Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zucchini Noodle Bolognese

Wow! I can hardly believe tomorrow is Wednesday! Not that I'm counting down the days, but I do look forward to sleeping in a little. We also have a basketball game to look forward to and I only have two more weeks left of my 6 week challenge. Believe it or not, I am becoming a morning worker outer. That is something to be said for someone who has never been much of a morning person.

If you too have been following some sort of New Year's resolution, challenge, or are looking for healthier Italian fare, this recipe is it! Zucchini noodles replace the pasta adding an easy additional serving of veg to your day. Plus, flavor is not sacrificed with this bolognese sauce. I simply swapped out the fatty meat trio of ground beef, pork, and sausages for lean, ground Italian turkey sausage and a few slices of chopped center cut bacon. In the words of the Bear, "Even if it's just a little bacon, everything is better with bacon."

If you do not have a veggie spiralizer, no problem! Simply use a vegetable peeler to create beautiful ribbon like noodles. If you don't feel like putting the work into the noodles, just slice the zucchini into disks. No matter what, you will not be disappointed!

Zucchini Noodle Bolognese
Serves 4

1 teaspoon olive oil or grape seed oil
3 slices center cut bacon, chopped
1/2 cup yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 lb. lean ground Italian turkey sausage
1 jar marinara sauce
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add bacon and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the bacon begins to turn slightly brown. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veggies begin to soften. Add the turkey sausage. Cook, stirring a little more frequently to break up the turkey, for 6-8 minutes or until the turkey is brown and cooked through. Add the marinara sauce. Stir to combine. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often, to allow the flavors to marry together. 

At this point, you can cool the sauce and store in a container in your refrigerator until you are ready to serve if you choose. To make the zucchini noodles, trim the ends off each zucchini. Follow the directions for using your vegetable sprializer. If you are using a vegetable peeler, your noodles will be more like ribbons. I like to heat my noodles in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes before serving to give them an al dente texture, but if you are serving your sauce right away, you can skip this step. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Staying Healthy Menu Post

Good Saturday morning to you all! I think Saturday is my favorite day of the week. Today, the in-laws will be coming for their first visit to see our new house. Knowing the pool at the motel will take our niece's top priority, we also have a trip to Rube's, one of the restaurants in the area that we've wanted to try, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies ready for my father in-law's birthday. Should be some good, quality family time.

We will be headed to the grocery store shortly, as the family should be arriving early this afternoon. So, I thought I'd sneak in a quick menu post. Yes! I did achieve one of my goals for the week; getting everything posted and hanging in there with the blog:). Blogging will continue to be one of my goals. I'm also hoping to continue my morning workouts, working towards my 100 miles of cardio by Valentine's Day, and of course eating lean, green, and clean! This week's menu should help accomplish clean eating endeavors. Sunday's soup is one that I posted long ago when I had just started recipe blogging--Cauliflower Cheese Soup. If you decide to check this recipe out, you will see I had just experienced a minor car accident that jacked up my back and neck for a while. Hopefully, there will be no collisions this time. Next, to start the work week off on an even healthier note, I'll be pulling out my veggie spiralizer to make some zucchini noodles for my Zucchini Noodle Bolognese. Finally, mid-week I'll be spicing things up a little with some Mango Salsa Chicken. Did you know mangos are in season right now? I just heard about it on the news and it sparked my enthusiasm to cook with the lovely tropical fruit. Here is the official rundown:

Sunday 1/25          Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Salad

Monday 1/26         Zucchini Noodle Bolognese with Steamed Mixed Veggies

Tuesday 1/27         Leftovers

Wednesday 1/28    Mango Salsa Chicken with Asparagus

Thursday 1/29       Leftovers

Here are the items you will need to make this happen:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean, ground Italian turkey sausage
1 package center cut bacon
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)
1 bag baby carrots
1 bunch celery
1-2 mangos
1 jalapeno
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
1 red onion
2 yellow or white onions
1 bulb garlic
1 32 oz. carton low-sodium chicken broth
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I am loving Aldi's Simply Nature Marinara sauce right now!)
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
Skim milk
1 brick 2% Velveeta cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need include:

Corn starch
Grated Parmesan cheese (I know this is stored in the refrigerator, but it is something we always have on hand, so I'm considering it a pantry item today)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Walking Beanitos

First, I need to let you know that the menu took a bit of a change when the Bear discovered that I had planned for salsa salads. He asked, "Is this going to be like taco salads?" I said, "Well, sort of." He then replied, "Can I help you with an idea?" How cute! My husband wanting to help me with the blog! Of course, I said yes. Here is the rest of the story.

When we announced to our families that we were officially moving back to Iowa, the first thing Justin's dad did was buy us season Iowa State men's basketball tickets. Iowa State basketball games are a Nickel father-son family tradition. Needless to say, it has been an exciting season so far; but, what I love the most are the traditions. The walk to Hilton, being there for the ISU pep band as they play around the coliseum, watching the players and Coach Hoiberg walk into the gym, the infamous Clone Cones, and finally-to my subject tonight-walking tacos.

What is a walking taco? Depending on your region, you might also know the walking taco as a Frito pie. It is simply a bag of corn chips, cut along the longer side, filled with taco meat, lettuce, cheese, and other traditional taco toppings. At Hilton Coliseum, they use Doritos. This is what I am most familiar with from other similar game day foods that were sold at my high school concession stand. Fritos can also be used as well as a very thick chili-like topping in place of taco meat. Regardless, it is pretty damn tasty. I had forgotten about how traditional this sort of fair was until getting back to my roots. Long story short, the Bear thought this was the perfect opportunity to lighten up the traditional walking taco.

In my Walking Beanitos recipe, the Doritos/Fritos are switched out for Beanitos. Have you tried these chips? Seriously these chips are highly addictive! Next, I swapped out the beef for lean ground turkey. Sprinkled with light cheddar cheese and a dollop of light sour cream, the experienced walking taco connoisseur would love the change up.

Walking Beanitos
Serves 4

4 1.5 oz. bags Nacho Cheese Beanitos chips (these are the personal serving bags)
1 teaspoon olive oil or grape seed oil
1/2 cup diced yellow or white onion
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups lettuce, chopped
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
Light sour cream, taco sauce, diced green onion, jalapenos, etc. for topping

Heat oil in a medium sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the onions become translucent in color. Add the turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until the turkey is browned. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and beans. Stir to combine. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the salsa has thickened. Remove from heat.

Cut the chip bags along the longer side. Top with the lettuce, meat, and other toppings. Serve along with a fork, the bag acts as an instant bowl, so you can walk with your taco salad :).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken & Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese

How is your week going? So far, mine has not been too shabby. Yesterday, I was fortunate to have the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That provided time to get my hair cut and colored, finish cleaning my house, and prepping some things I did not get done on Sunday while this lovely gem of a meal cooked away in my slow cooker. Today, I managed to get my biscuits out of bed and squeeze in a little HIIT workout before work. Then, I came home, took this lovely photo, squeezed in another quick workout with my arms and abs, and now I'm blogging with you. I know you were maybe a little worried that I might not come back again after my last few attempts to get back to blogging; but, here I am. It is all about small, achievable steps. Now let's talk about dinner shall we?

This meal is light, lean, and a majority of it can simmer away in your slow cooker while you multitask your day until your heart's content. To round out the rest of the meal, I steamed some green beans and made a batch of cauliflower puree. Cauliflower puree is an awesome alternative to mashed potatoes. I simply steam 1 bag of frozen cauliflower in low sodium chicken broth until softened. Drain the chicken broth and place the cauliflower in a food processor. I had a dollop of light sour cream and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, give it a whirl until it is all creamy and smooth. Finish with a dash of salt and pepper and that's it! Served along side this chicken dish and you've got a five start weeknight meal!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic, drained
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Place the chicken, onion, diced tomatoes, red pepper, herbs, salt, and pepper into your slow cooker. Cover and set on low for 4 to 6 hours. Sprinkle the goat cheese over the chicken before serving.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy 2015 Menu Post

Good morning A Nickel's Worth of News readers! And, Happy New Year to you all! To update you, since my last post in October, life in the Nickel house is going well. We are finally settled into our new home, re-establishing our routines, and learning how to balance our new career lives with home life. It has been a little bit of a journey. I quickly realized that trying to get back into blogging even after moving into our house would be quite challenging with my new responsibilities and roles. I have been grappling since October as to how to make my personal hobby more manageable. I did not want to give up.

What will be different? The good news, not much will change. I still want to bring you healthy, gluten-free recipes that are easy to put together and taste good. The last three months have been an experiment for me in relying on past recipes and discovering new recipes that are manageable to put together on a weeknight. I feel that I have finally achieved a balance! So, what you will see are some recipe repeats and one or two new recipes per week.

I don't know about you, but I am not one for New Year's resolutions. I am more of a goal setter. Goal setting has always been a part of my everyday life. Last year, my goal was to run a 10k by May. This year, I plan to continue my running endeavors. Thursday, I signed up for the Leprechaun Chase again. I loved this race last year! It was such a huge accomplishment for me and encouraged me to not fall off the running bandwagon throughout the winter months. To help support my efforts, this year I've been more focused on my nutrition and cross training with whole body toning. I've been participating in the Love Your Body Challenge with my favorite trainers Karina and Katrina from Tone it Up. This particular challenge runs until Valentines Day. I joined their program back in April with their Bikini Body Challenge, but experienced an epic fail when I had to have my gall bladder removed. Shortly after that, we moved back to the great state of Iowa, started our new jobs, and the rest is history. Now that I've struck the balance in my new life, I've been able to commit! I am 3 weeks in and feeling great. The hard work I've been putting into the challenge has helped my training and I am up to running a solid 3 miles without too much of a struggle.

To supplement my efforts, I know nutrition is key. With that in mind, however, I do not believe in giving up satisfaction. This week's menu, as always, is packed with lean proteins and veggies recipes that nourish your body, but don't give up flavor. Sunday is soup night. Remember my Sunday Soups? I'm bringing back an old satisfying favorite with My Veggie Chili. I know, I know, I had a chili recipe from my last post in October, but we love our chili here in Iowa ;). Next up, I have a new recipe to share with you. Stay tuned for Monday's meal, Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese. This meal can be thrown together quickly and rounded out with some fantastic sides such as green beans and cauliflower puree. Later in the week, we will enjoy another meal that can be put together in a flash, Turkey and White Bean Salsa Salads. It will be a great week of eats! Here is the rundown:

Sun. 1/18         My Veggie Chili

Mon. 1/19       Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese, Green Beans, and Cauliflower Puree

Tues. 1/20       Leftovers

Wed. 1/21       Turkey and White Bean Salsa Salads

Thurs. 1/22      Leftovers

Items you will need include:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean ground turkey
2 yellow or white onions
1 bunch green onions
1 bulb garlic
1 green pepper
1 bunch celery
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag of your favorite lettuce or salad blend
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans
1 14.5 oz. can chili beans in chili gravy
1 14.5 oz. can white beans (navy or cannelini)
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 jar  roasted red peppers
1 32 oz. box low sodium chicken broth
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 container light sour cream
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
4 oz. goat cheese

Some pantry items you will need include:

Chili powder
Ground cumin
Dried oregano
Herbs de Provence or dried Italian herbs
Black pepper

I hope you enjoy your weekend! I look forward to sharing with you :).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegan Walnut Chili

How is your week going so far? We have been experiencing some very fall like weather. I would actually call it more of a squall. We've been hit with about 48 hours straight of cold, windy, very wet weather. I've been fighting a bit of a cold, so the climate just makes me want to cozy up under the blankets and sleep. It is nice to have this chili on hand to quickly heat up and serve over some comforting baked potatoes.

As I was looking over past recipes, I came across a few from my "Pinspiring" Menu Post back in March of 2013. In this menu post I had tested out several recipes I had "pinned" but had yet to try. In one of my favorites, the Vegan Taco Salad, I used a lentil and walnut mixture in place of ground beef. I thought, "Why not try the walnuts in the chili?" So, I did. The Bear didn't even know the meat was missing. Besides the fact he had no idea about all of the heart healthy antioxidants and healthy fats he was eating. Winner, winner, meat-free dinner!

The trick to substituting the walnuts for the ground beef is to soak the nuts in water for at least 8 hours or overnight. The nuts absorb some of the water and soften. When lightly processed and simmered in the soup, the texture magically transforms into that of ground meat. These vegans really have some great tricks up their sleeves!

Vegan Walnut Chili

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups English walnuts, soaked in water for 8 hours or overnight
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can chili beans in chili gravy, undrained
1 15 oz can chili ready diced tomatoes
4 12 oz cans low sodium V8 vegetable juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. While the vegetables are softening, drain the walnuts. Pulse in a food processor until the nuts become the consistency of ground meat. Add the nuts to the vegetables. Stir. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer. Let the chili simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes to let the flavors marry together. Remove from heat. Serve with all of your favorite chili toppings or over baked potatoes with all of your favorite baked potato toppings. This would be a great recipe to accommodate for your vegetarian friends or as a healthy alternative for your family!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why that Beautiful Menu Never Happened

I know some of you have probably wondered where I've been the last week. I had such a beautiful and healthy menu planned for last week. Unfortunately, this all went down hill starting Monday night. After forcing myself out on a run, I started to not feel very good. My stomach sounded like a water cooler with slight shooting pains on my upper right side. I felt that nauseated on again off again feeling. I attributed this to gas as I had been eating a fair amount of veggies throughout the day. After only eating about half of my dinner, I just decided to take some ibuprofen and go to bed.

I slept, sort of, then woke up in another bout of pain. After laying in bed, listening to my gurgling bowels, I took more ibuprofen and sort of fell back to sleep. When I woke up, I was still in a little bit of pain and still felt a little nauseated, but decided to tough it out and go to work. I ate a little bit of my breakfast and then headed out to teach third grade math. Within the hour, the pain came back. This time it was far worse. The kids, started noticing my rosy cheeks turning completely white. At 9:15, I bee-lined it to the bathroom and threw up. That's when things went even further south. I could not stop throwing up. When I thought there would be a little break, I told my principal and the head secretary that I needed to go home. And then had to quickly leave that conversation to go throw up again. I could not even drive home.

So, trash can in hand, my principal drove me home while the assistant principal followed us in my car. I was throwing up on and off the entire time. I'm thankful they helped me out, but totally embarrassed I threw up in her car. If I could make them a thank you card it would start with something like, "You know you have amazing bosses when..." I don't really remember much, but she did call my husband on the way and told him to meet us at the house as I was refusing that she take me to the emergency room. After climbing up the steps and blacking out in the bathroom, the next thing I remember is the Bear picking me up, placing me in the car with the trash can from work, and heading to the E.R. They gave me a good does of anti-nausea medication and pain meds, drew some blood, and did an ultrasound of my abdominal region. Since I do not have my appendix, they were thinking it might be my gall bladder. The ultrasound did not show any signs of gall stones, however, my liver enzymes were elevated. So, I was admitted into the hospital.

The following day, they did a pipida scan. A pipida scan is a CT scan where they intravenously give you some dye. Next, they intravenously feed you the equivalent of a Thanksgiving meal to see how your liver and gall bladder react. Things got real. In the middle of the scan, I was in the same amount of pain I was in the day before. I thought I was going to die. Turns out my gall bladder was very inflamed and only functioning at about 10%. Thus, messing with my liver and causing bad things to happen. So, the gall bladder came out later that day. The next day I went home and here I am recovering from all the craziness. I am still in a lot of pain from the surgery, but believe it or not, I am feeling so much better. Looking back, I think my gall bladder had been causing me a lot of issues. This past year, holiday meals even while gluten free, were not as enjoyable. I always felt terrible after going out to eat. I tried curing these issues by eating healthier and healthier, which was not a bad thing; but, no matter what, my faulty gall bladder needed to go.

On top of the gall bladder removal, the doctors have diagnosed me with a full fledged gluten intolerance after my appendix and gall bladder issues. Before, it was a just a sensitivity, but now it is legit. I am to remain on my gluten free diet as well as a fairly low fat diet. I can start adding more fat back into my diet in about a month or so as it will take my digestive system a while to adjust to no longer having a gall bladder. This week I plan to take time to recover. I hope to be back at blogging again soon! Until then, please enjoy any past recipes and menu posts. Have a great week!