The Ultimate Store-Bought Frosting Hack

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To celebrate 1 year of blogging (Happy Blog Birthday...Blogday? to me!), I wanted to make a special treat. I went with cupcakes. Cupcakes were one of my first foodie obsessions back in high school. The search for the perfect cupcake in whatever new city I encountered has since expanded to the search for the best, the cheapest, the local specialty in any city I'm in.

Back to cupcakes. My mom is the queen of baked goods, and she is known for whipping up a batch of brownies, 7 layer bars, fruit pizza within 30 minutes of you telling her you're going somewhere. One of her baked good hacks is to revamp a jar of store-bought frosting to make entirely not-from-scratch cakes and cupcakes taste like she spent hours making them. Sorry to break the news to my third grade class, but we didn't make those birthday cupcakes homemade.

The secret is a tub of whipped topping, more popularly known as Cool Whip. At its heart, the recipe is equal parts whipped topping to equal parts frosting. This usually just boils down to a tub of whipped topping + a tub of frosting = me eating it with a spoon. The ratio can be whatever you want, but the whipped topping lightens up the frosting which can sometimes taste overly sweet and dense into something fluffy, creamy, and light. People couldn't believe it wasn't homemade.

I got all of my ingredients (the boxed mix, the frosting, and the whipped topping) at my absolute favorite store, Aldi. Within a few weeks, I will be obsessing over how much I love Aldi in a post here on the blog (Subscribe to the blog to be the first to read it!) I went with my favorite combo - chocolate frosting on vanilla cake (a classic) but you can really take this in any direction. There is a ridiculous variety of frosting and cake mixes in this world. Some suggestions for what to add a tub of whipped topping to? Dark chocolate frosting & well...just about anything. Cream cheese frosting & carrot cake mix. Strawberry frosting & chocolate cake to make a chocolate covered strawberry inspired creation. With the whipped topping, you can even substitute sugar free or light versions if you want to lighten things up a bit. My mom insists that sugar free is better than normal Cool Whip, but I still don't buy that anything sugar free can be better than the real thing. 



The Ultimate Store-Bought Frosting Hack

Makes 24 frosted cupcakes
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix (note: usually requires eggs, oil, and water in addition to the box mix)
  • 1 jar frosting
  • 1 tub of whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Directions:

1. Follow the directions on the cake box to make your cake/cupcakes. Bake!
2. Mix together 1 jar of frosting with 1 tub of whipped topping.
3. Frost! 

Yum.

All from my favorite store, Aldi! 

All from my favorite store, Aldi! 


Storing & Extra Ingredients

STORING - Store in an airtight container in the fridge (due to the whipped topping). Cupcakes will last about a week...if you don't eat them all first, that is.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - If you have extra whipped topping, my recipe for Fruit Pizza is always a big hit. When I was little, I LOVED refrigerated chocolate frosting because it basically became fudge. So do that. The end.


Blog Birthday Celebrations

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June 1 marks one year since the launch of this blog, and I'm celebrating with cupcakes! Check out my secret at my post The Ultimate Store-Bought Frosting Hack. Trust me, you're going to want to know this trick. Subscribe to the blog to be the first to get the post in your inbox! 

The biggest thing I've learned this year is that virtually no one knows that the word millennial has two l's AND two n's. Surprise! Other than that, this is my 51st post on The Millennial Menu. Over the past year, I've posted 29 recipes with a 30th coming out later today. I've shared tips and tricks, meal plans, my kitchen appliance must haves, and more with you. And I'm definitely no where near done sharing my favorite things to eat, favorite tricks to make cooking and grocery shopping easier, and haven't even gotten started on sharing my favorite places to eat in Boston and beyond.

This summer, I'll begin working on my first e-book sharing my favorite cheap eats in Rome, the city where I studied abroad and returned to again in April. The book is scheduled to come out in Fall 2018 (find out more here) and I'm so excited for this new part of my blogging journey. The past year wouldn't have been possible without the support of my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. My friends, for doing everything from creating my logo (@Bei & @Elizabeth, you rock!) to raving to their own friends and family about my blog, my family for patiently waiting this whole summer as I took pictures of our dinner, and my boyfriend for not complaining when I set up my indoor lamp to take pictures of his plate for 15 minutes before he could touch it. You are all my biggest fans, my support system, and maybe most importantly my taste testers. Thank you. 

If you're new to the blog or want a refresher, here are my...

Top 5 Posts from Year 1 of The Millennial Menu

Easy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

Easy Chicken Enchiladas are the best make-ahead meal for a busy week! | themillennialmenu.com

These Easy Chicken Enchiladas have become my go-to Sunday meal prep recipe. There's nothing like a full batch of enchiladas ready to go when I get home from work on Monday - 20 minutes in the oven and boom. Dinner is served. I ate these for a week straight the first time I made them. The smoky chipotle chicken and bean filling is blanketed in cheese and homemade enchilada sauce that bubbles as you take them out of the oven. So much yes.

For some reason enchiladas seemed like a dish reserved for ordering out at a restaurant. They're actually super easy to make at home, and very easy to put your own twist on (try making them vegetarian by adding more beans!). Turns out, the secret to good enchiladas is the sauce. I knew you could buy enchilada sauce at the store, but making it at home takes less than 10 minutes. Plus, you probably (at least, you should) have everything you need to make it already in your pantry. 

The recipe is written for about 8-9 enchiladas - but it's perfect for leftovers, bringing for lunch, or sharing with friends. I also freeze them for later. If you're freezing, stop at Step 8 (before pouring on the enchilada sauce and baking) and freeze your enchiladas before you bake them. Store the enchilada sauce on the side in the freezer (a plastic baggie works fine). When you're ready to eat, defrost the enchiladas & sauce and resume with Step 9. They'll taste like you made them fresh that day. 



Easy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

Makes 8 servings*
Other Millennial Menu Recipes With These Ingredients: Chicken: Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken// Shredded cheese: Easy BBQ chicken Pizza // Cilantro:  Shortcut Shakshuka or Crispy Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce // Sour cream: Freezer Friendly Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Prep Time:  25 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  45 minutes

*Note: I make a big batch of this recipe and freeze the rest (see instructions for freezing above). You can take some for lunch for the week or share with friends, too! Otherwise, just halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the enchiladas:

  • 1 package tortillas
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 bag shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, to taste Optional
  • Cilantro Optional
  • Sour cream Optional

For the homemade enchilada sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons oil (such as canola or olive)
  • 3 tablespoons flour (any type works)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground chili powder, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Olive or canola oil, for sautéing




Dietary Substitutions:
Dairy Free: Leave out the cheese or choose a dairy free option.
Vegetarian Friendly: Add extra black beans or quinoa instead of the chicken and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth in the enchilada sauce.
Gluten Free Friendly: Use gluten free tortillas or corn tortillas without gluten AND make sure to use a gluten free flour in the enchilada sauce, if you're making yours from scratch.

Directions:

MAKE THE SAUCE

1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl (2-3 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
2. Add 3 tablespoons oil to a saucepan on medium heat.
3. Once the oil is heated, whisk in the dry ingredients.
4. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
5. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and stir.
6. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, whisking to remove any lumps.
7. Simmer the mixture on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, then reduce heat to a low simmer for 5-7 minutes, whisking occasionally. 
8. The sauce is done when it has thickened slightly. Set aside.

MAKE THE ENCHILADAS

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
3. Dice 1 small yellow onion and add to the pan. Stir.
4. Dice 3 chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Add to the sauté pan with the onions and stir.
5. Dice 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and add to the pan, stirring to distribute evenly.
6. Cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.
 

ASSEMBLE THE ENCHILADAS
7. Lay out your tortilla flat. Add a dash of enchilada sauce, a scoop of the chicken mixture, a scoop of black beans, and a handful of cheese. Roll the enchilada up tightly, and place it seam side down in a baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 pan, so the enchiladas fit together nicely and don't fall apart).
8. Repeat for the remaining ingredients, filling as many tortillas as you have filling for. I usually get about 8-9 enchiladas out of my medium tortillas. 
9. Pour approximately 1 cup enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas, and more if you'd like.
10. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
11. Take out the pan and sprinkle shredded cheese and cilantro over the top.
12. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
13. Serve with a side of sour cream and extra enchilada sauce, if desired.

Yum.


Lunch Tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - Like I said, I could eat these all week, so this recipe might just be the perfect lunchbox treat for you at work this week. Keep the sour cream on the side, heat up in the microwave, and enjoy. 

STORING - Store in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy within 3-5 days.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - If you have extra Mexican cheese, please just let yourself indulge in a plate of late night nachos. Or, use the cheese to whip up a quick quesadilla with any leftover tortillas. Store any extra chipotle peppers in the freezer, 1 per baggie, for use in future recipes. Cilantro is delicious on top of Shortcut Shakshuka or Crispy Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce, and I can't eat my Freezer Friendly Mexican Stuffed Peppers without sour cream. If you can buy a larger pack of chicken breasts on sale (buying in bulk is cheaper!), freeze the rest or try out my Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken. As for all of the spices, keep those on hand for future dishes. It's important to have a well-stocked spice cabinet! 


Garlic & Herb Crust Margherita Pizza Recipe

Garlic Herb Crust Margherita Pizza is the perfect flavorful weeknight meal. all thanks to Trader Joe's Garlic & Herb Crust pizza Dough! | themillennialmenu.com

Nothing beats homemade pizza, but sometimes you want to spice it up a little bit - with garlic & herb crust, that is. Trader Joe's sells Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough for $1.19 and it is the bomb.com. I love a good Margherita Pizza (and I mean good margherita pizza - I worked at a neapolitan pizzeria in high school) and this homemade version stands out thanks to this flavorful crust.

This whole recipe is ready in under 20 minutes - the hardest part is rolling out the dough (and it really isn't that hard). Top the garlicky, herb-stuffed crust with your favorite tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt, and you've got yourself a slice of Italy (almost. Roman style pizza, like I had while abroad and on my recent trip to Rome, might never be replicable.)

Mix things up a bit by adding your own toppings, from the classic pepperoni to prosciutto or caramelized onions or sausage. I also just got the idea to STUFF this crust with even more cheese, so I'm going to do that ASAP and promise to update you on how perfect it probably is. You can easily keep a bag of this pizza dough in the freezer (or split the portion in half if you only want a small pizza and freeze the other half to use at a later point) for a quick weeknight dinner any night of the week.



Garlic Herb Crust Margherita Pizza

Makes 4 servings
(or, freeze half the dough for later and make 2 servings at a time)

Other Millennial Menu Recipes With These Ingredients: Red Sauce: Post-Grad Pasta Recipe
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  15 minutes
Total Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients:

garlic-herb-crust-in-bag
  • 1 package of Trader Joe's Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough
  • 1 package of mozzarella cheese (your best bet is the log, ball, or mini balls in the deli section, but you can also get shredded mozz in the dairy aisle if you don't want to splurge)
  • 1 jar of tomato sauce (anything works here: canned tomatoes, pizza sauce, pasta sauce...I use Rao's!)
  • 1 bunch basil  Optional
  • Olive oil, salt, & pepper
  • Optional toppings: mushrooms, caramelized onions, pepperoni...the possibilities are endless!




Dietary Substitutions:
Dairy Free: Choose a dairy free cheese - Trader Joe's even makes a vegan mozzarella!
Vegetarian Friendly
Not Gluten Free friendly

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Roll out your dough into a circlular-ish shape, so that the dough is an even thickness all across, about 1 cm. You can use a rolling pin if you have one, but I just used a sturdy glass.
3. Drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and spread it out with a spoon (about 1/2 a tablespoon).
4. Spread your favorite tomato sauce evenly across the dough up to the edges, leaving room for a crust to form. Feel free to add as little or as much sauce as you like.
5. Top with mozzarella, as much or as little as you like.
6. Spread 6-8 basil leaves on top of the pizza.
7. Bake for 7-12 minutes, checking every 3 minutes or so after you reach 7 minutes. The pizza is done when the dough has formed a hard crust on the edge of the pizza and is slightly browned. 
8. Drizzle the dough with a little bit of olive oil and top with sea salt. Enjoy!
 

Yum.

 
margherita-pizza-up-close
 

Lunch Tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - Whether you like your leftover pizza hot or cold, this recipe is perfect for lunch the next day. Melty mozzarella and fresh basil will make lunchtime so much better. 

STORING - Store in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy within 3-4 days. If you are having it leftover at home, reheat in the oven at 425 for 5-7 minutes to crisp it back up!

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - If you have extra mozzarella, just eat it...duh. Or you could make a nice Caprese salad with any extra basil as well. If you have extra dough, freezing pizza dough is actually super easy - so save it for your next pizza night! Same goes for any extra sauce - I put my extra tomato sauce in plastic bags and label it to toss it in the freezer for almost any other recipe, from pasta to chili to, you guessed it, more pizza.

Highlights from Rome (& an announcement!)

We snapped this photo from the top of the palatine hill. This is currently my computer desktop and I don't want it to ever change.

We snapped this photo from the top of the palatine hill. This is currently my computer desktop and I don't want it to ever change.

Life update: Dreams do come true. I left Rome in June 2014 after 10 unreal weeks of studying abroad hoping that one day I would be able to come back. My boyfriend had studied abroad the term before me (poor planning, we know), so we had switched continents for 7 months straight and wanted to experience the Eternal City together. We stumbled upon miraculously inexpensive tickets and the exchange rate with the Euro was good, so we booked flights and an Airbnb and started scheming. We only had a week...where would we eat???

I started my first blog the last time I was in Rome as a way to keep my family and friends updated on what I was eating for every meal. Here I am two and a half years later coming up on The Millennial Menu's one year anniversary (June 1 people! Mark your calendars!). I traveled to 14 cities in Europe over the three months I spent there with Rome as my home base and food was such an important part of my travel experience. I insisted so many times that we trek to the cheapest cheap eats or to the local favorite at the end of the tram line, and through this, I experienced and explored cities through one of the truest forms of culture there is, food.

Our trip lived up to all of my memories and we made so many new ones, exploring somewhere that we both called home at different times for the first time together. We strolled by the Pantheon enjoying a Giolitti cone, took a cooking class, traveled to Frascati for a vineyard tour, attended (my second) Easter Mass at the Vatican, climbed the dome at St. Peter's, and ate solely carbs for 7 days straight. I've shared a few of my favorite snapshots below.

I am excited and nervous to announce that I will be releasing a Millennial Menu "Guide to Rome" e-book (!) in Fall 2017 that will take you to all my favorite places (and maybe even suggest what you should do in between meals, if you're lucky), informed by 3 months of studying abroad in Rome and my recent travels back (confirmed: everything is still as delicious as I remembered). Food is an important part of my life not just in the kitchen when I cook it myself, but also experienced at restaurants and cafes and ice cream shops with friends and family, whether here in Boston or around the world. I have no idea what this project will look like but I know that eating good food is something I am passionate about and something I want to share with you all. So hang in there until fall 2017, and maybe start looking at flights to Rome...


ravioli

Fresh ravioli purchased from a tiny old Italian woman at a shop in Trastevere for Easter dinner.

pizza-photo

Enjoying my favorite lunch in Rome. Do I look legit enough to write an e-book?

pasta

I ordered carbonara at every restaurant we went to for dinner, simply because that was what I ordered every time we ate out when I was abroad and because I needed to compare my favorites to each other. This version at my new favorite restaurant in Trastevere was by far my favorite, featuring delicious homemade spaghetti and fatty pieces of guanciale (pork cheek a.k.a. better bacon). 

trevi-fountain-lunch

I'm pretty sure any sandwich would be enjoyable on a breezy, sunny, 70 degree day in front of the Trevi Fountain, but this one was gourmet.

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