Meal in a (taco) bowl: Salsa-chicken mix

So… I need quick-pack lunches. Badly.

Salads are normally my go-to, but sometimes, I get bored of tossing lettuce (well, more recently, broccoli slaw) with some or all of the following: bell pepper (roasted or raw), tomato, carrots, celery, avocado, olives, and lunch meat. Oh, and also some manner of dressing, usually vinaigrette.

As much as I can do with it, it just gets boring.

I’d recently bought some Safeway Kitchens fire-roasted salsa, not knowing what I was going to do with it. I’d also picked up 3 bell peppers–one each of red, orange, and yellow.

On the walk back from the bus stop (got off one early to get in some walking on such a nice day!), it hit me: fiesta bowl!

I stopped into the grocery store to grab two grilled chicken breasts and a large avocado.

I chopped up the avocado and peppers, shredded the chicken, and tossed that together with the can of salsa. (Probably a 15-oz can–I’ve recycled it, good Seattleite that I am, and composted the leftover veggie bits. Yeah, I’m good.) I then smeared a bit of that on a tortilla and put some shredded cheese on that and microwaved it. I probably could have actually made a taco bowl (or 6) out of the mix, but I tried it as a burrito first.

The results were 100% delicious. Also messy. Very, very messy. And very, very worth it.

So, for those of you who want an actual recipe-format recipe…

Chickadoodle’s Taco Fiesta Bowl Mix… Stuff

1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large, ripe avocado (firm-ish, just a bit of give to the touch)
2 medium-ish grilled chicken breasts
1 can Safeway Kitchens fire roasted salsa (~15 oz) or similar

Wash, seed, and chop the peppers. Cube the avocado. Chop or shred the chicken. Toss that in an at least 4-cup container with the salsa. Spread as a burrito filling or use as a dip or its own salad. Top with shredded cheese if desired. As always, enjoy. (If you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong.)

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So many salads…

I’m trying to eat healthier. It’s not that hard–I like my fruits and veggies. But still, keeping it creative can be a little challenging.

My sausage-veggie bake is a pretty good start, and is great for winter.

But during these warm summer months, it’s nice to not heat up my kitchen.

This is where salad comes in.

I love salad. There is so much to do with it.

So, without further ado, here are two of my more recent creations:

Greek-style salad with French flair:
Combine and toss:
–a bed of Safeway’s fresh herb salad mix
–5-6 dry salame nuggets, cut into chunks
–black olives
–1 small-ish roma tomato
–an agreeable amount of cucumber
–half an avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
–Safeway’s cucumber-tzatziki dressing
–crumbled chevre (just found out this is a thing, OMG…)

Green fusion salad:
Combine and toss:
–a bed of Safeway’s fresh herb salad mix
–5-6 dry salame nuggets, cut into chunks
–red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
–1 small-ish roma tomato
–an agreeable amount of cucumber
–half an avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
–Private Selection (QFC/Fred Meyer) miso orange sesame dressing
–crumbled chevre (just found out this is a thing, OMG…)

You may have noted, these salads have many ingredients in common.

I love the herb salad mix, but I think the second salad might do well with some dried noodles and some cabbage instead, and the tomato could be removed. Grilled salmon or chicken would substitute well for the salame, and it could be grilled teriyaki chicken or salmon in the second salad, and lemon and pepper for the chicken in the first salad. Both could stand the addition of snap peas. You could substitute pretty much any crumbled or cubed cheese for the chevre, or remove it entirely in the second salad.

The point? The possibilities are endless…

French Breakfast Muffins, à la Chickadoodle

So, Betty Crocker has a recipe for some incredibly tasty muffins.

I have made these particular muffins many times. Only once did I fail, omitting the leavening completely and turning out dense disks of nutmeg-y goodness. I still call them my fail muffins in a somewhat affectionate way. (I think it was the time after that when I was making Betty Crocker coffee cake that I managed to triple the baking powder when doubling the recipe. That was the day I learned how to clean an oven. Also, all the new recipes use Bisquik. Much as I love the stuff, it does not belong in coffee cake.)

But, per the usual, I make them… a little differently.

Muffin ingredients:
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or 3/4 or a full teaspoon. I like ’em nutmeg-y.)
1/2 cup milk

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or 1.5 or 2 teaspoons. I like ’em cinnamon-y.)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (1/4 cup is usually plenty, I find)

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 15 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2×1 1/4 inches.
Mix shortening, 1/2 cup sugar and the egg throughly in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg alternately with milk. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. brush tops of hot muffins immediately with melted butter, then dunk thoroughly in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve hot.

My dad, however, is the champion of eating these muffins. He will cut off the top and eat it, then put the left over cinnamon and sugar on it. This is a good idea.

Salted caramel cookie butter cookies

So, I stumbled across the wonderful invention that is cookie butter about 4 months ago. I bought some crunchy cookie butter from Trader Joe’s the other week, and then, I got to wondering: what on God’s green earth does one do with cookie butter? I mean, it’s this mostly mild-flavored but extremely tasty paste that’s not the least bit healthy for you (though apparently not much worse overall than peanut butter, so there is that, I guess…), so… do I make cookies with it? Do I dunk oreos in it? Do I spread it on celery à la peanut butter? Do I use it as a caramel substitute for dunking apples? Do I just eat it out of the jar? WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS AMAZING STUFF?! 

Around the same time, I had purchased some fleur de sel caramels from Trader Joe’s, as well. Divine inspiration: Why not make cookie butter cookies with bits of the caramels in them? What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, a lot, if one does not have waxed paper or foil to line their cookie sheets with. I have beautiful non-stick sheets, and there was no way in hell that I was going to subject them to twice-burnt sugar. That just seemed like a bad idea. I would have preferred to have gone with waxed paper, but foil certainly served its purpose.

I followed this recipe, adapted from Feastie:

Biscoff Cookie Butter Cookies

makes roughly 3 dozen cookies

barely adapted from Baking Bites

Ingredients:

  •  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff cookie butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 Trader Joe’s fleur de sel caramels, cut up into 8ths

Instructions:

  1.  Position oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. 
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy and pale. 
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in the cookie butter.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.
  6. Add the caramel pieces and fold them in–don’t over-mix!
  7. Place the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, scoop out small balls of dough (about 1″ in diameter)  on prepared baking sheet. 
  8. Bake cookies until lightly golden and brown around the edges, about 12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet set on a cooling rack for 2 minutes, then gently transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
  9. While the first dozen cookies are in the oven, start forming/rolling the second dozen and place them on the second prepared baking sheet. When the first dozen are done baking, quickly slide the second dozen into the oven. After the first dozen cookies have been transferred to the cooling rack, you can slide that piece of parchment paper off onto the counter and prepare the third dozen dough balls (just put them directly onto the parchment) – slide the whole piece of parchment paper back onto the baking sheet right before you put the third dozen cookies in the oven. 

A few notes:

While this worked for the most part, I would probably actually just press the caramels into the top of the cookies instead of mixing them in next time. While I’d line the cookie sheets either way, caramel is… not the most pleasant stuff to work with. I actually wound up refrigerating them for a few minutes before I folded them into the dough because they were trying to stick together at room temperature. Since the damage had already been done, the fridge also kinda stuck them together. Oops.

I also let the cookies just cool on the foil-lined pans, as we do not have cooling racks, and, again, working with caramel can be unpleasant to work with. I still had to use a spatula to remove the cookies from the foil intact. ‘Cause, y’know, caramel sticks to everything. And can be unpleasant to work with. (Have I hammered that home yet? It’s worth it, but never let it be said that I didn’t warn you what you were getting into.)

Finally, the original recipe called for only 1/4 tsp. of salt. But these are salted caramel cookies. So screw that. They didn’t turn out too salty.

Oh, and be warned: these things stick to your teeth. While they are delicious, your enamel probably will not thank you down the road. I’d say that these are an occasional treat, unless you want to, um… make these into bar cookies and drizzle salted caramel over them after they come out of the oven? I dunnno… It’s an idea.

Anyway, enjoy!

Never-Fail Kahlua Cake, Chickadoodle-style

A few years ago, one of my aunts made an AMAZING cake for a family party. It was death (and then probably resurrection) by chocolate. I asked for the recipe, and since then, I’ve made it several times, and everyone loves it. Well, except for the people who don’t like chocolate, but I digress.

It’s not a secret recipe or anything–a quick google search can find several versions of this, but here’s mine:

Never Fail Kahlua Cake

1 pkg. Triple chocolate cake mix (originally Swiss or German chocolate)
1 pkg. instant chocolate fudge pudding (6 oz)  (originally just chocolate pudding)
1/3 cup Kahlua liqueur
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 pint lite sour cream
2 6-oz pkg. chocolate chips (This was a modification my aunt made–original calls for 1 package)

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixer bowl, place all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix according to cake package instructions. (WARNING: this cake will attempt to murder your electric hand mixer. Use a stand mixer. You have been warned.) Fold in chocolate chips by hand. Pour batter into a well greased floured bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes at 350. Test for doneness with toothpick. remove from oven. Cool on rack until bundt pan is room temperature, then flip onto serving platter. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

This cake is best enjoyed when warm. We have found that 10-15 seconds per 1.5-ish-inch-outside-arc-length slice on high power in a microwave is sufficient to make the cake gooey and the chocolate melt-y. If you want to keep it this way, make sure you store it in an air-tight cake taker or some-such, as this cake will dry out and become slightly less delicious over time.

You can also bake this cake in a 9×13 brownie pan for however long the instructions on the cake mix box say to bake. It’s just as delicious, and if you make them into brownie-size pieces, you can spread them out over time. It’s a trick because they are so delicious, but they’re so worth it!