Pantry Vegan 3-Bean Chili {thwarted plans}

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Sometimes, even the best laid plans get thwarted. There I was, after work, at a honey tasting from an amazing local company called Waxing Kara. Kara Brook has made some amazing products that are local to Maryland but she’s gotten some amazing national recognition. She’s even been featured by Martha Stewart! What an inspiration.

So anyway, I’m having fun tasting 6 types of honey (the Spring honey is my favorite), trying every possible beauty product you could imagine made from honey, picking out (spoiler alert mom) Mother’s Day gifts, and in no hurry because the hubs is getting the kids and we’re going out to dinner.

And I get the call. Plans have changed, can I pick up the kids? Dinner out tomorrow night instead.

How many times do weekday plans change? Or, even just a simple dinner changes on a dime? I can’t tell you how many times whatever I’ve planned for dinner is still frozen/ingredients have been eaten/no longer sounds good.

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Enter the quick pantry meal. 15 minutes, only ingredients from the pantry or freezer, but amazingly delicious and wholesome. That’s where this Vegan 3-Bean Chili came from. It really couldn’t be easier, you probably already have all of the ingredients in your house, and it’s awesomely delicious.

What’s your go-to pantry meal?

Pantry Vegan Chili

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Pantry Vegan Chili


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and washed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can chopped green chills
  • 1/2 of a beer (or 1 cup of water or veggie stock if you're going gluten free)
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 cup corn
  • cilantro, optional
  • avocado, optional
  • chopped jalapenos


  1. Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent, stir in garlic cooking until fragrant.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except cilantro and avocado. Cook over medium low heat just until heated through.
  3. If the chili is too thick, add a little water until you get your desired consistency.
  4. Serve topped with cilantro, diced avocado and jalapeños.
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Caesar salad {kids cooking}

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“I’d just like a nice Caesar salad with some grilled chicken” says my 5-year old son occasionally. Because, you know, that’s a typical kids dinner request.

No problem though, I like your style and hey let’s make it together!

Mixing and measuring the dressing is fun, plus we get to use ingredients we don’t normally use together–namely Worcestershire and anchovies. And then it’s just a matter of tossing with lettuce and croutons!

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I salvage stale bread just before I need to toss it out to make croutons, so I always have some stashed away to use for a meal like this.

A traditional Caesar salad would use raw egg yolk and olive oil, but this is a super quick weeknight meal for cooking with kids, so forget the eggs–mayonnaise is not much more than eggs and oil anyway.

Top with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak if you’d like, or serve on the side for an easy accompaniment! We make this about once a week through the summer for an easy no cook meal any night of the week.

Caesar salad

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Caesar salad


  • 4 slices day old Italian bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons mince garlic, approx 2 large cloves
  • 2 anchovies, minced, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces


  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Kids cooking step: Toss the bread cubes with olive oil and half of the salt and pepper.
    End Kids cooking step.
  3. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until toasty. Remove, bring to room temperature. You can do this in advance and keep the croutons in an air tight storage container for a couple of days.
  4. Kids cooking step: Whisk together the garlic, remaining salt and pepper, anchovies, lemon juice, Worcestershire, mustard, mayonnaise, and half of the cheese. If the dressing is thicker than you'd like, splash a little water in to loosen it up.
  5. Add the lettuce and croutons and toss gently until dressing evenly coats every leaf.
  6. Serve, topped with remaining cheese.
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Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {spring fever}

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Yippeee! yahooo! It’s SPRING!

Why am I so excited, you may ask? Well, you probably don’t ask–who doesn’t like spring?

I am so excited because…WE GET TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Cold, wet, grey weather does NOT mix well with young, active children. I can categorically declare that I can build just about anything with Legos and that I know every word in Frozen. It’s time to move on to outside activities.

  • Outside activity #1: Farmers Markets. They’re back! Local produce, local artisans, and scooters–our preferred mode of best-way-to-wear-the-kids-out transportation.
  • Outside activity #2: Gardening. I love having the kids help me plant plants, watch them grow, pick the flowers/veggies. We just have a small city patio and garden space but it’s still plenty to give them some exposure to what it’s like to grow your own produce and plants.
  • Outside activity #3: Playground Happy Hour. Oh come on, you’ve never taken the kids to the playground after school, met up with other parent friends, and brought a little special bevvie?

In addition to outside enjoyment, springtime fare is just the best. Some of the most delicious, and most elusive or short-lived, ingredients come to pass during spring so you’ve got to take advantage of them. Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morels, and of course asparagus!

A friend gave me asparagus fresh-picked from his garden with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner–a perfect pairing with asparagus. So I wanted to create an easy, delicious dish that highlighted the asparagus but didn’t overpower the wine. And I wanted to use some fresh herbs from my garden. And I had a farmers market leek in the fridge.

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Herby Asparagus and Leek Gnocchi with Scallops was born. A little strategically, a little kitchen sinky, a lot deliciously.

It looks and sounds all fancy so is great for a special weekend meal, but honestly I made it on a Wednesday in 20 minutes with mostly ingredients I had on hand. So it can double as a mid-week pick-me-up. And the kids love the gnocchi, so it’s an easy sell.

I actually created this dish specifically to pair with a Lagler Gruner Vetliner that was given to me. It’s crisp enough to compliment the asparagus, but has enough body to hold up to the gnocchi and scallops.


Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops


  • 1 pound packaged gnocchi?
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • ?1 Tablespoon olive oil?
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced?
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus?
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil)?
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops?
  • salt and pepper


  1. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions. While you’re bringing the water to a boil, prepare the sauce. 
  2. Trim the asparagus where the tough, woody stem naturally breaks off. Then cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook just until tender but not brown--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, only about a minute or two. Toss in herbs and drained gnocchi. Cover and set aside. 
  5. In a clean large skillet (I just wipe clean the skillet I just used for gnocchi), melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high to high heat (you want to get it really hot, but not smoking or the butter will burn). Pat the scallops very dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter begins to sizzle, place the scallops into the pan with at least an inch of space between them.
  6. After 2 minutes, flip. Outside of the single flip DO NOT TOUCH the scallops. After another 2 minutes, remove.
  7. Place the gnocchi on a plate and garnish with scallops. Serve with a seasonal green salad.
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***this was updated from an original post in May, 2013, with new photography. Like it?

Grilled Pizza

Pizza with KidsFeatured Recipe: Grilled Pizza
Featured Wine: Chianti, or if you’re feeling sassy: Champagne.

A dab of flour on noses, oops! a little juice spilled. Cooking with kids, what a delightful mess and such fun, say paper towel companies.

More like, splat! there went a dozen eggs. No, you can’t eat raw bacon. How did spaghetti sauce wind up on the ceiling?

So, cooking with kids. Delightful and fun? Yes. A mess? Definitely!

Despite the mess, I started inviting N to help me in the kitchen when he was about 3 years old. He’s going to be there anyway, so he may as well help out! Plus bringing kids into the kitchen teaches them math, science, following instructions, being independent, and self-sufficicient. And if they’re involved they’re less likely to complain about whatever is for dinner.

Just little things at first–mix this, pour that in there. By 4 he was doing more to make meals like brunch than me–making the bacon (using my baking technique), cracking and mixing the eggs. I just put things in the oven and stir them on the stove.

Yes, he makes a giant mess. But he gets better with practice, and anyway who does’t make a little mess while cooking?

One of the easiest cooking activities to introduce him to was the art of assembly. He loves making and building things (think Legos), and can quickly see his efforts rewarded with a finished product. Plus he felt like he had decision rights on what goes where. Sandwiches were good. Salads are easy. And pizza is great.

I like to grill individual pizzas since the grill can get hotter than my oven–I think it makes it a little more authentic. Pizza dough that is partially cooked on the grill, combined with prepped toppings, everyone gets just what they want, with sauce on the ceiling and flour on the nose to prove it!Grilled Pizza

Home Economics: save $400. On hummus.

I have two kids, a full-time job, and I blog. And sometimes I actually like to have fun with Dan and the kids. So I’m not opposed to paying for convenience. When the markup is reasonable. One of the things that really gets my goat though is when spending 5 minutes making something yourself could save you 500%.

So, I’m going to make some use out of my MBA. I’m starting an occasional series called Home Economics that’s about selectively doing some things yourself that you might typically pay for. Pay A LOT for.

Hummus in progressFirst up, hummus. Ok, it’s only $5 at the grocery. But it’s such a great snack, I found myself getting a container or two every week (each container is 5 ounces). So that’s nearly $500/year just on hummus. Think about what you could buy for $500, and that’s what I could spend on hummus. Insane, right?

Economics of making your own hummus

See hummus recipe

15 oz tahini = $6; recipe calls for 3 oz: tahini is $1.16
1 can garbonzo beans: $1
lemon: $0.50
I assume you use so little of the other stuff that it’s just a few extra pennies.

My recipe makes 15 ounces of hummus for less than $3. I was paying $5 for 5 ounces of hummus. That’s a 500% markup for something that takes 2 minutes in a food processor.

If you don’t already have a food processor, here’s a good reason to get one. 3 months of making your own hummus and it pays for itself. Let’s pause for a moment and digest that. If you make your own hummus you could buy yourself a Kitchen Aid food processor in 3 months. It’s like the best layaway plan ever.

So, now I make my own hummus and take my annual $400 in hummus savings and buy something nice for myself. Like diapers.