Saturday, January 24, 2015

Staying Healthy Menu Post

Good Saturday morning to you all! I think Saturday is my favorite day of the week. Today, the in-laws will be coming for their first visit to see our new house. Knowing the pool at the motel will take our niece's top priority, we also have a trip to Rube's, one of the restaurants in the area that we've wanted to try, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies ready for my father in-law's birthday. Should be some good, quality family time.

We will be headed to the grocery store shortly, as the family should be arriving early this afternoon. So, I thought I'd sneak in a quick menu post. Yes! I did achieve one of my goals for the week; getting everything posted and hanging in there with the blog:). Blogging will continue to be one of my goals. I'm also hoping to continue my morning workouts, working towards my 100 miles of cardio by Valentine's Day, and of course eating lean, green, and clean! This week's menu should help accomplish clean eating endeavors. Sunday's soup is one that I posted long ago when I had just started recipe blogging--Cauliflower Cheese Soup. If you decide to check this recipe out, you will see I had just experienced a minor car accident that jacked up my back and neck for a while. Hopefully, there will be no collisions this time. Next, to start the work week off on an even healthier note, I'll be pulling out my veggie spiralizer to make some zucchini noodles for my Zucchini Noodle Bolognese. Finally, mid-week I'll be spicing things up a little with some Mango Salsa Chicken. Did you know mangos are in season right now? I just heard about it on the news and it sparked my enthusiasm to cook with the lovely tropical fruit. Here is the official rundown:

Sunday 1/25          Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Salad

Monday 1/26         Zucchini Noodle Bolognese with Steamed Mixed Veggies

Tuesday 1/27         Leftovers

Wednesday 1/28    Mango Salsa Chicken with Asparagus

Thursday 1/29       Leftovers

Here are the items you will need to make this happen:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean, ground Italian turkey sausage
1 package center cut bacon
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)
1 bag baby carrots
1 bunch celery
1-2 mangos
1 jalapeno
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
1 red onion
2 yellow or white onions
1 bulb garlic
1 32 oz. carton low-sodium chicken broth
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I am loving Aldi's Simply Nature Marinara sauce right now!)
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
Skim milk
1 brick 2% Velveeta cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need include:

Corn starch
Grated Parmesan cheese (I know this is stored in the refrigerator, but it is something we always have on hand, so I'm considering it a pantry item today)
Salt
Pepper

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Walking Beanitos

First, I need to let you know that the menu took a bit of a change when the Bear discovered that I had planned for salsa salads. He asked, "Is this going to be like taco salads?" I said, "Well, sort of." He then replied, "Can I help you with an idea?" How cute! My husband wanting to help me with the blog! Of course, I said yes. Here is the rest of the story.

When we announced to our families that we were officially moving back to Iowa, the first thing Justin's dad did was buy us season Iowa State men's basketball tickets. Iowa State basketball games are a Nickel father-son family tradition. Needless to say, it has been an exciting season so far; but, what I love the most are the traditions. The walk to Hilton, being there for the ISU pep band as they play around the coliseum, watching the players and Coach Hoiberg walk into the gym, the infamous Clone Cones, and finally-to my subject tonight-walking tacos.

What is a walking taco? Depending on your region, you might also know the walking taco as a Frito pie. It is simply a bag of corn chips, cut along the longer side, filled with taco meat, lettuce, cheese, and other traditional taco toppings. At Hilton Coliseum, they use Doritos. This is what I am most familiar with from other similar game day foods that were sold at my high school concession stand. Fritos can also be used as well as a very thick chili-like topping in place of taco meat. Regardless, it is pretty damn tasty. I had forgotten about how traditional this sort of fair was until getting back to my roots. Long story short, the Bear thought this was the perfect opportunity to lighten up the traditional walking taco.


In my Walking Beanitos recipe, the Doritos/Fritos are switched out for Beanitos. Have you tried these chips? Seriously these chips are highly addictive! Next, I swapped out the beef for lean ground turkey. Sprinkled with light cheddar cheese and a dollop of light sour cream, the experienced walking taco connoisseur would love the change up.

Walking Beanitos
Serves 4

4 1.5 oz. bags Nacho Cheese Beanitos chips (these are the personal serving bags)
1 teaspoon olive oil or grape seed oil
1/2 cup diced yellow or white onion
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups lettuce, chopped
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
Light sour cream, taco sauce, diced green onion, jalapenos, etc. for topping

Heat oil in a medium sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the onions become translucent in color. Add the turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until the turkey is browned. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and beans. Stir to combine. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the salsa has thickened. Remove from heat.

Cut the chip bags along the longer side. Top with the lettuce, meat, and other toppings. Serve along with a fork, the bag acts as an instant bowl, so you can walk with your taco salad :).


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken & Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese

How is your week going? So far, mine has not been too shabby. Yesterday, I was fortunate to have the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That provided time to get my hair cut and colored, finish cleaning my house, and prepping some things I did not get done on Sunday while this lovely gem of a meal cooked away in my slow cooker. Today, I managed to get my biscuits out of bed and squeeze in a little HIIT workout before work. Then, I came home, took this lovely photo, squeezed in another quick workout with my arms and abs, and now I'm blogging with you. I know you were maybe a little worried that I might not come back again after my last few attempts to get back to blogging; but, here I am. It is all about small, achievable steps. Now let's talk about dinner shall we?


This meal is light, lean, and a majority of it can simmer away in your slow cooker while you multitask your day until your heart's content. To round out the rest of the meal, I steamed some green beans and made a batch of cauliflower puree. Cauliflower puree is an awesome alternative to mashed potatoes. I simply steam 1 bag of frozen cauliflower in low sodium chicken broth until softened. Drain the chicken broth and place the cauliflower in a food processor. I had a dollop of light sour cream and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, give it a whirl until it is all creamy and smooth. Finish with a dash of salt and pepper and that's it! Served along side this chicken dish and you've got a five start weeknight meal!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic, drained
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Place the chicken, onion, diced tomatoes, red pepper, herbs, salt, and pepper into your slow cooker. Cover and set on low for 4 to 6 hours. Sprinkle the goat cheese over the chicken before serving.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy 2015 Menu Post

Good morning A Nickel's Worth of News readers! And, Happy New Year to you all! To update you, since my last post in October, life in the Nickel house is going well. We are finally settled into our new home, re-establishing our routines, and learning how to balance our new career lives with home life. It has been a little bit of a journey. I quickly realized that trying to get back into blogging even after moving into our house would be quite challenging with my new responsibilities and roles. I have been grappling since October as to how to make my personal hobby more manageable. I did not want to give up.

What will be different? The good news, not much will change. I still want to bring you healthy, gluten-free recipes that are easy to put together and taste good. The last three months have been an experiment for me in relying on past recipes and discovering new recipes that are manageable to put together on a weeknight. I feel that I have finally achieved a balance! So, what you will see are some recipe repeats and one or two new recipes per week.

I don't know about you, but I am not one for New Year's resolutions. I am more of a goal setter. Goal setting has always been a part of my everyday life. Last year, my goal was to run a 10k by May. This year, I plan to continue my running endeavors. Thursday, I signed up for the Leprechaun Chase again. I loved this race last year! It was such a huge accomplishment for me and encouraged me to not fall off the running bandwagon throughout the winter months. To help support my efforts, this year I've been more focused on my nutrition and cross training with whole body toning. I've been participating in the Love Your Body Challenge with my favorite trainers Karina and Katrina from Tone it Up. This particular challenge runs until Valentines Day. I joined their program back in April with their Bikini Body Challenge, but experienced an epic fail when I had to have my gall bladder removed. Shortly after that, we moved back to the great state of Iowa, started our new jobs, and the rest is history. Now that I've struck the balance in my new life, I've been able to commit! I am 3 weeks in and feeling great. The hard work I've been putting into the challenge has helped my training and I am up to running a solid 3 miles without too much of a struggle.

To supplement my efforts, I know nutrition is key. With that in mind, however, I do not believe in giving up satisfaction. This week's menu, as always, is packed with lean proteins and veggies recipes that nourish your body, but don't give up flavor. Sunday is soup night. Remember my Sunday Soups? I'm bringing back an old satisfying favorite with My Veggie Chili. I know, I know, I had a chili recipe from my last post in October, but we love our chili here in Iowa ;). Next up, I have a new recipe to share with you. Stay tuned for Monday's meal, Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese. This meal can be thrown together quickly and rounded out with some fantastic sides such as green beans and cauliflower puree. Later in the week, we will enjoy another meal that can be put together in a flash, Turkey and White Bean Salsa Salads. It will be a great week of eats! Here is the rundown:

Sun. 1/18         My Veggie Chili

Mon. 1/19       Chicken and Pepper Saute with Goat Cheese, Green Beans, and Cauliflower Puree

Tues. 1/20       Leftovers

Wed. 1/21       Turkey and White Bean Salsa Salads

Thurs. 1/22      Leftovers

Items you will need include:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. lean ground turkey
2 yellow or white onions
1 bunch green onions
1 bulb garlic
1 green pepper
1 bunch celery
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag of your favorite lettuce or salad blend
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans
1 14.5 oz. can chili beans in chili gravy
1 14.5 oz. can white beans (navy or cannelini)
1 14.5 oz. can diced chili ready tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic
1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 jar  roasted red peppers
1 32 oz. box low sodium chicken broth
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 container light sour cream
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
4 oz. goat cheese

Some pantry items you will need include:

Chili powder
Ground cumin
Dried oregano
Herbs de Provence or dried Italian herbs
Salt
Black pepper

I hope you enjoy your weekend! I look forward to sharing with you :).

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!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pan Roasted Chicken with Garlicky Tahini Salad

Now that I caught you all up on getting ready for our transition and our big move back to Iowa, I thought I'd share some of the things I am loving about living in the great City of Marshalltown. For those of you who are unfamiliar with small town Iowa locations, Marshalltown is located just a little east of the center of Iowa.

Marshalltown is home to around 30,000 residents. The city will surprise you in the way of commerce.There are your staples- Hy-Vee, Aldi, Fareway, Super Walmart, and several dollar stores; but, satisfies your need for global fair with some stellar Hispanic and Asian markets. While Marshalltown will always show up as being spelled wrong according to spell check guidelines (this annoys the heck out of me), there is a great restaurant scene. I will expand more on restaurants in future posts as I want to give all of the kind people who have shown us great hospitality plenty of justice:).

The other cool thing about living in Marshalltown is the Iowa River. The river does cause my husband some headaches in the way of flooding. At the same time, the Iowa River brings many great species of wildlife to the area. One of my favorites---da da dah (that's my version of a trumpet fanfare) the American Bald Eagle. I love eagles! While driving through the vast central Iowa farmland today, there was a bald eagle feasting on roadkill in the middle of the road. Gross, I know, but it took my breath away when I saw it take off and fly over the corn fields. Truly amazing! I know I sound a little juvenile, but can you blame me when being in the presence of something so majestic?!

Okay, enough on my sale's pitch to try and get people to move to Marshalltown, Iowa. On to the recipe... Last night's meal was a simple favorite. Whenever I feel the need to keep things simple and reconnect with sitting down for dinner, I always think of chicken. Chicken, the humble family meal. While I was originally going to serve just the chicken and the salad, I found a couple of sweet potatoes in my pantry that desperately needed to get used. This rounded the meal out nicely. After washing and drying the sweet potatoes, I simply chopped them up, tossed them in a little grapeseed oil, and roasted them along side the chicken. Nothing fancy. The chicken and dressing for the salad dressing are also just as simple, but are not short on flavor. It was a great Sunday evening meal.

Pan Roasted Chicken

2 teaspoons grapeseed or olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 white wine or chicken broth

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. While the oil heats, pat your chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Discard the paper towel. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over both sides of the chicken. Place the chicken in the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until one side is lightly brown. Flip, cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place on a plate. It is okay if the chicken is not fully cooked through. It will finish cooking in the oven. Add the shallots to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until the shallots have softened. Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits. This will create a flavorful sauce in which to finish cooking the chicken while it is in the oven. Add the chicken back to the pan. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads at 165 degrees. Remove from the oven. Let set 5 minutes before serving.

Garlic Tahini Dressing

1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tahini paste
1/8 cup water (can add more by tablespoon if you prefer a thinner dressing)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a small nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients until combine. Cool slightly before serving with delicate greens. If you are using kale or sturdier greens, feel free to toss the greens right in the pan if you'd like to cook them down a bit. When completely cooled, this dressing would also serve as a great make-ahead salad dressing base without wilting sturdier greens. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Moving Day Recap & a Menu Post

Hello A Nickel's Worth of News Readers!

Little did I know how crazy things would get when we started our Iowa adventure. I knew things would get a little wild, but really did not think things through when it came to the blog scene. Now that we are working towards getting settled in our new home and we have a steady internet connection, hopefully I will be able to connect with you all more. To catch you up on life with the Nickels, here is the rundown:


We moved into our new house a little over a month ago. We were so happy to finally get the keys! We ended up closing a day early, but could not take possession of the house right away as the former owners were struggling to get everything out. They were a sweet older couple, looking to retire and move closer to their grandchildren. I'm sure it was hard for them to say goodbye. We were incredibly blessed to receive the home in such great condition. It is a great match for us and we look forward to entertaining friends and family in the future.



After we were able to take possession, the moving truck arrived with all of our stuff that had been on hold. There ended up being a little bit of a time gap between closings. Fortunately, our moving company gave us a flat rate on the hold. The movers also did an amazing job in taking care of our home goods as well as our new house. Mats were laid down on all of the hard wood floors. Carpeted areas were covered in in plastic wrap and all wood-work such as the staircase were wrapped in padding. They even vacuumed our floors when the moving was complete! We could not have asked for better service!

Since we moved in, every weekend has been packed with some special occasion- I ran the Diva Dash again in Des Moines, we celebrated my 15 year class reunion, I ran another race, we helped my sister and her husband move into their new home, and finally this weekend we celebrated Iowa State's homecoming, October birthdays, and my dad receiving the Alumni Achievement award.




It is great to actually live in the same city in which you work. When I have an office day, it takes me less than 10 minutes to get to work. Same goes for Justin; however, I typically have more travel days since he is usually needed at city hall. The traveling isn't so bad as there is plenty of beautiful Iowa scenery. I am slowly beginning to achieve a balance in planning our menu for the week for days when I know I may be home a little late.

With that being said, how about a menu? I attempted back in August to get things rolling again, but failed miserably before striking the traveling balance. This week's menu is filled with some of our favorite meals from the past, but with some new twists. Tonight will be a simple pan roasted chicken dish served with salad and a flavorful garlic tahini dressing.  On Monday and Tuesday I plan to make My Veggie Chili with a new filling addition served over baked potatoes. Later in the week, we will enjoy some slow cooked meatballs and spaghetti squash for a fun gluten free change up from traditional spaghetti noodles.

Sunday 10/12          Pan Roasted Chicken with Garlicky Tahini Salad

Monday 10/13        Veggie Chili over Baked Potatoes with Broccoli

Tuesday 10/14        Leftovers

Wednesday 10/15   Spaghetti Squash with Slow Cooked Meatballs

Thursday 10/16       Leftovers

A few of the items you will need to make this all come together are...

1 lb. lean ground beef
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion
1 shallot
1 head garlic
1 lemon
1 bunch green onions
1 green pepper
1 bag carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bag russet potatoes
1 bag romaine lettuce
1 jar tahini paste
1 can onion and garlic diced tomatoes
1 can chili ready diced tomatoes
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans in chili gravy
1 6 pack of low sodium V8 vegetable juice
1 jar beef base (such as Better Than Bouillon)
1 16 oz. bag English walnuts
1 container fat free or light sour cream
1 bag shredded fat free cheddar cheese

Pantry items you will need...

Extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Dried Italian herbs or herbes de Province

I hope you all enjoy the remaining hours of your weekend! I look forward to sharing with you throughout the week. It feels great to be back!