Sunday, March 31, 2013

Celebrate Spring Menu Post

Happy spring celebrations! Whichever holiday you celebrate it is a time for thanks and hope for warmer weather and rebirth. I also would like to celebrate making the 20,000 page view mark. Thanks to everyone who stops by my blog. Whether you comment, re-pin, or just stop by, I thank you dear readers! This blog brings me so much happiness and a hobby for which I am blessed and thankful. My heart is so full!

One of the joys of spring, you never know what kind of weather you are going to get. Today in Kansas City, it is sunny and gorgeous. Tomorrow not so much. Keeping my challenge, ease of putting everything together so my blood pressure stays in check, and the weather, I've come up with this lovely little post. Casserole season is just about over, but for tomorrow's meal I've created a Mediterranean twist on meatloaf served with a side of lightened up cauliflower mashers and green beans. I guess you could call it a fancy blue plate special. The spring beauty of it all? It is easy to put together and is chuck full of hidden vegetables that you don't need to let your family know about. Next on the agenda, as the temperature rises I hope to have an easy sandwich wrap night spoofed up with a little French brie. Then to wrap up the work week in hopes that we can get grilling we are planning to grill or smoke some turkey breast served with a side of grilled potato veggie packets. I know many of you will probably not be able to make it to the grocery store today due to many stores being closed in honor of Easter, but keep this post in your back pocket. I will post how I prepped for everything ahead of time to get a head start on my work week. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 3/31          Citrus Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Apples, Sweet Potato, & Fennel

Monday 4/1           Mediterranean Meatloaf with Green Beans & Lightened Up Cauliflower Smashers

Tuesday 4/2           Leftovers

Wednesday 4/3      Turkey Brie Wraps with Broccoli & Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday 4/4          Leftovers

Friday 4/5 or          Smoked or Grilled Turkey Breast with Potato Pepper Packets
Saturday 4/6

Here is what you will need:

2-4 boneless pork chops
1 bone in turkey breast
1 lb. ground chicken
1 package deli turkey meat
1 granny smith apple
1 orange
3 yellow onions (one for the brine, 2 for other recipes)
1 bulb garlic
2 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 red pepper
1 bulb fennel
3 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 box mushrooms
1 bag gluten-free wraps such as Sandwich Petals or 1 bag whole wheat tortillas
1 jar raspberry preserves
1 bottle Dijon mustard (if you do not have any)
1 container grated Parmesan cheese (if you do not have any)
1 quart or 1/2 quart low fat or skim milk
1 bag frozen cauliflower florets
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 bag frozen shelled edamame

Pantry items you will need:

Non-stick cooking spray
Foil or parchment paper
Whole pepper corns
Dried bay leaves
Dried thyme
Dried sage

Enjoy the spring weather! Thanks again for all of your support and viewership!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Meal #3 Dinner- Spinach Parmesan Ricotta Wraps

It has been quite some time since I've posted a menu complete with a shopping list. Really it is not due to laziness. To be honest, I often plan on what we have in our pantry or deep freeze. It is also challenging when I am experimenting with new recipes. I don't want to leave something out in case you depend on me. I don't want to let you down. For realzies. This week is a little different, however, as a grocery run was in need if you were to take a peak inside our fridge. Not much. Don't worry, a menu post is planned for tomorrow! I know it will be Easter Sunday, but maybe you can store this one away for the following week or some other time. At least everything will be shared! All recipes are part of my healthy eats for the Drop 10 Challenge. Which is going fantastically by the way! I am down 3 pounds. Woot Woot!

Anyhow, enough about excuses and reasoning. On any given weekend, you know I am prepping. I cannot reiterate enough how much this helps me. This recipe is one that not only received several comments in the teachers' lounge over my leftovers, but is also one that can be put together very quickly and stored away until you are ready to bake and serve. Yes, prep, store, bake, and serve. That is typically my motto throughout the school year until the leisure months of summer. Oh, and did I mention that it is super healthy, but uber husband and kid friendly?

Here lies an Italian twist on enchiladas. I've taken gluten-free wraps and stuffed them with a Parmesan, ricotta cheese, and spinach mixture. Then topped them with marinara sauce and yes more cheese. If you are not gluten-free no problem! Just sub whole wheat tortillas. Either way you will be happy.

Spinach Parmesan Ricotta Wraps

4 gluten-free wraps such as Sandwich Petals or whole wheat tortillas
1 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and drained of any excess liquid
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup jarred spaghetti sauce

Spray a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. I used a 9 x 9 inch dish with a resealable lid so I could prepare and store my wraps until I was ready to bake and serve. Set aside. If you are serving them the same time you are making the wraps, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and spices until combined. Take one of the wraps or tortillas and place 1/4 of the mixture onto the wrap or tortilla, roll, and place seam side down into your baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 3 wraps or tortillas. Top with wraps with the spaghetti sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Whenever you are ready to bake them, bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meal #2- Lunch

Oh lunch. I really am quite fond of lunch; however, if you are a teacher it is either more like a snack or shoveling food down your throat. If you even get it. Let me explain. Technically, we are scheduled for 35 minutes. In reality, it takes 5-6 to get the kiddos down the hall and in line and another 5-6 to pick them up from their lunch recess in that 35 minute time span. So, by the time you get to even go to the bathroom, there is always a line, it is really only 15 minutes. Maybe 20 on a good day. Can I get a shout out from all the teachers out there? Holla!

It would be lovely to be a "real" adult and have an entire lunch hour from August through May. Alas, I have to wait until June to enjoy this. On top of many other issues I could go on and on and on about in regards to why teachers have their summers off (if they choose not to teach summer school), I will go ahead and stop. Can you tell it might have been a "craptastic" day? And, I just realized both of my craptastic rants involve soup recipes. Ha! Enough about all that. Right now. It is not productive. What is productive is how I strategically plan for my lunch. Check out more of these Mason jars full of food...

That Tomato-Pumpkin Soup I made last week made much, much more than I expected. This is never a bad thing. This recipe has gained even more swag by the mass amount of leftovers it created and the added Drop 10 boost- lentils! An added 1 cup cooked lentils were added to the remaining 4 1 1/2 cup servings I was able to squeeze out of this puppy. Yes lentils are my secret super food of the day. Not only are they packed with protein, this little legume also contains resistant starch. Research suggests that resistant starches take longer to break down, thus upping your metabolism when digesting and keeping you fuller longer.

When strategically planning for lunch, I love to choose foods that are lower in calories but also contain a lot of protein and fiber to keep me full throughout the rest of the day. Not too mention foods that I can make in bigger quantities so I can portion, pack them ahead of time, and have them ready to go all week. With the soup I packaged a gluten-free wrap made out of Sandwich petals, nitrate-free smoked deli turkey, veggies, and a simple tomato cream cheese spread I made (included below). Round the meal out with a bag of raw veg and you have the perfect lunch you can chow down in a hurry. Minus the 1 minute it takes to reheat the soup;)

Tomato Cream Cheese Spread

1 8 oz. package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened (be sure to check for listed modified starches)
1 cup roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a medium sized bowl, beat together all ingredients with an electric mixer until combine. Can be used as a dip, spread for sandwiches and bagels, etc. Will store in a covered container in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Drop 10 Challenge- Spinach Quinoa Breakfast Bake To Go!

Happy Monday! It is not very often that I say that. Monday is not usually my favorite day of the week, but this one was not so bad. I think being uber prepared really helped. Knowing that I have things ready to go eases some of the anxiety I get Sunday night and Monday morning. Does anyone else experience this?

What really helps is having a plan. While planning and preparing are the most difficult, the investment saves more time in the end because everything is ready to go. Drop 10 has provided me with some of the blue prints for success, but it is up to me to make it all gluten-free for my health and follow through if I want to reap the benefits of this challenge in the end. This week, I thought it would be helpful to give you all an idea of how I put everything together.

Meal #1- Breakfast, the most important meal of the day!

Pictured above is my spin on Self's Fried Egg Over Quinoa. The original recipe was for one meal and in my opinion needed a little flavor boost. I like to cook in bulk so I have everything prepared to grab-and-go throughout the week. I use Mason jars not only as a cooking vessel and portable container, but also for added portion control. Serve with a grapefruit and you've got a complete powerhouse of a meal. Here is how I made mine:

Spinach-Quinoa Breakfast Bake
Makes 5 servings

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid
1 tablespoon dried minced onion, reconstituted in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
5 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray 5 2 cup Mason jars with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Mix the quinoa, spinach, onion, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a large bowl until combine. Fill each jar with a heaping 1/2 cup measurement. Top the quinoa mixture with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese and an egg. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the eggs are done to your desire. Remove from the oven. Cool the jars completely before covering with a lid and storing. When you are ready to eat, remove the lid from the jar. Microwave for 1 minute and enjoy!

* Noteworthy information: According to My Fitness Pal, each serving roughly has 187 calories, 7.5 grams of fat, 17.1 carbs (2.9 fiber, .2 sugars), and 12.3 grams of protein.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Diva Dash, Drop 10, & Cauliflower Pizza Sticks

I am relishing the final hours of spring break. What a spring break it has been! Yesterday, I woke up bright and early to run in the Diva Dash. I am happy to say that I ran the whole thing and felt really great the whole time. Jenny and I pace well together:) Pictured above from the left back row: Jenny Maleta, Amber Nuckles, Amanda Vaughan, and myself. In the front row: Andi Stipe, and our fearless leader Kristie Darby. Sarah Mendoza was present, but still finishing at the time. Thanks to Andi for getting us all together and thanks to Amber for the sweet Turner Elementary Divas t-shirts! It was a great time!

In other news, Self magazine has the Drop 10 Challenge out again this year. I love this challenge every year as it promotes healthy eating, strength training, and exercise. You can sign up and get the entire plan for FREE if you click on either of the Drop 10 Challenge links. I am looking forward to trying the strength routine from the Tone it Up girls tomorrow. Since I was feeling so incredibly pumped up yesterday after the dash, I got all of my meals prepped for the week. Instead of doing a complete menu post this week, I hope to post my eats throughout the week to give you all some ideas on how I planned and prepared everything. It really keeps me eating healthy and insures success while I am on the challenge.

Speaking of healthy eats, I have the final "pinspiring" recipe to share with you. I've been playing around with the recipe and finally came up with a keeper. Originally, I was very skeptical about the cauliflower pizza crust thing. It is actually not that bad. You could consider these pizza sticks a snack, appetizer, or use the entire recipe for a pizza crust. If you are curious, I would suggest making this recipe.

Cauliflower Pizza Sticks
inspired by Brevard's Premiere Personal Training Bootcamp

1 crown cauliflower, riced (either grate by hand or grate in the food processor)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 egg and 2 egg whites, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Press into the casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tomato-Pumpkin Soup

It is snowing. Again. Fortunately, it is not too much. It is just pretty hard to believe that last year at this time I was cleaning the house with the windows open. This year, I have on thermal wear and sweats all while trying not to mess with the thermostat. The thermostat is the Bear's thing. Not mine. Nope. Even though he says it is okay if I turn up the heat, I'd rather play it safe and not even look at it. 

While it is unseasonably cold, I still get excited about soup. Nothing warms body and soul like a comfy bowl of soup. Recently, I've been experimenting with pureeing different vegetables together. For example cauliflower and potatoes. Today it is tomatoes and pumpkin. Besides the title of this post, would you have ever guessed there's pumpkin in that bowl? The pumpkin really compliments the tomato in this recipe. It adds a creaminess without any dairy that mellows the acidity of the tomato. And, dare I mention the extra vitamin boost that your kids and husband would never notice? Why make the stuff in the can when you can have your own, healthier version ready in under half an hour? Yes friends, tomato soup just got amped!

Tomato-Pumpkin Soup

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can pureed pumpkin
1 bay leaf
4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large soup pot on medium-low heat. Swirl the olive oil in the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent in color. Add the celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, another 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. If you find that they are sticking to the pan, add a few tablespoons of the chicken stock and stir to loosen the vegetables from the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf with a spoon. If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the soup directly in the pot. If you are using a blender or food processor, let the soup cool for 15-20 minutes before blending or processing so you do not have a soup explosion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry

I can hardly believe spring break is half over. So far, I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning, going to and from various check up appointments, and seriously working out. Yup exercise. It may be cold outside, but I can no longer handle being pinned up. Monday I had the opportunity to join my good friend and colleague, Jenny Maleta, for a free boxing training session. It was the most hardcore workout I've ever done and I got to wear boxing gloves. We did a lot of high intensity intervals with a healthy mix of punching various bags around the gym. The best move was jumping from a squat onto two tractor tires stacked on top of each other. I have muscles in my glutes that I never even knew existed! Tuesday morning, I was still feeling pretty tough and ran early in the morning. I am pretty sore and taking a day off to clean my house, but plan to be up and running again tomorrow. I am feeling more and more confident about the run this weekend. I'm not looking to win. I just want to feel good and finish strong!

Keeping these things in mind, my Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry is a great meal to replenish after training. It is a healthy mix of vegetables, super lean protein, and whole grains. If you are not a fan of shrimp or are allergic like my sister, you can easily substitute chicken. Also, just an FYI if you are on a gluten-free diet, Target's Market Pantry low sodium soy sauce is no longer gluten free:( I ran out about two weeks ago and was double checking labels while shopping over the weekend. They must have changed their ingredients from the last time I purchased their soy sauce. Fortunately, my Target did carry another gluten-free brand, San-J. It cost me a pretty penny, but tastes outstanding.

You may be feeling to sore to cook but, I don't want to hear any excuses as everything can be put together with minimal effort in less than 30 minutes. You will feel so much better after this great meal and a little rest. It is totally worth it!

Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (I used San-J in this recipe)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 16 oz. stir fry blend frozen vegetables
1 12 oz. bag frozen broccoli florets
1/2 lb. frozen precooked, peeled, deveined, tail off shrimp, thawed

In a small dish, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, ketchup, sesame oil, and corn starch until combined. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl the olive oil and add the stir fry veggies and broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are thawed and beginning to brown in some places. Add the shrimp and soy mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, for another 3-4 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken and the shrimp are heated through. Serve over hot brown rice or rice noodles for a complete meal.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sweet & Savory Corned Beef Cabbage Rolls

I love St. Patrick's Day! I really did not understand the point of it until college. It is a great excuse to wear my favorite color, drink many green beverages, and watch a good ol' fashioned parade. It seems like there are never enough parades anymore. The City of Shawnee, Kansas will find about any excuse to have a parade once the weather is warm enough. Justin Timberlake brought sexy back. Shawnee is keeping parades alive and well.

While we did not go to the parade due to the weather, we did sport our green clothing and I made corned beef for the first time ever. Corned beef and cabbage is not my most favored dish, but I do love cabbage rolls. Pretty much anything instantly becomes more palatable when it involves stuffing green leafy veggies with meat or cheese. So I took two traditional meals and made them into one lucky dish. Unfortunately, the picture does not do this meal any justice. I actually Googled cabbage roll images to see how mine compared. Pretty much the same as the rest of the world. I guess you can't church up a picture of a cabbage roll.

Corned beef is stuffed and rolled in cabbage leaves topped with a sweet and savory sauce. Serve with a side of cauliflower mashers or mashed potatoes and you will be feeling very lucky!

Sweet and Savory Corned Beef Cabbage Rolls

1 whole cabbage, cored
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 cup carrot, finely diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
3 cups shredded corned beef
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large soup pot with water. Bring to a boil and add the whole cabbage. Boil for 10 minutes or until the leaves begin to soften. Remove the cabbage. Let the cabbage drain and cool for another 10 minutes. Discard the water.

While the cabbage cools, heat a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat. Add the shredded corned beef. Stir to combine. Set aside. In a small dish, whisk together the tomato sauce, orange marmalade, and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the first 8-10 outer leaves of the cabbage. You can save the remaining cabbage for another use or discard. Fill the first leaf with 1/4 cup of the corned beef mixture. Fold in the sides of the leaf and roll like a burrito. Place seam side down in your slow cooker. repeat with the remaining leaves or until you use all of the meat mixture. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring Break Menu Post

Long time no see eh? After very little sleep last weekend from my solo trip to Iowa, cramming meetings for the 6 remaining kiddos I had to write plans for on my current caseload at work, more meetings, meetings, meetings, and very little sleep throughout the week because of a snoring husband, I sort of checked out on the blog. Sorry guys! But alas, I am now on spring beak!!!! It is a well needed break after feeling like I was hanging by my fingernails to keep things rolling for the last two weeks. I just had to "keep calm and carry on" as the saying goes. There will be plenty of rest, relaxation, and running. Next Saturday is the Diva Dash! First 5k of the year! I don't know if I will be running in my tiara as it looks like the weather will be rather chilly, but I am super pumped as I've wanted to do this run for a couple of years now. It should be a pretty good time no matter what the weather brings.

This week is sort of an eclectic blend of recipe ideas I came up with. I am not going to include the grocery list until later because I am not really sure how everything will turn out. When I do, I will be sure to include an update. I have the time for some experimentation this week and I plan to take full advantage of doing what I love in the kitchen. Some things I hope to experiment with include a fun spin on corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day, a sesame shrimp stir fry, a healthfully amplified tomato soup, and that fun little Pinterest cauliflower pizza stick recipe I failed to post from two weeks ago. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 3/17          Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls with Mashed Potatoes

Monday 3/18         Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry with Rice Noodles

Tuesday 3/19         Leftovers

Wednesday 3/20    Tomato-Pumpkin Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Thursday 3/21        Leftovers

Friday 3/22            Cauliflower Pizza Sticks with Anti Pasta Salad

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I look forward to sharing throughout the week!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pinspring Recipe #3- Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

I think this was by far the easiest Pinterest recipe I've made and probably one I that will be worthy of a repeat. Incredibly easy to put together, a crowd pleaser, and it didn't make my entire house smell like garlic for two days. You now how sometimes Crockpot recipes taste great, but don't make your house smell that great? The garlic and onions smell that can linger around the house eve though the food is gone kind of smell.This recipe is not one of them! I tweaked the recipe by adding in fresh ginger. Totally worth it. Not only did the fresh ginger add to the flavor factor, I hypothesize that it also made my house smell positively aromatic. All positive things my friends.

To vamp the flavor factor even more, I added 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Besides, the name of the recipe is Sesame Chicken right? I was surprised this was not in the original recipe I pinned. Lucky for me I added it. I also made a corn starch slurry at the end of the cooking time. Corn starch slurries are a great, easy, cheap, gluten-free way to thicken any sauce or gravy in substitution for flour. If you cannot tolerate corn, substitute another thickener or serve as is. Regardless, if you are a busy person, but love good home cooked food, this recipe is for you!

Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

1-2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (I use Market Pantry, surprisingly no gluten:))
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon corn starch
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray. Add the chicken. In a small dish, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, ketchup, and sesame oil. Pour over the chicken. Cover your slow cooker and set on low. Cook for 7-8 hours. Then, ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into a small dish. Whisk in the corn starch until smooth to make your corn starch "slurry." This will help thicken the sauce. Pour the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir until the sauce thickens. Turn off your slow cooker and serve the chicken over hot rice topped with sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings depending on the weight of your chicken. I served this with a side of steamed broccoli.

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Pinspiring" Recipe #2- Vegan Taco Salad

When I originally saw this recipe, I automatically thought it could be adapted to be like the mouthwatering veggie burrito bowl at Chipotle. Oh, that heaping mountain of guacamole will make me sacrifice meat on any given visit. It is so worth it! But, alas my adaptation does not contain those awesome fajita veggies which truly qualify it as a true "veggie" burrito bowl. So I can't really call it a Shortcut Veggie Burrito Bowl as previously documented in this week's menu post. I guess it really is more of a salad with rice added to it. But, it has everything else I love about my beloved veggie burrito bowl and it's served in a bowl. I was too consumed with tricking my husband into eating vegan cuisine. Guess what? It worked! Justin knew the dish was vegetarian, but had no idea the "sour cream" was not truly sour cream. The taco meat? Walnuts and lentils. The Bear was impressed. That is sometimes hard to do on a "meatless Monday."

I have to give mad props to Angela from Oh She Glows. Angela, hands down, is one of my favorite bloggers. A pioneer in vegan cuisine, she could make even the most carnivorous consumer eat vegan and possibly not even know it. There is nothing that I don't admire about her blog. Her writing, recipes, and photography are some of the reason I wanted to share my gluten-free journey with you. So, I absolutely had to add this to the cut for the week of pinspiration.

This recipe can be put together in a flash because there is no cooking involved. If you have prepared lentils and rice on hand, everything can be put together in under 30 minutes. Angela's recipe originally calls for walnuts in the taco meat, but I added lentils to bulk it up and get more mileage out of the walnuts. Those suckers are not cheap! I also added some additional spices to add more smoky flavors. For the cream sauce, I used blanched slivered almonds in place of the macadamia nuts because they were on sale at my grocery store. The trick to get your nuts more like the consistency of meat and to soften the almonds for the cream sauce is to soak them for 8 hours or overnight. Here is my version...

Vegan Taco Salad
adpated from Angela Lidon's Layered Raw Taco Salad

For the taco meat:

1 cup English walnuts, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
2 cups cooked lentils
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

For the nut cream sauce:

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
1/4 cup water, plus more if needed
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad:

1 bag cut and cleaned romaine lettuce
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice

Additional toppings:

Prepared guacamole such as Wholly Guacamole

To prepare the taco meat: Drain the soaked walnuts. Place all ingredients in you food processor. Pulse until combined and consistency of ground beef. Set aside.

To prepare the nut cream: Drain the soaked almonds. Place all ingredients in your food processor. Process until smooth, stopping and scraping the sides down with a spatula to make sure everything combines. Add more water if needed to resemble the consistency of sour cream.

To assemble the salad: Divide the lettuce up evenly among four bowls. Add 1/2 cup brown rice, cilantro, and a sprinkle of lime juice. Top the rice with taco meat, nut cream, and any additional toppings such as guacamole and salsa.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fire Roasted Tomato, Turkey, & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I love a good stuffed pepper. My Slow Cooker Lentil Stuffed Peppers I made back in the blazing hot days last July were really good. Then, one night while I was pinning my time away on Pinterest, I stumbled upon this recipe for Enchilada Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers on the Tone it Up community. I adore Katrina and Karena! Not only do they have super healthy recipes, their workouts are pretty sweet too. Not to mention their high energy and California style. Seriously! These girls will make you want to get up and work it out in the morning. Needless to say, when I was narrowing down my choices for the "Pinspring Menu Post," these peppers made the cut. Not only are they gluten free, they are packed with a ton of metabolism boosting protein and fiber. Colorful, hearty, and healthy. Things might be getting too spicy for the pepper;)

Fire Roasted Tomato, Turkey, & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
by Lauren Sheppard

2 large bell peppers, seeded and cut in half
1/2 lb. lean ground turkey or chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 chipotle pepper, diced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, salsa style
1/2 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey and onions. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the turkey until the turkey is browned. Add the quinoa, adobo sauce, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and half of the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the quinoa is heated through. Remove from heat. Divide the mixture evenly, spoon into each pepper, and place in the casserole dish. Top with the remaining tomatoes and cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pinspiring Menu Post

I am a huge fan of Pinterest. What I discovered over some reflection time this past week is that I pin a lit of things, but rarely try them. That very thought gave me the inspiration for the menu this week. It took a little bit of time to sift through the shear amount of recipe pins. Some things you pin no longer link to the original website. Some things you pin and then when you look back are really not that appealing.

What qualified as "pinspiring" to me for this menu fell under some basic categories I use for putting any menu or recipe together. First and foremost I ask myself, "Is it really gluten-free?" Many recipes claim to be gluten free, but use some ingredients that are still questionable. If it is questionable or looks way too good to pass up, I ask myself, "Can I make it gluten-free?" A lot of recipes on A Nickel's Worth of News were things I used to make before I cut gluten out of my diet. I just modify and substitute gluten-free items. Finally I ask myself, "Can I really make this at home?" Let's face it, we're busy people and really I'm not that talented in the kitchen. I already dedicate enough time to putting my meals together over the weekend. There is no need to complicate things. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 3/3          Fire Roasted Tomato, Turkey, & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Black Beans

Monday 3/4         Shortcut Veggie Burrito Bowls with Baked Tortilla Chips

Tuesday 3/5         Leftovers

Wednesday 3/6    Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Brown Rice

Thursday 3/7        Leftovers

Friday 3/8 or        Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza Sticks with Anti Pasta Salad
Saturday 3/9

Here is what you will need:

1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 package turkey pepperoni
1 bag romaine lettuce
1 bunch cilantro
2 bell peppers (color does not matter, whatever is on special)
1 crown cauliflower
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lemon
1 lime
1 bulb garlic (if you do not have any from any previous posts)
1 small knob ginger
1 bag or box brown rice
1 bag or box quinoa
1 bag corn tortillas or 1 bag baked tortilla chips (I like to make my own, but sometimes don't have time)
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (salsa style)
1 can black beans
1 bag lentils
1 can artichoke hearts (packed in water)
1 bag walnuts (I like English walnuts)
1 jar macadamia nuts
1 container liquid egg whites (or you can use regular egg whites)
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella
1 bag shredded 25 cheddar

Pantry items you will need:

Olive oil
Sesame oil
Apple cider vinegar
White wine vinegar
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Dried Italian herbs
Smoked paprika
Sesame seeds
Brown sugar
Soy sauce

You can check out my "Recipes to try in the Very Near Future" board. I've provided the link to my Pinterest page. I will also link the original recipe to the recipes I create this week. I'm pretty excited to try these recipes. It should be a pretty great week of good eats!