a balanced plate with room for dessert


Hawaiian Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

So, remember that amazing (and easy!!) pineapple salsa I posted a couple weeks ago? It’s not only good on chips, with pretzel thins, or plain by the spoonful… it’s delicious on marinated chicken, too! I’m loving all the pineapple that’s on sale right now and this dish is super easy to prepare. Prep and marinate the chicken the night before and then you have dinner on the table in 30 minutes the next day!

Pineapple Chicken with Fresh Pineapple Salsa and Cilantro Rice | Pineapple Chicken

1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
cooking spray
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups hot cooked brown rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups fresh pineapple salsa

  1. Whisk together pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade. Place chicken in a shallow dish and pour the remaining marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, turning halfway through.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Discard marinade and place chicken into prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake chicken for 30 – 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F. Pour reserved 1/4 cup marinade over chicken.
  4. Combine brown rice and cilantro in a bowl. Serve chicken with brown rice and pineapple salsa.


adapted from Cooking Light


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Southwest Turkey Meatball Skillet

This easy meal uses my favorite baked turkey meatballs and is on the table in 20 minutes. The best part? Cleanup is simple – this is a one pot meal, folks. If you’re a starch-lover like me, serve this with your favorite crusty bread, quinoa, or brown rice.

Southwest Turkey Meatball Skillet |

Southwest Turkey Meatball Skillet
serves 4 – 6

16 baked turkey meatballs (recipe here)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn
1-15 ounce can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 3 – 5 minutes. Stir in corn, beans, tomatoes, kale, and broth. Season with lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  2. Nestle meatballs into the vegetables and bring mixture to a simmer. Partially cover and let cook for 3 – 5 minutes, or until meatballs are heated through.
  3. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

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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


Bangers and Mash with Red Wine Onion Gravy

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! If you didn’t get a chance to drink a ton of green beer this weekend, don’t worry – you can still celebrate by whipping up the quick and easy meal of bangers and mash.

Bangers and Mash with Red WIne Onion Gravy |

I found the bangers at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find any, another type of pork sausage should do. I was blown away by how tasty this was and I kind of regret not buying more of the sausages to freeze for later. This, folks, is comfort food.

Ripley |

Mr. Ripley was watching me intently as I photographed this meal. He ended up with some mashed potatoes on his ear (see bottom right). Don’t know how, but he did. Weird dog.

Bangers and Mash with Red WIne Onion Gravy |

And, yes, that is a bottle of 3-buck-Chuck in the background. Turns out, we still like to drink like poor college kids.

Bangers and Mash with Red Wine and Onion Gravy
serves 4 – 6

for the bangers:
1 pound Irish banger sausages
1/4 cup dry red wine
extra virgin olive oil spray
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, torn

for the mash:
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons dairy-free butter
1/4 cup dairy-free milk
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

for the gravy:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  1. To prepare the bangers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and spray with olive oil. Add the bangers and brown on all sides. Add red wine and sprinkle with sage. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until fully cooked, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the mashed potatoes and gravy. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Mash potatoes with butter, milk, salt and pepper.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, prepare the gravy. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and browned, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle onions with flour and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in red wine, broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to cook until reduced to desired thickness.
  4. Place the mash on a plate and top with bangers and serve with a generous spoonful of onion gravy.

adapted from Williams-Sonoma


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. 


Chipotle Honey-Lime Pork Tenderloin

I don’t know if this is a problem other people have, but every single time I cook for something that calls for chipotles in adobo sauce I am left with two or three lonely chiles. I never know what to do with them and they often go to waste. This time, I planned accordingly. On the first night, I made chipotle quinoa chili. A few nights later, I used up the rest of the chipotle peppers in this delicious pork tenderloin.

Chipotle Honey-Lime Pork Tenderloin |

Chipotle Honey-Lime Pork Tenderloin

1 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
zest from 1 lime
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 – 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
1/2 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
cilantro, chopped

  1. Place the tenderloin in a shallow container with a lid to marinate.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, lime zest, honey, salt, and garlic powder. Pour half the marinade over the tenderloin; reserving the remaining half of the marinade for the sauce.
  3. Pour chipotle chiles and adobo sauce over the tenderloin. Cover and allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the tenderloin 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  5. Heat canola oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Remove tenderloin from marinade and sear in skillet on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  6. Place skillet in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  7. Once the pork’s internal temperature reaches 140°F, remove from the oven. Move pork to a cutting board and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes or until the temperature  reaches 150°F.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare te sauce: pour reserved lime juice mixture and leftover marinade into the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Allow sauce to reduce and thicken. Meanwhile, slice pork into 1-inch medallions. Serve sauce over the sliced pork and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

recipe slightly adapted from The Way to His Heart

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Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken and Veggies

This chicken is Mike-approved. He inhaled his entire piece before I got through a quarter of mine. I was surprised at how juicy the chicken turned out. When roasting, I usually try to use bone-in, skin-on chicken to keep the chicken from drying out. But the magical lemon-thyme sauce kept this boneless, skinless chicken breast tender and juicy and not at all dry.

Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken |

And the vegetables? They were my favorite part of the meal!

Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken & Veggies |

Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken and Veggies

for the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme, minced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced (save other half for veggies)

for the vegetables:
4 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound green beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 450F.

In a shallow dish, combine olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and lemon juice. Add chicken, turning to coat.

Lightly spray an oven-safe pan or cast iron skillet with olive oil and arrange lemon slices on the bottom of the pan. Place chicken on top of the lemon slices, pouring any remaining marinade on top.

Spray a separate oven-safe baking dish with olive oil. Add in potatoes, green beans, garlic and lemon juice. Toss to coat.

Bake for chicken and veggies for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

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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

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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


SNAP Challenge: Day 6 and Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

Today’s Feeding America prompt: “In November 2013, the government will cut SNAP benefits for all recipients. These cuts will be $36 for a family of four – dropping the average benefit per person per meal to under $1.40.  How would this week have been different for you if you had even less money to spend on food?”

I’ve typed up a dozen really, really long responses to this prompt and I’ve deleted them all. Short version: you’re told to follow MyPlate guidelines for a “healthy diet”. Then you’re given a little over $4 a day to figure out how the hell you’re supposed to do that. How is a person supposed to fit low-fat dairy, lean meat, whole grains and tons of fruits and vegetables into their diet each day with $4? I haven’t quite figured that out. We had a lot less fresh fruits and vegetables around to snack on. My meal plan this week was also severely lacking in the dairy department. I couldn’t fit in milk into our budget for Mike, let alone lactose-free milk for myself!  What if a low-income family had special diets to accommodate for? I’m hoping to give this Challenge a try again in November when benefits are cut (and when I don’t have garden produce). But I can’t imagine it going any easier.

What we ate today:

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with egg (me) and whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana (Mike)
  • Snack: peanut butter toast with banana (me)
  • Lunch: macaroni and cheddar cheese (Mike) and pepper chicken with rice (me)
  • Dinner: spicy black bean soup with cumin lime sour cream and baked tortilla chips
  • Snack: raisins

I’ll be honest – it’s been hard keeping up with daily blog posts to document the SNAP Challenge. I’m already thinking about food a lot more than usual; having to not only cook, but photograph and write about it makes it even harder. To top it all off, I spend a lot of my free time reading food magazines and food blogs. Torturing myself, really. Writing about the turkey quinoa meatballs literally made my stomach growl. I’m so tired of eating chicken and bell peppers cooked different ways. I think I need a break from them after the Challenge is over. Sorry chicken, sorry peppers – it’s not you, it’s me. But, it’s not really me… in fact it’s 100% you.

That leads me nicely into today’s recipe from a blogger’s choice swap (not part of the SNAP Challenge). This time, I bring you a dish that I made a couple weeks ago (yup, no worries –  we didn’t cheat during the Challenge!). This dish is something new, something different, something that doesn’t contain chicken or green bell peppers! Drum roll please… turkey quinoa meatballs!

Turkey? With quinoa?  Yup. And they are awesome. I made a few minor changes to Ali’s recipe: I had a plethora of tomatoes to use so I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. I also left out the cheese from the meatballs, but Mike had a little shaved on top of his finished dish.

I served the meatballs over spaghetti squash, but you can use regular ol’ spaghetti noodles if you would like!

turkey quinoa meatballs with spaghetti squash |

Slow Cooker Turkey & Quinoa Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash
adapted from Sparks from the Kitchen

2 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 cup cooked quinoa
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for browning
2 teaspoons Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 large sweet onion, cut into rounds
2 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade)
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish, optional

1 large spaghetti squash*
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, garlic, egg, olive oil, Italian spices, onion powder, salt and white pepper. Mix by hand until combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  2. Roll meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls and set aside.
  3. Place sliced onions on the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour in 1 cup tomato sauce and 2 cups of the chopped tomatoes.
  4. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place meatballs into pan, being careful not to overcrowd. Brown meatballs on all sides. When browned, place them into the slow cooker on top of the tomatoes. Once you have half the meatballs in the slow cooker, top with another cup of chopped tomatoes. Continue to brown the meatballs and place them in the slow cooker.
  5. When all meatballs are browned, add the remaining tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes, making sure all the meatballs are covered.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.
  7. An hour before serving, prepare the spaghetti squash. Preheat oven to 450°F and lightly grease a baking pan.
  8. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scrape out seeds. Season with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place squash flesh-side down in prepared pan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove pan from oven and let squash cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scrape out the squash strands from the skin.
  9. Place spaghetti squash on a plate and top with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with freshly grate Pecorino Romano, if desired.

Thanks again to Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting! Click on the link to check out the other delicious swap recipes!