Taco Soup – A Healthy One Pot Meal That’s So Easy, Even a Husband Can Do It!

Taco Soup – A Healthy One Pot Meal That’s So Easy, Even a Husband Can Do It!

When you’re super-busy during the week and have to get dinner on the table, it can be pretty stressful! As well as the cooking, there’s also pots and dishes to clean up.

If you don’t want all of the dishes that go with cooking, an easy way to avoid it is by using just one pot. There’s a lot of one-pot meals you can cook up, but here you’ll discover one of the easiest – Taco soup.

Want to know how easy it is? My previously non-cooking husband has made this his signature dish! And it’s delicious! Now, it’s his “go-to” meal, even when the weather turns warmer!

Why Taco soup?

The great thing about Taco Soup is that it is so versatile! It also doesn’t take very many ingredients.

You’ll need ground beef, onions, smoked paprika, black beans, corn, taco seasoning, enchilada sauce, salsa, and chicken broth.  Plus, optional ingredients for serving could be sour cream, shredded cheese, chips, lettuce, salsa, and avocado.

This soup is a great way to use leftover meat.  Try leftover chicken, hamburger, shredded pork or turkey.

The full list of ingredients include:

  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 small, sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 8.75 – 15-ounce can of corn kernels, drained
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 10-ounce can or jar of mild enchilada sauce
  • 16-ounce jar of mild salsa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Tortilla chips, Mexican shredded cheese, sour cream and avocado for serving

For specific instructions to prepare, click HERE.

You can cook this meal on the range or in a slow cooker. Add all the ingredients to the pot and leave to simmer and cook. My husband cooks it in the crock pot for 4-6 hours. Easy peasy!!

You’ll be surprised how quickly this soup is to make; especially in the morning when you’re getting ready for the day.  You can easily put everything in the pot and turn on the slow cooker for the day while you’re at work.

Or you could prepare it the night before. Put the slow cooker insert into the refrigerator for the night and then take it out in the morning and put into the crock pot. Turn it on low power and by the time you get home, you’ll have a tasty and filling soup.

Making a one pot healthy meal is easy to do and once you’ve gotten used to doing it this way, you’ll want to find more recipes that use only one pot to cook in.  It’s really convenient and a huge time saver!

For more great food ideas, as well as tips for home life and lifestyle, sign up to receive information from me at https://HERLifeHacks.com 

Signing up is FREE! And I want to know how I can serve you. 

3 Things to Watch Out for When Buying Healthy Snack Bars and 4 Recommended Snack Bars

3 Things to Watch Out for When Buying Healthy Snack Bars and 4 Recommended Snack Bars

Did you know those healthy snack bars you’ve been consuming might not be very “healthy” at all?

It’s common to assume they’re healthier than traditional granola or cereal bars, making them a good, easy switch for some of your fatty or salty snacks. However, while health food snack bars may seem like a great idea, most are anything but healthy!

If you’re worried about getting a health bar that may be just as bad for you as other snack bars on the market, consider looking for warning signs. Here are a few to watch out for the next time you’re buying healthy snack bars.

Sodium

One of the first things to look for when you’re buying healthy snack bars is the sodium count.

Remember that high sodium intake can cause water retention. This in turn can lead to weight gain and bloating. If you’re eating a snack bar that is organic and healthy, the sodium count should not be that high.

If it seems very high to you, then it is likely sodium found in preservatives and not in the ingredients of the food itself.

Sugar

Sugar content can be very high in certain healthy snack bars. The problem with this is, most people don't tend to look at the sugar content.

It’s worth keeping in mind, some sugars are natural and come from the fruit contained within the snack bar. So, if you have a fruit bar versus a nut bar, then you will likely see more sugars. The sugar should come from naturally sweet ingredients, not added sugars.

If you are buying a bar that is nut-based, as well as high in protein and oats, you’ll likely want to consider it a warning sign if there’s a very high amount of sugars.

Consider this – one can of cola contains approximately 40 grams of sugar. If you are staying away from sugary drinks because of the sugar content, and the snack bar that is supposed to be healthy contains around the same amount, it is probably not a good sign.

Flavorings

Flavorings are a dead giveaway that your healthy snack bar isn't exactly healthy.

Ideally, it should have natural flavors and natural colors. When you see additives like artificial flavorings, it’s a warning sign that what’s in the bar is not necessarily as healthy as you might think.

Ideally, the best healthy snack bar is the one you make at home. You can control the ingredients, add only the things you want in the bars, as well as control the quantity. If you go down this route, remember to get everything as fresh as possible and be sure it’s not overly processed.

Real Simple recommends these four snack bars as being the most healthy and also taste good. I cannot attest to the taste because I haven’t tried all of them. Also, consider that these are snack bars, not meal replacement bars. Look at the size before you buy. Most are very small because they were designed to be a snack and therefore have fewer calories

  1. Health Warrior Chia Bars actually have chia seeds as the first ingredient listed, which is a good sign. Chia seeds have proven health benefits and the bars also include plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. You can get them HERE.
  2. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt are great if you like extra crunchy. I have tried these and love the flavors. They feature heart-healthy nuts and a small drizzle of chocolate. Click HERE to find these.
  3. RXBar Coffee Chocolate is the next recommended snack bar. The extra sugar in these is naturally-occurring and comes mostly from the dates. These bars, except for ones with peanut butter are Whole30 compliant. You can find a variety pack HERE.
  4. GoMacro Granola and Coconut bars are the final recommended healthy snack bar. Their plant-based ingredients are sourced from organic and non-GMO certified growers. Click HERE for these bars.

Of course, the healthiest snack bars are homemade. If you are interested in a few recipes for healthy snack bars, comment below and let me know. I have tried several that I think are good.

Breaking News: Chocolate Chess Pie Replaces Pumpkin Pie as Thanksgiving Favorite!

Breaking News: Chocolate Chess Pie Replaces Pumpkin Pie as Thanksgiving Favorite!

When you think of Thanksgiving and pie, what comes to mind? Pumpkin Pie? Today, I’m offering another suggestion – Chocolate Chess Pie! Everybody loves chocolate, right? And all of us could use a little chocolate comfort.

I’ve made Chocolate Chess Pie from a lot of different recipes, some of which have been labeled as the signature recipe of some famous restaurants or from prize-winning cooks. I even set up a blind taste test of two award-winning pie recipes along with my humble recipe. And I asked the most discerning connoisseur of Chocolate Chess Pies that I know to be the judge – my grandson. I’ve seen that handsome tall skinny kid devour half of a pie at one sitting!

The winner of the blind taste test of Chocolate Chess pies was…(drumroll, please!)…my Chocolate Chess pie! I will admit that my grandson said one of the other recipes was a close second, but he still picked mine as the certified winner.

I want to give you a little back story to my humble rise to pie stardom (at least in my family’s estimation). My family celebrated my daughter’s birthday one year at a famous steak restaurant, which shall remain nameless, in Raleigh, North Carolina. After a sumptuous steak dinner, she ordered Chocolate Chess Pie for dessert. I thought it was too expensive for such a simple dessert, one that I could easily make at home and could probably make several pies for the cost of that one slice.

However, when the waiter served the pie, I tasted it and was struck by how smooth and creamy, as well as downright chocolate heaven it was! When I returned home, I started experimenting. How hard could it be to make a Chocolate Chess Pie as good as the one in the famous restaurant? Turns out – not so hard!

The recipe I had been using was from a local cookbook, assembled and sold by a rural women’s community service organization. They started the cookbook in 1958 and its popularity has continued to grow along with sales. These are recipes from country cooks who have lived their lives cooking for their families and everyone else in the community. I can’t say it contains the most nutritious recipes. But I can say it contains some of the best-tasting recipes!

But I digress. The recipe listed only six ingredients and the directions were simple: “Mix ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake 30 minutes at 350°.” After a few tries, I came up with what I and my family thought was a much better pie. So, I rewrote the recipe to include every step I followed to create a smooth, creamy, and delicious Chocolate Chess Pie.

So, how did I change it? Check out my YouTube video to see! And subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when more videos are added! Go to https://www.youtube.com/c/herlifehacks/

You’ll also find my rewritten and renamed recipe there for The Ultimate Quick and Easy Chocolate Chess Pie! And I’d love to hear about the pies you make. Do you have a favorite recipe? Email me at vicki@herlifehacks.com!

Now – move over Pumpkin Pie. Let’s make Chocolate Chess Pie the new Thanksgiving pie!

How Have Your Eating Habits Changed?

How Have Your Eating Habits Changed?

We’ve been experiencing many life changes for months now as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage throughout the world. How have your eating habits changed? Notice that my question was not “Have your eating habits changed?” I dare say with all the disruptions to daily life in 2020, that your eating habits must have changed.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here if I assume your eating habits have not changed for the better. I know mine have gotten worse. If your eating habits have improved during the pandemic, I congratulate you! Keep up the good work.

Which describes you best?

     My eating habits have improved during the pandemic.

     My eating habits have stayed the same during the pandemic.

     My eating habits have gotten worse during the pandemic.

In the beginning, when we were advised to stay at home, we scoured the freezer for what to cook. We tried to prepare healthy meals, but it was difficult from the beginning. The hardest part was incorporating healthy vegetables.

And although I cooked more, I found myself baking comfort foods instead of healthy options. I started baking bread, cookies, cakes, and pies! The natural inclination is to reward ourselves for losses suffered in other areas of our lives. But that has resulted in emotional indulgence in unhealthy foods.

One recent survey indicated that over 75% of respondents said they had gained over 15 pounds during their period of quarantine! Before you know it, you can be mindlessly snacking throughout the day and eating meals that take little effort, like sandwiches and chips.

 

Plated Meals vs Munchies and Bags

How you eat a meal can dictate the volume you consume. Consider a party where chips and dip are present at a table. You casually munch on these items as you socialize. Inevitably, you'll eat more than if you served yourself food on a plate.

This same concept applies to environments where you're eating out of a bag, such as fast food or a popcorn container. Most vegetables aren't served in this manner, which means that you're probably eating items that are high in fat and lack nutrients.

This can send you into a downward spiral of unhealthy eating habits that contribute to depression, anxiety, and brain fog. In such instances, your body is just not getting the nutrients to support good health.

Eating Out Options

With restaurants closed and takeout the only option, a fast-food drive-thru appeared to be our only option. Foods laden with salt, fat, and sugar can only lead to disastrous results for our health. And as we continue to eat this way, the likelihood of making healthy food choices continues to decline.

What about the children?

With the closing of schools around the country, parents were faced with food preparation for every meal every day for the entire family. That alone created a situation that most people were totally unprepared to tackle. If fast food was previously a frequent choice, families were even more likely to make unhealthy eating choices.

Which describes you best?

     I have planned and cooked healthy meals.  

     I have eaten a lot of fast food ordered in a drive-thru.

   My grocery shopping included more unhealthy snacks than wholesome foods.

What can we do?

The first thing we can do is become more aware of our food choices and the impact they are having on our families. Are you using food to self-medicate and shield yourself from life changes over which you have no control? What are some healthy foods that are readily available and require little preparation? Start there with small positive food choices.

Think about ways you can incorporate more movement into what may have become a more sedentary lifestyle. Get outside and soak up some morning sun with a brisk walk. Walking is a good way to help clear away the brain fog and promote better decision-making.

What about sleep habits? Have you been staying up later binging on Netflix series? If your sleep habits have been altered, it’s likely you’re not getting enough rest and are feeling more stressed. Get back to a routine that prepares you for adequate and restful sleep.

And be kind to yourself. This has been a chaotic year so far. So many changes have been beyond our control, which makes it even more difficult to cope. Forgive yourself for not being able to handle everything perfectly. It’s just not possible. Look for little ways to reward yourself that also lead to more healthy habits.

Which statement(s) best describe(s) your plans for the future?

     I will plan my grocery shopping and food preparation to include more healthy foods, especially vegetables.

     I will implement more exercise into my day, especially walking outside.

     I will follow a winding-down routine before bedtime and go to bed at a reasonable time.

     I will give myself a break and implement plans for a healthier lifestyle.

      Nah, I’m good. Don’t need to change. Just going with the flow.

Are you prepared to come through this pandemic stronger and in a position to make better life decisions? If you’re not exactly where you want to be, consider my new mini-course, Designing Your New Normal Mindset. The interactive activities can guide you to making more intentional decisions in line with how you want to move forward with your life. Check it out here: https://designingyournewnormal.com/

10 Best Apps for Cooking With Ingredients On Hand

10 Best Apps for Cooking With Ingredients On Hand

Good or bad, wanted or unwanted – our lives have changed. A major area of change is food preparation. My husband and I used to eat out a lot. We used to be at our grandchildren’s sporting events on weekday afternoons. No time to cook there; eating out was a must. Even when we were at home, we might look in the refrigerator and not see anything to cook. Another eating out opportunity!

But COVID-19 has changed all that. No excuses. I had to cook more. Fast food drive-thru eating can get boring quickly, not to mention how unhealthy that can be. But I still look in the refrigerator and ask myself what do I cook for dinner? (And now, that includes breakfast and lunch!)

So I researched apps that would give me recipe ideas based on the ingredients I have on hand. One or more of these could help solve that staring into the refrigerator paralysis. These are the top 10 apps based on consumer ratings. I only included apps that were available for download on both IOS and Android devices.

Even though the apps were presented in order of user ratings, their value depends on needs of the user. The ninth app listed might be more useful to the user than the number one rated app.

All of the apps reviewed allow the user to search for recipes based upon ingredients on hand and generate grocery lists. However, each delivers a different food preparation experience. A summary of what might be most important to a user and the app to choose follows:

  • For customizing the entire food preparation process from searching for recipes, creating a cookbook of saved recipes, generating grocery lists based on recipes, shopping for groceries and having groceries delivered (only by Walmart) – choose TASTY
  • For starting with the main ingredient to search recipes resulting in beautifully detailed instructions for cooking – choose EPICURIOUS
  • For creating a personalized cookbook and publishing to a community of like-minded individuals – choose KITCHEN STORIES
  • For a broad and varied way to filter recipes based on ingredients and different combinations of ingredients – choose SUPERCOOK
  • For “foodies” who follow food blogs – choose YUMMLY
  • For specific food diets based on nutritional needs – choose SIDECHEF
  • For recipes based on utilizing leftovers – choose BIG OVEN
  • For a social experience that includes sharing and chatting about recipes and cooking – choose COOKPAD
  • For a personalized file of recipes that continually responds to your personal preferences and previous choices – choose ALLRECIPES
  • For a more automated family-inclusive process from selecting a recipe to grocery shopping – choose RECIPE TO TABLE

The best way to select an app that fits your cooking preferences and lifestyle is to download ones that sound like they would work for you and try them out. And there may be other apps that would be more appropriate for your circumstances. If you find yourself cooking more than ever before and need to get out of the rut of preparing the same things over and over, a food app might be your solution.

Bonus: Download 10 Best Apps For Cooking With Ingredients On Hand chart here https://vickiloves.me/AppsIngredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though the apps were presented in order of user ratings, their value depends on needs of the user. The ninth app listed might be more useful to the user than the number one rated app.

All of the apps reviewed allow the user to search for recipes based upon ingredients on hand and generate grocery lists. However, each delivers a different food preparation experience. A summary of what might be most important to a user and the app to choose follows:

  • For customizing the entire food preparation process from searching for recipes, creating a cookbook of saved recipes, generating grocery lists based on recipes, shopping for groceries and having groceries delivered (only by Walmart) – choose TASTY
  • For starting with a main ingredient to search recipes resulting in beautiful detailed instructions for cooking – choose EPICURIOUS
  • For creating a personalized cookbook and publishing to a community of like-minded individuals – choose KITCHEN STORIES
  • For a broad and varied way to filter recipes based on ingredients and different combinations of ingredients – choose SUPERCOOK
  • For “foodies” who follow food blogs – choose YUMMLY
  • For specific food diets based on nutritional needs – choose SIDECHEF
  • For recipes based on utilizing leftovers – choose BIG OVEN
  • For a social experience that includes sharing and chatting about recipes and cooking – choose COOKPAD
  • For a personalized file of recipes that continually responds to your personal preferences and previous choices – choose ALLRECIPES
  • For a more automated family inclusive process from selecting a recipe to grocery shopping – choose RECIPE TO TABLE

The best way to select an app that fits your cooking preferences and lifestyle is to download ones that sound like they would work for you and try them out. And there may be other apps that would be more appropriate for your circumstances. If you find yourself cooking more than ever before and need to get out of the rut of preparing the same things over and over, a food app might be your solution.