a balanced plate with room for dessert


Lightened-Up Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

When I hear the word casserole, images of cheesy, fatty, not-so-great-for-you comfort food comes to mind. What if I told you that you could have all the comfort food flavor without all the bad stuff? This dish is loaded to the top with veggies and whole grains. It’s a dish you can feel great about eating.

Lightened Up Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

Lightened-Up Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

3 cups cooked brown rice
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets and steamed (about 4 cups)
10.75 ounce can fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons light mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread cooked rice in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Remove chicken from pan to a separate bowl.
  3. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and jalapeno to pan. Cook until vegetables just begin to soften. Stir in soup, broth, mayo, and mustard until well combined. Mix in broccoli, 3/4 cup of the cheese, and the cooked chicken. Scoop mixture on top of rice in baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

1 Comment

Turkey & Rice Taco Skillet

Before I dive into our weekend adventures and the recipe,  I want to explain why I haven’t been posting as much (and why I’m eating dairy again). I’m unable to complete even a simple 5 mile run without almost collapsing. I can’t eat without being sick. Two of the most important things in my life: running and food, are now what frustrate me the most.  I’m taking it a day at a time, praying that my doctors can figure out what’s wrong with me soon so I can go back to being normal. Until then, I’ll be posting a bit less; it’s hard to post new recipes when you don’t each much of anything besides cereal and salads 🙂

But onto happier things… Mike and I went on our first camping trip of the season this past weekend with our pups. It rained Friday, but Saturday was picture-perfect and we were able to get in a nice long hike. Really long hike. Because we got lost. But hey, what’s the point of life without a little adventure? I’ve got two camping meals to share with you this week. For our Friday night dinner, I made a Turkey and Rice Taco Skillet. It was pouring, but we huddled under the tarp with the dogs and ate our dinner. It was the perfect meal to keep us warm in the cold, wet weather. I figured I would share this recipe first since it kind of works with the whole Cinco de Mayo thing, too.

Though this was made over a campfire, it is easily adaptable to be made at home on the stove top. That’s the beauty of cast iron – it can be used inside and outside. I’ve finally gotten my “inside use” Dutch oven and skillet to where they are pretty darn well seasoned. The skillet I used while we were camping, though, has been on hundreds of camping trips with Mike when he was growing up. The skillet is so perfectly seasoned that it puts my pieces to shame. I guess I have something to work on, eh?

Turkey & Rice Taco Skillet {camping meal} |

Turkey and Rice Taco Skillet
serves 4 – 6

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeded if desired)
1.25 pounds lean ground turkey
1 packet hot taco seasoning mix
4 cups water, divided
3 cups Minute Brown Rice
1 – 15 ounce can corn
1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes with jalapenos
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
sour cream to garnish
olive oil spray

  1. Spray a large 12″ cast iron skillet with olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and jalapeno and cook over the fire (or medium-high heat) until onions are tender. Add the turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning and two cups of water. Bring to a simmer and stir in rice and remaining two cups of water. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and corn and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.
  2. To serve, divide between 4 – 6 bowls. Sprinkle with lettuce, cheese and top off with sour cream.



Leave a comment

Thai Tofu and Pineapple Curry

There’s a wonderful restaurant in Madison that serves some seriously awesome curry. I’ve been going to Lao Laan-Xang for years and I always get the same thing – squash curry with tofu. The last time I went, I finally got adventurous and got some pineapple curry. It was just as good as the squash curry, and now I’ve got my eye on another dish I want to try – mango curry.

I decided to try making a version of the pineapple curry at home. I absolutely loved it, but my store-bought curry paste is really no competition to LLX’s. Maybe some day I’ll try my hand at making my own curry paste. Maybe.

I’ll stick a little warning in here because I think I nearly killed Mike with the spice level of this dish. The dried red chiles I used in this dish were from our garden and they are hot. I thought that 2 chiles were the perfect amount of spice, but it was a little much for Mike. I know that all chile peppers are different, but if you’re not a fan of heat, use just one chile or none at all.

Thai Tofu and Pineapple Curry |

Thai Tofu and Pineapple Curry

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
2 dried red chiles, minced (optional)
5 mini bell peppers, sliced
12 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup pineapple chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 lime, juiced

cooked brown rice, for serving
lime wedges, for serving

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic, green onions, and chiles and cook , stirring frequently, for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add bell peppers and tofu and cook for an additional minute.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together curry paste, peanut butter, and coconut milk. Add sauce, tomatoes and pineapple into pot and stir to combine. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until bell peppers are tender. Stir in lime juice.
  3. Serve immediately with brown rice and lime wedges.

Leave a comment

Healthy Orange Sesame Chicken

This dinner might be my new go-to meal when I’m short on time and too tired to think. It was ready in about 40 minutes – and that’s only because brown rice takes forever to cook! If I were to make pasta or prepare the rice ahead of time this would be easily be a 30 minute fridge-to-table meal.
Though this dish has bell peppers as the main veggie, I bet it would be tasty with just about anything you might have on hand. I think next time I’ll try it with some broccoli. If you’re looking for a Chinese takeout version of orange chicken or sesame chicken, look elsewhere. This dish isn’t all that comparable to the sticky, overly sweet, deep fried abomination you find at the restaurant. It’s a light, easy meal that’s packed with good-for-you lean proteins and veggies.
Healthy Orange Sesame Chicken |

Orange Sesame Chicken

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 large oranges, juiced (2/3 cup juice)
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon corn starch

1-3 dried red chile peppers, minced
3 large bell peppers

1 large red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 green onions, thinly sliced

cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta for serving
  1. Prepare rice or pasta according to package directions. While rice/pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the meal.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, soy sauce, and corn starch. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan or wok. Add in chile peppers and bell peppers and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add in onion and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Add in chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Pour in orange juice mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until sauce is thickened.
  5. Serve over prepared rice or pasta. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions before serving.
adapted from Clean Eating Magazine

Leave a comment

Mushroom Barley and Wild Rice Risotto

Mushroom Barley & Wild Rice Risotto |

This dish is definitely a labor of love. Much like a traditional risotto, you need to spend time at the stove, stirring, adding liquid, stirring… But the results are so worth it –  it’s rich and filling and well, my perfect comfort food. The bonus is that this seriously makes a huge pot of food – enough for lunch leftovers. There are days where I start to despise the leftovers I bring for lunch, but I ate this risotto for a week straight and never got sick of it.

I can’t wait to make it again – maybe this time with another type of mushroom!

Mushroom Barley & Wild Rice Risotto |

Mushroom Barley and Wild Rice Risotto

6 cups low-sodium beef broth
3 cups water
8 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup wild rice
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, re-hydrated and chopped
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

  1. Bring stock and water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat – do not boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate and set aside; reserve 2 teaspoons of bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest.
  3. Return the Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add in onion, thyme and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes or until onions are tender. Add in mushrooms and salt and cook for 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, soy sauce, pepper, spinach, and cooked bacon. Cook until heated through. Serve immediately.
  4. Stir in barley and wild rice. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add in wine and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 2 – 3  minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in 2 cups of the broth mixture and cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue with the remaining broth mixture: add in 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Make sure liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup.

recipe adapted from Prevention RD


Quick & Easy Mexican Rice

I whipped up a batch of this rice to go with the chicken enchiladas I made for Mike. Because, you know, a carb-heavy entree needs a carb-heavy side dish to go with it. Ok, truth is, I made this rice because the enchiladas smelled so good and I couldn’t eat them. So I made a bunch of rice and ate that instead. Now, this rice is obviously not the same as a chicken enchilada, but it was enough to satisfy my craving. This is my favorite go-to recipe for a quick and easy dish to accompany any Mexican-inspired entree that might find its way onto our table.

Quick and Easy Mexican Rice |

Quick & Easy Mexican Rice

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced, optional
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
cilantro and lime wedges to garnish, optional

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is lightly toasted. Sprinkle with garlic powder and cumin and stir to combine.
  2. Add in onion, garlic, and jalapenos and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Stir in diced tomatoes and broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Fluff with a fork before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge if desired.

1 Comment

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers & Race Day Recap

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers |

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I know we did! Mike ran his first half marathon and I accompanied him as I ran my fourth. My husband, the man that detests running, laced up his shoes day after day after day to get ready for this race. I am so, so incredibly proud of him. I (lovingly) pushed him and we finished in 2:15. This was a full 15 minutes before our goal finish time (and a PR for me)!

Madison Half Marathon Fall 2013

The day was perfect. A mix of sunshine and clouds. A start temp of 35°F (ish) and some wind. To celebrate his first half and my fourth, I’ve decided to sign up for my second full marathon. I ran my first one September 2012 and vowed to never do it again. But here I am, one year later, starting my training for another marathon. A spring marathon. Which means I’ll be doing my runs in the Wisconsin winter. What the heck was I thinking?! Marathon training is hard. Winter marathon training may prove to be impossible 😉

Ok, so on to these stuffed peppers. I was originally going to remake the last pre-race meal I had of sausage and bell peppers, but I changed my mind last minute and decided to make some stuffed peppers instead. These were easy to make and easy on my pre-race jittery stomach, too!

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers |

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers

6 bell peppers
1 pound mild turkey sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup white rice
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated, optional (omit for DF)
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly spray a baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Cut tops off peppers and remove the core and seeds. Place them into prepared baking dish and set aside.
  3. Brown sausage in a large pan over medium-high heat. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break the sausage up into crumbles. When sausage is browned, carefully drain off most of the grease. Add in onions and garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add in red pepper flakes, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, pepper, tomato sauce and tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  4. Pour in chicken stock and rice and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and spoon filling evenly into the 6 prepared bell peppers. Sprinkle with cilantro and cheese, if desired.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted and browned. Enjoy!