Saturday, June 30, 2012

4 Dips & a Dessert

How is your weekend going?  We have finished our yard work for the weekend, cleaned the patio, and have the smoker started for our pork loin.  Not too shabby for 11:30 on a Saturday morning.  I will post the results later this evening or tomorrow along with recipes for the Broccoli Salad and Potato Salad.  Since Recipage is up and started, I realized that I do not have many side dishes that I've posted in the past.  Speaking of Recipage, you will now be able to search old recipes by a number of options and print recipes.  I figured out how to get my blog banner posted, so now all you will have to do is scroll down a little bit and then search, view, click, and print your way around the page if you please. This is a very exciting upgrade!

In other Nickel news, I do not have a menu post for this week.  We will be traveling for the 4th of July festivities this year and I've been put in charge of dips.  So this week, I will be posting four different dip recipes (4th of July get it), and a dessert.  Hopefully, this will give you all some ideas for quick and easy dips you can serve for your own 4th of July gatherings.  Tomorrow will be dip number 1:)  I can't wait to share!  Until then, have a great Saturday!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Black Bean Tostadas

Back when school was in session, I had a very insightful conversation with my colleagues about what recipes work best for them and inquired about any requests.  My brief survey concluded that people love recipes that are not only budget friendly, but also belong to one of three different categories.  The first category falls into the amount of preparation time and skill level a recipe requires.  This is understandable, as many of us have other demands that oblige more attention than putting dinner on the table.  Let's face it, we are not five star chefs.  We need food that can be prepared with ease and assembled quickly.  The second category was versatility; meals that can be used in more than one way or that are freezer friendly.  Versatility, also allows for individuals to meet the requirements of the first category.  A versatile meal can be made and assembled one night.  Then pulled out of the freezer or fridge in the future for another easy meal.  The final category is my most favorite, health.  Above all, people want to serve their families healthy meals.  Making healthy meals can be difficult due to time demands, skill level in making healthy food taste good, all while trying to maintain a budget.

This recipe tonight falls into most, if not all of these categories.  I used my left-over Black Beans I prepared earlier in the week and added some healthy and tasty toppings that can be made ahead or prepared in very little time.  If you did not make the Black Beans earlier in the week, no problem!  You can substitute regular refried or black refried beans.  You can also save time by purchasing tostadas instead of making your own; however, it is far more cost effective to buy the tortillas and make your own.  Besides, you might want to make these Black Bean Tostadas again in the very near future:)  

Black Bean Tostadas

For the tostadas:
Non-stick cooking spray
8 corn tortillas
2 cups Black Beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup peacamole (recipe below)
1 cup pico de gallo (recipe below)

For the peacamole:
1 cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 cup fat-free or light sour cream
1 avocado
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Salt & pepper to taste

For the pico de gallo:
1 cup chopped tomato
1 seeded and finely chopped jalapeno
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients for the peacamole in a food processor or blender and process or blend until smooth.  Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the pico de gallo.  Toss until incorporated and set aside.

Set a medium sized skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  If you are using a skillet you will only be able to heat the tortillas one or two at a time.  If you have a pancake griddle, you can heat several at a time.  Spray on side of the tortillas with non-stick cooking spray and place the tortilla(s) spray side down on the skillet or griddle.  Spray the top of the tortilla(s) with non-stick spray.  The non-stick spray will allow you to "fry" and crisp the tortillas without the additional fat.  Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the bottom begins to turn lightly brown.  Flip the tortilla(s) and cook the other side until golden brown.  Remove from the heat.  Layer the beans on top of the tortilla(s).  Then sprinkle the cheese on top of the beans, followed by the lettuce, peacamole, and pico de gallo and serve.  This recipe allows for two tostadas per serving.  Each serving is around 300 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein according to the My Fitness Pal app.  Ole!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slow Cooker Black Beans & Rice

With temperatures soaring into the triple digits this week, I cannot even fathom the thought of turning on my oven.  It is only June and we are most likely only receiving the first of many heat waves to come.  I guess I will just have to get creative with my Crockpot and other recipes that do not require the use of an oven this summer.

Last week, I found a slice of country ham in my freezer.  I think my mother might have left it in our freezer by mistake during one of her journeys to my grandfather's house in Tennessee.  This got me craving ham and beans, a typical Southern comfort dish we would often eat at my grandparents' house because it is cheap and easy to throw together.  Country ham is typically very salty and contains a little bit of extra fat; however, the fat can be trimmed and there is no need for any additional salt. I've made some modifications to this traditional recipe by adding kale and substituting white beans for black beans.  What to do with all of left-overs since I told you to buy four cans of black beans in the menu post this week?  To answer your question, I am not crazy!  I plan to make two meals from this recipe; black beans with rice and black bean tostadas.  This recipe is cheap, easy to throw together, and will provide you with two different dishes for the week.  You can't beat that!

Slow Cooker Black Beans & Rice

4 cans black beans, drained
1 slice country ham, trimmed of excess fat and chopped
1 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 bag cleaned and cut kale
4 cups cooked brown rice

Place the black beans, ham, water, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and bay leaves in a slow cooker.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 5-6 hours.   Add the kale and continue cooking and occasionally stirring for another hour or until the kale is cooked down and softened.  Serve over rice.  To freshen the dish up a bit, you can garnish with green onions, Tabasco sauce, and a squirt of fresh lime juice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Culinary Adventures Part III

Friday was yet another great culinary adventure courtesy of the Burnt Butter BBQ team.  It is always such a pleasure to be invited by our friends the Hurley's to this glutenous event.

Always enough smoked meat to feed a small army!  I wish I would have gotten more photos.  This year, however, I was busy socializing and taking pictures of all the crazy-fun names of the different teams.  Some of my favorites...

It is amazing how much hard work people put into their teams.  Not only are they up all night taking turns tending to the flame, smoke, and meat they also work to gain sponsorship and attention with tricked out grills, tents, and signs to advertise their craft.

I must also give a special shout out to Amanda at Sweet Revelry and her special cups of colorful gelatin joy. These colorful cups where quite delicious and that is all I am really going to say as it caused us to stay out a bit to late that night (cough, cough).  Revelry, by the way, means "noisy, partying, or merrymaking," according to Merriam-Webster.  Just another reason why we love the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle every year!  What would you name your BBQ team?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Menu Post

There is no excuse for my delayed menu post this week, but laziness.  We were out a bit late Friday night at the BBQ festival, so Saturday was spent lounging on the couch watching movies together.  I don't think we've done that since last winter.  It was actually nice.  Today, we finished running errands and now I'm baking cookies.  Not a bad weekend.

This week's menu is full of lazy recipes you can throw together in the slow cooker or in a casserole dish and call it good.  I'm starting the week off with a twist on traditional ham and beans by making some tweaks to my Black Bean, Kale, & Sweet Potato Soup I made waaay back in January.  Instead of soup, I will be serving the beans over rice.  Next on the list are some additions to my Baked Ziti.  I'm pumping up the veggies and adding a creamy topping to this little gem of a recipe.  Later in the week, I plan to utilize some of the left-over black beans and serve them over tostadas for a simple summer meal.  Finally, Justin's been itching to get the smoker out since we enjoyed about as much smoked meat as we could eat at the BBQ festival.  We plan to smoke a chunk of the mammoth sized tenderloin we got from my brother-in-law Todd.   Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/24         Black Beans & Rice

Monday 6/25       Left-overs

Tuesday 6/26       Baked Ziti with Salad

Wednesday 6/27  Left-overs

Thursday 6/28      Black Bean Tostadas

Friday 6/29 or      Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Potato Salad & Broccoli Salad
Saturday 6/30

Groceries you will need:

1-2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 package center cut bacon
1 package country smoked ham or ham of your choice
1 bag pre-cut & cleaned Kale
1 bag salad
1 bunch green onions
1 bag carrots
1 bag celery
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 container mushrooms
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 red onion
1 white or yellow onion
1 head garlic
1 package corn tortillas or tostadas
4 cans black beans
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 box penne noodles
1 box frozen spinach
1 container fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 package 2% shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package 2% shredded cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need:

Bay leaves
Smoked paprika
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Non-stick cooking spray
Red wine vinegar
Light Mayo
White sugar
Brown sugar

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone and stay hydrated!  It's going to be a hot one this week!

Friday, June 22, 2012

No Bake, Frozen Cheesecake Dessert

If you grew up in the Midwest, you are probably familiar with desserts made out of a tub of Cool Whip and instant pudding or fruity gelatin.  You know, those fruity, fluffy desserts you typically have at a church potluck or family gatherings?  I remember as a kid, we had to at least try everything my mom put on our plates before getting to those lovely, fluffy concoctions.  If you were lucky, someone made one with crushed Oreo cookies or went above and beyond fruit cocktail and put marshmallows in their special "fluff" dessert.

After going gluten-free, I thought instant pudding might be "off limits" due to unknown modified starches.  "Gone are the days," I told myself when I was getting a mean hankering for some sort of "fluff" dessert.  Then, I did my research.  Low and behold, instant pudding is okay!  Dirt and worms fluff is off my list due to the Oreo cookies, but Cool Whip and instant pudding are safe.  That is how I came up with this little gem of a dessert...

Here is an updated, low calorie, gluten-free version of one of my favorite summer time potluck desserts.  No baking is required and it only contains five ingredients- butter, gluten-free cookies, fat-free whipped topping, milk, and sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding.  Cool, creamy, fluffy, and a snap to put together!

No Bake, Frozen Cheesecake Dessert
Makes 16 slices

1 cup gluten-free graham cookies (I used Annie's Gluten-Free Ginger Bunnies)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup skim milk
1 package sugar-free instant cheesecake flavored pudding
1 tub fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Place the graham cookies in a food processor and pulse until crumbs form.  If you have some pinned up aggression or do not have a food processor, you can crush the cookies in a plastic baggy.  Add the butter and process until incorporated.  If you crushed your cookies in a baggy, add the butter and shake the bag until the butter has coated the cookie crumbs. 

Spray a pie tin or spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour the cookie mixture in the bottom of the pan or pie tin.  Using your fingers, press the cookie mixture to form a thin crust.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the milk and pudding together for two minutes using a hand mixer or whisk.  Gently fold the whipped topping into the pudding until combined.  Pour the pudding mixture over the cookie crust.  Cover and freeze the dessert for 2-3 hours.  Garnish with berries before serving.  For 1/16th of the dessert there are roughly only 62 calories, .5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar.  Not too shabby my friend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peanut Chicken with Rice

I think I've made more Chinese/Asian cuisine this year than ever.  Chinese food used to be one of those things I only craved about once a year.  Now as I am blogging more and trying to find different ways to make chicken, we seem to be eating a bit more Chinese food.  In the past however, we would usually order take-out.  Convenient yes.  But was it the most economical or healthy decision?  No.  The crazy thing is, it is just as easy to make it at home.  For the time it takes you to drive and order take-out or call and wait for delivery, you could have a meal you made yourself in the same amount of time.  When I make things at home I know what ingredients I am putting into my food.  Which is never a bad thing.  We also get more bang for our buck because we get twice as much food.  This recipe only takes a few minutes to prep, is cost efficient,  healthy, and will be on the table in under 30 minutes.  Not to mention that it is pretty tasty!

Peanut Chicken with Rice
inspired by Cooking Light & Weight Watchers
Serves 4 (1/2 cup rice, 1 cup chicken & veggies)

1 cup instant brown rice
2 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 clove crushed garlic
1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili sauce with garlic
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

Cook rice according to package directions.  Bring a large non-stick skillet to medium heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the chicken.  Saute for 4 minutes or until lightly browned.  Raise the heat to medium-high.  Add the celery, carrots, and garlic.  Saute for 2 minutes or until the carrots begin to soften.  Add the broccoli, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.  Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked through and the vegetables are crisp-tender.  Reduce the heat back to medium.

In a small dish, whisk together the chicken broth, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, and corn starch.  Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and vegetables.  Toss the mixture together until the sauce begins to thicken and coat the chicken and vegetables.  Serve over the rice and top with the peanuts.

If I estimated the calorie count correctly, there are only around 400 calories per serving (1/2 cup rice with 1 cup chicken and veggies), about 10 grams of fat, 30 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.  I don't think you can get a more healthful bargain for your money with traditional take-out!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steak & Potatoes 2 Ways

My husband, like any typical man out there, is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  Growing up in the Midwest I too love my meat and potatoes; but, it can get a little old.  Especially when it is hot outside.  Instead, I took the heat out of the kitchen and did my cooking on the grill.  Here are two recipes for steak, peppers, onions, and potatoes that require no need for the oven.

The first is a salad.  The Bear gets a little tired of eating greens.  Fortunately for him, this salad contains no spinach, lettuce, or kale.


Lomo Saltado
inspired by Weight Watchers

1-2 pounds lean steak (flank steak, sirloin, or tenderloin will do)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon steak seasoning (such as Montreal steak seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 pound boiled Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1 inch strips
2 Anaheim peppers, cored, seeded and cut in half
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
Salt & pepper to taste

In a small dish, combine the cumin, paprika, steak seasoning and garlic powder.  Rub onto the steak and set aside.

Spray a grill basket with non-stick cooking spray or take three sheets of foil and spray with non-stick spray. Arrange the onion, peppers, and potatoes.  Set aside.

In another small dish, whisk together the olive oil and remaining ingredients until combined.  Set aside.

Heat your grill.  When the grill is hot and ready, place the steak and veggies onto the grill.  Grill the steak for five minutes.  Turn the steak and toss the veggies.  Grill for five minutes longer or until your desired degree of steak "doneness."  Remove from the heat.  Let the steak rest.  While the steak rests, place all of the vegetables in a large bowl.  Toss with vinaigrette.  Slice the steak and arrange on top of the vegetables and serve.

Recipe two is a sandwich.  Again, steak, peppers, and onions.  I just switched up the potatoes by using sweet potatoes.  Instead of a dressing, I used a cilantro corn mayo.  No complaints from there Bear here!

Steak Sandwiches with Cilantro Corn Mayo
inspired by Bon Appetite

1-2 pounds lean steak (flank, sirloin, or tenderloin will do)
1 tablespoon steak seasoning (such as Montreal)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1 inch strips
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 cup thawed, frozen corn
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
4 of your favorite sandwich rolls

On a plate, season the steak with the steak seasoning and set aside.  Spray a grill basket with non-stick cooking spray or spray a sheet of foil with non-stick spray.  Arrange the vegetables in the basket or on the foil and set aside.

Add the mayo, corn, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper to a food processor or blender. Lightly process or blend until the ingredients are incorporated, but there are still some whole pieces of corn.  Pour into a dish and set aside.

Heat your grill.  When the grill is hot and ready, place the steak and veggies onto the grill.  Grill the steak for five minutes.  Turn the steak and toss the veggies.  Grill for five minutes longer or until your desired degree of steak "doneness."  Remove from the heat.  Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice and assemble the sliced steak, vegetables, and mayo onto the sandwich rolls and serve.

To make the sweet potato fries, I pierced two sweet potatoes several times before placing them in the microwave.  Then I microwaved the potatoes on high for 4 minutes.  I let them cool until they where okay to handle, sliced them, sprayed them with non-stick spray and grilled them along side the other veggies and steak.  This all may sound like a lot of steps, but it is really easy!  You can do it.  If you too are taking the heat out of the kitchen and firing up the grill tonight, why not try one of these recipes?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Menu Post & Construction Update

Today has been a productive day!  I've added 19 recipes to my Recipage so far.  I'm planning on slowly continuing to add them throughout the next few days.  Then, it will be much easier to maintain as I add this week's recipes and future dishes.  The only problem, it doesn't look very good.  My next item to work on is designing a new banner for both this sight and my Recipage.  Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated!  I am not very tech savvy.  Recipage is now accessible, but please excuse the nakedness:)

On to the menu.  This week I am keeping things very simple and light.  Friday we will be attending the Lenexa BBQ Festival, so we need to eat pretty light this week in order to maintain our efforts to continue slimming down and shaping up.  There is a good balance of veggies, protein, and simplicity that everyone needs throughout the week.  Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/17        Steak Sandwiches with Corn Mayo and Sweet Potato Fries

Monday 6/18       Left-overs

Tuesday 6/19       Peanut Chicken with Rice

Wednesday 6/20  Left-overs

Thursday 6/21      Lightened Up Cobb Salad

Friday 6/22          Lenexa BBQ Festival

Saturday 6/23      Herbed Chicken with Grilled Veggies

Groceries you will need:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 pound steak (your favorite cut)
1 container deli turkey
1 container deli ham
1 bag sandwich rolls (gluten-free or regular)
1 bunch celery
1 red pepper
1 cucumber
1 zucchini
1 onion
1-2 sweet potatoes
1 head garlic
1-2 tomatoes
1 avocado
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch chives
1 bag romaine lettuce
1 can water chestnuts
1 can bamboo shoots
1 box reduced sodium chicken broth
1 bag brown rice
1 container honey roasted peanuts
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 bag frozen corn
1 pint buttermilk
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
1 bag 2% shredded cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need if you do not have them:

Olive oil
Light mayonnaise
Red wine vinegar
White wine vinegar
Soy sauce
Italian herb mix or Herbes de Provence

In other Nickel news, I met with a personal trainer on Friday.  I was entered into a raffle last week and won!  How often does that happen?  It was an eye opening experience.  I always thought of myself to be in fairly good shape, but discovered that there is a lot I could be doing better to make my workouts more efficient and get faster results.  I am a total cardio junkie.  Weightlifting has always been somewhat intimidating to me.  Not because of bulking up, but just feeling awkward.  Not to mention that the weight section is always filled with big guys and smells like cabbage.  No worries about machinery and feeling awkward though.  Turns out I need to be working more with conditioning my muscles to my own body weight before I start any machines.  We worked on warming up with some interval training on the treadmill.  Then did a series of squats, push-ups, and sit ups starting with 10 reps.  We repeated the series 10, 9, 8, and so forth to one.  Then I worked on a couple of sets of squats using a light bar to get myself used to future bar work.  We ended the session with one pull-up machine that targets most of your upper body areas.  She suggested working for a couple of weeks with this routine three times per week in combination with my current cardio routine until my next session.  I am totally sore today, but in all of the right places.  If you ever have a chance to work with a trainer, I highly suggest it!  I am looking forward to my future sessions.  I hope you all are having a great weekend!  And, if you have any suggestions or tips for designing a blog banner, please feel free to comment.  I need all the help I can get.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Under Construction

Good morning to you all!  I just wanted to take a moment to let you all know that I am currently working on some updates.  You will see I've started a Recipage to start organizing my recipes a little more effectively.  I have not currently added anything, but plan to keep working on it!  I thank you all in advance for your patience and continued readership:)  Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lemon Basil Caesar Salad

Who doesn't love a good Caesar salad?  The crisp crunch of romaine lettuce and croutons. The creamy, salty goodness of Parmesan cheese and dressing.  It really is a sensory experience for the pallet.  Unfortunately, this salad can really add up in calories and cannot be consumed by the average person everyday.  It also is not the same for those with wheat sensitivities when you order sans croutons.  Today you are in luck my friends.  I've managed to create a wonderful, flavorful punch to Mr. Caesar by adding lemon and basil.  The creaminess remains with a simple tofu substitution.  For the croutons, I decided to experiment.  I spread polenta into a baking dish, chilled for a couple of hours, and then cut it into cubes and baked until the "croutons" where golden brown.  Crisp on the outside, but soft on the inside.  I also added some grilled chicken to make this an entree.  You could also serve it as a side with pasta or grilled steak.  If you are looking for an elegant, fresh summer salad for a nice dinner at home or to entertain your friends with, you have to try this salad.  Hale Caesar!

Lemon Basil Caesar Salad with Parmesan Polenta Croutons
inspired by Gourmet's Basil Caesar Salad

For the dressing:
1 cup silken tofu
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1-2 clove(s) garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

For the croutons:
2 cups water
1/2 cup corn meal or polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

For the salad:
1 bag romaine lettuce
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Parmesan Polenta Croutons (see ingredients above)
Lemon Basil Caesar Dressing (see ingredients above)
Salt & pepper to taste

To make the dressing: blend the tofu, basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, zest, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, pepper, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside or store in an air tight container until ready to serve.

To make the croutons:  pour the 2 cups water in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Whisk the corn meal into the water, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.  Add the cheese and stir until combined.  Spray a square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly spread the corn meal mixture into the pan.  Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until firm.  When the mixture is firm, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.  With a knife, cut the corn meal mixture into one inch cubes.  Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the cubes begin to become golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before placing on the salad.

To assemble the salad:  you can serve individually and store all of the ingredients separately or place the lettuce on a large serving platter or in a large bowl.  Top with the shredded Parmesan, croutons, dressing, salt, and pepper.  I added grilled chicken to make this a complete meal.   

Summer Culinary Adventures Part II

This year was my second appearance at the World Pork Expo.  While it was not short on fun or food, it has been hard to come up with a recap because I was feeling under the weather. I also hope that my experience does not offend any of my vegetarian friends.  My views on meat consumption have changed over the years.  I was an on-again off-again vegetarian throughout my teenage years and early twenties; however, due to a lack of nutritional knowledge at the time, found myself tired, frail, and unhealthy.  Thus, I do eat meat currently for tasty enjoyment and nutritional necessity.  I do not endorse in any way, shape, or form animal cruelty.  Who knows, now that I am more versed in nutrition, I might go vegetarian again.

Me on the left, my sister Erin on the right sporting the bag that was all the rage.  We searched everywhere for these bags!  Below, the Cookies BBQ sauce truck preparing sandwiches for the "Big Grill."
Above, my encounter with an Iowa celebrity!  The Iowa Pork Queen handing out sandwiches (which I could not eat) at the "Big Grill."  Below, the famous Hawaiian themed hospitality tent.  They make a mean Mai Thai!

  I just thought this piggy was too cute! Looks like he is ready for the Olympics!
I thought this sign was too funny!  Not everyone needs to be on a diet:)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Corn Slaw

What is your favorite pub grub?  Hot wings, poppers, maybe burgers?  We happen to be a fan of chicken lips and nachos at our local Tanner's Bar & Grill.  Chicken lips are chicken strips that you can get grilled or fried with a plethora of dipping sauces on the side.  While planning the menu this week, the Bear mentioned that it had been quite sometime since we had visited Tanner's and asked if maybe I could replicate chicken lips.  He also asked if we could maybe have burgers.  This got me thinking.  I thought what if I used ground chicken, added the wing sauce, and stuffed the little buddy with blue cheese.  Thus my Buffalo Chicken Burger was born!

This recipe is a little different from other recipes I researched.  Many recipes attempted adding carrots and celery into the burger.  I was not really very keen on grilling celery, so the celery and carrots have been deconstructed and added to the Corn Slaw.  This recipe also uses corn meal as a binder for the burger.  I know it sounds a little unusual; however, it added a nice crust to the outside of the burger.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup egg substitute
4 tablespoons corn meal
2 tablespoons buffalo wing sauce + more for topping your burger
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons of your favorite light blue cheese dressing
4 hamburger buns
Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, if you choose to use for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground chicken, egg substitute, corn meal, 2 tablespoons wing sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Cover and chill for 20-30 minutes so the corn meal has time to bind the meat together.  The mixture will be very sticky.

Meanwhile, heat your grill.  Line a plate with foil and spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.  Take the chicken mixture out of the refrigerator.  Before you begin to form your patties, you can spray your hands with non-stick spray or wet them with water as the chicken mixture is very sticky.  Begin to form a patty with the chicken.  Place 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese in the center of the patty, then top the patty with more of the chicken mixture.  Make sure the sides of the patty are sealed and that there is no cheese leaking through any cracks in the patty.  Repeat with the remaining chicken mixture.  Spray the patties with non-stick cooking spray on top.  Take out to the grill and grill on top of the foil for 5 minutes, then flip and cook 5 minutes more or until the temperature of the center of one of the patties reads 165 degrees with a cooking thermometer.  Remove from the grill and let the burgers cool for 5 minutes so the cheese does not burn the roof of your mouth.  Place on buns and top with more wing sauce, blue cheese dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, or any of your favorite burger toppings.

Corn Slaw
inspired by Cabbage and Corn Slaw, Bon Appetite 2007

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fat free or light sour cream
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 bag angel hair slaw
2 cups thawed frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, sour cream, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.  In another large mixing bowl, add all of the vegetables.  Pour the dressing mixture over the vegetables and toss until all of the salad is coated with the dressing.  You can serve immediately, or store the vegetables and dressing separately in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

By the way, I was recently researching recipe attribution.  I've been a little hesitant lately to post my menus and grocery list for fear of my content getting ripped off before it's been made.  I understand these are all just ideas and food is intended to be shared.  I also understand that with all of the food blogs out there it is difficult for anything to be all your own.  I started out in as a journalism major in college.  Plagiarism is one of the biggest crimes an individual can commit.  It is okay to "adapt" and be "inspired" by recipes, but you need to quote and acknowledge your sources.  I know I have often been in fear of calling a recipe my own by mistake.  To understand more about this topic, check out the Food Blog Alliance.  You can also Google for free plagiarism checkers if you are ever feeling a little leery about your content.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Menu Post

I hope this is not too late for those of you who follow my weekly menu posts.  I just got back from my little trip to Iowa yesterday and was not feeling well at all.  I think I might have been the recipient of a stomach flu that has been going around.  I was feeling pretty gnarly on Thursday, better on Friday, and then Saturday morning was back to feeling gnarly.  Today I am feeling much better now that I am home.  It was difficult to make a menu when I was not feeling like eating anything other than rice bread and 7 Up; however, with the help of the hubs, I think we have a winner of a menu:)

This week I am focusing on global and fresh flavors for the grill.  The Bear has been hankering for burgers and hot wings.  It has been a while since we've visited our local watering hole, so I'm taking both flavors and creating a healthy buffalo chicken burger.  Since I cannot get enough of my new-found love with tofu and pesto, we will later enjoy Caesar salads using a fresh, lemon basil dressing with some secret gluten-free components essential to a good Caesar salad.  Thursday I am dining solo.  I happen to love mushrooms.  Justin can't stand them.  So, I am treating myself to portabello mushroom caps on the grill.  We will end the week the a Weight Watchers inspired recipe Lomo Saltado, or in other words, steak.  Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/10        Buffalo chicken Burgers with Corn Slaw

Monday 6/11      Left-overs

Tuesday 6/12      Lemon-Basil Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken

Wednesday 6/13 Left-overs

Thursday 6/14     Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms with Grilled Zucchini

Friday 6/15 or     Lomo Saltado with Green Salad
Saturday 6/16

Groceries you will need:

1 pound ground chicken breast
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 pound steak (your favorite cut)
1 orange
1 lemon
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 bunch chives
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch celery
1 bag baby carrots
2 yellow onions
1 shallot
1 head garlic
2 red bell peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
1 bag romaine lettuce
1 bag angel hair slaw
2 portabello mushroom caps
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes
18 oz. soft tofu
4 oz. goat cheese
4 oz. blue cheese
1 container Parmesan cheese
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
1 container egg substitute
1 bag gluten-free or regular hamburger buns
1 bottle of your favorite buffalo wing sauce
1 container corn meal
1 bag frozen corn

Pantry items you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
Rice wine vinegar

Thank you to all who continue to read this little blog!  I am so thankful for your support.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment.  I hope to update you all on the World Pork Expo tomorrow.  Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Culinary Adventure Part I

This summer, I would like to share some of my culinary adventures I have planned throughout the season.  One of my goals was to try and attend a cooking class at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.  The Culinary Center of Kansas City offers over 500 cooking classes a year catered to all different walks and tastes of life.  This summer they have teamed up with Shawnee Mission Medical Center to promote healthy cooking through their Cook Well program.  For every class offered through the Cook Well series, you not only get an interactive, hands-on cooking class, but also a reusable canvas tote filled with a sampling of the week's farmer's market produce.  As with every class, you also get a complimentary glass of wine or beer to enjoy with your meal or while you are cooking.  You can also bring wine to classes with a $10 uncorking fee.

Last week's class was over gluten-free cooking presented by Chef Jim Tinkham.  Chef Tinkham is the Executive Chef at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Missouri.  He overhauled the food service at the hospital by improving menu options for staff and patients.  Tinkham has been in the business for 35 years working in hotels, casinos, and judging for several national culinary arts competitions.  Here is Chef Tinkham in action.

The class offered four different courses that were all flavorful and gluten-free.  We began with a lesson on Seared Scallops over Tri-Colored Lentils with Roasted Yellow Pepper Coulis.  I was very interested in cooking scallops.  I have attempted to make scallops before.  I bought some big beautiful scallops and was so excited to share them with my husband; however, the scallops shrank.  They were still very good, but did not end up being a very filling entree.  Turns out, I made two mistakes; one, I did not get my pan hot enough in the beginning to get a good initial sear.  Mistake number two, I over cooked my scallops.  These puppies do not take long at all.  With the help of Fran's watchful eye, the scallops turned out perfect.  They were very good!

Pictured above was my partner, Fran.  Fran is a faithful attendee at the Culinary Center and knew her way around their kitchen!

Here are the scallops topped over the lentils.  Below, the lovely plated version with the Roasted Yellow Pepper Coulis and bean sprouts as a garnish.

Next, we made a simple Goat Cheese and Endive Bibb Salad.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the salad, as shortly after we enjoyed the salad we were on to making Pan Seared Chicken with a White Wine Pan Sauce.

After a lesson in how to pound chicken, we were right to work dredging our cutlets in a dusting of potato starch with salt and pepper.  While we were all working on searing our chicken, Chef Tinkham was busy preparing the pan sauce and sauteing a side of spinach and button mushrooms.  In the pan sauce he sauteed shallots, deglazed the pan with white wine, and added rice milk.  He reduced to sauce until it was a lovely thickened consistency.  So good!

Our final course was a creamy Mocha Panna Cotta.  The secret ingredient to this little gem was a package of mocha flavored Starbucks VIA.  I cannot wait to try experimenting with the Starbucks!

Overall, the class was very enjoyable.  I loved meeting other foodies and the social experience of cooking with others outside of my family.  I defiantly plan to attend more classes in the near future.  My next culinary adventure, however, is the World Pork Expo later this week.  I look forward to sharing!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Southwestern Turkey Joes

Do you have some picky eaters around your household?  Are you looking for something that is easy and can feed a crowd?  Do you just want something that will make plenty of left-overs for a busy week?  Are you maybe craving a good ol' sloppy joe?  If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, then this recipe is for you my friend.  These Southwestern Turkey Joes can be made in a slow cooker if you are needing to multitask.  Shake up your humdrum sloppy joe with a sweet and sassy southwestern kick!

Southwestern Turkey Joes
adapted from Weight Watchers

1 pound ground turkey
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons dehydrated chopped onions
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag hamburger buns

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Add all ingredients to the corn to the slow cooker.  Stir until combined and the turkey is loosened.  Set the cooker to low for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally to loosen the turkey.  Add the corn and beans and cook until heated through, roughly 10 minutes.  Serve with your favorite hamburger bun.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mustaches & Menus

This weekend was an absolute blast!  Both my sisters were in town to help my hubby in the Corporate Olympics slow-pitch softball tournament.  There was lots of quality time...

From left to right, my sister Erin, myself, and my youngest sister Amy.

And, no sister weekend is complete without some mustache fun...

Myself with the hippy 'stache.  I don't know what it is about sticking on a disposable mustache, but it always ends up with a lot of laughter and hilarious photos!

Now that everyone is cleared out and headed home, I have some time to share my weekly menu post with you all.  It is short and sweet as I will be headed to the World Pork Expo in the middle of the week.  Last year was so much fun, I decided I couldn't turn down the opportunity!  To keep the Bear from delving into frozen pizza while I am away, I will be whipping up a batch of Southwester Turkey Joes.  These tasty little sandys can be made in a slow-cooker and are kid friendly.  As the weather heats up, I plan to cool things off with a simple pasta salad.  And for my return, I will be making an elegant stuffed chicken breast with herbed goat cheese and a side salad.  Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/3        Chicken Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw

Monday 6/4      Southwestern Turkey Joes with Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday 6/5      Pasta Salad with Green Beans & Roasted Tomatoes

Wednesday 6/6-  Left-overs
Friday 6/8

Saturday 6/9      Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Salad

Groceries you will need:

1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound ground turkey
1 bag shredded cabbage or cole slaw
1 bag salad
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 bunch green onions
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 yellow or white onion
1 head garlic
1 shallot
1 green pepper
1 avocado
1-2 limes
Fresh basil
1 box penne or short noodle pasta (gluten-free or regular)
1 bag hamburger buns (gluten-free or regular)
1 bag corn tortillas
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can tomato paste
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
8 oz. goat cheese or 1/3 less fat cream cheese

Pantry items you will need:

Oregano or Herbes de Province or Italian herb mix
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Smoked paprika
Light mayo (I prefer Hellman's olive oil blend right now)
Dijon mustard
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil or regular olive oil
BBQ sauce
Brown sugar

I hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend!  Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.  I appreciate you all stopping by:)