Chicken Tortilla Soup Repost

chicken tortilla soup

This recipe has been stuck in the think fruitful archives for quite a few years.

Since it’s one of my favorites for this time of year, I thought it was time to “bring it out of the vault” if you will.

Whenever squash and zucchinis are in season, I’ve got to make a big pot of this soup. And I just discovered an even better way to make this soup shine.

It’s all in the broth, ya’ll! The chicken broth stews all day while you’re at work, chasing your kiddos or watching Netflix, and it makes this soup so full of flavor.

Then, you’ve got your veggies, spicy Rotel and all of it comes together so you can top it with avocado, cilantro, cheese and homemade corn tortilla strips or tortilla chips.

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5 Cheap & Easy Dinner Ideas

We all need cheap and easy dinner ideas, right?

I know that’s how I roll when I’m trying to stay on budget but still eat well. And there are plenty of options for all of us to enjoy flavor and be frugal.

You might notice a few things about these recipes:

  • Most are vegetarian
  • They make amazing leftovers
  • They are great for groups

So, without further ado, here are a few cheap and easy dinner ideas:



Pizza is the perfect, fun dinner that is also cheap and quick. Grab your favorite dough, add on a few toppings and you’re in business!

Deep Dish Pizza
Perfect Homemade Pizza

Stir fry

This is another recipe that is flexible and can use whatever you have left in the fridge. Rice, veggies, stir fry, ginger- it’s all good! Put an egg on it and this will fill you up for awhile.

Weeknight Stir Fry

Bean bowls

Here’s another good use for white or brown rice. Top it with black or other beans (seasoned up) and cheese, green onion, salsa, sour cream and even guacamole!

Black Bean Bowls
Chickpea Bowls
Pinto Bean Bowls


Soup might take a little bit longer to prepare, but there are lots of varieties that will make a filling dinner with a side of crackers or bread and cheese.

6 Stellar Soups

Pulled Pork

I love making BBQ pork in the slow cooker for new families because it’s super easy and budget-friendly to make and there are many uses! From sandwiches to tacos to nachos, get ready for some good dinners and leftovers.

BBQ Pulled Pork
Pork Tacos

Garden Update

Year two of gardening sure has been interesting.

You might remember my garden plan post over the spring. It’s been many days and nights, planting, watering and growing since then. There have certainly been ups and downs.

But like they say: You live and you learn.

We decided to try something new this year by planting in the ground (instead of a raised bed). Within my old rasied bed from last year, we planted an herb garden.

The herb garden has done great with beautiful lavender (the heat has gotten the best of it now, but it was thriving through June), luscious basil, sturdy thyme, sage, chives, rosemary and even a few tomato plants that popped up from last year’s seeds.

Meanwhile, it’s been a struggle to get things to grow like I want in the garden.

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Fruitful Travels: Portland, Maine

portland, maine

Last month (wow, was it just last month), we trekked to Maine for a long weekend. And, bonus, we got to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law and explore the town together.

Portland was such a unique city. Not really at all what I thought Maine would be like. It's not all stuffy vacationers. Everyone was super down to earth, and there was a plethora of good food and drink to be had.

portland, me

So, let's dive in!

P.S. We also stayed in the coolest Airbnb with lots of history and nice remodeled amenities.

East Ender

east ender

This was our first meal in the city, and boy did it start us off with a bang. This place was just the cutest inside and we really loved the curry mussels, fries, roasted beets and drinks!

east ender
Fore Street

fore street

We did not regret making this our big dinner out. Most everything was cooked on an open fire that you could see throughout the restaurant, which lent an amazingly smoky flavor to our squid, Arctic char, mussels and more. Also, their bread was great (though I was under impressed with our cocktails).

Standard Baking Co.

standard baking co

Speaking of bread, Fore Street got theirs from this delightful little bakery below it. We stopped in for some tasty cookies and a financier and were not disappointed.

Tandem Coffee & Bakery

tandem coffee

Talk about a cute bakery. This one is in an old gas station and has about every delicious pastry you can imagine. Scones, orange cinnamon rolls, quiche, cookies, pies.
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Weekday Chickpea Taco Bowls

chickpea taco bowls

Mexican food is always my go-to.

Whether we want a quick and easy dinner or we want to go out to a not-too-expensive and super flavorful meal, Mexican almost always wins.

Also, I grew up in Arkansas, and we have some seriously good Tex Mex there. And I took several trips to Mexico as a teenager, where I got a taste for spicy salsas, fresh lime juice on everything and carne asada tacos (not to mention bowls of posole).

chickpea taco bowls

In fact, this last week, I think we ate nachos, tacos and taquitos for several different meals throughout the week. I’m hooked to corn, beans, rice, chili powder and cumin…what can I say?!

If you’re like me and have a serious craving for Mexican or Tex Mex food, then you have got to try these Chickpea Taco Bowls. Thanks to Food52 for the recipe!

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Summer Salmon Cakes

salmon cakes

July means that it is hot.

July means that we’re in the heat of summer (bring on the tomatoes, peppers, squash and berries).

July also means that we’re all craving beach time and seafood.

For those of us who don’t get to have beach/seafood time but once or twice a season, here’s a cheap, quick and easy meal option that will give you that summer feeling: Salmon Cakes. Thanks to the Kitchn for the inspiration.

salmon cakes

These little guys are totally reminiscent of a dinner my mom would make growing up. And I absolutely loved the hint of seafood, creamy and tasty filling, and crisped outside.

Grab your favorite mayo (Duke’s, obviously), Dijon, some panko and canned salmon (get the good stuff), and you’re in business. Oh, and pick some fresh herbs from your herb garden or grab some at the grocery store. Dill is divine in this!

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Ingredient of the Month: Blackberries


I’ve created a nice annual tradition for the past two years: blackberry picking at a local farm.

Right before or on the 4th of July, I hop in the car and drive about 15 minutes south (I think) to this quaint farm where there are dozens of rows of blackberries and sometimes blueberries and raspberries. In my few years of experience, I’ve come to find that picking blackberries is the most enjoyable as raspberries are really hard to find and blueberries are smaller and therefore take longer to fill up a bucket.

blackberry picking

See my 4 tips for blackberry picking

So, in honor of all of the rest of you blackberry picking (or picking them up at the farmers market or grocery store), bejeweled and tart-sweet blackberries are our Ingredient of the Month.

Tell me more:

Blackberries are a dark purple/black fruit grown on stems or bushes that ripen in the summer. They contain many tiny seeds, and they are high in antioxidants.


Where do I buy blackberries?

If you don’t have a blackberry farm/bush nearby, then you can find them at your local farmers market or at the grocery store likely near the raspberries and other fresh fruits.

How do I store blackberries?

Fresh blackberries need to be rinsed and left on the counter for a day or two or stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. To freeze berries, wash and freeze on an even layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then put into a large plastic bag. If you bought berries from the grocery store, then keep them in the refrigerator.


How do I cook with blackberries?

So, we all know that blackberries are heavenly popped straight into your mouth, paired with fresh whipped cream or with summer’s best vanilla ice cream, but there are many more options, too.

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Tea IQ: Basics of Brewing

tea iq: brewing

Tea IQ is a series that explores how to be a smarter tea drinker. Today, Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House (who is a tea and baking aficionado and also studied abroad in Oxford with me) shares some tea brewing wisdom.

Hello, think fruitful readers! This is Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House, a blog dedicated to tea and tea parties. Today I am going to talk about some of the basics of brewing tea. Although there are a myriad of teas and tea ingredients out there, there are only a few ways to brew it. Essentially all tea breaks down into two primary categories: bagged or loose leaf.

Tea Bags

First let’s talk about bags. Tea bags have been around since the early 20th century, when they were hand sewn from silks and other fabrics. Most of the tea bags you will find on the market today are made from paper, plant starches, or recyclable plastic. While I personally prefer to stay away from the plastic ones, there are pros and cons to each type.

tea bags

Paper bags are the most common and the cheapest to make. The quality of these bags, however, wildly differs. The tea inside is usually cut very small and can be rather dusty in appearance and taste. The benefit is that you can usually do a quick steep and always end up with a consistent cup. I have heard that some of these bags use glue that contains gluten in the sealing process, so be sure to look for heat-sealed bags. Another thing to consider is the shape of the bag. The flat round or square bags are convenient, but they do not allow much space for the tea to expand. The traditional flat-bottomed tea bag is the best of the paper styles, as it will unfold and expand in the water, allowing for maximum flavor extraction.

The plant starch bags are my favourite style of tea bag for a few reasons. They tend to be made in a more forgiving shape, generally a loose pyramid. This allows for bigger pieces of tea and better water circulation. These bags can fit a larger variety of ingredients in a more whole state, which improves the flavor and allows for a greater subtlety in taste. They do benefit from a longer steep, and each bag will be ever so slightly different in flavor, although few people would notice. Knowing these bags are biodegradable is a plus for me, as I hate the idea of the plastic bags sitting in the landfill but personally dislike most paper bags.

If you do choose tea bags as your primary brewing method, I recommend using a large mug. The bag will benefit from being bobbed a bit, as this will help shift the contents for an even brew. I also like performing what I call the “green tea rinse,” for bagged teas of primarily green and white. Pour a smidge of water onto your tea bag, just enough to soak it through, bob it a few times, then discard. This will remove a lot of the harsher flavours that can develop when more delicate teas are cut fine.

Loose Leaf Tea

loose leaf tea

Now let’s delve into the world of loose leaf. I switched to using primarily loose leaf tea around 7 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Loose leaf tea can be green, white, black, herbal, or a mix. Essentially it just means any tea that is not pre-measured and ready to steep. Think whole dried chamomile flowers; long, skinny, white tea leaves; green tea scented with jasmine rolled into pearls; black tea with whole pink peppercorns and dried strawberry pieces; the list is endless. Most flavoured teas that you find in bags have to use oils and flavorings to achieve their desired combination, but that is not the case with loose leaf.

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4th of July Grill-Fest

4th of July Grillfest

Fourth of July is tomorrow…and there’s still time to make a quick meal plan for the big day.

Seriously- even if you can only make 1 grocery run, you’ve got this. Especially if you have a grill.

It’s the perfect time of year to utilize your grill for every part of the meal. I mean it! I’m talking to apps to dessert, all with that delicious, smoky flavor attached to them.

So, here’s what I’m thinking for this “July 4 Grill-fest”:


  • Buy some eggplants to throw on the grill and turn into babaganoush (serve with pita or pita chips)
  • Whip up some white bean hummus and grill some fresh pita to go on the side

Main Dish

  • Grill up some classic burgers or dogs (we like smash burgers with chopped onions in them and American cheese on top)

Side Dish

  • Grill up some corn on the cob, the easy way (and please top it with garlic chive butter)
  • Add some bell peppers, hot peppers, squash and zucchini sliced (tossed in olive oil and spices) onto the grill for a bit of a char
  • Grilled fries are also delicious


  • Grilled pineapple is my new go-to summer dessert, served with the best vanilla ice cream you can get your hands on

Happy grilling, ya’ll!

Heavenly Local Cupcakes

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Ya’ll probably know by now that I love supporting local.

I’m also a fan of supporting local businesses and women who start their own businesses.

And I’ve got a serious sweet tooth.

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Put all of those things together, and it makes sense why I would want to bring to light a baker like Heavenly Cakes by Tanya.

I got to sample these seasonal pink lemonade cupcakes, and they were a sweet treat with a nice zing of lemon. Aren’t the decorations cute, too?!

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Tanya has a nice selection of cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, sweet breads and even French macarons, and she says that whatever you request, she can make. She cooks out of her home in East Raleigh, and everything is homemade.

Here’s to summer, pink lemonade, a passion for baking and eating local!