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Healthier than the Box Cheeseburger Macaroni (GF)

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Christmas season is in full swing now and I feel like I should be posting a cookie recipe, not a dinner. I’m sure I will be doing plenty of cookie baking and sharing in the coming weeks (including my eBook with cookie recipes), but, in this hectic and busy time of year we need to eat more than cookies! This skillet dinner is warm, comforting, and ready in under in 30 minutes.

Hamburger Helper was the first meal I ever cooked on my own. My Mom has always loved the stroganoff variety so that was a frequent and favorite dinner in our household. Since it was a fairly simple dinner I would often be the one responsible for mixing up the sauce or making the ground beef, and eventually making the entire meal. I suppose all cooks have to to start somewhere!

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Although Hamburger Helper was a totally viable dinner option in my childhood it is not now! When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in my 20s it immediately became a forbidden food. Still, sometimes I crave it, even though I know it is both full of gluten and not exactly healthy.

Enter this recipe. It is delicious. It will take you the same amount of time to cook as the boxed variety. The ingredient list is short and includes more whole foods and less processed foods. Adults and kids will love it. And best of all, you don’t have to feel a bit guilty about eating this or serving it to your family!

Healthier than the Box GF Cheeseburger Macaroni

 
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb elbow shaped GF brown rice pasta
  • 2 c water
  • 1 1/4 c tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese (this makes it very cheesy, feel free to use less)
Directions
  1. Add the chopped onion and ground turkey to a large skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the turkey is browned, breaking it into small bits as it cooks.
  2. Stir in the water, tomato sauce, mustard powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. When combined, stir in the pasta and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and simmer (reduce heat to a medium/low) for 15 minutes, or until pasta is done.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.  Serve with steamed vegetables or a salad.
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Chicken in Balsamic Browned Butter Sauce

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Although the name makes it sound complicated, this chicken dish comes together in under half an hour. Another bonus is that it is a one pan meal, making the clean up quick, too. I tend to choose to make this on busy weeknight days when I want something more elegant than … sandwiches. Or quesadillas made out of whatever leftovers I have in the fridge.

What is more elegant that crispy, buttery, edibile sage leaves? This chicken and sauce are a great pairing, but the sage leaves – they are AMAZING. I almost feel like the rest of the dish would just not be worth eating without the sage leaves. They’re really, really good. And this is coming from a girl who doesn’t like butter. I have yet to find another great recipe to use these buttery sage leaves in so whenever I’m craving them this is what gets made!

I often serve this with homemade spinach pasta. I like how the green pasta and green sage leaves look together. I mix the pasta dough and cut it prior to making the chicken, even the day before. The chicken and sauce is fairly hands on, so throwing some pasta in a pot is an easy way to bulk up the meal without increasing the effort very much. Some steamed veggies or a salad go great with this, too. With those browned butter sage leaves this obviously isn’t the most healthful meal, but it is not horrible in moderation and with the right sides you can end up with a quick, delicious, well balanced meal!

P.S. The sauce is reeeaaallly good mixed on pasta too, not just chicken!

Chicken in Balsamic Browned Butter Sauce

 
Ingredients
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 Tbs salted butter
  • 2 Tbs sage leaves (whole)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4c hot water
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat. When the skillet is warm spray it with cooking spray and add half the chicken, spreading it out evenly in one layer. Cook for 2-3 without any stirring, then flip the chicken and cook on the other side another 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and set it aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining uncooked chicken.
  2. In the same skillet, reduce the heat to medium low, and add the butter.
  3. When the butter is melted add the sage leaves. Let them cook until crisp (just a few minutes), then remove them from the pan and lay them out in a single layer.
  4. Add the minced shallot next, and cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft. When the shallots are soft add the balsamic vinegar and then the water. If you are making this with pasta, just scoop out some of the pasta water and add it to the pan.
  5. Finally, add the chicken back into the skillet stir until the chicken pieces are coated with the sauce. Serve topped with the crispy sage leaves.
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