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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.

Kalli, author of See Jane Fit and Funky on Facebook and Instagram, developed 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 See Jane Fit and Funky. 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,

Staci

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As I unwrapped garlic cloves to make Garlicky Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cauliflower (super fabulous dish), I remembered that there was a time, it only had to happen once, that I didn’t know the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic. Which means, a recipe called for two cloves of garlic and I used two bulbs. Yes, two bulbs of garlic.

garlic

Obviously, I’m mostly self-taught in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cooking. Remember how I used to smash tomatoes trying to cut them using the wrong knife until Jason told me to use a serrated one? (Apology to tomatoes and making pico de gallo.) Well if you cook with your kids like Stacey Viera does, you’ll want to add tomatoes and garlic to your Kitchen Tips 101 list.

use a serrated knife to dice a tomato

Thank goodness I figured out the garlic clove/bulb thing (and slicing tomatoes) because otherwise my favorite Chicken Black Bean Salsa would scare vampires away.

Chicken Black Bean Salsa

And my summer sausage salami cilantro pizza would go from oven to trash in five minutes or less.

summer sausage and salami cilantro pizza

For more recipes using garlic and tomatoes, flip through my Potatoes and Vegetables Pinterest boards.

Something else I wish I would’ve known before attending a business lunch at Sushi Masa, you don’t eat edamame pods.

Sweet garlic breath,

Staci

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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,

Staci

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One thing professional bakers are good at that I clearly am not is buying appropriate amounts of ingredients for large-batch baking — unlike me, who has a pantry full of limes even after serving Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce to 230 guests.

And although margaritas would be the no-brainer, I’m-a-mom-let-me-drink way to use up the extras, I squeezed their zesty little selves into two fresh, flavorful chicken dishes. Before filling a large bowl with Chicken Black Bean Salsa, we enjoyed Lime Chicken Street Tacos for an entire weekend. Can YOU resist a soft corn tortilla warmly blanketed around tender shredded chicken, melty cheese, and the warming taste of cumin? Me either.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The inspiration for these came from Taste of Home Lime Chicken Tacos. I’ve followed the recipe exactly a few times and loved them. But this time I wanted to use soft corn tortillas and I wanted to throw in crispy peppers and red onions, and use fresh red tomatoes instead of using salsa. Now that I’ve become a cumin addict thanks to Beer Chili Spaghetti, you’ll find a warm, smoky heat to these as well. You can take or leave any of the ingredients, and you can add your own favorite traditional Mexican toppings.

Technically, street tacos should be wrapped in two soft corn tortilla shells. [Unlike pictured above.] That way, you won’t need to eat them hovering over the kitchen sink.

You’ll like making these on Saturday mornings because if you pop the chicken in the crockpot right when you get up, these tasty tacos will be ready for a late lunch. (That is, if you weren’t partying like it’s 1999 the night before.) Once you have the chicken in the crockpot you can dice up the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, red onion, and cilantro and shred the cheese for the garnish. At that time if you want, you can go back to bed.

Once the chicken is done, you’ll take it out of the crockpot and shred it.

Shredded chicken for tacos

Then, you’ll toss on your frozen corn and diced tomato and jalapeño. I also dash on more cumin and onion salt. Slide it all back into the crockpot. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup lime juice over the chicken and vegetables and stir thoroughly. Put the lid back on and cook on low for 30 minutes until everything is hot.

shredded chicken with veggies

You’ll find many ways to use the red onion and cilantro sauce. I like it on my favorite tortilla chips, nachos, and on scrambled eggs.

red onion cilantro lime juice

Lime Chicken Street Tacos

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 cup lime juice, divided into (3) 1/4 cup portions (I used approximately 16 small Persian limes which was most of a 2-pound bag. Ten or twelve large, regular limes would give you approximately 3/4 cup. Or, you can use bottled lime juice.) If you don’t want to make cilantro and red onion sauce, you can omit one of the 1/4 cups of juice.

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion salt

1 cup frozen corn

1 tomato, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced

24 soft corn tortillas

1/2 large red onion, finely diced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

sea salt to taste

2 cups shredded cheese, Monterey Jack, Sharp Cheddar, or your favorite cheese

sour cream

Make the taco filling

Place chicken breasts in a crockpot. Combine 1/4 cup of lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and onion salt. Pour over chicken, put the lid on the crockpot, and slowly cook the chicken until cooked all the way through and no longer pink, approximately 5-6 hours.

Remove the chicken from the crockpot and place on a plate. With two forks, shred the chicken into pieces small enough to fit in your mouth. If you desire to add a little more flavor, sprinkle a few additional dashes of cumin and onion salt over the chicken.

Dump the frozen corn, diced tomato, and diced jalapeño pepper on the plate with the chicken. Put it all in the crockpot and pour 1/4 cup lime juice over it all and stir. Cover and cook at low temperature for another 30 minutes or until everything is hot.

To serve: place a couple spoonfuls of chicken on a warm tortilla. Top with cilantro and red onion sauce (see recipe below), shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Serve with margaritas, mojitos, or my new favorite ice-cold adult beverage, Cayman Jack hand crafted margaritas.

Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Cilantro and Red Onion Sauce

In a small bowl, combine the diced red onion, chopped cilantro and 1/4 cup lime juice. Add sea salt to taste. Keep refrigerated.

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You may not think a big bowl of salsa makes a meal, but you won’t be able to stop eating this hearty condiment until your belly is full. If you have a garden, run out and pick a few tomatoes, green onions, and as many varieties of peppers as you can. Sauté a pound of chicken seasoned with Mexican spices, throw a few beers on ice, and in 30 minutes you’ll have a perfect summer meal.

Our favorite sidekick for scooping up this salsa is a big bag of Margaritaville Sea Salt Tortilla Chips. (Thanks to my sister, Kalli, for the recommendation a couple of years ago.) For those of you in the Midwest, you can purchase the chips at Hy-Vee, Fareway Foods and Schnucks.

Of course, no meal is complete without something sweet so we topped off this spicy summer meal with a light and creamy, no-bake dessert — Summer Breeze Lime Pie.

Chicken and Black Bean Salsa

1 – 1-1/2 pounds unbreaded chicken breasts, cooked, diced and seasoned with Southwest Seasoning Mix or any combination of Mexican spices

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or lime juice from a bottle), to taste – you may want to add more to make it juicier

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped just past the white part

2 (15 oz. each) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

1/4 tsp pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced pepper (red, green, orange, yellow, whatever kinds you like)

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

Sauté the chicken until fully cooked.

Cut up all the vegetables, cilantro, garlic, and stir together in a large bowl with the salt and lime juice. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the vegetables.

When the chicken is done, stir it into the vegetable and bean mix. Serve with chips. Store in the refrigerator and serve leftovers cold.

Happy summer!

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It’s a mystery to me why chicken noodle soup warms the soul and seems to have healing powers that even the kids recognize. The first time I made a batch of homemade chicken noodle soup, my son happened to be sick. But after he ate the soup, he felt so much better that he started calling it magic chicken noodle soup. Hmmm. Sounds like the making of a new children’s book…

Now, I use store-bought chicken broth so it’s not truly homemade soup. But, it’s better than any canned soup, and with the fresh carrots and celery, it’s a meal you’ll be happy to serve your family. (Just don’t forget the dash of magic.)

{Chicken Noodle Soup}

2 to 3 cups cooked chicken (1 large rotissarie chicken shredded, OR 1 pound unbreaded chicken breasts cooked and shredded)

3/4 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

1/4 finely diced white or yellow onion (If you use a red onion, the kids will “see” it floating in the soup and the soup will lose all of its magic.)

2 Tablespoons butter

10 cups (80 ounces) chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 cups uncooked medium egg noodles

Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, dump into a large soup pot and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the carrot, celery and onion in butter until tender.Stir in chicken, seasonings, and 4 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil. Pour the soup into the large soup pot and add the remaining 6 cups broth. Cook 15 minutes or until completely heated through. Makes 12 servings.

This recipe makes a large enough batch for a couple of family meals and a few lunches.

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