Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegan Walnut Chili

How is your week going so far? We have been experiencing some very fall like weather. I would actually call it more of a squall. We've been hit with about 48 hours straight of cold, windy, very wet weather. I've been fighting a bit of a cold, so the climate just makes me want to cozy up under the blankets and sleep. It is nice to have this chili on hand to quickly heat up and serve over some comforting baked potatoes.

As I was looking over past recipes, I came across a few from my "Pinspiring" Menu Post back in March of 2013. In this menu post I had tested out several recipes I had "pinned" but had yet to try. In one of my favorites, the Vegan Taco Salad, I used a lentil and walnut mixture in place of ground beef. I thought, "Why not try the walnuts in the chili?" So, I did. The Bear didn't even know the meat was missing. Besides the fact he had no idea about all of the heart healthy antioxidants and healthy fats he was eating. Winner, winner, meat-free dinner!

The trick to substituting the walnuts for the ground beef is to soak the nuts in water for at least 8 hours or overnight. The nuts absorb some of the water and soften. When lightly processed and simmered in the soup, the texture magically transforms into that of ground meat. These vegans really have some great tricks up their sleeves!

Vegan Walnut Chili

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups English walnuts, soaked in water for 8 hours or overnight
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can chili beans in chili gravy, undrained
1 15 oz can chili ready diced tomatoes
4 12 oz cans low sodium V8 vegetable juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. While the vegetables are softening, drain the walnuts. Pulse in a food processor until the nuts become the consistency of ground meat. Add the nuts to the vegetables. Stir. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer. Let the chili simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes to let the flavors marry together. Remove from heat. Serve with all of your favorite chili toppings or over baked potatoes with all of your favorite baked potato toppings. This would be a great recipe to accommodate for your vegetarian friends or as a healthy alternative for your family!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why that Beautiful Menu Never Happened

I know some of you have probably wondered where I've been the last week. I had such a beautiful and healthy menu planned for last week. Unfortunately, this all went down hill starting Monday night. After forcing myself out on a run, I started to not feel very good. My stomach sounded like a water cooler with slight shooting pains on my upper right side. I felt that nauseated on again off again feeling. I attributed this to gas as I had been eating a fair amount of veggies throughout the day. After only eating about half of my dinner, I just decided to take some ibuprofen and go to bed.

I slept, sort of, then woke up in another bout of pain. After laying in bed, listening to my gurgling bowels, I took more ibuprofen and sort of fell back to sleep. When I woke up, I was still in a little bit of pain and still felt a little nauseated, but decided to tough it out and go to work. I ate a little bit of my breakfast and then headed out to teach third grade math. Within the hour, the pain came back. This time it was far worse. The kids, started noticing my rosy cheeks turning completely white. At 9:15, I bee-lined it to the bathroom and threw up. That's when things went even further south. I could not stop throwing up. When I thought there would be a little break, I told my principal and the head secretary that I needed to go home. And then had to quickly leave that conversation to go throw up again. I could not even drive home.

So, trash can in hand, my principal drove me home while the assistant principal followed us in my car. I was throwing up on and off the entire time. I'm thankful they helped me out, but totally embarrassed I threw up in her car. If I could make them a thank you card it would start with something like, "You know you have amazing bosses when..." I don't really remember much, but she did call my husband on the way and told him to meet us at the house as I was refusing that she take me to the emergency room. After climbing up the steps and blacking out in the bathroom, the next thing I remember is the Bear picking me up, placing me in the car with the trash can from work, and heading to the E.R. They gave me a good does of anti-nausea medication and pain meds, drew some blood, and did an ultrasound of my abdominal region. Since I do not have my appendix, they were thinking it might be my gall bladder. The ultrasound did not show any signs of gall stones, however, my liver enzymes were elevated. So, I was admitted into the hospital.

The following day, they did a pipida scan. A pipida scan is a CT scan where they intravenously give you some dye. Next, they intravenously feed you the equivalent of a Thanksgiving meal to see how your liver and gall bladder react. Things got real. In the middle of the scan, I was in the same amount of pain I was in the day before. I thought I was going to die. Turns out my gall bladder was very inflamed and only functioning at about 10%. Thus, messing with my liver and causing bad things to happen. So, the gall bladder came out later that day. The next day I went home and here I am recovering from all the craziness. I am still in a lot of pain from the surgery, but believe it or not, I am feeling so much better. Looking back, I think my gall bladder had been causing me a lot of issues. This past year, holiday meals even while gluten free, were not as enjoyable. I always felt terrible after going out to eat. I tried curing these issues by eating healthier and healthier, which was not a bad thing; but, no matter what, my faulty gall bladder needed to go.

On top of the gall bladder removal, the doctors have diagnosed me with a full fledged gluten intolerance after my appendix and gall bladder issues. Before, it was a just a sensitivity, but now it is legit. I am to remain on my gluten free diet as well as a fairly low fat diet. I can start adding more fat back into my diet in about a month or so as it will take my digestive system a while to adjust to no longer having a gall bladder. This week I plan to take time to recover. I hope to be back at blogging again soon! Until then, please enjoy any past recipes and menu posts. Have a great week!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pineapple-Cilantro Slaw

I've been making the same Cilantro Lime Slaw for quite some time. It is a staple side dish in the Nickel house and pairs incredibly well with BBQ, Tex-Mex, and even seafood. Last night, I thought I'd give it an update. I think this version would stand up well to any BBQ, Tex-Mex, seafood, or even Asian cuisine.

Isn't it just beautiful? This week's foods are all about slimming down and feeling good. If you are having a bad day or maybe feel a little negative, you can look at this colorful salad and maybe feel a little better. You don't even have to taste it. I feel happier just looking at it. Here sunny shiny pineapple gives the cool and creamy cilantro dressing a sweet surprise. Not too sweet though. Just enough sweet to let you know its there and summer is right around the corner.

Pineapple-Cilantro Slaw

1 bag shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped into small cubes
2 cups low fat buttermilk
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro (if you are not a fan, feel free to use less)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Zest of 2 small limes or 1 large lime
Juice of 2 small limes or 1 large lime
1 teaspoon stevia (optional if you do not like your dressing on the slightly sweet side)
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, red pepper, and pineapple. Set aside. In a blender, mix together the buttermilk, cilantro, green onions, lime zest, lime juice, stevia, and salt until smooth. This dish can be made ahead of time if you are taking it to a party. Simply store the dressing separate from the salad. When you are ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until everything is well coated.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Feel Good Food Menu Post

After a last week's worth of seriously amazing eats (hello Bacon Lasagna), I realized we probably need to clean up our eats a bit. Bikini season is just around the corner. And, while I did use some self-control in my bacon lasagna filled world last week, it is time to get back on track. It is time to get movin' and groovin' again with the activity, get toned up, and feel seriously good about myself. Too honor this, I am off to a good start. I made it out the door for a nice little run this morning before the rain and hail. Not too shabby!

This week's menu focuses on all of the above. These are meals that will fill you up and fuel your workouts without filling out your waistline. To continue my healthy streak today, I will be using my Sweet Asian Glaze to spice up my chicken burgers. I plan to update my usual Cilantro Lime Slaw into an even better slimming side. Meatless Monday is a meal in a bowl with my version of the Pinterest recipe for Mexican Quinoa Bowls. Wednesday I plan to spice up my chicken with a blackened chicken served over a beautiful spinach and almond salad. Finally, to end the week I'm going to make some simple Garlic Chicken and Hummus Flatbreads. Here is the official slimming rundown:

Sunday 4/27          Sweet Asian Glazed Chicken Burgers with Pineapple-Cilantro Slaw

Monday 4/28        Protein Packed Mexican Quinoa Bowls

Tuesday 4/29        Leftovers

Wednesday 4/30  Blacked Chicken over Spinach and Almond Salad

Thursday 5/1        Leftovers

Friday 5/2            Garlic Chicken and Hummus Flatbreads with Salad

A few of the items you will need include:

1 package chicken burgers (I plan to use Weight Watchers)
4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (depending on size)
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
1 red pepper
1 zucchini
1 container fresh pineapple (I bought some already cubed from the deli section, if you cannot find any canned would be fine. Just make sure it is packed in its own juice not syrup.)
1-2 limes (depending on size)
1 bag baby spinach
1 bag slaw mix
1 container of your favorite hummus
1 jar roasted red peppers (packed in water not oil)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can black beans
1 bag or can or jar almonds (you will need about 1/2 cup if you choose to buy from the bulk section)
1 package gluten-free wraps (I will be using Sandwich Petals Agave Garlic)
1 box or bag quinoa (If buying from the bulk section you will need 1 cup)
1 bag frozen corn
1 quart buttermilk

Pantry items you will need include:

Nonstick cooking spray
Extra virgin olive oil
Nut oil (such as walnut oil)
Apple cider vinegar
Pure maple syrup
Dijon mustard
Taco seasoning
Blackening seasoning
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Xanthan gum

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! I look forward to sharing with you all throughout the week!

Sweet Asian Glaze

It is hard to make a healthy meal on a Friday night. Everyone is tired from the long work week. I understand the last thing anyone wants to do is add one more thing to their weekend to-do list. Had I not already thawed the chicken, I too would have dined out or ordered in. Somehow though, I found the energy to throw this meal together. I'm glad I did.

This meal was healthy, filling, and tasted like my own hibachi grill meal. The Bear actually asked me if I had gone to the local hibachi grill place we like to go to and bought some of their sauce. It was that good!

To make this meal lightening quick, I made grilling packets for the vegetables. I know I originally said these were going to be kabobs in my menu post, but the grilling packets were a lot easier. All you have to do is spray a 12 inch piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray, lay or vegetables on top of the foil, and drizzle a little bit of the glaze over the veg. Then, fold the foil and place on the grill. I made one packet for the asparagus and one for the zucchini, peppers, and onion. You could use whatever vegetables you like, but the glaze is the key to making this meal taste like your own Japanese steakhouse.

Sweet Asian Glaze

1/4 cup soy sauce (I used San-J Organic Tamari)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons stevia

Whisk all ingredients together in a small dish. Use over grilled or sauteed veggies and meats as you please.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bacon Lasagna

This recipe is inspired by one of the hard working paraprofessionals in our school. I cannot say enough about how much I value their work and dedication to the students. So, I felt the need to honor my dear lunch buddy, Meghan. Your Dad's bacon spaghetti ignited the spark for this truly awesome recipe. Hold on to your tablecloth! This is a good one!

I feel like lasagna is one of those recipes everyone needs to know how to make. You can happily feed your family, a large crowd, and entertain with this hearty, Italian comfort dish. To take this lasagna to the next level, I used bacon in place of ground beef or sausage. Yes, bacon! All I can say is it is AMAZING! I happen to love center cut bacon. It is lower in fat, but still has all of the bacon goodness that turkey bacon just can't match. I also added a little spinach. Just to sneak in a little veg.

You will want to prepare this lasagna AHEAD! Yes Mr. A- PREPARE THIS BACON LASAGNA AHEAD OF TIME! (Bold and capitalized just for you) Get it all ready, cover it, and store it in your fridge until you are ready to bake and serve. This will save you time. There is enough liquid to cook the noodles for you without having to boil them ahead of time. Preparing the dish ahead of time also helps your lasagna to not be a runny mess on your plate. Just like I dislike soggy cereal on my leftover cheesy potato casserole, I do not like runny lasagna.

Bacon Lasagna

Nonstick cooking spray
10-12 dried lasagna noodles (I used brown rice noodles to make it gluten free, but regular will work too)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu traditional)
1 cup cooked and crumbled center cut bacon
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of any excess liquid
1 15 oz. container low-fat ricotta cheese
1 15 oz. container low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese

Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch or 8-inch by 12-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the bacon and spaghetti sauce. Set aside. In another large bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, cottage cheese, egg, and garlic powder until combined. Ladle and evenly spread 1/2-3/4 cup sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Layer 5-6 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce to form the first layer. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup of the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over the ricotta. Ladle and spread the remaining sauce over the cheese. Repeat noodle and cheese layers with the remaining ingredients. Cover and store in your fridge for up to 2-3 days. When you are ready to bake and serve, let the dish set out at room temperature uncovered while your oven preheats at 375 degrees. When the oven is preheated, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the lasagna. Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Bake uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble in the middle and turn lightly brown. Remove from the oven. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gluten Free Cheesy Potatoes

I'm not sure if I've ever made breakfast for dinner since I've been married to the Bear. Actually, I don't think I've ever made breakfast for dinner at all since I moved out of my parents' house. It's not that I don't like it. I love breakfast. It's just that I don't ever think about it for dinner. Normally I'm thinking about making dinner things. For some odd reason while planning the menu this week, I thought it would be a fun use of leftovers for my cheesy potatoes.

Growing up, my mom and dad called cheesy potatoes "South Pacific Potatoes." I'm not really sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the railroad? When I hear South Pacific, I picture pineapples, soy sauce, and rice. Anyone else at any potluck I've ever been to called them "Party Potatoes" or just plain old "Cheesy Potatoes." Regardless, these potatoes typically are made with a can of condensed soup, cheese, shredded potatoes, butter, and crunched up cereal. They are best consumed the day of making them unless you don't mind soggy cereal the next day. To make my cheesy potatoes gluten free, I took the cereal and condensed soup out of the equation. This allowed me to scale back on the calories too. If you are looking for a different, gluten free version or want to enjoy the leftovers without the soggy cereal, you should give them a try!

Gluten Free Cheesy Potatoes

1 30 oz. bag frozen shredded potatoes or hash brown potatoes
1 16 oz. container fat-free or light sour cream
1 8 oz. brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, sour cream, cream cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, the dried minced onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly into your casserole dish. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese. Cover with a piece of foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble in the middle and brown around the edges. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peach & Bourbon Glaze

This year, the Bear and I celebrated Easter at home. We did not travel back to Iowa. I was a little sad about all of this, but we did talk on the phone to our family. I missed seeing the kids on their Easter egg hunt. Maybe next year we will be able to make it back and not miss any of the fun. At least we had this awesome feast to enjoy...

To be honest, I've never made a ham before. This year was not any different. Since even the small hams at the store would have been a little excessive for just two people, the Bear and I settled for these smoked pork chops. They had all the great flavor of ham, but in a smaller portion. The glaze though, the glaze took it over the top. While this might sound like a complicated process, it really was not complicated at all. All you need is a little peach preserves and bourbon. Two ingredients. That's it.

Peach and Bourbon Glaze

1/4 cup peach preserves
1 tablespoon bourbon

In a small dish, whisk the peach preserves and bourbon together. This glaze can be used with poultry, pork, or fish. If you are grilling, simply place your meat of choice on the grill and brush a little of the glaze over the top of the meat. When you are ready to flip and cook the other side, simply brush a little more of the glaze on. A little more once you pull the meat off the grill is great too. You can also use this glaze if you are pan cooking, broiling, or baking your meat. Follow the same process. It is delicious!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Teacher's Lounge Inspired Menu Post

Well, the steak tacos from last night turned out just fine with the exception of me burning the tortillas. They really turned into tostadas/ broken tortilla chips. I got a little preoccupied with enjoying my Friday libations and conversing with the Bear on the patio. Lesson learned. Keep an eye on tortillas when you are heating them up in the oven;). If you are looking to make these lovely tacos yourself, all I did was marinate 1 rib eye steak in 1 tablespoon olive oil mixed with the juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon taco seasoning. I let it all marinate for about 20 minutes before we threw that puppy on the grill. We then grilled the steak for 5 minutes per side, sliced it up thin, and served it over my very crispy tortillas topped with my Cilantro Lime Slaw.

Before I get preoccupied with weekend things such as grocery shopping, laundry, lawn work, and cleaning, I thought I should get the menu posted. I know many of you have a very busy Easter weekend without a lot of spare time. This week's menu post is all inspired by lunch time conversations in the teacher's lounge. While a teacher's lunch may be humble, we really do love food. We just don't have a lot of time to enjoy it. So, we talk about all of the things we'd rather be enjoying during our brief lunch time.

First up for this week is my Easter Sunday meal. I plan to make a traditional ham dinner for the Bear with a bourbon and peach glaze and cheesy potatoes. My principal was pretty proud to tell us all about making cheesy potatoes and I thought that sounded good too. For my meatless Monday meal of the week, I plan to use those cheesy potatoes as a base for a little breakfast for dinner with a side of springtime asparagus. Next up is a meal I'm pretty excited about. One of the paraprofessionals I eat lunch with is always talking about her dad's bacon spaghetti. This conversation comes up whenever spaghetti is on the school lunch menu. I thought this sounded pretty tasty, so my spin on her favorite meal is a bacon lasagna. Finally, to top the week off I plan to make my friend Jenny's sweet Asian glaze for some healthy chicken and veggie kabobs. It should be a fun week of meals that are all inspired by my dear friends at my school. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 4/20            Peach & Bourbon Glazed Ham w/ Cheesy Potatoes & Salad

Monday 4/21           Easy Eggs Over Leftover Cheesy Potatoes & Asparagus

Tuesday 4/22           Leftovers

Wednesday 4/23      Bacon Lasagna w/ Salad

Thursday 4/24          Leftovers

Friday 4/25               Chicken & Veggie Kabobs w/ Sweet Asian Glaze & Snap Peas

A list of most of the items you will need from the grocery store:    

1 small ham or ham steak
1 package center cut  bacon
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on size)
1 bunch asparagus
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 bunch green onions or chives
1 inch knob ginger root
1 bag fresh snap peas
1-2 bags of your favorite salad blend
1 small jar peach preserves
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 box GF lasagna noodles
1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes
1 box frozen chopped spinach
Light butter
1 container ricotta cheese
1 container cottage cheese
1 container light or fat free sour cream
1 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
1 bag 2% shredded cheddar
1 bag 2% shredded mozzarella

Pantry items you will need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Brown sugar
Sesame oil
Gluten-free soy sauce
Garlic powder
Dried minced onion

One more quick note, I will be making the lasagna ahead of time. Our curriculum specialist told me he loves the blog, but I really need to make sure if something is make ahead that I capitalize, bold print, and state that it is a make ahead dish. This is not the first time I've heard this. If you see any of my recipes that are make ahead dishes, you will want to make them ahead of time. Otherwise, the no boiling technique will take additional time due to the noodles not absorbing some of the liquid beforehand. I hope you all have a great weekend! Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

GF Meatball Subs

I actually made a very similar recipe about two years ago this exact same time of year. Sometimes you just need a repeat right? This time, however, I took some major short cuts.

Above is the original picture I took almost two years ago. At this point in my blogging career, I think my skills had sharpened significantly. 2012 was my breakthrough blogging year. I had been gluten-free for one year at that point. It is really hard to believe that I've been gluten-free for 3.2 years now. Time really flies!

I'm going to go ahead and suggest the original Slow Cooker Meatballs in Marinara recipe; however here are my suggested shortcuts for this go-around. For starters, I did not use my slow cooker this time. I used the microwave. Second, I used pre-made meatballs instead of making my own. I used chicken, but beef, turkey, or whatever will be fine. If you are gluten-free you already know you will want to read ingredients to make sure there is no gluten if you choose to go this route. I also did not make my own sauce this time either. I used stuff straight out of the jar. Ragu to be exact. Ragu recently took a liking to my blog this winter and has given me a little publicity, so I thought I'd give a shout out. Below you will find my shortcut version.

GF Meatball Subs 

1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen meatballs
4 slices 2% provolone cheese
4 gluten-free submarine rolls (I use Shar brand. If you are not GF, any regular sub roll will do)

Preheat your oven to the low broiler setting. Place the spaghetti sauce and meatballs in a  large, microwavable safe dish. Cover and heat in the microwave for 5 minutes or until the meatballs are no longer frozen and are cooked through. Remove from the microwave. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil. If you are using foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the submarine rolls in half or split down the middle. Top the bread with the meatballs, sauce, and cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt and bubble. You will want to keep an eye on things when using the broiler as things can burn very quickly. Remove from the oven and serve.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chickpea & Rice Tomato Soup

While it was a bit chilly today in Kansas City, the afternoon was absolutely gorgeous. I said to one of my colleagues as we were heading to our cars after work that I have absolutely no excuse whatsoever not to get my biscuits out on a run. It's been a couple of weeks. I really haven't run since the Diva Dash, but I forced myself out and it was worth it! Worth every single beautiful mile. I started out feeling like I was dogging it a bit. The bountiful spring scenery kept me going and then I felt my stride get stronger and stronger. I managed to shave off five minutes from the last time I hit the trail. 

Now that I've got my run completed, my stomach is growling for some leftover soup. I cannot wait to dig into this again tonight.

This is not your average tomato soup friends. Not that I find tomato soup boring. I love tomato soup. I really liked straight up condensed Campbell's tomato soup out of the can. Unfortunately, after going gluten-free I discovered it is condensed with a ton of wheat in it. This is disappointing news for the average Midwesterner. Instead of being sad though, I've considered making my own tomato soup an adventure. I'm happy with my adventure. You can make this a simple culinary adventure too if you are looking for something a little healthier. Consider this your twist on traditional tomato soups. Consider it an exploration to try some new, unique spices that you've maybe not tried because you've "never heard of that." Trust me, you might find out you like it.

Here I've taken my traditional tomato soup base- diced onion, 1 clove minced garlic, carrot, and celery sauteed in a little extra virgin olive oil and cooked with chicken broth, 1 can diced tomatoes, and a can of tomato paste- and added a kick. Chickpeas and rice bulk this soup up to make it an entree. Ground cumin, coriander, and garam masala add the unique and spicy twist. Cumin adds a warm, smoky depth. Coriander adds light citrus notes. Garam masala adds more warmth without burning your mouth. I happened to by my garam masala blend at Super Target, but you could also try Whole Foods, Penzy's, or an Asian or Indian market. It is worth adding to your spice cabinet!

Chickpea and Rice Tomato Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow or white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup instant brown rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and chickpeas. Stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer and then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to so you do not scorch the bottom of the pan. Add the rice and the remaining ingredients. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until the rice is soft. This soup can be made ahead and reheated or served immediately with your favorite sides. We enjoyed ours with salad and garlic bread. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cranberry-Jalapeno Mayo

What a fantastic weekend! We did not really do anything too special. Saturday we woke up bright and early to head down to the Grass Pad. If you are looking for a good laugh, you can click on the link which will take you to their website. Here you can watch their commercials. They crack me up! Anyway, we bought some sod to take care of some areas that were hit pretty hard by ol' man winter. We also cleaned up around the yard. Later we spent time on our patio grilling and enjoying libations. It has just been nice to enjoy spring.

Since grilling season is here, I thought I'd share a condiment recipe with you. Over spring break, I ate at Grameracy Tap in Des Moines. I enjoyed a very tasty chicken burger without the bun. Now, I've recreated the dish so I can enjoy it at home.

I used Weight Watchers Chicken Burgers as they are a nice convenience food for the price. Any burger- beef, turkey, or chicken would be just fine if you cannot find the Weight Watchers burgers at your grocery store. The chicken, however, pairs very well with the cranberry-jalapeno kick. If you are looking for a flavor packed condiment to spice up any burger without a ton of calories, I highly suggest this mayo!

Cranberry-Jalapeno Mayo
inspired by Grameracy Tap in Des Moines, IA

1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used Hellman's)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Serve as a condiment for burgers, sweet potato fries, or as a dip for tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back at it Menu Post

I am so excited that my work schedule will be returning somewhat back to normal next week. When you teach in Kansas, spring means assessment season. These tests are grueling for kids and teachers. You just want them to do their best, but after two weeks their stamina and patience starts to dwindle. I know that if I've been coming home completely drained, this kids are over it too. I am looking forward to getting back to a regular schedule and teaching.

This week's menu is full of some new recipes I've been wanting to try or catch up on from previous menus. Sunday I will be finally giving you the recipe for the delicious cranberry-jalapeno mayo I made a few weeks ago from my spring break travels. Monday, the temps are supposed to dip back into the 40s so soup season is not over! I plan to make a uniquely spiced Chickpea, Rice, & Tomato soup with a side of chopped salad and garlic toast. Midweek, I will be getting some help from some already prepared chicken meatballs for some Meatball Subs. Finally, as the temperatures swing back into the 60s we will be out on the patio grilling up some steaks for some Steak Tacos. It will be a great week of eats. Here is the rundown:

Sun. 4/13 Chicken Burgers w/ Cranberry-JalapeƱo Mayo & Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mon. 4/14 Chickpea & Rice Tomato Soup w/ Garlic Bread & Chopped Salad

Tues. 4/15 Leftovers

Wed. 4/16 Chicken Meatball Subs w/ Zucchini Fries

Thurs. 4/17 Leftovers

Fri. 4/18 Steak Tacos w/ Salsa, Black Beans, & Cilantro Slaw

Here is what you will need to make this all happen:

2-4 lean cuts of steak
1 lb. ground chicken or already prepared chicken burgers (I discovered WW)
1 package chicken meatballs (I got mine at Costco, but if you cannot find any pre-made meatballs, you can purchase more ground chicken and make your own)
1 package center cut bacon
2 jalapeƱos
2-4 sweet potatoes (depending on size)
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)
2 limes
1 avocado
1 bunch green onions
2 yellow or white onions
1 bulb garlic
1 bunch cilantro
1 head romaine lettuce
1 bag chopped salad mix
1 bag shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix
1 bag dried cranberries (such as Craisens)
1 container light mayo (I am loving Hellman's right now)
1 can tomato paste
1 can fire roasted tomatoes, salsa style
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 can black beans
1 box chicken broth (about 6 cups worth)
1 box instant brown rice
1 package corn tortillas
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 package gluten-free ciabatta rolls
Eggs or liquid egg whites
1 quart lowfat buttermilk
1 container light or fat-free sour cream
1 container light butter (I am loving Land O Lakes right now)
1 package sliced 2% Swiss or provolone cheese

Pantry you will need include:
Nonstick cooking spray
Extra virgin olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Graham masala
Taco seasoning

Have a great weekend! I look forward to sharing throughout the week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My New Smile

After four and a half years, I officially got my braces off today. I know I've been away from the blog for a while. I thought those of you who might wonder where I've been would be happy to hear a little something. April always seems to be the month I fall off the blogging bandwagon. Don't worry! I will be back to blogging soon. I also will hopefully be back to running again next week too. Spring always brings a whirlwind of activity that leaves me feeling exhausted; but, I plan to force myself back into a regular routine. As for those chicken burgers, you can expect that recipe to appear this coming Sunday:). Since I had to take the afternoon off, I am working on putting together a nice little menu. Until then, enjoy the lovely weather. I'll be enjoying my smile!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Instead of Ordering Chinese...

So, last yesterday I made this lovely gluten-free gem...

If you enjoy Asian dishes, this looks pretty good right? And believe me you, it was pretty good and easy to throw together. I cooked the entire dish in my Crock Pot, with the exception of the kelp noodles as there was really no need to cook the kelp noodles. I only needed to rinse those low-cal friends. The Bear and I were very excited to eat this meal. Yes, even the Bear enjoys kelp noodles. The meal was tasty. It passed the taste test. The only problem, it tasted a lot like any other Asian dish I've made on with asparagus. Whether cooked in a slow cooker or stir-fried, I can't quite put my finger on it. A lot of my Asian recipes taste the same. I am no master of Asian cooking. I think I've got Thai food somewhat down. When I get to make a recipe repeat that is. For example my Grilled Chicken Thai Salad is always a hit. I've also not received any complaints on my Very Veggie Pad Thai or for those of you who might have joined the kelp noodle bandwagon my Speedy Chicken Pad Thai with Kelp Noodles. However, when it comes to Chinese food, things seem to taste a little too similar for my tastebuds. Since this recipe is all to familiar to my pallet, I will suggest some other recipes that might be a little more tantalizing to your tongue. For anything that calls for broccoli, you can sub and/or add asparagus. Here are some suggestions...

I hope you take some time and check out these recipes. They are some of my favorites! I am too afraid to post a crappy recipe, but want to stay in touch. Enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cheesy Bacon, Kale, & Artichoke Quesadillas

I'm not sure who designed this, but I absolutely love it! I could hardly watch ISU play yesterday afternoon. It was one of those games where the Bear and I were on the edge of our seats the entire game. We were both pretty nervous after Georges Niang suffered yet another injury this season during Friday night's game against North Carolina Central. Last week Niang suffered a blow to his eyebrow during the Big 12 tournament game against KU. He had to get five stitches. Hence the band aid on Cy. Now he's out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. After breaking his foot however, he managed to continue playing for a little while and scored 5 more points. The Bear thought the team was doomed. Quite the opposite happened yesterday and they rallied on! We hope they can keep the magic going, Hilton magic that is;). Let's go Cyclones!!

I know not all of you are Iowa State fans, but maybe you are quesadilla fans. I truly missed quesadillas after going gluten free. I tried making them with corn tortillas, but it just wasn't the same. I am happy to say that after trying Udi's gluten-free tortillas, one of my favorite Mexican indulgences is back on the menu.

This recipe is packed with some amazing ingredients! Layered with a bacon, fat-free mozzarella cheese, and a garlicky sauteed kale and artichoke mixture, these quesadillas are deliciously sneaky way to add some super veggies into your meal. You could easily make this dish vegetarian by omitting the bacon. Not gluten free? No problem! You could also use whole wheat or regular flour tortillas. My belly just prefers I keep mine gluten free.

Cheesy Bacon, Kale, and Artichoke Quesadillas

Nonstick cooking spray
4 cups kale, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
8 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
4 plain tortillas (I used Udi's gluten-free tortillas)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the kale, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat. Place in a dish and set aside. When the skillet is cool enough to handle, rinse with warm water and wipe clean. Heat the skillet once again over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the bottom of the skillet. On one half of the tortilla, layer 1/4 of the kale mixture, 1/4 of the crumbled bacon, and 1/4 cup cheese. Fold the half without any toppings over the topping side. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the tortilla begins to turn lightly brown. Using a large spatula, flip the to the other side. Cook another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the remaining tortillas. Cut into triangles before serving.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thinking Spring Menu Post

Isn't hard to believe that it is the last week of March?! This month has really flown by! Since I took last week off due to traveling and spring break, I wanted to get one final March menu post ready for you all. I know everyone is thinking spring despite the cold temperatures throughout most of the country. When I think about spring foods I think about chicken, asparagus, and light recipes that bring outdoor grilling back into the picture. This week features all of these wonderful spring foods. Since it is still a bit chilly, I'm starting off the week with one of my favorite soups- Chicken Tortilla Soup. Cooked in the Crock Pot, this simple, flavorful recipe makes a bumper crop perfect for lunch throughout the week. Monday and Tuesday I have a new quesadilla recipe to share. Thanks to Udi's plain tortillas, cheesy quesadillas are reappearing in my life again. Oh how I've missed you! Welcome back! Midweek, chicken and asparagus will pare together in a quick stir fry. The perfect fast dinner for making in the middle of a busy week. Finally, in hopes the weather cooperates we hope to grill some chicken burgers inspired by Grameracy Tap in Des Moines, Iowa. I enjoyed this meal last Friday night before the Leprechaun Chase. I think it worked so, I hope to recreate this meal again to fuel up before for the Diva Dash next week:)! Here is the official plan:

Sunday 3/23            Chicken Tortilla Soup with Duree Family Cheesebread

Monday 3/24          Cheesy Bacon, Kale, and Artichoke Quesadillas with Roasted Tomatoes and Zucchini

Tuesday 3/25          Leftovers

Wednesday 3/26     Chicken & Asparagus Stir Fry with Kelp Noodles

Thursday 3/27         Leftovers

Friday 3/28             Chicken Burgers with Cranberry-Jalapeno Mayo and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Here is approximately what you will need to make this all happen:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean ground chicken breast or already made chicken burgers
1 package center cut bacon
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch kale
1 bunch cilantro
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 zucchini
1 bulb garlic
2 yellow or white onions
1 red onion (optional for burger night)
1 package sliced mushrooms
2-4 sweet potatoes (depending on size)
1-2 avocados (depending on size)
1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 4 cup boxes reduced sodium chicken broth (I like to use Hy-Vee or Costco brand)
1 package kelp noodles (if you cannot find kelp noodles, rice noodles will work too)
1 package gluten-free tortillas (I love Udi's)
1 package gluten-free ciabatta rolls
1 bag tortilla chips
1 bag frozen corn
1 8 oz. box 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 bag shredded fat-free or reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
Butter (I am in love with Land O Lakes light butter right now)

Pantry items you will need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Extra virgin olive oil
Soy Sauce (Hy-Vee's soy sauce is gluten free. I also love San-J Organic Tamari)
Ground ginger powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper

Enjoy your weekend! I look forward to posting throughout the week! Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Monterrey Chicken & Spring Break

I hate to admit when I feel relaxed because then life gets incredibly busy again. I've been feeling so incredibly relaxed. If you notice past posts, I kept talking about how crazy things were at school. I think we all deserve a break and a chance to unwind. I'm grateful I get this chance as a teacher during spring break. I just hope it doesn't make me too lazy;).

This spring break has been amazing! Friday I left directly from work to Des Moines for the big 10k race. I am very proud to say that I ran the entire time and finished!!! I ran slowly, but kept at it. There were so many people along the way cheering us on and telling us to push through. It was great! After the race, I met up with my Drake wolf pack crew to celebrate. A cider first at El Bait Shop the post race headquarters....

I know cider right?! There are water bottles on the table as well. I also recharged with a diet Red Bull before said cider to give me a little boost. It amazes me every time I am in Des Moines how much it has changed for the better. Downtown has a great vibe. So unlike the days we were all in college together. I love it! Next, we headed to Dos Rios for some nourishment.

Dos Rios is absolutely outstanding! They have so many gluten-free options and they make guacamole fresh at your table. If you love Mexican food and are in downtown Des Moines, I highly suggest you stop by. You will not regret it!

After all of the race day fun, I headed to my dad's. We watched the final Big 12 tournament game- Baylor versus my Iowa State Cyclones. It was the first game I was able to sit and watch a game in its entirety. Most of the time I struggle to sit through an entire basketball game. It was probably because I was so worn out, but I felt compelled to cheer the Cyclones on! In the words of Paul Rhoads, "I am so proud!" I hope they can keep it up!

Monday I finally made it home to the Bear. I was still sore until yesterday, but think I'll take advantage of the first day of spring with a little run today. I have plenty of excitement to work out as yesterday my orthodontist finally said my braces get to come off! Yes, in three weeks (April 9th) I will be braces free! I can't wait!

Now that I've got you all caught up on my very interesting life lately, how about some Monterrey Chicken?

I don't know what compelled me to come up with this recipe other than everything just sounded good. Here I've taken advantage of Penzy's buttermilk ranch dressing base as a seasoning for the chicken. I topped the chicken with sauteed peppers, onions, and fat free cheddar cheese. For a dose of healthy fats, I added avocado. If you are looking to pep up your chicken, this is a great recipe!

Monterrey Chicken

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon buttermilk ranch dressing mix
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup reduced sodium, gluten-free chicken broth
1 cup shredded fat free cheddar cheese
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix over both sides of your chicken. Add the chicken breast. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken begins to brown and easily lifts away from the skillet. Turn, cook another 4-5 minutes or until browned on the other side. Using tongs, place chicken in the casserole dish. Set aside. Add the onions, peppers, and broth to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to bring up any brown bits. Remove from heat. Pour the onion and pepper mixture over the chicken. Place the casserole dish in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a meat thermometer stuck inside one of the chicken pieces reads 165 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese over the onions and peppers. Bake another 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt and bubble. Remove from the oven. Top with avocado slices before serving.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Pub Chicken

We are feeling spring today in Kansas City! I saw green grass sprouting for the first time since October. The sun has been shining for the last 2 days. The Big 12 tournament is taking place as we speak. I am a little superstitious about saying too many positive things about Iowa State as consistency is a bit of a problem. So, all I will say is it's a good day to be a Cyclone! Also, I experienced one of the best days in my teaching career even though I was not actually teaching. Today, the high school teacher of the year and I had the honor of hosting our district visit for other regional finalists. It went amazingly well thanks to teamwork and the help from the entire Turner community. We put a lot of hard work and planning into all of this and it truly paid off! Thank you to all of Turner USD 202 staff, administration, and community! We could not have done this without you!

Now, on to the meal that saved me this week thanks to my slow cooker. Like I said earlier in the week, it has been cray-cray! I originally read about this recipe on my fellow blogging friend's website nHerShoes. Bobbi McCormick had impressed her friends with a beer and chicken recipe that I was somewhat envious of, but knew I probably shouldn't enjoy since I don't drink a lot of regular beer due to the gluten. But then, I got a little creative. We were craving burgers on Sunday. I wanted to make things a little healthier. So, I asked the Bear what he loved about his favorite burger. He said he loved Swiss cheese, bacon, onions, and a cold beer on the side. The light bulb went off in my head and thus a gluten-free version of this dish was born.

All of the flavors of your favorite pub burger delivered to you in one healthy slow cooker recipe. I think that's about all I need to say.

Slow Cooker Pub Chicken
inspired by Bobbi McCormick

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup gluten-free beer (such as Omission)
1/2 cup gluten-free chicken broth
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices 2% Swiss cheese
4 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

Place the chicken in the bottom of your slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the beer, chicken broth, mustard, dried onion, and salt. Pour over the chicken. Turn the chicken to coat. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Uncover and top with cheese and bacon. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt and serve.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend! I look forward to posting all about the 10k and spring break shenanigans when I get home! Wish me luck!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gluten-Free Tomato & Basil Flatbreads

This doesn't happen very much, but I've got a major case of the "Mondays." What's really throwing me off is that they still haven't gone away even with the beautiful weather and a good run. I think it's just the crummy sleep and time change that have thrown me off my good mood train. Hopefully I get some good rest tonight. Tomorrow will be better.

Enough whining for now. No one likes a whiny cry baby blog post! No way! How about an easy meal that I feel crazy even calling a recipe? This is making me smile!

I must say this photo makes this meal look pretty elegant. The idea for these tomato and basil flatbreads all came about over the weekend while I was enjoying Minskey's pizza. I noticed that they had changed up their regular gluten-free crust and managed to get it so crispy thin I don't think anyone would ever know there was no gluten in it. The spring weather also got me craving fresh basil. I can't wait to get my herbs started for the summer! So I thought, "How can I get a super thin crust and some of those summer time flavors into an easy weeknight pizza?" The answer, Udi's plain tortillas! Genius! This recipe is so easy your kids could help out in making this dinner. Doesn't that make Monday night a little less Mondayish?

Gluten-Free Tomato and Basil Flatbreads

Nonstick cooking spray
4 gluten-free plain tortillas such as Udi's (if you are not concerned with gluten, I'm sure regular flour tortillas would work too)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in onion and garlic
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional if you do not want to add any heat)
1 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven preheats, heat the tomatoes over medium-high heat in a small sauce pan for 10 minutes or until the liquid begins to thicken. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Remove from heat and set aside. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Depending on the size of your cookie sheets, you should be able to arrange two flat tortillas on each sheet. Top the tortillas with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle each tortilla with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/2 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to crisp and the cheese is bubbly. Remove from the oven. Top with the fresh basil before cutting and serving.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Crazy Week Menu Post

While spring break is on the horizon, I still have to get through this week. I'm dealing with my latest kitchen accident (burn on right palm) which has thrown a bit of twist in things. We begin state assessments at school. Later in the week I'll be showcasing our district to other members in my Kansas Teacher of the Year cohort, and I'm running the 10k next weekend. What a frenzy! I love to keep busy, but I'm beginning to wonder what the heck I got myself into. Good thing all this training for the 10k has been keeping me pretty zen.

Like I've said before, when things get crazy I love to get organized. Well, until I burn my hand while trying to get organized;). This week I not only need recipes that come together in a snap, but I also need to be fueling my body for the race on Saturday. I've got breakfast all ready to go for the week. I'm alternating between a balance of proteins and carbs. On my higher protein days I've prepared my Veggie Scramble. On alternate days I eat more carbohydrates with my Apple-Goji Oats in a Jar. Lunch will be consisting of spinach salads topped with tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, and chicken breast served with a side of gluten-free flax crackers and hummus. Of course all of this is all balanced out with snacking on lots of other fruits and veg. I hope to share all of those healthy, power packed meals with you in some future posts, but will stick to dinners this week. Tonight we will be celebrating the warm weather with my all time favorite Papa Chris Burgers. I've been eating pretty lean and clean and kind of feel like a need a little red meat. Tomorrow and Tuesday I've prepped a super, super simple sauce for some easy Gluten-Free Tomato and Basil Flatbreads. Nothing like pizza for a meatless Monday meal! Later in the week, I'm counting on my slow cooker to help me out with my Slow Cooker Pub Chicken. I'm stoked about this recipe and can't wait to see how it turns out! Here is the total rundown:

Sunday 3/9            Papa Chris Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries 

Monday 3/10         Gluten-Free Tomato-Basil Flatbreads with Salad

Tuesday 3/11         Leftovers

Wednesday 3/12   Slow Cooker Pub Chicken with Cauliflower Mashers & Broccoli

Thursday 3/13       Leftovers

A few of the items you will need to make this menu happen are...

1/2 lb. 85% lean ground beef
1/2 lb. 93% lean ground beef
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (if you choose for topping your salads or burgers)
2 sweet potatoes (I bake my own, however for convenience, you can purchase frozen sweet potato fries)
4 baby red potatoes
1 bunch fresh basil
1 package broccoli (already cut)
1 bag of your favorite salad blend
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in onion and garlic
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 package gluten-free hamburger buns
1 package gluten-free tortillas (such as Udi's)
1 bag frozen broccoli
1 8 oz. brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 carton almond milk
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 package sliced 2% Swiss cheese
Gluten-free beer such as Omission

Pantry items you will need include...

Nonstick cooking spray
Dijon mustard
Garlic powder
Dried minced onion
Seasoned salt (I use Penzy's 4-S blend)

I hope you all are enjoying the spring-like weather like we are in Kansas City! Have a great week!

Speedy Chicken Pad Thai with Kelp Noodles

How is your weekend going? We have been loving doing just weekend type things such as catching up on shows we DVR throughout the week, laundry, and getting ready for the upcoming week. The Bear is getting a crash test culinary experience after I burned my hand this morning on a hot skillet. I had just pulled some chicken out of the oven to top over my salads for lunch this week. I left the skillet on top of the stove so the chicken could cool down a little before I diced it. So, I cleared a little space on the counter, grabbed a fork out of the silverware drawer to help me pick up the chicken. I'm sort of ambidextrous in the kitchen. With the fork in my left hand, I grabbed the handle of the still very hot skillet with my right hand and burnt my right palm.

Fortunately, I've become well versed in how to treat burns since starting this blog. Last month was a good month with no burns, but after thinking about it I think I've suffered some sort of little burn in the kitchen at least once a month since the beginning of the school year. It usually happens when I become overly consumed in my weekly prep work. This one is defiantly the largest burn I've had in a while. I'm glad I was almost finished getting things ready as all the Bear had to do was cut the said chicken from the skillet that burned my hand and help me divvy it up among the salads. He will get some more practice on cutting potatoes and mixing the burgers for this evening's meal. I think I should probably just wear oven mittens all the time when I'm working in the kitchen. Do they make flexible silicone gloves? That would be perfect! 

Enough about my kitchen mishaps though. On to catching up on last week's recipe! I don't think oven mittens will be needed to get this meal ready. Have I told you about kelp noodles? I recently became very curious about these illusive noodles after reading about them on Tone it Up. They are a gluten-free alternative similar to rice noodles, but are extremely low in calories (only 6 per serving!), contain absolutely no fat, and only 1 gram of carbohydrate per serving. What!? You could practically eat the entire bag and still not even tally up the calories compared to regular noodles. Plus, you don't need to boil them. After a quick rinse of water through a colander, you can gently heat them directly into your sauce or toss them in a salad. AMAZING! I used Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles ordered from Amazon. 

To save even more time on this recipe, I used some leftover shredded chicken. It was the perfect mid-week meal to get us in the mood for spring. There are some unique ingredients in this recipe, but have no fear! My husband was very satisfied and actually has requested I make it again in the very near future. If you are looking to lighten up a bit, I highly suggest you try this recipe!

Speedy Chicken Pad Thai with Kelp Noodles

For the sauce:
1 14 oz. can light, unsweetened coconut milk
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons gluten-free, reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime

For the pad Thai:
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast
2 cups shredded broccoli or broccoli slaw
1 red bell pepper, finely sliced
1/4 cup carrot, finely cut
1 12 oz. package kelp noodles, rinsed and drained
1 bunch green onion, finely sliced

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. While the skillet heats, whisk together all ingredients for the sauce. Set aside. Spray skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken, shredded broccoli, red pepper, and carrots to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the chicken heats through and the vegetables begin to slightly soften. Add the kelp noodles. Give a stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the mixture. Stir until everything is coated. Cook and stir another 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to absorb into the noodles and bubbles. Remove from heat. Top with the green onions and serve.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Veggie Chili

Who does not love a warm bowl of chili on a cold winter day? Being there are probably over a million different variations- white chili, chili verde, turkey chili, chili with beans, chili without beans, to just name a few, it is hard not to find a recipe you might love. Everyone has their own way of making chili too. It is just what makes this dish special.

I've been playing around with quite a few recipes this winter. I haven't toyed with white or chicken chili just yet, but plan to soon. Most of the experimenting I've done has been using ground turkey and lean ground beef. Then, I thought maybe I should try a vegetarian version just for fun.

I think this simple veggie chili is the best thus far. I've now made this exact recipe twice. The first time, I made it just for my weekday lunches. Then, I thought if I've been enjoying it this much why not see if the Bear might like it too. It was a hit! There are no funky ingredients in this chili. Just some of your straight up chili making ingredients with a little sweet corn and love. What more do you need to share with your family than a healthy chili made with lots of love?

My Veggie Chili

Nonstick cooking spray
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can chili beans in gravy, undrained
1 cup frozen sweet corn
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion, green bell pepper, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and lower the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes so all of the flavors marry together. You could also continue cooking the soup in your slow cooker on low until you are ready to serve or plan on making this for a gathering. Top with any of your favorite chili toppers. Store leftovers in the freezer or fridge. It is even better the next day!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Snow Again Menu Post

Well, it snowed again. Is this news for anyone living anywhere other than California this winter? Probably not. Fortunately, after the Bear and I shoveled the driveway I got the call that there is no school tomorrow. Snow day! Yippeee! I always love this news after shoveling snow.

While the weather forecast is showing signs of a slight warm-up throughout the week, my workouts will be indoors once again until I know the sidewalks are safe. I'm glad I forced myself out for some longer runs last week as the 10k is less than two weeks away. I must say I am in better running shape than I thought. I think all of the conditioning and activity has helped me with this. My longest run last week was 4 miles. I really think I can pull this off. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can said the Sara engine that could!

With it being so cold out right now, the menu for this week is intended to feed the comfort food side while at the same time remain lean and clean for training. I have a chicken roasting as we speak for this evening's meal with a side of roasted vegetables and cauliflower mashers. For meatless Monday, I plan to share my most favorite vegetarian chili recipe with you all that I've been eating for lunch quite a bit lately. Wednesday, I plan to use some of the leftover chicken in a speedy pad Thai recipe using a new noodle I came across and ordered off Amazon. Then for all of you partaking in Lent, I have a macadamia crusted salmon recipe I'll be experimenting with on Friday. It's a unique week of eats! Here is the rundown:

Monday 3/3            My Veggie Chili with Gluten-Free Quesadillas

Tuesday 3/4            Leftovers

Wednesday 3/5       Speedy Chicken Pad Thai with Kelp Noodles

Thursday 3/6           Leftovers

Friday 3/7               Macadamia Crusted Salmon with Grilled Veggies and Pineapple

1 whole chicken
2 salmon fillets
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag shredded broccoli (broccoli slaw)
1 bunch celery
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 bunch green onions
1 onion
1 bulb garlic
1 2-inch knob ginger root
1-2 limes
1 can pineapple rings packed in juice
1 small bag macadamia nuts
1 can light coconut milk
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can chili ready diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans
1 14.5 oz. can chili beans in chili gravy
1 package gluten-free tortillas (such as Udi's)
1 package kelp noodles (I ordered mine off Amazon if you cannot find them, use rice noodles)
1 package shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 bag frozen corn

Pantry items you will need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Gluten-free low sodium soy sauce
Almond butter
Rice vinegar
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Dried oregano

I hope you all have a great week! Stay warm!

Gluten-Free Baked Chicken & Bean Burritos

I don't know about you, but back when I was in college my friends and I sort of had a thing for those enormous gas station burritos. It's a good thing we were able to walk from the bar to the nearest gas station no matter where I lived as I am not one to promote getting behind the wheel after a few too many libations. Walking also burned some of those calories we consumed from said libations and burritos.  Those burritos managed to prevent any hangover. Okay, well sometimes;)

Looking back, I really can't believe I even ate those things. Not to say they weren't tasty, but I probably would not put any of that crap in my body now. Back when I was becoming more health conscious, it was hard to come up with recipes that the Bear would eat. I too still had cravings for some of the things I used to indulge in, but knew eating some of those foods would not make me feel my best. So, I had to find healthy substitutes. Like these Baked Chicken and Bean Burritos.

I know this probably looks pretty fancy, but it's not. Sure I dressed this little guy up a bit for the picture. Otherwise you would not think it was so impressive. These burritos are SUPER simple to make. I always prep all of the ingredients and assemble the burritos a day or two in advance, store them in the fridge, and then bake them when I'm ready. You could even make these a freezer friendly dish. How did I make this huge serving healthier? I substituted flour tortillas for Udi's gluten-free tortillas. Instead of the chubby inducing full fat cheese, I simply swapped it out for shredded 2% cheddar. Top with your favorite salsa and a little light sour cream and you've got a simple husband approved meal.

Gluten-Free Baked Chicken and Bean Burritos
inspired by Weight Watchers

Nonstick cooking spray
1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 package of your favorite gluten-free taco seasoning
1 15 oz. can fat-free refried beans
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese, divided
6 gluten-free tortillas
Salsa, light sour cream, and diced green onion for topping (optional)

Spray an 8-inch by 12-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat a medium sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the ground chicken. Stir to break apart and cook for 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the taco seasoning. Turn of the heat and combine the beans, green chiles, and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Set aside. Heat tortillas according to package directions. I usually place mine on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave for 1 minute to make the tortillas more pliable. After your tortillas are heated, place 3/4 cup of the bean mixture onto the middle of the tortilla. Fold in the sides and roll to seal in the bean mixture. Place seam side down into the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. At this point you can cover and store the burritos until you are ready to bake and serve. When you are ready to bake and serve, uncover the dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the burritos and place in the oven. Set the oven at 375 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the burritos begin to turn lightly brown around the edges and the cheese is melted. Top with salsa, sour cream, and diced green onion if you choose.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gluten-Free Duree Macaroni 'n' Cheese

I cannot believe how cold it has gotten again! I know it is the last week of February, but since living in Kansas City I do remember times when spring has made an early arrival. I have noticed hints of tiny green bulb flowers trying to peek their way out of the ground around warmer parts of buildings. It is still too early to tell what flowers they will bring; however, I know everyone will smile and welcome their presence.

Growing up with long harsh winters is not a new thing to me since I grew up in Iowa. I remember living in Storm Lake, Iowa very early in my childhood. While I may sound like a senior citizen, I do remember snow drifts as tall as our house. One year, my dad helped us build a slide and fort fit for an Eskimo. We then moved to southern Iowa. It did not snow quite as fierce, but we still got a lot of snow. He was the kindergarten through 12th grade principal in Blakesburg, Iowa. When they were debating on whether or not to call off school, the superintendent would call my dad and ask if the bus would be able to make it up our steep, hilly driveway to pick me up for school. If the bus couldn't make it, instant snow day! We knew my parents would not be able to make it out either. We were snowed in. Above all, what I remember most about those cold winters was my mom and dad making the cheesiest, most gooiest macaroni and cheese.

We always had milk, some sort of noodle, butter, and a brick of cheese on hand just in case. It has taken a little bit of practice to create a gluten-free version as close to home as this. I think I've finally got it. This recipe is super simple with the most basic of ingredients. I've taken out the flour and regular pasta noodles, yet maintained a creamy consistency by cooking the noodles directly in the sauce. If you are looking for a comforting dish that reminds you of your childhood, this is it!

Gluten-Free Duree Macaroni 'n' Cheese

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 cups skim milk
8 oz. 2% Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dried gluten-free noodles (can be any shape)
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Place milk, Velveeta, cream cheese, dried onion, salt, and pepper in a large sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes or until all ingredients are smooth and combine. Toss pasta into the sauce pan. Stir to combine. Pour into your casserole dish. The mixture will be soupy at this point. It is okay as the noodles will eventually absorb the excess liquid. Cover and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. When you are ready to bake and serve, uncover the dish, give the pasta a stir to break up any noodles that have clumped together and release the starches to thicken the sauce. Let set at room temperature while your oven preheats at 375 degrees. When your oven is preheated, stir again, place in the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Pull the dish out. Stir once again to break up any pasta that has clumped together. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top. Bake another 5 minutes or until the cheddar has melted and begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Simple Beginnings Menu Post

What a weekend it has been! My sisters and mom all made it to town to celebrate February and March birthdays. We had so much fun catching up and shopping together. The weather was outstanding! I even made it out Friday afternoon for a good 3 mile run before everyone arrived. While it is supposed to be pretty chilly this week, I was able to purchase some good winter gear on sale that will be perfect for chilly running conditions. It was all fashionably approved by my family fashionistas:).

Since we were all enjoying spending time together, I did not plan the menu post until around noon today. I was really lacking in the creativity department as I started to feel the Sunday slump approaching. It always happens when you have such a great weekend with the ones you love. Thus, I chose to turn this little feeling into something positive with my menu. I needed to keep it simple, so I brought out some old favorites I used to cook when I was trying to win the Bear over at the beginning of our relationship. I was not a good cook, so these are a couple of the recipes that managed to win the Bear over. I needed very simple recipes that did not require a lot of ingredients or time to prepare. Back then I was not a gluten-free girl. Now that I have a better knowledge base with gluten-free cooking and convenience it just seemed perfect. I thought it would be fun to recreate some oldies and make them gluten-free. The Bear was pretty pleased to say the least. I too started to feel a little spark when I pulled out the old recipes. The memories just made me smile. These are two of the recipes I made over and over during the simple beginnings of our relationship. Tonight we will be keeping it pretty simple with grilled chicken, veggies, and potatoes that we purchased from our grocery store in hopes that we are not out of grill gas. Something we used to do a lot when I didn't know what else to do. If we are out of grill gas it might be Domino's delivery. Otherwise, here is the plan for Monday through Thursday this week:

Monday 2/24          Gluten-Free Duree Mac'n'Cheese with Steamed Broccoli and Carrots

Tuesday 2/25          Leftovers

Wednesday 2/26     Baked Chicken and Bean Burritos with Salad

Thursday 2/27         Leftovers

I am not sure what next weekend will hold, but I hope these two recipes will be something you can use again and again like we have. Here are a few of the things you will need to make this all happen:

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag pre-cut broccoli
1 bag of your favorite salad blend
1 package gluten-free tortillas (I used Udi's)
1 can fat-free refried beans
1 can diced green chilies
1 package taco seasoning (I used Old El Paso it is gluten-free)
1 box gluten-free penne pasta (I bought Barila this time because I had a coupon. We'll see about this)
1 half gallon skim milk
1 brick 2% Velveeta cheese
1 8 oz. package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 package shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Dried chopped onion

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

In the morning, I go into third grade math and co-teach with another teacher. I really love the atmosphere this teacher has started to create with her classroom. She does not have an easy bunch of students, but has started to really build a sense of community. At the start of the day, we all join together in a circle. We then go around the circle and express one thing we (children and adults) are grateful for without repeating the previous day's gratitude. After we express our gratitude, we go around the circle again and say "good morning" and give each other a high five. It's just such a great way to start the day!

After I made these lovely meatballs, I told the kids I was really happy that I tried a new recipe and it turned out. They of course giggled knowing that I do have this blog and love creating new recipes. They then asked about what I had made. When I told them it was a meatball version of hot wings, they all got pretty excited.

I guess kids like hot wings. If your kiddos are not a fan of the spiciness, you could easily substitute a milder hot wing sauce. I happen to love Cookie's Hot Wing Sauce. It has the perfect amount of zing without setting your mouth on fire. I used a cookie scoop to make my meatballs for ease and portion control. If you do not have a cookie scoop, I suggest using a soup spoon.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 package dried gluten-free ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon dried chopped onion
1/2 cup hot wing sauce
1 tablespoon light butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, fold together the ground chicken, ranch, and onion until combine. Using a cookie scoop or soup spoon, scoop out approximately 2 1/2 tablespoons of meat into your hands. Roll into a ball and place on the parchment paper. Repeat until you have used all of the meat mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the meatballs begin to turn very lightly brown on the outside. Remove from the oven. Place in a casserole dish. Pour the hot wing sauce and butter over the meatballs. Toss to coat and serve.