Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday Hangover Menu Post

Wow! That is all I can say. Wow. I am not really hungover, but don't you feel like you need to detox after the holidays no matter how healthy of a holiday you had? We had a fantastic Christmas this year. No stress, no fuss, and I didn't over indulge too much. I have to admit that it was difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year due to recovering from surgery, not putting up any Christmas decorations, and the total lack of winter weather; however, Christmas tree or not, by Thursday morning last week we were feeling the Christmas spirit. Fortunately, after getting a flat tire and several inches of snow and ice around the Kansas City metro area courtesy of winter storm Dracco (can you believe they have started naming winter storms?!), my Christmas vacay started a day early with a much needed snow day. I was a little nervous that they wouldn't call school off and that I would have to drive to work on my spare tire, but totally lucked out. My snow day was pretty productive with salting the driveway and heading to the nearby car dealership to get yet another new tire, new breaks, and an oil change. I dropped an unexpected $500, but new that my car would be safe to drive before heading to Iowa the next day. We took off a little earlier than expected for our Christmas tour de Iowa, but it was worth it as my dad had a whopping 13 inches of snow in State Center, Iowa. This gave us ample time to arrive safely even though it was like driving down a snow shoot to get to his house.

Got to love Iowa in the winter! I wish I had some of the pictures I took on my dad's camera of the kiddos sledding on the humongous snow drifts. They were so big, it made for some epic sledding conditions! Oh to be a kid again.

After traveling to State Center, we then spent a day and a night in Des Moines for Christmas with my mom. She made her annual "roast beast" as she likes to call it. We enjoyed several glasses of fine wine, many assorted chocolates, and played a new game my sister bought called "Things." I haven't laughed so hard in a long time:) If you are looking for a fun game to play at a party, I highly suggest this game and reading the categories in different accents such as robot, British, Southern, I could go on and on.

While we would have loved to stay another day, we were then off to Greenfield for Christmas with the Nickel clan. I thought it would be fun to introduce my niece, Ady, to a little mustache fun. She loved it!

 Ady, the little giant, is really only 3 years old. True to her father's genes and mother's height, she looks like she is four. Ady was full of energy, laughs, and kisses. So much fun!

So, we've finally returned and are settled back home. After unloading my tiny car with all of our luggage and gifts, I got to work in the kitchen to use some of my new kitchen gadgets! Like I said in the beginning, I felt like we needed to detox some and got right to work with a beautiful meal- pesto zucchini with rolled chicken.

I have wanted a veggie spiralizer for quite some time now. I had read about making your own veggie noodles over the summer. Little did I know that Mr. Nickel was secretly researching these little tools throughout the fall season and purchased one on Amazon. See? Aren't they pretty?! Perfectly spiralized zucchini noodles!

Another awesome tool I have been longing for is a meat tenderizer. I had always used a rolling pin in the past and never realized how handy these little puppies are until I took my culinary class over the summer. Being my mother has a pretty awesome sense of humor, she got me a mallet that looks like a monkey. Too cute!

To make the chicken, I simply pounded two chicken breasts. Then, layered the chicken with a slice of prosciutto, basil, and a slice of Parmesan cheese. After rolling the chicken and securing with a toothpick, I seared all sides of the chicken breasts and then finished it off in the oven until my meat thermometer (last year's awesome Christmas gift) read 165 degrees. Super simple, super light, and super tasty.

We needed one final touch for the noodles to take them from pretty to spectacular- homemade pesto made in my new Ninja blender!

This baby is sweeeeet! I feel like I've won the Price is Right or something. Everything is perfect and my kitchen feels so luxurious right now. Seriously, major, humongous, thanks to my awesome family!!

Now, on to the menu post. Yes, it has been quite some time since I've shared one of these. While I cannot hesitate to use some of my new gadgets in the recipes this week, I trust that you will be able to adapt them even if you don't have a veggie spiralizer. This week is a perfect blend of health and indulgence, as New Year's Eve is right around the corner. We do not have any plans as of yet. Regardless, I do have something planned for dinner. Since it will be a last hoorah to the holiday season, I plan to use some of the lovely Omaha Steaks package we received from Justin's family in my Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Steaks. Then, it will be time to detox. A delicious detox meal with my Very Veggie Pad Thai. Next, it is back to work with a simple one-pot meal that is protein packed and easy to clean up since it is all cooked in one pot- Chicken Tomato Hot Pot. Finally, to end the week healthfully, I plan to take my Smoky Beans with Soyrizo and use them as a stuffing for baked sweet potatoes. It is a week's worth of delicious detoxing eats that I hope you all will enjoy. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 12/30        Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Steaks with Potatoes and Salad

Monday 12/31      Very Veggie Pad Thai (or stuffed steaks above)

Tuesday 1/1          Very Veggie Pad Thai

Wednesday 1/2     Chicken Tomato Hot Pot with Salad

Thursday 1/3         Leftovers

Friday 1/4 or         Smoky Beans & Soyrizo Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Broccoli
Saturday 1/5

This week's grocery list is a little lengthy due to our fridge being very barren from our holiday travels. Here is what you will need:

1 lb. ground chicken breast
2 cuts of your favorite steak (we will be using tenderloin)
3 yellow or white onions
1 zucchini
1 beet
3 sweet potatoes
1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch broccoli
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 bunch basil
1 bunch mint
1 bulb garlic
3 yellow or white onions
1 red bell pepper
1 lime
1 lemon
1 knob ginger
1 package soyrizo
1 bottle tamarind sauce
1 bottle sirache
1 bag or box brown rice
2 cans Great Norther beans
1 can light coconut milk
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 jar marinara sauce
1 box chicken broth
1 container light or fat free sour cream
1 carton liquid egg whites

Pantry items you will need:

Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Soy sauce
Brown sugar
Corn meal
Cayenne pepper
Curry powder
Ground cumin
Bay leaf

Some items I am a little iffy about. I may be using peanut butter in one recipe. I am not so sure about the tamarind paste or sauce. This week's grocery list is very susceptible to change this week. If there is a change, I will do my best to let you know as the recipes are posted throughout the week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the Year Wrap Up

It is hard to believe that 2012 is almost over. This year marked my adventures in finally taking the dive and sharing what I truly love to do- blogging about my culinary experiences with the world. It has been such a joy to share my little blog with you and I am truly grateful for your comments and viewership. It makes me very excited to see what 2013 will bring. To wrap things up, here are the top five recipes that received the most hits on A Nickel's Worth of News.

Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes These were my gluten-free version of Giada's Orange Raspberry Cake. Cupcakes are such a great way to practice portion control. Tangy, sweet, and refreshing it is no wonder that this recipe was one of the most popular this year.

Italian Chicken Sausage & Potato Cassoulet Traditionally, cassoulets are cooked for hours on end and are higher in calories. Here, I swapped potatoes for pasta and chicken sausage for pork sausage. The results were amazing. This recipe was even featured on the Isernio's chicken sausage website! What an honor!

Baked Ziti I had no idea this recipe would be on the top five. I was never really proud of the picture; however, this recipe is easy, comforting, and can be put together in a flash. Plus, there is no need to boil the noodles.

Dirty Bananas Oh Rum Chata! I salute the inventors of this marvelous rum. I don't think much needs to be said as to why this little gem was one of the most popular. Who doesn't love a good cocktail?

Last, but certainly not least, the following links to my most popular weekly menu posts. I put a lot of time into creating my menus and shopping lists. It is also one of my favorite things to do on the weekends. I hope they have been useful and that you continue enjoying. Here are the highest rated menu posts for the year:
                     Fall Kick Off Menu Post

                     Fall Favorites Menu Post

                     Many Thanks Menu Post

Thank you again for being a part of my culinary adventures! I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday season! I will be back next week with more recipes and a New Year's menu post. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fabulous Fudge

What would make your life a little easier over the holiday season? A winning lottery ticket? Extra cash? Well I don't have those things for you dear readers. Blogging is my part-time hobby. Teaching is my full-time job. But, I do have something you can enjoy with your family and gift to your friends. How about a fabulous fudge recipe that will make not one, but three different recipes? Meet Pretty Peppermint...

And my friend Top of the Holiday Toffee...

And last, but certainly not least Dark and Sensuous Sea Salt...

Oh yes! Three different fudge flavors with one simple base. Ho ho holidays!!

A Nickel's Worth of Fabulous Fudge

4 cups mini jet puffed marshmallows
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups white or chocolate chips (see recipe variations)

Spray a 9' x 9' square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Combine the marshmallows, sugar, cream, butter, and salt in a large sauce pan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the marshmallows are melted. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the mixture does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Stir in the white or chocolate chips (see recipe variations below) until smooth. Spread into the baking dish. Cool at room temperature for 4 hours before cutting.

To make the Pretty Peppermint Fudge: Use all above ingredients substituting white chocolate chips for regular chocolate chips. After the mixture has boiled, add the white chocolate chips, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, and 4 drops red food coloring. Pour the mixture into your baking dish. Top with 1/2 cup crushed candy canes or peppermints. Let cool for 4 hours before cutting and serving.

To make the Top of the Holiday Toffee Fudge: Use all of the above ingredients with semi-sweet chocolate chips. After pouring the mixture into your baking dish, top with 1/2 cup toffee bits.

To make the Dark and Sensuous Sea Salt Fudge: Use all of the above ingredients with dark chocolate chips. After the mixture has boiled, add the dark chocolate chips, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Pour mixture into the baking dish and top with an additional sprinkling of course sea salt.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Party Hop

I am not normally one to "wing it" or "play things by ear." I'm a planner. I put a lot of thought into things. When it comes to my job, my home, and menu planning I don't normally "wing it." Sure there is room for flexibility and the occasional change. For example, we did not dine on steak this weekend per last week's menu post. Instead, I threw an impromptu Christmas party where we enjoyed my Tanner's Chicken Enchiladas , Honey Nut Chex Mix, and other goodies. This week, we are "winging it" per say. The Bear has several meetings, I am substituting our after school program two nights this week, and we have several holiday functions to attend. By the end of the week, we will be heading out of town for our family Christmas gatherings. So, this week it will be a lot of frozen leftovers. Yes, as much as it irritates me, we will be "winging it." What I do hope to not wing with you all are some wonderful homemade gluten free goodies you can share with your friends and family. I guess this wraps up the whole point of me opening up my little world since January. Gluten-free living can be easy and not so different from the rest of the world if you are prepared. Once prepared it is not as difficult to overcome weeks where you have to play life by ear. Thus, I hope the treats I plan to share with you throughout the week will bring you much love and holiday joy to share with others:) I look forward to giving you some more ideas as we count down the final days of 2012!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make Ahead Moussaka

I think I might have been Greek in a past life. I love Greek food. Authentic and Americanized, the merry-go-round of flavors never cease to amaze me. A & G Restaurant in the little southwestern town of Creston, Iowa is near and dear to my heart. It was one of the very few places that offered Greek food. The owner, Tony, never let you leave work without a meal, on the house none the less. One of my favorite dishes Tony made on very special occasions was his Moussaka. This was usually only available after Tony had traveled back to Greece to visit his family. My version reminds me of those wonderful flavors and warms my heart with fond memories.

Moussaka is a Greek version of the Italian lasagna. Layers of roasted eggplant substitute noodles topped with a hearty tomato and meat sauce, cheese, and a final layer of bechamel sauce. This recipe, like a lasagna, requires a little assembly; however, can be made ahead and stored until you are ready to bake and serve. And the leftovers, are out of this world.

Make Ahead Moussaka

Non-stick cooking spray
2 eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
8 oz. lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 dash cinnamon
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 dash ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your broiler to high heat. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant the eggplant on the baking sheets and broil for 5 minutes on each side or until the eggplant is golden brown. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onion and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the onion begins to appear translucent in color. Add the garlic and ground beef. Stir to loosen the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, for another 8 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and browned. Add the oregano, cinnamon, and diced tomatoes. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Pour the milk into a sauce pan. Add the corn starch, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Whisk together until smooth. Heat over medium-low heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a 9' x 9' casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the eggplant into the bottom of the dish. Top with the meat and tomato sauce and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat for the second layer. Top the second layer with the remaining eggplant and mozzarella cheese. Pour the milk mixture over the final layer of eggplant and cheese. At this point you can cover and store the moussaka until you are ready to serve. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When ready to serve, uncover and let the moussaka stand for 10-15 minutes at room temperature while the oven preheats. Then, bake for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. Makes 4 large and hearty servings.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup

I absolutely adore this soup. I came up with the idea two winters ago while we were snowed in and only had a few basic ingredients on hand. It was practically the blizzard of the century. There was no way we were venturing out into the storm. You can see some of action pics if you click here and this was before storm was half over. While it was a bit of a struggle to dig out, I get cozy just revisiting them. 2011 was a tough winter, but this lovely soup made the blizzard so much better.

If you are looking for a twist on traditional tomato soup, you will want to try this easy slow cooker recipe. It is even better with a side of yummy cheese bread:) If you prefer a thicker soup or "stewp" in the words of Rachel Ray, you can add less broth. To make it truly vegetarian, use vegetable broth or water.

Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup thawed chopped frozen spinach
Parmesan cheese for topping

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Drizzle the olive oil into the skillet and add the onion. Saute  stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent in color. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute another 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Scrape the vegetable mixture into your slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Garnish with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

GF Chinese Chicken Salad

I promise you, I really made the Ginger-Orange Chicken Noodle Bowls last night. The only problem, they were not that great. Justin and I both agreed that there was really no need for the noodles, the slaw was good, and the orange sauce was sort of under-whelming. It also took way too long to assemble for the lack luster flavor. It was not worth sharing with you all. Yes, recipe flops happen all the time. Hence, the never posted Tater Tot Casserole recipe. I like sharing things that are not only pallet pleasing, but also easy. The original recipe was none of the above. Since, I had a plethora of slaw mix and dressing left, I kept the slaw the same, but revamped the chicken and sauce into a more simple recipe. This is worth posting.

Tender chicken breast fingers are battered in a light and gluten-free coating then pan "fried" and served over a cool and creamy Asian style slaw. If you are looking for an easy, healthy, and gluten-free friendly twist on the traditional Chinese chicken salad, try this.

Gluten-Free Chinese Chicken Salad
For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into strips
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
2 tablespoons gluten-free sesame ginger salad dressing, divided
Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

For the slaw:
1 bag cole slaw mix
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup thawed frozen peas
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup light or fat free sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

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 6-8 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook another 6-8 minutes. Serve over the Asian slaw and top with the sesame ginger dressing.

To make the slaw:  Combine the cole slaw, red pepper, green onion, cilantro, peas, and sesame seeds together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil. Pour over the cole slaw mixture and toss together until evenly coated and serve.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Make Ahead Meals Menu Post

So, I fell of the face of the blogosphere this week. After feeling so amazing on Tuesday, my energy level plummeted to near single digits the rest of the week. The good news, I haven't needed any pain meds since last week. I'm just tired. Really tired. The kind of tired where you come home, sit on the couch, and then move to bed. The quesadilla salad never happened. We have been taking advantage of Domino's 1/2 off any pizza and online order deal. It is the first time ever they have honored the 1/2 price for their gluten-free pizzas too. Which has been pretty helpful due to my lack of kitchen activity. I was probably a little ambitious in getting back to my menu posting, but at least I tried.

Due to my lack of energy and recovery, I hope, and I say hope because I cannot make any promises, to get everything posted for you all this week. My plan of attack is to use my make ahead meals strategy for a majority of this week's meals. Last week's meals that actually did get posted were both meals I made ahead of time. So, if I can get to the store today and start preparing today and tomorrow, everything should get posted in a timely manner. The other really nice thing about this week's menu, the grocery list is pretty slim. With the ingredients for the noodle bowls still in the fridge, I plan to reap the leftover benefits on Sunday. As the temperatures slowly drop, I know that Monday and Tuesday will be the perfect days for my Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup I plan to make this weekend served with a side of yummy, fluffy gluten-free focaccia bread. Wednesday and Thursday will also capitalize on my strategy with my Make Ahead Moussaka. Then to wrap the week up, I plan to thaw some of the Omaha Steaks from the gift package we received last week for a nice steak dinner. While these recipes will require some prepping and assembling this weekend, I am hoping it will maintain my energy levels and keep the Domino's delivery boy at bay from our doorstep.

Sunday 12/9          Leftover Ginger-Orange Chicken Noodle Bowls with Asian Slaw

Monday 12/10      Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup with Gluten-Free Focaccia

Tuesday 12/11       Leftovers

Wednesday 12/12  Make Ahead Moussaka with Greek Salad

Thursday 12/13      Leftovers

Friday 12/14 or      Filet Mignon with Herb Sauce, Baked Sweet Potatoes, and Broccoli
Saturday 12/15

Here is what you will need:

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
2 filet mignon or your other favorite steak
2 small sweet potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 shallot
1 bulb garlic
1 green bell pepper
2 roma tomatoes
1-2 lemons
2 eggplant
2 yellow or white onions
1 bag baby carrots
1 stalk celery
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 cans great northern beans
1 jar kalamata olives
1 bottle fat-free or light Italian or Greek dressing
1 wedge Parmesan cheese
1 container feta cheese
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 quart 2% milk
1 box frozen chopped spinach
1 bag frozen broccoli florets

Pantry items you will need:

Olive oil
Cooking spray
Red wine vinegar
Corn starch
Dried Italian herbs
Dried oregano
Crushed red pepper


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Potato & Veggie Chowder

Today, I feel like the comeback kid. I am finally feeling back to almost normal! Not that I would go and run a 5k because I'm not really allowed to according to doctor's orders; but, I had A LOT more energy today. Watch out world, I had my sassy pants on today. No literally. I was able to wear regular pants today for the first time in the two weeks since my little surgery. If you are new to my humble blog you can also read more about it in my Baby Steps chronicle. Also literally speaking, they were sassy because they are my favorite new red pants from Old Navy. Why yes, these are the red skinny ankle pant if you ask. So sassy, so pants, so feeling almost myself.

While my dinner is not so sassy, I am pretty proud of this little gem. I am proud because I made it up myself. My inspiration is dedicated to all of those fabulous Episcopalian, Iowa soup suppers I attended as a kid. Actually, it doesn't really matter what domination you are in Iowa because every good ol' small town church has a heart warming soup supper in the cold winter months for everyone to congregate together. There is always the baked potato bar (which can happen anytime of year), chili dinners, bake sales, potlucks for some great cause, pancake breakfasts (accompanied by awesome egg casserole bakes), and salad lunches in the spring. Please don't forget a sheet cake of some kind and numerous jello or "fluff" desserts normally always were provided, but you had to "clean your plate" before you got any of the glory. It never mattered where I lived. We were always coming together to enjoy the food for some great cause. This soup reminds me of those countless dinners...only WAY healthier of course;)

Potato & Veggie Chowder

1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 lb. russet potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup thawed frozen chopped broccoli
1 cup thawed frozen cauliflower
4 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 cup cubed 2% Velveeta cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and onion. Sautee for 3-4 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent in color. Add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Meanwhile, place the potatoes and chicken broth in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes to cook the potatoes while you are cooking your vegetables. After the first five minutes, prick one of the potatoes with a fork. If the potato breaks apart or sort of crumbles. If not, microwave for another 5 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the potatoes and broth to the vegetable mixture. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and bring to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the milk and corn starch. Add the corn starch mixture and the remaining 3 cups milk to the pot. Add the cheeses and stir constantly until the cheese melts and the soup thickens. Remove from the heat and serve.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Bolognese

For some odd reason, I think I have some power over coaxing the weather into a snowstorm. Not a massive shut the city down, 2 feet deep, dig your way out kind of snowstorm. Just something with at least 4 to 6 inches. Something to spread a little holiday love and spirit into the heart of Kansas City. For the last two weeks, I've picked out stories for my little first and second grade reading groups all about snow, snowmen, or snow gear. We've decorated snowflakes, labeled the parts of a snowman, but alas it is 70 degrees outside. Nowhere near weather needed for a sweet snowstorm. I think my powers may not really be working if they were ever present at all. I guess there is always hope, but it is dwindling for any chance of a snow day. At least I have this awesome bolognese sauce for dinner.

This sauce will make you want to get a bottle of Italian Chianti and whip out your white and red checked tablecloth. It is like a little Italian grandmother slipped into my kitchen and worked all day slowly simmering and stirring this wonderful, hearty sauce. Yes it is comfort food, but not terribly heavy on your waistline. I switched out the typical meats in regular bolognese sauces and used lean pork sirloin. Oh, and did I mention that this was all mostly cooked in my Crock Pot?  Mmmm, easy, cheap, and tasty!

Slow Cooker Pork Bolognese
Inspired by Cooking Light

4 slices center cut bacon, chopped
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 bay leaves
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb. pork sirloin roast or pork tenderloin
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 package brown rice or other gluten free spaghetti noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsely
Parmesan cheese

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 6 minutes or until the bacon begins to lightly crisp. Add the onion. Sweat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent in color. Add the carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Remove from heat. Add the vegetable mixture to your slow cooker. Add the bay leaves, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined. Add the pork and set the slow cooker on the low setting. Cook for 6 hours. Then, remove the lid from the slow cooker. Using two forks, carefully shred the pork in the sauce. Add the tomato paste. In a small dish, whisk together the milk and corn starch. Add the milk mixture to the sauce. Stir until combined. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to thicken the sauce. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Arrange 1 cup of the noodles on a plate or in a bowl. Top with the sauce, cheese, and parsley.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Slow Saturday Menu Post

Whew! I apologize for checking out mid-week, but after returning back to work on Tuesday I was totally pooped. I've been slowly coming around and am in a lot less pain. My energy level is no where near normal peppy self. I knew that was to be expected, but had no idea how much teaching drains what little energy I had. This weekend I am resting, regaining my energy stores, and doing what I love; weekly menu posting. In light of my slow recovery, I thought it would be fun to have some slow cooked menu items, soups, and noodle bowls for the week. Sunday, I plan on starting my slow cooker early and cooking a meaty Pork Bolognese. I also hope to do some weekend prep for my chowder I plan to serve Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This chowder is filled with potatoes and veggies, but tastes so sinfully cheesy. Thursday I am taking it easy but adding a fun twist by making a Quesadilla Salad. Finally, to add a touch of elegance to our usually weekend flare while at the same time not going overboard, I hope to serve Ginger-Orange Chicken Noodle Bowls with Asian Slaw. It should be a good week of easy eats in the Nickel household. Here is the official rundown:

Sunday 12/2          Slow Cooker Pork Bolognese with Salad

Monday 12/3         Leftovers

Tuesday 12/4         Potato & Veggie Chowder with Gluten-Free Focaccia Bread

Wednesday 12/5    Leftovers

Thursday 12/6        Quesadilla Salad

Friday 12/7            Out to eat (or so I hope:))

Saturday 12/8        Ginger-Orange Chicken Noodle Bowls with Asian Slaw

Groceries you will need:

1 package center cut bacon
1 lb. pork sirloin roast or pork tenderloin
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. russet potatoes
1 orange
2 limes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 red pepper
1 knob ginger root
1 bulb garlic
1 stalk celery
1 bag baby carrots
2 yellow or white onions
1 bag cole slaw
1 bag lettuce mix
1 package gluten free ranch dressing mix
1 box reduced sodium chicken broth
1 bottle of your favorite salsa
1 package corn tortillas
1 package rice noodles
1 package brown rice or gluten-free spaghetti noodles
1 package gluten-free pizza or focaccia mix
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 container light or fat free sour cream
2 bags shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 brick 2% Velveeta cheese
1 quart 2% milk
1 pint buttermilk
1 bag frozen peas
1 box chopped broccoli
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 bag frozen corn

Pantry items you will need:

Corn starch
Olive oil mayo
Olive oil
Sesame oil
Rice wine vinegar
Chili paste
Soy sauce (make sure it is wheat free)
Crushed red pepper flakes
Dried bay leaves

Enjoy your weekend everyone!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BBQ Smoked Turkey Enchiladas

I dance, I dance, I dance! Around the Mexican hat! I dance, I dance, I dance and that's the end of that. Ole! Actually, I am not really dancing. I probably will not be up for dancing for quite some time. Spending a couple hours in the kitchen on my up day, Sunday, sort of did me in on the activity level. But, I'm glad I conquered it because I am now officially back to work. So, it was nice to be able to come home, relax, and pop my lovely leftover Sven enchiladas into the oven this evening. Not much to have to accomplish, but a little side of Cilantro Lime Slaw, turning on the oven, placing Sven enchiladas into said oven, waiting in my armchair propped up with my heating pad and pillows, and removing the enchiladas from the oven. Really, not too bad. Look at these little beauts!

Yes, Sven came to another use this evening in my BBQ Smoked Turkey Enchiladas. They were wicked easy to assemble and wicked tasty to enjoy. If you do not have smoked turkey, any kind of smoked meat will do just fine.

BBQ Smoked Turkey Enchiladas

4 cups chopped smoked turkey
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese, divided
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
18 small corn tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 20 oz. can mild enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso because it is gluten-free)
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9' x 13' inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the turkey, cream cheese, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and garlic powder together. Set aside. Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pot. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until the onion begins to caramelize and turn light brown. Add the enchilada sauce and BBQ sauce. Stir until combine and remove from heat. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Set aside. Place your tortillas on a large plate. Cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the tortillas are pliable enough to handle. Fill the one tortilla at a time with 2-3 tablespoons of the turkey mixture. Roll and place seam side down into the baking dish. Repeat with each tortilla. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of the cheese. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and melt in the middle. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cilantro over the enchiladas.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lean & Mean Smoked Turkey Chili

Sven sure makes a lean, mean batch of chili...not to mention Sven also has a "little helper" to add to the dish. Smoked Sven made for a delicious smoky, meaty deliciousness. Sven's helper added the secret touch.

Let's just say that Sven's "little helper" is yet another secret ingredient to add to my chili making arsenal. It is something that I like to sneak into any smoked meat recipe. I just never thought about using it in chili until today. You don't have to use it if you choose, but you might want to consider it before you knock it down. It just adds a little, hmm, how do you say it? Maybe like that terrible McDonald's sculpture commercial, my chili has a certain "Je Ne sais quoi" to it. Do I have your attention? Are you guessing before you read down? Well then, I'll just cut to the chase, since I know I have you on the edge of your chili making seats now. The secret ingredient is- BOURBON. Yes, good ol' Kentucky bourbon. Not enough to get you drunk, unless you take a few pulls after you add it to the chili. Just enough to make one say, "Hmm. What is that lovely depth of flavor?" Pretty crafty eh?

Lean & Mean Smoked Turkey Chili

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons bourbon
4 cups chopped smoked turkey (or left-over Thanksgiving turkey)
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can chili beans, in chili gravy (do not drain)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/8 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 bell pepper, celery, and carrots. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the bourbon, stirring to break up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Cook for one minute or until the bourbon begins to slightly evaporate. Add the turkey and 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.


Tis the Week of Left-Over Turkey

I was so thankful my mother and husband put together a Thanksgiving meal. While I was giving directions from my arm chair propped up with a heating pad and pillows, my mom and the Bear put together the brine the evening before. We prepared the brine with about 10 cups water, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup sugar, one roughly chopped onion, and a small bag of cheesecloth tied and filled with sage, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon pepper corns, and 1 tablespoon dried thyme. Because we did not have a vessel large enough to hold the turkey and liquid, we used one of our large coolers and ice to keep the turkey soaking and fabulous for 24 hours. Then bright and early Thursday morning, the Bear started the smoker. We removed the turkey from the briny bath and rubbed him down with a mixture of olive oil, 1/4 cup paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, salt and pepper, tied up the wings and legs, and placed him on the smoker for 6 hours. When the temperature began to stall, we removed the turkey from the smoker, placed him in a large roasting pan and finished him in the oven until our meat thermometer read the safe temp of 165 degrees. I was dozing in and out of my hydrocodone induced world and was disappointed we did not get a picture. The bird, I named him Sven, was a true smoked beauty. Now, what are we going to do with Sven's leftovers?

While I am not really a huge fan of leftover roasted turkey, I feel that there is a ton you can do with a smoked bird. Roasted turkey just tastes a little too gamy for my taste buds when it is not fresh from the oven. Smoked turkey though, well let me see you can make awesome salads, sandwiches, eat it cold, eat it hot with a ton of BBQ sauce, make many flavorful soups, risotto, and enchiladas. I plan on making the previous three said items this week. Unfortunately, I do not have a grocery list for you all this week. But, I do have a menu post of a variety of leftover recipes for your copious amounts of leftover Sven. Even if your Sven was not smoked, he should taste pretty darn good in these recipes. Yes, Sven will live on throughout the week!

Sunday 11/25          Lean and Mean Smoked Turkey Chili with veggie sticks and dip

Monday 11/26         Leftover chili

Tuesday 11/27        BBQ Smoked Turkey Enchiladas with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Wednesday 11/28   Leftover enchiladas

Thursday 11/29       Smoked Turkey & Mushroom Risotto with Winter Salad

Friday 11/30 or       Spiced Citrus Glazed Salmon with French Potato Salad
Saturday 12/1

I hope you all have a fabulous week! My goal is to not push things to hard, but enjoy being back on my feet again:)


Coming Around & GF Clam Chowder

Hello to you all! I am so happy to say I am finally beginning to feel back to myself after my surgery last week. To update you all, not to freak anyone out, my husband and I have been seeing a fertility specialist since September of this year. After three years of trying for a little bundle of joy, we were getting pretty frustrated and knew that something was not right. Low and behold, we discovered that my left fallopian tube was blocked. So, Tuesday of last week, the doctor went in and was going to either see if it could be repaired or if it needed to go. Like a clogged pipe, this tube was causing scare tissue and other harmful fluids to back up into my body that were making it very difficult to carry a baby. The doctor ended up clipping the tube, as it was beyond repair. Besides some bloating and pain from the recovery, I am actually feeling much better. My husband and I both feel that this was a positive step in the right direction. 

Before I was discharged from my usual household duties, I was like a squirrel harvesting and storing nuts in the kitchen. I think my parents were shocked at the amount of food I had prepared and stored in the fridge. I had made a plethora of cookies, snacks, and soups knowing that the Bear might get hungry. Being that cooking is very therapeutic to me, this also helped me burn off my nervous energy. One soup in particular that I am excited to share is my Clam Chowder.

Creamy and hearty, this soup is perfect for a chilly day. Loaded with bacon, sauteed veggies, potatoes, and clams my Clam Chowder will satisfy. To save yourself time and an additional ingredient, make sure you buy clams that are canned in their own clam juices. That way, you will not need to drain the clams or purchase a bottle of clam juice. I used Bumble Bee canned clams, which happened to be on sale. If you are looking for a meal that is quick and aims to please over the holiday season, I hope you consider making this soup!

Gluten Free Clam Chowder

4 slices center cut bacon, chopped
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
2 cans clams, make sure they are clams canned in their clam juices
2 russet potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inche pieces
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons corn starch
Chopped chives and crackers for garnish

Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the bacon begins to crisp. Add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring to break up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot, until the veggies begin to soften (about 4-5 minutes). Add the wine, bay leaf, and clams to the bacon and veggies, stirring to break up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, while the veggies are softening, place the potatoes and chicken broth in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes to cook the potatoes. After the first five minutes, prick one of the potatoes with a fork. If the potato breaks apart or sort of crumbles. If not, microwave for another 5 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the potatoes and broth to the bacon and veggie mixture. Add the thyme and cayenne pepper. In another large dish, whisk together the milk, cream, and corn starch until the mixture is smooth are there are no lumps. Add the milk mixture to the pot. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken. Garnish with crackers and chopped chives.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

What a fantastic weekend it has been. This weekend was exactly what we needed to take our minds off things. My dad and his wife, Brenda, came to spend some time with us since we will not be back for Thanksgiving this year. Friday night we just hung out and caught up on family happenings. They were both pretty excited because Brenda finally convinced my dad finally to get iPhones. He did have a smart phone device pre-iPhone; however, never really utilized it beyond work e-mail and just another communication device. I think the iPhone will be more user friendly for him as he figures out Seri's powers. Brenda pretty well has hers figured out, so I'm sure between Seri and Brenda my dad will get a grasp on his new technology:)

Saturday we went to Lawrence for the KU versus Iowa State game. I've never seen so much red and gold in the Lawrence! It almost felt like we were back in Ames. We walked Massachusetts street and did a little sight seeing and shopping. Then, we headed over to the designated Cyclone tailgating lot and got the party started with our fellow Cyclone fans.

The Cyclones won and are now eligible for a bowl game this year. By the end of the game, Cyclone fans out numbered the sorry, sad Jayhawk fans:) The team gave many thanks by joining near the Cyclone seating waving, cheering, and celebrating the big win. Coach Paul Rhoads even stepped in front of the stands, turned his ball cap backwards, and threw a big kiss in the air. Truly and eventful night. I love my Cyclones!

Now on to the pizza we enjoyed Friday night. If you are looking for a use for leftover chicken or want a quick and easy kid friendly meal, this pizza will do the trick. The picture below is the crust I used for the Bear, my dad, and Brenda. My crust is not pictured; however, I did find a good gluten-free crust by Udi's and had my own personal pizza. I used a pre-made pizza crust and slathered on a thick and creamy layer of ranch as the sauce. Then, I topped it with leftover shredded rotisserie chicken I froze from earlier in the week, shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and bacon. Super easy and super tasty.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

1 pre-made pizza crust
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 cup light or fat-free sour cream
1 package gluten-free ranch dressing mix
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
4 pieces cooked and crumbled center cut bacon

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing until smooth and combined. Spread the ranch over your pizza crust. Then top the ranch layer with the chicken and cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt. Remove from the oven and then top the rest of the pizza with the tomatoes and bacon. You can sprinkle a little chopped flat leaf parsley for extra color if you choose. Slice and serve.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Easy Taco Salad

I have to say, I am really glad we had this meal tonight. It has been one of those days where I barely made it to work in time. I had meetings all morning, some teaching to do, and students to test. Then, I barely made it home in time to meet with the lender who is refinancing our home. It has just been one of those days. I don't know about you, but I am ready for some kind of break. Fortunately, I had to take the day off for my pre-operation appointment. Tuesday is the big day. In some ways it has been good to be so busy at work because it allows for little time to think about the big day. Emotionally, however, everything is starting to wear on me. I just keep saying to myself, "This to shall pass. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. God would not give you anything you could not handle."

Business forces me to really prioritize my time and organize my life. Hence, a lot of the preparation I do for the upkeep of this little blog is over the weekend. I chopped the lettuce, veggies, and cooked the meat on Sunday. That way all I would have to do is make the dressing and re-heat the meat for this evening. If you do not have the advantage of prepping ahead of time, this meal can be prepared in 30-40 minutes. Either way, it is a quick, easy, and tasty weeknight meal.

Easy Taco Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

For the Cilantro Lime Dressing:

1 package gluten-free ranch dressing mix
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Zest of one lime

For the salad:

1 yellow or white onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies (such as Rotel), drained
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 package of your favorite taco seasoning (I Penzy's)
1 bag chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
Tortilla chips

For the dressing: Mix all ingredients together in a blender. Pour into a resealable container and set aside.

For the salad: Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally to crumble the beef until the beef is browned. Add the drained tomatoes and black beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture begins to heat through. Add the taco seasoning and stir until the meat mixture is evenly coated in the seasoning. Remove from heat and set aside. Serve the meat over the romaine lettuce. Top with tomatoes, tortilla chips, and cilantro lime dressing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I am so excited to share this soup recipe with you! I'm not sure when or who started the "meatless Mondays" movement, but it has been a fun way to add more vegetarian meals to our weekly menu. This recipe is not only vegetarian, but one that you could use as a starter for your Thanksgiving feast next week. Unlike my labor intensive Pumpkin Soup recipe I posted early in the year, I chose to take a few shortcuts by using canned pureed pumpkin. Which is also on sale at many groceries stores this week. I still have not one, but three pumpkins this year for decoration, but will most likely shy away from any major culinary projects involving my decor:)

Inspired by Gourmet magazine, I revamped an old recipe from there 2002 collection. I lightened the soup up by using a can of light unsweetened coconut milk and took out any added sugars. To make the recipe totally vegetarian if not vegan, I used extra virgin coconut oil in place of butter. The result, I creamy, silky comforting soup.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
inspired by Gourmet magazine

1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 cans pureed pumpkin
1 can light unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat a large soup pot over medium low heat. Melt the coconut oil. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook another 3-4 minutes or until the carrots begin to soften. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer on low to medium low heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the soup right away while it is hot. If you are using a blender or food process, let the soup cool for 15-20 minutes before blending or processing. Blend or process the soup until it is smooth. Reheat before serving.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Trimmings

Tonight's meal was almost like a Thanksgiving preview. We did not have turkey, but rotisserie chicken does the trick. Especially when served with sides of mashed potatoes, cranberry cornbread dressing, and green beans with caramelized shallots. Now what to do with the leftovers? I think I will save sides in the freezer until next week as my contribution to my Mom's dinner she plans to help with. The chicken I am saving for Friday night's dinner.

Consider this your double recipe bonus for the holidays and both recipes will meet the criteria for any gluten-free company you may be serving. In the stuffing, I've taken homemade crumbled corn bread and dressed it up with dried cranberries, sage, poultry seasoning, sauteed onions, celery, and carrot. And, who needs green bean casserole when you can have perfectly sauteed green beans with caramelized shallots? Besides making the cornbread for the stuffing and chopping a few vegetables, both side dishes are an elegant snap to put together.

Gluten Free Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing
Cornbread inspired by Gluten Free Mommy

For the cornbread:

1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup corn meal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup buttermilk

For the rest of the stuffing:

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1/4 cup carrots, finely diced
1 pan, of gluten-free cornbread (ingredients above), crumbled.
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
2 cups chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste

To bake the cornbread: Spray a 9' x 9' baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the brown rice flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until moistened. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting or serving.

To make the stuffing: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Cut the cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cornbread begins to brown along the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before crumbling. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large non-stick skillet. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat. In a large bowl, add the cornbread, vegetables, spices, and cranberries. Toss to combine. Pour the chicken broth over the dressing and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
inspired by Weight Watchers

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 12 oz. bag green beans

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Melt the butter. Add the shallot and cook stirring every so often until the shallot begins to brown and caramelize. Meanwhile, in a large microwave safe dish or in a steam safe bag, steam the green beans for 3-4 minutes. Add the green beans to the shallots. Raise the heat to medium. Sautee the beans for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.