Mexican Layered Dip – A Bonus Recipe

It’s New Year’s Eve!  Time to party like it’s 2015!  And what else do we do when we celebrate?  We get together with friends and EAT!!  Just part of packing on the holiday poundage, I guess.  Hey, we need to have something to make a New Year’s resolution about, right?!

I found this recipe in a magazine years ago.  It is my ultimate favorite dip.  It eats more like a meal than a snack.  In fact, upon the rare occasion that there is some left after I’ve taken this to a party, I eat it for lunch the next day, with tortilla chips.  Yummo!

Mexican Layered Dip

  • 1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese, softened (I use the 1/3 less fat.)
  • 1 Tbsp taco seasoning mix
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup drained canned black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced black olives

Beat cream cheese and taco seasoning with mixer until creamy.  Spread onto the bottom of a 9 inch plate.  Layer remaining ingredients, in order, over cream cheese.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Dip1I started by adding one 8oz block of 1/3 less fat cream cheese to my mixing bowl.  I measured in 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning.

Dip 2I turned the mixer onto medium speed until the taco seasoning was nicely incorporated into the cream cheese.

Dip CroppedThen I spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over my serving plate and began the layering process of the other ingredients.

Dip salsa

I measured and poured on the salsa.

Dip 4Next, I added the rinsed black beans.  Rather than only using 1 cup of black beans, I always use the whole can.  I know that if I put the rest of them in the fridge, they will eventually get thrown out because I won’t use them.  Two bonuses here, they are good for you and you won’t waste them!

Dip 5My favorite flavor comes next, the green onions.  And if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t actually measure them.  I just cut up what looks about right and sprinkle them on.

Dip 6Cheddar cheese comes next and you might notice a pattern here, but I don’t measure this either.  This is a very forgiving recipe.  Just layer on what looks right to you!

Dip 7I added the shredded lettuce next and, you guessed it, I just eyeball the amount.

Dip 8I always go overboard on the black olives and put on way more than 2 tablespoons.   Knowing the way my son loves them, he’ll eat 2 tablespoons right off the top before it’s even served!

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Make sure to let the dip sit in the fridge for at least an hour before it’s served.  During that time, the flavors blend together.

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So there you have it!  Served with tortilla chips, it’s a delicious, colorful, healthy layered dip that you can take to your New Year’s Eve Party tonight!

Happy Layering and Happy New Year!


Almond Crescents

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My family was talking about going Christmas caroling, so I decided to make some cookies that we could pass out to the people we caroled to.  When I first found this recipe in Grandma Dora’s recipe box, it stuck out because it was written on a piece of stationary rather than an index card and it was written with beautiful handwriting.  When I looked at the recipe, I noticed it was made with just a few simple ingredients.

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Almond Crescents

Mix together thoroughly . . .

  • 1 cup soft shortening (or 1/2 butter)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup ground blanched almonds (or mixed nuts)

Sift together and work in. . .

  • 1 2/3 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chill dough.  Roll with hands pencil thick.  Cut in 2 1/2 inch lengths.  Form into crescents on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until set. . . not brown in a 325 degree oven for 14-16 minutes.  Cool on pan.  While slightly warm, carefully dip in 1 cup confectioners sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed.  Makes about 5 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

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To begin with, I ground up the almonds.

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I then put the ground up almonds in the kitchen aid with the sugar, shortening and butter.

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I mixed these ingredients thoroughly.

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I then worked in the flour and salt.  After they were well combined into the dough, I set the dough in the refrigerator to chill.

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Next I rolled the dough until it was pencil thick and cut it into 2 1/2 inch lengths.  This was a little tricky to get the hang of, but by the end I had it down to a system.

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I then formed the 2 1/2 inch lengths into crescent shapes and placed them on ungreased baking sheets.  I baked them for about 16 minutes at 325 degrees.

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I let them cool slightly on the pan and then carefully (and carefully was the key word because they were very delicate and broke easily) dipped them in confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon.

In the end, my brother-in-law and I both ended up getting sick and the Christmas caroling never happened.  So, we had to keep the cookies for ourselves. (-:  (I did take another batch I was making for caroling to some of our neighbors.)

I really like how these cookies taste.  They have a very sophisticated look and flavor.  I think if I made them again, I might bypass the crescent shape and just make them in balls.  This would really make the whole process very simple.  But, whichever way you make them, they are definitely a nice addition to your Christmas celebration!

Happy Baking!  Amy

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Caramel Corn – A Bonus Recipe

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It is time for our annual Christmas Vacation Party!  This party tradition started many years ago when my brother and I would watch Garfield’s Christmas together to celebrate the start of vacation from school for Christmas.  It’s changed over the years – some years we added playing the Andy Griffith Show board game (we are the masters of this game – don’t even try to compete with my family’s knowledge of Andy Griffith Show trivia!), decorating Christmas cookies, wearing our pajamas to the party (my sister-in-law thought of this idea a few years ago) and I almost always make caramel corn to go with the other party food.  I thought you might enjoy trying this recipe for your own Christmas get togethers, but let me warn you, this stuff if addicting!
Caramel Corn
  • 8 quarts plain popped popcorn
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 1 pound (2 cups) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Karo Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda OR 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla
    Pop the popcorn and put it in the oven at 250 degrees to keep warm. Melt butter in saucepan and add other ingredients.  Boil 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda, OR 1/2 teaspoon soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  When it begins to foam up, pour it over the popcorn and mix well.  Divide evenly between to pans and place back in the oven. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour.  Stir every 15 minutes. Spread on cookie sheets to cool.  Store in a sealed container.
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    First, I popped the popcorn and placed it in two pans.
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    I added two cups of peanuts to the popcorn, because I like peanuts in caramel corn.  I then put it in the 250 degree oven to keep warm (keeping the popcorn warm helps the caramel to spread better).
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    Next, I melted the butter in a saucepan.
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    After the butter was melted, I added the brown sugar, Karo syrup and salt.
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    I brought the ingredients to a boil and let them boil for 5 minutes.
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    I then added a tablespoon of baking soda and it foamed up nicely.
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    I poured the caramel mixture over the two pans of popcorn.
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    I stirred until it was evenly coated.
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    I baked it in the oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  I then put it out on cookie sheets to cool.
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    The results were delicious as you can see!
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    I know my family will enjoy this crunchy caramel corn with its sweet and salty taste at our Christmas Vacation Party!  I hope you will make up a batch and enjoy it as well!
    Happy Baking!  Amy

Baked Macaroni and Cheese – A Bonus Recipe

Do you have a “go-to” meal?  Whenever we come home and it’s already dinner time or I need to go grocery shopping, but haven’t had time, I always find myself whipping up Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  I was having one of “those” days so I decided it was time to fallback on my old “go-to” recipe.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni (about 1 3/4 cups), cooked and drained

In a saucepan, combine the first 4 ingredients, stir in milk.  Add butter while stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil and whisk for one minute.  Stir in 1 3/4 cups cheese until melted.  Add noodles.  Pour into greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Mac1I started by whisking together the corn starch, salt, dry mustard and pepper.

Mac2Then I added the milk and butter and whisked continually until it began to thicken.  Once it came to a boil, I whisked it for one minute.

Mac4I added the cheese and whisked it until it was melted.

Mac5I strained the cooked noodles.  (I like to pick fun noodles.  I hate boring elbows!)

Mac7Next, I added the cheese mixture to the noodles and mixed well.

Mac8I poured the cheese mixture into my greased 9 x 13 (I had doubled the recipe.) and sprinkled on the remaining cheese.  I popped it into the oven at 375 degrees and baked it for 25 minutes until it was bubbling and beginning to brown.


I served it up with green beans and zucchini bread.  It was delicious!  It’s an easy and filling, made from scratch meal that my whole family loves!

Happy Baking!





Caramel Apple Salad – A Bonus Recipe

We had another family birthday party this past weekend.  My niece turned 12!  How can she possibly be that old?  I remember the day she was born.  We traveled 1.5 hours in the car to the hospital to see the first grandchild, my first niece, on our side of the family.  We all rode together and still to this day, tease our mom for how crazy she was.  I guess the birth of the first grandchild does something to women.  They get in a “baby zone” and can’t hear or see anything that doesn’t have to do with getting them to the hospital.  NOTHING will keep them from seeing their new grandbaby!

For my niece’s party this past weekend, I wanted to make Caramel Apple Salad.  My sister, Rebekah had passed this recipe on to me a long time ago.  It sat in my recipe box for years before I made it recently.  It’s delicious and makes a large bowl, so I always like to make it when I will be sharing with a group.  She had received it from her grandmother-in-law, Grandma Slager.

Caramel Apple Salad

  • 1 – 8 oz container Cool Whip
  • 1 – 8 oz can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 1 – 3 oz, small box butterscotch instant pudding
  • 3 cups chopped apples
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts (or any kind you choose)

Mix all together except for Cool Whip.  Fold in Cool Whip last.  Chill.


With just a few ingredients and no baking or cooking, it was the perfect, easy side to make when all of the crazy cousins would be together!

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I simply dumped the chopped apples (you don’t even need to peel them!), nuts and crushed pineapple into a big mixing bowl. (This is when you’d add the marshmallows too, but I don’t like marshmallows in salads, so I left them out.)

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Next, I poured in the butterscotch pudding mix.

CAS4I stirred until the butterscotch pudding was incorporated.

CAS5Then, I added the whole container of Cool Whip.

CAS6I stirred that in until it was well blended.

CAS7Last, I transferred it to a serving bowl and put it in the refrigerator to chill until it was served.  (I wouldn’t suggest making this the day before as the apples will get soggy.)

That’s it!   It is SO simple and so good!  The crunch of apples, with the sweetness of pineapple and saltiness of peanuts all combined in a blanket of caramely Cool Whip!  Yum!  Take this dish to your Christmas get-to-gethers and work parties.  You won’t disappoint!

Happy Mixing!


Mrs. Luce’s White Cookies

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The Luces were good friends of my grandparents.  My dad said he remembers that, like his own mom, Mrs. Luce was a wonderful baker.  Each year, to help with the income, she spent time baking up homemade goods and taking them to the local farmer’s market to sell.  I’m sure this is part of what made she and Grandma Dora such good friends. They shared a love for baking.  They enjoyed talking about recipes, tips and other baking secrets throughout their many years of friendship.

I actually remember as a child, going to visit Mr. and Mrs. Luce.  We drove out in the country to their home.  We ate treats, made by Mrs. Luce but, what I remember the most is that Mr. Luce gave my sisters and brother and I each a shiny half-dollar.  I treasured that half-dollar for many years.  Actually, I still have it in my drawer of special things that I collected as I grew up.

As I was looking through my Grandma Dora’s recipe box, I found a recipe, Mrs. Luce’s White Cookies.  I recognized Mrs. Luce’s name and had even met her, so it made baking the cookies even more fun.

ML White Cookies Recipe

 Mrs. Luce’s White Cookies 

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup thick sour milk
  • 1 cup lard, full and rounded above cup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 cups flour

Cream sugar, lard (shortening) and eggs.  Combine dry ingredients.  Add a little at a time to creamed mixture, alternating with the sour milk until incorporated.  Add vanilla.  Roll into balls and roll in sugar.  Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

ML White Cookies Creamed2I began creaming the sugar, shortening and eggs.

ML White Cookies CreamedThen I alternated adding the dry ingredients mixture and the soured milk.  The recipe says that the soured milk should be “thick.”  So I added two tablespoons of lemon juice before I filled the measuring cup with milk.  I let it set as long as possible before I used it so it would be as “thick” as possible.  Then I added the vanilla.

ML White Cookies DoughThe recipe simply called for “flour.”  It’s always hard to judge what that means.  After putting in three cups though, it looked more like cake batter consistency.  I ended up using five cups before it looked like cookie dough!

ML White Cookies Dough BallsThis recipe also didn’t say if the cookies should be rolled out or rolled into balls.  Rolling out the dough sounded like a lot of work, so I opted for rolling the dough into balls instead.  Then I rolled the balls in a bit of sugar for a little sparkle.  For Christmas, you could roll them in green or red sugar to make them look fun and festive!

ML White Cookies5The cookies baked for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  It seemed like just the right amount of time.  I let the cookies rest on the trays for about 1 minute before transferring them to the cooling rack.  While I didn’t frost them, I do think they would be extra good with icing!

ML White CookiesMrs. Luce’s White Cookies were very simple to make.  They reminded me of something that would be served at a tea party.  They are a light cookie, different from regular sugar cookies.  I compared them to a soft, sweetened biscuit.  Have fun making Mrs. Luce’s White Cookies, and enjoy them with a cup of hot tea this Christmas season!

Happy Baking!


Molasses Cookies

My Grandma Dora loved to bake.  At least everyone assumed she loved to bake because she was always baking.  I think what she really loved was making her family happy by baking.

G and G's house '72 or '73

The back yard at the “brown house.” If you look carefully, you can see the clotheslines on the other side of the garden.

She had many chores to do and each task took much longer than it does for us nowadays.  Take the laundry for instance.  My dad said that she did her laundry with a ringer washer.  My grandpa would heat the water on the wood stove in the kitchen and put it into a galvanized tub that went with the washer.  My grandma would put the clothes and soap in the tub.  There was an agitator that would move the clothes around.  When it was done washing, she would run each piece of clothing one at a time between two ringers that would squeeze the water out of the clothes.  They then went into a clean tub of water to rinse them.  Then, they would have to go through the ringer again to get the rinse water out.  In the winter, she would either hang them up on lines hung across the dining room or outside.  When she hung them outside, they would freeze and get stiff like boards.  My dad said she did the wash, every Monday morning.

Between all of the chores however, she always managed to find time to keep the cookies coming.  One of the cookies my dad often lists off from his mother’s baking list is molasses cookies.

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Her recipe was typed out simply.  I’m sure she knew all of the steps to make the cookies and she figured out the amount of flour just by watching the consistency of the dough, so she didn’t need to write it down on her recipe card.

Molasses Cookies

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 cup lard;  fill the cup within 1/2 inch of the top and then fill it up with cold water
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups flour

Cream together lard (or shortening) and sugar.  Add eggs and molasses and mix well.  Combine flour, soda, ginger and salt.  Add into the wet ingredients until dough is formed.  Roll into balls and bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  If desired, dough can be rolled in powdered sugar before baking.

I didn’t have much to go on with this recipe, but I decided to start and I would figure out the details as I went.  I didn’t have any lard, so I replaced it with shortening.

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I combined the shortening with the sugar and creamed them together in the Kitchenaid.

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I then added the eggs and molasses.

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Next, I combined the dry ingredients and then added them to the wet.  I wasn’t sure how much flour to put in, so I started with three cups.  The batter looked more like brownie batter than cookie dough, so I added another cup of flour.  Then, it seemed just right.

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I rolled the cookies into balls.  Some of them I left plain and some I rolled in powdered sugar just for fun.  Later on, after the cookies were all made, my dad said my grandma usually rolled this dough out with a rolling pin and then used a round cookie cutter to make them into large, round cookies.  They turned out fine as drop cookies too, so either way would work.

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After I put the dough on the trays, I was ready to put them in the oven.  The recipe didn’t have an oven temperature or a time to bake.

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I decided on 350 degrees and I found that 10-12 minutes seemed to be just the right time.

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My dad said they tasted just like he remembered.  I was glad to hear that.  So, if you’re looking for some old fashioned flavor this Christmas season, I recommend you give these molasses cookies a try.

Molasses Cookies

Happy Baking!