Bulked Up

When it comes to salad, I tend to think of it as a side dish, or acceptable lunch entreé, but rarely as the focus of dinner. My main reasoning for that is simple – I eat, a lot. I’ve come to learn that with the right ingredients a salad can be quite filling and in fact be a very appropriate dinner. Of course I made some frozen french fries just in case the salad wasn’t filling, but it was! We even wound up having leftovers that I was able to take for lunch the next day.

The recipe comes from Betty Crocker, and I was drawn to it because it had vegetarian in the title. Since the beginning of my vegetarian month wasn’t very successful, I’ve been sure to stick to it since then. I couldn’t help but laugh out-loud when reading the first ingredient was chicken broth. There were a few comments on the recipe bemoaning the vegetarian title, since obviously chicken broth is far from it. That was easy enough to adjust with vegetable broth to make it a truly vegetarian dish. In all honesty, that probably could have been omitted as well, and the bulgur could have been cooked in water.

This was actually my first time making bulgur wheat, and I’ve only ever had it before in tabouleh. If we’re going to be honest here, it smells like bird food before it’s cooked. It kind of looks like it too. But thankfully after cooking, it doesn’t have much of a flavor – if anything it’s a bit nutty, and for this particular salad it added a nice contrast. The other surprise of the salad was the dressing – it had a nice kick and was flavorful without being too oily or too salty (something I find a lot with “Asian inspired” dressings).

While I wouldn’t recommend this being your dinner after a full day of work and a workout, I think it’s appropriate for those rest days. Conveniently my entire week was a rest day. I like to use the excuse that I was adjusting to my new schedule. The truth of the matter is that it was cold, windy, and I was exhausted. Once the snow clears I’ll be back out on the roads – April’s half marathon isn’t going to PR itself.

An Early November Fiesta

Similar to Tuesday’s dinner, Thursday was another long prep meal. It actually required to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours, so I prepared everything on Wednesday post-run then threw it in the oven after work on Thursday. Thankfully I read the directions way before I planned to make it, giving me enough time to figure out which day of the week would be best to have it.

I’ve somehow been subscribed to Betty Crocker’s weekly e-mails that come Sunday nights. Often times I don’t really find anything I’m interested in (they’re your typical family styled meal), but every so often I find a gem. Enter the Fiesta Taco Chicken Lasagna (that’s a mouthful!). I decided to omit the chicken just to make things a little easier on myself as well as the black olives because the fiancé isn’t a big fan, and instead of taco sauce I used salsa to give it more texture.

These big bakes with a fiesta, Mexican, or Southwestern label seem to be some of my favorite meals (like this one, or this one). They take some time to prepare because of all the ingredients, but in the end it’s so worth it. I imagine you could throw some eggs into this bad boy to make it a great brunch item. Of course the mention of brunch brings up thoughts of booze (is that normal?), and this would probably go quite nicely with a giant margarita… yes please!

While it wasn’t the most photogenic meal I’ve made, it was delicious. The fiancé was extremely impressed at how great it was, despite it being “a big bunch of mush.”

Since the recipe makes enough to feed a family, I’ll be enjoying this for days.

Taco Fiesta Chicken Lasagna
– Serves 4 –

2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chiles, undrained
1/4 cup taco sauce
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 (16-oz.) can Old El Paso® Refried Beans
1/2 cup sour cream
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
12 oz. (3 cups) shredded colby-Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives, if desired
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Spray 15×12-inch sheet of foil and 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine tomatoes and taco sauce; mix well. Stir in chicken. In medium bowl, combine refried beans and sour cream; mix well.
Spread about 1 cup chicken mixture in bottom of sprayed baking dish. Top with 4 uncooked noodles, breaking to fit if necessary. Spread with half of bean mixture and 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the cheese, half of the onions and half of the olives.
2. Layer 4 more noodles, remaining bean mixture, 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture and 1 cup cheese. Top with remaining 4 noodles, chicken mixture, onions, olives and cheese. (Be sure top noodles are covered.) Cover with foil, sprayed side down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
3. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake covered lasagna for 50 minutes. Uncover baking dish; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with cilantro. If desired, garnish each serving with dollop of sour cream, chopped tomato and shredded lettuce.

Alcohol Infused Cupcakes: Do I have a problem?

This has now been the sixth alcohol infused dessert I’ve made this year. First there was Guinness cupcake with Bailey’s buttercream, another cupcake with just the Bailey’s, jello shot cupcakes, Kahlua and espresso chocolate chip cookies, and rum & coke brownies. And now? Pina Colada cupcakes! I actually got this recipe off Betty Crocker’s website, but made some tweaks to turn the rum extract into, well, regular rum.

Making an alcohol infused dessert really works well when you’re going to a party, I think. Most people bring either a food item, or some type of alcohol. So, why not bring both, together?! My fiancé and I decided to have a wedding party BBQ, so everyone from both of our sides could get together, hang out, and get to know each other more. The wedding isn’t until next September, but we figured since we recently procured a grill (thanks mom & dad!), and hadn’t had a party in a few months, it was the perfect opportunity. I also made a batch of regular chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and a layer of chunky peanut butter in between the cake and frosting. Yeah, they were good too.

They wound up being a little smaller, just below the cupcake liners. So, I had to load on the frosting, which everyone at the party appreciated. Since my pastry bag broke, I’ve resorted to using a smaller and regular sized spoon to do my swirling. Not bad, but not great either. I also had some leftover crushed pineapple, so I threw that in some Tupperware with regular and flavored rum and let it soak together for a few hours. It came in handy later in the night for a wedding party toast/shot!

For now, I’ll just chalk my love of boozy desserts up to being Irish 😉

Pina Colada Cupcakes
– 24 cupcakes –

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon rum extract*
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
3 eggs
1 teaspoon coconut extract*
1 teaspoon rum extract*
1 container (12 oz) Betty Crocker® Whipped vanilla frosting
3/4 cup shredded coconut

1. Heat oven to 375°F (350°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, water, 1 teaspoon rum extract, the pineapple and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
2. Bake 14 to 19 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
3. Stir coconut extract and 1 teaspoon rum extract into frosting. Spread frosting on cupcakes. Dip tops of frosted cupcakes in coconut. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

*instead of using rum extract and coconut extract, I substituted both for some Admiral Nelson coconut rum. I’d imagine any flavored rum would work well!

Holiday Cookie Exchange

Yesterday I went to my first ever cookie exchange party! I actually hadn’t heard of them until recently, but they’re a pretty neat idea. Almost like a Tupperware party, but with baked goods you get to take home, with recipes to try them yourself!

One of my good friends at work invited me to her sister’s cookie exchange, which immediately made me nervous; what type of cookie was I going to bring?! What if they didn’t turn out good? What if I picked something someone was allergic to or didn’t like? All that aside, I was looking online earlier in the week for some inspiration, and found one of Betty Crocker’s Holiday cookie recipes. This particular recipe was actually from a contest, so I figured they would be good.

The cookies were Choco-Hazelnut Latte Cookies. And let me tell you, you can taste the chocolate, the hazelnut and the latte without a doubt! Since I’m an absolute chocolate and coffee fanatic, I knew these would definitely be delicious. To top off the appeal, they used sugar cookie mix, which cut down about half of my prep time, making it much easier to make Sunday morning for the party later that afternoon.

After getting all of the ingredients, I set to work. I think the hardest part was mixing all of the ingredients together, and then getting them onto the pan without breaking. They were super soft and mushy, which for me is a favorite quality of cookies. After the mixing, I really just had to wait… and wait. It was worth it though! They are so rich and delicious, that I definitely think more than one or two would be way too much. But I recommend them to everyone! You can find the recipe below 🙂

As for everyone else’s treats, there were some really interesting and delicious cookies. There were lemon zest sugar cookies, lemon bars (made with tofu!), cream cheese cookies, Snickers cookies, peanut butter blossoms, Chinese chews, peanut butter chocolate balls, and more! The best part was that I got to bring a sampling of each home in cute little goodie bags. My boyfriend definitely liked that part!

Below you’ll find some pictures, as well as my recipe and some of my favorites from the event!

Choco-Hazelnut Latte Cookies (courtesy of Betty Crocker):


1      pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/3   cup unsweetened baking cocoa
3      tablespoons instant coffee granules or crystals
1/2   cup butter or margarine, softened
3      tablespoons hazelnut-flavored syrup for beverages (from 12.7-oz bottle)
1  egg
1 1/2   cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped*
1  cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
2/3   cup Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting (from 1-lb container)
4 1/2  teaspoons hazelnut-flavored syrup for beverages (from 12.7-oz bottle)

1.     Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir together cookie mix, cocoa and instant coffee. Add butter, 3 tablespoons syrup and the egg; stir until soft dough forms. Stir in 1 cup of the nuts and the chocolate chips.
2.     On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough with rounded 1 1/2 tablespoon-size cookie scoop or by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart. Press each mound to flatten slightly.
3.     Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
4.     In small bowl, stir frosting and 4 1/2 teaspoons syrup. Spread about 1 teaspoon frosting on each cookie. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup nuts.

*To toast hazelnuts, heat oven to 350°F. Spread nuts in ungreased shallow pan. Bake uncovered 6 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light brown

The results:

My other two favorite super simple cookie recipes (though they were all good!) are below:

Chinese Chews:

2 cups Butterscotch bits
1 cup chocolate bits
1 can Chinese noodles

In double boiler, combine the butterscotch & chocolate bits till melted. Remove from heat & add Chinese noodles. Drop 1/2 teaspoon of mixture onto waxed paper, cool 2 hours.

Cream Cheese Cookies:

1/4 cup of butter
8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/4 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 egg
1 package of cake mix (yellow)

Cream together cream cheese and butter, followed by all other ingredients
Bake at 375 for 8-1 minutes

Happy Holiday baking everyone!

Mexican Pot Pie

Last night, I decided to make a recipe I stumbled upon from a weekly Betty Crocker e-mail I get. I was a little skeptical, but with a leap of faith I dove into the recipe.

I had always assumed pot pie was extremely tedious. I guess it all just depends on the recipe, because this only took me about 15 minutes to prepare, and another 25 for it to bake in the oven; which just involved me sitting at the kitchen table sipping some Yellow Tail chardonnay.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s easily modified. I consider myself a halfetarian (one that usually eats a more vegetarian diet, but sometimes needs a good burger or piece of chicken). So, this time I made it with chicken. If in an all veggie mood, though, it could easily work with a bunch of different vegetables.

I definitely give this recipe two thumbs up. I brought leftovers for lunch today, and it was just as good reheated in the microwave. It made the office kitchen smell delicious too!

You’ll find both the recipe and pictures of the finished product below.

Happy nomz!

1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium bell pepper (cut into strips)
2 cups cooked chicken
1 3/4 cups thick & chunky salsa
1/4 cup of water
1 cup Bisquick mix
1/3 cup Montery Jack cheese
1/2 cup milk

1. Heat oven to 400F
2. Heat oil in 10 inch skillet
3. Cook bell pepper. Stir in chicken, salsa, & water (cook 1-2 minutes), until bubbly
4. Pour into un-greased 1 1/2 inch casserole dish
5. In small bowl, stir Bisquick, cheese, milk
6. Pour over chicken mixture, spread almost to edge
7. Bake uncovered 30 minutes (until golden brown)
8. Enjoy!