Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

A personal chef. I don’t have one but if I did, I’d eat healthy meals 19 out of 21 in a week. The other two would consist of Twin Bing candy bars, pepperoni and green olive pizza, Caribou Campfire Mochas, Potato Olés with nacho cheese, fettuccine Alfredo, crusty bread slathered with butter, and a towering stack of bacon.

chicken chickpea cilantro salad_1649

My lame excuse for not eating healthy, other than not having a personal chef, is that it seems it takes extra time to plan and prepare healthy meals. But lately my sister Kalli has been influencing me to embrace smarter health habits so I’m experimenting ways to get my salt and savory fix without dipping seasoned fried potato rounds in nacho cheese sauce containing 12,032 (give or take a few) calories per one-ounce Solo cup.

My sister Kalli developed a chicken chickpea cilantro salad based on a deli dish from Pomegranate Market in Sioux Falls. You only need 26 minutes, rotisserie chicken, one can of chickpeas, a bunch of cilantro, red onion, your favorite low-carb low-sugar oil & vinaigrette dressing, lettuce, and low-carb tortillas.  

We’d still rather eat King Bings and drink a bottle of Stella Rosa and a six-pack of Angry Orchard. (A bunch of grapes and six apples a day, right?)

King Bings

Here’s where the 26 minutes comes in. I live five miles from the nearest store so it would take me almost as much time to drive to town, buy a King Bing, and zip back home as it would for me to make chicken chickpea cilantro salad. I timed myself, lallygaggingly preparing the salad, and it only took 26 minutes from the time I took the rotisserie chicken out of the fridge to the time I rolled my first tortilla.

bike on wind tower road

My sister has also inspired me to incorporate more active minutes in my day. Maybe if I ride my bike to town and back I’ll deserve a King Bing?

chicken chickpea cilantro salad

Wrap it, spread it, or roll it – this salad is good on crackers, rolled up in lettuce, stuffed into a tortilla, or just by the spoonful. What are some foods that make healthy eating choices easy for you?

Chicken chickpea cilantro salad

The following are the measurements from my sister. I used an entire rotisserie chicken breast so I added extra onion, cilantro, and dressing. The way I did it, it made approximately four cups of salad.

4 ounces rotisserie chicken, shredded

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette dressing or marinade (low-carb, low sugar)

low carb, low sugar tortilla wraps (We love Tumaro’s Low-in-carb Let’s Skip The Sandwich tortillas)

lettuce (optional)

Mix together the chicken, chickpeas, cilantro, red onion, and dressing. Roll onto tortillas or lettuce or spread on crackers. Store in refrigerator.


Healthy wishes,



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Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1” How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,


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It’s not that people in other states don’t enjoy Snickers apple salad, but according to a New York Times article of unusually popular recipes Googled on Thanksgiving in every state, people in South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska searched for Snickers salad more than in any other state. And although we Minnesotans searched mostly for wild rice casserole (which I’ve never made), Snicker salad and apple Snicker salad were two of the top five most searched recipes in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Snickers apple salad

Check out the map in the Times article. If you live in Utah, you searched mostly for funeral potatoes (my favorite) and you are surrounded by frog eye salad lovers. Your only way out is with a handful of turkey enchiladas through Arizona. It’s hard to imagine placing a bowl full of pasta, eggs, and fruit stirred together on my Thanksgiving table. I’d rather buzz up to North Dakota and eat your cookie salad, a kissing cousin to the Midwest’s coveted Snickers salad.

Maine and New Hampshire, you are making a lot of whoopie up there with one of my favorite ingredients. Hawaii, while you were busy searching for cranberry relish, Illinois was looking for ways to make Hawaiian salad. Maybe next year Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad will make the list?

Butterfinger apple coconut salad

I’m making Snickers apple salad for our casual Christmas lunch, along with my kids’ favorite magic chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup | Random Sweetness Baking

Snickers Apple Salad

1-½ cups cold 2% or whole milk

1 package (3.4 ounce) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 tub (8 ounce) frozen whipped topping, thawed

2 Granny Smith apples (approximately 2 cups)

2 Honeycrisp apples (approximately 2 cups)

Snickers candy bars (bag of fun-size bars or 4 (2.07 ounce) bars, chopped into bite size pieces

In a large bowl, whisk milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples and candy bars.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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Even if you’re ordering pizza delivery while your mother-in-law stirs a pot of oyster stew, may delicious food grace your table this holiday season. And may you not have to eat frog eye salad unless you want to.

Sweet food traditions,



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It sounds like an online dating ad for a salad, but this side dish has a lot going for it with its slippery olive oil and peppery chunks of salami. It will catch your attention without an embellished ingredient list or exaggerated prep time. And the bio picture, well let’s just say it’s not digitally enhanced but when you make it, your salad will have penne pasta. (By the second batch of the weekend, I ran out of penne and substituted rotini.)

salami pasta salad

Easy Salami Pasta Salad doesn’t contain mayonnaise or eggs so it’s a smart option for outdoor entertaining, picnics, and office lunches. And more times than not, I’ve eaten this as the main course. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days so you want to eat it up quickly or share it with your friends.

For heightened flavor, use a good olive oil. Here are a few resources:

  1. Local to the Brookings, South Dakota area – visit the Coteau des Prairies Olive Oil Co. tasting bar at the Pheasant Restaurant and Lounge located at 726 Main Avenue South. Or shop online at Coteau des Prairies Olive Oil Co.
  2. Read or listen to “What extra virgin means, and who in the olive oil industry abides” from the Splendid Table.
  3. Review journalist Tom Mueller’s complete list of olive oil recommendations.
  4. Read Tom Mueller’s supermarket picks: quality oils at good prices.

View our favorite Easy Salami Pasta Salad recipe from Taste of Home.

Easy Salami Pasta Salad

3 cups uncooked penne pasta

8 ounces hard salami, cubed

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

4 green onions, diced

4 teaspoons minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

4 teaspoons minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In the kitchen:

Prepare the pasta as directed on the package. Drain and rinse the pasta thoroughly with cold water. Set aside to drain completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, salami, parsley, onions, oregano, basil, and olive oil mixture. Store covered in the refrigerator overnight or at least 12 hours. Immediately before serving, top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Store in the refrigerator 2 or 3 days. Makes 8 servings.

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My daughter loves traditional Snickers apple salad with vanilla pudding, whipped cream, red and green apples, and Snickers candy bars. I was excited to tailor it to other flavors she likes by pouring coconut milk into the pudding and tossing in Butterfinger candy instead of Snickers.

But you’d have thought I added bright red beets.

Me: “Kalani, I made a special salad for you like the Snickers and apple salad you love but it has Butterfingers in it.”

Kalani: “Oh, I don’t really like Butterfingers that much. I like Snickers so that’s why I like that salad.”

Butterfinger apple coconut salad | Random Sweetness Baking

Me: “Um, well, I was excited to make it for you because when we go to the Zesto, you always order a Butterfinger Avalanche with coconut and chocolate ice cream.”

Kalani: “Ya, well that’s because Snickers freeze when they are in ice cream and they are too hard to eat.”

Me: “OK. It’s in the refrigerator if you decide to try some. It has Honeycrisp and green apples.”

The next day…

Kalani: “That salad was actually really good!”

Me: “I’m glad you liked it! Could you taste coconut?”

Kalani: “No.”

Me: “If I make it again I’ll add more coconut milk. I didn’t use too much because I wasn’t sure if the taste would be too strong. I didn’t actually use coconut because I don’t like coconut.”

Kalani: “Oh.”

Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad

1 cup cold coconut milk (coconut milk is found in the Chinese/Oriental food section – do NOT use cream of coconut)

1/2 cup cold milk

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped cream

2 Granny Smith apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Honeycrisp apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces (or your favorite red apple)

bag of fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped (or 5 regular size Butterfinger candy bars chopped)

1/2 cup flaked coconut, optional

In a large bowl, whisk coconut milk and milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples, candy bars, and coconut.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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I was married once. And just like everything in life, something good can come of a less than ideal situation. For instance, my two ex sisters-in-law, Deb and Sue, are lovely women who served some of the best down-home food from their Midwest kitchen tables. Many of their creations, like Deb’s Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad and Sue’s Snickers bar recipe, found their way into my arsenal of recipes.

This weekend, my some-day sister-in-law, Betsy, and her family came to visit and we grilled bacon burgers and hot dogs. Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad was the perfect vegetable side dish to serve on a warm summer evening.

In the morning, Gracie and I whipped up fluffy Cake Batter Pancakes and a new-to-us-recipe for ham, cheese, and egg bake made with Stove Top stuffing. (After 10 years with Jason’s family, I think Grace and I are grandfathered in as Aunt and Niece.) She mastered the “flip” of the pancake so she just might take over the morning spatula when they get back home.

You can make this salad with whichever raw veggies you want. The recipe card that I copied from Deb is fairly vague. I wrote garlic and dill weed but I didn’t write amounts. If you’re not fond of some of the vegetables, just switch them out for something you like. Check your garden before you hit the market.

I tossed in a handful of diced red onion. If you like cashews, sliced almonds or sunflower seeds, they would add a nice salty crunch.

Bacon would take it to the next level.

According to what I wrote, the number of servings makes “a big bowl.” My guess is, it makes 12-18 servings.

Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad

1 bunch broccoli

1 head cauliflower

4 sticks celery

1/4 cup diced red onion (If you prefer, use green onions.)

1-1/2 cups frozen peas (The petite ones are nice.)

1 cup mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing

8 ounces sour cream

1 (1-ounce) packet dry Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix – NOT the dip mix

1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (Or use a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.)

Wash and chop the broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and red onion. Add the vegetables, including the peas, to a big bowl of salted cold water. A couple of tablespoons of salt is fine. Let the veggies soak in the water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the water well so the salad doesn’t get watery. Toss the vegetables into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the Ranch packet, dill weed and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.

Add the Ranch mixture to the vegetables and stir until they are evenly coated with the dressing. Chill at least one hour. Serve cold. You can refrigerate it overnight and serve the next day. Refrigerate leftovers.

Do you have a favorite recipe from an ex-family member? 

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