a balanced plate with room for dessert


Slow Cooker Beef & Veggie Chili

Is it cold where you live? Do you have mountains of snow outside your window? Are you short on time? Do you hate doing dishes? Do you love comfort food that warms you up? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, this chili is for you. Tossing everything into the slow cooker means you don’t have to spend hours standing over the stovetop, stirring and tending to your chili. Plus, who doesn’t love coming home after a long day to a house that smells amazing?

Slow Cooker Beef & Veggie Chili |

Slow Cooker Beef & Veggie Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 bell peppers, diced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
16 ounces tomato sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced (optional)

for serving (optional):
cooked macaroni noodles
fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream
shredded cheese
thinly sliced green onions
jalapeno slices
hot sauce
diced onions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, onions, and garlic and cook until beef is no longer pink, about 7 minutes; stir with a spoon to break beef up into smaller pieces. Add chili powder and cumin and stir to coat. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker.
  2. Stir in bell peppers, mushrooms, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans. Cover slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving  toppings of your choice.

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Niu Rou Mien (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup)

I’ve realized that some dishes are just better when my mom makes it. My mission this time was to replicate the delicious beef noodle dish I ate growing up – niu rou mien. I asked her for a recipe, and she told me to just come over and watch her make it and take notes. She ended up sending me an email with a rough draft of a recipe; I’ve done my best to assign amounts to the various ingredients.

This recipe is long. It has many, many ingredients. I thought about finding shortcuts, but I honestly don’t think there are any. This recipe is truly a labor of love and it’s not something you can cheat and simplify without sacrificing taste.

One thing I noticed from pouring over niu rou mien recipes is that most of them instructed you to boil the beef to get rid of the impurities. If you have bone-in meat, you’ll want to make sure you boil it or you will end up with a film of gunk on your finished product. And that would be a major bummer after you spent all that time prepping and cooking, right?

This dish is my childhood in a bowl. And I’m so happy that I have been able to recreate it in my kitchen.

Niu Rou Mien (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup) |


Slow Cooker Niu Rou Mian (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup)

3 pounds beef shank and/or chuck roast  (I used 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 teaspoons five spice powder
2 tablespoons Sichuan bean sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce
1/2 cup Shaoxing wine (vodka, vermouth, or sherry will also work)
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon rock sugar
2 cups beef broth
2 tomatoes, quartered
5 green onions, cut into thirds
3 dried chili peppers, optional
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
5 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
5 large carrots, sliced

for serving:
baby bok choy, blanched
noodles of choice, cooked (I prefer medium-width Chinese noodles)
green onions, thinly sliced
rice wine vinegar
pickled mustard greens, recipe below

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add beef and reduce to a simmer. Cook until beef is cooked all the way through. Skim off the impurities floating on top of the water. Remove beef and reserve the cooking water.
  2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Brown the beef on all sides. Remove beef from pot and place into the bottom of a slow cooker.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger into the pot and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the black beans, five spice powder, Sichuan bean sauce, and hot chili sauce and stir to combine. Stir in the Shaoxing wine, both types of soy sauce, and rock sugar and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Pour mixture on top of the beef.
  4. Add in the beef stock, tomatoes, green onions, chili peppers, and hardboiled eggs. Add the Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves (optional: combine these ingredients in a cheesecloth and tie it up to make removing all the little pieces a bit easier at the end.) Top everything off with stock and six cups of the reserved cooking water (or use 8 cups of beef stock). Cover and cook on low for 5 – 6 hours or until the meat is tender. Add carrots and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until carrots are tender. Taste and add more soy sauce if necessary.
  5. To serve, place noodles in a bowl and top with bok choy. Ladle scoops of the beef stew on top. Garnish with green onions and the pickled mustard greens relish. Top with a splash of rice wine vinegar, if desired.

Pickled Mustard Greens Relish

10.5 ounce package mustard greens
2 hot chili peppers
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Rinse the pickled mustard greens and soak in water for 30 minutes. Change the water twice during this time period to get rid of excess salt.
  2. Dice the mustard greens into pea-sized pieces.
  3. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add the mustard greens. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in chili peppers and sugar and stir until sugar is evenly distributed. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until water has evaporated.
  4. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator in an air-tight jar.


recipes slightly adapted from my Mama’s recipe

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Vegan Lentil and Kale Soup

I drift between longing for warmer spring weather and hoping that this cold lasts forever. There are times when I actually love the cold – for a few hours a week, I really, really appreciate the cold weather because I run faster and stronger in it. The warmer it gets, the more I slow down… and the more water I need to carry to counter my very unladylike sweating.

Another reason to love the cold? Soup. Big, steaming bowls of heart-warming soup.

Vegan Lentil & Kale Soup |

Vegan Lentil and Kale Soup
serves 4 – 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups dried green lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 – 15 ounce can light coconut milk
6 cups torn kale

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in onions, garlic, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in garam masala, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cardamom, salt and pepper until well combined. Stir in lentils and vegetable stock. Bring soup to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked through.
  3. Stir in coconut milk and kale. Let simmer for a minute to warm the coconut milk and slightly wilt the kale. Serve immediately.

recipe adapted from the Good Food cart


Chipotle Quinoa Chili


This chili is a breeze to throw together. It’s an easy one-pot meal that takes no time to cook. Instead of making a frozen pizza or grabbing fast food, put this chili into your weeknight menu rotation. It’s packed full of good-for-you quinoa, beans, and veggies and a small bowl will keep you full for a long time.


Chipotle Quinoa Chili |

Chipotle Quinoa Chili

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
3 – 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes with chiles
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
4 green onions, thinly sliced
optional toppings: cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook for a minute. Stir in chiles, tomatoes, beans, bell peppers, corn, and quinoa. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes or until quinoa is tender, stirring once or twice.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Top with your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!


recipe from Alida’s Kitchen, originally from Kraft 

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Lightened Up Lasagna Soup

Soup is great for cold, snowy days. Soup is also good for men who have had their wisdom teeth out. Mike lived off of chocolate ice cream, chocolate pudding, and chocolate protein shakes for a day. Chocolate is good and all, but I’m pretty sure there is a limit to how much chocolate a person can consume. I decided to make some lasagna soup for Mike to try. I knew I could cook the veggies and noodles long enough to make them extra soft and manageable for my wisdom tooth-less husband. For me? I kept my noodles al dente. But I’m not dealing with major jaw pain and all.

LIghtened Up Lasagna Soup {dairy free} |

Since this soup doesn’t have cheese it’s really not much like lasagna at all. But hey, it was tasty and I didn’t really miss the cheese. But the lack of cheese and the use of a lower-fat turkey sausage versus a pork sausage means fewer fat and calories. Tasty, healthy, and a perfect comfort food.

Lightened Up Lasagna Soup
serves 8

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1.25 pounds Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
3 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
15 ounce can tomato sauce
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, diced

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add turkey break it into bite-sized pieces. Cook until browned and cooked through, 4 – 6 minutes. Drain excess fat from pan.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Add in broken lasagna noodles and bell pepper and cook until pasta is al dente.
  3. Remove bay leaves before serving.

slightly adapted from the Deen Bros

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Chicken (or Turkey) Dumpling Soup

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I am always with those that I love, surrounded by tons of good food. I’ll be honest – I really don’t like turkey that much. Thanksgiving meals are all about the side dishes to me. Stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, veggies… those are the dishes that take up prime real estate on my plate. Buried underneath all that goodness will be the smallest piece of turkey possible.

I actually made this chicken and dumpling soup a couple weeks ago after a business trip. During my trip, I ate a small-town family restaurant and got their chicken dumpling soup. It was pretty disappointing – watery with a million tasteless dumplings and no chicken whatsoever. When I finally got home, I had two things on my to-do list: 1) Give Mike a kiss and 2) Make some chicken dumpling soup. Let me tell you – this recipe was a million times better than the restaurant stuff. I’m hoping to make this soup again with leftover turkey – I imagine that the results would be just as tasty.

Chicken or Turkey Dumpling Soup |

Chicken or Turkey Dumpling Soup

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the dumplings:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

  1. Place chicken, broth and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add in onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally,  for 5 – 7 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Transfer cooked vegetables into broth.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup water until well combined. Whisk in ground mustard and thyme. Add mixture to broth and add in bay leaves and shredded chicken. Bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While soup is simmering, make the dumplings: Whisk together flour, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Whisk in almond milk until combined.
  5. Once soup has cooked for 15 minutes, bring it back to a boil. Drop dumpling dough by tablespoons into the soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. Remove bay leaves before serving.

adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Hearty Venison Stew

It’s that time of year again. Gun deer hunting season started on Saturday morning here in Wisco and the hunters are out in full force. I’m not sure what hunting seasons are like in other states and Google didn’t lead me to any easy way to figure that out.

This is the first year that Mike didn’t go out. I was happy to have him around for the first time since we started seeing each other 8 deer hunting seasons ago (ha), but I will sure miss the delicious venison. Luckily, we have some really generous hunters in our lives. A family friend got a deer during bow season and gave it to Mike’s dad, Jim. Jim butchered the doe and gave us a ton of meat!!!

The start of gun season seemed an appropriate time to cook up some of the meat. The cold, windy weather was definitely screaming “stew”, too! If you can’t get your hands on vension, feel free to use some beef instead. If you have access to venison and don’t think you’ll like it, give this stew a try anyway. You’ll love it, I promise.

Hearty Venison Stew |

Hearty Venison Stew
serves 6

2 pounds venison stew meat (or beef stew meat)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
4 cups low sodium beef broth
2 – 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspooon dried thyme
2 bay leaves

mashed potatoes or crusty bread, for serving

  1. In a large bowl, mix together paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, pepper, and salt. Add in venison and toss until coated. Add in 1/4 cup flour and toss until evenly coated.
  2. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over  medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Move browned meat to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add more oil if necessary, and add in onions. Cook for 2 minutes and then add in celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add in red wine and deglaze the pan. Stir in beef broth, tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and browned meat. Bring stew to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until meat is tender.
  5. Remove stew from heat and served with mashed potatoes or bread, if desired.

recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse