a balanced plate with room for dessert

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Easy Spicy Turkey Chili Mac

Easy Spicy Turkey Chili Mac |

Chili is one of my favorite winter comfort foods. We just got out of a mega deep-freeze up here in Wisconsin (“feels like -35°F” is something I would be OK with never seeing and feeling again) and this spicy turkey chili mac hit the spot. I made this on one of the nights that Mike and I were apart, so having to wash only one pot was a huge bonus. Doing dishes is the least exciting part of cooking.

Easy Spicy Turkey Chili Mac |

Easy Spicy Turkey Chili Mac

1 1/4 pound 93% lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes*
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup dried whole wheat elbow macaroni or pasta of choice
1 – 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
optional toppings: shredded cheese, fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream, jalapenos

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook turkey, onion and garlic until meat is browned and cooked through and onion is tender.
  2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta, jalapenos, chili powder, and cumin. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low and allow mixture to simmer. Cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until macaroni is soft, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Top with optional toppings before serving.

*I used a pint of quartered tomatoes I canned over the summer.

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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.



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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.


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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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!

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SNAP Challenge: Day 1

Today’s prompt from Feeding America: “What have you cut out of your routine to stay on budget (e.g. COFFEE)?”

On paper, I thought that little had changed in our routine. After a half day, I knew things were different.

I didn’t have snacks to munch on when I got hungry or a little bored. I’m used to being able to whip up a batch of kettle corn if I craved something crunchy. This week, I can’t do that.  Mike’s used to having his morning (and afternoon and evening) coffee. This week, he gave it up and got tea instead since it’s a lot cheaper. My lactose intolerance was already hard for me to deal with since it’s so new. This week, I couldn’t fit almond milk or lactose-free cheese into the budget.

Our first day of the SNAP Challenge was already… well, a challenge. We did all our grocery shopping on Friday and planned to start the SNAP Challenge on Saturday. I didn’t sleep well that night. I had dreams about not having enough food for the week.

Breakfast for me was some oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar and raisins and Mike had some whole wheat toast with peanut butter. We both had some tea and water with our meal.

Mike’s dad came in to town to visit and we went off to the farmer’s market with him. I always love going to the market, but this visit was a little less enjoyable – I couldn’t buy any of the fruits or veggies that looked good. I couldn’t give in to the freshly-baked breads. I instantly regretted spending all my money already, but I knew it was a smart move – buying food from the farmer’s market is way more expensive than buying it at Aldi.

By the time Mike and I got home, we were hungry. We didn’t have anything to snack on,  so Mike drank tea while I threw together lunch (and dinner) as quickly as possible.

I had decided that chili would be a great meal to make during this week. I stretched the turkey by adding in lots of beans and I used simple ingredients to cut down on cost. I’m used to eating “chili seven ways” aka chili with elbow mac, cheese, olives, onions, sour cream, hot sauce, and Fritos. I obviously couldn’t afford to buy Fritos and olives to use as a garnish for one meal , so those were nixed. My main attraction to this chili was that I knew it would reheat wonderfully for lunch during the week (if it lasts that long…)

The chili was hearty and delicious. We ate it with elbow mac for lunch and then had it over a baked potato for dinner to switch it up a little.

Three Bean Turkey Chili |

Three Bean Turkey Chili

1 pound turkey
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 ounce can black beans, drained
15 ounce can kidney beans, drained
30 ounce can pinto beans, drained
2 quarts tomatoes, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprkia
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni

garnishes – 
light sour cream
2 green onions, thinly sliced
extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Heat a large non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Place turkey in pot and cook until browned. Drain off excess fat. Stir in onion and garlic and cook until onions are tender.
  2. Pour in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer chili for 30 minutes.
  3. While chili is cooking, cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.
  4. Place a serving of macaroni in a bowl and top with a scoop of chili,. Garnish with sour cream, green onions, and cheddar cheese.

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Mapo Tofu – A Healthier Version

Mapo tofu is delicious. It might be the soft, silky tofu that melts in your moth. It might be the in-your-face kick of Szechuan peppercorn. But, I think the real reason it’s delicious is because it’s traditionally made with very, very fatty ground pork. I was afraid that when I “trimmed down” this recipe by subbing in lean turkey for fatty pork it would lose its great depth of flavor. After all, I’ve tried to make healthier version of various dishes and ended up with not-so-appetizing results (I’m looking at you, rock-hard muffins).

Fortunately, this healthier version of mapo tofu is far from being unappetizing. In fact, I would say that it’s pretty dang stellar. I challenge you tofu  haters to try this. It just might change your mind about tofu. If you still don’t like it, then I guess you can mash it up and pretend like it’s just a huge bowl of ground turkey.

mapo tofu

Healthier Mapo Tofu
serves 6

1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1.5″ piece of ginger, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
6 green onions, thinly sliced; whites and greens separated
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons hot chili bean sauce
14 ounce package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1″ cubes
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
steamed rice, for serving

  1. Toast peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Allow to cool and then grind in a spice grinder.*
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until well combined. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in canola oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, and white parts of the scallion and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook until meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add in chicken broth, soy sauce, and chili sauce, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and add corn starch mixture and stir until the sauce becomes thick and clear. Gently stir in tofu and cook until heated through, about 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in Szechuan peppercorns, to taste. Drizzle with sesame oil.
  5. Serve immediately with steamed rice. Garnish with remaining green onions.


*I don’t own a spice grinder. I tossed the cooled peppercorns into a zip-top bag, shut it, and then rolled and lightly pounded it with a large rolling pin. It worked!