Monday, April 29, 2013

Crazy Corn Dip

All I can really say to sensor myself right now to mask all the swear words that could fly out of my mouth is, "Good gravy!" Life is so incredibly awesome. Awesome in incredibly good ways. Awesome in incredibly messed up ways. Let's just say I am glad I am still on my blood pressure medication. I've also aged and matured some like a fine wine and can handle such awesomeness. Good or bad. To sum up some of the crazy after being sick last week, I have a really great story. What would seem to be a typical relaxing Friday night, turned for a trip to the emergency room after the Bear sliced his finger on my recently sharpened chef's knife. Why he used the big ass chef's knife instead of the awesome Pampered Chef pizza cutter I bought specifically with him in mind, I will never know. It was pretty brutal and I am not being dramatic. I had a great deal of blood to clean up when we got home. My female instinct and all first aid skills instantly kicked in as I wrapped that puppy up with paper towels, applied pressure, and added a final wrapping of ice pack ice cubes. The Bear wanted to change his Iowa State jersey shorts for pants after said wrapping. I said if you can get them on by yourself while I check the sink for any lost body parts and put on sandals then fine. He did not argue. Three hours, five stitches, and a tetanus shot later we made it home. Then we had to wake up bright and early for the wedding I have been waiting for in Omaha. The wedding was fantastic!! The weather was perfect. The pastor was great. Everyone looked wonderful and I got to spend some well needed time with my sorority sisters. Oh, the yin and yang of life. It is one crazy ride and I absolutely love every second:)

So, I was planning on having a menu post complete with all the trimmings. Needless to say, after the grocery shopping and prep on Sunday I completely crashed. Thus, I bring to you my final recipe from last week that I totally love. Later this week I will share the recipes I've put together for the menu. All recipes are very tasty and can be put together in a pinch. Crazy Corn Dip was from last week, but I felt it was worthy of sharing because of the name (hello crazy life) and its true awesomeness.  

Long ago before I really understood what I was doing in the food blog world, I brought you Crazy Corn Nachos. I claimed they were the best nachos ever. They were pretty good. I had tried to lighten the original recipe up a bit, but knew it could still get healthier. Since I was craving nachos as of late, I decided to challenge myself and see if I could make them a) Drop 10 friendly and b) good enough for the Bear to devour. I did succeed.

Perfect for a Friday night treat with a side of skinny margaritas or as a fun dip for an office potluck, this corn dip is given a secret little weapon with the addition of non-fat Greek yogurt. I think this will be making an appearance very soon at our next teacher's lounge potluck!

Crazy Corn Dip
inspired by Crazy Corn Nachos

4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Tortilla chips

Place all ingredients in a microwave safe dish. Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and heat again for another additional 2 minutes or until the veggies have softened and the cheese is melted. Stir until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

White Bean Chili

I know it is crazy. Crazy that I am posting a chili recipe and it is the end of April. The temperatures until today though, have not felt much like April. For quite some time now, I've been wondering if spring is ever going to truly arrive. Even my health took a turn for the worst. I've been home the last two and half days with sinus troubles and bronchitis. The sinus infection doesn't surprise me. The bronchitis does. I've not really had much of a cough at all, but what feels like a fat cat sitting on my chest. Chili has not been such a bad thing this week.

The forecast is looking up and I am recovering. Maybe spring has arrived and this is the last of the soup recipes. Actually it's not, I have a little something up my sleeve for next week.

This chili is anything but your typical chili recipe. White beans replace the traditional kidney beans with ground turkey substituting for beef. The flavorful twist that has my mouth watering, salsa verde. If you are looking for a great meal to pack for lunch, this White Bean Chili is it!

White Bean Chili
inspired by Weight Watchers

1 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
32 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth
1 7 oz. can salsa verde
1 cup frozen corn
1 15 oz. can great norther beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the turkey and onions. Cook for 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally to crumble the meat. Add the turkey mixture and remaining ingredients to the cilantro to a slow cooker. Cover and cook over low heat for 4-6 hours. Add the cilantro when ready to serve.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Meatless Monday Sloppy Lenny's

Yup. It's meatless Monday. You know what that means. If not, here is the typical convo between me and the Bear.  "So uh, what are we having tonight?" asks the Bear. "Well, it's a spin off a 'sloppy Joe'," I reply. "Well, uh, I see it's Monday. So, is there any meat?" the Bear inquires. "You'll just have to see for yourself. But, remember it is meatless Monday," I say, yes I say, I say. "I think that is a round about way of answering your questions, Bear."

We communicate. We really do. I just have to be a little more nonchalant about my meatless Monday plans. These were really good. Really, really good. Maybe even kid friendly. Perfectly cooked lentils and walnuts, which have been soaked overnight, provide a "meaty" base for a not as sloppy Joe. But, it's not Joe who we are talking about. They are lentils, hence the "Lenny's." Get it?

Sloppy Lenny's

1 yellow or white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, soaked in water overnight
1 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (check to make sure it is gluten-free)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 gluten-free buns

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onion and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent in color. Add the walnuts and lentils. Stir to combine. Cook another 5 minutes or until heated through. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir and remove from heat. Cool for 5 minutes. Add to a food processor or blender. Briefly process or blend until the consistency of ground meat. Serve 1/2 cup of the mixture over buns.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quinoa-Chickpea Salad

I don't know if my cold is causing me to be uber forgetful or if it is being out of the food photography routine; but, this picture almost didn't happen. I fixed my salad, sat down, started eating, and then mid-bite realized that I hadn't taken the picture. I also forgot to add the Italian flat leaf parsley. Monday might be a little rough. Ha!

Had I remembered I was going to take a picture, it would be a lot prettier. I think it still looks pretty good though don't you think? This meal was the perfect light dinner to end a beautiful spring weekend. Quinoa gives the salad a unique flavor and texture. The chickpeas, chicken, and zucchini give the salad enough bulk leaving you satisfied. It is a complete meal in a bowl.

Quinoa-Chickpea Salad
inspired by Weight Watchers

1 cup cooked quinoa
2 4 oz. grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
1 medium sized zucchini, chopped
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss the quinoa, chicken, zucchini, chickpeas, and cranberries until combined. Set aside. In a small dish, whisk the olive oil, mustard, herbs, vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth and combine. Drizzle over the salad. Toss until evenly coated and serve.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hello Saturday Menu Post

I feel somewhat guilty for not having a post in two and half weeks. So sorry dear readers! Looking back since the beginning of this sweet blog, April has always been a hit and miss kind of month. "What has been keeping you so busy?" one reader and friend asked. Life is my reply. When you teach special education, April is a month packed with testing kiddos, meetings, and wrapping things up for the year. I'm not complaining. I love what I do. It's just the way it is. But, alas my immune system is starting to take a bit of a toll with seasonal allergies and sinus issues reminding me to slow down. So, this weekend I plan to do what I love when I slow down- sleep in, relax, blog, and squeeze in a little shopping therapy:)

I've been keeping things pretty simple around the kitchen. With my efforts to maintain the Drop 10 challenge, I'm down eight pounds!! I am very pleased and can envision the light at the end of the tunnel. I have put forth a little more effort than usual, but have to say that it is the easiest plan ever and I'm not starving. I actually eat more. Unlike last year, I am not burnt out on quinoa, chicken, and greens. I have learned from my past mistakes. Yes, there has been a lot of quinoa. What I've learned is it is all in how you vary the flavors and change things up. With that being said, here is a peak at this week's menu:

Sunday 4/21          Quinoa-Chickpea Salad with Grilled Chicken

Monday 4/22         Sloppy Lou's with Veggies & Chips

Tuesday 4/23         Leftovers

Wednesday 4/24    White Bean Chili with Chips & Queso

Thursday 4/25        Leftovers

Friday 4/26            Out

Here is what you will need to make these tasty dishes:

1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 zucchini
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 bulb garlic
3 small yellow or white onions
1 bunch green onions
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 lime
1 bag baby carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bag dried lentils
1 can artichoke hears (packed in water)
1 can great northern beans
1 can chickpeas
1 can salsa verde
1 can tomato paste
1 box reduced sodium chicken broth
1 bag dried cranberries
1 bag English walnuts
1 bag gluten free buns or regular whole wheat buns
1 bag sweet potato chips
1 bag tortilla chips
1 bag frozen corn
1 container Greek yogurt
1 8 oz. box 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar
1 small block feta cheese

Pantry items you will need:
Dijon mustard
white wine or champagne vinegar
apple cider vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
dried Italian herbs
chili powder
ground cumin
dried oregano
Worcestershire sauce
brown sugar

Can you believe it's been chilly enough in April this year to even be thinking about making a pot of chili? If soup season is not over, I'll keep making it! Soup is so easy to make ahead and reheat throughout the week. I hope you have a super Saturday! On a side note, I commend the Boston PD. I was on the edge of my seat last night watching all of the action. Rightly so, they did not mess around! I think the entire country feels a lot safer today. Many thanks to all police, fire, and emergency crews that help keep our cities safe!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Vegified Meatloaf

This is not another boring meatloaf recipe. I did not get to eat a lot of meatloaf as a kid. Nope. I don't know if my mom and dad ate too much and banned it from the house or if my mother felt it wasn't healthy enough. I'm not sure. I didn't even know that I liked it that much until I made some for myself. The first batch I ever made when I first started cooking, turned out dry yet oddly greasy. I thought, "Well that's why my mom never made it." The Bear encouraged me to try again. Being I love my husband so much, I decided to make some more. The next batch turned out okay. It was better. I used turkey instead of beef. It was okay, but lacking that certain something until I dowsed it with a ton of ketchup. These days I think I've made something pretty special.

Yup, still quite a bit of ketchup. It was not because it needed it. I just thought it looked pretty and I like ketchup. On the original menu post, I called this Mediterranean Meatloaf. After tasting it, I didn't think it tasted very Mediterranean. It tasted like meatloaf should. Meaty and delicious. For this batch, I used ground chicken. It was cheaper than beef at the grocery store this week. And if you've hung around my blog before, you know I've managed to sneak in some veggies. The veg keeps the meat nice and moist. The chicken is nice and lean so you aren't left with nasty grease all over your pan or plate. To keep with the Drop 10 Challenge, I've added edamame and mushrooms. Two super foods that add metabolism boosting powers to your mother's traditional meatloaf. Meatloaf just got vegified friends!

Vegified Meatloaf

1 cup roughly chopped zucchini
1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup liquid egg whites
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan or 9 x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Place the zucchini, mushrooms, and edamame in a food processor. Process until the mixture becomes the consistency of the ground chicken. In a large mixing bowl, add the veggie mixture, cheese, chicken, egg whites, ketchup, onion, cornmeal, and salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combine. Press the mixture into your loaf pan or baking dish. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and serve.

* Noteworthy tips: In the picture above, I did not use mashed potatoes. Gasp! These are cauliflower mashers. Another wonderful veggie boost! I simply steamed 1 bag frozen cauliflower florets in the microwave for 4 minutes on high uncovered in a glass dish with 1/2 cup skim milk, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 2 tablespoons butter. Then I placed everything in the food processor, added some salt and pepper, and processed until everything was smooth and creamy. They are so good!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Citrus Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Veg

How was your Easter? We were pretty chill around the Nickel household. Being that we did not travel, the Bear and I woke up a little earlier than usual for a weekend and took a nice long walk together. We hadn't done that in a long time. Good exercise and a great time for us to catch up with each other. We realized we need to probably make it more of a weekend habit like we used to do in the past. Next, we lounged, enjoyed the lovely spring weather, and this little gem for dinner...

Super easy, super tasty. I promise you can't screw it up. Unless you burn it. I can't help you there. Brining lighter meats brings out an intense flavor that differs from marinades. Brines also keep your meat super juicy. I've been on a bit of a brining kick since we brined Sven for Thanksgiving. Try it. I think you will enjoy it!

Citrus Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Veg

For the brine & pork:
2 cups boiling water
2 cups ice water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 onion, quartered
1 4 x 4-inch piece cheese cloth and butchers twine
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
The rind of one orange
2-4 boneless pork chops
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the veg:
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small sweet potato, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 granny smith apple, chopped
Juice from 1/2 of the orange from the brine recipe
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the brine: Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Remove from heat. Pour the water into a large resealable container. Add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the onion. Fill the cheese cloth with the bay leaf, peppercorns, sage, thyme, and orange rind. Tie the cheese cloth with the butchers twine to make a satchel. Submerge in the salt and sugar solution. Add the ice water. Add the pork chops. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove the pork chops from the brine. Dry with a paper towel. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Sprinkle the pork chops with the garlic powder and paprika. Grill on each side for 6-8 minutes on each side or until the pork reaches 145 degrees when measured with a meat thermometer.

To prepare the veg: Preheat you oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Add the veg. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.