staying hungry : cake box cookies

Let me show you something that will make you want to hug me:

Let me tell you something that will make you want to rise up and call everything and everyone blessed:

There are 4 ingredients in these cookies…and one of them is boxed cake mix.

AND THEY ARE AMAZING!!!

I’m not even kidding. These rank among the best cookies I’ve ever had. They are perfectly textured – soft yet chewy – rich, and decadent. And they’re definitely the easiest I’ve ever made. I think I’m bringing a version of these to any and every social event I attend from now until eternity. Amen.

Thanks to Cookies and Cups (and Lovin’ from the Oven) for originally posting this recipe!

Cake Box Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate with Pudding)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • Mix-ins (I used the mini Reese’s because on Fridays I don’t have the patience to unwrap 30 bite size Reese’s)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Empty the cake mix into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and the oil (I skipped this step…don’t do that). Stir the wet mixture into the cake mix until just combined (it will be thicker than thick), then add in the Reese’s or add-in of your choice.

I made 12 big cookies and baked them for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through because my oven hails from earlier times (think covered wagons) and tends to heat unevenly (think Pisa).

IDEAS:

My brain is exploding with other ideas. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies! Vanilla Candy Bar Cookies! Marble Chocolate Chunk with Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cookies!

I think I might have to steal the corner market on cake box cookies because oh my word…I’m in love.

Happy baking! Let me know what you discover!

good things : necessity

First things first, I may have worked all day and night yesterday, but I still had a pretty wonderful birthday:

Thank you so much, everyone! You all make my life a wonderful place to live.

In other news:

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If necessity is the mother of invention, I’m certainly glad she parented this dinner.

Necessity = making a meal on a limited pantry over the weekend because I hadn’t been grocery shopping in 2 weeks and didn’t want to face the all-consuming decision that is ordering out so I opted for making something at home instead. Which ended up being farro tossed in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and basil on a bed of mixed arugula topped with goat cheese.

Not a bad dinner, all things considered! It’s definitely a keeper!

I didn’t know I had it in me (or my kitchen).

Necessity: 1, Pantry Famine: 0.

beka stays hungry : frozen breakfast burritos

It would follow that after yesterday’s be all that you can be post that I’d showcase something really stellar for this week’s Dinner Challenge. You know, keeping with the theme of high achievements and all that.

However…this meal has Cheater, Cheater, Scrambled Egg Eater written all over it.

But it’s not just scrambled eggs! Oh, no! It’s a veritable to-go wonder: the portable breakfast burrito.

And see that out of focus pink stuff in the background? Well that right there is a side of grapefruit!

Dinner and a side!

Will wonders never cease?

Oh…wait…they just did.

Perhaps this is one of the less impressive meals I’ve made to date…but hey, sometimes a girl gets low on time and groceries. And sometimes her carton of eggs is about to expire. And sometimes breakfast for dinner is the solution to all of the world’s problems.

Or at least the ones that I have pertaining to dinner challenges and dwindling supplies.

I was inspired by yet another great Iowa Girl Eats post about how to make your own frozen breakfast burritos. The original plan was to roll out a breakfast production line for this week’s morning meals…but a) I really like oatmeal, and b) I really needed something fast, portable, and filled with eggs for dinners.

A match made in dinner challenge heaven, I tell you.

DIY Frozen Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients (Highly Customizable):

  • Whole Wheat Tortillas (I used the rest of the Father Sam’s wraps from last week’s enchiladas)
  • Eggs, scrambled
  • Green Peppers, diced
  • Salsa
  • Corn
  • Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese

Recipe (Kind of):

Scramble desired amount of eggs – about 2 eggs per wrap is a good estimate. Set up a burrito assembly line and layer as follows: eggs, cheese, salsa, peppers, corn. Roll into a burrito (good luck…I have new respect for anyone who can do this without spilling/sinning) and wrap in plastic for freezer storage. Then, when ready to reheat, unwrap and place in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until hot.

(And serve with a side of grapefruit to make it a real meal, clearly.)

Rating:

3.5/5. Great to have stashed in the freezer for convenient to-go meals, but isn’t going to make a final “Recipes I Know And Love” list at the end of the year.

beka stays real : my favorite way to eat

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Seriously.

For all of my devotion to baked goods, meals like this are my favorite way to eat: plain, simple, and healthy.

I made this for lunch on Saturday (i.e. after this and before this). With no clear cut ideas for lunch I went straight for the things I really wanted and ended up with what’s pictured above: carrots and kale with a spoonful of hummus, 1/2 a grapefruit, 1/2 an Ezekiel muffin with peanut butter and sliced banana.

Sometimes I make meal planning too complicated. This is a good solution.

Amen.

beka stays hungry : healthy layered waffles

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Decadent breakfast reserved only for birthdays.

Waistline buster.

Diet wrecker.

These waffles look like they’d answer to any of those names. But really, their given name is:

Healthy.

For REAL.

There is nothing in these waffles that should make you reconsider diving in on any day, be it a birthday or a holiday or a Monday. Here’s the deal:

  • 2 Van’s Frozen Belgian Waffles
  • 3 Tbsp 0% Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • About a dozen frozen (and then unfrozen) blueberries
  • 2 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Dusting of cinnamon

Step 1: Toast the waffles

Step 2: Mix the yogurt, chia seeds, and defrosted blueberries together

Step 3: Layer as follows: waffle, yogurt mixture, sliced strawberries, sliced bananas, waffle, yogurt mixture, sliced strawberries, sliced bananas, walnuts, cinnamon, maple syrup.

Step 4: Enjoy! And all for the low, low price of around 350 guilt-free calories.

Happy Monday.

Happy Morning.

beka stays hungry : quick chicken parm

Confession: I didn’t actually make this week’s dinner challenge meal. Unless you count taking pictures and cracking jokes as “making dinner.” But I definitely benefited from dinner, which is almost the same thing.

This week’s dish is from my mom, who found it in the January 2012 issue of Woman’s Day and tweaked it a bit. Here’s her version:

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella

Directions:

  • Season the rinsed chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Coat the chicken with a layer of panko bread crumbs (we used Italian Style)

This is my Mom showcasing the bread crumbs

This is my mom showcasing the bread crumbs after she realized I was saying “Channel Vanna!” and not “Channel Santa!”

  • Fry the chicken in olive oil – about 2-3 minutes per side

  • Put about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking dish
  • Place fried chicken on top of marinara sauce

  • Top the chicken with the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce
  • Finish with a layer of shredded mozzarella (about 1/2 cup)
  • Broil on High for 3 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly

And then enjoy! It’s a quick and easy version of the real deal, and you could easily add a side of pasta if you’re feeling traditional (or in need of carbs). Great weeknight dinner.

The Rating:

Difficulty: Easy.

Preparation Time: Only 10-15 minutes, if that.

Dumpster Dinner, Not Bad, Good, Really Good, or Unbelievably Amazing: Really good! I love chicken parm so this is a nice time-saving alternative.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 but almost 4/5 – for the same reason as last week: I’m not the biggest carnivore, so I probably wouldn’t make this all the time. But for an occasional easy weeknight meal, this is perfect!

beka stays hungry : red lentil stew

I almost forgot to post this!

Which is also an accurate reflection on how I felt about this dinner.

It was hearty. It was good. It came together quickly. But it won’t be one that I remember. Perhaps it’s because I left the jalapeno out or didn’t salt properly. Or it could be that I should just stop trying to make soup/stew with butternut squash because I’ve never been enthusiastic about the results. But one way or another, this just wasn’t a success for me. You win some, you lose some.

The recipe is from Jenna at Eat, Live, Run (which is a wonderful blog with lots of great recipes!). You can find the recipe for the stew here.

Here’s the breakdown:

Difficulty: Opening Cans + Cutting Squash = the hardest part of this equation. So easy!

Preparation Time: So quick!

Dumpster Dinner, Not Bad, Good, Really Good, or Unbelievably Amazing: Not Bad. This comforting stew filled me up all week long! I also decided to add goat cheese and arugula. Good decisions, both.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5. Just not my favorite, sad to say.

beka stays hungry : chopped everything salad

For those of you who may have had too many Super Snacks on Super Sunday, here’s an easy way to get back on track:

Pillage your refrigerator for anything green and/or from the ground. Chop it all up. Store it in the biggest bowl you have. Add it to the side of every lunch and dinner for the rest of the week.

Bam! You’ll instantly feel better about life after 10 – 12 side salads (especially after Sunday’s 10 – 12 bowls of popcorn). It’s also much easier to make the good intentions of salad a reality when you don’t have to do all of the chopping/mixing/dressing before every meal.

Kitchen productivity, people. It makes all the difference!

Here’s what threw into that monster bowl above:

  • 1 bag of Wegmans Spinach and Arugula Mix
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Red, Yellow, and Green Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Green Onion
  • Cilantro

Dressing:

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • Hummus

(I mixed the balsamic vinegar with lime juice and kept it in a separate jar. Then, when I was ready to have some salad, I just added the dressing and a dollop of hummus.)

Go forth and chop vegetables, my friends. And have a great Tuesday!

beka stays hungry : salsa chicken

Riddle me this:

Why did it take me so long to start making real food for dinner?!

Cereal, frozen dinners, takeout leftovers…it’s time we went our separate ways. It’s nothing personal. We’ll still meet up every now and then. But the truth is…there’s a new meal in town. His name is Salsa Chicken.

He’s LATIN!

Enough said.

This recipe (from Wegmans Menu Magazine, Winter 21012) really took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure how much I’d love a dinner covered in salsa. I mean, I regularly cover tortilla chips in salsa and while I occasionally consider that dinner it’s actually not. So I had my doubts.

Half a bite in…I was a doubter no more. I immediately started planning when I could make this again, which is basically the mark of a true winner.

I only made two minor substitutions. The recipe calls for chorizo but since I already had Wegmans Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage in the freezer from last week’s dinner I used that instead. Also, the picture in the magazine shows corn as a side…and it looked really good…so I just decided to add 1/4 cup of corn in at the end (when the chicken and olives are added; see below).

Like always, I cut the recipe in half. Otherwise I’d be looking into alternative freezer (and waist) space by now. One last thing – the recipe calls for a braising pan, which I’m sure is helpful, but I made mine in a deep casserole dish because that’s what I had on hand and it turned out great!

Here’s the recipe, from Wegmans website:

Salsa Chicken, Chorizo, and Whole Grain 5 Blend

Wegmans Menu Magazine, Winter 2012

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Wegmans Basting Oil
1 link Wegmans All Natural & Fully Cooked Chorizo Pork Sausage (Meat Dept), sliced on the bias in 1/4-inch pieces
1 pkg (8 oz) Food You Feel Good About Cleaned & Cut Chopped Onions
1 pkg (8 oz) Food You Feel Good About Whole Grain 5 Rice Blend
1 jar (16 oz) Food You Feel Good About Roasted Tomato Salsa
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 lb Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken Breast (Cooked) (Prepared Foods), diced (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup Goya Alcaparrado (Manzanilla Olives, Pimientos & Capers), chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Add basting oil to braising pan on MEDIUM-HIGH. Add sausage; sear 2-3 min until browned. Remove from pan; set aside.
  2. Add onion to pan; cook, stirring, 3-4 min, until onion begins to soften. Add grain blend; cook, stirring, 4-5 min, to toast grains. Carefully, to avoid spattering, add salsa and water. Return sausage to pan. Stir. Bring to a simmer on HIGH; cover.
  3. Transfer to oven. Cook 25 min.
  4. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chicken and olives over top. Return to oven; bake 10 min.
  5. Remove from oven, let rest 10 min. Before serving, fold chicken and olives into grains.

(Side note: I topped mine with a small dollop of Greek yogurt, because that’s how I roll. It was delicious!)

These recipes just keep getting better and better…I think this was my favorite one yet!

The Rating:

Difficulty: Non-existent

Preparation Time: QUICK

Dumpster Dinner, Not Bad, Good, Really Good, or Unbelievably Amazing: Unbelievably Amazing

Overall Rating: 5/5 – This is something I’m already planning on making for my husband and children who do not currently exist. That’s how good this is: I’m feeding it to imaginary people.