a balanced plate with room for dessert

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Cheeseburger Chili Mac

This dish is obviously cheesy and not at all dairy-free. The crazy thing is, it actually tastes really, really good without the cheese. I guess the version I had would be more appropriately titled “Chili Burger Mac” or something. It makes me incredibly happy when I can find a dish that tastes good with and without cheese. Mike had it both ways and insisted that the cheesy version wasn’t better than the non-cheesy version. I think he’s full of it, but it does make me feel a bit better 🙂

This recipe makes a scary amount of chili mac. But don’t fret – it freezes beautifully! I made it so Mike would have enough food to feed him for a few days while we were apart. If you’re ever short on time, give this meal a try. It’s super simple and comes together in just minutes. As an added bonus, you probably have most of these ingredients lurking around in your pantry and fridge already!

Cheeseburger Chili Mac {dairy-free adaptable} |

Cheeseburger Chili Mac // Chili Burger Mac
serves 8 – 10

olive oil spray
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 large onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2 cups beef stock
2 pounds whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, optional

  1. Coat a large pan with olive oil spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain the meat thoroughly and return to pan.
  2. Add in onions, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ketchup, mustard, and beef stock. Bring mixture to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
  4. Serve macaroni with a scoop of the chili and top with shredded cheddar, if desired.
  5. Alternatively, mix the chili and macaroni together and pour into an oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until cheese is browned and melted.


adapted from Rachael Ray


Easy Baked Turkey Meatballs

I love it when I can make one thing and use it for several meals. These meatballs were meant to go into a southwestern meatball dish, but I was wiped out after a long day of work and a 10 mile run. By the time I finished mixing up the meatballs, I was done. I just couldn’t do anything more – I threw together a quick tomato sauce and cooked up a few meatballs for dinner and threw the rest of the meatballs into the fridge for later.

Fair warning – this recipe makes a lot of meatballs. Like 5 dozen+ depending on how big you make them. But, don’t worry – they are super versatile and freeze beautifully!

Easy Baked Turkey Meatballs

Easy Baked Turkey Meatballs

3 pounds lean ground turkey
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
6 egg whites
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two large baking pans and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with hands until well incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. Roll into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter and place onto prepared baking pans about 1 inch apart. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until meatballs are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
  3. Use meatballs immediately, or lay on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once the meatballs are frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe bag or dish. Meatballs will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. 

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Pork and Ginger-Apple Pot Stickers

I’ve been on the lookout for more interesting pot sticker variations. Yes, pork and chive pot stickers are delicious. As are shrimp pot stickers. Even the vegetarian pot stickers I made a while back are pretty darn tasty. But, these pork and ginger-apple pot stickers take the dumpling game to a whole new level.

You remember that ginger-apple chutney that I was raving about on Monday? Well, take that and mix it with some pork and chives and… mind blown. I doubled the original recipe because pot stickers freeze wonderfully and are great when you’re in a crunch for dinner. (If you’re not a great planner (coughmecough) and only buy 1 package of wrappers and run out … the filling is pretty darn tasty cooked up and served over some brown rice with a splash of the dipping sauce.)

Pork Ginger-Apple Pot Stickers |

Pork and Ginger-Apple Pot Stickers
makes about 75 pot stickers

2 pounds ground pork
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups ginger-apple chutney
1/4 teaspoon each: kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, white pepper (or, to taste)
1 1/2 packages dumpling wrappers (about 75)
canola oil, for frying

for the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sambal oelek

  1. To make the filling: combine pork and soy sauce in a large bowl. Fold in green onions, chutney, salt, black pepper, and white pepper. Mix until well combined.
  2. Set up your station: bowl of filling, stack of pot sticker wrappers, a small bowl filled with water, and a large baking sheet.
  3. To fold: place a wrapper in your non-dominant hand. Scoop a scant tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper, being careful not to get any on the edge. Wet a finger on your dominant hand and lightly trace the outside of the wrapper. Fold wrapper in half to form a half circle and pinch at the top. Starting at the center, make 3 pleats down toward the bottom-right corner. Repeat on the left side. Continue with the remaining filling and wrappers. (There are pictures on how to fold in my vegetarian pot stickers post.)
  4. To cook: heat a large, lidded saute pan over high heat. Add in 1 teaspoon oil and swirl pan to coat. Add pot stickers, pleat-side up, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until bottoms are browned, about 5 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup water and immediately cover the pan to contain the splatter. After 30 seconds, when splattering has subsided, slightly crack the lid open to allow steam to escape. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until heated through and water has evaporated. Let cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes to allow bottom to re-crisp. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.
  5. To make dipping sauce: combine soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sambal in a bowl and whisk to combine.

recipe slightly adapted from Ming Tsai


Beer Can Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches

Today’s recipe is for a Super Bowl Snacks & Appetizers recipe swap. I was assigned the blog The Barbee Housewife  and started my search for the perfect Super Bowl snack immediately. She has so many dishes that I really, really wanted to make – loaded baked potato dip, chicken bacon ranch taquitos, pizza puffs… but none of those were going to doable for me since they contained dairy. I finally decided I would make her beer can crockpot chicken sandwiches into little sliders and serve them as an appetizer for the game.

These sandwiches are so good and so, so easy. One pot, that’s it. You get a ton of food and the leftovers freeze beautifully. Make these now. If you’re feeling like you want to do a little more cooking, try your hand at making some homemade barbecue sauce!

Beer Can Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches |

Beer Can Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches 

1 cup beer, any kind you like
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 large)
3 – 3 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

for serving:
buns of choice

  1. Pour beer into the slow cooker. Whisk i onion powder, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. Add in chicken breasts and pour barbecue sauce on top.
  2. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the slow cooker, shred, and return meat to the slow cooker and stir to evenly distribute the sauce.
  3. Serve on buns topped with coleslaw.


A big thanks to Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting! Click on the link below to check out the other delicious swap recipes!

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Cheesy Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells

Today’s recipe is a dish that I can only dream of eating… Making cheesy freezer meals for Mike is kind of torturous. Mike swears these shells taste awesome. I can assure you that they smell awesome, but I couldn’t try them.

Cheesy Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells |

Cheesy Spinach & Chicken Stuffed Shells

1 – 12 ounce box jumbo shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast., diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried
8 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, being careful not to over cook. When pasta is al dente, drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, remove chicken to a separate plate.
  3. Add more oil to pan, if necessary, and add in onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Stir in spinach, cream cheese and almond milk until cream cheese is melted and mixture is creamy. Stir in cooked chicken. Sprinkle in half the Parmesan cheese and stir until evenly distributed.
  4. Spray two 9×13 baking dishes with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce into the bottom of each pan. Spoon filling into cooked shells and arrange in baking dishes. When all shells are filled, drizzle remaining sauce onto the top of the shells and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  5. To serve immediately, preheat oven to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes. Filling should be hot and bubbly and Parmesan cheese should be melted and lightly browned.
  6. If freezing, prepare as directed using freezer and oven-safe containers. Defrost dish in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes or until filling is hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas {Freezer Meal} |

I’ve been prepping freezer meals for Mike to eat when we’re apart. Whether it’s because he’s back in Appleton for work, or because I’m traveling for work, or both… I worry about him. He’s more than capable of cooking for himself (I think), but I’m happier knowing that he has a good meal waiting for him at home. I’ve made a ton of stuffed shells and baked fettuccine Alfredo for him so far. Basically, foods that I can’t eat because they’re loaded with cheese. I haven’t documented any of those meals because I haven’t had the opportunity to take photos of the finished product. I’ve now realized that that is a little silly. I’m spending hours making new meals that I’m not sharing.

Since I’m pretty sure that there can be no shortage of freezer meals in the world, here you go – my first contribution to the Freezer Meal World – chicken enchiladas.

Chicken Enchiladas {Freezer Meal} |

Freezer-Friendly Chicken Enchiladas

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
salt and pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs (I used both)
1 cup shredded montery jack cheese, divided
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
10 10-inch flour tortillas
olive oil spray

  1. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Add in onion, jalapenos, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onions have softened, about 5 – 8 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds. Add in tomato sauce, tomatoes, and water and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a simmer. Lower heat, and let sauce cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place chicken into the sauce and cover the pan. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate to let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Press down on the tomatoes and onions to push out as much liquid as possible. Place the tomatoes and onions into a large bowl and set aside. Set sauce aside.
  4. Shred chicken and add into bowl with tomatoes and onions. Stir in 1/4 cup of reserved sauce, 1/2 cup of montery jack, 1/2 cup of cheddar, and the cilantro.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon ~1/3 of the filling into the middle of each tortilla. Roll up tightly and place, seam-side down, into the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining filling and tortillas. Lightly spray the tops of the tortillas with olive oil. Place the enchiladas into the oven, uncovered, for 7 minutes to slightly brown the tortillas.
  6. Remove the enchiladas from the oven and pour the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  7. To cook right away: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the cheese. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly before serving.
  8. To freeze: Cover the baking dish with a lid and freeze until ready to eat. When ready to eat, take the dish out of the freezer. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly before serving.


recipe slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats