Ally 2.0 and Bell Pepper Pots

This past week, I’ve been in Denver having a fantastic time with old and new friends. I was there to celebrate one of my best friends weddings. You saw her bachelorette party here.

Rebecca and I met in college. We were always the “mature” ones. We were both in very different stages of our lives than we are now. We’ve both grown and matured even more than we already had up to the point of our meeting at Gonzaga.

During all of our reminiscing, laughter and tears (happy), we kept referring to our “old” selves, which brought me to a revelation of sorts…

This “old Ally” was still me with just a little (maybe a lot) more beer, late nights, and possibly irrational decisions (even with my “maturity”). Not necessarily bad, just different and younger…

The “new Ally” has a head more squarely on her shoulders. While I still might be uncertain about what the future holds (and still drink a few beers here and there, the wedding included 🙂 ), I am so much more certain than ever before that I have the faith and strength through Christ that he will take my hand and lead me where He has planned me to be. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier, I still struggle daily with being aware of His work and direction in my life (my self guidance and doubt often takes over).

But one thing I do know is that I don’t think I could have gotten to this new and improved (in my humble opinion) Ally, without the “old Ally.”

Really, what I’m trying to say is… we all go through seasons in our lives. Some of us (me especially) are lucky enough to be able to transition through the changes with the same wonderful, loving, and endlessly supportive people.

Woah… That was deep. And I was writing in the third person.

Now let’s eat.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook my sister got me for my birthday. Cooking with Trader Joes. It’s a brilliant idea, recipes with most of the ingredients from Trader Joes. That being said, I don’t think I bought any of this from Trader Joes… it’s just a bunch of really good recipes.

I tweaked this a little and added some spiced crumbled sauteed tofu for a little extra protein.

When planning to crumble tofu, it’s always best to lightly compress and let it drain for 20 minutes or so. Wrap it with a clean dish towl and the weight of the fruit bowl will do the magic!

Then place in a hot pan to brown on both sides and start to break apart.

After its completely crumbled, add the taco seasoning.

Next add in the drained black beans, salsa, and rice to meld the flavors and heat through.

I think I need to start making prettier food.

While the tofu cooks and the mixture sits on the back burner, slice the peppers in half and clean out the seeds. I like using the variety pack of peppers, the colors are so vibrant and fun!

Scoop the tofu/rice/bean mixture into the pepper halves and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Top with a little extra salsa and crumbled cotija (Mexican) cheese. And eat with your eyes, your tummy, and your fork!

It’s such an easy, filling, simple recipe and the other good news?!?! Two halves only has 420 calories. The original, no tofu, version only has 320 calories! Serve with a nice side salad and you’ve got a fantastic meal for less than 500 calories! Tastes even better now, right?!?

Here’s how to do it….

Festive Spicy Pepper Pots

Serves 4-8. (8 is the perfect side dish and 4 is a nice hearty meal)

3 C. cooked brown rice

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (16 oz.) block of extra firm tofu

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small (4 oz.) can green chiles

1/2 sweet onion diced

3/4 to 1 tbsp. taco seasoning

4 bell peppers, sliced in half length-wise, stems and seeds removed

1 (16 oz.) jar of Salsa (mild to medium works best)

Cilantro, optional (for garnish)

Cotija Cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by opening the tofu and drain the liquid. Wrap in paper towels or a dish towel and compress for 20 minutes to remove any excess water.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the diced onion until translucent. Place the block of tofu in the pan, allowing each side to brown before beginning to crumble.

Using your spoon, begin to break the block into bite size pieces, alot like crumbling ground beef. Let the pieces lightly brown and then add in the taco seasoning. Cook the tofu with the seasoning for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the taco seasoning to flavor the tofu.

Add in the cooked rice, salsa, black beans and green chiles and stir to combine.

Stuff the mixture in the pepper halves and place in one or two baking dishes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days (I made it just fine to 6-7) or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Celebratory Avocado White Bean Sandwiches

At the beginning of the month, I found out I was promoted to Senior Tax Associate.

I’m not one for lots of hoopla… I mean its evident in the fact that I just used the word hoopla. My mom asked me if I was going to by myself a special gift and I responded… “Yeah, maybe some new goggles.”

I’ve been training for my first sprint-triathalon that’s on July 1st and I’ve been borrowing a pair from home. They leak. Contacts and Chlorine don’t really mesh well, so goggles will be something special.

Now avocados, they make anything extra special.

Chips + Guacamole = Special Dip

Rice + Avocado + Seaweed + = Special Sushi

White Bean + Avocado = Special Sandwiches

So fresh, so light, so simple, so green. It’s feel good kind of food.

Two of my favorite Spring/Summer ingredients: Avocado and Cucumber. Slice them both thin. This is where having good knives is key.

The sandwich didn’t get its name without the protein of the meal, white (great northern) beans. Probably the creamiest and most delicious of all beans, in my opinion. It’s a perfect match with the crisp cucumber and ripe avocado.

After you slice the veggies and mash the beans with all the other good stuff (see complete recipe below), that’s essentially all the prep required. No oven to pre-heat or water to boil. Just simple prep and assembly!

After “schmearing” the beans on the bread, layer the thinly sliced cucumber.

Next comes the creamy, oh-so-tasty avocado.

Spread a little mayonnaise and a little more bean mixture onto the other slice of bread top with fresh mixed greens. The final touch before smushing them together is a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Green with envy yet?

Here’s how to do it…

White Bean Avocado Sanwiches

Adapted from Real Simple Magazine

Serves 6-8 (depending on how thick you layer the beans)


2 Cans Great Northern (White Cannellini) Beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 tsp. Cayenne

1/3 c. Mayonnaise + extra for spreading onto the bread (optional)

2 Avocados, thinly sliced

1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced

Mixed Greens

Bread (6-8 Sandwich Thins or enough slices of bread for 6-8 sandwiches)

**The original recipe has bean sprouts which add a tasty crunch. I just didn’t have any on hand so I substituted with the mixed greens and it turned out just as delicious.


Mash white beans in a large bowl. Once roughly mashed, add mayonnaise and spices and mash until smooth but still has some texture.

Slice the avocado and cucumber in thin slices.

Spread the extra mayonnaise (if using) on one piece of the bread and then the bean mixture. Layer the cucumber, avocado and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with mixed greens and cover with the second slice of bread.

“Semi-Homemade” Mini Cupcakes

Last weekend, one of my best friends came in town for her bachelorette party.

Becky and I really enjoyed our time sitting in traffic. 🙂

Other than the traffic, we went to the zoo, went shopping, took a break from shopping for Trophy Cupcakes, and of course there was a bachelorette party! It was busy and sooo much fun.

I had the pina colada cupcake with rum buttercream. It had a layer of sweet pineapple on the bottom. Uh-maz-ing.

For the party, I gladly volunteered to make a sweet treat and as time flew by, I realized that maybe semi-homemade was the way to go.

What exactly is semi-homemade, you ask?!?

Ask Sandra Lee from the Food Network. She is a semi-homemade genius, not to mention she coordinates everything on the show from the outfit to the Kitchen Aid. It’s my everyday living sort-of dream. My mixing bowls matching my mixer matching my t-shirt??? I’m sold.

The semi part of the mini cupcakes is a tasty box of confetti cake mix.

The homemade part is this buttercream frosting recipe from Food Network. I didn’t change anything about it and it was off-the-charts delicious so I couldn’t resist sharing.

The cupcakes looked so much prettier before tumbling over in the car and sitting in traffic for nearly an hour to go approximately 5 miles (well, maybe that part was me).

More from the party… delicious veggie platter and scrumptious fruit tray!

To get the recipe, just click the link here, since I didn’t make any modifications.

I will leave you with a couple of tips from my experience…

1. Use a large bowl. Ideally, I would use a stand mixer, if I had one. See tip #2 below and you’ll understand why!

2. If you have to use a hand mixer, don’t use the whisk attachment. At least on my Cuisinart model, the whisk was WAY too flimsy and there was frosting everywhere. Literally, everywhere including the refrigerator 5 feet to the right of me. The regular mixing attachment worked just fine and got it plenty fluffy.

3. This icing keeps very well. I made it on Wednesday and decorated the cupcakes Saturday and it was every bit as fresh and tasty!

Happy mixing, spreading, and licking the bowl clean!