Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Spuds

Wow! Say the last part of this recipe three times fast. That is your challenge for today:) Actually, your challenge should be to make use of some leftovers. We happened to have leftover steak courtesy of my brother-in-law, Todd, also known as Tater Todd, Little Toddy, and just Toddy. If you've read my blog before or happen to know Todd, you know Todd loves his meat. He especially loves a good meat sale. A few months ago, Todd called me to inform me about such a sale and asked if I wanted to partake in the special. I asked about the quality. It was good ol' fresh Iowa beef that needed to get sold. So, I chose to purchase the steak as it was down to about a dollar per pound. Wicked, wicked cheap I tell ya! Todd graciously bought them, stored them, and I later reimbursed him. What Todd did not tell me was that they were practically dinosaur size cuts of beef. Huge!! I should have taken a picture, but  if you know Todd you probably already believe me. We actually have more of these Fred Flinstone like cuts in our deep freeze.

I pulled out one of these steaks from the deep freeze before leaving for our brief get away last weekend. I think it probably took a majority of the weekend for the steak to defrost in the fridge. Fred Flinstone size or not, it was a great, quick meal we could throw on the grill Sunday night without having to rush out to the grocery store. The only problem? We had a ton of leftovers! Being I hate to waste food, I thought it would be fun to try the meat with my favorite potato.

These Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Spuds are a great use of leftovers. Here I've taken baked sweat potatoes and stuffed them full of smoked mozzarella, sauteed onions and peppers, and leftover grilled steak. If you don't have smoked mozzarella cheese, any cheese will do. It could not be any easier or tastier for a weeknight meal.

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Spuds

Nonstick cooking spray
4 small sweet potatoes, cleaned and dried
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups leftover cooked steak cut into 1-inch cubes
4 slices smoked mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes on a nonstick baking sheet. With a fork, poke several holes into each potato so the potatoes do not blow up in the oven. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until softened.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick cooking pan over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and add the peppers and onions. Sautee, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to turn slightly brown along the edges. Add the steak. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an addition 5 minutes or until the steak is heated through. Remove from heat. Take the potatoes out of the oven. Using oven mitts and a knife, cut each potato almost in have leaving a little uncut room to hold the potato together. Spoon the veggie and steak mixture into each potato. Top each with a slice of cheese. Place back into the oven and cook another 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt.

P.S.- Thank you to all who have left contacted me via Facebook in regards to my last post! Your thoughts and prayers mean more to us than you will ever know!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Where we've Been

If you regularly stop by my happy little blog, you're probably wondering where we've been lately. The lack of activity is primarily due to me studying for a huge test I have to take to finish out my reading specialist license. The Bear and I have also been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster with our steps in trying to have a family. I haven't been ready to say much about it until now. First and foremost I must say if you are not interested in reading about infertility, read something else on this blog. There are plenty of tasty recipes to try as well as numerous menus with grocery lists included for your convenience. Keep reading if you are facing infertility issues or care to know about what's been up in the Nickel household these last two weeks. You may want to grab the tissues. It's been a rough ride.

My husband and I have been seeking out  fertility treatment for the last year or so. We discovered last summer that my left fallopian tube was blocked. This was corrected last fall through a tubal disconnect. I still have my left ovary and still ovulate on that side, it just doesn't have anywhere to go. So, ovulation predictor kits are really not that useful for us as I always test positive for ovulation. The only way to know if I am ovulating on the right side is through an ultrasound. Yup, really fun. Not in the slightest. With those issues at hand, our specialist suggested we try a round of intrauterine insemination, or in short, IUI. This involves a round of fertility enhancing medications, an hCG trigger shot, and insemination of my husband's sperm through a catheter. My sister calls it the "turkey baster method." This was going all fine and well. I was not experiencing any of the side effects that some deal with when taking Letrozole or Ovidrel. It was hard to get into the swing of loading the injection for the Ovidrel, but overall it was not that bad. Things got ugly when I went in for my second ultrasound to see how my body was responding to the medication. Low and behold, my left side (the side with the disconnect) was the side that displayed more indication for ovulation. So, we had to stop. Being, we've already racked up half of the cost with no help from insurance, it was in our best interest to not go through with the final hCG trigger shot or the insemination costs. I feel like we didn't even get to finish the race. Freak out moment number one. I was really counting on this to work. I don't know why, I just had really positive feelings about the process and financially being able to afford it. The nurse practitioner that day suggested possibly looking into an in vitro fertilization (IVF) consultation as that would bypass the tubal issue and they could harvest eggs from either side. This offered some hope, but the Bear has financially been against IVF all along. So, I spent the rest of last Monday in bed crying. I had to let myself grieve. Rarely do I ever do this, but I knew I needed to release a year's worth of disappointment and struggle. My body physically and emotionally hurt.

After recovering a little and talking with the Bear, we decided to call our specialist to see what our next steps need to be. The Bear was coming around on his thoughts about IVF. We talked to another nurse practitioner. She reviewed the information and said she needed to talk with our specialist even further to see if we even qualify for IVF, as my egg reserve hormone is indicating that we don't have a lot of time left. To educate you all on egg reserve, anti mullerian hormone is the primary indicator of egg quality and egg reserve. Normal levels are 1.0 or higher. My level is at a whopping .3. Stinkin' low. Freak out moment number two for Tuesday. We might totally be wasting our money on even trying to pursue having our own children. Not as bad as freak out number one. I was able to make it out of bed and even made it to the gym to sweat things out a little. In anticipation, I waited to hear back on what the doc had to say. We didn't hear anything about the massive lack of communication between the two nurse practitioners and our specialist until Friday afternoon. By this point I was just angry.

Long story short our current plan is....
  1. Another round of IUI- same thing we just went through, but with increased medication levels, financially the cheaper option, but I'm beginning to be more realistic. Trust me, we are positive people! The reality of the situation, however, is that we cannot totally count on this working.
  2. Possibly looking into an IVF consultation knowing that this too might not work, but bypasses some of the technicalities we have against us.
  3. Adoption- not totally against this. Our feelings are starting to change, but we have no idea as to where to start. The adoption sites are very overwhelming and sad.
  4. Accepting the fact that we might not have any kids. This scares the crap out of me. I or the Bear might die alone and be eaten by raccoons or something. That's really scary. 
Is this karma? We had friends who sought out fertility help. I never believed in couples putting themselves through the emotional and financial strain when we were in our 20's. I guess now I know what they went through and reality is biting me in the ass really hard. Yup, karma's a bitch. I'm feeling it. If you are one of my friends that was hurt about my alla natural attitude and lack of empathy, I'm really sorry.  

What to do in the meantime? Well, we are just trying to take care of ourselves and each other. There have been moments I never thought I'd experience such as the Bear crying because he is so incredibly worried about me thinking this is all my fault. I have not been on social media sites much. Facebook anymore just seems to be everyone getting pregnant, having babies, or posting pictures of their kids which hurts too much right now. I'm not being selfish, I'm just dealing with the fact that I may never have that human experience. I've also been leaving the room or changing the channel anytime Will and Kate are on t.v. with reports on the royal baby. Pretty much I hate them right now to be honest. And, quite frankly, I have to be honest about emotions right now. I would be building myself up on a house of cards to say everything is okay. Probably for the first time ever in my life, I am really feeling and dealing with my emotions that normally get shoved to the side. It hurts, bad, but I am still so incredibly grateful for my husband, my family, and friends. I am grateful for my job which is starting to take my mind off things. I am grateful for waking up, getting out of bed, and being able to go to the gym or on a walk. Things will be okay, I know that. I can feel and hear God or the higher power telling me it will be okay. For now though, the Bear and I are learning and experiencing this harsh reality. Are we hopeful? Yes, absolutely yes, but our hope has shifted to a more realistic hope. A hope with more options and decisions we will make together. What I do know is that I love the Bear more than ever right now. That's what is most important.

On a lighter note, the menu for this week is a little crazy. We decided to get out of town over the weekend and did not make it back until later Sunday afternoon. We also have my test this evening, fun social opportunities, and Bear's weekly softball game. Here is what things loosely look like for the week:

Monday 7/29          On your own

Tuesday 7/30          Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Spuds with Broccoli

Wednesday 7/31     Leftovers

Thursday 8/1           Portobello Mushrooms with Spinach and Cheese

Friday 8/2 or           Coconut Curry Pork with Rice and Beans
Saturday 8/3

The grocery list is likely to change a lot this week depending on what's on hand, but I look forward to getting some recipes up and running for you all. I hope you all enjoy your week!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Corn Slaw

I've decided that tacos are officially one of the hardest foods to photograph. A lot of times, I will bypass posting a recipe if it a) does not turn out, or, b) the picture is not up to par. I know I'm not the best at food photography, but have improved in this area since I started posting recipes. At times though, I get a little hard on myself about it. The Bear convinced me that this was one recipe not to bypass just because I was getting frustrated with the photography. He said these tacos were just too good not to share.

So, you can thank my husband for me getting over my photographic criticism and posting this recipe:)

These tacos are a hybrid of two recipes. I am very fond of Kristen Porter's blog, Iowa Girl Eats, and her Buffalo Chicken Wrap recipe. For a while, I was making them at least once a month before I went gluten free. After going gluten free, it was hard for me to find a good substitute for regular flour tortillas or wraps. I've now discovered Sandwich Petals, but don't want to eat them everyday. Thus, I came up with the idea for these Buffalo Chicken Tacos topped with one of my favorite slaw recipes. It really is a match made in heaven and couldn't be any simpler. No need to heat your kitchen either! It's a win-win situation.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Corn Slaw
inspired by Buffalo Chicken Wraps & my Corn Slaw

For the buffalo chicken tacos:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons gluten free ranch dressing mix (I love Penzy's buttermilk ranch mix)
1 bottle gluten free wing sauce (I use Cookie's wings sauce)
1 package corn tortillas

For the corn slaw:

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I love Fage and wouldn't suggest anything else)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Zest and juice of one lime
4 cups cole slaw cabbage mix (about 1/2 of the bag)
1 cup thawed frozen corn
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3-4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For the buffalo chicken tacos, spray the inside of your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix over the chicken. Pour the wing sauce over the chicken. Use tongs to turn the chicken and make sure everything is coated in the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Shred chicken with two forks before serving on the tortillas.

To make the slaw, simply whisk the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, sugar, lime zest, and lime juice until smooth and combine in a small bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, toss the cabbage, corn, red pepper, celery, green onions, and cilantro together. Pour the dressing over the veggies. Toss to coat. Serve with the tacos.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Power Hummus Wrap

Well gluten free friends, it is time to celebrate. More and more restaurants are beginning to hear our cry. Better yet, more and more restaurants are beginning to realize that they could target a certain percentage of individuals by accommodating our dietary needs and are finally coming up with some gluten free menu items so we can enjoy and spend our dollars at their restaurants. In the past, one of the worst gluten offenders was Panera. You can read some of my issues with this company before gluten free here and here. I never was a "hater" per say, I just believe in practicing what you preach. After going gluten free, I had even more ill feelings as none of their menu items were gluten free. I even remember last year going out to lunch with some teacher friends ordering off the supposed gluten free menu and then being asked by cashier/order taker if I would "like bread or a cookie" as my side that "came with the meal." I about slapped my forehead like the kid in the AT & T commercial when the guy asks the boy "what happens to slow turtles?" I guess some people just aren't educated on gluten issues.

I have to give props were props are due, however, and say that I was very pleased when I came across this article on Fit Sugar. I'm not sure if this "hidden menu" is offered at every Panera, but it does not hurt to ask. I ordered the Power Egg White Bowl while in a pinch one morning. I did inform them about my sensitivity to gluten and they happily accommodated! The guy even switched out his gloves while making my meal! Believe me you, I was watching:) There are even more fun and healthy options such as Power Steak Lettuce Wraps, the wrap being large leaves of kale. For a complete nutrition break down of the "hidden menu" list you can click here and scroll down to the bottom of the list. Panera did confirm that the the secret menu is all gluten free, but I would still inform the cashier and/or kitchen about any allergies or sensitivities and closely monitor the meal prep. Better to be safe than sorry. Enough about information and banter, how about my little recipe?

Right now, I have a ton of fresh herbs in my little pots that are ready for use. All I did for the watermelon was slice it up and sprinkle a little fresh mint on top. It really brought out the flavors and made it taste like I was eating a mojito sans the booze. I guess you really can't call it a recipe, but more of a tip. I was planning on making it more of a fruit salad with cantaloupe, grapes, and pineapple, however, the selection was not looking very good at the store this weekend. Maybe next week I will have more to share on that.

This meal is perfect for a meatless Monday. A true gluten and meat free dish bursting with summer time flavors such as fresh herbs, cucumber, and tomato. Bonus- no cooking involved! If you are looking for a bright and light meal to start your week off in a healthy direction you will want to try this Power Hummus Wrap!

Power Hummus Wrap
inspired by Panera's Power Chicken Hummus Bowl

1 cup mixed salad greens (I used a combination of romaine and baby spinach)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
4 gluten free wraps or tortillas (I used Sandwich Petals)
1/2 cup of your favorite prepared hummus, divided (I used Sabra's roasted garlic)
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup sliced cucumber

In a mixing bowl, toss the mixed salad greens, basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint together until combine. Feel free to omit the herbs if you do not prefer any of the suggested flavors or if you do not have any fresh herbs on hand. Heat wraps according to package directions. If you are not on a gluten free diet, feel free to use whatever wraps or tortillas you have on hand. Spread 2 tablespoons of hummus over each tortilla. Divide the mixed greens and herb mixture, tomatoes, onion, and cucumber evenly over each tortilla. Wrap and roll each tortilla and serve.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Sweet Potato Salad & Frilly Toothpicks

I just can't help myself when talking about my family. I know everyone probably thinks they have the best or maybe worst family on the planet. The Bear and I feel immensely lucky. Our family is wonderful, both sides, hands down. The best part, everyone makes us laugh which always makes for a fantastic story.

Last weekend, I happened to go biking with my youngest sister, my step mom, and my dad. I was very excited I chose to go out on this excursion because it is one of my favorite bike trails in Iowa- the High Trestle Trail. The youngest sister of the brood, has been training for RAGBRAI. It had been a year to the date that we all conquered the trail together last summer. I was so looking forward to doing it again, but had to go about it at my own pace. Fortunately, my dad was looking forward to riding with me. We both were just happy to be along for the ride:)

Anyhow, we finished 26 miles regardless of pace which always calls for a little bit of celebrating. That night we ended up dining out at St. Andrews, a near by bar and grill. We got a very kind waitress who could handle my family's celebratory sense of humor. One of those funny things being "frilly toothpicks." You see, we all kind of have a thing for "frilly toothpicks." You know, the kind they put in club sandwiches? It's even better if you give us the sword toothpicks, but no one will complain if they get one of those "frilly toothpicks." Needless to say while ordering, my dad expressed some of his sense of humor that night by asking our waitress about the sandwiches and if they came with the "frilly toothpicks." He said he "absolutely" knew that a club sandwich would come with toothpicks, but had to ask if he was splitting the Philly sandwich with his wife, "would it come with the 'frilly toothpicks?' " We all had to hang our heads in laughter at this question. The waitress said she was "unsure" with that kind of smirky smile one has when they are trying their best to be as polite as possible, but are trying as hard as heck not to burst out in laughter. I for one, burst out in laughter and took the edge off anyway. Truth be told, the Philly did not come with the "frilly toothpicks." Our waitress, however, was awesome enough to later bring out some "filly toothpicks." My dad said, "You've certainly earned your tip tonight ma'am."

To wrap up an very humorous story, I must say I feel this dish is deserving of some sort of fancy toothpick. Alas, I have none. It makes for a beautiful picture anyway. Wouldn't you agree?

This salad is packed with summer's bounty! A modern twist on the classic potato salad, bursting with color and flavor that will have you craving this dish all year long. Light, mayo free, and the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat you will want to try this Summer Sweet Potato Salad as soon as possible.

Summer Sweet Potato Salad
inspired by One Green Planet

For the salad:
4 cups diced sweet potatoes
2 cups thawed frozen corn or fresh corn cut off the cob
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of one lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread sweet potatoes over the sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Add the potatoes to the large bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat. Can be served immediately or you can cover and chill the salad until you are ready to serve.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Back Again Menu Post!

Hello dear readers! It feels so good to be back home again! I actually just walked in the door about 15 minutes ago. I'm sure you all were probably wondering where I've been lately. Hopefully no one thought I had disappeared and was not combing back to the blog ever again. To be honest, I've been traveling A LOT. The Bear and I went up to Iowa for the 4th of July to visit family. Then I left for a brief moment this past week to visit my mom and friends. I've been trying to squeeze in as many trips as possible before we start our big journey as I will now be traveling back and forth to doctor's appointments instead of Iowa. Before we left for the 4th, we did meet with our new doctor and have the fertility plan in place. I'm feeling VERY positive about the medications I will be taking and what we have decided to proceed with. The plan will be starting soon, so I am praying, meditating, doing everything we possibly can in hopes that everything works the first go around. I was originally worried about feeling totally crazy while on some of the hormones, but the doctor and pharmacist have reassured me that there are few if any side effects at all. Maybe some hot flashes, but I figure eh, it's summer anyway. No big deal:)

Enough about me, how about a menu post? Haven't seen one of those in a while. This week's menu is packed with lots of produce and little gems I've been wanting to experiment with. I've got a lovely sweet potato salad to share with you, a copy cat Panera recipe from their hidden menu I plan to inform you all about, and some twists on old favorites from last summer I've been wanting to try just for fun. It should be a great, healthy week! Here is the rundown:

Sunday 7/14          Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Sweet Potato Salad

Monday 7/15         Power Hummus Wrap with Mint Fruit Salad

Tuesday 7/16         Leftovers

Wednesday 7/17    Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Corn Slaw 

Thursday 7/18        Leftovers

Friday 7/19 or        Herbed Chicken over Light Spinach and Tomato Penne Alfredo
Saturday 7/20

Here is what you will need:

1 lb. pork tenderloin
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb. sweet potatoes
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsely
1 bunch fresh basil (I plan to use some from my herb garden)
1 bunch fresh mint (I plan to use some from my herb garden)
1 bunch celery
1 bag baby carrots
2 limes
2 lemons
1 red pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 cantaloupe
1/4 seedless watermelon
1 cucumber
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 bag baby spinach
1 bag cole slaw cabbage mix
1 red onion
1 head garlic
1 box gluten free penne pasta noodles
1 bag gluten free wraps (such as Sandwich Petals)
1 bag corn tortillas
1 bottle of your favorite buffalo wing sauce (I adore Cookie's)
1 can pineapple tidbits (canned in juice, not syrup!)
1 container of your favorite hummus spread
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 container non-fat Greek yogurt (I adore Fage)
1 pint low-fat milk (1 or 2%)
Butter or margarine
1 bag frozen corn

Pantry items you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
Rice wine vinegar
Granulated sugar
Cayenne pepper
Ground cumin
Salt and pepper

Have a great weekend! I look forward to posting tomorrow:)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Dessert- GF White Chocolate Chip & Macadamia Nut Blondies

God bless America!!! I think one of the best decisions our country made was adopting Hawaii as a state. Not just for the lovely tourism, but for macadamia nuts. Oh what love occurs when you bite into a macadamia nut. There's just something about it. Especially when paired with white chocolate.

This recipe took a couple tries to perfect. The first time, I used way too much butter. The next, they were dry and crumbly. That can get a little pricey when working with macadamia nuts as they are not cheap! I did this for my family, my taste buds, and well America. Okay, I'm getting a little cheesy. But really, why not celebrate the founding of our country with this native Hawaiian nut? These bars are on the decadent side, but totally worth the splurge. Not only are they easy to through together, but they are also portable and gluten free!! What better way to celebrate the 4th of July?

GF White Chocolate Chip and Macadamia Nut Blondies
Inspired by Taste of Home

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used C4C)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 6.5 oz. can dry roasted macadamia nuts
1 12 oz. bag white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and beat until smooth and combine. In a smaller dish, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually beat into the creamed mixture, scraping the sides to thoroughly mix. Add the nuts and chocolate chips until combine. Spread into your baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Makes 2 dozen bars.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dip #3 Snickers Apple Dip

This recipe is a tribute to my mother in-law, Marilyn. My side of the family is so blended, I don't think my in-laws get enough attention. So, this recipe is for you Mar!

I actually called Marilyn this morning to see if there was anything she needed to move into her NEW house. Yes, her NEW house! An endeavor which has taken two years worth of patience, planning, and building will finally be complete this summer. I also wanted to make sure it was okay to mention her on the blog:) You see, Marilyn is what I call a non-chef, chef. Unlike me, cooking is not her fancy. She runs the house while my father in-law, Doug, is out on the farm tending to the cattle. I know Marilyn has one job as a reading specialist for the local area education agency, but she wears many, many hats. Her job has her traveling a lot working with area schools on amping there reading instruction, working with government on the betterment for education in the state of Iowa, as well as leading teacher training programs for wannabe teachers. So, not only does she not really enjoy cooking, she does not have the time. When the holidays roll around, however, there are a few things that are simple traditions we look forward to at the table. Marilyn makes them quite well at that. Especially her apple Snickers salad.

This crowd pleasing salad is usually a cinch to put together and requires few ingredients perfect for the non-chef chef. Typically made with non-dairy whipped topping, apples, Snickers bars, and a few other things to sweeten 'er up, I thought this salad would be worthy deconstruction, a revamp, and turning into a dip for any celebratory occasion. In my recipe, I kept the Snickers, added 1/3 less fat cream cheese because I like cream cheese, and of course, had to add one healthy ingredient-- nonfat Greek yogurt. If you are looking for a lighter splurge this 4th of July that will aim to please, make this Snickers Apple Dip!

Snickers Apple Dip

8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7-8 fun size Snickers bars, chopped
Apple slices for dipping

In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together until combine. You can serve immediately, or cover the dip and store in the fridge. To keep the apple slices from browning if you are taking this dip to a party or gathering, simply squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lemon over the apple slices and toss to coat. Enjoy!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dip #2 Mayo Free Pimento Cheese Spread

Everyone has a different pallet. Mine can sometimes be very adventuresome. Other times I really like pretty common stuff. For example, today while I was working out at the gym I got the biggest craving for a Wendy's sour cream and chive baked potato and chili. I kept trying to think of other things I could eat at home, but the hankering did not cease. Honestly, I gave in and I have no regrets. I freakin' love Wendy's chili. I've never even attempted to make a copycat version. I'd rather just drive and get the real deal. It's not that adventuresome right? Just pretty common.

Another example of something pretty common that I had not had in years, pimento cheese. For some odd reason, I just felt the need to make some for this year's dips and a dessert week. I had never tried pimento cheese until working at Head Start. At first, I was kind of like, "What's the big deal? This looks disgusting." Then, I spread some on a quarter piece of plain white bread (this was before going gluten free by the way). I gave it a chance. It seriously changed my life. Who knew something so simple could totally elevate saltine crackers or plain white bread? Processed cheese, pimentos, and mayo. That's it. I guess grandmas know what they're doing when it comes to mayonnaise concoctions.

This spread/ dip actually has absolutely no mayo. None. Instead, I took a can of artichoke hearts, drained the liquid off, and ran them through my food processor until they were silky smooth. Yes friends, artichoke hearts. These puppies not only add the creamy texture of mayo, but also pack a nice little bit of fiber and protein. Serve with potato chips, crackers, or as a spread for sandwiches and you will give your taste buds a surprising adventure.

Mayo Free Pimento Cheese Spread

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 small jar pimento peppers, drained
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the artichoke hearts in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until creamy and smooth. You may need to stop the processor or blender to scrape the sides every now and again to evenly process all of the artichoke hearts. Place the pureed artichoke hearts in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir until combined. You can serve immediately with chips, crackers, or as a spread for sandwiches or cover and store in the fridge. I like to top mine with chopped chives for an added pop of color.