By Lindsay Garric Special to Published Mar 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM

I hear it all the time.

"I don’t have time to eat healthy!" 

These moans are audible from stay-at-home and working moms, bachelors, single-ladies and college students alike. Heck, at my house, we’re empty nesters and are busier than ever!

But, nothing compares to the health and satisfaction of a home cooked meal prepared with wisely chosen ingredients. Does it take some planning? Yes. Does it take some organized shopping? Yes. Does it take a lot of time? Nope.

Ever heard of a crock pot? Well, sure has. The genius of this countertop slow-cooking appliance has been heralded several times on this very site and it’s about to get a shout-out again.

No crock pot? Kitchen rebels can make off-label use of their rice cooker, like I did for the recipe below.

Most rice cookers have different settings for various grains. Try using the setting that will cook your creation the longest (usually the brown rice setting) for more of a slow cooker effect. The great thing about using a rice cooker for one-pot meals is that the "white rice" setting will give you a quicker cooking option, with all the convenience and flavor of a crock pot meal!

Anyone can cook and enjoy healthy feasts with these common kitchen appliances. It’s as simple as throwing in a few ingredients, switching it on, going about your day as it does all the work and then simply serving it right from the vessel it simmered in.

So, when I was challenged by to create a new twist on Ragú's Family Favorite Chili Mac to celebrate the reformulation of their Ragú Old World Style Traditional Sauce, I knew what I had to do. 

The recipe you’ll find below is easy, economical, flexible and made with ingredients you may even already have in the pantry, fridge and freezer! I’ve included variable options for meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans without losing any flavor.

I encourage you to try Ragú’s new sauce recipe (it’s richest, thickest yet!) made with 11 juicy tomatoes in each jar. Feel free to get creative in terms of proteins and veggies and even vary the type of beans!  The possibilities are endless and allow you to create your very own "Tra-Dish" each time you prepare this meal. 

The process of creating this dish was extremely rewarding for me and I hope that when you make it for your family, you’ll feel just as great when a wholesome meal brings your family together to dig in! Please Tweet or Instagram your take on this recipe and tag me (@lindsaygarric) with hashtag #NewTraDish so I can take a look!

Ragú New Tra-Dish Chili Mac with vegetarian/vegan option

Serves 4-6 

  • 1 pound ground protein of your choice (Omit for the veggie version and use an extra can of chili beans or rinsed, drained, canned plain beans of your choice or use 1 pound veggie "meat" of your choice.)
  • 2 cups dry pasta of your choice (I like gluten-free brown rice or quinoa pasta)
  • 1 jar Ragú Old World Style Traditional Sauce plus 1/3 jar water
  • 1 chili spice kit
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chili beans
  • 1-2 bags pre-washed fresh or frozen vegetables. Use as many veggies as you can fit in your cooking receptacle of choice. Examples are baby spinach, broccoli, cauliflower or kale or frozen mixed veggies.

Layer all ingredients into the crockpot, slow cooker or rice cooker prepped with non-stick spray in the order listed above. Vary cooking time to your needs. Gone all day? Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Want a shorter wait? Try the high setting for a 2-3-hour cooking time.  Or try using the white rice setting on rice cooker for your meal in an hour or less. Stir before serving.

Visit for more easy and delicious Authentic Italian recipe ideas. And for a chance to win great Authentic Italian themed prizes, including a grand prize trip to Italy for a family of four, enter the Ragú Sweepstakes at

Lindsay Garric Special to

Lindsay Garric is a Milwaukee native who calls her favorite city home base for as long as her lifestyle will allow her. A hybrid of a makeup artist, esthetician, personal trainer and entrepreneur all rolled into a tattooed, dolled-up package, she has fantasies of being a big, bad rock star who lives in a house with a porch and a white picket fence, complete with small farm animals in a version of Milwaukee that has a tropical climate.

A mishmash of contradictions, colliding polar opposites and a dash of camp, her passion is for all pretty things and the products that go with it. From makeup to workouts, food to fashion, Lindsay has a polished finger on the pulse of beauty, fashion, fitness and nutrition trends and is super duper excited to share that and other randomness from her crazy, sexy, gypsy life with the readers of