Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tuscan Slow Cooker Pasta

There is nothing better than a good Crock Pot recipe on a fall day. I've been able to complete almost everything on my to-do list while this hearty pasta simmered away...

I experimented with some brown rice cork screw noodles in the recipe thinking they would maybe hold up a little bit better since I didn't have to stir this meal much. Alas, I was wrong. I don't know what it is about brown rice pasta in the fun shapes. They kind of just crumble. I am not disappointed though. Oh no! This hearty fall meal contains a powerful punch of antioxidants and vitamins. Carrots, onion, celery, garlic, kale, mushrooms, and diced tomatoes simmer away in a thick tomato sauce. In the final hours, I added a can of rinsed and drained great norther beans for additional protein and the pasta noodles so there is no need for any additional boiling. You only need your knife, cutting board, a can opener, spoon, and a slow cooker for this easy Italian meal.

Tuscan Slow Cooker Pasta
inspired by Weight Watchers

1 yellow or white onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 8 oz. box sliced mushrooms
4 cups clean and cut kale
1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence or dried Italian herbs
1 15 oz. can great norther beans
2 cups dried brown rice noodles (penne works best)
Salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients to the beans in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally for 3-4 hours or until the vegetables are tender. Turn your slow cooker to high heat. Stir in the beans and pasta. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir the pasta. Cover and cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Makes 6 1 1/2 cup servings.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Duree Family Cheese Bread

For those of you close to the family, you might find it a little awkward that I am mentioning Chris (my Dad) and Julie (my Mom) in the same recipe post. Yes readers, they are divorced. However, dear friends and family know that they were married for a wholesome 20 years before getting said divorce and still have maintained as positive of a relationship as a divorced couple can. I'm not trying to sound damaged, I just have to give props to both of my parents when it comes to this cheese bread. They both have a love for culinary endeavors and they both were together and have made this recipe many, many times. As a matter of fact, you know you have it in with our family when you get to eat this cheese bread. You are lucky I am sharing this with you dear friends:)

When my sister, Erin and then fiance, Todd where getting ready for their wedding, we joked that we should make t-shirts regarding the family cheese bread stating that the following: "We came for the daughters. We stay for the cheese bread." It's serious stuff.

This is a "healthier" gluten-free version of our family's favorite cheese bread. I could not shy away from the butter, but it is totally worth it as it adds more of a golden crust and crunch to the outside encompassing the cream cheese center. Trust me, this bread will become a staple to anytime you are struggling to find the perfect side or something different because it goes with about anything. It is so good!

Duree Family Cheese Bread

1 loaf of gluten free or regular French bread (I like Shar's brand)
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Cut your bread in half length wise and lay both halves on your baking sheet. In a medium sized dish, beat together the cream cheese, butter, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese until incorporated. Spread the mixture over both halves of bread. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the spread begins to bubble. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Top both loaves with the remaining cheddar cheese. Place back in the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to turn golden brown around the edges. Let the cheese cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Many Thanks Menu Post

Today I just have to thank every single person for stopping by A Nickel's Worth of News. I was so ecstatic when my stats appeared after logging in; I have now reached over 10,000 page views! And, it is all thanks to you who come by and read my humble little blog. Thank you so much for your viewership and occasional comments. It makes this little hobby so enjoyable.

In giving my thanks to you, I took some time today to really think about the menu for this week. While I am not overly critical of myself when it comes to my recipes, I do take careful consideration to any suggestions. One suggestion in particular was to offer more simplistic recipes with fewer steps and ingredients. I find this a little difficult only because most of my recipes I try to create are intended to be healthy, wholesome, and gluten-free. I try to offer shortcuts when possible, but sometimes there are no substitutions when it comes to gluten-free cooking due to the care one has to put into insuring ingredients truly are "gluten-free." This week, however, I decided to take on the challenge. My Tuscan Slow Cooker Pasta will hopefully save you some time in the kitchen via the Crock Pot. I also am cooking a super simple French Onion Soup that has a mere five ingredients. Finally, I took the Nickel household favorite Tanner's Chicken Nacho topping and recreate a whole new recipe with my Tanner's Chicken Enchiladas. Good wholesome food that can be simple to prepare.

Sunday 9/30          Tuscan Slow Cooker Pasta with Salad

Monday 10/1         Left-overs

Tuesday 10/2         French Onion Soup with Sandwiches

Wednesday 10/3    Left-Overs

Thursday 10/4        Tanner's Chicken Enchiladas with Salad

Friday 10/5             Left-overs

Saturday 10/6         Our 5th Wedding Anniversary!!

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 container deli roast beef or other deli meat
2 white or yellow onions
1 bulb garlic
1 bag shredded lettuce
1 bag already cut and cleaned kale
1 bunch celery
1 bunch green onions
3-4 roma tomatoes
1 already sliced mushrooms
1 loaf gluten-free French bread or regular French bread
1 bag or box brown rice penne noodles
1 bag corn tortillas
1 jar jalapeno peppers
1 jar salsa
1 16 oz. can great northern beans
1 29 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 boxes organic beef broth
1 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 brick 2% Velveeta cheese
1 pint skim milk
1 container light or fat free sour cream

Pantry items you will need:

Worcestershire sauce
Sherry cooking wine
Herbs de Provence or dried Italian herbs
Garlic powder
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!! Thanks again for stopping by:)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No Boiling Butternut Squash Lasagna

When I first started cooking, I thought lasagna was something that supposedly was pretty simple to make. I found out I was wrong. First you have to brown the meat, boil the noodles, mix your ricotta, and finally layer the whole thing together before baking it in the oven. Grant it, you can make it ahead of time. But really people, there is some work involved. Plus, I don't really enjoy runny lasagna. You know the kind where the sauce never thickened and the tomato juices just drip and form a funky puddle on your plate? The first time I made lasagna, it ended up tasting fairly bland and unexciting. Of course my skills have sharpened significantly over the last ten years and I've learned a few tricks. Here is what I assembled over the weekend and will be enjoying this evening when the Bear comes home.

When I make lasagna, I never boil the noodles. This is because the noodles absorb a lot of the additional moisture from the sauce and other ingredients. In this lovely gluten-free, vegetarian tribute to fall I've layered creamy pureed butternut squash, ricotta mixed with a little spinach and Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella. The sauce you ask? A little milk thickened with a softened brick of 1/3 less fat cream cheese. I also suggest taking a few shortcuts by purchasing a couple of boxes of frozen pureed butternut squash so you are not having to peel, chop, cook, and puree your own from scratch. If you cannot find your squash already pureed, buy the frozen chopped kind, thaw, and puree yourself in a blender or food processor. This recipe is so worth it!

No Boiling Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 box brown rice lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles if you are not GF)
2 boxes frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
1 yellow or white onion, finely diced
1 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 beaten egg
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella
1 cup 2% milk
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

Spray a casserole dish or lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the thawed squash and onion until incorporated and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, garlic poser, and egg until incorporated and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the milk and cream cheese until smooth and set aside. In the casserole dish or lasagna pan, ladle 1/4 cup of the milk mixture into the bottom of the dish or pan. Arrange 3-4 of the noodles (depending on the size of your pan) on top of the milk mixture. Spread 1/2 of the squash mixture on top of the noodles, followed by 1/2 of the ricotta cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Arrange your second layer of noodles over the mozzarella followed by the remaining squash layer, ricotta layer, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour the rest of the milk mixture over the lasagna. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight or until you are ready to bake and serve. When you are ready to bake and serve, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set the lasagna out at room temperature while the oven is preheating. Place in the oven after your oven is finished preheating and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is beginning to turn bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Fortunately, this has made a lot of lasagna! This is great because we will be enjoying this all week due to Justin's slow pitch softball and our big appointment with our specialist on Thursday. We will be finding out some more results and our plan to making a family. I'm a little overwhelmed and nervous, but very excited. I'll keep you all posted on our journey:)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Chicken

Hello my dear readers! How is your weekend? My weekend has been superb. While I did not drag the Bear out to the Plaza Art Fair, we did clean the house, buy some pumpkins and mums, and I made it to yoga class for the first time in almost a month. I normally do not go on Sundays; but due to scheduling and needing to make it to the gym right after I get off work during the week, I made the time to attend the restorative yoga class this afternoon. It was pretty amazing. The class was not as rigorous as the other vinyasa type classes they offer throughout the week. It was more hatha based. The poses were all tied to the ground or poses that primarily are in the seated position with longer stretches. We held some of the poses for what seemed like hours, but I feel all loosened up and much more relaxed than when I stepped in. Exactly what I needed.

Now on to sharing my lovely, relaxing, yet elegant dinner for you tonight. You can think of this as Sunday chicken, but with an extra bit of class. I've taken ordinary chicken breast and sauteed them until cooked through in a pan. After I removed the chicken to rest, I made this lovely chardonnay sauce...

Making a sauce for chicken is the easiest way to elevate and utilize its natural flavor. All you need are the left-over bits in the pan from cooking the chicken, a little white wine, garlic, and Dijon to tie everything together without adding additional calories.

Chicken with Chardonnay Sauce

2 4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chardonnay
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Season both chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until lightly brown and flip. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the pan. Place on a plate and cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Set aside.

In the same pan you cooked the chicken, deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to pick up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the wine to a simmer. Continue simmering and stirring occasionally until the wine has cooked down or reduced in half. Whisk in the garlic and Dijon. Continue whisking until combined. Remove the foil from the chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken before serving. Everyone will think you are a master chef!

To make the acorn squash that is pictured, I pierced the squash with a knife in several places. Then I microwaved the squash on high for 5 minutes to soften it before cutting. I carefully removed the squash from the microwave wearing oven mits. Cut the squash in half, scraped the seeds with a spoon, and placed on a baking sheet. Next, I added 1/2 tablespoon butter to each half and sprinkled with a little brown sugar. I popped them in the oven while I was cooking the chicken and sauce and voila! It is my favorite way to enjoy acorn squash. A little butter never hurt anyone;)

Friday, September 21, 2012

GF Chicken 'n' Biscuits

When I first started working in Kansas City, I had the opportunity to work on the Early Reading First grant project through KU Juniper Gardens Children Project, Project Eagle, and Head Start. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the teaching profession, several of the poverty studies that have been conducted in the country have been in Kansas City, Kansas. Being a young woman from Iowa who grew up in several small Iowa towns, my most urban teaching experiences were in the not so urban Des Moines, Iowa area. My eyes were opened and my horizons were expanded when I first started working on this grant project as I was placed in an inner-city Head Start preschool program in Kansas City, Kansas. It was rough. For the first time in my life, besides being a woman, I was in the racial minority. I was called several names, hit, spit on, urinated on, insert your own racial slur, etc. astonishingly to me by kids who were only the ripe of ages three to five years old. There were days in the beginning where I questioned what I had gotten myself into. There were a lot of tears shed in the bathroom because I hate to cry in front of people, where I would have to mentally and physically pull myself together just to make it through the day. But, over those three years, it did get easier. I learned how to manage my classroom with the toughest kids. I learned how to remain calm, shape behaviors, work with families, and above all how to handle, appreciate, and respect cultural differences. It was truly the most amazing experience in my teaching career. I have fallen in love with teaching in an urban setting and still teach for a school district in the area.

Some of the most fascinating experiences, were tied to the different foods I got to try. Nutrition is a large component to the Head Start philosophy. All meals served were family style. We practiced setting the table with the kids, passing the food around our tables, and modeled appropriate meal time behavior. This was always one of the favorite parts of my day and the food was relatively good. Although, I never did try the liver and onions they coyly disguised as "Cowboy Strips." Through Head Start, I gained an appreciation for many things including chicken served on a biscuit. Originally thinking the starchy combination was somewhat "wrong," I gave it a try. You know what? I was wrong and I am not afraid to admit that.

If you have not ever tried the chicken 'n' biscuits combo before, think of it as a chicken sandwich. I used gluten-free Bisquick mix as a shortcut. I always have a box in my pantry because it can be utilized in making pizza crust, pancakes, and as a muffin mix. In honor of my time served with Head Start here is my healthier, gluten-free version of Chicken 'n' Biscuits.

GF Chicken 'n' Biscuits

For the biscuits:
1 1/2 cup gluten-free Bisquick mix
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup egg substitute

For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gluten-free Bisquick mix
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the gravy:
1/2 lb. breakfast style chicken sausage (I used Isernio's)
2 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the biscuits: Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Bisquick, buttermilk, and egg substitute. Stir until just combined. Scoop the mixture into the muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.

To make the chicken: Pour the buttermilk into a small dish. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Set aside. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the Bisquick, paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and black pepper. Seal and shake until mixed together. Open the bag and add the chicken. Seal and shake again until the chicken is coated in the breading mixture. Set aside. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook another 3-4 minutes. Turn off the stove top. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place the chicken onto the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the chicken breast.

To make the gravy: Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken sausage and stir to loosen the meat. Cook and stir until the sausage begins to brown. Scrape the sausage into a small bowl and set aside. In a small dish, whisk together the milk, corn starch, pepper, and salt. Pour the liquid into the same skillet you cooked the meat in and lower the heat to medium-low. Continually stir the gravy until it begins to thicken. Add the sausage into the gravy and continue stirring until the gravy is to you desired consistency.

To assemble the sandwich, cut the biscuits in half. Place one have on a plate and top each biscuit with one chicken breast, gravy, and the other half of the biscuit.

Fall Favorites Menu Post

Saturday we can all officially welcome fall! I'm hoping maybe I can drag my husband out to the Plaza Art Fair to enjoy the amazing weather this weekend. It has been a couple of years since I took him on a cultural tour and normally I can get him to enjoy an art fair once we are there. It's the getting him there part that is difficult. We rarely go downtown due to traffic and parking. I've managed many a shopping excursion to H & M on several girly outings with no problems. Except the one time I attempted to park in a compact car parking spot and scratched my driver's side mirror. My car maybe compact, but my parking skills are not. Really though, Kansas City is a pretty manageable city to get around. I think it must have to do with parking in a parking ramp or something. The Bear just seems to freak out a little when we venture out of the suburbs. Such is life:)

I've been seeing a lot lately on blogs asking about what people enjoy most about fall. I, for starters, love the cooler weather. Then I love all of the following in no particular hierarchy of importance- sweaters, pumpkins, candy corn mixed with peanuts and M & M's, Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin candles from White Barn Candle Company, apple cider, Thanksgiving, and butternut squash. These are all things that make me love fall. This week's menu is a second tribute to easing into fall menu planning. I plan to start the week off with a lovely chicken with white wine sauce. Midweek we will cozy up to a light and healthy butternut squash lasagna which for a family of two will take us through most of the work week. Later, I hope to share a personal family favorite- my dad's cheese bread. It's all cozy and family in the Nickel house. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 9/23          Chicken with Chardonnay Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, & Acorn Squash

Monday 9/24         Left-overs

Tuesday 9/25         Butternut Squash Lasagna with Salad

Wednesday 9/26    Left-overs

Thursday 9/27        Left-overs (it's just me unless I venture out to the slow pitch fields:))

Friday 9/28 or        Steak, Papa Chris Cheese Bread, & Spinach Salad
Saturday 9/29

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. flank steak (or other lean cut you enjoy)
1 bag spinach
1 yellow or white onion
1 lb. potatoes
2 lemons
1 box brown rice lasagna noodles
1 bag gluten free rolls &/or regular rolls
1 box frozen spinach
2 boxes frozen winter squash (butternut squash that has already been pureed)
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
2 8 oz. boxes of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 container part skim ricotta cheese
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 pint 2% milk
1 box butter
1 bottle chardonnay

Pantry items you will need:

Fresh garlic
Garlic powder
Dijon mustard
White wine vinegar

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Turkey Cocoa Chili

You might think I'm a little crazy for serving chili this early in the season. It did get up to the lower 80's today, but I was too excited by the cooler temperatures while menu planning over the weekend. You may even think I'm even crazier for sharing my secret ingredient in my chili. Not that I argue my craziness, but I can justify it once you try this recipe!

My chili is packed with lean and mean ingredients, but not too spicy. The garam masala and cocoa powder add a warmth and depth that offsets the tangy tomatoes. Just trust me on this one! It is so good!

Turkey Coco Chili

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 chopped yellow or white onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 30 oz. can chili beans, in chili gravy (do not drain)
1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon garam masala

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until the onions become translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add the turkey. Cook and stir to loosen the meat and the turkey begins to brown. Add the green peppers. Stir and cook until the peppers begin to soften. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until incorporated. Bring the chili up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Cheese Veggie Penne Mac

You know what I love about this recipe? Not only is it a cozy, comforting meal for a cool fall-like night, it was also wicked easy to put together.

If there is one thing I have learned about gluten-free pasta, it is served best when there is no boiling required and you can make a casserole. I typically make my casseroles over the weekend and keep them covered in the fridge until I'm ready to bake and serve them. Veggies meet noodles and cheese. There is no need to boil the noodles and you can prepare this dish ahead of time until you are ready to bake and serve. 

Three Cheese Veggie Penne Mac

2 cups dried brown rice penne noodles
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 18 oz. box sliced mushrooms
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 roma tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup 2% shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2 cloves pressed garlic
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Spray a 9' x 13' baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the pasta, corn, mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese. Pour pasta mixture into the baking dish.

In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the milk and garlic over medium-low heat. Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Poor the milk mixture over the pasta and top with the grated Parmesan cheese. You can cover and store in your refrigerator until you are ready to bake and serve. When you are ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, let the pasta sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Then, cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sage & Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken

I don't know about you, but in the last 24 hours I have done 4 loads of laundry, sealed a spot on our leaky skylight, cleaned my entire house, and have tried to streamline as many meals as possible for the rest of the work week. I am still in my pajamas from this morning and have yet to shower if I even get there. I am ready to sit on my couch and watch reruns of Animation Domination from this spring and then attempt to get 7 hours of good sleep before the work week begins. Lucky for me, I planned the easiest and most elegant, yet heartiest dinner of the week tonight. Besides the making the mashed potatoes (which is not that hard) and roasting the broccolini along side the chicken, I really did not have to put much effort into this meal. And you should not have to either.

Lean and tender chicken is wrapped in savory sage and prosciutto. Three ingredients, one elegant dish I would be proud to serve to anyone.

Sage & Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 fresh sage leaves
4 slices of prosciutto

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, arrange two sage leaves on each chicken breast. Wrap two slices of prosciutto around each piece of chicken. Set aside. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes and turn the chicken to the other side. Cook another 4-5 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Kick Off Menu Post

I know this is technically the final week of summer, but since we have turned our air conditioning off and I am wearing a sweatshirt I kind of consider it to be fall now. I have out all of my fall decorations, bought an adorable wire owl from Pier 1 Imports, and am ready to purchase some pumpkin scented candles now that they are officially selling pumpkins at the grocery store. Besides making these hellish burgers last night, I really am sort of over summer. It was hot. Really hot and I welcome fall with open arms. This week's menu is my official kick off to fall. I'm ready to bring the cooking back indoors. Savory chicken, penne mac'n'cheese,  and chili here I come.

Sunday 9/16          Sage & Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Broccolini

Monday 9/17         Three Cheese Veggie Penne Mac

Tuesday 9/18         Left-overs

Wednesday 9/19    Turkey Coco Chili with Veggies & Dip

Thursday 9/20        Left-overs

Friday 9/21 or       GF Chicken 'n' Biscuits Sandwiches with Country Gravy & Green Beans
Saturday 9/22

Groceries you will need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 lb. breakfast chicken sausage
1 package broccolini
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 head garlic
2 yellow or white onions
1 box sliced mushrooms
3 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch fresh chives
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bag fresh sage leaves
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans
1 30 oz. can chili beans in chili gravy
1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 box gluten-free biscuit mix (I like the gluten-free Bisquick)
1 bag or box brown rice penne noodles
1 can Parmesan cheese
1 carton low fat buttermilk
1 carton 2% milk
1 8 oz. box of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 bag 2% shredded cheddar cheese
1 carton egg substitute
1 bag frozen corn

Pantry items you will need if you do not have them on hand:
Ground cumin
Garam Masala
Cocoa powder
Non-stick cooking spray
Corn starch

Happy Saturday to you all! Enjoy your weekend:)

"Gouda" Have this Burger!

Who is totally loving college football season? We are! It is one of my favorite times of year. I love to pull out all of my favorite tailgating recipes and create new ones. Whether we're attending a tailgate or just watching football at home, it just can't be beat. I can't wait to share more recipes throughout the season.

I originally planned to make some baked onion rings with this burger, but could not get the batter to stick to the onions. I don't know why this happened. If anyone has any idea or suggestions, please leave a comment. I had dunked the onion rings in buttermilk and then tossed them in a bag with crunched up corn flakes. It was a hot mess. Fortunately, I had some left-over caramelized onions from the wraps I made earlier in the week. The result was still amazing!

The Papa Chris Burger got a serious upgrade last night. This burger is stuffed with smoked Gouda cheese, then topped with caramelized onions, bacon, and more cheese. It is perfect for an evening of football at home or at a tailgate. You "Gouda" try this burger!

"Gouda" Have this Burger
Serves 2

1/2 lb. 85% lean ground beef
1/2 lb. 93% lean ground beef
1 tablespoon Penzy's 4-S seasoning salt
4 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, sliced
2 tablespoons caramelized onions
6 slices cooked center cut bacon
2 hamburger buns (I used a Udi's gluten free bun for my burger)

In a medium sized bowl, mix the beef and seasoning salt together with your hands. Divide the meat into 4 balls and form patties, making a small indentation with your thumb in the center of each patty. Place one slice of cheese onto two of the patties. Then, top the cheese with the other patty and crimp the edges together to seal in the cheese. Heat your grill to medium-high heat. Place the burgers on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side of the burgers for another 2-3 minutes. Top each burger with the remaining cheese. Then wrap the burgers in the foil. Lower the heat to medium or low and grill for another 5-6 minutes or until your desired degree of doneness. Remove from the grill. Place the burgers on the buns and top with the onions and bacon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Turkey Apple Brie Wraps

It might be a little cliche, but I've always really wanted to go to France. I imagine I would start in Paris, then travel to the countryside, and along the southern vineyards. I even took French in high school with the intent to live like a Parisian at least some point in my life. It is going to take years of convincing the Bear that this is a necessary endeavor to fortify my bucket list; but, until then I would like to think this wrap is a little taste of Paris...

The flavors of France without having to speak French. A brown rice wrap is stuffed with smoked turkey, caramelized onions, tart crisp apples, and creamy soft brie then grilled on a grill press to add a lovely crunch. We can't all go to Paris, but we can have a little taste of France in this quick weeknight meal.

Turkey Apple Brie Wraps
Inspired by Weight Watchers
Serves 1

1 brown rice wrap (I used Sandwich Petals)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 slices smoked deli turkey (I used Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh)
1 tablespoon caramelized onions 
4 slices of one granny smith apple
2 slices brie cheese

Preheat your grill press. Place your brown rice wrap on a plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds to soften the wrap. Spread the mustard onto the wrap. Top with the turkey, onions, apple slices, and brie. Roll to wrap and place on the grill press. Grill for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned and serve.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Comfort in a Casserole: Smoky Chili Tamale Pie

How was your Monday? My Monday was not too bad besides having blood work done this morning and then more blood work conducted this afternoon after an 8 hour fast. The later of the two was by choice, as I had already taken the day off for our visit to the fertility specialist and did not want to have to take another morning off work. I already had gone 5 hours post breakfast and was hungry, but figured I could tough it out another 3 hours. Justin and I are ready for more details on our journey in starting a family. No need to prolong it any further just over a minor vitamin D test. Besides, who can be upset with a day off on a beautiful sunshiny day? Plus, I had this to look forward to for diner tonight...

The weather was perfect for this comforting casserole. I prepared the beans over the weekend and then stored in a covered casserole dish until I was ready to layer the cornbread topping. Smoky soyrizo and beans are combined with tomatoes and sweet potatoes then topped with cheesy cornbread for a filling vegetarian meal. As we draw closer to more fall like weather, I suggest making this Smoky Chili Tamale Pie.

Smoky Chili Tamale Pie
Serves 6

For the chili:
1 chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili ready diced tomatoes
1/2 link soyrizo (I used Melissa's brand)
1 medium sweet potato
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon oregano

For the cornbread topping:
1 cup yellow corn meal
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon chives
2 cups 2% shredded cheddar
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons honey

To prepare the chili (can be prepared 1-2 days before you are ready to bake and serve):
Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften (about 4-5 minutes).

While the onions are cooking, prick the sweet potato several times with a fork and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until the sweet potato begins to soften. Remove from the microwave and let it set a couple of minutes or until it is cool to the touch.

Add the beans, diced tomatoes, soyrizo, water, apple cider vinegar, and spices to the onions. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sweet potato is cooled enough to handle. When the sweet potato has cooled, peel the skin and add the flesh to the bean mixture. Stir until the sweet potato is smoothed and combined with the bean mixture. Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Spray a 9' x 13' baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the chili into the dish. At this point you can cover and store until you are ready to bake and serve or proceed with the corn bread topping.

To prepare the cornbread topping (do when you are ready to bake and serve with the chili):
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the corn meal, brown rice flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese and chives. Stir until the cheese and chives have a nice dusting. Set aside.

In a small dish, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, egg substitute, and honey. Whisk until smooth. Add to the corn meal mixture and stir until incorporated. Pour the cornbread mixture over the chili. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the cornbread is beginning to turn lightly brown around the edges and comes out clean when a toothpick is inserted in the center. Cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken with Bruschetta Topping

I don't know about you, but we tend to eat a lot of chicken around here. Chicken is quite versatile and takes on about any flavor you give it. Savory, crunchy, you name it, but it can get a little boring. I made some dynamite spinach and artichoke dip over the weekend and felt the need to shake things up a bit with my typical Sunday chicken. So, I stuffed some of the creamy dip into my chicken. Then, I felt the need to make it over the top by using up some tomatoes and creating a bruschetta topper for the already stuffed chicken. The results, amazing!

I almost felt like I should be on Food Network for this little creation. Tender chicken breast is stuffed with a creamy spinach and artichoke dip. Then, topped with bright red tomato bruschetta. What a way to enjoy chicken on a Sunday night?

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken with Bruschetta Topping
Serves 2

For the chicken:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup thawed & drained frozen spinach
1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

For the bruschetta:
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 clove pressed garlic
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut a small 1 1/2 inch slit into each chicken breast. Set on a plate and set aside. In a small dish, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, spinach, artichoke hearts, and garlic powder. Stir until incorporated and smooth. With a spoon, stuff 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each chicken breast. You can secure the slit in each chicken breast with a couple of tooth picks.

Heat a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip and cook another 4 minutes or until browned. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the bruschetta topping. Toss until combined. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to let the spinach and artichoke stuffing set up a bit. Top each piece of chicken with the bruschetta. You can serve over pasta as I did or all on it's own with a side of crusty break. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

My New Favorites Menu Post

I know it's Friday. Typically, a little early for my weekend menu posting. To explain, I got home a little earlier than normal due to a power outage at school. This seems to happen quite a bit whenever it storms. It wasn't really a major thunderstorm or anything. The sky had been turning pretty dark all afternoon. Then, just as kids were getting ready to get on buses the lights flickered and we lost all electricity. Due to the frequent power outages, the kids typically associate any storm with either a tornado or blizzard. Which makes me laugh. Two years ago, this really did happen. We had several major snow storms and then a tornado that spring. Normally, the weather isn't as problematic; however, it traumatized the kids enough to become pretty concerned about the weather. Not to mention that my little urban friends are worst case scenario thinkers by nature. So, I always tell them that no matter what, we survived and had plans in place to keep everyone safe. I always promise them that we will do the same every single time.

Regardless, I would have most likely posted the menu a little early this week because I am just too excited. This week I've taken some of my favorite stand-by dishes and recreated them into a whole different recipe. For example, Sunday I plan to take one of my favorite dips, spinach artichoke dip, and stuff it in a chicken breast. But like the Sham Wow guy, I'm not stopping there! Oh no! I'm also taking one of my favorite appetizer toppings and serving it over the stuffed chicken. It is pretty much like eating at a gluten-free, healthier, TGI Fridays right?! On Monday and Tuesday, I hope to take some of the essential ingredients in both my Smoky Bean & Soyrizo Burritos and Soyrizo Chili Mac by creating a tamale pie. Don't worry, most of the ingredients you can prepare over the weekend so all you have to do is assemble and bake. No stress! Midweek, I have another wonderful wrap recipe with a few of my favorite ingredients- turkey, brie, and apples. Finally, I'm taking my Papa Chris Burger to another level with gluten-free onion rings. Shut the front door! This week is going to be good!

Sunday 9/9          Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Topped with Bruschetta

Monday 9/10       Smoky Chili Tamale Pie

Tuesday 9/11       Left-overs

Wednesday 9/12  Turkey, Apple, & Brie Wraps

Thursday 9/13      Left-overs

Friday 9/14 or      "Gouda" Have This Burger with Gluten-Free Onion Rings
Saturday 9/15

Here is what you will need:

1/2 lb. 80% lean ground beef
1/2 lb. 90% lean ground beef
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package deli turkey (I use Oscar Myer's Deli Fresh)
1 large sweet potato
1 granny smith apple
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch chives
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 head garlic
3 yellow or white onions
1/4 lb. smoked Gouda cheese
1 wheel brie cheese
4 oz. goat cheese
1 package shredded Parmesan cheese
1 package 2% cheddar cheese
1 pakcage 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
1 pint low fat buttermilk
1 container egg substitute
1 package soyrizo (for example Melissa's brand)
1 package rice noodles
1 package gluten-free wraps (for example Sandwich Petals)
1 package gluten-free buns
1 14.5 oz. can chili ready diced tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. cans great northern beans
1 can artichoke hears
1 can tomato paste
1 box frozen spinach
1 box corn flake cereal
1 canister corn meal
Dijon mustard
Apple cider vinegar
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Bay leaf
Smoked paprika
Chili powder

 Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Buttermilk Ranch Salad

I wanted to try something different with my photography today. Normally, I use white dishes for a majority of my pictures. I love white dishware! It is so simplistic and really lets the food be the star. For this recipe,  I didn't think the rice would stand out on a white plate. So, I thought I would try the glass serving bowl. By itself, it made the food look rather bland. It took me a few tries, but I think the food props go well with the picture. Not only do they add extra color, they also showcase some of the ingredients in the recipe. What do you think?

This meal is another one-bowl wonder. Brown rice, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and avocado are dressed in a cool ranch dressing. You could serve it as a side, but with the black beans and avocado this salad is plenty filling. All you need is your appetite, bowl, and fork!

Buttermilk Ranch Salad

For the dressing:
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise (I use Hellman's olive oil blend)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one lime
Zest if one lime
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1 dash cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste

For the salad:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup thawed frozen corn
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Combine the ingredients all ingredients for the salad dressing together in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth and all of the ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together until incorporated. Drizzle the dressing on top of the salad and toss until everything is evenly coated. You can serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge until you are ready to serve. Makes 4 1 1/2 cups servings.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spicy Shrimp & Noodle Bowls

I think this might not only be another week of quick meals, but also one dish wonders. Since it's just me and the hubs around our digs, I must confess that we tend to eat in our living room around the coffee table. Especially, since I have the dining room table covered with artwork I'm trying to arrange before hanging on the walls. Speaking of the artwork, it won't really matter how I arrange it. The Bear will somehow manage to "help" and hang everything just an inch or two too high for my preference. Then, I have to wait for a day off to re-arrange and hang it on my own when he is not here, only to hang everything just a little too crooked. Ugh! At least I can do one thing right in my happy homemaking endeavors. For example, this Spicy Shrimp & Noodle Bowl is pretty good if I do say so myself.

A one bowl meal with a sweet and spicy kick! Packed with veggies, protein, and tons of color this recipe is flavorful and a healthy, quick weeknight meal.

Spicy Shrimp & Noodle Bowls
Inspired by Cooking Light

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled & grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste)
7 oz. rice noodles
1 clove pressed garlic
1 cup carrots, cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 cup mini red, orange, & yellow mini peppers cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 cup frozen snow peas
1/2 lb. cooked, peeled & deveined shrimp, tails removed
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, sesame oil, and chili paste together in a small dish. Set aside. Cook the noodles according to the package's directions and drain the noodles. Set aside. Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the garlic, carrots, and peppers. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the noodles and peas. Cook for 2 minutes, tossing the veggies and noodles together. Add the shrimp and the sauce. Tossing frequently until the mixture is coated in the sauce. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the cilantro on top and serve. Makes 4 1 1/2 cup servings.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grilled Cubano Wraps

I lived through several tornadoes, floods, blizzards, and ice storms throughout my life, but I've never experienced a hurricane. For some odd reason whenever a hurricane strikes the country, I feel the need to make something indigenous to the area. I wanted to make red beans and rice. I wasn't in the mood to deal all of the steps in making red beans and rice. Nor did I want the entire house to smell like red beans and rice the entire week. So I settled with something of Cuban descent, a grilled Cubano wrap.

I used my panini press; however, a George Foreman grill would work fine too. If you don't have any of those, you could also use a skillet. Regardless, this is a quick and easy meal that uses left-over grilled pork tenderloin.

Grilled Cubano Wraps

4 gluten-free brown rice wraps (I used Sandwich Petals)
1/2 lb. thinly sliced, grilled pork tenderloin
4 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Heat a grill press to medium-high heat. Combine the chopped pickles and mustard together in a small dish and set aside. Place your wraps on a plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds to soften your wraps. To assemble the wraps, spoon 1 tablespoon of the pickle mixture onto each wrap. Lay a slice of cheese on top of the pickle mixture. Divide the pork evenly among the wraps and place over the cheese. Roll each wrap and place on the grill press. Grill for 3-4 minutes or until the wraps are golden brown. Remove the wraps and serve.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rosemary Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Prosciutto & Fig Skewers

I think this is the most elegant dish I have created all summer. What a way to wrap up the end of summer?

I was very excited to see that our local Costco started carrying La Quercia prosciutto. It is made in Norwalk, Iowa a growing suburb near where my mom lives. Some of the pigs, however, are raised in State Center, Iowa where my dad lives. This prosciutto is some of the best I've ever tasted. The smoky, salty flavor pairs amazingly well with the earthy, sweet figs and rosemary tenderloin. This is a lean and healthy dish that tastes incredibly decadent. You will feel like you are dining at a five star restaurant. Seriously!

Rosemary Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Prosciutto & Fig Skewers

For the pork:
2 lbs. pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large resealable plastic bag (for marinating)

For the skewers:
4-6 wooden skewers
1 lb. fresh figs
1 package shaved prosciutto (such as La Quercia)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

Fill a 9' x 13' baking pan with 1/2 inch of water. Submerge the wooden skewers in the water and soak for 30 minutes.

In a small dish, combine the chopped rosemary, Dijon mustard, and olive oil together and set aside. Place the pork in the resealable bag and pour the mustard marinade over the pork. Seal the bag and roll the marinade around the pork with our hands until the tenderloin is completely coated in the marinade. Place the bag in the fridge and marinate for 30 minutes.

To assemble the skewers, fold one piece of the prosciutto and thread it onto the skewer followed by a fig. Repeat until your skewer is filled. This may vary depending on the size of your skewers and the size of your figs. Alternate with the prosciutto and fig combination for each skewer. Place on a plate and set aside.

Heat your grill to medium heat. Remove the pork from the bag and place on the grill. Discard the bag. Grill the pork for 6-8 minutes. Turn and continue grilling for 8 more minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165-170 degrees. Meanwhile, place your skewers on the grill. Grill for 4-5 minutes and turn. Grill another 4-5 minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy. Remove from the grill and drizzle with the balsamic and honey. You can slice and serve the pork over a bed of mixed baby green like I did, or just serve with the skewers. Any left-overs taste just as amazing the next day!

More Quick Meals Menu Post

I am so excited that the extended weekend is here! Not to mention, the start of college football season. It is going to be a great weekend! We don't have much planned. Just some well needed relaxation and the ruminants of hurricane Issac are helping with the soothing rain showers. The rain should stop just in time for the final meal from last week's menu post: Rosemary Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Proscuitto & Fig Skewers.

While we do have Monday off, I still felt the need to keep things fresh, quick, and easy for the week. Save your left-over pork or grill some extra tenderloin for a quick and easy Cubano Wrap to start the week. Next, I plan to save you time by using already cooked shrimp in Spicy Shrimp and Noodle Bowl inspired by Cooking Light. It is a one bowl meal in itself. For a mid-week speedy meal, I plan to post a vegetarian recipe with a south-of-the boarder rice salad. To end the week, I'm hoping to grill some lean flank steak and serve it with a side of roasted red pepper sauce and veggie quinoa. You can save even more time if you prep your veggies and cook your grains ahead of time. Here is the line-up:

Sunday 9/2          Grilled Cubano Wraps with Chips

Monday 9/3         Spicy Shrimp & Noodle Bowls

Tuesday 9/4         Left-overs

Wednesday 9/5    Buttermilk Ranch Salad

Thursday 9/6        Left-overs

Friday 9/7 or        Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Pepper Sauce & Veggie Quinoa
Saturday 9/8

Items you will need:

1 bag frozen cooked shrimp
Left-over grilled pork tenderloin (about 1/4-1/2 lb.)
1-2 lbs. flank steak or other lean cut
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch green onions
1 bag mini peppers (the red, yellow, & orange kind)
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 bag baby carrots
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 knob fresh ginger root
1 head garlic
1 lime
1 lemon
1 avocado
1 bag gluten-free wraps (I am buying Sandwich Petals)
1 box brown instant rice
1 bag quinoa
1 bag rice noodles (found in your Asian section)
1 jar garlic & chili paste (found in your Asian section)
1 bottle reduced sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
1 bottle rice wine vinegar
1 bottle sesame oil
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 jar dill pickles
1 can black beans
1 bag kettle chips
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag frozen snow peas
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
1 carton low-fat buttermilk
1 package Swiss cheese slices
Dijon Mustard
Brown Sugar
Salt & pepper
Red wine vinegar
Ground coriander
Cayenne pepper

Happy shopping!