A Complete Meal in 15 Minutes – From Start to Finish

It’s a complete meal, and I made it in 15 minutes from start to finish. Look how beautiful:

sliced-ham3

First let’s talk about pork for a little bit.

I like feeding my family hormone-free meat, antibiotic-free meat, grass fed meat, free range meat, all the happy, healthy kinds of meat.

But sometimes I compromise.

I have great local sources for chicken, lamb, and beef. But I almost always buy my piggies at the store. We don’t have pork very often, but shucks, pork is so delicious. We love bacon, ham, and sausage. My boys are athletes and often ask for meat in the morning (and all day long). I’ve decided that in order to keep life simpler (and to avoid completely killing my already very high grocery budget) – I’ll go ahead and buy pork products when I find them on sale at a regular grocery store.

I don’t feel great about this, but I guess I feel good enough about it that I haven’t stopped doing it. So that’s that.

sliced-ham2

So now let’s get on with the fun part where I tell you how you can put a complete meal on the table in 15-minutes from start to finish!

A Complete Meal in 15 Minutes

Sometimes I buy a pre-cooked ham as pictured above. I slice it all and put it in a Pyrex dish in the fridge to pull out as needed for quick lunches or to go with eggs at breakfast.

Having this on hand is fantastic! This sliced ham fries up within a few minutes in a skillet. We’ll steam some peas and pull out the mixed greens and salad dressing. We’ll prep some fruit. Just like that, we’ve got a complete meal ready to eat.

complete-meal-in-15-minutes

If you don’t feel good about eating pork, there are Turkey Ham options available – or maybe you’d enjoy another variety of meat that fries up quickly to complete your meal.

Either way: Never forget the ease of steaming a veggie, prepping some fruit, and pulling out fresh greens to complete a meal. This is THE way I make our meals simple and nourishing. The variety of fruits and vegetables is so good for our bodies and feeding us like this takes only a tiny bit of effort!

Are you pork eaters at your house? What meals have you found to be easy enough to throw together in just a few minutes?

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Simple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot Chicken (Lunch is ready when you get up for the day!)

This Simple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot Chicken idea might be one of my favorite Simple Tips/Recipes of the new year!

It takes five minutes of “work” to make this before you go to bed at night. It’s brainless. It involves no measuring or dirtying of dishes. You can practically sleep walk your way around this (which is precisely how I do everything after 10:00 pm). Best of all: No chickens have to be thawed in the making of this recipe.

bbq-chicken2

How this recipe/idea came about…

It was a cold, windy, dark Friday night (adjectives added for dramatic effect). It had been a long, exhausting, busy week (and this is different from other weeks, how?). Saturday, we had a full day of basketball games scheduled in a town two hours away. We needed to pack breakfast to eat on the way and lunch to eat between games. Friday night we were finally getting around to figuring out food for the road the next day.

I eagerly decided to get creative! (In other words, I didn’t have bread or lunch meat in the house and I didn’t want to go to the store.)

We have learned that big, meaty chef salads between basketball games are great for our boys who need to eat something substantial and full of protein, but not terribly heavy.

I decided we could certainly do Chicken Chef Salads to eat between games – if only I had thought ahead enough to cook some chicken for these salads. Frozen, raw chicken just isn’t the same. But then I thought, “what if?” The best ideas are born when you think to yourself, “what if?”

So I dumped some frozen, raw, boneless chicken thighs into the crock pot, dumped on some BBQ sauce, plugged in the crock pot (always, always plug it in), turned it on (also important), and went to bed.

The next morning the house smelled marvelous. After all, I had been slow-cooking BBQ Chicken all night – like a boss – while I slept.

The end of this story was supposed to include the fact that we quickly shredded the chicken in the morning and made ourselves some wonderful chef salads before heading out the door for the day. But as it turned out, the weather was terrible, the games were canceled, and the boys got so excited about the chicken when they got out of bed that they ate it for breakfast.

Who am I to say no? I wanted some too.

simple-saucy-overnight-crock-pot-chicken

Simple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot Chicken

Simple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot Chicken
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1-3 pounds frozen, boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1-2 cups of your favorite sauce (bbq, teriyaki, sweet and sour, etc)
Instructions
  1. Place frozen chicken in a crock pot.
  2. Pour sauce over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 7-10 hours overnight.

This is hardly a recipe. This is a “use your favorite sauce” and “pour it on whatever chicken you have in your freezer” idea. It’s the simplest thing to do and you can use your deliciously cooked meat in whatever way you need it the following day. Pack it in a lunch to take to work. Make it into a salad. Save it for lunch to eat at home after a busy morning of living life. Pack it to take to away games to eat while sitting in the bleachers. Or most definitely:

Go ahead and eat it for breakfast. Sometimes this can’t be helped.

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Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Simple Parmesan Broiled Fish (10-minutes from start to finish!)

I was going to call this Simple Cheesy Fish Dish – you know – because it rhymed and was cute. But then I was like, “What a weird and not-very-appetizing name. Let’s change it to Simple Parmesan Broiled Fish. People will want to make it if it has a better name.”

broiled-parmesan-fish

I sure hope you all appreciate all the thought and trouble I go to in preparing these recipes and laboring to come up with their names. There is no end to all the decisions I have to make around here.

But in actual news, and what you really need to know about this recipe is how easy it is. You broil the fish. While it is broiling, you mix up a few ingredients to spread over the top. You spread it on. You broil it all a little longer. In ten minutes the fish is completely done and ready to serve.

Ten minutes. Maybe I should have called this Ten-Minute Fish Dish. But seriously, though.

Simple Parmesan Broiled FishYum

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Parmesan Broiled Fish
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fish, any kind (cod, tilapia, halibut, flounder, salmon)
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (I use Hain Safflower mayo)
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons dried minced onion
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Splash of hot sauce (we like Cholula)
Instructions
  1. Lay fish pieces in a buttered 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Broil for 8-10 minutes in the oven.
  3. In the meantime, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Removed broiled fish from the oven and spread on the cheese mixture.
  5. Broil for an additional 2 minutes.

simple-parmesan-broiled-fish

This fish has incredible flavor! We have also found that the sauce tastes great with the steamed veggies we eat with this meal. There’s just something about cheese and butter and mayo all together that makes a great sauce. So if the sauce from your fish runs over your plate into your veggies – be grateful. The entire meal will taste better this way!

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Simple Hamburger Soup

My mom used to make something like this Simple Hamburger Soup every Wednesday night before church. She called it “Beef Garden Casserole” and usually baked biscuits on top and on the side. I remember coming home from sports practices, starving, and so excited to eat this meal along with several biscuits dripping with butter.

beef-garden-soup

Ah, the memories.

I’ve been making this for my own family during the last 22 years, and even though it started out as a simple recipe, I’ve simplified it even more. I now skip the biscuits altogether. I often make it ahead of time so all I have to do is rewarm it and serve.

But then there’s the fact that some people in my family don’t like corn. Of all things not to like, right? So I usually make corn on the side for people to stir in if they like.

Also? I don’t make this as a casserole. It goes into bowls like soup, then we top it with shredded cheese. It’s still one of my favorite meals, and it always reminds me of my mom. You’ll love how easy this is!

Simple Hamburger SoupYum

Simple Hamburger Soup
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 3 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 2-3 cups frozen green beans
  • 2-3 cups frozen corn (optional)
  • 32-ounces tomato soup
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Colby jack or cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Brown hamburger and minced onion until meat is no longer pink.
  2. Meanwhile, steam green beans in a separate pot until they are tender.
  3. Stir together cooked meat mixture, green beans, corn, and tomato soup.
  4. Simmer until bubbly, salting liberally.
  5. Serve in bowls with shredded cheese if desired.

simple-hamburger-soup

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Last Minute Creamy Bacon Spaghetti

Well, hi! Did you have a nice Christmas?

I’m assuming you’d like to stay in “vacation mode” for just a few more days. Perhaps you’re planning to hit the stores and grab some 75% off sales. (Get me some wrapping paper and multi-colored tree lights while you’re there, will you?)

Today I’ve got a fun new Simple Meal to share with you. This one is a bit different from those I’ve shared recently. You’ll be happy to learn that it includes bacon. And cream cheese. It’s like I’m giving you a late Christmas present. Best of all, this meal can be thrown together at the last minute with no prior planning!

Here’s how this Creamy Bacon Spaghetti can be considered a “last minute meal” even if you didn’t thaw bacon in preparation: Bacon will thaw quickly when placed in a pan of hot water. In just a few minutes, you can cook it and stir it into your pasta.

Easy, peasy, bacon, cheesy.

bacon-spaghetti

Here’s another great bacon tip for you: Cut it into pieces with kitchen shears, like this…

bacon bits 1

While your bacon pieces are cooking, you can boil your spaghetti. When both are finished, you stir them together with cream cheese, Italian dressing, and parmesan. A couple minutes later, your meal is served.

Last Minute Creamy Bacon SpaghettiYum

5.0 from 2 reviews
Last Minute Creamy Bacon Spaghetti
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces whole grain spaghetti
  • 1 pound uncooked bacon, but into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup Italian dressing*
  • 4 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. In the meantime, cook bacon in a skillet.
  3. Drain grease from bacon.
  4. Drain water from spaghetti.
  5. Immediately pour hot spaghetti into the skillet with cooked bacon.
  6. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until cream cheese is melted and dish is well combined.
  7. Serve right away.

*Here’s my Italian Dressing recipe if you like!

simple-last-minute-creamy-bacon-spaghetti

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Sale starts at 10:00 AM EST on Monday, December 26th, and ends Tuesday, December 27 at 3:00 PM EST.

Check it out here!

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Simple 5-Minute Italian Chicken Bake

I am so thankful for how this Simple Italian Chicken Bake practically makes itself and feeds my family so easily!

italian-chicken-and-green-beans

Here’s what was going down in my house: Matt was working across town. Justus had just left for his college class. Elias was upstairs reading his English assignment. Malachi was practicing his piano. I was finally sitting down at my computer to write posts, answer emails, and edit pictures.

This is when my stomach growled. You’d think lunch wouldn’t have slipped my mind, seeing as I’ve been eating this meal every day for the past 43 years. But there it was, 11:30. There was no lunch and there were no leftovers to fall back on.

I got up and put chicken and green beans in a dish, doused it with Italian dressing, and put it in the oven. Five minutes later, I was back at my computer writing. While our meal baked, we all got work done (work that did not involve being in the kitchen). An hour later, we were eating lunch. If this meal doesn’t define “simple” I don’t know what does.

Simple 5-Minute Italian Chicken BakeYum

Simple 5-Minute Italian Chicken Bake
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1-2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2-3 cups frozen green beans
  • 1 cup Italian dressing*
Instructions
  1. Lay chicken in a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. Pour green beans over the chicken.
  3. Pour Italian dressing over the beans and chicken.
  4. Cover and bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken is no longer pink.

*Here’s my Italian Dressing recipe. I try to always have some on hand for quick meals and salads.

The baking time on this recipe varies depending on your oven and the thickness of your chicken pieces. If you want this meal to be ready to serve in a shorter amount of time, cut your chicken into small, thin pieces.

You will love how easy and flavorful this meal is!

simple-italian-chicken-and-green-bean-bake

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Simple Pizza Chicken Bake

Once again, a Simple Recipe saves the day. Three cheers for Simple Pizza Chicken Bake! (Hip, hip…okay, let’s just get to the recipe.)

pizza-chicken-bake

Truth: I have been too busy to cook lately. Why? Well, for one thing, I’ve been quite occupied by writing about how to put simple meals on the table.

Do not miss the irony of this.

Oh my dears. We hosted people for Thanksgiving, then turned right around and traveled to Kansas. We arrived home a few days later happy and tired, and very behind on all of our work. We began to play catch up while getting ready for Christmas and finishing up our kids’ semester of school work. Our youngest has been in our big downtown Christmas play, so we’ve been running to practices and performances and hosting family who came into town to watch. We hosted Christmas parties for two groups of college students, and enjoyed a big basketball triangular in town with the team our two middle boys are involved with.

Did I mention we’re getting ready to drive to California to see family at Christmastime?

All this fun in the midst of trying to keep up with everyday life has threatened to push me into the next level of crazy-head. (No one wants to see what that looks like.) So when Matt got home from his current job site one day last week and asked how he could help with dinner, I looked up from my computer (where I was editing a post about keeping dinner simple) and said, “I’ve been too busy writing about how to put food on the table easily to actually get food on the table. I love you. I’m hungry. Malachi needs to leave for practice in 15 minutes.”

Fun times. I have no recollection of what we actually ate that night. But no one starved, and I think I’m back on track this week to at least have the brain power to throw something in the crock pot or oven at a reasonable time.

Keep this new Simple Recipe in your back pocket. It truly is a no-brainer, and maybe it’s just me, but I think we can all use no-brainer recipes this time of year and always.

Simple Pizza Chicken BakeYum

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Pizza Chicken Bake
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 14 ounces pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 ounces sliced pepperoni
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into thin strips and spread them into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Spread pizza sauce over the chicken.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Top with pepperoni.
  5. Bake, uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

simple-pizza-chicken-bake

I’m happy to report that the work I was behind on is almost caught up, and the work I’m trying to get ahead on is coming along at a nice pace. I got to a good enough point a few days ago that I told Matt, “Hey, I think I’ll be able to go to California with you for Christmas after all.” Now here’s hoping he gets all his work done so he can go too.

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

If you haven’t joined Simple Meals, we invite you to come aboard! We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Simple Crock Pot BBQ Spareribs

Here’s the thing about making BBQ Spareribs:

You can go to a lot of trouble and take several steps to make them taste incredible. Or, you can spend five minutes to throw them into your crock pot, pour on your favorite BBQ Sauce, and then watch them fall off the bone in amazingness at the end of the day.

You know me. I will always choose the five-minute method.

bbq-ribs

The only trouble I run into with making ribs at my house is that only so many will fit into my crock pot, so it doesn’t turn out to be an all-you-can-eat rib fest for my men. Other than that, making ribs has become one of my favorite fall back meals.

Who knew making a meal of BBQ ribs would be easier than making a box of mac and cheese? Who knew?

Just last week, I put some ribs into my crock pot before heading out of town for the day. This took no effort except for the tiny amount of finagling it took to manhandle a big rack of ribs down into my oval crock pot. Never fear. Laura: 1. Ribs:0. Mom for the win. It probably helped that I had just had my morning coffee, which pretty much ensures I can conquer the world.

I arrived back home later that night to delicious meat falling off the bone. I steamed some veggies, got out the mixed greens for salad, and dinner was served.

Feeling a little bit busy these days with so many holiday preparations and activities? Let your crock pot make you some BBQ Ribs. At the end of a busy day, you’ll shock yourself with how awesome you are that you actually managed to make such a delicious meal when, in fact, you spent the day addressing Christmas cards and trying to locate the missing gifts you put in a safe place for no one to find. (Sounds like you found a pretty good hiding spot.)

Simple Crock Pot BBQ SpareribsYum

Simple Crock Pot BBQ Spareribs
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 pound package of beef or pork spareribs
  • 1-2 cups of your favorite BBQ Sauce*
Instructions
  1. Place spareribs in your crockpot. I typically have to fold them over to get them to fit.
  2. Spread BBQ Sauce over the meat.
  3. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.

*Here’s our favorite BBQ Sauce recipe!

simple-crock-pot-bbq-spareribs-5-minute-prep

Other Simple Recipes I’ve Shared Recently:

It’s recipes like these BBQ Spareribs that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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The Simple Meal I’m Almost Embarrassed to Tell You About

It happened the day we were putting up the Christmas tree. I was also trying to help guide Justus, our 16-year old, as he was finishing a big research paper for his college class. Decorations had exploded all over the living room, and I’d just discovered that not one, but two of our strings of lights for the tree weren’t working.

Such is life. Tis the season. No big deal. But it was almost lunch time and not only was food not prepared, I hadn’t even found a moment to figure out what lunch was yet. “Help me with a quick idea for lunch, Malachi, then we’ll run to the store and get more lights for the tree.”

Malachi’s solution to every lunch would be hot dogs if I would allow it. So it was no surprise when that was his suggestion this day too.

Aha! That gave me an idea. I said, “Malachi, go grab a package of hotdogs from the freezer and get two cans of baked beans. We’ll make Beanie Weanies when we get home.” And there was much rejoicing by all.

This is where I pause to tell you how silly I feel right now. I’m actually writing a post to tell you this:

When you’re in a hurry and you don’t have anything planned for your meal, make Beanie Weanies.

I know this isn’t a typical recipe idea you’re used to hearing about from me. But there really is something about a pot of bubbly baked beans with bites of hotdogs that is comforting, am I right? Plus, this meal doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you use the right ingredients. Even the most health conscious among us need a fall back meal sometimes. Beanie Weanies it is. Rock on.

simple-last-minute-meal

Best tip of the day: Keep a supply of canned of baked beans in your pantry. Keep a supply of better-than hot dogs in your freezer. When you’re in a hurry and need a fast meal, mix them together and lunch is served.

You’re welcome, I guess.

simple-beanie-weanies

Not only did we manage to finish Justus’ big research paper that morning and put (working) lights on our Christmas tree, we had a fantastically satisfying meal that only took about ten minutes to make.

Am I weird? Is my whole family weird? What can we say? We all really love this meal. The Beanie Weanies tasted great along with a mixed green salad, clementines, sweet peppers, and slice pears. The sides took hardly any effort to prepare so I’m not kidding when I say that this meal really only takes about ten minutes to make.

simple-last-minute-beanie-weanies

Other Simple Recipes that are a little more “normal”

‘Fess up! Who’s a Beanie Weanie fan? 

Let Simple Meals save you money, time, and energy so you can enjoy your family! (Remember, the plans will be extra simple this holiday season. Sweet!)

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Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili

Raise your hand if you’re busy this week. (Unless, of course, your hands are in the middle of de-boning a turkey. You can just give me a nod.)

Our oldest son is home from college right now, so we are a family of six again. So what if he’s been “away,” living in his college dorm only 8 blocks from home? We don’t see him much and we miss him. Having him home for longer than five minutes has been a joy.

I would say that we’re taking life easy while we prepare for Thanksgiving, but would you believe our son #2 has two huge projects due for his online college history class on Thanksgiving day? What? And yes, he would have had them done ahead of time except that it wasn’t possible because of all the other projects he had due before these.

I’m telling you, these online classes my kids take are threatening to kill us all with a long slow death. (The on-campus classes are much more managable.) Well, anyway.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year for 15-20 people from town. Then we’ll head to Kansas to celebrate “Thanksmas” with my side of the family. I baked the turkeys over the weekend. The green bean casserole is in the freezer. Slowly but surely I’m pulling the meal together so that come Thursday, I can actually enjoy the day instead of cooking and cleaning for hours!

In the meantime, the six of us still need to eat regular meals. (They didn’t like the idea of fasting in preparation for Thanksgiving. Whatever.)

Meals like this Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili are amazing for weeks like this! Thaw no meat. Soak no beans. Just go to the stove and put this soup together.

Truth: I didn’t think I would like chili that didn’t have meat in it.

I am such a meat loving girl! We are a meat loving family.

But in fact: My family didn’t even notice this didn’t have meat in it until I told them an hour after they ate it. “Really?” they said, “It tasted like it did!”

Score.

lentil-chili

Simple Last Minute Lentil ChiliYum

Simple Lentil Chili
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 16 ounces dry lentils
  • 32 ounces tomato sauce
  • 32 ounces vegetable or chicken broth*
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat and stir olive oil with minced onion, garlic, and red pepper.
  2. Add chili powder, lentils, tomato sauce, and broth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Serve with cheese and/or sour cream if desired.

last-minute-lentil-chili

Let this chili recipe save you some evening this week while you’re busy preparing to host or travel!

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Do you have big plans for Thanksgiving?