Home Economics: Pumpkin chili… Fall comfort food!

imageIf you haven’t yet tried one of my soups or stews, you HAVE to make this one! It’s the best! I stumbled upon this recipe years ago when I started at a Crossfit gym and learned about the Paleo lifestyle. I originally found this pumpkin chili recipe on Feed Me Paleo. Click here for the original recipe.

imageAll the ingredients can easily be found at Trader Joe’s or your local grocery store. Of course, I had to modify the recipe a bit. I used 2 lbs of ground turkey instead of 3 lbs and added a bag of shredded carrots. I also had some extra zucchini noodles, or zoodles, so I threw them in as well. There is something about the combination of the chipotle salsa and the pumpkin flavor that tastes soooo good. This recipe is on constant rotation all fall. It’s great on its own, but it is even better over a baked sweet potato. Enjoy!

You can easily make a vegetarian version of this chili by swapping out the meat for beans and more veggies.

Homework: What would you serve with this pumpkin chili?


Home Economics: Monogrammed mini pumpkins

imageI needed a few fall gifts to hand out at work and I came up with a fun idea! I had these pearl and rhinestone initial stickers left over from another project and thought they would look adorable as monograms on mini pumpkins. These pumpkins were .69 cents each at Trader Joe’s and the stickers were less than $5 a package at Michael’s. I cleaned the pumpkins with soap and water and completely dried them before applying the stickers. So easy! These will look great on the desks in the front office.

You could easily modify this idea by using larger pumpkins and stickers. Spelling out words like “boo” or “thanks” would look fabulous on a mantel. Metallic Sharpie pens would also work well to accent the stickers. The possibilities are endless!

Homework: How would you decorate these mini pumpkins?

Honor Roll: Popped Potato chips and pumpkin pancake mix

imageI love Trader Joe’s! Finding new products to try is so much fun. Today, I found two new things to test…

This pumpkin pancake mix is amazing. I have been eating pumpkin pancakes for dinner all week! They are that good and really easy to make. You just need to add milk, an egg, and some melted butter. Delicious! I might plan a brunch just so I can serve this awesome fall treat and watch other people enjoy them.

I love barbecue flavored Pop Chips. I was excited to find that Trader Joe’s had their own version called Popped Potato Chips. I had to try them to see if they were comparable to the original brand. They were… as evidenced by the empty bag in the picture! Plus, they were only $1.99. You must try them!

Head to Trader Joe’s and try out these yummy products!

Homework: What is your favorite fall product at Trader Joe’s?

The Beauty Locker: Pumpkin Body Butter

imageFall makes me crave all things pumpkin flavored and scented. It smells and tastes so good! One of my favorite fall purchases is Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Body Butter. It’s amazing! All year long, I buy the coconut version, and slather it all over me, but come fall, I stock up on the pumpkin scented lotion. Today, I bought six of them! They don’t last long in the stores at only $4.99, so you need to stock up while you can.

imageThey make great hostess gifts and birthday treats. I have a gift closet downstairs, where I keep things that I can use at the last minute when I need a gift for someone. Lotions and potions make great gifts for everyone. I also buy scented candles, holiday or floral napkins, and cute coasters. I try to never arrive at a party empty handed.

Homework: Favorite pumpkin food or product?

Home Economics: How to pack for a picnic

Summer is such a fun season and there are so many outdoor concert and movie options. I’ve been going to Movie Monday’s at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa for years. Over time, my group of friends has perfected the art of packing a picnic.

imageFirst, you need a chair and blanket. I love my Tommy Bahama backpack chair. It has a regular and an insulated pouch on the back. My leopard Snuggie fits perfectly in the top pouch. I received my Snuggie as a gag gift, but I actually use it all the time. It’s great if you need to stay warm and still have the use of your arms and hands!

Next, you need a good picnic basket and insulated tote bag. I inherited an awesome picnic basket when my friend Adam moved and not only is it useful, it has serious sentimental value. My insulated bag is from Trader Joe’s. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

imageAn inflatable ice bucket is also essential. I bought mine at a Duffy boat store, but I found a similar one here. It is so convenient, and it takes up no room. You blow it up when arrive and fill with ice and your drinks. I’ve also been bringing mine to hotel rooms to keep waters cold when traveling.

imageYou also need a table in a bag. It rolls out and has screw-on legs. You can buy a similar one here. You also need a tablecloth, battery powered candles, and cute serving ware. For this picnic, I bought sandwich baskets and plastic divided mini trays. I love that the sandwich baskets came with checkered wax paper inserts. I bought the plates, baskets and battery powered candles at Wal-mart. I also pack trash bags for trash at the end of the night and grocery store bags for the dirty dishes.

imageSince the movie for the night was “Spice World,” which by the way is the worst movie ever, I wanted to make something British-themed to go with the movie. When I was in London, I had the best sandwich ever. It was so simple… Brie cheese, cucumber, and tomato with a hint of mayonnaise on a crusty baguette. Once I made the sandwich, I wrapped the baguette in wax paper and divided it into six sections. I used tape to hold the wax paper in place and then tied each individual sandwich with baker’s twine. Not only were they delicious, they also looked really cute. The six sandwiches fit in a gallon sized Ziplock bag.

imagePretzel sticks are so great to serve with dips. I bought these at Trader Joe’s. They are stronger than chips and crackers, so they don’t break when dipping. I served the pretzels with Yummus, an almond spread similar to hummus. They sell it at the farmer’s market near my house. I go to the farmer’s market every week to buy more. It’s so good! The pretzels are also great with spinach dip and hummus.

imageThe friends I was meeting brought side salads and other treats from Whole Foods.
imageEven though the movie was horrible, we had a blast! Only picnic with people you love.

Homework: What is your best picnic tip?

Home Economics: Lobster ravioli casserole

imageHere is another quick and simple recipe for you that can be easily customized.

You only need a few ingredients. I bought these choices at Trader Joe’s, but you can find similar products at any grocery store.

Ravioli, I bought the TJ’s lobster ravioli
Pasta sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

I have made this casserole in a 9×9 dish and a 13×9, it depends on how many people you need to serve. These two packages of Lobster Ravioli will work best in a 9×9 pan. First, cook ravioli according to package directions. Shoot for al dente, since the ravioli will continue to cook in oven. Start by putting a layer of pasta sauce at the bottom of the casserole dish. Then add a layer of ravioli and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of sauce, ravioli and cheese. You could also add in other options like sautéed spinach. If you were using cheese ravioli, you could layer in meat or sausage. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, take it out and add a layer of parmesan cheese and return to the oven until bubbly, about 7-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Homework: What would you add to this ravioli casserole?

Home Economics: Chicken, quinoa and black bean stew

imageThis is another one of my favorite non-recipe, recipes. It’s super simple and you can easily customize it. You need three ingredients, all from Trader Joe’s:
1 package of Quinoa Duo, in the frozen food section
1 carton Latin Black Bean soup
Chicken breast, I used Just Chicken

Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. Transfer the quinoa from the skillet to a pot and add the black bean soup and chicken. At this point you can add your seasonings of choice. I had a bag of fire roasted peppers and onions from Trader Joe’s in my freezer, so I added that to the pot as well. I was really happy with the flavor. This soup reheats well, so I portioned it out into plastic containers and have several meals ready. This is a great recipe to double and freeze the extra portions.

Homework: What is your favorite soup recipe?

Home Economics: My favorite 4th of July salad!

imageHappy 4th of July! I have a busy day planned. The parade in Huntington Beach in the morning, followed by an annual block party on my street, and then a BBQ and fireworks at my friend Patti’s house. I’m bringing a s’mores bar to Patti’s BBQ (see yesterday’s post for details) and making my famous cashew chicken salad for my block party. I make this salad every year and my neighbors request it. It super easy to make and consists of only 5 ingredients, all from Trader Joe’s:

Lettuce, any kind, I used the American Mix
Chicken, you can use the TJ’s canned chicken or Just Chicken
Petite Peas, frozen
Cashews, I used the Cashews Pieces
Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

Of course, I don’t measure anything! Just use what you think will be good. Sometimes I layer the ingredients and make a pretty design and sometimes I mix it all together. The only real prep is putting the frozen peas in a colander and running cold water over them. Enjoy!

Homework: What is your favorite salad recipe?

Home Economics: Clinatro Lime Chicken

imageThis is another of my non-recipe, recipes. It’s super simple and you don’t really need to measure anything. You can use a crock pot, or if you are like me and your crock pit recently died, you can use your pasta pot.

First, gather your ingredients:
Approximately 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 package of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning
1 bunch cilantro
A couple of limes
Pico de Gallo, or chopped onions and tomatoes
Chicken broth

I put the chicken breasts, taco seasoning, chopped cilantro, the juice of 3 limes, and Pico de gallo in the pot and added a small amount of chicken broth to cover the bottom of the pot. I put the lid on and set it to simmer for a about an hour and a half. I kept checking to see when the chicken was ready. When it’s ready, it shreds easily. In the crockpot, I would set it to low and it would be ready in 4-6 hours. Once the chicken was shredded, I drained the extra broth out and then portioned it out in plastic containers or Ziplock bags. This chicken is great on top of a salad, in lettuce wraps, or soft tacos. Top with fat free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream 🙂


I love this taco seasoning from Trader Joe’s because I can pronounce all the ingredients. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, Google “homemade taco seasoning” or search on Pinterest. The recipes you find are easy and not filled with sodium and preservatives.

This is a great go-to recipe when I have a busy week. I like that it can creates several meals and that I can vary how I use it… Salad, tacos, letup wraps, stir fry, etc.

Homework: What is your go-to recipe for when you have a busy week?