Week 14 – Skinny Beef Casserole, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites, Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup, and Parmesan-Herb Drop Biscuits

Phew.  Busy season is over (as of October 15 at about 7PM) and I am alive!

Last weekend we were in Chicago!!  On Thursday I flew out there, had lunch with a bunch of old coworkers, stopped by Magnolia Bakery and saw my Chicago roomie, and then spent the night outside of the city with my dear friend Anna!  I FINALLY got to see her house, and it was great to hang out with her and her husband.  We even stopped by her parents’ house.  It was a wonderful day full of catching up with so many great people.  Friday was my birthday!  I spent the morning with Anna but then she had to go to work (she took a half day).  I took a train back into Chicago and then headed up to my old church and helped set up for Joy’s wedding!!  It worked out perfectly that I had nowhere to go until dinner time so I caught up with some other friends who were also helping at the church and made myself useful.  Matt flew in that night and we hung out with some friends until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.  My friend Allison and her fiance Tony were wonderful enough to host us in their guest room for two nights.  Their place is beautiful and in my old neighborhood, which is basically where we spent our whole weekend.

Saturday was the wedding, it was beautiful.  I know that’s how a lot of people generically describe weddings, but this wedding was seriously beautiful.  If you weren’t there it’s hard to describe, but just know dry eyes were few and far between, and God was definitely present as the ceremony took place.  Gosh I wish those two all of the happiness.  After the ceremony we hung out at Guthrie’s with a crew of great people!  Possibly my favorite bar in Chicago, still on the hunt for its DC look/feel alike.  The reception was a blast and the meal was Lou Malnati’s pizza and then giant doughnuts!  My favorite wedding meal so far.  And it’s going to be hard for all you non-married friends to beat out my favorite Chicago-style pizza place.  The bar has been set oh so high.  Sunday we went to my old church and then out to brunch with several friends.  Weddings are the best.  So many people went to Chicago to celebrate this and it was a wonderful weekend and a great reminder of how blessed I was with the community I had in Chicago in my few years after college. 10502073_10202980918829026_3058547718908687612_n After a super fun, but not at all relaxing weekend last weekend, this weekend was just what I needed – I took Friday off, cleaned, ran some errands.  Matt’s parents were in town so they came over for dinner (yay fajita ‘rita night!).  Saturday we took them to Alexandria.  We shopped around at the little stores, went to Sur la Table, and soaked up the nice weather.  We went to dinner at Heavy Seas, a great restaurant in our neighborhood and then walked to Thomas Sweet in Georgetown before saying good bye to them at the end of the night.  It was back to life as usual and great. We bought new curtains at World Market yesterday! IMG_4009 And in other happy news, we got our complete disc of wedding pics (mass facebook upload to come).  So We picked some of our faves, added them to my digital picture frame and now have a nice little something on our shelf 🙂 IMG_4022 One of my favorite Sur la Table items is this beautiful fall table runner – a big thanks to Amy and Scott for the housewarming gift! (I was going to wait and hope it went on sale in November) IMG_4010So the recipes for this week.  Ahhh how I missed cooking!  The casserole is fine, pretty easy to prep a lot of it in advance so that’s a plus for a week night dinner.  We ate the leftovers and may or may not make it again.  I’d rather try out more new recipes though!  The granola bites are SO good.  As is the soup and biscuits.  All three of those will be made again.  and all 4 of these recipes are pretty basic ingredients, most of which we have at home/already buy every week anyway.  The biscuits were a last minute addition when we decided we wanted something bread-like to go with our soup and we had all those ingredients on hand.  LOVE recipes like that!  The soup was a perfect, make on a Sunday afternoon meal.  We got home from church and I prepped it all and added to the crock pot, then set on high andd went on with our day and had a great dinner ready for us.  Next time I might use an extra up of chicken broth, there wasn’t a ton of broth in the soup.  But it was good as is so maybe not.  And I’d definitely try doubling it next time too.  It makes 4-6 servings and I usually like soups and how they last several meals.  And Matt loved it so we’re looking at more of the 4 servings side of the recipe for this batch…

Skinny Beef Casserole (original recipe here)

Makes: 6 Servings Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups cooked whole wheat wide egg noodles
  • 1½ cups frozen peas
  • 15 oz can reduced-sugar tomato sauce
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • ½ Tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 3-3.5 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the sirloin, onions, peppers, and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain.
  3. Combine meat, peppers, and onions with cooked pasta, corn and peas. Add tomato sauce, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir to mix all ingredients and transfer to baking dish.
  4. Cover and bake for 40 minutes or until heated through.


Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites (original recipe here)

Makes: 24-30 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1 cup roasted almonds
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt


  1. Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ground into small pieces. Add in the coconut and almonds and continue to pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips. Heat over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate chips are completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the oat mixture and stir together until well incorporated.
  3. Scoop the mixture in 1½-2 tablespoon dollops onto a baking sheet. Let sit for a few minutes until slightly more firm and then roll into balls. Once the balls are formed, chill in the refrigerator until firmly set, about 1-2 hours.


Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup (original recipe here)

Serves: 4-6; Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 4 hours Ingredients:

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound (raw) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy!)
  • 4 ounces (uncooked) dry gemelli or penne pasta
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish 


  1. In slow cooker, stir together garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, chicken, broth, onion, 1/3 cup cheese, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook on high 3-1/2 hours or on low 7 hours.
  2. Transfer chicken breasts to cutting board and coarsely shred; return to slow cooker. Stir in pasta. Cook on high 30 minutes longer, or until pasta is cooked al dente.
  3. Serve garnished with extra Parmesan cheese and chopped basil or parsley

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Parmesan-Herb Drop Biscuits (from the cookbook Budget Bytes)

Makes: 10-12 biscuits; Prep Time: 5-10 minutes; Cook Time: 18-20 minutes Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the butter and milk. Stir until well combined.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Use your hands to work the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is in very small pieces and the texture resembles coarse sand.
  4. Add the milk, starting with ¾ cup. You’ll want to add enough to make the mixture into a thick, paste-like mixture.  The mixture should be wet, sticky, and soft enough to scoop with a spoon.
  5. Scoop 1/3 cup portions onto the baking sheet. There should be enough for 10-12 biscuits.
  6. Bake 18-20 minutes, until the biscuits have puffed up and are golden brown on top. Serve Warm.IMG_4026IMG_4024