Avocado Chicken Salad

Avocado Chicken Salad in a romaine lettuce wrap
Today my son turns 1 year old and I'm sitting here with so many mixed emotions. Proud of the little boy he is becoming, nostalgic to the moment he was born, sad that my last baby is growing up, and so happy that he has made my family feel so complete and filled my heart with more love than I thought was possible. 

I'm also sitting here after eating another healthy lunch and NOT eating the Dunkin Donuts munchkins that are staring me in the face. Why am I not eating them you ask? Because a 32 year old body doesn't bounce back as easily as a 27 year old body does! In all reality, it was time for me to stop eating like I was pregnant and to start making smarter choices. Enter the Avocado Chicken Salad. I'm sure you've seen all kinds of recipes for Avocado Chicken Salad on Pinterest and on the internet, this is one I just threw together quickly for a working lunch. 

This chicken salad is very healthy and very filling and yet tastes amazing! It's creamy and flavorful and, when mixed with lettuce or a bell pepper, has a nice crunch about it. And it's such a simple recipe that there are a ton of ways to change it up. If you change this recipe up to make it your own I'd love to hear what you do! 

Avocado Chicken Salad on bell peppers

1 avocado
1/2 cooked chicken breast (I slice mine horizontally and grill/pan fry them for the week) - if you don't have that you can always use leftover rotisserie chicken too
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp jalapeno juice (I have a jar of sliced jalapenos and I use juice from there)
salt, pepper, garlic salt to taste

1) Dice chicken into small chunks or shred it into pieces.
2) Mash the avocado in a bowl but leave some chunks if possible.
3) Add seasoning and jalapeno juice to avocado mixture.
4) Add chicken to avocado mixture and stir all ingredients together. 
5) Taste to make sure seasonings are to your liking and adjust. Plate on a romaine or bibb lettuce leaf, on bell peppers, on tomatoes, or on bread!


BBQ Pulled Pork

Lip smackin' good y'all!

I don't know about you but I'm always looking for a good crockpot recipe. Honestly, sometimes I hardly have time to eat much less think about what to make for dinner. And in the summer when I'd rather be playing with my family outside, the last thing I really want to do is come inside to cook all night. I mean, I live in Wisconsin...I have to take advantage of summer when I can!!

Everyone and their mother has a pulled pork recipe that they swear by. My version of pulled pork is really just whatever I have in my pantry that will make it delicious. I usually buy the boneless pork ribs or pork shoulder when they go on sale at the grocery store and use that for my pork. From there I do what my mama always taught me, just add your ingredients until it tastes good! I like to serve my pork on a Hawaiian bun with some cold cole slaw that I usually buy pre-made at the grocery store (because making my own cole slaw defeats the purpose of not really putting any effort into cooking dinner ;). Although I did taste a blue cheese cole slaw the other day that I might have to make for the next round of BBQ pulled pork. I'm an open face girl and like to eat my BBQ pulled pork with a fork and knife, but if you like to get sloppy you can certainly accomplish that with this meal too! Serve this low maintenance meal with a side of potato and you are all set!

BBQ Pulled Pork
Source: Me

1 package boneless pork ribs or 2-3 lb. pork shoulder
BBQ sauce (I use regular Sweet Baby Rays and some Open Pit)
1 TBSP liquid smoke
1 can of coke (optional)
Lawry's Seasoned Salt to taste
Desired toppings: pickles, cole slaw, potato chips, etc.

1. Season the meat with Lawry's and place into crock pot (if you have crock pot liners I'd suggest using them).

2. Cover the meat with BBQ sauce. Add the can of coke and the liquid smoke. I sometimes mix some BBQ sauce with about 1 cup of water and add that as well. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-5 hours.

3. Once cooked and falling apart, drain the liquid into a measuring cup or bowl. Shred the pork with two forks and add some liquid back in to keep the pork moist. I also add some BBQ sauce at this point and mix it in. Whatever you do, DON'T over sauce your pork!! You can always add more sauce when it's on your bun.

4. Pile pulled pork on a bun and top with your desired toppings! Enjoy!!


Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta

Creamy. Delicious. Flavorful.

My friend Chelsea and I were having a girls night and we wanted to cook a fun dinner along with the fun butters we were making (she was making an apple bourbon butter and I made a pumpkin butter, both wonderful). Chelsea, an avid foodie and amazing cook herself, found this recipe and wanted to try it. So we went shopping together, bought all the ingredients, pulled out canning supplies out, and spent the whole afternoon/evening in the kitchen among good food and wine! Don't you just love nights like that?!

I have to say that this dish did not disappoint. It was very simple to pull together and the flavors were fantastic! I am a goat cheese lover and it adds just the right amount of tangy to the sweet roasted red peppers. The dish is actually much creamier than it looks in the picture however we had to let it sit as someone else came over just as we were about to eat (the nerve of some people). If you are tired of the same old red sauce and need to "kick it up a notch", definitely give this a try! 

Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta
Source: Damn Delicious via Pinterest

12 ounces linguine (I used a full pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.
2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in milk, heavy cream, goat cheese and Parmesan until cheeses has melted, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add red peppers and puree with an immersion blender. Stir in pasta and gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan, if desired.


Warm Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Bars

Total. S'MORGASM!!
Since it has only been forever and a day since I last posted anything, I'd like to explain. I'm pregnant! Pregnancy works well for the eating portion of this blog however it does not work well for the writing and cooking portion. Pregnancy has made me exhausted and by the time dinner comes around the only thing I feel like making is a bowl of cereal. Now that I'm 25 weeks along I have more energy to cook however I'm usually not very hungry with the nasty heartburn I have (doesn't pregnancy sound like so much fun?!).
A common question while pregnant is "what are your cravings?" My answer is usually "what aren't I craving?!" I pretty much eat everything anything so I literally crave everything. Weeks 1-10 I couldn't get enough juice, grape juice, cherry juice, orange juice, or a mix of all of them. Then I craved salty food like guacamole. Then I craved fruit. Pretty much the whole time I crave pasta. And now I crave sweets...lots and lots of dessert!! Enter my most recent craving, S'MORES.
I try really hard not to give in to all my unhealthy cravings. I usually let the craving sit for a couple days and it will dissipate but if I let it sit and it only gets stronger, well, then I just have to give in because the baby obviously NEEDS whatever it is I'm craving. I've been craving s'mores for about a week at this point. My friend Tara is also pregnant (and due just a couple weeks after me) and mentioned this very delicious s'mores recipe awhile ago. Like any good foodie, I instantly pinned the recipe to Pinterest knowing that I'd need to tap into it at some point. So yesterday I made these s'mores bars and they were DIVINE! I put 2 bars on my plate and dug in with my fork. Each bite of this gooey, soft, marshmallowy goodness brought me a little closer to the campfire in my mind! The base is a little crumbly but at the end of the day, if you don't get a little messy eating a s'more then are you really eating a s'more?! Verdict: try these! They take less than half hour to make and are a perfect crowd pleaser.
I know you are drooling...I am!
Look at that toasty goodness!

Source: Tara via Betty Crocker (thanks Tara!!)
1 tube of sugar cookie dough (1 pound 1.5 ounces)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 lb butter, melted
3 cups milk chocolate chips
4 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1. Preheat over to 375 degrees. Mix sugar cookie dough and graham cracker crumbs. Add melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan.
2. Bake graham cracker/cookie dough mixture about 18-20 minutes or until set. As soon as you pull the cookie base out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crust. Let the chocolate chips melt onto the crust for about 3-5 minutes (I actually turned off the oven and put the dish back in there to melt the chocolate better). Once the chocolate is melty, spread it around on top of the crust.
3. Turn the oven on to broil. Sprinkle marshmallows over the chocolate and put back in the oven for about 30 seconds. Watch closely as the marshmallows will brown really quickly. Once the marshmallows get to the desired level of "toastedness," pull the s'mores bars out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
4. Cut the s'mores bars after 10 minutes and enjoy! If you don't eat them all you can easily put just one bar on a plate and re-heat it for about 30 seconds.
Side note: These would be great to bring to a party. Complete through step 2 and then pop in the oven to reheat at the party!



My little baker helping to add the chocolate chips.....

....or eat the chocolate chips!

Not sure if you've heard of "puffins" yet. They are basically a pancake baked as a muffin. Sometimes you just want a delicious muffin but don't have the mix to make it with...enter the Puffin. They are great for dunking in syrup like a pancake or just eating straight from the muffin tin! As you can see, this is also a kid approved meal. I would like to try them plain or with fruit in them instead of chocolate chips next time. 

Source: Adapted from multiple Pinterest pins

Pancake mix
Chocolate chips

1. Make pancake mix according to package directions (mine just calls to add water). 

2. Put cupcake liners into a muffin tin and fill 3/4 full with pancake mix.

3. bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes or until done. If using a mini-muffin tin then I'd bake at 8-9 minutes or until done.


Cherry Chocolate Cake

Looking for an easy dessert?! Look no further my friends! This cherry chocolate cake is just a few ingredients turned into a moist and delicious cake dotted throughout with delicious cherries. When I went to college my mom put a handful of my favorite recipes into a small recipe book and this was one of those recipes. This recipe is perfect for a few reasons:
  1. It has very few ingredients
  2. It is moist and delicious
  3. It is cheap to make
Not everyone loves fruit and chocolate mixed together like this but if you do, this cake will NOT disappoint. I like to dust it with powdered sugar instead of spread a thick frosting on it. Sometimes I'll mix powdered sugar, milk, and a little vanilla extract and drizzle that frosting over the top. You see, for being a chocolate cake it is actually very light and moist and a heavy frosting might be too much. If you do try a heavier frosting (store bought, buttercream, cream cheese frosting, etc) let me know what you think because I don't know if I would ever change up such a perfect dessert!

Cherry Chocolate Cake
Source: My Mama

1 box chocolate cake mix (I like milk chocolate or devil's food)
1 can cherry pie filling
Powdered sugar or other frosting of choice

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool.

3. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve!


Christmas 2012

NOTE: I started this post back in January and am just not getting around to posting. Can you say LAZY!!

I realize I am a bit late on getting this posted. I am going with the excuse that January is my busiest month of the year and I'm exhausted 99.8% of the time and knew this post would be a bigger undertaking. As Christmas tradition in our household goes, on Christmas day we basically put out some appetizers and just eat all day. Not a bad tradition if I may say! We typically stick to the usuals, velveeta dip, salsa/cream cheese dip, black olive dip, cold shrimp and cocktail sauce, taco dip (anyone sense this "dip" theme here), meatballs, little wienies, and our baked pumpernickel breads. This year we shook it up and made less food (boo) and different foods (yay)! Here is the lineup:

Cranberry Salsa over Cream Cheese

Oreo Truffles

Vegetable Pizza

Potato Skins

And a few traditional snacks: Meatballs, Mini Wienies, and Velveeta Dip

Homemade Spinach Gnocchi

The sad truth to this post is that I have no clue how to make gnocchi. This was just such a delicious dish that I HAD to show off. My brother made this yummy spinach gnocchi for us when my mom and sister came to visit. This is a spinach gnocchi with a shallot and tomato light cream sauce. DIVINE! I think the sauce was so tasty we literally took spoonfuls after all the gnocchi was gone. I'll try to wrangle up the recipe and post it on here sometime. If you are not a gnocchi fan, you need to make (or have someone make for you) homemade gnocchi, it really is delicious!! Thanks Biggies!

The final product was a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, roasted asparagus, and spinach gnocchi in a light tomato cream sauce. Pure. Heaven.


Roasted Veggie Wraps with Goat Cheese Spread

The players aka what's inside
 While it may still feel like winter here in Wisconsin, I know that swimsuit season is fast approaching. On April 1st I started a DietBet on DietBet.com. Basically every person that joins the DietBet game contributes $X and whoever loses 4% of their body weight in 4 weeks splits the pot. I'm about 60% of the way there and have about 10 days left. That said...I've been forced to eat healthy (and by forced I mean I'm too damn stubborn to lose even $1 in a bet)!

I've been trying to keep my meals healthy and still full of flavor. I used to always think that if I needed to eat healthy it had to be bland chicken and a boring vegetable side dish. I've found some great recipes these past few weeks and think I'm going to try to keep a lot of these dishes in the rotation because they are so yummy!

And here's where the veggie wrap idea came into play. I have a lot of work lunches I go to and always look for a healthy wrap and have been eating a lot of roasted vegetable wraps. I decided that I could do it myself and do it better than anywhere else I've eaten....and I did!! This was fabulous!! It was refreshing and light and yet I still felt full after dinner. I did this as a "Meatless Monday" dish however you can add chicken or beef in the wrap or another meat on the side and it would be fantastic. I had one for lunch yesterday and I plan to eat another one for lunch today. I think it also totals to right around 400 calories for the whole wrap and I typically estimate high on the calorie count! So make it and enjoy some delicious food while being healthy!


Roasted Veggie Wraps with Goat Cheese
Source: All me!

1 zucchini, chopped into thirds and sliced
1 yellow squash, chopped into thirds and sliced
1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
spring mix lettuce blend
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2.5 oz goat cheese, room temperature
2-3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt (I probably did 3)
3 spinach tortilla wraps
balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
salt, pepper, and EVOO

1. Place zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and red pepper on a foil lined baking sheet. Pour some EVOO on top of veggies and mix so that they are lightly coated. Sprinkle salt and pepper (and any other seasonings you like) on top. Roast for about 20 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees, turning once or twice during cooking time. Side note: depending on how hot your oven cooks and how close to the top of the oven, it may require more or less cooking time. When done, pull out and let cool for about 5-10 minutes so the veggies are room temperature (I set my whole baking sheet outside since it was cold outside and it cooled down pretty quick).

2. While veggies are roasting, mix a couple of handfuls of the spring mix with the shredded carrots in a bowl. Add some balsamic vinaigrette and toss to coat.

3. Mix the goat cheese with the Greek yogurt until thoroughly incorporated. This makes a nice, creamy, and tangy spread.

4. Lay out 3 tortillas and spread with the goat cheese mixture. I spread the mixture all around the tortilla because I truly hate when I don't get to taste the spread in every bite. Next add some of the salad mixture in the middle of the wrap. Then layer your roasted veggies on top of the salad mixture. Cut and serve!


Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Don't you want to lick the screen?!

For how much I love cupcakes you'd think I'd post more pictures of them, right?! Unfotunately, I love them SO much I usually eat them before I can get a good picture. I'm pretty boring when it comes to making cupcakes. I'll make a chocolate cake (from a box) with my basic vanilla buttercream frosting. Last fall I wanted to treat some very special ladies I work with and thank them with cupcakes for all the hard work they do for me and my colleagues. I ventured out of my comfort zone and made Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes. WOWZA! These.were.awesome!!!!

Since I am a lazy baker I always use a box cake mix...not to mention they always turn out moist and perfect! And let's be honest, the cake is really just a means to eat frosting anyways! I do spend the time making a homemade buttercream that will knock your socks off. Seriously, the buttercream is the star of this cupcake, hands down! Make these and then you can tell me how amazing this buttercream is!! No lie, I don't even like peanut butter buttercream and I pipe any remaining frosting right into my mouth with these puppies!

Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes
Source: Me

1 box chocolate cake mix (and all ingredients needed to make the box cake mix)
1 bag of miniature Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbsp merengue powder
1 tbsp peanut butter extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (maybe a little more depending on flavor and color)
2-4 tbsp milk

1. Bake cake according to box directions. After 5 minutes of baking, drop a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup into the center of the cupcake. Let cool completely.

2. Put butter in a bowl and mix with a mixer or stand mixer (my KitchenAid is awesome for buttercreams). Beat butter until creamy. Add the peanut butter and cream together.

3. Add 2 cups of the confectioners sugar and the merengue powder and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until completely incorporated again.

4. Add the peanut butter extract and 2 tbsp of milk. I usually taste it and will either add more peanut butter or more peanut butter extract to get the flavor where I want it. I'll also add more milk if I want a creamier buttercream.

5. Chop about 5-8 mini peanut butter cups into small pieces. Frost cupcakes with buttercream. I pipe my frosting using a large star tip (I don't know what the number is). After I frost about 5-6 cupcakes I'll sprinkle some chopped peanut butter cups on top so that the frosting is still soft enough to grab hold to the candy.

Serve and enjoy!!!