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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Easy Pepper Steak with Mushrooms

I’m spending more time than ever just cooking for one. The weekdays Mike and I spend together are rare, and when we do get the chance to enjoy each other’s company during the week,  the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking. My cooking style has evolved. I’m focusing more on super quick and easy dishes now more often than not. I don’t see this changing in the near future, either. I’ll be going back to school for my master’s in January (!!!) which means even less time in the kitchen.

For this recipe swap I was assigned Angie’s blog, My Chicago Kitchen. I looked through a bunch of her recipes before settling on this pepper steak dish. Quick and easy? Check. Delicious? Check!

Easy Pepper Steak with Mushrooms |

Easy Pepper Steak with Mushrooms

slightly adapted from My Chicago Kitchen originally from Elly Says Opa

1 pound flank steak, cut against the grain into thin strips
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms,  sliced
salt & pepper, to taste
cooked brown rice,  for serving

  1. In a shallow bowl, marinate the flank steak in 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce for 15 minutes. Season with a touch of ground white pepper.
  2. While the beef is marinating, make the sauce. Mix the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce with cornstarch. Add beef broth and whisk until corn starch is dissolved. Mix in red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until onions are tender-crisp. Increase heat and add beef and cook until no longer pink in the center. Add peppers and mushrooms to the pan and cook until peppers are tender-crisp.
  4. Pour in the sauce and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a simmer; it will thicken as it warms. Serve hot over brown rice.

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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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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

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Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Peppers

There are some days where I just don’t have the time (or energy) to cook an elaborate meal. I’ve come to love quick, easy dinners that I can throw together in a half hour.

There are some sweet & sour meatball recipes that use only 3 ingredients: frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce. I couldn’t even bring myself to consider making it. Instead, I opted to make meatballs from scratch (easy!) and sauce from scratch (easier!). Sure, it took a little longer to whip together than the 3 ingredient meatballs, but it’s well worth it to me! The meatballs are super tender and I love the sauce. I also love the fact that I can pour a healthy dose of Sriracha on top.

The only part that beats the fact that it is so simple to make is that this made a LOT of food. That means that Mike and I were able to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a couple days 😉 If you’re cooking for a small group, you may want to cut the recipe in half.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs |

Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Peppers
adapted from All Recipes

for the meatballs:
2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 eggs
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped or grated onion
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

for the sauce:
2 – 20 ounce cans pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved
1 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 large onion, chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, sliced

white or brown rice, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. To make the meatballs: combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix by hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Shape into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pour reserved pineapple juice into a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in water, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, corn starch, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
  4. Stir in pineapple chunks, onion, bell peppers, and meatballs into the sauce. Gently stir to combine and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Serve immediately with rice.

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Whiskey BBQ Burgers with Caramelized Onions & Cheddar

whiskey bbq burgers with caramelized onions & cheddar |

There’s something about a perfect burger that just screams “summer”! Even though it’s only spring, and even though it’s been a fairly cold spring so far, this burger made everything a-okay. I forgot for a few hours that summer was still forever away. Mike and I enjoyed these burgers with some grilled asparagus, grilled potato wedges, and of course, some fresh whisky sours.

whiskey bbq burgers with caramelized onions & cheddar |

Whiskey BBQ Burgers with Caramelized Onions & Cheddar
serves 4

for the whiskey barbecue sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1  teaspoon black pepper
1  teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup bourbon

for the caramelized onions:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar

for the burgers:
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
4 kaiser rolls, lightly toasted

  1. To make the whiskey barbecue sauce:  combine all barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, or until thick.
  2. To caramelize the onions: heat olive oil and butter in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Add in onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add in brown sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and soft, another 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. To make the burgers: shape beef into 4 even patties. Make a depression in the middle of each patty with your thumb. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to high heat and cook burgers until slightly charred and browned on one side. Flip and cook burgers on second side until browned and slightly charged. Top with sliced cheddar cheese during last minute of cooking.
  4. To assemble burgers: place a patty onto the bottom of  roll. Slather with barbecue sauce and top with a heaping spoonful of caramelized onions. Top with other side of the roll and serve immediately.

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Baked Beef and Bean Burritos with Creamy Poblano Sauce

baked beef & bean burritos with creamy poblano sauce |

I love burritos. I especially love the as-big-as-your-face abominations from Qdoba and Chipotle. If I spend a day with my college friends, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find us at either a Qdoba or Chipotle at some point during the day. After all, we can’t live on beer and whiskey alone. But apparently beer, whiskey, and burritos = well rounded diet.

Some habits die hard. It’s been 3 years since we graduated, but our drinking and eating patterns during our weekends together are essentially the same. The only difference is now instead of drinking Milwaukee’s Best Light, we drink something a little classier like Miller High Life ;).

Anyway, back to the burritos. Up until now, I’ve never had a baked burrito. Baking these until they developed a perfectly crunchy outside brought the burrito to a whole new level. I ate one and died of happiness. So I ate another. I instantly regretted it, but it was just so… good. So learn from my mistake – eat only one. They are very, very filling.

baked beef & bean burritos with creamy poblano sauce |

Beef and Bean Baked Burritos with Creamy Poblano Sauce
adapted from Elly Says Opa

for the burritos:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/4 teaspoon Mexican chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
8 large whole wheat tortillas
olive oil cooking spray

for the creamy poblano sauce:
1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped (see step 2)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. To roast the poblano for the sauce: place inside a medium baking dish. Bake in preheated oven and turn every 6 – 8 minutes until skin is blistered on all sides, about 25 minutes total. Place in a clean kitchen towel and wrap up. Let cool slightly and rub the skin off the pepper with the towel. Remove the stem, seeds, and ribs.
  3. To make the burritos: heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add in ground beef and cook and stir to break up the meat. Cook until well browned. Add in garlic and tomato paste and stir well to combine.
  4. Add in black beans, beef broth, cumin , oregano, chili powder, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. To assemble the burritos: place 2 – 4 tablespoons of cheese at the end of a tortilla and spoon in some of the beef mixture over the cheese. Fold the left and right sides of the tortilla in and then roll the tortilla up, starting from the end closest to you. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spray tops of burritos with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned and crispy, about 25 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in chopped roasted poblano and jalapenos. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until flour is lightly browned, about 1 – 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Let cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in Greek yogurt and cilantro. Serve over baked burritos.

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Beef & Ricotta Meatballs

Nothing quite beats a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I have been looking for ways to use up the cans of marinara I have in my pantry. You see, last summer our garden did really well. However, we planted mostly tomatoes. This meant that at the end of summer we had roughly a bajillion tomatoes in our garden. And as much as I love tomatoes, there was no way we could eat all of them. I decided to make salsa and marinara with the tomatoes. In hindsight, I wish I had canned whole tomatoes, because now I have a lot of marinara and salsa to use up.

So, this summer we plan to plant even more tomatoes. And I promise to be much smarter about how I go about canning them!!

I saw this recipe on Prevention RD and was intrigued – I’ve never put ricotta into my meatballs before. Since I’m always looking for new things to cook up, I decided to give it a try. The result? Absolutely delish. They were wonderful and tender and best of all, I was able to use up a jar of marinara 🙂

beef & ricotta meatballs

Beef & Ricotta Meatballs
from The Lemon Bowl via Prevention RD

1 pound ground sirloin (90% lean)
2/3 cup low-fat ricotta
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 egg whites, whisked
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
  3. Using a small cooking scoop, scoop out meat mixture and shape into balls. Place in an even layer on the  baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until browned.
  5. Serve with pasta and sauce of choice.

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Korean Steak & Mushroom Tacos with Kimchi

korean steak & mushroom tacos with kimchi |

Have you ever eaten something so good that you wanted nothing more than to eat it alone?

Not because you didn’t want people to distract you from the deliciousness, but because you were ashamed at the rate in which you were shoveling the food into your mouth.

No? Well, that happens to me once in a while. Most recently with these tacos. These tacos were a-ma-zing. One of my favorite ways to get kimchi into my mouth, I think. These tacos were so good that I couldn’t decide if one was enough. If I only had one that meant I would have more leftovers for future meals. But… one just wasn’t enough. And if I ate only one that meant I might have to share the leftovers with Mike. Hmm…

I mean, seriously. These tacos are the perfect balance of sweet, savory and crunchy. And they were super easy to cook.

korean steak & mushroom tacos with kimchi |

Korean Steak & Mushroom Tacos with Kimchi
adapted from Eating Well

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons gochujang
5 cloves garlic, minced
1.25 pounds skirt steak, trimmed
1 teaspoon canola oil
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
8 flour tortillas
1 cup kimchi, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, shredded
4 scallions, thinly sliced

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. 
  2. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, mirin, gochujang, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
  3. Add oil to heated pan and cook steak until browned and desired level of doneness is reached (I cooked about 3 minutes on each side). Remove from pan and set on cutting board to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add mushrooms to skillet and cook until heated through and slightly soft, about 1 – 2 minutes on each side. Remove mushrooms from skillet and slice. Slice steak across the grain. Add steak and mushrooms to sauce and stir to combine.
  5. To assemble tacos, divide and steak and mushrooms among the tortillas. Top with chopped kimchi, shredded carrots, and scallions.

Ok, now get off your computer/iPad/phone and go to the grocery store and pick up the ingredients you need to make this. Then, kick everyone out of your house and eat in silence and with reckless abandon.

I swear I’m not an animal…

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Meatballs in Creamy Dill Sauce

My work hours are still really unpredictable. Because of this, I like to find foods that I can make in big batches and freeze. I rely on meals like this to get me through super busy weeks. I ended up making a double batch of the meatballs and freezing half of them for later. I mean, let’s be real – this dish is super easy to make after the meatballs are cooked and it sure beats a bowl of mac & cheese or ramen for dinner!

After I typed up this post I went digging through the freezer to find the rest of the meatballs… there were none. I guess I cooked them up already. Sad, sad day. Guess I’ll be making some mac & cheese 😉

meatballs in creamy dill sauce

Meatballs in Creamy Dill Sauce

for the meatballs:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 slice of day-old whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs (or 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 egg

for the sauce:
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoon flour
2 cups beef broth
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

cooked egg noodles or other pasta of your choice for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Combine beef, bread crumbs, skim milk, salt, pepper and egg in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Roll into 1″ balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes or until browned and no longer pink in the middle.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in beef broth, mushrooms, and meatballs. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove sauce from heat and stir in Greek yogurt and dill until well combined.
  5. Serve meatballs and sauce over egg noodles. Serve immediately.