Starving Student: Chili Mac n’ Easy

By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief  

Part of the reason why I put on weight in the first place (it all really started in college) is because of how much I love food.

In addition to getting a full sleeve of tattoos, in my second life I’m going to open a barbeque restaurant/bar/dive that serves outrageous portions.

I’m also a huge stress eater. At the end of every Towerlight production day, the first thing I used to do was throw my bookbag on the floor and go into my pantry to find a snack (or under my bed, when I lived on campus).

Throw those two things together, and you get weight gain. I’m always on a mission to find the heartiest, and Ron Swanson-like foods and I always had to eat whatever was on my plate (because leftovers are for wimps).

So, when I started this journey to change my diet and lose weight, getting rid of these meals that have a ridiculous amount of calories was going to be a big deal for me. It’s still tough for me to resist the urge to go to Andy Nelson’s Barbeque in Timonium once a week and get a huge pulled pork sandwich.

To offset that need for a hearty meal, I came up with this recipe that is a lighter version of chili macaroni and cheese.

Chili mac gives me the same comfort feeling I want from higher-calorie foods, but as long as you control your portions with this meal, you’ll be in the clear.

This uses lean ground beef (when I made this twice I used 90 percent lean beef to cut out the extra fat), and incorporates vegetables and whole wheat pasta, to help out the weight loss cause.

It’s still plenty flavorful, has lots of spice and is the perfect meal to make on a cold night.



  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper (I prefer to use red for this recipe, but any color is fine)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tbl. Chili powder
  • 1 tbl. Cumin
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (this is totally optional, it just depends upon how spicy you want it)
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can corn (or a bag of frozen corn, it doesn’t matter)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 cup of your choice of cheese (I used monterey jack, but low-fat cheddar cheese would also work)


  1. Cook the meat with the onion, pepper and garlic and drain the excess fat.
  2. Take the cooked pasta and the beef mixture and add it to a large pot.
  3. Add all the other ingredients besides the cheese, and stir well.
  4. Allow the pot to simmer over medium heat, stirring well occasionally (minimum 30 minutes, but you could do up to 45 minutes or so to get some extra flavor).
  5. Sprinkle about two tablespoons of the cheese over each serving.


Again, if you’re eating healthy or cutting calories, this all about portion control. About a cup of this will probably run just under 350 calories, so depending upon how much or well you’ve eaten that day, you can splurge for a second cup.

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