Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

31 Impossible Pumpkin Pie

Homemade Lunchmeat: Pros and Cons

My colleague, Tiffany, at Don’t Waste the Crumbs, recently wrote about making DIY lunchmeat. It sounded pretty easy, so I gave it a try.  Here’s my experience:

Aldi Black Forest Ham

We usually buy Black Forest Deli Ham from Aldi for $3.49 a lb.  The kids love it and I buy it even though it’s “coated with Caramel Color.”  That makes me cringe a little every time I put it in my cart.  What is caramel color anyway?  I finally decided to put aside my fears and just look it up. According to this article, it’s basically toasted carbohydrates and is not any more harmful than caramel sugar.  The problem comes if you are allergic to the carbohydrate base which might contain wheat.  In this case, Aldi says it’s gluten free. We’ve never had a reaction, but we aren’t sensitive to any carbohydrates.

Black Forest Ham Aldi

Sodium Nitrite is the other ingredient that makes me cringe. It is added as a preservative to prevent food poisoning.  You will die much faster from botulism than you will from nitrite poisoning, but it has been shown to contribute to cancer in large doses. The first Trim Healthy Mama book said that while it’s nice to avoid nitrates there are enough antioxidants in one orange to counter any harmful affects from an average serving of preserved meat.  My kids won’t eat oranges :(. Sodium phosphate is a non-toxic salt used as a thickening agent.   Basically you can google any ingredient that you aren’t sure about and decide for yourself if it’s something you are ok with.

Sliced Turkey breast

I started my DIY lunch meat by buying a Kirkland frozen turkey breast from Aldi.  It was $8.99 for a 48 oz package.  At $3 a lb, it would save me $1.50 over buying 3 lbs of lunch meat, but there’s a catch.  Inside the package was a bag of “gravy” weighing 10.6 ounces, leaving me with only 37.4 oz of meat. Uncooked I’m now paying $3.84 per pound.

Sliced Turkey Breast 2

I rubbed the meat all over with seasoned salt and put it in the slow cooker.  I think I overcooked it a tad.  I didn’t really keep track of the time and the juices were caramlized by the time I returned.  It smelled heavenly.  I let it cool on the counter a bit before wrapping and chilling overnight in the refrigerator.  When it was completely cold I weighed it before slicing it by hand.  Trying to get the slices as thin as deli meat.  I wasn’t very good at it.

The finally cooked weight of the meat was 1.6 lbs.  $5.61 per pound.  This is 160% more than just buying lunchmeat.

attempted mandolin

I tried my mandolin slicer to see if it would be easier.  It made a crumbly mess.  You really need an electric knife or deli slicer if you want to automate things.

sliced turkey breast in the bag

It tasted amazing, but crumbled pretty easily.  This is probably because I overcooked it, which would have also reduced moisture content and weight a little bit.

Garlic Bread Sandwich

I had a loaf of garlic bread on hand and used it to make an open faced baked family sized sandwich.

baked garlic bread sandwich

Too bad we were out of tomatoes, that would have been really pretty.  The sandwich was delicious!  A big hit for everyone in the family.


  • It was delicious and not that hard.
  • It may have fewer questionable ingredients (although the turkey breast was brined with a sodium solution and I forgot to check the ingredients before tossing the package to see if there were any cringe-worthy ones)


  • It was a lot more expensive.
  • While it wasn’t that hard, it took more time than just buying lunch meat.
  • It was hard to slice as thin as deli meat
  • It crumbled easily

Would I try it again?  Probably not.  It was delicious but not budget friendly for us.  If I decide to give up lunchmeat altogether to avoid nitrites, cooking a chicken with bones and shredding the meat, would be more cost effective for us.

What do you think?  Would you try it?

Calico Bean Soup and Cornbread

Hearty bean soup is the perfect low cost dish for this spring weather that can be cloudy, drizzly and chilly in between the sunny, warm days.  It tastes so good, no one will realize how cheap it is to make. Beans are full of fiber, which is so good for you and yet can feel a little terrible at the same time if you aren’t used to it.  I have a hack for that.

calico bean soup

My dad was given this soup as a Christmas Gift from his secretary one year when I was a girl and the whole family loved the mix of flavors. My mom begged for the recipe and it has been a cherished favorite ever since.

Calico Bean Soup

3 cups of mixed beans (A 6 or 9 bean mix works great)

5 cups of water

1 Tbs dried chives

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried savory

½ tsp cumin

1 bay leaf

½ tsp black pepper

1 can, 15 oz chopped tomatoes, undrained

The night before: Combine dry beans with 9 cups of water in a large bowl. Sit on the counter overnight. In the morning: Drain beans.  If you forget to pre-soak the beans, this recipe will still work.  Just add an extra cup of water.

Some say beans are harder to digest if you don’t presoak them.  We get gas either way.  Just being honest.  We are saved the embarrassment if we remember to take amylase enzyme before eating.  Amylase breaks down starches and helps the probiotics process the fiber. I take an enzyme blend to prevent any digestion discomfort.

Slow Cooker Method: Place drained beans in a slow cooker. Add cooking water seasonings, and tomatoes. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

Pressure Cooker Method: Place drained beans in a pressure cooker. Add cooking water seasonings, and tomatoes. Or combine ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook at high pressure for 40 minutes.

Discard bay leaf and sprinkle with dried or fresh parsley just before serving.

1/8 of the pot of soup has 122 calories; 15 net carbs, and 14g of protein



This is a great all-purpose cornbread recipe and goes with a lot of different dishes.  Corn and Beans have complimentary proteins so when eaten together you get all the essential amino acids. Ground millet can be subbed for the cornmeal for those with allergies or sensitivities to corn.  It tastes very similar to the real thing.  Doubling the recipe is the perfect amount for a 9×13 pan.
1 cup cornmeal (or Masa Harina)

1 cup hard white wheat flour

1 Tbs Baking Powder

½ tsp salt

2-4 Tbs coconut sugar (brown sugar or honey) (If you are used to cake like cornbread go for the higher amount of sugar)

2 eggs

1 cup milk

¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the bowl. Add eggs, butter, and milk. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 inch pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve with butter and honey.  Makes 9 2″square servings.

A 2” inch square has 144 calories; 23 net carbs and 6g protein

BBQ Meatball Mix

I love these meatballs!  They are super easy to make, and the hardest part is getting out all the spice jars.  With this mix, that problem is solved. The meatballs make great appetizers, a hearty main dish, and yummy meatball subs. Bake these quickly in the oven, then let them simmer in sauce in your crock pot until you need them.

bbq meatball mix

Read more

Slow Cooked Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

We had an unexpected death in the family last week. Darren’s Grandma was 92, but still living alone in her own home with her mind, sight and hearing sharp as a tack.  He lived with her during the summers after his family moved to Texas and again when he graduated from High School so he could farm. They were very close. I lived with her part of the time when I was student teaching and she taught me a lot of things about frugality, being a homemaker, wild edibles and frying mountain oysters.

Lest you think she was all sugar and spice, she was a person who told things as she saw them.  Every time she saw me she complained about my long hair, big earrings and tall heels. When I got pregnant with our 4th baby, she offered to teach me about birth control. I learned to smile and roll with it. If she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t say a word.  It was her way of saying, “I love you.”

She had a deep faith and prayed poetically. When Darren and I had been married 2 years, her son died in a tragic car accent.  It was a serious time of grief for all of us.  She told me death was beautiful and not to be sad.  She had already buried her husband and oldest son.  She KNEW they were in the arms of Jesus.  During her service I kept hearing her voice say those words, “Death is beautiful.”  But I still miss her.

My oldest son was acting up in the car during the funeral procession to the gravesite, poking his siblings and making them scream. I told him, “Your grandmother is in a hearse 10 cars ahead of us.  Remember what we are doing here and what your frame of mind should be.”

My oldest, Heidi, chimed in, “Yeah if grandma were here right now, she’d whack you with her cane.”

He said, “If she were here right now, I wouldn’t dare.”

After the funeral Saturday we went to her house with all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (28!) and a few extended family.  The church brought over the funeral meal leftovers and we ate and visited just like we would have on Christmas day.  The only thing missing was her and we all felt it. It was a lovely day until it was time to leave and I realized it was probably the last gathering like that in her home.  The last time there would be fig Newtons in the jar put there by her own hands.  The memories flooded in as tears running down my face.  My first date with Darren was there, a whole day of learning to farm. Not long after she decided Darren was taking too long and offered me her wedding ring set so we could just go get married.  She didn’t see any point of big weddings or long engagements.  If you love each other, go make a life together. What’s so hard about that?

I had plans to finish Kids and Money month strong with some posts about Kids and Christmas spending, but it was just more important to be with family.  I’ll come back and visit the topic again in a few weeks, but first I want to get some recipes out there.  Too many times I’ve searched my own site for a favorite recipe to refresh my memory on some of the details and find it wasn’t there.

This recipe is my go to when life gets really busy.  It throws together in 15 minutes and then just has to heat through in the oven.  Every ingredient is available at Aldi making a very frugal main dish. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal or make it bigger with sides of Spanish rice, corn, and fruit.  If you are gluten free, grab some gluten free tortillas.  Low carb tortillas work great here too, for a THM S Meal (You can have up to 3 Tbs of refried beans in an S setting.)  You can also assemble the whole thing in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas


  • 1 jar, 24 oz salsa
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 10-8" flour tortillas
  • 1 can, 15 oz refried beans
  • 1 can, 15 oz black olives, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain.
  3. Stir salsa into ground beef mixture. (If you have picky kids, puree the salsa in a blender first, and use onion powder instead of chopped onion.)
  4. Chop the olives and reserve 1/3 for topping.
  5. Divide refried beans, olives and 1/2 of the cheese cheese among tortillas and roll up. Place seam side down in a 9x13 casserole dish.
  6. Top with beef mixture and spread to cover the edges.
  7. Top with remaining olives and cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.


Homemade Beef Stew Mix

homemade beef stew mix

Beef stew is one of those dishes that is hard to mess up (if you use the right about of salt.)  Onions and garlic can give plenty of flavor on there own.  Once you taste a stew with just the right blend of herbs, it changes everything.  Read more

Classic Chili Mix

classic chili mix

Classic Chili Spice Mix

1 cup Chili Powder

1/2 cup Cumin

1/4 cup Garlic Powder

1/4 cup Minced Onion

2 Tbs Oregano

1 Tbs Sugar (or equivalent)

1 Tbs Salt

1 tsp Pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

Use 2 Tbs of mix to season 1 lb of ground beef, 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice (or 2 cans of tomato sauce), 2 cans of pinto beans and 2 cans of kidney beans.  I don’t drain my cans.  If you prefer to drain them, add more sauce or water to make up the volume in liquid.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning Mix

Of all the mixes I use this one the MOST.  I go through a quart jar full every couple of months.

The sweetener gives a bit of twang to balance out the spice.  It’s the secret to a mix that tastes like the commercial ones, but can be left out if you’re against it. If you want yours super spicy add some cayenne, about a teaspoon to the whole jar.

If you buy your spices at Aldi, one bottle of spice is about 1 cup.

Quart Jar Taco Mix:

1 cup chili powder

1 cup dried onion flakes

¾ cup ground cumin

¾ cup garlic salt

1/3 cup sugar (or equivalent stevia blend substitute)

3 Tbs Paprika

Use 2 Tbs of mix for each pound of meat. You can also use this mix to make big batch taco meat for the freezer with the slow cooker bulk cooking method.


Batch Cooking Ground Beef in Your Slow Cooker

I first figured out this worked on a desperate day when I didn’t have a kitchen. The no kitchen season of our lives lasted almost a year and I relied on my slow cooker and electric griddle for making almost everything.

Since then, I’ve reused this method changing the seasoning to suit the dish.  Taco seasoning for batch taco meat. Italian seasoning for pizza or spaghetti. Read more

The Easiest Shredded Chicken for Your Freezer

Chicken salad, enchiladas, tostadas, tetrazzini, chicken spaghetti, pot pie, taquitos, quesadillas.  They all start with shredded  chicken.  When there’s a recipe sized bag ready to go in the freezer, the rest of the meal doesn’t seem so hard.

I bought frozen grilled chicken pieces from Aldi yesterday.  My stress level had come to that. It was kind of gross and expensive.  Not completely awful, but nothing like home marinated and grilled chicken. If your stress level makes frozen grilled chicken a necessity, no judgement here.  But there is a simple way to have prepped chicken at home.

Fill your slow cooker up to 3/4 full with chicken breasts, then pour water into the spaces until it comes just even with the top of the chicken. Season with salt, pepper, celery seed, garlic powder, and onion powder. Slow cook for 4-5 hours.  Remove chicken from the broth and let it cool until cool enough to handle.

Drop a breast or 2 (enough for your typical recipe) into a quart size freezer baggie, press out all the air and seal.  Then mush it around with your fingers until it is all shredded up.  Moosh the chicken flat, and freeze it.  Simple, right?

You also have all that great chicken broth.  If you use it up within the week, you can put it in a pitcher in your fridge.  (We rarely have juice, so it’s safe at our house.  If you often have lovely pitchers of stuff in your fridge, you should probably label it.  Or hide around the corner with a video camera…..)

For those of you who need recipes.  Here you go:

Easy Shredded Chicken for Your Freezer


  • 2 lb chicken breasts
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed


  1. Combine everything in a 5 quart slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. (No need to thaw the chicken first.)
  3. Remove chicken from broth and cool until cool enough to handle.
  4. Place 2 small or 1 large chicken chicken breast into each freezer bag and shred by mooshing the outside of the bag with your fingers.
  5. Remove all the air and freeze flat.

P.S.  For those of you who are wondering, most brands of freezer bags are BPA free.  I specifically checked Ziploc brand and Up and Up brands, but several others are safe too.