Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

Need an easy and filling lunch, dinner, or snack?

No Laura, what we actually need is a complicated recipe filled with weird ingredients that our family will hate.

Okay, fine.  The question above was rhetorical.  Did you know that sometimes I like to be sarcastic? (also rhetorical)

Well anyway, my family loves this recipe and I think yours will too.  It’s great to throw together at lunchtime and serve with organic corn chips and fresh fruit.  Or, you could smear this dip in a whole wheat tortilla and wrap it up to take on the go.  You could take it to serve at a party.  You could make it for a game night.  You could make it for a simple evening meal.  You could make it for breakfast.  Really?  Well, sure, if you really want to.  Would the breakfast police actually show up and arrest you for serving bean dip with your morning coffee?  Don’t answer that.  It’s rhetorical.

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
4 cups refried beans
3 Tablespoons taco seasoning mix
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl.  Stir in refried beans and taco seasoning.  Spread mixture into a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle cheese over the top.  Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with organic corn chips and salsa if you like.

What are your favorite quick meals to serve?  (I’d like you to answer that question.  That one is not rhetorical.)

Black Bean Chicken Nachos – A Last Minute Meal

Where does the time go?  My kids are not babies anymore, I’ve been married for almost 20 years, and just last week, I realized that it was almost lunchtime and I had forgotten to put the chicken into the crockpot.  Yes, time flies after breakfast.  And when you’re happily married, raising kids, and all that.

I have no advice on keeping time from moving so quickly.  I can, however, give you an idea for a quick meal for when you haven’t managed to prepare anything in advance.  It all starts with frozen chicken.  This is because not only did you not start lunch or dinner on time, you also forgot to thaw the chicken.  For all of you perpetually prepared people out there, don’t worry – thawed chicken will also work in this recipe.  For the rest of us, we rejoice in the fact that frozen chicken and a cold crock pot does not prevent us from putting a great meal on the table in a short amount of time.

This recipe is a result of me realizing at 11:30 one whirlwind morning that while I had been planning to serve Chicken Tacos for lunch that day, not only was the chicken still frozen, I didn’t have any tortillas prepared or purchased.  Without thinking too hard, I chucked the frozen chicken into a saucepan on the stove, dumped on salsa, and hoped for the best.  I covered the pan and turned the heat on low.  Within an hour, my chicken thawed, cooked in delicious salsa flavors, and was ready for lunch - which we had with chips instead of tortillas.  It turned out so delicious, I decided we would make it this way again and again.  This recipe turned out to be a “six out of six” which means that all six of our family members loved this.   A brainless, effortless, healthy recipe that we all liked?  Score!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa
2 cups cooked black beans (or one can of prepared beans, if you’ve – you know - not remembered to soak and cook them ahead of time while you were busy not thawing your chicken…)
tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and other nacho toppings of your choice

Place chicken and salsa in a medium-sized saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes (if chicken is thawed) or 45-50 minutes (if chicken is frozen).  Use a fork and knife to shred chicken and stir it back into the salsa.  Stir in black beans, and continue cooking until beans are hot – about five minutes more.  Serve with shredded cheese and other nacho toppings of your choice.  Scoop up Black Bean Chicken nachos with tortilla chips and congratulate yourself for throwing together such a wonderful meal with such minimal effort.

Then, before you forget, get out the meat for tomorrow’s meals so it can be thawed and ready to use.  Not being prepared certainly worked for this recipe, but let’s not push it.

How to Make Beef Broth

There’s nothing very beautiful about pictures of soup bones and vegetables floating in water.  And yet, here I am again, just like the time I showed you all the pictures of my chicken carcasses.  Some people create adorable collages of their children.  Me?  I spent time yesterday crafting a collage of my beef broth.  Isn’t it precious?  Take note of the fatty bubbles floating along at the top of the jar.  I’m so proud.

Homemade Beef Broth

Beef Broth is as fantastic for your body as Chicken Broth.  There are so many minerals we need that we can get from beef bones, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sulfur, and potassium – all in their natural, beneficial, and digestible form.  The vegetables you add to the pot of broth are invaluable.  And the best part?  Making homemade broth is one of the most inexpensive ways to provide nourishment to yourself and to your family members.

Look into buying Beef Soup Bones.  There’s still a little meat on the bones (more on that later), but mostly you’re just going to pay a small amount for a package of bones.  Cook those mineral-filled-bones in a pot with water and veggies, and you’ve just created several jars full of nutritional goodness for a very tiny amount of money.

Here’s how I make Beef Broth.  As you can tell from my collage above, my process is very fancy and exact:

1.  Place thawed or frozen beef soup bones into a large kettle or stock pot.
2.  Add, to your heart’s content, chunks of onion, carrots, leeks, celery and/or any other veggie you enjoy in your broth.
3.  Fill your pot with water.
4.  Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
5.  Cover and simmer pot of water/veggies/soup bones for 4-6 hours.  Or more.  Or less.  Or whatever works for you.
6.  Remove soup bones from pot.  Pull cooked beef off the bones with a fork, and set meat aside for soup or salads.
7.  Blend liquid and vegetables together until smooth.
8.  Allow broth to cool, then refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use it to make soup, cook rice, or add it to a recipe.

That meat you’ll pull off the bones?  It tastes incredible because it’s right by the bone and has been cooked low and slow.  I love it in chef salads.  I also snack on it as I’m pulling it off the bones.

Why do I blend all the veggies into the broth?  Because after 6 hours of simmering, they are mushy.  When I blend them in, they just become part of the nutritious broth.  Depending on the number of carrots I use, my broth might turn orange.  No matter.  It’s delicious.

Once you’ve made Beef Broth, what can you do with it?  You can use it to make Beefy Vegetable Soup.  You can also use it in any recipe that calls for chicken broth – like my Cheeseburger Soup or Pizza Soup.  Cook rice in broth for extra nourishment and flavor in a side dish – or add that wonderful rice to Cheesy Beef and Rice.  Follow my instructions for Chicken Noodle Soup, but instead use beef broth and the meat that came off the bones for Beef-n-Noodles.

What other ideas do you have?  What ways do you use Beef Broth? 

Isn’t this a wonderful way to be healthy and save money at the same time?!

Pizza Soup

Pizza Soup: One of the best inventions in my kitchen so far this winter.  Not including the Super Creamy Peanut Butter, of course.  I can’t get enough of this soup.  Plus, it’s super easy to make.  I love this!

In a freaky, way less artificial, and way more wonderful sort of way, this soup tastes kind of like Spaghettios.  I only mention this for those mothers who have kids they are trying to break from Spaghettios.  If you hate Spaghettios, trust me, this soup tastes nothing like Spaghettios.  Really.  Okay then.

pizza soup

You’ll notice this recipe is similar to my Cheeseburger Soup recipe.  One night as I was making Cheeseburger Soup, I realized I didn’t have enough chicken broth.  I decided to add some tomato sauce to the soup for more liquid.  Then I added a few different spices and some pasta.  Then I fell in love.  Don’t worry.  I still love Matt best.

Pizza Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces whole wheat or rice pasta
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

In a large pot, brown hamburger meat with onions, carrots, basil, parsley, oregano, and garlic powder.  Once thoroughly cooked, add chicken broth and tomato sauce, then bring to a boil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add pasta, then reduce heat to medium while pasta cooks, about ten minutes.  Add milk, stirring and cooking until bubbly – about two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese and sour cream, stirring until melted.  Serves 4-6.

Make this dairy free by simply substituting coconut milk and leaving out the cheese.  Add chopped green peppers to the meat, onion, and carrot mixture for a more flavorful soup.

Is it super cold at your house like it is at mine right now?  Soup is rockin’ my world as I work to keep us warm and fed!

Now, Now. Let’s Not Make This Difficult ~ Easy Orange Chicken, A Super Quick, Real Food Recipe

31 Days 300

Why do we make it hard?  Why do we think that cooking healthier foods always takes a long time?  Relax now.  My recipes are all made with real food, and most all of them are very low maintenance.  This Easy Orange Chicken recipe will prove it.

The truth is that eating a real food diet is actually rather simple.  We just have to get the hang of it.  We just have to plan ahead a little bit.  We just have to buy some chicken – at least if you want to make this recipe.  I think I had this dish in the oven after about five minutes of prep time.  That’s faster than making a box of mac and cheese, and I think it goes without saying that this tastes much better.

High Five Recipes

Have you scrolled through all of my High Five Recipes?  If not, you should.  If so, you should again.  They are all high quality recipes which call for five ingredients or less.  We’re talking everything from main dishes, to side dishes, to snacks and desserts.  Real food.  Real easy.  So how about a new High Five Recipe?

Easy Orange Chicken

1 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons onion soup mix
10-12 chicken legs

Place chicken legs in a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Stir together orange juice and onion soup mix.  Pour mixture over the chicken.  Cover and bake in a 375° oven for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Pour orange juice mixture over 6 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Bake in a 375° oven for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until juices run clear.

Easy Orange Chicken

During the final few minutes of cook time for your chicken, put together two or three vegetable side dishes.  Brown rice is also wonderful with this chicken.  Your meal will be satisfying, delicious, and you won’t even break a sweat preparing it.

Having homemade MSG-free Onion Soup Mix on hand is always super helpful.  In fact, I encourage you to spend a few minutes putting together several of the seasoning mixes you’ll find on this page.  They save so much time, taste so much better than purchased packets, are much healthier, and save money too!

I hope you’re beginning to see that eating a real food diet really isn’t complicated.  What are your favorite “throw it together” healthy meals?

Cheeseburger Soup – for $1 per person {31 Days of Real Food Reality ~ Day 10}

31 Days 300

It’s a real food recipe that most everyone will love.  It’s full of nourishing goodness.  After all, there’s chicken broth and carrots in it, not to mention delicious beef, cheese, milk, and sour cream.  It’s a full meal all on its own.  Just like all of the recipes I share, this one won’t appear to anyone as “health food.”  It’s simply delicious food.  Comfort food.  And yep, it just so happens to be healthy.

I found that this recipe yielded six hearty servings.  I did the math on it, and can declare it to be a Dollar Menu Dish.  Technically, it cost me just over a dollar per person to feed this to my family.  I decided, eh, it counts.  :)  So what does it mean that this meal costs about a dollar per person?  It means that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive!  I love it that there are so many economical ways to feed a family well.

If you don’t mind adding a little extra expense to this soup, and you really want to make it appealing to those among you who just might be afraid of anything healthy – try adding 1/4 – 1/2 pound of chopped, cooked bacon.  Then it becomes Bacon Cheeseburger Soup, and who wouldn’t want to eat that?  By the way: Bacon is real food.  Hallelujah!

Cheeseburger Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
5 cups potatoes cut into chunks
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large pot, brown hamburger meat with onions, carrots, basil, and parsley.  Once thoroughly cooked, add chicken broth and potatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium while potatoes cook, about ten minutes.  Once the potatoes are tender, add milk, stirring and cooking until bubbly – about two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese and sour cream, stirring until melted.  Serve.

Cheeseburger Soup

Looking for more meal ideas that use healthy, real food ingredients and cost less than one dollar per plate?  Here’s what I’ve shared so far:

Have you found ways to keep real food eating within a reasonable budget for your family?

Crustless Pizza


Do you like how I cleaned up the crusty baked-on edges of the pie plate before snapping the shot?
Oh my bad.  I was thinking of another picture I didn’t take.

Sometimes, I just don’t feel the need to have grains or carbs with every meal.  I’ve been learning to listen more to my body and to give it what it needs – or to not give it what it doesn’t need.

I have especially become more aware of my body’s nutritional needs since I began working out regularly.  There are times I find my body screaming for protein.  Other times, I can tell that if I don’t get some carbs in me, I am not going to feel well.  Later, I might be craving a huge salad or an orange.

I’m not sure how to explain away yesterday’s chocolate chip cookie.  Cookies.  Plural.  Did my body need them?  Yes I think so.  But of course, not really.

One day recently, while making pizza for my family, I found that I was not hungry for the crust.  That day, I was just in it for the meat and veggies.  Therefore, I cooked up some hamburger meat with mushrooms, sweet peppers and onions, stirred in some sauce, spread it in a pie plate, and topped it with cheese.  I put it into the oven with the regular pizzas I had made, just long enough to melt the cheese the way I wanted it.


In case you ever find yourself short on time and not able to make a crust, or if you simply don’t want a pizza crust on your pizza – I highly recommend the Crustless Pizza.  So incredibly tasty.

Ever tried this before? 


Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

This is one of the easiest recipes in the world.  Forgot to thaw the chicken?  No problem.  Have some random tidbits of lettuce or beans in your fridge you need to use up?  Perfect.  Planning to be out of the house all afternoon and need something ready to eat when you get home…but you only have five minutes before you need to rush out the door, you forgot to make a dinner plan, your daughter can’t find her left shoe, the delivery man knocks on the door, and your toddler is running toward the toilet with your cell phone? 

Chicken Tacos to the rescue.

This idea came from my friend Emily.  She’s an awesome mom of two little ones.  I admire how she is always working to put healthy meals on the table, while trying to save time in the process.  Hmmm, kind of sounds like the majority of us, huh?  We need easy, fast, tasty…and we want it to nourish our families too.  That’s why I thought you’d like hearing this recipe idea.

You simply put chicken breasts into your slow cooker, dump on a jar of salsa, and walk away.  (I hate to discourage you or add to your work load, but you do have to plug in the machine and turn a knob.  Try not to break a nail.)

My family loves these because they can build their tacos however they like.  I love this recipe because it’s adaptable based on what I have in my fridge and pantry.  If I don’t have whole wheat tortillas made, but I do have some organic corn chips on hand?  That’s how we eat it.  And last week, I decided to fry some corn tortillas in palm shortening and have Chicken Tostadas with this recipe instead.  Incredibly delicious.

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
2 cups salsa

Place chicken (frozen, thawed, upside down, whatever) into your slow cooker.  Pour salsa over the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours.  Shred chicken mixture.  Serve with any of your favorite taco fixin’s.


What is your favorite way to top a taco?  Last week when we had these, I asked Asa (or 15 year old) to make his famous Spicy Avocado Dip.  It was so good with this chicken!

Chili Mac ~ Real Food Dollar Menu

I have a love-hate relationship with leftovers.

Most of the time, I really do love them.  On the days I have way too many items on my to-do list and just don’t have time to cook – it’s great to just pull out leftovers to warm up and eat.  But on the other hand, having a fridge full of little tid-bits of this and that?  It makes my fridge look cluttered, which kinda makes me feel annoyed.

This, my friends, is what we call a ”first world problem.”  Too many leftovers?  So much food in my fridge that I can’t find what I’m looking for?  So many people around the world long to have the “problems” I have.

When I have to slide all sorts of bowls and jars around in my fridge, just to find the peanut butter stuffed way in the back?  It’s a waste of a good thirty seconds of my life.

Ooh, and you know what’s really annoying?  When I make enough peas for each of us to have a nice serving.  And then the last person leaves about 13 peas in the pan.  Why?  Just take the rest of the peas, for goodness sake!  I do not want to find a little container for 13 leftover peas, and then put them into the fridge so that I can slide them all around when I’m looking for peanut butter.  Likely, they’ll become forgotten and fuzzy because really?  Who wants to take the time to re-heat 13 peas?

Oh to have the luxury of complaining about “all” the food in my refrigerator.  I truly am thankful for all of the food on my shelves - even the container of 13 forgotten peas.  I promise to always be grateful for the cluttery tid-bits.

(But really, if you are the last one to serve yourself at my house, and there are a few peas floating at the bottom of the pan, please, for the love of my sanity as I search for peanut butter, just put them on your plate and eat them already.)

And now for a real food recipe that costs a very small amount of money and uses up some of the leftovers that are taking up space in your fridge.

Chili Mac

6 cups (give or take) leftover chili
2 cups water
4 cups whole wheat or rice pasta (any shape)
Sea salt to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large pot, bring chili and water to a boil.  Add uncooked pasta.  Cover and cook on medium heat until pasta is tender.  Sprinkle in salt, according to your taste.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.


Estimated cost of this meal?  About 65¢ per person.  And that includes the peas.  All of them - even the last 13.

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

If you are sick of chili, and don’t want to eat your leftovers immediately – simply spread this Chili Mac mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish, top with cheese, cover, and freeze.  Reheat another day.

I am happy to report that the day recently when I served Chili Mac, there were no leftover peas.  But just in case, maybe I should come up with a recipe that uses 13 peas…

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

Are you a fan of leftovers?  Do you sometimes find a few straggly uneaten peas in the pan? 

Easy Chicken Pot Pie {Real Food Dollar Menu}

FAQs of Easy Chicken Pot Pie…

Question:  What do you get when you mix one cup of milk, one cup of mayonnaise, and one cup of whole wheat flour?

Answer:  The most amazingly delicious crust you can imagine.

Question:  What is the easiest way to make a crust for a Chicken Pot Pie?

Answer:  You know the “one cup of milk, one cup of mayonnaise, and one cup of flour” I referred to?  Mix it up and pour it over the top of your pot pie filling, then bake.  It doesn’t get any easier.  No mess.  No rolling.  No problem.

Question:  How much does it cost to make this healthy, hearty Chicken Pot Pie?

Answer:  Would you believe me if I told you that it only costs $6.00*?  It’s true.  This recipe feeds 8-10 people.  (Eight if you’re my family.  Ten if you aren’t feeding teenage boys.)  That makes the cost of this recipe between $0.60 and $0.75 per person.  And it’s a complete, filling, healthy meal.

Question:  Is the rest of this post going to be as cheesy as what I’ve read so far?

Answer:  Ummm…no.  But I do want you to know that I’m currently working on more ideas for this milk/mayo/flour crust mixture.  I got the idea from Matt’s cousin Monica, and I’m thinking that the possibilities are definitely not limited to Chicken Pot Pie.  Can’t wait to figure out more ideas!


Easy Chicken Pot Pie

6 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bites
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups frozen peas
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup cold water
2 Tablespoons organic corn starch, arrowroot powder, or wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hain Safflower Mayonnaise)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour from hard white wheat)

In a large cooking pot, boil broth, chicken, carrots, potatoes, and peas until veggies are tender.  Mix cornstarch with water until smooth.  Stir mixture into the broth/veggies, cooking for about one minute on the stove to help the mixture thicken.  Pour contents into a 9×13 inch baking dish.


In a separate bowl, stir together milk, mayo, and flour.  Spread mixture over the veggies in the baking dish.


Bake in a 350° oven for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.




Chicken Pot Pie

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken and broth.  And I love one-dish meals!

This is just one more recipe that proves that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive!

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

P.S.  I think this recipe would work great for creating personal sized frozen Chicken Pot Pies.  :)