Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recap & Dip #1 Smoky Black Bean Dip

Hola A Nickel's Worth of News readers! How is your weekend going? Ours is going splendidly well. We had dinner with friends last night and then made it out to the driving range this morning to warm up our golf game. I must thank you all for giving me some time off last week while we were away on a mini-vacay and a visit to our new specialist. I'm grateful the Bear and I got to spend some relaxing time together before our big appointment. More on the appointment at another time. Still trying to process all of that, but anyhow...We spent plenty of time boating and lounging by the pool in the Ozarks. This year my sister, Erin, and my brother-in-law, Todd came with us. It was so much fun!! Here are some lovely photos to recap our adventure:)

The Bear learned out to drive a boat. Ahoy Captain Bear!

The beautiful view off the deck of the condo. I love this place!

Fun in the sun at the pool.

Great food at my favorite place, Baxter's Lakeside Grille. This place never disappoints.

In other news, it is that time again- dips and a dessert for the 4th of July! I realized last year I had four dips and a dessert. For some odd reason, I thought it was three dips and a dessert. My thinking behind that is really quite elementary- 3+1=4. 4th of July you know? Kind of cheesy, but not real complex in case you were wondering. I guess maybe my math was off last summer? I don't know. This year the plan is for three dips and a dessert and a lot less mayo. Trust me, I love real mayonnaise. The problem with my friend mayo is that it is not that slimming and most important- it does not keep well in the sun. Not great for summer fun at all unless you keep it on ice. In the words of Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

Now let's get this party week started shall we? My first dip takes a simple can of black beans and turns into an amazingly flavorful and creamy dip with a few simple additions. I used my food processor to puree my beans, but if you do not have one handy you can mash the beans by hand or use a blender. Serve with a side of vegetables or tortilla chips and you'll have your fiesta started in no time!

Smoky Black Bean Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion caramelizes. Remove from heat. Cool for 5 minutes. Place onion, beans, and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend or process until smooth. Can be served immediately or chilled with veggies or tortilla chips.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hot Days, Cool Nights

Happy first official day of summer! After the winter we had and not much of a spring (hello snow on May 5th), isn't it a nice and secure feeling to know that summer is officially here? While I am not someone who enjoys extreme summer heat normally, I've been trying to embrace and prepare my body through plenty of exercise, yard work, and my latest endeavor- hot yoga. So far, I've tried what my gym calls a "slow burn" Vinyasa class. Last night, I tried a true Bikram yoga class taught by my friend's husband. Wow, are they a yoga powered couple! Very cool. For those of you who are not as familiar with different yoga practices, Vinyasa or Vinyasa Flow focuses on movement where poses are to flow in a steady, constant motion. Bikram  or Hot Yoga, cranks up the heat and humidity in the room. Poses are held and typically a 50/50 split between balancing poses and floor postures. Both classes I've taken cranked up the heat, even more so in the Bikram class I took last night. Both have been amazing, detoxifying, and fun ways to deepen my yoga practice. It has really been fun to explore yoga a bit more. Whether it's been hot or not, the main thing I've learned is to push the negative or "I can't" thoughts out. You have to trust yourself! I've also learned that you can pretty much breath through just about anything no matter how unpleasant or contorted I am feeling at the moment. Breath! Breath! Breath!

So with all of this discussion on the heat, let's talk about the protein powered meal that we've been enjoying to cool off at night shall we?

Whether it has been to replenish after yoga or softball or to simply fuel ourselves for the next day, I am so glad we've had a container of this chicken salad in the fridge this week. It has been perfect for our on-the-go summer schedule. Here I've taken leftover chicken and cranked the protein and flavor levels by using a combination of nonfat Greek yogurt and herbs. These Cool and Creamy Chicken Bacon Wraps are easy and the perfect meal to keep in the fridge when you need to keep things cool on a hot summer day.

Cool and Creamy Chicken Bacon Wraps

3 cups leftover chicken breast, shredded
6 slices cooked center cut bacon, crumbled
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons or one package of your favorite ranch dressing mixture (I LOVE Penzy's)
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
4 gluten free wraps (you can use regular whole wheat wraps if you are not GF)
Lettuce, avocado, and more tomato for topping if you please

In a large resealable bowl, mix together the chicken, bacon, Greek yogurt, ranch dressing mix, tomato, chives, and mayonnaise until combine. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve or serve immediately.

In other news, I will not have a menu post for a while. I will be taking a little break before we restart our adventure with the fertility clinic. As always, you can always use other previous menus which can be located under the weekly menu tab. I do plan on maybe throwing together a mini menu or maybe putting together a little theme such as 4 Dips and a Dessert like last year. We'll see after we hear our news on what we will accomplish with the new doctor:) Until then, stay hydrated and cool!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Poblano Chile Rellenos

Well, the sun is finally back today. I know I planned for the last couple of nights to be great grilling recipes, but grilling has not worked out in my favor. Sunday we ran out of grill gas. Yesterday it poured. In most cases, I would be severely disappointed. For this meal, I was not. I think these guys actually turned out even better in the oven. 

Yes, the Bear and I were pretty pleased. Typically, chile rellenos are stuffed full with queso goodness, breaded, and then fried. Oh, it is a fatty Mexican restaurant delight! Not so great for those who are gluten-free or looking to slim down for bikini season. For this recipe, I lightened things up a bit by replacing the filling with a flavorful combination of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt, shredded 2% cheese, and shallots. To keep the peppers moist throughout the baking process, the peppers cook in a light enchilada sauce bath, before adding a final sprinkle of cheese. Easy to put together and bursting with flavor.You will want to serve these Pablano Chile Rellenos at your next little fiesta!

Poblano Chile Rellenos

4 pablano chile peppers, slit down the middle and seeds removed
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 shallot, diced
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar-jack cheese, divided
1 13 oz. can enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, shallot, and 1/2 cup of the cheese together until smooth. Spoon 1/4 of the mixture into one of the peppers. Place the pepper in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining peppers. Pour the enchilada sauce over the peppers. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Top the peppers with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and turn lightly brown. Remove from the oven. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Adventures in Acupuncture and a Menu Post

Hello! I hope this fine Friday finds you doing well and feeling grateful. Today I am grateful for feeling energized and balanced. This summer I have been getting back into shape through various toning exercises, a combination of walking and elliptical work, and yoga. On top of the yoga helping me tone and center my energy, I've also started acupuncture. For the last four years, I've been doing a lot of research on my fertility issues. While each and every case is unique, one common aid in boosting fertility that keeps popping up is acupuncture. Some report that acupuncture alone can help. Others support an acupuncture regime in combination with fertility treatments. On sort of a hunch and a whim, I decided to try acupuncture. Trust me, I was a little skeptical. I am not a fan of needles, but figured it couldn't hurt any worse than my tattoo I got in college. Our fertility specialist also left the clinic without notifying us, grrr! So we've sort of been put on a waiting list to get into the one and only doctor at the clinic. We thought about switching clinics; however, the individual our friends went through for their in vitro died of a massive heart attack the day after their procedure. Seriously, this is no lie. Crazy right? I'm not telling you this to vent. It really just makes for a good story and is all part of the journey. The chiropractic clinic could get me in the day after I called. We can't get into our fertility clinic until June 27th. With the current circumstances, I decided to give myself a head start with the acupuncture.

I've been going to Swickard Chiropractic Clinic because it is close to our home. After an initial consultation of my needs and general health, they performed a pretty thorough analysis of the energy "splits" occurring in my body. This procedure was painless. The doctor simply used a little machine called an AcuGraph that measured the energy levels of different acupressure points on my hands and feet. This graphed and pinpointed areas of concern. Overall, my body was in pretty good health; however, there were major splits in my spleen which helps regulate hormone levels. On top of targeting my spleen, the doctor has also been targeting fertility zones to give me an extra boost. I just finished my third round yesterday. The doctor re-charted my energy splits and low and behold there is improvement! I will say, this is completely painless. You really don't feel anything when they insert the needles. How do I feel after three rounds? Hopeful, optimistic, and more balanced. I also have noticed a huge difference in my muscle recovery after working out. I am not nearly as sore the next day. Regardless of the hopeful fertility boost, it has just been good for my overall well being. Whether you are experiencing issues similar to mine or have other health concerns, I seriously suggest giving acupuncture a try.

So, how about a menu post? Don't you love how eclectic my blogging conversations are? Just when you thought this was a blog about gluten free cooking, I go into a schpeel about journeys in fertility and acupuncture. Makes for one unique blog and lets you know that I am totally human:) This week is all about laid back summer cuisine. Being I feel so incredibly relaxed and balanced, I realize that no one should have to work too hard in the kitchen. Summertime also juggles a whole new array of mealtime schedules with festivities, softball or baseball, and other fun activities that only happen this time of year. This week utilizes the grill, fresh ingredients, as well as chicken leftovers for a second round meal. Leftovers hold up well in the fridge for quick grab-and-go meals on the run or can easily be packed up to bring to a summer cook out. Easy, peazy, lemon squeezy as my students like to say. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/16          Summertime Grilled Chicken with Everything Salad & Garlic Bread

Monday 6/17        Grilled Chile Rellenos with Rice & Black Beans

Tuesday 6/18        Leftovers

Wednesday 6/19   Cool & Creamy Chicken Bacon Wraps with Sweet Potato Chips & Veggies

Thursday 6/20       Leftovers

Here is what you will need to make the magic happen:

1-2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package center cut bacon
1 avocado
2 lemons
1 bag baby carrots
1-2 cucumbers
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 bag precut broccoli
3-4 sweet potatoes
1 small red onion
1 shallot
1 bulb garlic
1 bunch cilantro
4 Anaheim or pablano peppers
1 bag lettuce
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can black beans
1 can Rotel
1 can enchilada sauce (check for listed modified food starches)
1 package gluten-free ranch or buttermilk style dressing mix
1 bag gluten-free rolls or regular rolls
1 package gluten-free wraps or regular wraps
1 bag or box brown rice
1 bag frozen corn
1 container nonfat Greek yogurt
1 8 oz. package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 package shredded 2% cheddar-jack cheese
1 package butter

Pantry items you will need:

Non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper
Any assortment of your favorite salad dressings
Garlic powder

Enjoy your weekend! Namaste my friends!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Grateful Summer

In the words of Gavin Rossdale, "I don't want to come back down from this cloud." My time spent with family last week was well needed. It is sometimes difficult to come back to reality after such an epic weekend. Speaking of Gavin Rossdale, did anyone have a little crush on him in his grungy, nineties Bush days? Despite his extreme Eddy Munster widow's peak now that his hair is short, I still find him a little sexy for his age. Please don't judge. I just happened to Google ol' Gavy and took a look. Not bad, not bad Gwen.

Anyhow, there hasn't really been any excuse for my lack of blogging since returning on Sunday other than I just was not sure how to put everything into words. Now that I am totally detoxified from the mass quantities of bacon I consumed, I think it is time to recap. 

Last summer was the summer of culinary adventures. I thought I would keep this going until I was enjoying my lovely walk yesterday and it occurred to me- I AM SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL! After struggling for the last few years with a very quiet bout of depression, yes I am ready to admit it despite my cheery disposition a majority of the time. I get down in the dumps. The last few years, I've felt down in the dumps a lot. You see, my husband and I have persevered through A LOT. I've managed to "get over it" by savoring my time with my husband, family, and all of my dear sweet friends, as well as my journey in sharing my joy for healthy, gluten free cooking on this blog. So many wonderful things have happened in the last year- we got answers to our fertility issues and are on the pursuit to making things happen. We still have a little ways to go, but the ball is rolling considering where we were a year ago when I couldn't even get the Bear to go into the doctor to do his thing. Further, after some very trying years in teaching, I won not only building teacher of the year, but also district elementary teacher of the year. Just when I thought maybe I was not respected or maybe needed to find another career, I kept going like a little engine. I never in a million years thought this would happen at this point in my life! Thank you to all of the teachers who have helped me along the way, my students, and teaching teams. I am truly grateful for these little victories. While I still get a little down in the dumps, I pray, I count all of my blessings no matter how big or small, I take care of my body, and I manifest every ounce of positive energy in this great world to get over it. Long story short, I am now calling this "The Grateful Summer." Just look at what can happen when you are patient and keep your eyes open...

Why yes, that is a four leaf clover I found while waiting out on the teacups at Adventureland. I can handle roller coasters, but rides that spin in multiple, circular directions tend to make me puke. This little clover got left in my sister's car, but I got the picture for the proof in the pudding:) Just another reason to be grateful. 

Now that I've had my little brain dump on why I am celebrating my gratefulness, here is a recap of last week's adventures. It all started bright and early on Thursday morning with my annual Iowegian trip to the World Pork Expo!

Why yes, that is a selfy of Erin, myself, and my bro-in-law Toddy the gentle giant as we entered the fairgrounds for our bacon experience. Side note on my sun glasses,this will be the last time you will see those aviators on my face. My youngest sister Amy gave them to me from one of her sample sales. Apparently they were all the rage and one of the pit masters bought them off my face for $10. Ten up for me! Ha ha! First up was a brief discussion with the Cookies BBQ man. Then, our first bacon sampling.

Bacon trumped all other cuts of meat this year. A lot of things I could not enjoy such as bacon pancakes or bacon-bourbon party mix, but I did get lots of ideas for future recipes and got my share of bacon through bacon infused vodka, chocolate covered bacon, and bacon cheddar brats. Being mindful of my gluten-free lifestyle, everyone was very accommodating and let me know the ingredients before I stuffed my face. Then it was off to the varied industries building for our habitual tour where we visit different vendors' booths, get little trinkets such as pencils, pens, and paper. This year there was one particular vendor who jerked on my heart strings. Here is my little shout out to my friends at Alltech. Alltech is a global animal feed company who also has been gracious enough to help farm producers in Haiti. After the earthquake in 2010, Alltech not only provided disaster relief, but also supported their economy through buying their coffee. Their Sustainable Haiti Project helps by supporting coffee growers, schools, and economic development programs. When I heard this story, I got goosebumps and a free sample of coffee! So much good in the world! It was a great day to celebrate!

Later that night, my sister and I spent some well needed time with my mom and rested up for the next day. Friday, my step sister-in-law Saddie, received a very prestigious nursing award from Mercy Hospital. Saddie is so deserving of this award! A mother of 3 beautiful kiddos and a full time nurse. I don't know how she does it. While she and my step brother Brett were at the ceremony, we took the kiddos for a day of fun and later celebrated at Ohana's Steakhouse. The kids enjoyed the show and our chef reciprocated his joy right back to pose for a picture:) 

From left to right- Veda, the oldest, Gavin, the youngest, and Sylvie the chef in training:) To wrap up a weekend of fun, Saturday we headed to Adventureland. That place has not changed since I was a kid! 

We saw the best view of Des Moines on the Giant Sky Wheel. Veda was so excited she could see the state capitol.

And no trip to any amusement park is complete without several rides on the assortment of roller coasters. Above is my second pair of aviators. I bought these after my previous pair was purchased from the pit master. Then, I lost them while riding the Tornado for the third time with Sylvie. That girl is fearless! She couldn't help but mention that her stomach felt "magical" while riding the Gallion with her hands up the entire time between bouts of giggles. 

Sunday I finally came home to my Bear, who could not wait to see me. So much love and so much fun. Do you see why I have so much to be grateful for? I hereby declare this summer "The Grateful Summer!" How do you plan to celebrate your gratefulness?  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

T-Minus 0 Hours, 0 Seconds

The day is finally here- the World Pork Expo! I can't wait to share my adventure with you all as well as my support for family farms. Very excited!

Monday, June 3, 2013

California Chicken Burgers

I don't know what it is lately, but I feel like there have been some pretty rock stellar recipes on this blog lately. I'm not meaning to brag. It really has been great to be back into the blogging/ recipe flow. Some of the recipes as of late, have not been the most healthy. There has been a lot of celebrating with the start of summer vacay, the Bear's birthday, etc. This burger, however, is pretty healthy and it's not just because of the chicken.

Let me explain. There are some hidden super foods mixed into the ground chicken. Some of you might be asking, "Sara, what is it with you and all these super foods?" Well, they wouldn't be called super foods if there weren't some pretty amazing benefits to eating them. Here, lean protein is mixed with ground edamame and mushrooms to add a dose of fiber, vitamin D, and antioxidants. Top it all off with a little avocado and a special  sriracha sauce for a little California flare, and you've got one lean, mean, and green burger. Seriously, you should try this. You may be able to get your hubby to eat his veg after all.

California Chicken Burgers

For the burger:
4 gluten-free burger buns
1 lb. ground chicken breast
1/4 cup fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sriracha sauce & toppings:
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
4 lettuce leaves

Heat your grill to medium-high heat. In a food processor, process the mushrooms, edamame, and garlic until the consistency of ground meat. In a large mixing bowl, fold the mushroom mixture into the ground chicken breast until evenly combined. Divide the mixture into four equal parts. Form each part into a patty and make a small indentation in the middle of each patty with your thumb to prevent the burgers from shrinking. Place on the grill. Grill 5 minutes. Flip and grill and additional 5 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into one of the patties reads 165 degrees. Remove from the grill and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, and sriracha sauce together until smooth. Spread as much of the sauce as desired onto the top half of your burger bun. Place burger on the other half. Add additional toppings such as the avocado, tomato, and lettuce. Place top half of bun on burger and enjoy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Taco Pizza

My, oh my. Those of you from small town middle America are probably familiar with Casey's General Store pizza. If not, let me explain. Casey's is in fact a gas station/ convenience store. They have managed to monopolize small towns all across Iowa. Typically if there is no other local pizza restaurant in town, there will be Casey's to feed your cravings and convenience store needs. Growing up, their taco pizza was my favorite. Okay, well actually there breakfast pizza was my absolute favorite, but I have yet to conquer that recipe. For dinner though, there is nothing like Casey's taco pizza.

We finally did get a couple of Casey's around our suburban area. Sadly, none of their pizzas are gluten free. Justin has been able to order his Friday night homage a couple of times while I've been away. So, my challenge was to make something as close to the real thing as possible. While I forgot to round out my toppings with the traditional nacho cheese flavored chips for the picture, Justin agreed that this was pretty close to the real deal. If you are looking for a fun, tasty weekend family dinner or miss your Casey's pizza since going gluten free, you will want to try this Taco Pizza recipe!

Taco Pizza
inspired by Casey's General Store

1 1/4 cup gluten free Bisquick
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 16 oz. can fat-free refried beans
1 4.5 oz. can diced green chilies
1/4 cup gluten free taco sauce
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
4 tablespoons gluten-free taco seasoning, divided
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
Additional taco sauce, sour cream, and crushed nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips for topping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the Bisquick, corn meal, water, egg, and canola oil with a fork until thoroughly combined. Press the dough into the bottom of the casserole dish. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. The top of the crust will appear cracked. This is okay.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized non-stick skillet, cook the ground beef until browned. Drain well and stir in 2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning until the beef is coated with the seasoning. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, mix together the refried beans, green chilies, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning. Stir until mixed through. Spread the bean mixture over the crust. Next, spoon the beef evenly over the beans. Then, sprinkle the cheese over the beef. Bake in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese begins to turn lightly brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven. Top with the lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and any additional suggested toppings before cutting and serving.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Short & Sweet Menu Post

It's that time of year again. I am so excited to be attending the World Pork Expo for the third year in a row. You can visit past posts for Pork Expo I and Pork Expo II by clicking on the links. It is always fun to look back and remember old posts. I hope to bring you a trifecta of awesome! I was thinking about making t-shirts for this year's event. I looked online for some, but I don't know if they would be ready in time. Plus there really is nothing like a good ol' homemade t-shirt complete with iron on letters. It takes me back to my college days. Watch out sis! I've got a lot of time on my hands to put this little project together;)

With Justin being the only one home this week, I'm keeping the menu very simple. I've got two new recipes I want to try via inspiration from one of my favorite restaurants in our little burb. The first being a little burger with the flavors of California. I've never been to California, but have been itching to go since I've been completing some of the bikini challenge workouts from Tone it Up. Next on the agenda is a lovely sweet potato gnocchi. I don't know if I will get it as good as the Harvest's, but I figured it would be fun to try! Here is the rundown:

Sunday 6/2          California Chicken Burgers with Broccoli Salad

Monday 6/3        GF Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Salad

Tuesday 6/4         Leftovers

Wednesday 6/5   Sara is off to the World Pork Expo!!!

A few of the things you will need:

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 pkg. center cut bacon
1 avocado
1 tomato
1 red onion
1 bag fresh broccoli florets (these were only 25 cents more than a crown of broccoli and will save me time:))
1 box mushrooms
1-2 sweet potatoes (depending on how large they are)
1 box dried potato flakes
Greek Yogurt

Pantry items you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sriracha (if you have not tried this stuff do it now!! It is so amazing on everything)
Brown rice flour
Salt and pepper

Since both recipes are experimental, there may be a few additional items in the recipes as I post them. I guess that has been some of the hurdles I've been trying to jump these past few weeks and have not posted a grocery list with the menu. I may or may not add fresh herbs from my garden for garnish. Right now there are lovely bunches of sage, basil, chives, and mint growing. I hope you all enjoy your weekend!!