A Recipe for Fall that Even *I* Can Cook

You may not know this, but I have the cooking skills of a fourth-grader. Probably worse.

Much to my mom’s chagrin and semi-frequent prodding to learn the important life skill of how to cook, I’ve been spoiled these last ten years.

I ate dorm food during freshman year of college, I lived in a sorority for the next two years (three meals a day), then I lived at home while working at the start-up and benefitted from mom’s home-cooked meals, and THEN I worked at Google for 5+ years where I ate three meals a day — and dated a chef for a year and a half (survival instinct kicked in on that one, I tell you).

So here I am, turning 28 in October, with absolutely ZERO clue how to cook. None, zero, zip. I toast and I microwave, and even that is pushing it on the effort scale.

But alas, I have been on a health kick lately AND trying to save money as a newly-minted solopreneur, so I am PROUD to announce that I’ve learned how to cook SOMETHING!!!

The recipe, shared by my mom, is a popular chili soup.

It’s AMAZING. It  tastes delicious, it’s as healthy as it gets, and serves as lunch and even dinner for an entire week!

If I can cook this, a troupe of monkeys can too, which means you’ll knock it out of the park! I can’t find the exact recipe the way that she makes it, so here it is:

Chili Soup (that lasts all week!)

Meat: 1 pound lean ground turkey or lean ground beef (2 lbs if you’re really going for protein)
Base: 1 can of pumpkin or butternut squash, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 box of chicken or beef broth
Veggies (diced): 2 yellow squash, 2 zucchini, 1 box of butternut squash, 2 bell peppers, 1 box of sliced mushrooms, 1 onion, 1/3 bundle of celery (slice directly across the stalks), optional – 1 can black beans / garbanzo beans / kidney beans (or all three!), and anything else that sounds good!
Seasoning: 1 packet of spicy chili powder, garlic or seasoning salt (optional), flax seeds (optional)
Directions: On medium, brown the meat, then drain. Add in the base, followed by the veggies and seasoning. Let cook on medium for ~30 minutes — eat! Turn off the stove and let the soup continue to simmer until the pot cools, then refrigerate.
Serves: ~12 bowls
Cost: ~$60 if you have to buy all of the ingredients from scratch

Update: click here for a handy shopping list you can take to the grocery store.

Best online recipe boxes:

My friend Ben Tseitlin, whose Tumblr is one of my “must-reads” for awesome pictures, quotes and titdbits, recently reblogged “5 Best Online Recipe Boxes” for those of you who are interested. If not, check-out Ben’s blog and gourmet handmade chocolates – he’s also hosting a chocolate-making class for any of you living in the SF Bay Area on September 19.


Update on my August Health Challenge:

I’m writing a longer guest post for Forbes Woman on the health challenge that I will share with you soon, but for now, suffice it to say that I feel like a NEW person. I’ve decided to make my health challenge journal public for any of you who are curious about how things progressed over the last 30 days. Grab the template version here

You don’t have to do a crazy cleanse like I did (though I highly recommend Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program if you are interested); see what experiments you can run in your own life that work for YOU. Now that I’m in maintenance mode I’m adding some coffee back in (can’t skip those deliciously foamy lattes forever!) and 1-2 cheat days per week, borrowing from Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet and The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet (a GREAT book I just read by Robb Wolf).

Here’s an excerpt of my post:

During the first three days, I had complete monkey-mind — craving coffee, sugar and TV like the addict I was — unable to focus because I was thinking about them every five minutes. But on the fourth day and every day thereafter, I started noticing something incredible.

I felt clear-headed. Creative. Confident. Energized. Productive. HAPPY.

I was getting more done in one week than I had completed in one month. I was no longer experiencing crazy mood swings or unproductive days. I started sleeping like a rock. I was in a great mood, glowing and energetic at conferences and razor sharp during my coaching and speaking engagements. I was on a roll and I stayed there.

I used to scoff at the countless magazines that preach healthy eating and exercise — get over yourself! Until I experienced, firsthand, the insanely powerful impact it had on my business’s bottom line (not to mention my actual bottom, which now fits nicely back into my best jeans).

Do you have any health tips or observations to report?
Got any so-easy-a-monkey-could-make-this recipes you can share (ideally that will last for longer than one meal)? 

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Blank September 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm

As usual, I LOVE your spreadsheet on this. Not only is it useful and inspiring – but HONEST in terms of what you did, and how you felt. Congrats on the progress and focus!


Beatriz Alemar September 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

You can’t cook? I think you’re selling yourself short. You’re just not experienced at it, is all. :) Speaking of cooking, I can’t wait to try that recipe. Chili is one of my all time favorite foods especially for fall. It’s so comforting, hearty and just plain yum! I’ll go through my recipe box for a few easy, healthy and long lasting recipes for you. 

Congrats on your cleanse! Thank you for sharing the results with us in typical Jenny fashion! I love the spreadsheet. I might steal it for my own weight loss efforts; it’s just what I needed. 


Allie Mahler September 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Your spreadsheets are always, without fail some of the most well-thought out, simple and deeply curious creations! I love how you made your health challenge a tracking game even with green and red colors.. amazing! So inspiring :) And so happy to have you in New York!!!!!!!!!!


Raphael Cousineau September 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

“I felt clear-headed. Creative. Confident. Energized. Productive. HAPPY.” ….strange, that’s exactly how I feel since I quitted smoking 3 months ago. I’ll try the challence, so I can feel twice as clear-headed, twice as creative, twice as confident…!

I can tell you a lot about cooking, I was grown up in my father restaurant! And I’ll tell you one thing : even when you go in an expensive one, you could be surprised to see the amount of thing they microwave. Here are a few tips :
-for vegetables : take fast cooking ones (pepper, broccoli), put it in a conservation bag – in wich you have make a few holes with a fork – and a litlle butter and microwave it for 2 minutes.
-for rice : take a container that goes in microwave, put the rice, water (or chicken stock)(2 water for 1 rice), olive oil and partially cover it up and cook till the rice as absorbed all the water.
-Now that you have vegetables and rice, you have to learn to cook some meat


Rebecca Brown September 15, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Congrats on your course selling out!

I do have an easy recipe to share – do you have a crock pot?  If so:  2 – 4 chicken breasts with a a gigantic jar of salsa poured over them, cooked on low for 8 hours.  About 2 hours before they are done, take a fork to them and shred them inside the crock pot.  Then serve with tortillas, or on top of pizza, or on top of rice, or with black beans… the possibilities are endless and it makes SO MUCH that is freezable and will stay good for months.  Enjoy!


Meredyth September 16, 2011 at 12:16 am

Congrats on your sell-out course, Jenny! Super exciting news. =)

Thanks for sharing the results of your cleanse. As always I appreciate your honesty and openness. It’s definitely inspiring. I’ve been doing some research on finding a cleanse/detox program, so it’s good to hear this one worked for you! I’ll have to check it out. 


Megan Cassidy September 16, 2011 at 2:12 am

Sounds like the cleanse really worked wonders, and it’s tempting me to try.

Easy and mind-blowing dessert: slice up a pound of strawberries. Get four tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar, and four tablespoons of sugar, and combine them. Pour over the strawberries and stir. Serve over vanilla yogurt or dip in mascarpone cheese. Be careful not to pass out.


Einat September 16, 2011 at 2:15 am

Wow your template is beyond detailed, I am impressed!!

Here are some easy recipes I swear by all fall/winter:

Easy & Delish Lentil Soup: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/soupsstewsandchili/r/lentilsoup.htm
(I like to add cumin and frozen peas at the end)

White Bean Chicken Chili: http://www.grouprecipes.com/4751/white-bean-and-chicken-chili.html


Chuck Grimmett September 17, 2011 at 4:57 am

I am a big fan of the Paleo Solution. I’ve been paleo (plus some dairy) for a month and a half now and I’ve never felt better.

Great template, by the way! Keep up the good work!


Brittany September 20, 2011 at 3:22 am

Thanks so much for sharing your detox experience and spreadsheet. I’d like to try the detox that you did at some point.

I recently posted a healthy fall recipe round up on my blog and most of the recipes are pretty easy – http://www.eatingbirdfood.com/2011/09/fall-healthy-recipe-roundup/


Storage Auction Experts October 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm

This looks soo easy and very “fall-like”. Thank you!


Ashley Sharie October 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

i made the chili — it IS amazing :) now i’ve got to hide it from my parents, so they don’t eat it all :)


jennyblake October 31, 2011 at 12:53 am

Ashley — that’s amazing — I love it!!!! I updated the recipe recently — make sure you check back for the latest version. I also made it again today with butternut squash pieces…delish! So thrilled that you got a chance to try it out — send a picture next time you make it! 😀


Marian Schembari November 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Jenny, I am SO proud of you on this one! That shit is HARD. Love the spreadsheet too. I just got back from this epic 2 month backpacking trip and did a massive amount of physical activity (8 mile hikes twice a week, working on a farm for 3 weeks, etc) plus really cut down on my sugar. It felt amazing and I lost around 20 pounds. I have about 10 more to go to my goal weight so might give this 21 day challenge a go. Thanks for inspiring me!


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