Using Our Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel to make Spicy Mac and Cheese

Allow me to introduce you to one of the easiest meals and most delicious comfort foods around:

Spicy Mac and Cheese

Remember the Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip recipe I posted a few days ago? You need to make that today. I’m only bossing you around because when it comes to that dip – I know best, I’m right, and that dip will change your life. It’s a proven fact.

Then here’s what you do: You either eat that dip with chips because that’s what we do with dip. Or – you boil 16 ounces of pasta, drain off the water, then stir this dip into your noodles for the most delicious Mac and Cheese with a kick. The most delicious.

My kids, my kids’ friends, all the adults -we all love this dish. I love that it’s super easy, flavorful – and all real food.

A little hint: Double the dip recipe. Eat it one day as a dip. Put the leftovers in the fridge. A day or two later, boil noodles and stir in the leftover sauce for an oh-so-easy meal to throw on the table. (With fruits and vegetables. This is a given.)

I used whole wheat noodles (my favorite kind) and I’m sure brown rice noodles would work great too.

Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Dip
16 ounces of your favorite pasta

Make the dip as directed. Boil and drain pasta according to package. Stir sauce into cooked and drained pasta. 

Spicy Mac and Cheese 3

Now go make the dip! Then watch as life as you know it improves for the better – one bite at a time.

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Low Sugar Sunshine Cake

sunshine cake 12

I don’t know if you know this about me or not since I hardly ever mention it or at the very least I haven’t said it in the past five minutes – but here it is: I LOVE SUNSHINE!!! I have decided that I need large doses of vitamin D in order to avoid all kinds of conditions and disorders. Bring on the hot, bright, beautiful days of summer!

My love of sunshine along with my love for this cake led me to call this recipe Sunshine Cake. Indeed, that’s exactly what this tastes like: a delicious drop of sunshine.

What does sunshine taste like, you ask? Well, it tastes like this cake. Do I need to keep explaining this?

If you can possibly believe it, I think I like this cake even better than the Low Sugar Super Moist Chocolate Cake – and we all know that I love that cake almost as much as I love sunshine.

Just like the chocolate cake, two key players in this recipe are whole wheat pastry flour and sour cream. The pastry flour helps this cake remain light, and the sour cream keeps it moist. But let’s not forget the Cream Cheese Frosting. It goes without saying that Cream Cheese Frosting makes everything in life better. Even cloudy days with no sunshine.

Low Sugar Sunshine CakeYum

2 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sucanat or sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add milk, sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with beaters until smooth. Pour into a buttered 9×13 cake pan. Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Stevia-Sweetened Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons softened butter
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Liquid stevia to taste (I use about 20 drops)

In a large bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Add softened butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia – whipping until well combined and smooth. Spread over cooled cake. Store in refrigerator.

If you prefer, here’s a slightly sweeter but still not too sugary frosting option:

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces softened cream cheese
¼ cup softened butter
3-4 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

With a hand mixer (or in your blender), whip together all ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled cake.

Low Sugar Sunshine Cake

Tell me which Low Sugar recipes you’ve tried so far. Which are your favorite? Are you a chocolate or a vanilla kinda friend?

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Make Pizza Boats on the Grill ~ Fast and Easy!

Ever since I became a big girl and learned how to turn on our grill, a whole new world of summertime food opened up to me. I think I turned 38 that summer. I had always left certain tasks like that up to my husband – things like installing our window air conditioners, getting the oil changed in our car, and grilling meat.

Then one day I was like, dude it sure would be nice to get dinner cooked instead of waiting for Matt to get home and grill the meat. (The deep thoughts of a hungry 38 year old…)

So I prepared myself for a detailed lesson in propane and matches and safety and how to avoid setting the house on fire. Then Matt got home and showed me how to simultaneously turn a knob and push a button. Four seconds later, the grill was aflame.

Hmmm, thought I. I probably could have even learned that when I was as young as 37.

Don’t tease. Need I remind those of you who have been operating a grill since adolescence that some of us experienced trauma at age 17 which may or may not have involved a fire and the total destruction of a huge barn on my family’s property? Some of us have hated fire for a very, very long time. Some of us might have equated lighting a grill to lighting a barn on fire and watching it smolder for three to fourteen days. Some of us.

So now I’m 41 (and three quarters) and the grill is my best friend in the summertime. In my 3 years of grilling experience, I have not burned anything down – not our house, not someone else’s house, not even a barn.

Regarding food of many kinds: if I can grill it, I do. If I’ve never seen it grilled before, I try it. Anything to avoid turning on the oven on a hot day. Plus, grilled food is fun and special and it feels like a big deal to say, “we’re grilling chicken tonight” instead of simply saying, “we’re having chicken.” Right? Can’t you hear the difference?

So enter: Grilled Pizza Boats

Making pizza on the grill (the regular crust kind) is quite doable and very yummy. You can learn how to do that here. But that is a bit time sensitive and laborious (woe is me) so I rarely go to the trouble. Pizza Boats, however? Well this is absolutely too easy.

Make a Quick Meal of Pizza Boats - On the Grill!

How to Make a Pizza BoatYum

Slice a loaf of French or Italian bread in half the long way (you know, like a boat). Top each half with your favorite pizza goodies. Bake in a 350° oven or on the grill until the cheese is melted (about 10 minutes).

It’s as easy as that.

In fact, it’s one of the easiest meals there is. Slice the pizza boats and serve them with salad and fresh fruit.

And then I just have to say it: Be sure you turn off your grill. I refuse to be the one responsible for any other fires, large or small. I’ve met my quota.

What are your favorite foods to grill?

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Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Recipe

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Dip

To be clear, this recipe does not include Velveeta as one can not use the words “real food” and “velveeta” in the same recipe and be telling the truth. In addition, this is not a recipe for Velveeta. I refuse to experiment to come up with a way to make a cheese product that has a shelf life.

But. As many of you know, I have a ridiculous love for the completely nasty and absolutely delicious Velveeta Rotel Dip that I grew up on as a kid. You may remember that I wrote a love letter to Velveeta a few years ago and bid her farewell as I created a tasty dip to replace her. Sure enough, we make that dip frequently at our house as it is super easy, all real food, and absolutely yummy.

But. That recipe, as good as it is, is still not the same as the Velveeta Rotel Dip I crave. That is why (and I’m not proud of this) sometimes I put a $6 log of boxed cheese product (otherwise known as Velveeta) into my cart along with 2 cans of Rotel and I bring it home and I melt it together and I eat it even though it is terribly terrible and truthfully it doesn’t even taste as good to me as it used to because of that whole real food thing I’m into now which has made all bad foods taste like chemicals on a tortilla chip.

So what is my problem?

Problem? I don’t have a problem.

Okay fine. Whatever. I have a problem.

And also? When did fake cheese become so expensive? You’d think that would deter me from buying it. But as I said, I have a problem.

It was either time to begin a Velveeta support group or get back in the kitchen to try my hand at another dip recipe since I’ve only tried like seventeen other times and posted like five other cheese dip recipes through the years and may have to rename this website to cheesediprecipesforaddicts.com with the tag line “All Cheese Dip Recipes, All the Time.”

A support group was out of the question because it is my understanding that they don’t serve chip dip at those meetings. So here we are again, back in the kitchen for another attempt at a real food version of my beloved dip.

You guys. I think I nailed it this time. And I mean that with all the humility and sweetness possible, but hey guess what? I just made the best chip dip ever!!! 

So here’s how this dip becomes amazing. Two things:

  1. We must make a cheese sauce for this to work. This requires butter and corn starch and actual cheese. Relax. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
  2. We must use actual Rotel or an off brand of “diced tomatoes and green chilies. Salsa isn’t the same. Thankfully, Rotel is still a real food – read the ingredient label and rejoice.

Note: My wonderful grass-fed beef produces the perfect amount of fat so I never have to drain off grease. In order to make a sauce, one must have fat or grease to work with. That’s why my recipe includes butter. Depending on what meat you have, I recommend either skipping the butter (if your meat has some grease to work with) or draining the grease and adding the butter or using your grease with some butter. Just so you have about 4 Tablespoons of fat to work with, you’re golden.

Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip RecipeYum

1 pound hamburger meat
2-4 Tablespoons butter
2 heaping Tablespoons corn starch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
sea salt to taste
2 cups heavy cream
10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
1-2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

Brown the hamburger meat in a large pot. Add butter to the meat, melting it throughout the pot. Sprinkle in corn starch, coating the meat. Pour in water, chili powder, and salt. Turn heat up and stir until the mixture thickens. Add cream, continuing to stir as the mixture thickens. (This all happens quickly in my experience.) Stir in Rotel, heating for about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted and the dip is smooth.

If you don’t remove your sauce before adding cheese, your cheese will end up funky and not smooth and creamy. You’ve been warned, so don’t add your cheese while your pot is still on the stove, then email me and ask why your cheese got funky. Not that anyone would ever do that.

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Recipe

If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen eating another bowl of my homemade not velveeta but way better than velveeta because it’s real food Chip Dip.

Who wants to come join me? I need to know who loves this dip as much as me. Admit it. Join my support group – the one where there IS CHIP DIP AT THE MEETINGS because my support group meetings rock and we support one another by eating dip.

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We Can Bake Quick Breads in a Slow Cooker!

You Can Bake Bread in a Crock Pot!

I had no idea that this was an actual thing. Did you?? I came across this idea here and am ever so grateful.

I’ve been baking potatoes in a crock pot for several years, but I did not know a person could bake quick bread this way too. (And also yeast bread, but I’m trying to perfect that idea before posting about it. You can look forward to that…as will I if I can ever figure out how to do it right.)

This is going to change how we eat this summer. No more avoiding bread on hot days since I never want to turn on the oven. However, since I only have one crock pot, I can obviously only do one loaf of bread at a time. This is a little bit limiting for my family of huge eaters. But all I’ll have to do to remedy this is scramble up a bunch of eggs and make a blender (or two) full of smoothies to go with our loaf, and we’ve got a meal.

I’ve tried this idea with two different types of quick breads – Chocolate Chip Bread and Snickerdoodle (it was a recipe experiment). Both worked great! This leads me to believe that any quick bread recipe will work. (Actually, I’m not sure about gluten free breads. Anyone have experience with this?)

How to Bake Quick Bread in a Crock Pot

How to Bake Quick Bread in a Crock Pot

1. Turn your crock pot onto “hi” to preheat.

2. Mix your quick bread as usual and put it into a buttered loaf pan. (I used glass as I’m not sure about using a stone in my crock pot. Any have experience with this?)

3. Wad up two pieces of tin foil and place them at the bottom of your crock pot. This will offer some space under your bread pan which will help your bread bake better.

bread in crock pot 2
4. Set your loaf pan into your crock pot. (Mine is actually barely the right size, so it didn’t fit all the way in thus negating the need for wads of foil. As you can see in the pictures above, my pan sat on the edge of the top of the crock. It worked perfectly.)

5. Place the lid on your crock pot slightly off centered so as to allow a little bit of steam to escape during baking.

6. Leave the bread to bake in the crock pot for about 2 hours. You’ll be able to watch it baking from the outside into the middle, making it quite easy to see when it has finished baking.

bread in crock pot 3

How excited are you to learn this fun trick?! What quick bread are you going to try baking in your crock pot first? I’m asking because I know you are going to try this right away, this minute, today, as soon as you stand up.

P.S. Look through our quick bread/muffin recipes here.

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No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites – A Quick and Easy Low Sugar Treat

I’ve been making a treat similar to this recipe for several years (found over at TheNourishingHome.com). I’ve tweaked it here and there…then sort of forgotten all about this great treat. Last week I decided I needed a lightly sweetened snack. Not salty. Not desserty. Not meaty. Just something filling and lightly sweetened.

These Snickerdoodle Bites are perfect.

snickerdoodle bites2

I’ve kept these Snickerdoodle Bites in my fridge, grabbing one in the afternoon when I need a little something to get me through until dinner. Because these are made with coconut flour, they are filling and nourishing. And did I mention that they are lightly sweetened to perfection? Like, if they were produced in mass and put into a box, the box would definitely say, “Lightly sweetened…to perfection.” Yep, that’s what it would say.

No-Bake Snickerdoodle BitesYum

1 cup creamy almond butter or peanut butter (almond butter is my fav for these)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut flour

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Roll the mixture into teaspoon-sized (or whatever sized) balls. Refrigerate before serving – or just start eating because who can wait?

Do feel free to add more honey if you prefer – although then these might be slightly more than lightly sweetened, thus ruining my description. But I’ll never know, so it won’t matter, and truly – we want these to be perfectly sweetened for your family’s delight.

No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites - a quick and easy low sugar treat

Coconut flour is naturally gluten free – a great option for those of you who must avoid gluten. Our family doesn’t not need to avoid gluten – however we like coconut flour because it is so rich in nutrients! “Coconut flour is the fiber from coconut meat after most of the oil has been extracted to make coconut oil.” (source: Tropical Traditions) Adding protein and fiber to our (lightly sweetened) snacks? Yes please!

Where do I get coconut flour? I either order it from Tropical Traditions or Amazon. (Right now, this coconut flour at Amazon is a wonderful price!) Here are some of my other coconut flour recipes:

But right now, these lightly sweetened No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites are my favorite coconut flour recipe. It’s probably because they only take 5 minutes to prepare and don’t require baking. And also because they are lightly sweetened to perfection.

Are you a fan of coconut flour? How do you use it at your house? 

This post includes affiliate links.

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Make Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream – No Ice Cream Freezer Required

Orange Ice Cream

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t bore you with the ridiculous banana knock-knock joke your three year old thinks is funny every time he tells it over and over? Between my four boys, I heard that joke 45,000 times. It was so hilarious every single time, of course. If you don’t know which joke I’m talking about, I am very, very jealous and and also very happy for you. Look it up if you must, but I’m warning you: do not tell your three year old.

All jokes aside, orange you excited to try this recipe? You should be! It’s very refreshing – and super easy. No need to dig out the ice cream maker and rock salt. You do need a high power blender, however. I invested in a BlendTec about a year ago, and I’m not sure how Ma Ingalls and I ever lived without it. That thing is a power horse and makes my kitchen life so much easier. I probably use it three times every day – no exaggeration.

But speaking of exaggeration, check out this orange:

orange ice cream 1

I got two of these giants in my Bountiful Basket order last week. As you can see, this one was so huge, I could barely hold it in my hand. This recipe calls for two medium-sized oranges. The above orange does not qualify as “medium-sized.” He is an over-achiever and we are so proud. I used about 1 1/2 of this size orange for this recipe. And really, this recipe isn’t rocket science because I don’t know what rocket science is and also because this recipe is flexible in its ingredient quantities. Just freeze some orange wedges and throw them in a blender with the other stuff and it makes a really great treat.

Knock, knock.

Just kidding.

Alrighty, here is the very easy recipe, which I found here and tweaked only slightly. Thank you for the great idea, SuperHealthyKids.com!

Low Sugar Orange Ice CreamYum

2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
2 medium-sized oranges
3 Tablespoons maple syrup or 20 drops liquid stevia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel oranges and divide them into sections. Lay them flat on a cookie sheet. Place them in the freezer for about two hours or until they are frozen solid.

Put half the frozen orange segments into a high power blender. Add milk and blend until smooth. Add remaining oranges, maple syrup or stevia, and vanilla. Continue blending until smooth.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 inch dish. Place in the freezer for 1-2 hours before serving. (If it is in the freezer longer than 1-2 hours, remove from freezer a few minutes before serving to make scooping easier.

Orange Ice Cream with dairy free option!

Do you have a BlendTec or other high power blender (like Vitamix)? What all do you do with it? Isn’t it great?!

 Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.
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Build a Breakfast Burrito Bar

It seems that I’ve been on a bit of a Build a _________ Bar kick during the past few months. I believe it just makes sense now that my kids are older. They definitely have specific tastes and preferences. Laying out ingredients and letting individuals put together what they like just makes sense.

That, and it’s much less work for me. I like this part best of all.

Beyond the family, the Build a __________ Bar idea is wonderful for company. Guests can fill their bowl or plate just the way they like. This is a great way to accommodate people with food allergies or differing tastes.

So let’s see. Shall we review the Build a ______ Bar ideas I’ve shared up to this point?

I thought surely I had posted about Build a Chef Salad Bar, but I guess I never have. That’s one of the easiest meal ideas, so I highly recommend it.

And now, consider a Breakfast Burrito Bar. This worked wonderfully for company a few weeks ago.

Build a Breakfast Burrito Buffet

Simply lay out breakfast burrito items and let everyone fill their plate according to their tastes. Here are some suggestions for the buffet:

Build a Breakfast Burrito BuffetYum

  • Warm tortillas
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Cooked meat like ham, sausage, or bacon
  • Shredded cheese
  • Salsa
  • Chopped veggies like peppers, onions, and mushrooms
  • Spinach

Of course, it’s great to offer a variety of fresh fruit for a side dish.

Do you have any other Build a __________ Bar ideas to share? I love how simple this is!

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Low Sugar Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

chocolate peanut butter cake 2

Happiness is taking part of one recipe and part of another recipe and putting them together to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake recipe. Happiness is having your cake and eating it too because of the low sugar content. Happiness is a cup of coffee with this cake. Really, this whole post and all that is included is really very happy.

Unless you can’t have dairy or gluten or nuts. Then this post really just stinks.

But for the wheaty, milky, nutty (you know who you are) people out there, we shall enjoy this cake on behalf of our dairy free, gluten free, and nut free friends. We’ll feel just a little bit bad that you can’t eat this with us, but we trust that you can take this idea and run with it. You’re good at adapting, right?

So Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. This is amazing, and it only has 1/2 cup of sugar in it so if you want to eat it for breakfast, by all means, do it.

Here’s what I did:

I made this Chocolate Cake. When it cooled, I topped it with this Peanut Butter Cream Frosting. Everyone at our house loved this cake! (except for Malachi, who hates peanut butter – what is the matter with this child?)

Now, you can also bake this Peanut Butter Cake and top it with this Honey Sweetened, Low Sugar Chocolate Frosting for a variation of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Again, happiness is taking part of one recipe and putting it with part of another recipe. (This concept does not apply to everything. Do not mix and match my Alfredo Sauce with Pasta recipe with Apple Butter or Barbeque Sauce. I should not have to explain this.)

Low Sugar Chocolate CakeYum

1 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup water
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sucanat
dash of sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sucanat, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a saucepan, bring oil, water, and cocoa to a boil. Pour liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredient mixture. Stir well. Add sour cream and eggs, mixing well. Pour batter into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Cream Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Liquid stevia

Whip together all ingredients until thick and smooth, sweetening with stevia to taste.  Spread over cooled cake.

Low Sugar Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Mixing and matching rocks. Who’s a fan of chocolate and peanut butter? What’s the weirdest food combination you like to eat? I have no idea why I’m asking that.

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How to Make Mint Extract

Homemade Mint Extract 2

It is a fact that I went to the store last week with one purpose: To buy liquor. Not fruit, not vegetables, not butter…but rum. And also vodka.

I grabbed one bottle of each and walked to check-out. I certainly would have taken a selfie to show you all, but obviously that would have been impossible since I only have but two hands and they were both clearly full…of liquor bottles.

I should be used to this by now, but even after so many years of making Homemade Vanilla Extract, I still feel awkward about buying large quantities of liquor. Since I typically make so much extract at once, my cart full of liquor makes it look like I’m hosting a party for half the city.

Whatever. It’s just weird. But the worst (and I do mean worst) part is this:

The past three times I’ve purchased liquor for extracts – I have not even been carded. What?? Do I look like I’m over 21? Sheesh. (says the woman who has an almost 18 year-old son.)

Well, anyway. It seems that I just need to get used to it and deal. Why? Because it occurred to me as of late: Since it’s so easy and so cost effective to make Homemade Vanilla Extract – why have I not tried making other extracts?

Why indeed. Therefore, I bought rum and made Cinnamon Extract – which took a grand total of about two minutes (not counting the time it took to not get carded at the store). Last week I stole some fresh mint from a friend’s yard (and by stole, I definitely mean that she cut some for me, put it in a bag, and handed it to me with the promise that there was more where that came from and to feel free to help myself at any time) – and started a batch of Mint Extract.

This stuff is too easy. Why do we think homemade goodies are difficult? Do we know how to open a bottle of liquor and pour? Well then.

Be watching for instructions for making Orange Extract and Almond Extract. Click on the following to learn to make Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon Extract. And now…

How to Make Mint ExtractYum

1. Cut fresh mint leaves (or buy them at the grocery store), rinse, and pat dry.

2. Pull leaves off the stem.

3. Place about 1 cup worth of mint leaves into a pint-sized jar.

4. Pour in about 2 cups of vodka (the cheap kind is fine).

5. Cover and place in a dark cabinet for 1-2 months, shaking occasionally.

Homemade Mint Extract

Make enough for your family to use, and enough to offer as gifts. Wow your family and friends. They’ll be so impressed, and inside you’ll be thinking, “Well all I had to do is rip leaves and pour vodka. But yeah, I’m awesome.”

Have you tried making extracts? Which homemade extract recipes would you be interested in learning to make next?

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