North African Beef Stew & Book Review

North African Beef Stew-5675 on Whisk Together


Book Review:

My latest book review is for Michael Symon’s 5 in 5.  This is the updated version of his 2013 book of the same name.  The premise of the book is that you can make appetizers, main courses or dessert from just 5 main ingredients and cook in 5 minutes!  Yes!  FIVE minutes!  The prep for the food is not included in the 5 minutes yet it is still not a lot of time and can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge.

5 in 5

This recipe book is 165 dishes that taste delicious with few ingredients.  I love how the main 5 ingredients are highlighted and easy to add to a grocery list.  There are other ingredients in every recipe, however, they are all common pantry staples like olive oil, salt, pepper, etc.

I like that the book is organized by season.  This book takes the produce that is in season and uses them such as Kielsbasa with Apples and Onions in the Fall, Grilled Chicken Thighs with Edamame and Grapefruit in Winter, Grilled Corn with Parmesan and Chives in the Summer, and Asparagus with Sesame and Orange in the Spring.  A holiday section is the last chapter and includes Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Leftover Turkey Frittata.

If you are stuck in a food rut, want to try new things, like cooking from scratch and not the boxes – this book is for you.  Many recipe books that promise short ingredient lists rarely deliver because they include using many cream of something soups or boxes of pre-made ingredients that include preservatives.  Michael Symon’s book is all from scratch recipes full of flavor.  Most of the recipes include a photo as well!

As I mentioned previously, this book will require that you may try new things.  Radicchio, endive, shaved beets, kohlrabi and feta cheese are not every day normal ingredients I would pick up at the grocery store.  I’m not sure many families with small children would use many of the recipes.  Then again, this is a book of fast and easy recipes with a lot of vegetables and fruit pairings and a life saver for those hurrying home from work and need to get dinner on the table quickly.
*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.*


North African Beef Stew-5666 on Whisk Together

Recipe:  Speaking of getting out of the recipe rut- I made this North African Beef Stew thinking it would just be okay.  But it was super delicious!  I had everything for it in the pantry and just wanted to make something a little different than the same old same old adding russets, carrots and celery to the beef stew meat with some broth, thyme and tomato paste.

If you don’t care for adding cinnamon to your beef (don’t knock it until you try it!  It’s surprisingly good), then take note of the directions.  Putting your potatoes in foil on top of your beef stew keeps them tender, but not mushy.  It is how we always make our stews or anything with potatoes in the slow cooker now.

North African Beef Stew & Book Review
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive or canola oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups for mashed potatoes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat or boneless chuck eye roast in 1 and 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and 1″ pieces (or use russet if family doesn’t like sweet)
  1. In a medium microwave safe bowl: add the onion, garlic, spices and oil. Nuke that for 5 minutes on high. Stir every once in a while.
  2. Into a 4-7 qt. slow cooker: put the onion mixture, broth, 1/2 tsp. salt and meat.
  3. Into a foil packet: add the potatoes. Put the packet on top of your meat.
  4. Cook 9-11 hours on low or 6-8 hours on high.
  5. Option one: Serve potatoes and beef separately.
  6. Option two: Dump the potatoes into the beef slowly and stir.
  7. Option three: Remove a cup or two of the potatoes from the foil packet and mash them with a masher. Add the mashed potatoes and whole potatoes into beef. Heat for about 15 minutes or until everything is warm.
  8. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve warm!
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution”


Sloppy Joe Spice Mix

Sloppy Joe


My kids have a thing for Sloppy Joes.  I have a thing for super easy mixes that are all ready to go in my pantry!  I ran out of my Wildtree Sloppy Joe Mix and tried to make my own.  This is pretty close.

I try to keep my pantry pretty simple, and we always have the basics to make homemade sloppy joe mix.  Or, make a large amount for a jar to give to friends and family!  Spice mixes like taco seasoning and sloppy joe mix are great to have on hand for a quick 20 minute dinner.

Add this mixture to chili dogs, mustard, in a pie crust, in a flattened biscuit like a hand pie, or of course as sloppy joes!

Sloppy Joe Spice Mix
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 2 Tb. brown sugar
  • 1 Tb. onion powder ** (or cook a diced onion with the meat)
  • 1 Tb. paprika ** (I prefer smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Needed to make the Sloppy Joes:
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. tomato paste (or omit, but we really like it)
  • 1 Tb. mustard
  • 2 Tb. apple cider or white vinegar
  1. Mix and enjoy!
  2. When ready to make sloppy joes, brown 1 pound of ground beef.
  3. Add the spice mix, 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, 2 Tb. tomato paste, 1/2 cup water, 1 Tb. mustard and 2 Tbs. cider vinegar (plain white vinegar works, too).
  4. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Serve on buns with mac and cheese, green beans, cole slaw, etc.
  6. *One alternative is to add ground dry mustard to the mix and omit from adding the 1 Tb. mustard later.


Beef Enchilada Burrito

Beef Burrito Enchilada_1 on Whisk Together

Craft:  Here is a photo of what I was working on last week.  After some trial and error with vinyl and fonts, I found a way to make these coasters for my cousin’s wedding.

Coasters on Whisk Together


Recipe:  I made this recipe with the previous post, “Mexican Cauliflower Rice”.  It is really simple, fast and delicious!  It is one of the recipes that Food Network Magazine publishes in their weeknight dinner section.  They rarely disappoint.  I think they work really hard on them and make sure you CAN actually get it made in a short period of time.

I recommend making your own enchilada sauce, but you use what you like.  I have a recipe here that I liked and posted a while ago.  The Vitamix enchilada sauce is super easy as well.  Many canned enchilada sauces at the grocery store contain MSG and preservatives.  The enchilada sauce at Trader Joe’s is free of all those nasty things, but it is too spicy even for me.  I’m a medium kinda gal.

Vitamix Enchilada Sauce

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. red wine vinegar
1 Roma tomato, cut in half
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 and 1/2 Tb. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Place everything in the Vitamix blender.  Blend at level 10 for 6-7 minutes.  Or put it on the “soup” setting for the ones with presets.

Beef Enchilada Burrito on Whisk Together

Beef Enchilada Burritos
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 and 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (about 20 ounces)
  • 2 – 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Mexican cheese blend (6 ounces)
  • 8 large flour tortillas or whole wheat tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium high with chili powder. Cook until no longer pink and broken up – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup enchilada sauce and the beans. Simmer 3-5 minutes.
  4. Take the skillet off of the stove and stir in cilantro.
  5. Spray two small baking dishes or one large 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  6. Divide the meat between the tortillas and add 1/4 cup of cheese to each.
  7. Roll and fold the burritos. Place into the dish seam side down. Cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce.
  8. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and add the rest of the cheese. Bake another 2-3 minutes.
Serve with Mexican Cauliflower Rice from[br][br]Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine Dec 2014


Beef and Vegetable Stew

Beef and Vegetable Stew on Whisk Together


Book:  I started reading “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.  It is one of those books on Amazon with 5000 reviews.  Scratch that – it now has over 8,000 reviews with almost 5 stars!

Beef and Vegetable Stew-1 on Whisk Together

Recipe:  This recipe is a healthier version of beef stew from America’s Test Kitchen.  Adding a lot of extra vegetables to the recipe decreases the calories by 300 and 16 grams of fat for a typical beef stew recipe.  Nobody turns down vegetables simmering in meat and broth!  It almost makes vegetables actually taste good 🙂  Kidding.  This was very tasty and delicious comfort food.  Of course leftovers were really good, too.  I like how America’s Test Kitchen builds the flavors one on top of the other and adds them at the right time so that your potatoes and carrots do not turn to mush from overcooking.

This recipe could be created in the slow cooker if you choose.   I find the oven and Dutch Oven  are easier for me right now, but feel free to cook it on Low for 7-8 hours or on High for 3-4 hours.

One big deal about this recipe I must add:  I do NOT like mushrooms.  I cannot stand the texture or taste of mushrooms in any form.  BUT, I do like them in this dish.  Nobody, not even the kids, noticed that I substituted some mushrooms for beef. The mushrooms really take on a nice beefy flavor.

Beef and Vegetable Stew
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat, or beef chuck roast in 1.5″ chunks
  • salt and epper
  • 5 tsp. olive or canola oil
  • 1 (6 oz.) medium portobello cap or baby bella mushrooms, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 Tb. flour
  • 1 Tb. tomato paste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry red wine (or beef broth)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
  • 2 cups beef broth (I use low sodium)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 oz. (2-3) red potatoes, 1″ pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled, halved and 1″ thick
  • 4 parsnips, peeled, halved and 1″ thick (or substitute carrots)
  • 1 lb. kale, remove stems and cut 1/2″ thick
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the dutch oven to medium- high with some oil. Brown the stew meat for about 5-10 minutes. You need to do this in batches. Add oil as needed. Set aside.
  4. Once all the meat is browned (not necessarily cooked through) and removed, add mushrooms. Cover with lid. Turn heat down to medium and cook 5 minutes. Take the lid off and cook another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add onions with 1 Tb. oil. Cook 5 minutes.
  6. Add garlic. Cook 30 seconds.
  7. Add flour and tomato paste. Cook 1 minute.
  8. Add wine slowly. Whisk to combine and scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven while adding.
  9. Add broths slowly.
  10. Put the lid on and the whole thing in the oven for 90 minutes.
  11. Remove lid and add potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Cook 60 minutes.
  12. Remove lid and add kale. Cook 10 minutes.
  13. Remove Dutch oven from the oven and add peas and parsley. Add lid back on for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.
Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen “Healthy Family Cookbook”

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen “Healthy Family Cookbook”

Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili

The snow and football mean chili season.  We often used deer meat and/or ground beef in our chili.  I am including this with a picture of my dad.  He died from a heart attack last Saturday after getting his deer.  Daddy raised five girls (yes, five), worked for Schnucks Supermarkets for over 43 years and was married to my mom 37 years.  He’s the best daddy a girl could ask for – always there for you, worked so hard so you could have the things you needed, and even though he loved, loved, LOVED hunting and fishing – he loved his family more.

Cropped Daddy


Here is a photo of his “kids” 🙂  There are many more kids, but these were the current mounts.  This was published in “Missouri Game and Fish” magazine a few years ago.  Love you and miss you daddy.


Recipe:  This recipe can be cooked in a Dutch oven or slow cooker.  I was not happy with the original recipe, but  we all LOVED the result after adding some tomatoes, soy sauce and some seasonings.  Of course, it is freezer friendly as well!

Three Bean Chili_8 on Whisk Together


Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or up to 3 tsp.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (or up to 3 tsp.)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or up to 3 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz.) can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


  1. For Slow Cooker: Microwave with salt and pepper the ground beef, garlic, onion, chili powder and rest of the herbs/spices for 10 minutes. Add this mixture and the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook low 6-7 hours or high 4-5 hours.
  2. For Dutch Oven/Stove top: Heat 1 Tb. oil at medium to medium-high heat. Add onions and ground beef and cook until ground beef is no longer pink- about 12 minutes. Add garlic and spices/herbs. Cook 30 seconds. Add the beans, tomatoes, soy sauce and brown sugar. Cook uncovered until it simmers. Cover and cook at a slow simmer for 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Add water if it needs to be thinned out.

Three Bean Chili
serves 8-10

2 pounds ground beef
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or up to 3 tsp.)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (or up to 3 tsp.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or up to 3 tsp.)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For Slow Cooker:  Microwave with salt and pepper the ground beef, garlic, onion, chili powder and rest of the herbs/spices for 10 minutes.  Add this mixture and the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker.  Cook low 6-7 hours or high 4-5 hours.

For Dutch Oven/Stove top:  Heat 1 Tb. oil at medium to medium-high heat.  Add onions and ground beef and cook until ground beef is no longer pink- about 12 minutes.  Add garlic and spices/herbs.  Cook 30 seconds.  Add the beans, tomatoes, soy sauce and brown sugar.  Cook uncovered until it simmers.  Cover and cook at a slow simmer for 30 minutes up to 2 hours.  Add water if it needs to be thinned out.  Add apple cider vinegar – cook 1 minute.  Serve warm.

Recipe adapted from “Slow Cooker Revolution 2” by America’s Test Kitchen

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper on Whisk Together

Books I’ve read:  Since the move, I really haven’t had the time to read many books.  I did just finish “Wonder” by RJ Palacio.  It has nearly 4,000 five star reviews and with good reason.  The characters are great, the plot is moving and the message is one that every adult and child should hear.  Unless I find something better, this will be my pick for book club.  Here are some favorite quotes below:

“When given the choice between being right and being kind. Choose kind.”
“Jack, sometimes you don’t have to be mean to hurt someone.”
“…your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of stone.”
“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

Homemade Hamburger Helper on Whisk Together 2


This recipe was a hit with kids and adults.  Easy, fast and delicious.  I really think it tastes better than the box Hamburger Helper.  Is it an exact match?  No – the ingredients are real here and not chemical lab concoctions.  But, I agree with other commentators on the recipe that it does taste better than the box mix.  And, of course, it is much cheaper, too!  Bonus!  Plus those allergic to yellow #5 can eat this version!  The box version includes artificial colors like yellow # 5 and #6.  Oh, did I mention the box version contains MSG and partially hydrogenated soybean oil?  Hmmmm… yeah, let’s stick with the real stuff that tastes better.  If you need to actually make this mix ahead of time, please do!  Simply mix all the seasonings up yourself ahead of time, add a baggie of pasta and you have your own “box mix” version.

Homemade Hamburger Helper


  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2-1 cup water (I like mine thick and use 1/2 cup water)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. oregano
  • 3/4 tsp. parsley
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. In a great big skillet (12" or so), heat to medium heat. Cook onion and meat together until the meat is brown. Drain on paper towels if desired.
  2. Add the meat back to the pan with the milk, water, pasta and seasonings.
  3. Cook just like the box mix does: bring the whole thing up to a boil on medium heat. Turn down the heat to medium low and simmer until the pasta is cooked. Usually about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Take the skillet off of the burner. Add the cheese and gently stir until melted through. Eat immediately or keep warm in a covered skillet on low.


Recipe from Divas Can Cook

Meatball Tortellini Soup

Meatball Tortellini Soup on Whisk Together

The high temperature today was 12 and the low was -1.  The normal temperature would be a high of 43!  It is so cold I can only think of warm soup and roasted sweet potatoes to make all day, so that is what I did!  I have two yummy soups to show you and they are both LOW in calories and FAST.   Today is meatball tortellini soup.

This recipe uses 8 oz. ground beef or ground chuck.  I know most packages sell their ground beef in 1 lb. or larger.  So, I simply made a large 16 oz. batch of the same size meatballs and the kids ate spaghetti and meatballs for dinner the next day.  Three kids approved these meatballs, so they must be good!  And much easier to make than my previous meatballs.

Why I love this recipe:

1.  It is less than 500 calories per serving!
2.  It is fast to put together (less than 30 minutes; 15 minutes if you pre-made your meatballs and stored them in the fridge)
3.  The soup reheats nicely.
4.  It can be frozen.
5.  It is meaty and light at the same time.

The one minor problem I had was that a few of the meatballs fell apart when turning them over.  You can avoid this by baking the entire batch of meatballs in a mini-cupcake pan.  I liked the small chunks with the big chunks myself.

Meatball Tortellini Soup_1 on Whisk Together

Meatball Tortellini Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
A hot bowl of meatballs, pasta, cheese and spinach simmering in broth. Comfort food for less than 500 calories per bowl!
  • 8 oz. ground chuck or beef
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2-3 tsp. dried parsley, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 qt. (32 oz.) low sodium chicken broth
  • 9 oz. package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups loose baby spinach (3 oz.) – or more (I added about 4 -5 handfuls to add more spinach to the soup)
  1. In a medium bowl: mix the beef, cheese, half the parsley, egg, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.
  2. Add oil to pot or dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. Scoop in your meatballs with a small cookie scoop or spoon. Let them brown on one side about 2- 3 minutes. Turn over. Brown on the over side 3-4 minutes. Put on a plate to use later.
  3. While the pot is still hot, add the carrots and celery. Cook about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in the chicken broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the yummy beef goodness off the bottom.
  5. Boil the mixture. Add back the meatballs, rest of the parsley and salt to taste. Cook 2-5 minutes or until meatballs are done.
  6. Drop in the tortellini pasta and cook about 4 minutes. They will float to the top when they are done – which is pretty quickly.
  7. Fold the spinach into the soup and stir to let it wilt – about 1 minute.
  8. Top with salt, pepper and any extra parmesan cheese.


Recipe from Food Network Magazine

Best Beef Stew

Well, I made this BEFORE it hit 81 degrees here in St. Louis in the middle of November.  The recipe could also be altered to throw into the slow cooker – throw it all in the pot except for the cornstarch and leave it on low all day (just add the cornstarch later).  I love and dislike my slow cooker.  Sometimes it seems to cook things to death like carrots and potatoes in a beef stew.  But, it is handy to have dinner ready without all the prep work.  This was my first time using Costco’s beef stew meat and it was really, really good.  The everyday price there was the same as the sale price at our local grocery stores – and maybe a better cut of meat.

I like this recipe the best because:

1.  I didn’t need beef broth.  I usually don’t have any on hand and the flavor was so good that you could use it (and some red wine!), but wouldn’t need it.
2.  Seriously, you don’t need beef broth.
3.  This was the best we have ever tasted and the least fussy.  America’s Test Kitchen’s was yummy and probably more flavorful, but more fussy in the slow cooker.
4.  Easy easy easy recipe.

Beef Stew
yield 6 servings

2 lbs beef stew meat (the grocery stores even label it “beef stew meat” or “stew beef”)
2 Tb. oil (vegetable or canola or some flavor neutral oil)
2 cups water
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 dash of ground allspice or cloves
3 russet or 5 red potatoes, 1″ cubes
3 large carrots, sliced (the hubby hates carrots especially cooked in stews, so left them out)
3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 Tb. cornstarch

1.  In a large dutch oven or 5 qt. pot, brown the stew meat in the oil on medium to medium high heat.
2.  Add in the water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika and allspice (or cloves).
3.  Cover and simmer 75 minutes.
4.  Add in the potatoes.
5.  Cover and simmer another 15 minutes.  Take out the bay leaves.  Add in the carrots and celery.
6.  Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes.
7.  Remove 2 cups of the water/hot liquid.  Mix the cornstarch with a little water (about 1/4 cup) then add to the pot.  Heat thoroughly and allow to bubble and thicken slightly.

Yum!  I used the removed liquid to cover the beef and bread.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen

Chili Mac – 30 minute meal

As I mentioned before, I purchased the America’s Test Kitchen Best 30 Minute Recipe book because I found them easy, fast and tasty.  The recipes really can be made in 30 minutes unlike a lot of other books that claim to be made in 30 minutes and it takes me more like an hour.  I’m no chef and can’t chop an onion properly to save my life, but the recipes and the chefs are often criticized because nobody can make them in 30 minutes either.  PLUS I like that most of these 30 minute meals do not dirty up every dish in my kitchen, so they are faster to clean up as well.  This is a big bonus in my book.

This recipe was really popular with all 4 of us.  It is really versatile – you could make it as healthy or unhealthy as you like.  I highly suggest quality seasonings from a local spice shop or Penzey’s to get the most flavor.  I really see a difference in my cooking since switching over from the stuff that sits on the shelves at the grocery store.

Time saving tip:  I saw an idea on Dr. Oz where you get small tubs like those plastic shoebox containers.  Once a week, divide your menu and ingredients into those boxes and you could even label them by day (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) or by meal.  That way you are not collecting ingredients together at the last minute.  She put them in the fridge, but I think this would work in the pantry, too.

Freezer tip:  You can pre-chop and freeze onion!  A huge time saver.  This works with bell peppers, too.

Skillet Chili Mac
yield 4-6 servings  (Fed our family of 2 adults and 2 kids with leftovers for lunch the next day)

1 Tb. vegetable, canola or olive oil
1 lb. 90% lean ground beef, or ground turkey
1 onion, minced
1 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 – 15oz. can tomato sauce
1 and 1/2 cups water
8 oz. elbow macaroni (I used Smart Taste.  It doesn’t have the heavy wheat taste, but added fiber.  The kids and hubby hated the whole wheat.)
8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Mexican cheese, divided

1.  In a 12″ or 13″ skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add your beef, onion, chili and cumin powder, and salt (about 1/2 tsp.).  Cook and break up the meat until it is done and not pink.  If you used a high fat beef, you could drain the meat on paper towels.  I used turkey, so there was not much to drain off.
2.  Add the garlic and brown sugar.   Stir for 30 seconds.
3.  Add tomato sauce, water and macaroni.  Put the lid on the skillet and stir often.  Keep the water simmering pretty fast and cook about 10 minutes – until the pasta is done.
4.  Add salt and pepper now if you like.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Stir in 1 cup of cheese.  Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top and clamp the lid back on until that melts and gets gooey on top.

Variation:  add 1 cup frozen corn, 4.5 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained and 2 T. minced cilantro with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Sounds tasty!

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Best 30 Minute Recipe

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