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!