Mystery Dish: BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing

Today I have the BEST SALAD EVER to share with you!! I am so psyched, I can hardly wait to tell you about it [even though it is not original at all. But that's okay.] But first, this recipe qualifies for not just one, but two challenges. Woohoo! First of all, I created this recipe for Mystery Dish. But since it includes a fantastic homemade ranch dressing, it also helps fulfill one of my 30 before 30 goals. Score!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | #mysterydish #salad #summer

This month for Mystery Dish, Chez Catey Lou is our host. Cate is so sweet and gave us such a creative list to work with! We had to use at least two ingredients from this list: raspberries, peanut butter chips, edamame, lemon, yeast, whole wheat pastry flour, bacon, buttermilk, basil, and zucchini. There were a thousand ways I thought about going [I probably say that every month...sorry] but my craving for a salad won out in the end. I used a few of Cate’s ingredients [lemon, buttermilk, and basil] to make an awesome Jalapeno Ranch Dressing to dress up a BBQ Chicken Salad.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | #mysterydish #salad #summer

I have long searched for a good homemade ranch dressing. I’ve made this recipe once before and let me tell’s a keeper! It’s creamy, spicy, and best of all… clean! No weird mystery ingredients in the powder, thankyouverymuch. The key to this recipe is the jalapeno. It just elevates this creamy, herby dressing with a bit of spice. Oh so good!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | #mysterydish #salad #summer

You know what else is good? This salad! I know a zillion restaurants have variations of BBQ Chicken Salad and this was mine. I just used seven ingredients so it’s pretty basic: lettuce, chicken, BBQ sauce, corn, tomatoes, black beans, and ranch dressing. You could also add avocados, onions, bacon, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | #mysterydish #salad #summer

I kept it simple though so the flavors could really shine. You will really want to make it again and again. One bite of this and Ben was swooning. Seriously! This is a man’s salad, and definitely fancy enough for a restaurant. Hope you enjoy it as much we do!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | #mysterydish #salad #summer

one year ago: Strawberry Muffins
two years ago: Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
three years ago: BAST sandwich

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
click to print


  • 2 cups cooked chicken [leftovers from a roasted chicken work great]
  • 1 cup bbq sauce [I used Sweet Baby Ray's]
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups fresh corn, cut from 3 ears of corn
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • Jalapeno Ranch Dressing, recipe below


Stir together chicken and bbq sauce in a skillet set over medium-low heat. Heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, toss together romaine lettuce and Jalapeno Ranch Dressing in desired amounts. Divide lettuce between four plates, then top each with a quarter of all ingredients: chicken, tomato, black beans, and corn. Toss together and enjoy!

Time: 10 minutes.
Yield: 4 meal-size salads or 8 side salads.

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing [slightly adapted from The Lively Kitchen]


  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk [for this I use real buttermilk, a substitute could be kinda weird]
  • 4 green onions, chopped, with white bottoms removed
  • 1/2 of a chopped, deseeded jalapeno [~2 tablespoons]
  • 3 tablespoons  fresh parsley, chopped [or 1 teaspoon dried parsley]
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped [or cilantro, basil, etc.]
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. An immersion blender works great!

Dressing thickens in the fridge so add some extra buttermilk before serving leftovers as desired.

Time: 5 minutes.
Yield: 2 cups.

Please check out the other awesome recipes from this month’s Mystery Dish!

May Mystery Dish Collage

1. Raspberry Lemon Sweet Roll Cake with Buttermilk Glaze – Baking a Moment
2. Twice Baked Zucchini Boat – Chelsea’s Messy Apron
3. Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry Mint Compote – Blahnik Baker
4. Lemon-Raspberry Bundt Cake – I Dig Pinterest
5. Peanut Butter Chip Cookies – The Dessert Chronicles
6. Mini Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – I Want Crazy
7. Zucchini Noodles with Meat Mushroom Tomato Sauce – Joyfully Healthy Eats
8. Baked Wonton Cups Filled with Edamame Corn Salad – The Well Floured Kitchen
9. Easy 30 Minute Orange Rolls – Yummy Healthy Easy
10. BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing – The Pajama Chef
11. Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes – Culinary Couture
12. Zucchini Muffins with Lemon Glaze – The Weary Chef
13. Lemon Bundt Cake – Chez CateyLou

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Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce

We eat a lot of black beans around here–as a simple side with tacos, on salads, with rice. For some reason though, it’s rare that the black beans themselves are the star of the meal. And why not? They are so good and so filling! These Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce are the perfect example of that.

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce |

I honestly wasn’t expecting much of this meal, but it was so phenomenal that I just had to share. Quinoa and black beans are a natural combination, and when flavored with garlic and taco seasoning, are pretty amazing. I also added some cheese because duh. Cheese. It’s all melty and wonderful. You could certainly add the cheese separately to the burrito, but I kinda liked the gooey factor when it was stirred in with everything else.

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce |

As good as the burrito filling is, adding some guacamole and a quick Southwest Sauce makes this burrito. For sure. The sauce’s intriguing ingredients–salsa, mayo, lime juice, maple syrup, and spices–sound a bit off, but trust me. It totally works! This sauce is tangy, sweet, and has a tiny kick–but no real heat. You could spice this up if you wanted though! These Quinoa Black Bean Burritos make a wonderfully easy vegetarian weeknight dinner, and the leftovers last for days. Serve it with a side salad and chips and salsa for a complete meal. My kind of recipe! You can bet this will be part of our regular rotation from now on. Enjoy!

a year ago… Summery Squash & Chicken Lasagna
two years ago… Watermelon Coolers
three years ago… OTT: Brown Sugar Bacon Twists 

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce [adapted from]
click to print


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed [I used 1/2 cup each red and white quinoa]
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans [or a 15 ounce can], drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • flour tortillas
  • chopped avocados or guacamole [I made a simple guac--1 mashed avocado, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper]

for Southwest Sauce

  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise [I think sour cream or plain yogurt could be substituted too]
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder


Place quinoa and broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook at a simmer until all liquid has been absorbed–about 12 to 15 minutes. Then, add black beans, garlic, cheese, and taco seasoning and stir until cheese has melted. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until heated through.

Meanwhile, prepare Southwest Sauce. Whisk together salsa, mayonnaise, maple syrup, cumin, lime juice, and chili powder. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If salsa is chunky, you may want to smooth sauce by pureeing in a blender or food processor.

Serve by spooning quinoa black bean mixture in a large flour tortilla. Top with avocados or guacamole, then roll shut. Drizzle Southwest Sauce on top immediately before serving.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Linked up with Foodie Friday and Weekend Potluck.

{Green} Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

Oops. After sharing that awesome guacamole salsa last week I never came back with these yummy vegetarian enchiladas! I was too busy finishing what I hope to be the FINAL draft of my thesis! Woohoo. But here they are now. GREEN enchiladas! How fun, methinks.

{Green} Bean & Cheese Enchiladas | The Pajama Chef

These enchiladas are pretty simple, but full of flavor. Refried beans–a healthy version–plus a dab of cream cheese for creaminess makes up the filling for the soft tortillas. Then these tortillas are basically bathed in that fresh guacamole salsa and topped with more cheese. Yum and yum and yum, right? Ben and I found them to be ridiculously addictive and filling… they were gone in three days, tops.

{Green} Bean & Cheese Enchiladas | The Pajama Chef

I know these enchiladas are far from traditional–no real enchilada sauce and flour tortillas instead of corn… but I hope you don’t mind too much, because they just taste so darn good. Plus they are pretty. Can’t beat pretty food! Enjoy! :)

{Green} Bean and Cheese Enchiladas
click to print


  • 1 batch Guacamole Salsa
  • 2 1/2 cups refried beans – I used this awesome healthified version from Rachel Cooks
  • 4 ounces cream cheese – I used Neufchâtel
  • 8 soft tortillas
  • 4 ounces shredded cheese – I used half Extra Sharp Cheddar, half Monterey Jack


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread 1 cup Guacamole Salsa in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together refried beans and cream cheese [microwave the beans first so the cream cheese melts]. Then divide the beans between the tortillas, roll up, and line in pan.

Top with another 1 1/2 cups Guacamole Salsa [or more if desired], then cover with shredded cheese.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

A Budget… and Perfect Black Beans

So, once upon a time, after I graduated from college in 2007, I heard about a blog from a friend. She said Money Saving Mom was written by a young Christian woman named Crystal, and on it I could learn about how to get free toiletries at CVS through something called Extra Care Bucks. So even though I wasn’t a mom, I was just a wee bit intrigued… seeing as I was starting my first job and wasn’t anticipating having tons of money to blow. It wasn’t until 2008 that I really got into the drugstore game, as it’s called, and it wasn’t until Ben and I were married the following year where I really understood the benefits of being meticulous in rolling store rewards so as to stretch a budget as far as possible. I was hooked–and there was no turning back. Since 2008, I have hardly purchased any toiletries, dental care products, school supplies, or other drugstore items for full price [or even close to it]. Pretty crazy, huh?

The drugstore game takes so little work–just cutting coupons from the Sunday paper, and looking up deals that are posted on MSM’s blog, and going to the store of course–that to me, it is totally worth it. My frugality [and time spent] has allowed us to spend extra money on things that our grad school/young professional budget would otherwise not allow for: pricy Greek yogurt, extensive selection of herbs/spices, some organic foods, etc.

There are a lot of other great things posted on Crystal’s blog as well, including free samples you can sign up for, links to hot coupons, and series where she inspires readers to save money in many different ways. So when I heard that she was writing a book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget, and offering copies to bloggers for review, I was psyched.

This book is not just a copy of her blog–though it does reiterate much of Crystal’s philosophy about spending, saving, and paying off debt. This book is a great mix of practical tips and inspiration to get out of debt [if you have it] or to work to avoid it by living a frugal lifestyle. Crystal does a great job of outlining specific steps to take to move towards a workable budget and providing reasons why this is important–even though this is not a belief many Americans have. One of my favorite chapters was chapter seven, where Crystal provides 25 tips for saving on groceries without using coupons. By teaching ourselves to use less than what the companies tell us we “need” to use, eat meatless more often, look for seasonal produce, and other strategies, grocery bills go down as habits change. So if you are looking to improve your finances in 2012, I highly suggest you check out Money Saving Mom’s blog and new book.

In order to go along with such a fabulous book, I thought it was only appropriate to share a frugal recipe… and what is more frugal than beans? Especially cooking dried beans? I mean, how perfect is this?

Though I do not necessarily put “beans and rice” on my menu plans, it’s honestly a meal we eat several times a week–for a quick work lunch, for a “leftover” night, for those nights where I just don’t feel like cooking. We usually make rice and beans bowls consisting of some combination of brown rice, black beans, some Mexican-style seasonings [garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro], avocado, bell peppers, spinach, salsa, and cheese. It’s easy, filling, healthy, and inexpensive, and while it wasn’t a meal I grew up eating, it is now one that I love.

We used to make these bowls with canned black beans, but I had heard so many good things about the flavor of dried beans that I wanted to try them. The first time I made dried beans I tried the old “soak and cook on the stove f-o-r-eva] method. The second time, I knew there had to be a better way. So using the beauty of google, I found out that it was possible to cook black beans in the oven in hardly any time at all. It is so easy, and so tasty, that even though it isn’t much of a recipe [more like a cooking method], I just had to share it. I love making the beans en masse and then freezing some for the future. They taste so much better than the canned variety and contain much less sodium too. If you haven’t tried to make dried black beans before, or have had a lackluster experience, then try it this way–you won’t regret it.

Perfect Black Beans [from The Kitchn]
printable version


  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • cold water


Preheat oven to 325. Rinse and sort the black beans, picking out any pebbles or broken beans. Place beans in a 3+ quart Dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1-2 teaspoons salt and then fill with cold water, covering the beans by one inch.

Place in oven and cook for 75 minutes, then remove and stir. If the beans are tender enough, they are done; if not, return to the oven [with the addition of some hot water if they seem to be drying out] for 15 minutes at a time until they are. This process should take no longer than 2 hours total.

Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to one week, freezing what you will not use. I usually freeze leftover black beans in quart size freezer bags by the 1 3/4 cup increments [approximately 15 ounces by volume] so that I can easily pull a bag from the freezer for recipes.

Time: 2 hours [10 minutes active].

Yield: 5 cups.