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.)

Quick and Easy Shortbread Recipe

High Five Recipes 2

Three ingredients.  A super quick snack.  Amazing deliciousness.  Supplies you always have on hand…

Wait, you do have butter on hand, right?  Okay.  I mean, we can still be friends even if you have run out of butter, but don’t let it happen again.  This has nothing to do with me and my butter obsession.  I’m just looking out for you, that’s all.  I have your best interests in mind.  Opening the fridge or freezer to find that there is no more butter waiting – well, it is reason to panic.  It’ll send a woman into a crazed frenzy, causing her to frantically toss a whole frozen chicken and eight packages of hamburger meat off a freezer shelf, hoping in vain to locate a forgotten pound of butter buried in the back under some frost.

It could be that I got going on that paragraph and couldn’t find a logical time to stop.  Just save yourself (or me, apparently) the emotional trauma of running out of butter by always keeping a nice supply on hand.

So butter.  You’ll need it for this recipe.  You’ll also need flour and sugar.  Plus a bowl, a spoon, and a pan.  That’s it.   Could it be any easier?

Quick and Easy Shortbread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat for this)
1/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar if you prefer)
3/4 cup melted butter

Blend all ingredients well.  Press mixture into a 9×9 inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350° oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cook and cut into 12 squares.

Quick and Easy Shortbread

As you can see, this is a no-brainer recipe.  I discovered it as I’ve been working on a brand new healthy snacks eBook.   This shortbread can be stirred up and put into the oven within just a few minutes.  We love it because it is just lightly sweetened, and deliciously buttery.  It is awesome with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon.

It is worthwhile to note that this is not a snack you’ll want to hand your kids while they are running into the living room you’ve just vacuumed.  This shortbread is a bit crumbly and needs to be eaten while holding ones head directly over a plate while sitting at a table.  Trust me.  I know these things.

And one more thing.  Go check your butter supply.  We’ll all sleep better tonight knowing you’re well stocked.

‘Fess up.  How much butter do you have right now? 

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.

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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!

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

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I’m on a mission to create new healthy snack recipes so that my boys will have some great options on hand.  But here’s what happened after I made these Raspberry Oatmeal Bars:  I dug into them while I was in the kitchen by myself and loved them so much that I forgot to call in the kids.  Then when I realized I was like, “Eh, the kids can have a piece of cheese.”  And then I kept eating the bars.  Great mom moment, huh?  :)

This may be one of the best snack recipes ever, hands down.  The kids thought so too, once I remembered to share.

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup raspberry jam (100% fruit)

Mix together flour, oats, sucanat, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in melted butter until the mixture resembles crumbs.  Press half of the mixture into an 8×8 inch baking pan.  Spread jam over the top.  Sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top of the jam layer, pressing down to cover.

Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

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You can definitely change these up by using a different variety of jelly or jam.  I think apricot would be awesome in these, or strawberry, or peach…

If they last long enough, you can freeze them: Allow them to cool completely, then wrap individually for a quick grab and go snack.  Place individually wrapped bars in a large freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to two months.

Here are some pictures to show more specifically how to put these bars together.  They are really so easy!

First,  mix together the dry ingredients.  Then pour in the melted butter.

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 Stir until the mixture resembles buttery crumbs.
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Press half of the crumbs into an 8×8 inch baking dish.

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Spread the jam over the first layer of oat mixture.  Spoon the remaining oat mixture over the jam and press down to cover.
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Bake in a 350° oven for about 30 minutes.  Cut them while they are warm, or allow them to cool first.

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Try to remember to share them with others.

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Not only will I be making these frequently for snacks in the future, I think they will be wonderful for breakfast.  And I’ll even try to remember to serve them to my children.  ;)

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins Become…Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread

It happened last week as I was mixing up a triple batch of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffin batter for the freezer.  You’ve tried that by now right?  Putting muffin batter into the freezer to help save time and so that you can have easy, fresh muffins?  (Nope, I just can’t let it rest.)

Making a triple batch of the muffins was a great idea, as we eat at least 18 muffins at one time.  However, a triple batch requires 3 muffin pans that hold 12 muffins each.  I only have 2 muffin pans.  Therefore, I filled my two muffin pans and put them into the freezer.  I then poured the remaining batter into a bread pan, baked it for 50 minutes at 350°, and we ate it for breakfast the following morning.

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Find the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe here.

It was a tasty experiment.  I figured - banana bread makes good muffins.  Apple bread makes good muffins.  Surely chocolate chocolate chip muffins would make good bread.  And so it did.

I used sour cream instead of milk, which if you recall, is a great substitution to make muffins and breads more moist.  So very good.  And even better when eaten with fresh berries.

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Which do you prefer - muffins or quick bread loaves?  Do you find that most recipes work for either/or?

Strawberry Cream Muffins

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I’m not sure I’ve ever been so muffin-focused before.  Thanks for putting up with all the muffin talk this week!  I just love how many great varieties of muffins there are, and what great breakfasts and snacks they make.  This Strawberry Cream Muffin is so delicious, you’ll feel like you’re eating dessert.

Strawberry Cream Muffins

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sucanat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen strawberries

Stir together flour, sucanat, baking powder, and salt.  Add oil, egg, and sour cream, mixing well.  Fold in strawberries.  Scoop batter into 12 well greased or paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake in a 375° oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Don’t forget to mix up the batter and freeze it to make your muffin baking/dish washing life easier!  (You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?)

Crustless Cheesecake Cups

High Five Recipes 2

Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts.  In fact, I believe I will have my boys make these for my birthday on Saturday.  Since I’m turning 40, perhaps I could have them double this recipe so we can have 40 little cheesecake cups.  (Why, so I can gain 40 pounds as I celebrate?)  Yeah, we’ll just stick with a single batch.

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Crustless Cheesecake Cups

2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup real maple syrup or 1 1/2 cups unbleached powdered sugar

In a medium sized bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form.  In a separate bowl, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.  Scoop cheesecake mix into about 20 paper-lined muffin cups.  Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.  Top with fresh fruit.

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These Crustless Cheesecake Cups are so easy to make and since they freeze well, they can be made ahead of time.  You can even serve them frozen.  Delish!

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Blueberry Pancake and Waffle Syrup

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This little gem of a recipe has been tucked away on my Whole Wheat Waffle page for years.  But I decided it needed to be brought out of hiding.  Everyone must know about this.  And you should also whip some cream and plop it onto your waffles with this blueberry syrup because then, you will experience bliss.

Blueberry Syrup

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice)

Stir blueberries and sucanat together in a saucepan over medium heat for about 10 minutes until syrupy.  Serve as is, or blend to make the syrup smooth.

blueberry_waffle

Trying to get ahead?  Make this syrup ahead of time, refrigerate or freeze, then rewarm when ready to serve.

What’s your favorite way to top a waffle?

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups {Real Food Recipe Makeover}

This recipe was inspired by Laura S., someone I met at the Colorado Springs Meet and Greet.  Not only was her idea brilliant, I think her name is absolutely beautiful.  ;)

I wasn’t able to make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups look perfect and beautiful like one you’d pull out of a Reese’s wrapper.  But I did make them taste better, so we’ll go with “taste before beauty” on this one.  And of course, with these, you avoid the hydrogenated oils and turn out an even more delicious treat than one that comes from a factory.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Warning:  These are super rich and slightly messy.  Children and adults alike may end up with chocolaty fingers and faces, not to mention a sugar high.  You’re welcome and I’m sorry.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons Butter

Stir together peanut butter and honey in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Prepare six regular sized or 15 mini-sized muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter, stirring until melted.  Spoon half of the melted chocolate mixture into the prepared paper-lined muffin cups.

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Place a spoonful of peanut butter mixture into each cup, dividing the mixture evenly among the cups.  Top each with the remaining chocolate, smoothing it the best you can to cover the peanut butter.

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Refrigerate for two hours until solid. (Or place in the freezer for about thirty minutes to speed the process.)  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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You’ll be happy to know that while playing with this idea, I also came up with a Chocolate Caramel Cup.  Recipe coming soon…