Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related


one pot meal

garden chili with turkey… eating a rainbow.

So this is a quick thrown together “off the cuff” fresh twist on traditional chili that allows you to use a pound of lean ground turkey and a whole host of colorful vegetables.  Our goal, when able, should be to eat a rainbow… so this is an effortless way to achieve that goal.   Start with olive or avocado oil,  so your base is healthy.  I like to make dishes like this that i can freeze into lunch sized portions for an easy and smart choice the following week when strapped for time.   I wrote this recipe as i cooked it, which is what i often do… and the documentation you see here is purely from memory recall and a couple of photos i snapped during and after.  I love cooking this way and it’s what i like to refer to as ‘being in the zone.”  some of my best creations have been from daydreaming about ingredients and pairing flavors and textures in my head, hours later bringing them mind to bowl.  I always say, if i ever became one of those lucky lotto winners, i’d do three things. ONE:  I’d travel around the world exploring various cuisines and cooking methods, soaking up as much real-time knowledge as i can.  TWO: i’d do medical missionary work in places like Guatemala to maintain my nursing skills and be of true service in remote locations.  I’ve done this once and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.  THREE: when not traveling and home spending time with family in SW Pennsylvania, i’d love to collab with a younger, like minded foodie with loads of entrepreneurial spirit, in need of bankrolling… and find an old church to rehab and turn it into a wicked kewl local brunch spot.  It would be called Soul in a bowl and i’d help create some of the most fantastic spoon worthy dishes you would ever have the pleasure of eating!!  It would be open from 10:30 until 2:30 four days a week.  Of course i’d be using all of my culinary knowledge acquired from number ONE above!  Never stop dreaming, right? you need to have a plan should the universe drop something in your lap.  True story. 

What you need:  (please read entire recipe before beginning so you understand the process)

1 lb ground turkey 

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz large can)

Half a can of tomato paste (maybe two heaping tablespoons?) 

Half of a large onion diced 

Two or three large carrots peeled and small dice

One yellow or red bell pepper small dice

Four cloves of garlic finely chopped or minced

Half a head of purple cabbage, thinly sliced

Four large leaves of swiss chard, sliced and thinly chopped (bite size the leaves)

Any fresh herbs you have… stir in at end.  (think basil, parsley, fresh thyme or cilantro) 

Any shredded cheese you have for topping once you serve it up.  (i used shredded gouda from Aldi) 

Diced green onions optional for topping at end

1 cup of quinoa, cooked per package instructions. 

Chicken stock or broth (carton)  you may not use all of it, you will be adding it later


1 tsp ground chili powder

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt (add more after if you like)

½ tsp black pepper (add more if you want)

I added a few shakes of turmeric,  chipotle powder, coriander and nutmeg. 

You do you… think about how you want it to taste. 

Same with dried oregano, etc… just pepper in to your taste. 

Get a large dutch oven and do a generous swirl of olive oil.  Once hot, add some red pepper flakes.  Add in your ground turkey and cook until pink is gone.. At that point add your onions and bell peppers and cook them over md high heat along with the turkey, stirring frequently.  Par cook the onions and peppers this way… and then add in all of your dried spices and stir… allowing them to hit the high heat a bit and activiate.  At this point you can start to add in all of the other ingredients… the veggies, the can of tomatoes, the beans… give a stir to combine.  Add enough of the chicken stock just to cover the contents of the pot and give everything a liquid in which to cook.  Think about the fact that you’ll be stirring in cooked quinoa at end, so you want enough extra liquid to accommodate that, but you don’t want a soup either.  Doing things like this where you have to think ahead and consider vegetables absorbing some of the liquid etc, will increase your cooking confidence and have you flying “off the cuff” on a regular basis.  Allow this to come up to a light boil, and then stir lightly & place a tight fitting lid and reduce heat to md/low.  Set timer for 15 mins.  After 15 mins give it a stir and add in the cooked quinoa and any fresh herbs you like.  If you don’t want to add all of the quinoa, you don’t have to.   You can reserve some for salads, etc through the week.   Allow to sit and cool a bit on the stove, lid off… and then serve up a bowl with some shredded cheese and a cold beer or glass of iced tea!  You’re gonna love it and it is super good for you!  Eat a rainbow yo! 

Peace and love.  Spags


Healthy Hippie Stew


SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.


one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce


fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.



bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!


“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller


Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.


Hearty and Healthy ~ Chicken Farro Stew

powerhouse dinner
powerhouse dinner

So i met Farro last year… i was thumbing through a magazine and saw a lovely rustic one pot meal involving some browned sweet sausages, bright and beautiful spinach and carrots and something called ‘farro‘… what in the hell, i asked, is FARRO??  (linked wiki there for ya)  so i got to googling it and hopping around on food sites, and long story short, i was in Whole Foods later that afternoon buying some in bulk!  -and i’ve been cooking with it ever since. it is the most amazing and easy addition to various soups, stews, salads, etc.  you literally toss it into a pot, add water until level is about two inches above that of the farro, and bring it up to a boil. reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 mins. drain and set aside.  that’s it!!  then you can take and add it to whatever you have in mind!  OR, keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week, adding it on top of salads, mix it into your morning yogurt, stir it in with some oatmeal, add it to wonton soup when you get Chinese…. you feelin’ me?!?  Farro makes an already healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner choice all the more healthy… and it’s great post workout too, to help the body recover. WHY? it contains lots of B3’s (niacin) which helps your body break down fats & carbs like a motha.  it has tons of magnesium for muscle support too! it’s protein and fiber rich- and it has a fantastic nutty and chewy texture!  get on board yo!

so the other day i was thinking… “spags, you have some leftover tortellini in there, you have some farro in the pantry, you have plenty of canned tomatoes, a fridge full of veggies, fresh thyme in the garden begging to be used and some tomato paste in a little baggie in the freezer you’ve been meaning to use up.”  visions of a stew started to dance in my mind…. totally could have gone ‘meatless’ here PS. -and please do if you desire!  i happened to also have two bone in chicken breasts begging me to rub them down and roast them. so they got invited to this soiree.

HOPPING ON SOAP BOX….  if you have never been educated by Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa on how easy and mouth watering it is to roast bone in chicken breasts for use in almost any capacity…  then you need to listen to this.

basically you are lining a baking sheet with either foil, parchment, or silpat –  rubbing the chicken with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper,  and place it into a 350* oven for 45 mins. walk away! that’s IT! no fussing, no mussing.  take it out, let it cool on the pan or a plate- and slice it up later to use in your recipe- or serve as is… with some garlic mashed potatoes and freshly steamed green beans!  the possibilities are endless here folks.  i added some fresh thyme to mine, just under the skin.

ready for the oven.
ready for the oven.

Finito! yummy.
Finito! yummy.

next up- get your Farro going.  just like i told you up in the first paragraph. giddy up.

i used one heaping cup of dry.
i used one heaping cup of dry.

While the farro is cooking, chop up some vegetables.  IDLE HANDS YO…. i used :

  • one large carrot, diced
  • one large onion, diced
  • half of bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups or so of fresh spinach leaves (roughly chopped) 1 small bag is fine! use it all.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

Then you need:

a bag of tortellini- (cook according to package instructions and set aside to cool), olive oil, red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp), a small can of tomato paste, 28oz can diced tomatoes, 1 can chicken broth,  1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp nutmeg


in your favorite cooking vessel… heat up a glug of olive oil… add to it your red pepper flakes. once they dance around, begin adding your chopped vegetables. (NOT the spinach)  saute them over medium heat until they start to look tender and delicious.  see below:

i used a big sprig of fresh thyme here and just fished it out at end. you do you...
i used a big sprig of fresh thyme here and just fished it out at end. you do you…

then take and add your can of chicken broth, your can of tomatoes, your tomato paste and all of the spices. bring up to boil, and then immediately reduce heat to simmer and cover.  cook like this for 15 mins.


Then give it a stir, and add in your chopped chicken, if you are using chicken.  see below.

even one breast would be adequate here... make some chicken salad with the other one!
even one breast would be adequate here… make some chicken salad with the other one!

Then go ahead and add the spinach and the farro and stir well to combine! Lastly, add in the tortellini, and stir gently to combine.  Replace the lid and simmer for ten more minutes and then it is ready to serve!!


don't even need to use the whole bag... just enough to cover the stew, as shown. save the rest for a salad the next day!
don’t even need to use the whole bag… just enough to cover the stew, as shown. save the rest for a salad the next day!


a vegetarian stew… hearty enough for carnivores

so this is some delicious Moroccan chickpea stew… i know to some it may sound “yucky”… or a little too ‘fancy’ for the average home cook; but i’m here to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong on both accounts!! this is one of the easier dishes i make on a regular basis, and it is absolutely yummy. i have to say, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a dish without meat in it too! this recipe comes straight out of  Cooking Light, the November 2007 issue. when i think about this dish, it evokes thoughts of sitting beside a cozy fire in the comfort of my own home.  -but the funny thing about it is… if you serve it over the cous-cous like i always do, it’s just as yummy to have it in the spring and summer with the nice breeze blowing it’s aroma out your window and onto the patio!!  bottom line… ‘ u gonna like it’.

chickpea stew
super healthy and super delish!!


Add a swirl of olive oil to a nice, sturdy dutch oven. (large saucepan) Dice a large onion (small dice), set aside. Mince two or three cloves of garlic, set aside.  Cut two large carrots (peeled) into small bite sized pieces, set aside. Take a jalapeno pepper (for more heat do not seed- for mild dish seed it) and finely dice it.  set aside.  doing all of this prep work first makes throwing this one pot meal together a piece of cake… trust me.  Take three medium yukon gold potatoes, wash and dry and then cut into bite sized pieces. i never peel them, ever. set them aside.  OK, turn on your heat. medium high will do. Once your oil is hot, add your onion, carrot and jalapeno. Saute for a few minutes and then add your garlic. continue to saute until onion is tender, stirring frequently. (about five mins) Take and add your potatoes, and then go ahead and turn heat down to medium. give a quick stir and then  open up your 3 cans:  chickpeas, canned diced tomatoes and vegetable broth. drain and rinse your chickpeas. add to pot, along with the undrained tomatoes, and the can of vegetable broth. measure and add your spices, according to ingredient list below. give it a stir, and then let it come to just a boil. cover and reduce heat to simmer. give it 15 mins like this, or until potato is tender. while it’s cooking, prepare a box of couscous, which has the same difficulty factor as making toast. 🙂 you’ll serve your stew atop a scoop of this, it’s delish and the texture is genius.  take a nice rip of cilantro, chop and stir into stew when cooking complete. reserve a little to sprinkle over your bowl as well. Take out your plain yogurt, and stir to smooth out a bit. Once all of this is ready, take a nice shallow bowl, add a  scoop of couscous to it. Top with a generous ladle of stew. Top with a nice dollop of yogurt, and sprinkle some cilantro over all. Eyeball the gorgeous dish you are about to consume… and be proud of yourself. Not only can you make something that looks this beautiful, you can pat yourself on the back for doing something healthy.

peace and love, yo.

shopping list

large onion

yukon gold potatoes

large carrots

1 jalapeno pepper

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

28oz can diced tomatoes

15oz can vegetable broth

15oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans)

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp  ground tumeric

1/4 tsp salt

box of plain couscous

fresh cilantro

1 small container of plain  yogurt (not greek, it’s too thick)




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