Family, Food & Recipes

Sweet Potato Chili Bake + Kale

October 3, 2017


Next up in our Week of Recipes on Espresso and Cream is a fun way to remix your chili leftovers. Originally, I was going to take baked potatoes and top them with the chili, plus a few other toppings, but after thinking it through I decided that putting together something in casserole form might be easier for the busy moms out there who want to prep their meals before work or other activities. Then all that is left to do is toss the dish in the oven and let it bake until the potatoes are tender!

Using the sweet potatoes as a stretch food for the remaining chili yielded LOTS of leftovers for lunches, and I could see you easily freezing some of the leftover portions to reheat down the road if you are into that type of thing. ūüôā

Sweet Potato Chili Bake + Kale
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2½ cups leftover Three Bean Chili with Beef
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese or cheddar cheese
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Heat oven to 350¬įF. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray or brush with oil.
  2. Toss sweet potatoes with the 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Layer potatoes into prepared baking dish. Spread leftover chili evenly over potatoes. Top with the shredded cheese.
  3. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Just before serving, massage chopped kale with olive oil and salt. Transfer to a skillet and sautee 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until kale is tender and slightly crispy. Serve with sweet potato bake.


Family, Food & Recipes

Three Bean Chili with Beef and Kale

October 2, 2017

Happy Monday, friends! I’m checking in today with the second recipe from the “Week of Recipes” on Espresso and Cream. This is the second recipe as part of a week long meal plan full of easy, tasty, family-friendly weeknight meals. For the full meal plan and recipe, head on over to THIS post and stay tuned throughout the week for the rest of the week’s recipes.

Since it’s starting to cool off in my neck of the woods I’ve been all about making big batches of chili. One of the biggest issues I’ve had with chili in the past is that we end up having SO much leftover because it’s just me at Joe and Ainsley doesn’t eat all that much. And while I do love leftovers, eating chili all week isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. So this recipe is going to get refashioned into a new recipe tomorrow. Stay tuned for the recipe!

PS: If you have vegetarians in your family see the recipe directions for an easy way to please vegetarians and meat eaters alike!

Three Bean Chili with Beef and Kale
  • 1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
  • 1 medium red, yellow, or orange sweet pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I like the pre minced jarred garlic for weeknight ease)
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) chili beans in sauce (I like Mrs. Grimes)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz.) white beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sour cream, shredded cheese, whole grain scoop-style tortilla chips for serving
  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, brown ground beef; drain and set ground beef aside. Add oil to stock pot along with the chopped pepper and cook over medium high heat 4 to 6 minutes or until peppers are tender, adding in the garlic the last minute of cooking.
  2. Add in the tomatoes, chili beans, black beans, white beans, ground beef and remaining spices. Stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes to blend the flavors together.
  3. If desired, this mixture can be kept in the slow cooker instead of the stovetop.
  4. Just before serving, massage the 1 tablespoon oil into the kale and sprinkle lightly with salt. Sautee kale in a medium skillet over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until kale is slightly crispy and tender.
  5. Spoon kale into bowls. Top with the chili, followed by the cheese, sour cream and whole grain tortilla chips.
  6. *If you want to make a vegetarian option for this meal, prepared chili as directed but add the ground beef at the end, portioning out desired vegetarian chili servings before adding in the ground beef.


Food & Recipes

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls

September 29, 2017


First up in the “Week of Recipes” is this Slow Cooker Taco Chicken. My family loves this recipe and I love it because it’s so easy to throw together early in the day. Just toss together chicken, salsa, black beans, water and taco seasoning mix in the slow cooker, then set and forget. While I love the idea of making elaborate meals each night of the week, the reality is that easy and healthy is the name of the game and this recipe is certainly easy.

We actually served this dish for a group of college guys who came over on Sunday after church. I had plans to use the leftovers in another recipe, but with three college guys eating the meal, plus my husband, we had ZERO leftovers when it was all said and done. I set out a bunch of toppings, including sour cream, shredded lettuce, whole grain scoop style tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sour cream and let everyone customize their own bowls as they saw fit!

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls
Recipe type: Entree
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) mild or medium salsa
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans (undrained)
  • 8 oz. water
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • 1 bag whole grain scoop-style tortilla chips
  • 1 heart of Romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Sour cream
  1. Combine chicken breasts, salsa, black beans, water and taco seasoning mix in a large slow cooker, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 to 5 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Uncover and use two forks to shred chicken breasts* Turn slow cooker to warm and let stand, uncovered, 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  2. Spoon chicken mixture into bowls. Top with shredded lettuce, tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream.
  3. Store leftovers in a resealable container to use for next meal.
  4. *If you have a vegetarian in the family, you can portion out some of the black beans before shredding the chicken for a veg friendly option at this point.


Family, Food & Recipes

A Week of (TRULY EASY) Family Meals

September 28, 2017


When I took to Instagram to ask what YOU wanted to see more of on Espresso and Cream the answer was very clear: More easy, healthy, weeknight family meals. I get it, because the dinnertime struggle is real, isn’t it? The hours of 5-7 pm are the craziest, most stressful hours of the day, aren’t they? They are also the only hours my husband gets to spend with the girls during the week before bed time, and I have been craving a solution that makes that time less stressful.

And while I would love to reach for take-out some nights, we have very few take-out options in our small town and hardly any healthy take-out so cooking at home is a necessity. I have dabbled in meal-subscription services and meal planning services in the past, but I’ve been really frustrated by the amount of prep the recipes required and the generally complicated nature of some of the recipes. And don’t even get me started on services like Blue Apron… (so. much. chopping.)

But, if you’re trying to stay on a budget, you really do need your meals to be planned cohesively so that waste is minimized throughout the week and all your food is maximized. It’s great to go and pick out five yummy recipes on Pinterest, but if they aren’t cohesive you could be spending a LOT of money on all sorts of different ingredients and left with a lot of leftover food at the end of the week. Been there, done that.

And then I realized something: I am the solution. Well, not the solution, but I have the background and skills as a recipe developer and food editor to create the solution I have been craving. So last week I took 20 minutes to plot out and write down recipes I was already making for my family, and finding ways to utilize one day’s leftovers in a new way the next night and a really budget-friendly, EASY (truly!) meal plan was created.

So, starting next week I’m going to share an entire week’s worth of easy recipes.¬†These are the type of recipes that my family makes on the regular but I’ve never shared because I told myself these weren’t really “recipes” and they were too simple to be blog-worthy. But that’s what we all really want, right? Recipes¬†that require very little prep and are family-friendly. Since I’m a vegetarian, there are also tips in most of the recipes on how to make the recipe veg-friendly if you’re in a similar boat with both vegetarians and meat-eaters in your family.

Before I get to the meal plan itself, I wanted to share our strategy for the rest of the meals during the week aside from dinner. I usually make a large pasta bake with whole wheat pasta, ground beef, marinara and cheese on Sunday and portion it out for Joe’s lunches throughout the week. He eats the same thing again and again but doesn’t mind. I’ll include a clementine or other piece of fruit, a homemade treat (like a cookie) and some carrot sticks. It’s super easy! Since I work at home, I make a smoothie for lunch almost every day with protein + greens powder, almond milk, frozen banana, and peanut butter and Ainsley usually has leftovers, a PB&J with fruit and carrots, etc. And for breakfast we almost always have oatmeal with fruit and nut butter or eggs + toast.

I did all my grocery shopping at our local Walmart Supercenter and paid roughly $65 for all the ingredients for the meals themselves. And trust me – we had plenty of leftovers at the end of the week when it was all said and done! Enough to freeze or eat for lunch the next day. It was the first time in months that I didn’t get to the end of the week and feel like my fridge was totally barren. We ate well, I was NOT stressed at dinnertime and we stayed on track with our grocery budget.

Monday // Slow Cooker Taco Chicken
Tuesday // Easy Three Bean Chili with Beef + Kale
Wednesday // Sweet Potato Chili Bake + Kale
Thursday  // Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Pita
Friday¬†// BLT Salads and Homemade Bread (I love Pinch of Yum’s recipe, which you should start the night before)
Saturday // Eat down the fridge leftovers!

GROCERY LIST // (for roughly 4 servings at each meal)

3 medium sweet potatoes
1 pkg. hearts of Romaine lettuce
2 bunches of kale
1 English cucumber
1 medium yellow, red, or orange sweet pepper
4 medium ripe tomatoes
1 lemon
Mixed greens (optional)

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
12 oz. bacon

1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz. each) chili beans in sauce
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa
1 package taco seasoning
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans
1 (15 oz.) can white beans
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas
1 jar kalamata olives (need 1/3 cup)

1 package whole wheat/whole grain pita bread
2 bags whole grain scoop-style tortilla chips

8 oz. feta cheese
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
2 bags shredded Mexican blend cheese or cheddar cheese (2 cups)

Pantry Items
Olive oil or grapeseed oil
All-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Salad dressing of your choice for BLT salad (we like poppyseed and balsamic vinaigrette mixed 50/50)
Spices (cumin, chili powder, smoked or regular paprika, onion powder, dried oregano)
Garlic (for ease, I like the pre-minced garlic in a jar)
Brown sugar

Other Items We Bought
Yogurts (Fage 2% for me, flavored Chobani for Joe and Ainsley)
1 gallon 2% milk
1 gallon unsweetened almond milk
18 eggs
Sparkling water
Applesauce pouches
Peanut butter
Whole grain bread
3 or 4 avocados
3 or 4 apples
1 package clementines
2 bunches of bananas
Frozen raspberries and/or blueberries
Rolled oats
Trail mix


Favorite Books // Summer 2017 Edition

September 25, 2017


I’ll be the first to tell you I’m an avid reader who has fallen off the wagon in recent years. I used to devour books as a child and young adult, but motherhood pushed reading anything long-form to the back burner unless it was a book about sleep training, potty training, or something so very practical that I needed to know to move forward in my parenting journey.

A couple months ago I started reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (more on that later…) and one of the things I loved the most about the book was the emphasis on making reading part of your daily (early) morning routine. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after reading The Miracle Morning I also happened to complete a handful of other books, and for someone who has been stuck in a start-stop pattern with book reading that’s really saying something!

My biggest tip if you want to get back into the habit of reading books would be to make small goals, like reading just 5 or 10 minutes per day, and easing into reading again. I got stuck telling myself that I didn’t have time to read, because I had the misconception that I needed to have an hour to read if I was going to really get into a book. But the truth is that I don’t know if I’m going to consistently have an hour to read for the next 10 years while raising little kids, so I’m biting off small chunks. Also, although I much prefer hard copies of books, in this season of life, having books on Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone is more practical. Then, instead of reaching for my phone to scroll social media when I have down time, I’m more likely to open my Kindle app and read a few pages instead.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately!

1. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (free on Kindle)
Like I mentioned above, The Miracle Morning was the book that jumpstarted all my new reading. I’m already a morning person by nature, but this book was an awesome read that encouraged some really wonderful, new practices into my morning routine and gave it additional structure and purpose.

2. The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd
If you’re a mom, chances are you’ve read at least one of the beautiful essays on the blog Coffee + Crumbs. I’m always encouraged by their site and podcast and this book is no different. It’s a collection of essays about motherhood that had me feeling all the feels. I cried so many happy/sad tears while reading this book that Joe was worried about me. I would highly recommend this as a gift to the new moms or expecting moms in your life!

3. Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
The Simplified Planner creator, Emily Ley, is a mom of three little kids, including a set of twins who are Ainsley’s age. I loved her book – which is not only beautiful but also a really encouraging, heartfelt read about finding time for what truly matters and giving yourself grace in the journey of motherhood. She had me laughing, nodding in agreement and even crying at times.

4. Oh Crap Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
Yes, this is a parenting book, a potty training book none the less, but it was such a helpful, funny read! Anyone who can make potty training both educational and entertaining gets all the kudos in my book. And if you’re even thinking about potty training your toddler, get this book sooner rather than later. Our potty training experience was so smooth and uneventful because of it.

5. The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine
Friends! You need to read this book. If you’ve ever wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and improve your wellness but also want to find a happy balance of still living life, I can’t recommend this book enough. The author, Phoebe, is a personal chef and blogger who spent a year in search of improving her health and overall wellness. I learned so much about gut health, stress management, and more. And I think anyone who is curious about how their personal care products impact their health will find that chapter particularly eye-opening.

6. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
I hated this book. And I don’t say that lightly. I know, it’s trendy and gets rave reviews all over the internet but I just couldn’t stomach this book. Although the author talked a lot about God and faith, her entire perspective on the topic was very mystical and hardly rooted in sound Biblical principles. It was very “rah rah!” “the power is within you!” and while that might feel good to read, and I’m all about empowerment, I think self-reliance is a slippery slope. Additionally, I felt the book was repetitive and light on actual content.