Saturday, November 30, 2013

Slow it Down Slow Cooker Week

Wow! What a Thanksgiving we had! My sister, Erin, and her sister-in-law really out did themselves. This was the first Stephenson-Duree-Owen-Nickel Family Thanksgiving the Bear and I had the pleasure to experience. It was actually pretty awesome because it not only included my sister's in-laws, but also my mom, youngest sister Amy, the Bear and myself. Later my dad and Brenda stopped by with Gavin, Sylvie, and Veda, my stepbrother's kiddos. Quite the blended family, quite the good times. Everyone remained peaceful, the food was AMAZING, and we got to visit everyone in one easy trip. With a 22 lb. turkey, my in-laws could have even joined in on the fun. Maybe next year Doug and Marilyn? Tee hee!

Now on to this week's menu post. Since we've been going warp 10 speed since about July, I am ready to slow things down for the year. Sure there is work which never ceases to slow down, but at least I can slow things down in the kitchen a little so we can finish decorating and get some shopping done for Christmas. Hence, my use of the slow cooker. As the Bear was inspecting the menu he asked, "Is this for real? You're using the Crock Pot three times next week!" Yes Bear, this is for real. The beauty of the Crock Pot is that I can prep all of the meals ahead of time, drop them in the Crock Pot on the day I intend to serve them, set that puppy on low, and come home to a meal that is practically done without me having to do too much. The sun is starting to set before I even get home. On top of all that needs to get done, I also need to add some walking activity to my evening routine while the weather continues to cooperate. Bring on the slow cooked meals my friends!! I'm sure you're already on the edge of your seats:)

Sunday 12/1            Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches with Salad

Monday 12/2           Make Ahead Kale & Sweet Corn Penne Bake with Tomato Salad

Tuesday 12/3           Leftovers

Wednesday 12/4     Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice & Broccoli

Thursday 12/5         Leftovers

Friday 12/6             Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff with Gluten-Free Tagliatelle and Green Beans

Here is what you will need:

1 lb. beef stew meat
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small red onion
1 bulb garlic
1 1-inch knob ginger root
1 bag washed, pre-cut kale
1 bag salad
1 bunch fresh basil (this will be the first I've bought at the store since March)
1 large box sliced mushrooms
1 loaf gluten-free French bread (1 regular demi loaf for the Bear)
1 bag or box gluten-free penne noodles
1 bag or box gluten-free tagliatelle noodles (or other wide noodles similar to an egg noodle)
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 jar sliced banana peppers
1 jar capers
1 box gluten-free beef broth
1 bag frozen corn (I will be using some frozen sweet corn I got from a friend this summer)
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. box 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 container fat-free or light sour cream
16 oz. 2% milk

Pantry items you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sesame oil
Low sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
Corn starch
Brown sugar
Dried brown rice
Dried minced onion
Salt and pepper

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend! Let the holiday season begin!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Potato Gratin

I've been so excited to share this recipe with you. This is the recipe I have made twice, yes twice, in the last week. The Bear and I are major potato fans. Yeah, sorry low-carby folks. I may be gluten-free, but I love me some potato. You see, going gluten-free is not always about being "low carb." It's about no gluten or at least doing your best to keep what you can out of your life. There is always the risk for contamination or for those moments when the gluten-free ingredients stated on the box are not so gluten-free and you discover this after the fact. And I must say, it can be hard to diet while being gluten-free as you already have so many things you cut out of your life. I'm not going to cut out potatoes. They are a great gluten-free source for carbohydrates. Fortunately on Weight Watchers, potatoes are not off limits. No food is "off limits." It is about balance. Something I strive to find in not only my life, but also my diet. So, bring on the potatoes! Just not in mass quantity portions like we would typically like to enjoy them.

You could really make this with or without the turkey. If you were making it without the turkey it would be a lovely vegetarian entree or a great side dish for your holiday feast. We just happened to have a lot of leftover turkey and I thought it would be a fantastic main dish. The trick to making this gratin Weight Watcher's friendly is through the use of low-fat milk and Parmesan cheese in place of whole milk and cheddar. Hard cheeses pack a lot of flavor for fewer calories and fat. This is one dish you will want to make again and again!

Turkey Potato Gratin
Makes 4 large servings, 6 points per serving

Nonstick cooking spray
4 small russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1/4-inch disks
1 cup shredded cooked turkey
1 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons minced dried onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a small dish, whisk together the milk, corn starch, dried onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and mustard powder until smooth and combine. Set aside. Layer 1/4 of the potatoes into the bottom of your casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the turkey over the potatoes, then 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat the potato, turkey, and cheese layers two more times. Top with the remaining potatoes. Pour the milk mixture over the potatoes. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown and the potatoes are fork tender when a fork is inserted into the middle of the dish. Let set for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Soup- Spicy Turkey & Vegetable Soup

Sven the II has provided us with amazing 6 meals. I cannot reiterate it enough, smoked turkey is a gourmet savvy friend! One meal was so good, I've made it twice in the last week. That doesn't happen much when you have a food blog. So, I can't wait to share tomorrow's recipe. Given it is Sunday and this will be the last of the Sunday Soups for November, however, I have to share this spicy, veggie packed meal in a bowl with you. Don't be sad about the end to Sunday Soups! I've got another great Sunday series starting next month that I am so excited about!

For the last of the Sunday Soup 2013 series, I leave you with this Spicy Turkey and Vegetable Soup. I normally do not like to use poultry in tomato based recipes because it does not stand up to tomato's acidity. Smoked turkey and tomato based recipes work amazingly well due to turkey's rich flavors. If you do not have smoked turkey, but a ton of leftover Thanksgiving turkey, no problems! The smoked paprika will add plenty of the smoky flavor that works so incredibly well with the tomato. Adapted from Weight Watcher's zero point vegetable soup, I've amped up the flavors and added some unique spices and more tomato goodness with a can of tomato paste. This soup clocks in at about 3 points per 1 1/2 cups serving, but will not leave you starving. It is amazing and tastes even better the next day!

Spicy Turkey and Vegetable Soup
inspired by Weight Watcher's Zero Point Vegetable Soup
Makes 6 1 1/2 cup servings, 3 points per serving

4 cups fat-free, gluten-free reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 small can salsa Verde
1 cup leftover smoked or cooked turkey, shredded
1 small yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1 avocado, chopped

In a slow cooker, stir together the chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa Verde, turkey, onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, carrot, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Set your slow cooker on low. Cook for 4 hours. Top with cilantro and avocado before serving.

GF Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza

Hello! The long break from blogging was not intentional. After last weekend's super sister weekend, I could feel myself coming down with a bug while traveling to Wichita this weekend. It has been non-stop around the Nickel house, but know that some well needed downtime is on the way. I cannot wait for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, as I catch up on blogging from The Very Thankful Menu Post today, I plan to share some great uses for all of that leftover turkey. We smoked Sven the II last weekend with no regrets and have been enjoying the leftovers ever since. It was hard to beat last year's Lean and Mean Smoked Turkey Chili  and my BBQ Smoked Turkey Enchiladas. This year's leftovers are not only geared towards a gluten-free lifestyle, but also will be Weight Watchers friendly. The Weight Watchers plan is going fabulously and I am down 7 lbs! Not a shabby way to start the holidays eh? 

Now onto The Very Thankful Menu Post's final recipe, Gluten Free Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza. In honor of the blog hitting over 30,000+ page views and our wedding anniversary, the Bear purchased me a huge cast iron skillet. Once I seasoned that puppy up, the first thing I made was an awesome gluten-free deep dish pizza. Then, the next weekend I made another. Don't worry, I will share these little gems with you very soon. It took a little fine tuning to get the crust just right. For my super sister weekend, I knew I had to come up with yet another fun, deep dish recipe, but wanted to also make it somewhat Weight Watchers friendly and not too overly indulgent. I think I nailed this one folks! Check out this little beaut. 

A perfectly golden and tender crust with amazingly cheesy burgery flavor. This may look incredibly un-Weight Watcher's friendly, but it is not. From my other deep dish recipes I made, I scaled down on the dough and used very lean ground beef. This made eight lovely servings for only 9 points per slice.

Gluten-Free Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza
Serves 8, 9 WW points per slice

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free Bisquick
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, beaten

For the toppings:
1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
2 tablespoons dried chopped onion
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1/4 cup sliced pickles
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese (divided)
Additional pickles, ketchup, and mustard for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large dish, whisk together the water, olive oil, melted butter, and eggs until combined. Add the Bisquick and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread crust mixture into a 10-inch seasoned cast iron skillet. The crust may be a little sticky, but there is no need to worry. If you have a little trouble spreading the mixture into the skillet, just lightly wet your hands and use your fingers to press the mixture into the skillet to form a crush. If you do not have a cast iron skillet, simply spray a 9-10 inch pie tine with non-stick cooking spray and press the crust into the pie tin. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the shredded 2% cheddar onto the crust. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and onions. Stirring occasionally to break up the meat, brown for 5-6 minutes or until the beef is no longer pink. Add the ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle the meat mixture over the cheese and crust. Arrange the pickles over the meat layer. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from oven. Let set for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. You can use additional pickles, ketchup, and mustard for garnish if you choose.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spinach and Tomato Quinoa Bake

They say you learn something new everyday. A while back I my mom and I were talking. She said she had visited the blog and said she had searched every cooking store and couldn't find a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Well, I just remembered this after, say, a couple of months. I have two of these said baking dishes and decided to measure the clean one the quinoa bake was not in. Low and behold these are not 9-inch by 13-inch baking dishes! I've been wrong in all my recipes! Grr! They are in fact 8-inch by 12-inch baking dishes. So, if I've ever confused you, made you shop for a new baking dish, or if you're like me said, "Screw it! I'm using the 8-inch by 12-inch dish anyway," I apologize for my error. I hope you forgive me:) Pretty please?

This evening's meatless Monday meal is one I've been working on for a while now. The first time I made it, I used a whole jar of spaghetti sauce, totally drowning the quinoa. To make this recipe more points friendly, I only used one cup of sauce and added a can of no-salt added diced tomatoes. The results are spectacular and only 8 points per serving. As usual, you can make this dish ahead, store it, and pop it in the oven when you are ready to bake it and serve.

Spinach and Tomato Quinoa Bake
Makes 6 1 1/2 cup servings
8 points per 1 1/2 cup

1 cup dried quinoa
2 cups water
1 14.5 oz. can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 cup spaghetti sauce
16 oz. fat free sour cream
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 box chopped frozen spinach, drained
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese

Spray an 8-inch by 12-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Bring the water and diced tomatoes to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add the quinoa, stir, and lower the heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Cover with a lid and remove from heat. Let the quinoa set for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. While the quinoa is resting, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, spinach, garlic powder, and onion powder together in a large bowl until smooth. Set aside. Spread the quinoa into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the quinoa. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. If you are making this dish ahead, cover and store in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to bake and serve. If you freeze this dish, you will need to thaw before baking. When you are ready to bake, place the dish, uncovered, in the oven and set the heat to 375 degrees. Bake in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown around the edges. Remove from the oven. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Light White Cheddar Cheese & Broccoli Soup

Well it has been day one on the Weight Watchers plan. So far things are going pretty good. From what I remember from the old points system, I was always starving the first few days. This usually sabotaged my plan unless I had jars of pickles, salsa, and celery around. This time around though, I am not nearly as hungry. Truthfully, I've felt quite satisfied. I know it is not going to be as easy on the weekends, but I think with some careful planning and budgeting it should not be as big a problem. I'm hoping this is going to be a good thing:) Especially when I have soup like this to enjoy.

I love foods that taste indulgent, but are still relatively good for you. Broccoli cheese soup is one of my favorites. This version I created utilizes bold cheddar flavors, but with fewer calories. Here I used light white cheddar cheese in the soup and garnished it with a sprinkle of regular shredded 2% cheddar. For only 4 points per 1 1/2 cups that is one heck of a bargain.

Light White Cheddar Cheese and Broccoli Soup
Makes 6 1 1/2 cup servings for 4 Weight Watchers Points

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
1/4 cup carrot, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
4 cups reduced sodium, gluten-free chicken broth
1 box frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
2 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup shredded light white cheddar cheese

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken and serve.

The Very Thankful Menu Post

It is that time of year, Thanksgiving! I know it is a little early to be celebrating, but next weekend both my sisters will be coming to town. It is a tradition we started when the Bear and I moved into our home. There is shopping, lots of girly-girl time, decorating for the upcoming holiday season, and I usually serve a Thanksgiving meal to celebrate.

While I am thinking ahead to next weekend, we have one busy, busy week to get through before my sisters arrive. You could call it the week of never ending evening meetings for us both. I am using a lot of supplies I already have stockpiled, so there will not be a grocery list this week. It might overwhelm some of you anyway because it was a pretty expensive grocery week; but, something you might like to know is I joined Weight Watchers. Thus, I have to be more than prepared or my newly started Weight Watchers plan will end up being a week of never ending take out dinners.

Weight Watchers you ask? Yes. This may confuse you a little if you are a regular reader. To catch you up on a few things, here's the story. All the talk about fertility over the summer, my absence from regular postings, and the talk about healing has to do with some success on the fertility front and a major disappointment. We did in fact conceive in August and I was pregnant. All was going well until our 6 week appointment with the specialist. We were so very excited and hopeful to see that little flicker of a heart beat. Tragically, however, that was not the case. The baby was not developing and was a mass of cells that would eventually lead up to some pretty serious health problems for me if we did not get things taken care of. I had to have a D & C about a month ago. So, all the talk about healing has been about us working through some major disappointment. We still can have children. Good news we did conceive. I am grateful for that. It just did not work out and was due to natural causes that many people have when a pregnancy just isn't meant to be. We are coming to grips and are still hopeful, but for now we are taking a break on trying to have a baby. Long story short, I now would like to lose some of the weight I gained from the fertility drugs and actually getting pregnant. This is not out of vanity. I am doing this for my health and well being. I am overweight and when we do start seeing the specialist again, I need to be in tip top health. Being overweight does not increase your chances. I thought long and hard about how to go about all of this. I knew Weight Watchers is safe and effective. Low and behold a friend from work sent me a 50% off deal for a three month subscription, so I made my decision.

If you are on the Weight Watchers plan and are on a gluten-free diet, you are reading the right blog. I am going to try and start posting points values including portion sizes. I'm doing the online program which has a lot of really nice features such as recipe builder. I'm also excited because nothing is off limits. It's all about balance, something in which I believe. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 11/10            Light White Cheddar Cheese and Broccoli Soup

Monday 11/11           Spinach and Tomato Quinoa Bake with Chopped Salad

Tuesday 11/12           Leftovers

Wednesday 11/13      Leftovers

Thursday 11/14          Gluten-Free Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza

Friday 11/15              Leftovers

Saturday 11/16          The Very Thankful Thanksgiving- Smoked Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
                                  Corn, Gluten-Free Stuffing, and Mini Pumpkin Pecan Tarts

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips or suggestions for starting Weight Watchers. I formally used the old Points system many years ago and noticed there are a lot of changes. I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks for your support and continued reading! Have a super Sunday! I'll see you later tonight for my Sunday Soup recipe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Curried Pineapple and Pepper Chicken with Rice

I don't know if I've told too many teaching stories on this blog, but today I have a good one. Trust me it's worth sharing. To fill you in a little, I teach special education in an urban school. While I work with children who have special needs, I try to include them in their classrooms as much as possible. I accomplish this through co-teaching. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and building trust with classroom teachers. The best part, I see a lot of growth in my students towards meeting their individual goals. I also love it because I get to meet so many students and see so many different classrooms. Today was one of those days the kids just made me laugh. Yes, flat out, I could not contain myself laugh. They were too cute. One little boy in particular, whose name will remain anonymous, just went to the top of the charts. I was sitting by one of my students helping him with a problem and he said, "You look like you need a massage Mrs. Nickel." Not being one to turn down a massage, I said "okay." He started karate chopping my shoulders and back. Then, he stopped and started telling me about his dream. Since the professional development training we had on 8 to Great, I've been talking a lot to the kids about what their dream is and what they want to do. It has been quite motivating for the kids and has helped me use it as a tool to get them motivated to do their work. Anyway the boy said, "Did I tell you Mrs. Nickel I want to own a spa?" I said, "No, but tell me more." "Well, Mrs. Nickel it will have everything. Massages, paint, chapstick, lipstick, paint to paint your nails. I'll be the owner and manager. I'm going to charge people I know $2.00. For people I don't know, I'll charge them a $1.99." Baffled I asked, "Why are you charging the people you know $2.00 and the people you don't know a $1.99?" He simply replied, "Mrs. Nickel I have to have a way to lure them in!" Quite the entrepreneur! It has been so long since I've laughed like that. He was just too cute!

I don't know what effect this 8 to Great stuff is having on me, but I'll take it. It's making me feel more positive, emotionally heal, and getting me to work towards my inspiration- this blog. On to tonight's recipe Curried Pineapple and Pepper Chicken with Rice. I think you will like this.

I did not have very much time to get dinner ready this evening due to an orthodontist appointment. Dr. Carter keeps telling me we're getting closer and closer to these darn braces coming off. I hope so. I feel like they are becoming a permanent fixture to my smile. Regardless, the meal came together before the 6 o'clock news was over. Not too shabby.  

Curried Pineapple and Pepper Chicken and Rice

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. stir-fry chicken strips
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
1 red pepper, cut into large chunks
1 green pepper, cut into large chunks
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 15 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook another 5-6 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the red onion and peppers. Cook, stirring every so often, for 5-6 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the spices and pineapple chunks. Toss until combine. Serve over 1 cup hot cooked brown rice. Garnish with cilantro if you choose.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Baked Vegetarian Chili & Cheese Wraps

Instead of meatless Monday, wouldn't it be really fun if we had "fun food Monday?" Mondays are not the best day of the week anyway. Actually, maybe every day of the week should be filled with fun food. When I create my recipes, I try to have a balance of something relatively healthy, something comforting, something quick, and something a little fun or indulgent. Usually, the fun or indulgent is saved for the weekends. These Baked Vegetarian Chili and Cheese wraps are meatless and healthy, but taste indulgent and fun. It's the best of both worlds for a Monday. Oh, and did I mention this is a make ahead dish? You can prepare these little gems burrito and all, store them, and pull them out when you are ready to bake and serve. I can't wait to enjoy the leftovers tonight for dinner and tomorrow for lunch. Yeah for me!

Baked Vegetarian Chili and Cheese Wraps
adapted from Weight Watchers

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (salsa style)
1/2 link soyrizo
1 15 oz. can chili style beans, in gravy
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional if you do not like things too spicy)
6 gluten-free burrito sized tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, soyrizo, chili beans, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. If you do not like your chili too spicy, you can omit the cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. The mixture will be thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the tortillas on a microwave safe plate. Cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the tortillas are soft enough to handle. Spread 3/4 cup of the chili mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Top with 1/4 cup cheese. Tuck the ends of the tortilla in and roll. Place in the baking dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tortillas begin to turn lightly brown.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Creamy Chicken & White Bean Soup

Did anyone else forget about the time change? Don't get me wrong. This is my favorite one despite there are fewer daylight hours. You will not hear me complain about an extra hour added to my sleep. Extra hour or otherwise, I feel like the weekend flew by. We were so incredibly busy raking leaves from our backyard forest, cleaning, clearing out the basement for some contract work, and getting ready for the upcoming week. I am so grateful the Bear and I work so well together as a team. Together we tackled a lot without squabbling too much;) Luckily, we had this soup to sooth our souls and bring us together at dinner. Ahh! Isn't that just sweet?

Since I am working on simplifying my life, I chose to make this soup in the Crock Pot. I originally wrote this recipe for the stove top, but realized I could do some serious multitasking if I just let the slow cooker do all of the work. There is something so incredibly magical about Crock Pot cooking. Since I finally cracked the code to cooking kale chips, we enjoyed our soup topped with some crispy kale. If you are not a fan or do not have the time, you could easily include the kale in the slow cooker to bump up your vitamins. Either way, this soup is so comforting and delicious!

Creamy Chicken & White Bean Soup
inspired from The South Beach Diet

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups reduced sodium gluten-free chicken broth
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups low fat milk (I used 2%)
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken, onion, garlic, beans, chicken broth, bay leaf, and thyme into your slow cooker. Stir to combine. Set on low and cook for 4 hours. Using two forks, shred the chicken breast and stir into the soup. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until smooth. Pour the milk mixture into the soup. Stir, cover, and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally until the soup begins to thicken. Top with kale chips before serving if you desire.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Harnessing Happiness Menu Post

Friday our district had a professional development day. Not only were the sessions pretty outstanding, but there were also no crabby Halloween hangovers to deal with post trick-or-treating with students. I got lots of wonderful lessons, games, and tricks to fill my teaching toolkit. I also attended a session on self-improvement and harnessing happiness. The session was lead by M.K. Mueller who has relocated to Kansas City. M.K. not only teaches courses at Johnson County Community College, but also has started her own philosophy on self-improvement called 8 to Great. 8 to Great can be used with any age, any person, every day. You can check out the link above for the eight easy steps, more information, and whereabouts to hear M.K. in action. Trust me, it will change your life.

Similar to many programs, M.K. advises you begin with a vision of what you truly want. "Dream it. Believe it. Imagine it until you can feel it," she said. I was beginning to feel a little defeated at this point. Part of my problem lately has been a total lack of focus. I was just telling Justin (a.k.a. the Bear) the other day that I've felt like I've been flailing lately. While I'm keeping it together on the outside, inside I feel like I am crumbling. I've put so much on hold in hopes that we would be able to start our family and I'd just figure things out from there. For the last four years, my focus has been on trying to have kids and only has been met with disappointment, road blocks, and failure. Most of my major life goals I set for myself in my twenties have been met. We got married. We bought a house. We both have our masters' degrees. We have solid jobs. We've been recognized and praised for our accomplishments. We've won awards for throwing ourselves into our careers. This is all wonderful and I am incredibly grateful; but, at the same time it is time to set new goals. Being starting a family is literally up to a fertility specialist and the good Lord, I realized yesterday that I need to set some smaller, more attainable goals for myself. First is to heal, learn, and work my way back into positive emotional health. I've got a plan in place for how to do this. My second goal is to continue working on this blog. This blog brings me so much joy. I love creating, sharing, and problem solving in the kitchen. Cooking is therapy for me. My vision is for you all to enjoy this blog so much that it continues to grow and take off. I want to create an e-book maybe even be discovered somehow. Sure it is lofty, but at least I now have a dream and a vision. No more flailing and I have my knowledge obtained from 8 to Great to help me. The family stuff can happen along the way instead of letting it control me. Life must have a dream and a purpose.

Wow, pretty deep for a Saturday morning huh? How about a menu? Good news, I've got a good one this week. As usual, all meals are healthy, gluten-free, can be prepped ahead, and are super easy. For this week's Sunday Soup I've got a wonderful Creamy Chicken and White Bean Soup on the menu. I plan to take the leftovers with me for a positive, heart warming lunch. For meatless Monday, I have a make ahead Baked Chili and Cheese Wrap recipe for a quick and veggie filled meal. Wednesday we will spice things up with a one bowl wonder. To end the week, I have a recipe inspired by my favorite store in Des Moines, Iowa, Kitchen Collage. Be grateful and fill your positive energy tanks for this week's eats! Here is the rundown:

Sunday 11/3           Creamy Chicken and White Bean Soup with Kale Chips

Monday 11/4          Baked Vegetarian Chili and Cheese Wraps with Tossed Salad

Tuesday 11/5          Leftovers

Wednesday 11/6     Curried Pineapple and Pepper Chicken and Rice

Thursday 11/7         Leftovers

Friday 11/8 or         Steak au Poivre with Sherry Shallot Sauce, Roasted Potatoes, and Green Beans
Saturday 11/9

Here is what you will need:

1 lb. stir-fry cut chicken breast
2-4 of your favorite cuts of steak
1 link soyrizo
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag of your favorite salad blend
1 bunch celery
1 bunch kale
1 bunch cilantro
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 red onion
2 yellow or white onions
2 shallots
1 bulb garlic
1 15 oz. can pineapple chunks
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (salsa style)
1 small can tomato paste
1 15 oz. can chili style beans
1 15 oz. can white beans
1 box reduced sodium gluten-free chicken broth
1 box instant brown rice
1 bag gluten-free tortillas
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 quart 2% milk

Pantry items you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
Your favorite salad dressing
Corn starch
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Curry powder
Salt and pepper

Happy Saturday! Today I am grateful for all of fall's glorious colors, my dreams, and figuring out how to simplify my life. What are you grateful for today?

Layered Nacho Bake

Still playing recipe catch up. This recipe was served Wednesday and Thursday evening from the Guess Who's Back menu post. It is so incredibly easy. You could also leave the meat out for easy vegetarian pub grub.

We love pub grub! Here I've taken tortilla chips, a great gluten-free snacking staple, and layered them with cheese, a meaty-veggie bean mix, and topped with more cheese, salsa, and a dollop of light sour cream. Serve over a bed of crispy shredded lettuce and you can enjoy pub grub any night of the week.

Layered Nacho Bake

1/2 lb. cooked lean ground turkey
1 15 oz. can fat-free refried beans
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
4 cups tortilla chips
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa
4 tablespoons light sour cream (optional)
1 bag shredded lettuce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. I used and 8-inch by 8-inch square dish, but any oven safe dish will work. In a large bowl, mix together the ground turkey, beans, zucchini, and diced tomatoes. Set aside. In the casserole dish, layer 2 cups of the tortilla chips in the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/2 of the turkey and bean mixture over the chips. Top with 1 cup of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining chips, turkey bean mixture, and cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble in the middle. Remove from the oven and spoon the salsa over the top. Divide into four equal servings. Serve over the shredded lettuce and top with sour cream or any other favorite nacho toppings if you choose.

Recipe Ramblings and my Photography

Good Saturday morning to you all! It is such an incredibly beautiful day and I am loving the fall colors as I look outside my window. It is 360 degrees of beauty!

Now that the weekend is here, I feel like I have some time to catch up on last week's recipes. Recipe one was intended to be posted on Monday. I know you probably could care less about my excuses, but I have good reason. Reason number one I did not post my original picture was due to my Udi's bread totally falling apart into crumbs. Normally I've had pretty good luck with Udi's and sing its praise. This particular loaf was on sale. I now know why it was on sale. In the middle of the loaf was a huge air bubble hole. This would have worked great for the breakfast recipe I used to love as a kid, toads in the hole, but not for Grilled Pesto and Tomato Sandwiches. Thinking I could make them open-faced didn't work either as the bread absorbed much of the liquid and became very mushy. It was a sad sandwich situation my friends. Fortunately, I had another loaf in the freezer. It just needed to thaw overnight for use on Tuesday. This worked out much better. Mucho gracias to Rotella's Italian Bakery for their new gluten-free ancient grains bread!

No holes, no mushy sandwiches. I also am quite impressed with those lovely grill marks. What made me hesitant to post the picture on Tuesday you ask? Lighting. The days are shorter and by the time I come home, prep for the next day, and start cooking dinner there is no natural light left. My kitchen is pretty bright, but the lighting tends to have a yellowish tint that does not make for a very delicious picture unless you are working with bananas, lemons, or yellow squash. I plan to remedy this situation by building my own white box. I've been reading a lot about white boxes this past week. All it takes is a large cardboard box, some window film, white poster board, tape, and lights. With a little editing I am hoping this will help. Anyway, enough rambling. Here is the recipe. It is super simple.

Grilled Pesto and Tomato Sandwiches

8 slices whole-grain, gluten-free bread
2 tablespoons store bought pesto
4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
2-3 roma tomatoes

Preheat your panini press or grill pan to medium heat. Spread the pesto on four slices of bread. Layer the mozzarella and tomatoes. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Place on your panini press or grill pan. If you choose to press your sandwiches, grill for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt. If you are using a grill pan, grill for 2-3 minutes on one side. Then, flip and grill for 2-3 minutes more. Remove from the press or grill pan, slice in half, and serve.