Ben’s “Pleasant” Crock Pot Veggie Chili

Ben’s “Pleasant” Crock Pot Veggie Chili

When I asked Ben why he liked this chili, his response: “I like the taste!”

Me: What do you like about the taste, love?

Him: It’s very…pleasant.

Very pleasant. Just what every wife wants to hear when her husband compliments her cooking. I mean, are we talking “pleasant” as in “Yes, I met that older woman who lives down the street with her six cats… she smelled a bit like mothballs, but she was very pleasant.” Or, are we talking “pleasant” as in, “The new color on the wall isn’t my favorite, but it doesn’t exactly make me want to run out of the room with seizures… it’s pleasant.”

Pleasant is what you use to describe something that isn’t so awful that you can’t stand it, but doesn’t make you shake your pom-poms and do a jig in your kitchen. It’s a euphemism you use to make someone (or something) sound much better than you really think it is.

My chili is never just “pleasant.” I tried to make Ben guess the key spices in it, even giving him the letters each one started with (“three C’s, Ben! Come on!) as if his ability to pick out the unique flavors in this stew would make my labors worthwhile.

His answer: “Cauliflower?”

Sigh. Some battles you just can’t win. I must conquer this blast to my home-cook confidence.

Tonight, when he asked for leftover chili over pizza or quiche, and even without any chicken to top it off, I knew that I’d come up with a winner, even if I hadn’t been able to woo him with my spices the night before.

So here you have it, my friends. Ben’s “pleasant” chili that hopefully won’t remind you of the cat-lady or boring paint on your wall. A chili that’s easy to throw together in the crock pot in the morning and let it do its magic all day. Packed with veggie and fiber, this can be enjoyed all week long to fuel your busy days and “spicy” lives! It also has a few “secret ingredients” that really add an extra kick of spicy-sweetness (but you’ll have to look for yourself!). Enjoy it on a cold rainy Monday night with a dollop of greek yogurt or some shredded cheese, and even bring the leftovers to work with you the next day. Go ahead- make all your co-workers jealous. You have my permission.

Just do me a favor. When you’re heating it up in the microwave at work, don’t let anyone tell you that it smells “pleasant.”

Ben’s “Pleasant” Crock Pot Veggie Chili
Recipe Type: Stew, Soup, Chili, Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-12
Throw together all the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and let ‘er simmer away all day. Come home to a smoky, sweet smell and warm up those cold bones with this veggie chili! Perfect for Meatless Monday and bring-to-work-leftovers Tuesday!
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 carton (about 1 cup) sliced portobella mushrooms
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes and their juice
  • 32 oz carton low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • dried parsley, optional for topping
  • greek yogurt or cheddar cheese, for topping
  1. In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Cook until translucent, about 3 min. Add mushrooms and cook 2 min more until soft. Pour into bottom of crock pot sprayed with cooking spray. Add sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, corn, lentils, tomatoes, and broth.
  2. Stir together remaining spices in a small bowl and add to crock pot. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on high heat 5-6 hours, or low heat 6-8, or until potatoes and carrots are soft.
  4. Top with dried parsley, greek yogurt or shredded cheese.



“Facing the Facts About Fat:” A Post from the RD!

I’m excited to share another post with you from Melissa Moser, the Claire Tastes Registered Dietitian! Melissa has posted before about gluten-free diets, and now she tackles the topic of fat. What’s the science behind it? Does it make a difference where your fat comes from? Is fat good for you? Read on to discover some things you didn’t know about one of the most controversial topics in nutrition! You can also learn more about Melissa on my Nutrition Page.



If you’re scared of fat, you’re not alone. We’re scared to talk about fat because it’s a complicated topic. We’re scared to eat fat because we think it’ll wreak havoc on our health. Most of all, we’re scared of getting fat! I’m here to help you face the facts – the good and the bad – to restore a healthy relationship with fat! The next time you hear the words “polyunsaturated fats” you’ll be able to jump in the conversation and help others understand the nutritional science of fat!

Fact #1: Fat on your body is not the same as fat in your food. Your body stores excess calories as fat. Whether those excess calories are in the form of carbs, fat, protein, or alcohol, if you’re consuming more calories than your body needs, your body will store these extra calories as fat. That means that even on a completely fat-free diet you can gain weight and store more fat on your body if you’re eating too many calories. A higher fat diet does not necessarily equate to a higher fat person.

Fact #2: Everyone needs fat. The body is unable to absorb, transport, and store certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) without fat. Fat is important for building cell membranes, and it’s a major component of nerve cells. A lack of dietary fat can impair hormone production and signaling between cells. A small amount of fat is essential!

Fact #3: Not all fats are created equal. In general, research has shown that saturated fat and trans fat have negative effects on our cholesterol levels, putting us at higher risk for heart disease. The good news is that replacing these fats with polyunsaturated fats can actually improve cholesterol levels! In an attempt to simplify the research, public health messages that came out in the 1980’s advised us to limit total fat. Rather than defining the types of fats (or the foods in which they are commonly found), public health agencies advised we cut down on fat altogether. And so the low-fat craze was born!

Fact #4: Just because a food is low in fat doesn’t mean it’s healthy. When the low-fat message came out, food manufacturers began making new, fat-free junk like SnackWell’s cookies. To make these fat-free cookies taste as good as regular cookies, manufacturers added extra sugar and chemicals to mimic the taste and feel of the original. If you compare the nutrition facts, you’ll find that one SnackWell’s Devil’s Food Cookie has roughly the same amount of calories and about 3g more sugar than an Oreo Cookie.

Here’s my bottom line: Fat is necessary, but the type and quantity you consume matter. Fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient, so it only takes a small amount of fat to add up to a lot of calories. When snacking on high-fat foods like nuts, measure out your serving size before you start eating so you don’t go overboard. Reduce saturated fat by limiting full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, butter, grain-based desserts, and deep-fried foods. Stay away from trans fats, which can be identified in the ingredients list as “hydrogenated” oils. Replace these with heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish like salmon and trout, or healthy oils like soybean, corn, and sunflower.

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Hash with Soft-Broiled Eggs


No, I am not one of those crazy health nuts who will swear to you that spaghetti squash “actually tastes like spaghetti!” Those people are silly. Spaghetti squash will never be a perfect substitute for real pasta, and it will probably not fill you up to the same degree. It is not a carb, and therefore won’t absorb as much water in your stomach and give you that post-Thanksgiving dinner feeling. But really, who wants that feeling, anyway? (except on Turkey Day, of course!) Spaghetti squash is not only lower in carbohydrates and has a lower glycemic index (only 10 g/cup cooked squash vs. 43 g/cup of cooked pasta), but it is also more nutrient dense: loaded with vitamin C, B-6, and potassium (source: SFGate).

Now that the weather is getting cooler and autumn veggies are plentiful, I’ve been wanting to experiment with some spaghetti squash recipes. My sister created a really popular recipe a few years ago for Garlicky Broccoli and Spaghetti Squash, and it’s one of her most popular recipes! So easy, and so tasty! I decided to do something similar but with a few different veggies- onions, cauliflower, carrots, and kale. I also poached an egg in the center of the cooked veggie mixture for some added meatless protein! I’ve been on quite the egg kick lately. I could poach or fry an egg and put it on just about anything with a nice dollop of yogurt or sprinkling of cheese (sometimes both).

This recipe will not only warm you up, but it will make you feel good about your health. And you can still twirl the “spaghetti” around your fork without feeling like you’ve overindulged in a humongo bowl of pasta!

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Hash with Broiled Eggs
Recipe Type: Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
An easy, tasty way to fill up on vitamin-rich veggies without feeling like you have to unzip your trousers! You can thank me later.
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp, divided- I also added a drizzle of truffle oil for extra deliciousness)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 3 carrots, chopped or grated
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 4 cups broccoli and cauliflower mixture
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, for sweetness
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vingear
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 cups chopped kale (this sounds like a lot but it will wilt down!)
  • Eggs (1-2 per serving)
  • S&P
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Slice spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the “guts” with a large spoon. Drizzle with about 1 tsp olive oil and place flesh-side up on a baking sheet with about 1 cup water in the bottom.
  3. Bake squash for 60 minutes or until fork-tender.
  4. Shred the “spaghetti” with a fork and set aside in a large bowl or casserole dish.
  5. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Add onions and carrots and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in apples, followed by apple cider, vinegar, broccoli and cauliflower to pan and stir to combine.
  6. Pour in chicken broth and return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Add kale and stir until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Add more broth if necessary.
  8. Add vegetable mixture to squash and stir to combine. You can add some parmesan cheese here or wait till the end!
  9. Ladle a generous scoop of the veggie mixture to a bowl. Using the back of the ladle, make a well in the center. Add egg to the well and sprinkle a few more pieces of kale on top.
  10. Broil on high for 2 minutes, then low for 3 minutes until egg is set. Watch it closely, as ovens/times vary.
  11. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese of your choice, and S&P. I also drizzled mine with a bit of hot sauce. Enjoy!
Calories: 206 cal Fat: 9 g Carbohydrates: 22 g Fiber: 5 g Protein: 12 g










Spaghetti Squash and Kale Hash with Broiled Eggs

Introducing the New Claire Tastes Dietitian, Melissa! (And her first post on gluten-free diets!)

Claire Tastes is pleased to announce a fun new partnership with Melissa Moser, Registered Dietitian and long-time friend! I am so excited to work with a real expert in dieting, nutrition, and living a balanced and active life! Feel free to comment here with any questions you have for Melissa, and find out more about her by visiting her Nutrition page here on the blog!

Melissa Moser, R.D.

What You Should Know About Gluten

When I tell people I’m a dietitian, they usually jump at the opportunity to ask me their questions about the latest nutrition craze. It seems that for the last year or two, gluten-free diets have been on the top of that list. Even my Italian grandmother, who cooks the most delicious pasta dishes in the world (sorry, Claire!), was considering giving up gluten after she heard about it on Dr. Oz!

So, what do I tell people when they ask me whether or not they should go gluten-free? Well, I’m not the type of dietitian who likes to tell people exactly what to eat – or not eat, so instead I guide them through a series of questions to help them come to their own, informed conclusion. If this is a lifestyle you’re considering, or just want to know more about, read through my questions and their answers:


Do you know what gluten is?

Recently, Jimmy Kimmel sent a camera crew out to the streets of LA to ask self-declared gluten-free dieters the question “What is gluten?” and they came up with some pretty comical answers. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, and it gives bread its chewy texture. It’s believed that these grains became a major part of humans’ diets about 1200 years ago, and some make the argument that this has not been enough time for our bodies to adapt to properly digest it.

What are your reasons for wanting to avoid gluten?

There are plenty of legitimate arguments for following a gluten-free diet, but at least as many poorly-informed ones. People who are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease need to omit gluten because it causes their body to attack and damage the surface of their own intestines, leading to serious consequences. Recent research has investigated a separate condition called gluten sensitivity. For people with gluten sensitivity, removing gluten from the diet can help to resolve certain intestinal symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as systemic symptoms like joint pain, headache, and anemia. If you’re not experiencing these types of symptoms, the gluten-free diet is not the magic answer to give you more energy or a sense of well-being. And if you’re considering a gluten-free diet because you want to lose weight, please understand this diet doesn’t guarantee weight loss, which brings me to my next question…

What will you eat if you omit gluten?

Deciding what you will eat is even more important than deciding what you won’t eat. A gluten-free diet will many unhealthy, processed snack foods, but because of the increasing demand for gluten-free items, manufacturers have made it possible to have your [gluten-free] cake and eat it too! Replacing gluten-containing foods with alternative whole grains like quinoa and brown rice – or better yet, adding more vegetables or fruits to the diet – can make for a very healthy gluten-free diet! However, filling the gluten void with gluten-free junk won’t likely do you any good.

So here’s my bottom line:

If you’re considering a gluten-free diet, think carefully about your reasoning. Plan what types of food you will eat, and figure out if this is a reasonable lifestyle for you. Whether you decide to keep gluten in your diet or not, aim to eat more nutrient-dense foods (like vegetables) and fewer nutrient-poor foods (like cakes and chips). And remember, there are no “magic” diets to boost your energy and make you look years younger. My suggestion for that is a well-balanced diet based on common sense, a good night’s rest, and a bit of time spent walking/running/playing every day!


Apple Cider Chicken & Roasted Root Vegetable Medley

It’s that time of the year, ya’ll. Peaches are OUT, squash is IN. And APPLES! Did I mention it’s APPLE season? Ben and I are planning on going to Cville next weekend for our annual Carter Mountain apple picking trip. It’s so worth driving 6 hours total for 3ish hours of apple-hoarding, doughnut-nomming, cider-drinking, kiddo-ogling, dog-petting, hayriding, and jam-buying fun. (Maybe it’s less worth it for him, but at least he knows I’m the happiest lady in the world for those three hours!)

2013-10-26 12.11.16
Carter Mountain Orchard Trip (October 2013)

Since it’s fall now, I decided my “meal of the week” (read: large casserole that will make leftovers for about 12 days straight) should be some sort of roasted vegetables with an ode to apples. I was over by Trader Joe’s this afternoon, and they were sampling out little cups of the most DELICIOUS spiced apple cider, so of course I had to buy a gallon.

The result of my shopping trip was this roasted root vegetable medley, layered on top of a mixture of brown rice and lentils (inspired by my Chicken Marsala Rice Bake from a few months ago) chopped kale, and topped with chicken breasts and dijon apple cider sauce. I infused a few sprigs of fresh thyme into the cider sauce, as well as into the roasted veggies, to give it a little more harvest flavor.


Apple Cider Chicken & Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
Recipe Type: Casserole, Healthy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12-15
  • 2 butternut squashes, cubed
  • 1 acorn squash, cubed
  • 5 carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 small carton baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • S+P (about 1/2 tsp each)
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 1 24 oz. carton low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider (I LOVE the spiced apple cider from TJ’s!)
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 cup brown rice medley
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 5 oz. chopped kale (about 1/2 bag)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 deg.
  2. Chop squash, carrots, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and onion, and toss in a large baking pan with 1 tbsp olive oil, garlic, 3 sprigs thyme (stems removed), garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Roast 15 minutes, stir, and roast 10 more minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Add chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear until just browned, about 2 min per side. Set aside.
  5. Add 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup apple cider, dijon mustard, chopped apple, remaining thyme, and extra salt and pepper. Bring to a boil
  6. Lower heat to simmering and cover. Simmer about 15-20 minutes until reduced by half.
  7. In a large casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, spread an even layer of rice and lentils. Cover with kale and pour remaining chicken broth over top. Add roasted vegetables and wedge in the chicken breasts.
  8. When sauce is done, pour over top of chicken.
  9. Cover with foil and bake at 350 deg until chicken is cooked through and rice is al dente, about 40 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes more.
Serving size: 1/12 recipe Calories: 279 cal Fat: 6 g Carbohydrates: 31 g Fiber: 7 g Protein: 27 g
Fun tri-color carrots from TJ’s!
Roasted Squash, Brussels, ‘Shrooms, and Onions
More Roasted Roots!
Just-Seared Chicken Breasts
Apple Cider Sauce, Infused w/ Fresh Thyme and Dijon Mustard
Ready to Bake!
Fresh out of the oven
Plated and served! Try topping with some goat cheese or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt!

I hope you enjoy this healthy Harvest supper just as much as we did!

P.S.Keep an eye out for a special post from our trip to Carter Mountain next weekend!

Saturday Food Prep!

DSC01709Hey ya’ll! This week is a big week for me, as I’ll be heading out on my nine month clinical rotations (all local, thank goodness) for PT school. Just over nine months from now I will (God-willing) be able to call myself a Doctor of Physical Therapy! Woohoo! Pending passing boards and graduation, of course. Technicalities.

Anyway, I’ve been a bit nervous about the change in pace. Coming off of two years of a schedule that pretty much changes from week to week (some days I’d be in class 8 hours, other days I’d get a morning off for a split-lab, some Fridays I had completely off). Now I’ll be working 40 hour weeks with a half hour lunch and probably a bit more time on top of that for patient documentation. It’s an exciting change (real world alert!) but I’m nervous about being able to manage all the other things I’d like to be able to do: make tasty dinners, pack lunches, find time to work out, take the dog for a walk/bike ride, clean the house, do laundry, spend time with friends, etc. etc. I think about how I’m going to handle it and I’m stressed about 3 seconds later. Which isn’t good for anyone.

With that, I’ve decided to control what I can control now instead of worrying about the “what if’s.” I decided to start prepping lunches for the week ahead in advance (either Saturday or Sunday), with the goal of streamlining the process. On one weekend evening I plan to make a big protein-packed salad that I can steal from all week long, to mix up lunches on days where I’m not really feeling the whole sandwich or yogurt thing. Then, my hope is that Monday night will roll around and I’ll just grab a bagged sandwich or some of the prepared salad, a bag of veggies, a bag of fruit, some pretzels and other pantry snack, perhaps a yogurt, and call it quits. I’ll do this for Ben and my own lunch (different sandwiches, yogurts and snacks).

I also came across these super cute Rubbermaid Lunch Blox, which can be purchased on Amazon for sandwiches and salads. (See the link at the bottom of this post, or visit my “Things I Like” page!) They were $12.99 at Kroger, but buy one get one free! So I got one of each. I was so pumped about the way that they snap together, lego-style, with one large bottom compartment for a sandwich or salad, and a top compartment with little individual boxes for sides and salad dressing. Best part is the ice pack that fits on the bottom to keep your lunch cold until noon! I packed one sandwich box right up with sides of veggies and fruit, and the salad one with some mixed greens and veggies. I plan on making a tabouli salad tomorrow which I’ll then add to the salad with some lemon vinaigrette (recipe to follow)!

For Ben’s sandwiches, I packed up about 8 or 9 different varieties on some leftover wheat buns we had from dinner last night. I made some with avocado, Smokey Cheddar Cheeze SPREAD, ham, and provolone, others with hummus, ham, pesto and provolone, and the remaining ones with PB, strawberry jam and raisins.

For my sandwiches, I made one with SPREAD, avocado, turkey, tomato, spinach, and a sprinkling of dried basil on Ezekiel bread, another with hummus, turkey, tomato, spinach and swiss, and the last on a multigrain FlatOut wrap with all of the ingredients from the first sandwich but edamame instead of turkey.

Fruit bags were strawberries and cherries (both of these are in abundance right now! I’ve been freezing a lot of the ones I get to save for the winter!)

Veggies included carrots, grape tomatoes, and radishes.

Gluten-free pretzel sticks (much crunchier and tastier in my opinion!) for snacks.

I’m hoping that this will help start off the next 9 months with as little stress as possible!

What tips and tricks do you use to streamline meals for the week ahead? I’d love to hear them!

DSC01695So cute! One Sandwich Kit and one Salad Kit.

DSC01697Sandwich Kit deconstructed…

DSC01699Salad Kit deconstructed… genius!

DSC01701The beginning of prep.

DSC01703Ben’s sandwiches on leftover wheat buns. A mixture of hummus or cheddar SPREAD, with ham, spinach and provolone.

DSC01704One of mine on Ezekiel… SPREAD, smashed avocado, tomato, turkey, spinach and basil sprinkle.

DSC01707Same thing on FlatOut wrap, with edamame instead of turkey as the protein of choice.

DSC01709All packed up! From L to R, some of my sandwiches, pretzel sticks, veggie bags, Ben’s sandwiches, fruit bags, and Monday and Tuesday packed lunches (sandwich and salad) in the LunchBlox in back!

DSC01711Another angle of all this delicious food.

DSC01712I’ve designated this drawer in our fridge as “the lunch drawer.” Easy for pulling open, grabbing a sandwich/veggie bag/fruit bag and calling it a night!

DSC01714Packed lunches ready-to-go for Monday and Tuesday! 

DSC01733How exhausting! #obligatoryselfie

DSC01717All done! It’s gonna be a great week!