best bean dip

I spent last week playing at the beach with my family, so I was far too lazy busy for blogging. It was glorious. And I want to go back. But alas, it’s back to real life. At least I have this super-easy-incredibly-tasty recipe to share with you today!

I made this bean dip for my little boy’s birthday party a few weeks ago, and it was a huge hit! We had leftovers of all the other food, but the bean dip was all gone by the end of the party! Everyone kept coming back for more. And the best part? It’s only four ingredients!

easy bean dip

Just get a medium sauce pan and dump in one can of refried beans and one package of cream cheese.

bean dip recipe

Stir over medium heat until the cream cheese melts and the beans and cream cheese are combined. (I know it, doesn’t look very appetizing. But let’s be honest, refried beans kinda just look like mush. Also, I was hastily preparing things for the birthday party and didn’t have time to get pretty pictures.)

best bean dip recipe

Now stir in the salsa and shredded cheese, and stir until everything’s combined, hot, and melty. (yes, that’s the technical term.)

four ingredient bean dip

Pour into a bowl or other serving dish, and serve warm with tortilla chips! Get some fast – it’ll disappear pretty quickly! And if you’re making this for a crowd, the recipe is super easy to double, triple, etc.

Best Bean Dip

1 15 oz can refried beans
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup + shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese

1. In a medium sauce pan, combine beans and cream cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the cream cheese melts and the beans and cheese are combined and smooth.

2. Add the salsa and shredded cheese, and stir until cheese is melted and everything is heated through. Serve with tortilla chips.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Mexican food was a staple of my diet all growing up. Mangos, unfortunately, were not. So now I find any excuse I can to sneak mangos into my meals (or salsa) because they’re rather delicious.

mango avocado salsa

If you shop at Costco, you’ve probably seen the mango salsa they sell there. It’s pretty good, but nothing ever quite compares to making it fresh. Especially when you can find good mangos for a good price! One of the keys to making good mango salsa is starting with good mangos. How do you choose a good mango? Find one with as little green as possible! The more red, the more delicious! It should be mostly red, with some yellow (and probably a little green, cuz let’s face it – you’re probably not going to find a perfect one unless you go to the tropics) and it should be somewhat firm but not hard.

So once you’ve got your mangos, you might be wondering what exactly to do with them. They can be a bit tricky, with their big, weird-shaped seed in the middle, and the skin that needs peeled off, but once peeled the mangos are super slippery. Well, let me share what I’ve found to be the easiest, fastest way to cut up a mango:

time saverStart by slicing down one side of the seed, starting at the top towards the middle, and curving outward around the seed, down to the bottom.

how to cut a mango 1

Repeat on the other side, so you end up with two slightly curved pieces that you cut off, and the seed (with some usable fruit still).

how to cut a mango 2

Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the fruit, cutting dow to the skin but not through.

how to cut a mango 3

Then flip it inside out, pushing the fruit up and out of the skin. Some pieces will probably just fall out, and the rest you can just run the paring knife as close to the skin as possible.

how to cut a mango 4

Repeat these steps on the other two sides of the seed (there is much less fruit here, but still enough to be worthwhile).

how to cut a mango 5

And now you’ve got lots of delicious mango bits!

mango salsa recipe

Now it’s salsa time! Chop up the green onion, crush the garlic, seed and chop the tomato and pepper, and cut up the avocado.

To seed the tomato, just cut it in quarters lengthwise, and then run a knife from one end to the other, just under the seeds, and they should fall right off.

mango salsa recipe deseed tomato

To cut up the avocado, basically follow the same method as cutting the mango, but just slice it in half instead of cutting around the seed. Or look at this post for some pictures and tips.

Stir everything up, let it sit for at least 15 minutes so the flavors can mix a bit, and enjoy!

mango salsa

(I know, it doesn’t have any avocado yet here… but it’s still delicious and beautifully colorful!)

Just eat it on chips, or put it on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos….

mango avocado salsa burritos

We made chicken burritos with leftover rotisserie chicken, some refried bean, and the mango avocado salsa, and it was super yummy! So simple, and a great use for any leftover chicken!

mango avocado salsa chicken burrito

Mango Avocado Salsa

2 large ripe mangos
1 roma (or other small-medium) tomato
1 large avocado
1 red pepper
2 green onions
2 garlic cloves

1. Peel and chop the mangos (see tips above). Seed and chop the tomato and pepper. Cut up the avocado. Slice the green onions. Mince or crush the garlic. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Let sit for about 15 minutes (or longer if you want) for the flavors to mix. Stir and serve!

Makes about 2-3 cups salsa.

change it upAdd a jalapeno or other chili pepper for a spicier salsa. Or add some chopped cilantro! (I just didn’t because my husband doesn’t like it!)

Veggie Banana Bran Muffins (aka Sneaky Muffins)

A while back my toddler went through a super picky phase, especially when it came to eating vegetables.  He used to eat just about anything we gave him, but then he decided he basically only wanted to eat quesadillas and fruit.  I’ve been told this is really common with toddlers, but it’s still rather frustrating at times.  So I had to get a bit more sneaky.

toddler muffins

(I thought this was a good picture for being sneaky since the muffin kind of blends in with the counter! I know, I’m so clever.)

time saverOne of the things I really like about these muffins is that they freeze well!  So if you have lots of zucchini in your garden this summer, make a few batches and freeze them.  Or if you know they won’t get eaten fast enough, just pop them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. You can even just pull out one or two at a time as needed.

They’re also actually quite tasty, so they’re definitely not just for toddlers. I just made them in a mini muffin pan so they were more toddler size, and were sneaking in some veggies for my picky little man. But let’s be honest, we can probably all use some more veggies in our lives! But with the carrots and spices, they’re almost like mini carrot cakes.

its good for you Carrots and zucchini are both full of vitamins of course; bran gives you lots of fiber; and there’s only a little sugar since the bananas naturally sweeten them. In fact, you could probably make them without any sugar at all, or even substitute applesauce (I’m planning to try that as soon as I have some more zucchini from my garden!)

banana carrot zucchini bran muffins 2

Start by shredding the carrots and zucchini in a food processor or with a box grater. Mix the butter and sugar, then add the bananas, eggs, and shredded veggies. The carrots and zucchini will get kind of stuck on the beaters, so you might have to stop occasionally and scrape them.

Mix in the dry ingredients, then spoon the batter into a muffin pan. Bake until they’re golden on top, let them cool, and enjoy!

banana carrot zucchini bran muffins

Sneaky Muffins (Banana Veggie Bran Muffins)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 small-medium zucchini, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oat or wheat bran
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. With an electric mixer, mix butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add bananas, zucchini, carrots, and eggs, and mix well, until the bananas are smoothly mashed into the dough.

3. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon batter into greased muffin or mini muffin pan.  Fill each muffin 2/3 to 3/4 full.

5. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini muffins, or 15-18 minutes for regular muffins.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: about 2 dozen mini muffins or 1 dozen regular muffins

change it upYou could also add raisins, chopped apples, or flax seed.

 

*I originally published this recipe on my other blog – A Song of Sixpence. It has more crafty/mommy ideas and such, so I decided to re-blog this recipe here.

Homemade Potato Chips – a first attempt

Potato chips – another perfect example of food that is so bad for you, and yet we eat mass quantities of it. According to several different sources, Americans eat 1.2 billion (with a B) pounds of potato chips every year! And I’ll admit that I totally understand why – they’re a pretty tasty, convenient snack, and available everywhere you turn. And let’s face it, there’s something about the combination of potatoes and salt that’s kind of hard to resist (remember my confession about my love of french fries?)

So I decided to attempt a healthier, homemade version of this oh-so-addictive snack. I started really simple – just salt and pepper flavored. I’m working on some other flavors, but first I want to figure out how to make them perfectly crispy without burning. These ones turned out ok – most were perfect, but some were burnt, and some were still a little mushy.

homemade potato chips 2

The weird thing is, it didn’t seem to necessarily go with the how thick/thin they were. Some of the mushy ones were some of the thinnest-sliced ones! So if any of you are chip-making pros, I’d love some tips!

I started off by slicing some potatoes as thinly as I could.

homemade potato chips 1

This might be easier using a food processor with the thin-slice blade. But alas, I don’t have one… some day (soon, hopefully!) So if you’re cutting them by hand, just go a little slower and slice as thinly as you can.

Then I tossed the potato slices with just a little olive oil, and fresh ground salt and pepper. I laid them out on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer so they wouldn’t stick and they could get nice and crispy.

homemade potato chips 3

Then I put them in the oven at 425 for about 25 minutes, turning over about half way through. Then I sorted the chips to find the ones that still needed to cook a little longer (about 1/4 of them) and popped those back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. You can tell they’re done when the edges start curling, they start to get a little golden (not too golden – they’ll taste burnt!) and the surface looks bubbly and translucent.

homemade baked potato chips

Deliciously crispy crunchy goodness!

While these still aren’t the healthiest snack, they’re a lot better than most (all?) of the chips you’d buy at the store!

1. They’re baked, and with very little oil.
2. They still have the skins, which is where most of the vitamins and nutrients are.
3. They have way less salt!
4. They’re all natural – no preservatives or other nastiness.

Oh, and they’re way cheaper. You can get 10 pounds of potatoes for about the same price as a bag of chips.

Now I just have to figure out how to get ALL of them perfectly crispy, and come up with some other delicious flavors!

Oven baked Cajun fries

I love french fries. It’s kind of a problem. Like, if there are french fries, I will just keep eating them until there aren’t any more. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m still eating them. My husband makes fun of me for it. I guess the good news is we basically never eat fast food, so we rarely eat french fries.

But I do sometimes make french fries! And these are infinitely better for me than the things that may or may not actually be potatoes, soaked in grease and coated in salt. For starters, I never fry my “fries.” I always make them in the oven. I also, obviously, use real potatoes. And I don’t use much salt because I use other seasonings as well. And you know what? I like them better than the fast food fries! (Except maybe the Cajun fries from Five Guys. They’re pretty amazing.)

So here’s my take on Cajun Fries:

oven baked cajun french fries

I made my own Cajun seasoning rather than using one you can buy at the store on the spice aisle because those tend to be mostly salt. This one does have salt in it, but is also full of other spices to give the fries lots of flavor! This seasoning mix would also be really good for grilled chicken, corn on the cob, or other veggies.

homemade Cajun seasoning

Cajun Seasoning Mix

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it hotter)

Mix all spices together, and use on french fries, chicken, vegetables, etc. or store in an airtight container until ready to use.

This spice mix makes enough for about five medium potatoes if you’re making Cajun fries. You can easily double, triple, or quadruple the recipe if you’re making more fries, chicken, etc. or just to store for another day.

Now on to making the french fries!

First you’ll want to scrub the potatoes and cut off any bad parts. Then you can chop them into long thin strips, or use my time saver tip:

time saverCut the end off the potato so it’s flat and can stand up. Then use an apple slicer/corer to chop the potato.

trick tip fast homemade french fries

You’ll want to cut the center “core” piece smaller – I usually cut in in fourths.

homemade french fries tip

Ta-da! Lots of french fries cut in a matter of moments!

Now just toss them in a bowl with some olive oil, then add the Cajun seasoning and mix to coat.

homemade oven french fries

Cover a cookie sheet with foil – this makes clean up so much easier, and also helps the fries not to stick. Then lay out the fries in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Pop them in the oven and bake until as soft or crisp as you like! (I usually do about 15 minutes. 20 minutes should make them pretty crispy. Or just move them to the top rack.)

homemade oven baked cajun french fries

You’ll probably want to turn them over/mix them around about half way through just so they don’t stick or get too crispy on just one side. The easiest way to do this – since the foil cools almost instantly, pull them out of the oven, lift the edges of the foil, and just shake them around. Then use a fork to spread them back out, and stick them back in the oven.

Enjoy! (They’re extra delicious with a little bleu cheese dressing)

Oven-baked Cajun Fries

5 medium potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cajun seasoning (see recipe above)

1. Preheat oven to 450. Wash and trim the potatoes, removing any bad parts. Cut into long thin strips (see tip above).

2. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil until evenly coated. Sprinkle in the Cajun seasoning and mix well.

3. Spread the fries in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning fries over about half way through. For crispier fries, cook on top rack or for a longer time.

Green Hummus

Have any of you seen the Brian Regan bit about how cranberries are getting into everything? Well, first of all, it’s pretty funny, and second, I’m kinda feeling that way about spinach. But you know, I’m ok with spinach getting into everything. It’s so good for you, and it’s one of the few vegetables I can sneak into my two-year-old’s diet.

green spinach hummus

This recipe came from the week we took our son off dairy to see if that was the cause of some tummy troubles. And let me tell you, taking a kid off diary whose favorite food is cheese is quite a task! I had to get pretty creative, especially getting protein and calcium into him. Hence the green hummus.

  •     its good for you Chickpeas have lots of protein (and almost no saturated fat), and spinach has lots of calcium (and about           every other vitamin you can think of)!

And it was also really tasty, really healthy, really easy to make, and my little guy gobbled up his “green sauce” and asked for more!

One other thing that’s nice about this recipe – in addition to being very healthy and fresh, it’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, which I know is a big issue for a lot of people.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s super fast and easy to make? Well, it is! All you have to do is dump all the ingredients in a blender or food processor! I didn’t even measure the spinach – I just put the other ingredients in first, and then filled it with as much spinach as I could.

green spinach hummus recipe 1

green spinach hummus recipe

Just blend it all up, scraping down the sides occasionally. If it’s too thick/dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.

Green Hummus

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (I used low-sodium)
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp tahini or sesame seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1-2 cups spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
water (if needed)

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. (I didn’t measure the spinach, I basically just filled the rest of the food processor with as much as would fit.)

2. Blend all ingredients until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed. If it seems too thick, add a little water for a smoother consistency.

3. Serve with pita chips, veggie chips, crackers, vegetables, etc.

green spinach hummus 2

change it upYou could also add roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, a clove of garlic, or fresh cilantro for a little variety.