Buy This…Not That!

This is the first of  a new segment called “Buy This…Not That!” In an ideal world, we would make everything from scratch, but come on…this is real life! I don’t always have the time  (or the energy) to spend hours in the kitchen, so I’ve found some products that save me time, and I can feel good about feeding to my family.

This week…refried beans. I’ve made some frijoles refritos before, and really the process isn’t too hard, but it isn’t quick. I use refried beans to bulk up taco meat, fill burritos, and and top tostadas. When I need a quick meal, having a can of refried beans in the pantry comes in handy.

Refried Beans2

But take a look at the ingredients in a can of Rosarita No Fat refried beans. In addition to beans there is autolyzed yeast extract (MSG), and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. YUCK!
Refried Beans 3

Interesting enough, the vegetarian style Rosarita brand beans do not include those ingredients, so when this brand goes on sale, the only variety I will buy are the vegetarian. They still contain “natural flavor.” Who knows what that might be?
Refried Beans

A can of O Organics Refried beans is even better because it doesn’t include “natural flavor.” The only drawback is a can of organic beans can cost twice as much as conventional beans at most grocery stores.

Refried Beans 4
My favorite brand of refried beans is Trader Joe’s. At just $1.29 a can for the salsa variety, that is a pretty good deal for organic refried beans. Trader Joe’s also has traditional flavored refried beans for those who aren’t a fan of the spice.



How to Roast Peppers

It is Hatch Chile Season in Colorado!!! I can’t wait to make a green chile smothered burrito. When peppers are on sale, I buy a bunch of them and roast them. Roasting peppers brings out their sweetness and adds a smokiness that really enhances their flavor. You can roast any kind of pepper. The cost of roasted peppers at the store is outrageos-especially when the process is so simple. All you need is your oven, a cookie sheet, and a plastic bag! *See Note Below

Turn your oven on to broil at High heat. Place peppers on a cookie sheet. Use an old one that you don’t care about or line it with aluminum foil because the juices from the peppers ooze out as they roast, turning into a sticky, black mess.

Roasted Red Peppers 1

Broil the peppers until they start to turn black. Rotate the peppers and broil until that side turns black. Continue this process until all sides have been charred. Remove peppers from oven.

Roasted Red Peppers 2

Using tongs or oven mitts place hot peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Let the peppers rest for about 10 minutes. This allows the skin of the peppers to loosen.

Roasted Red Peppers 3

Using your fingers, peel off the skin of the peppers. Be careful as they will still be quite hot. Remove the stem and seeds. Cut in strips or leave whole. I like to leave mine whole and freeze them. Roasted peppers go great in dips (like Roasted Red Pepper Hummus), eggs, enchiladas, and pasta.

Roasted Red Peppers 4

*You can do this over a grill too. Just char the peppers on all sides, then follow the rest of the steps to remove the skins.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I am obsessed with Greek food! My Italian grandparents on my mom’s side fostered my love of good Mediterranean fare. Although I didn’t grow up on hummus, I became an instant fan when the hummus craze kicked in several years ago. I’ve tried many different recipes to varying degrees of success. I’ve found that the ultimate hummus has tahini in it, but at $5/jar, it isn’t something I always have on hand. I ran across a recipe from Penzeys Spice a few years ago that I love. It does not have tahini, but the flavor is still really good. Grab some veggie sticks or pita chips and dig in!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
*adapted from Penzeys Spice Garlic and Red Pepper Hummus

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained or rinsed
1/2 cup roasted red pepper (about 1 large)
5 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP water
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If needed, add another tablespoon of water or olive oil to reach the desired consistency. Sprinkle with more paprika and oregano and drizzle a little olive oil on top to serve.

I like to eat mine with carrots or celery or baked pita chips. To make the chips, cut a pita into wedges. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, or until toasted.

Do you have a bun in the oven?

Hot Dog Buns

If you don’t, you should! Hamburger buns that is. I have eaten plenty of white hamburger/hot dog buns in my time. They are a staple at summer BBQs, but they offer zilch in the way of nutritional value. Not to mention, they are loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Even if you buy the 100% whole wheat version, you are still ingesting strange chemicals and preservatives.


I’ve tried a few recipes for home made buns with varying success. It is hard to duplicate the soft, fluffy texture of those store bought buns, but I recently converted one of my favorite roll recipes to a hot dog bun. It worked great! The texture was soft and fluffy, and I knew exactly what ingredients were in them.

The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sugar. That is way too much in my opinion, so I reduced it to 1 TB. I used some whole wheat flour, and some bread flour to give it that light texture. The best part about this recipe is that you can make the dough in your bread machine.

It may be tempting to buy those all-white, chemical-laden buns, especially when you find them in the bakery markdown section for $0.50! But I dare you to make these awesome buns. They will change your life and your summer cookouts!


2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup warm water
1 TBSP white sugar
1 egg
2 TBSP butter, softened
1 TBSP active dry yeast
1 tsp salt


Place flours, water, sugar, egg, 2 tablespoons softened butter, yeast, and salt into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the Dough cycle and press Start. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough and press down to deflate.

*You can also make these in your stand mixer if you have one. Sometimes I make mine in my Kitchen Aid. I knead the dough for 10 minutes, let it rise for an hour, and then follow the rest of the instructions.

Divide the dough into 12-15 equal pieces. Shape into round discs for hamburger buns or long logs for hot dog buns. These rolls really rise, so don’t be afraid if they are a little flat when you shape them. The important thing is to stretch them so they are large enough for your hamburger patty. Place on a greased cookie sheet and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Best when eaten fresh, but they can be stored at room temperature for a day or two. These freeze well too.

Real Food 72 Hour Kit

Known as a bug-out bag, 72 hour kit, or go bag, preppers assemble life sustaining kits that they can grab in an emergency. Our family has assembled our own 72 hour kits. Four years ago the Waldo Canyon Fire forced us to evacuate from our home. Although our house was not really in danger of burning, as the smoke enveloped our neighborhood, the smell of smoke hung so thick in the air that it caught in our throats and burned our eyes. My husband was out of town, and I had to get my 3 year old and baby into our car with our precious belongings in about 20 minutes. I remember the adrenaline coursing through my body. I was shaking and had trouble thinking clearly. It was terrifying!

I grabbed our photo albums and family treasures, a few clothes and some diapers. Funny thing…even though we had our 72 hour kits, I didn’t even think to grab them. We were fortunate enough to have family within 2 hours of driving distance who welcomed us. We stayed there for 3 days. Others were not so lucky. Some had to stay in gymnasiums and churches set up as emergency shelters. If we had to stay in a shelter, our 72 hour kits would have been invaluable.

I used to think that in an emergency my family and I would be out in the wilderness. However, since the Waldo Canyon Fire I have changed my thinking. More than likely a disaster might displace us, but we would probably find shelter somewhere in the city. My snake bite kit has been replaced with more useful things-activities for the kids, an extra pair of eye glasses, and extra cash.

What should go into a 72-hour kit? Food, water, clothes, basic toiletries, medication, personal documents, and cash. Each person needs 1 gallon of water per day, so that is a total of 3 gallons for each 72 hour kit. I don’t know about you, but there is no way I will be able to haul my 3 gallons of water along with 9 gallons of water for my children. I think that is a bit unrealistic. I have stored enough water in my home to last 72 hours, but in my go bag I have at least 3 liters of liquid and a Sawyer water filter.

Now, what about food? You can find MREs or other ready to eat packaged meals, but I don’t want to eat processed junk. Granted, in an emergency, I will just be grateful to have something to eat, but I regularly rotate my food supply in my go bag, and I don’t want to waste money on food that I never end up eating or feel like I have to choke down “cheese” cracker packets with fully hydrogentated oils or MSG laced MREs.

What’s a girl to do? I’ve come up with a list of acceptable foods that are portable and nutritious, easy to find in stores, and fairly economical.

You should aim for 2000-2500 calories per person per day, so a total of 6000-7500 for 3 days. Remember that in an emergency, your metabolism will speed up, and you will likely be more hungry, so err on the side of more calories. If you have small children, I would pack the same amount of calories as an adult. They will be hungrier than usual as well. If you end up with any extra food, you can share with others in need.

Because the food is not chock full of chemicals and artificial preservatives, it has a shorter shelf life. You will need to rotate the food once a year. That really isn’t such a big deal if you enjoy eating the food you have stored, and it is easily replaceable. The most important thing is that you do have a go-bag. You never know when a disaster will strike.

I’ve spent several hours reading labels, comparing nutrition information and prices to find the best products. I created a spreadsheet complete with nutrition information, prices, and where to shop. I’ve taken into consideration food allergies and created nut-free and gluten-free 72-hour kits. All products on the list are made with real ingredients and are non-GMO certified and free of artificial preservatives and colors. The best news is that the cost for each kit is between $26-$38!
If anyone is interested in seeing the spreadsheet I’ve created, please leave a comment below or email me. If you don’t want to schlep all over town to put together your own kit, I would be happy to assemble yours (if you live locally). In exchange, I am asking for a small donation to offset the cost of gas and time.
Whether you use my information or not, please don’t let yourself be caught unprepared!


Yogurt with Toasted Oats

Yogurt with Toasted Oats

I came up with this recipe on a busy morning when I wanted something crunchy to top yogurt, but I didn’t have time to bake granola. It quickly became one of my husband’s favorite breakfasts. In about 5 minutes, you can have a wholesome, filling, and delicious breakfast. The recipe is for one serving, but you can easily double, triple, or quadruple it.


1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

1 TBSP unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp coconut oil


In a small frying pan heat oil over medium heat. Add oats, nuts, and coconut. Stir frequently so the mixture doesn’t burn. Toast until oats are golden brown and nuts are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle over yogurt (we love Noosa) and add fresh or dried fruit. To really take this breakfast over the top, you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Meal Ideas, August 3-August 9


Cascadian Farm Cereal or Cheerios Original with Fruit and Yogurt

Scrambled Eggs with Cheese

Oatmeal with Blueberries, Walnuts and Almond milk

Toast with Organic Bread and Peanut Butter



Annie’s Mac and Cheese

Corn, Green Chile, and Egg Casserole-just use fresh Hatch chiles that you roast at home

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches with Food Should Taste Good chips

Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad



One-Pan Chicken Thighs with Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Rice

Grilled Steak, Potatoes, and Green Salad

Grilled Salmon and Parmesan Zucchini Pasta

Tex-Mex Corn Fritters and Black Bean Salad



Healthy Blueberry Oat Snack Bars

Triscuits with Cheese

Frozen Grapes