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One of the things that makes me happiest these days is spending time in my kitchen cooking meals for our little family of two and baking treats that we’ll indulge in as well as share with others.  I love reading cookbooks and magazines or browsing food blogs for inspiration and then heading into the kitchen with an idea and the ability to make it happen.  Whether I’m chopping veggies, stirring a sauce, whipping up a batter in my mixer or kneeling in front of the oven peeking in to watch cupcakes rise, it’s all good.  It wasn’t that long ago I woke up every morning dreading yet another long day at a job that made me completely miserable and left little time for outside interests, so I’m especially grateful that my current situation allows me to spend so much time doing something I feel passionate about. 

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As much as I love being in my kitchen, during the week I usually just want to get a quick dinner on the table, and preferably one that doesn’t involve 3 pans, 2 cutting boards, 4 measuring cups and 2 knives because if there’s one thing I’m not a big fan of, it’s washing dishes.  Many of my favorite weeknight meals are one-pot recipes so I was instantly drawn to an issue of Cook’s Country magazine I found recently containing quick and easy meals made in just one skillet.  This cheesy chili mac was the first recipe I tried, mainly because I had all of the ingredients on hand already.  Well, technically I didn’t have ground beef as the recipe suggested, but that doesn’t really count since I always substitute ground turkey anyway. 

The recipe was a cinch to throw together though I did have a moment of “is this really going to work?” as I cooked the pasta.  A combination of water and tomato sauce are added to the skillet and the elbow macaroni is cooked directly in that liquid.  It absorbs the liquid, creating a thick sauce and Shane and I both agreed the texture of the pasta didn’t suffer as a result of this unusual method of preparation.  I do want to note that the dish is barely spicy so if you like more heat you’ll probably want to think about adding red pepper flakes or hot sauce.  We both enjoyed this meal, and in fact, Shane even raved after reheating the leftovers the next night.  I am definitely looking forward to trying many more dishes from this magazine and hopefully adding some new one pot dinners to our rotation! 

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Cheesy Chili Mac
adapted from Cook’s Country via Skillet Suppers

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pound ground turkey
2 cups water
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz (about 2 cups) elbow macaroni
1 1/2 -2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

Set a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the oil.  Heat until shimmering.  Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and brown sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the ground turkey and cook until it is no longer pink.

Stir the water and tomato sauce into the ground turkey mixture in the pan.  Add the pasta and stir to combine.  Cover the pan and increase the heat to medium-high.  Cook until the pasta is al dente, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking.  Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer.  (My pasta took about 12-13 minutes to cook through.  The sauce will be thick by the time your pasta finishes.)

Turn off the heat under the pan and add 1 cup of the cheese.  Stir to incorporate/melt then season the dish to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle remaining cheese (1/2 – 1 cup depending on how cheesy you want your dish) over the top and cover the pan again.  Let stand for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese melts.