The Scotland Post

This post is hard. Not because I don’t want to write it, but because writing it is a reminder that we’re not still in Scotland. It was such a fantastic trip, I don’t think there was a second of it that we would have changed except for there to be more seconds spent in every place we visited.

IMG_1015

Imagine standing in the same place someone else stood 4000 years before.

Scotland is beautiful, but not beautiful in the way I think I expected. It is a country of rolling, green hills dotted with yellow sticker bushes (they were yellow in April, anyway) that are periodically foggy and always dotted with sheep. Always, the sheep. We loved the sheep.

IMG_360_10

These are cows, mostly. But you get the idea.

The people are uniquely kind and the culture is one of openness and sharing. Every hotel we stayed in had a common room with a bar, and all except the major chain hotel we stayed at had board and card games guests could use. After dinner (which it seemed most ate at the hotel), people would sit in the common room by the fire and talk, have a drink, and play games. The pub we ate at the night we stayed on the Isle of Arran was busy and crowded the entire time we were there, and every single table of people around us, at some point, saw someone the knew come in or leave during their meal. It was refreshing.

IMG_999_1

Harry and McGoo, our lovely escorts around Isle of Arran.

We spent a lot of time outside, hiking and exploring. We went to a different castle almost every day we were there. We drank whisky and real ale and talked about American politics with the pub manager. I thought about writing a day-by-day of our trip, but I wrote it all in a journal that we’ll keep and reference for our next trip. Instead, I wanted to record some of the things we learned and found most useful.

WP_20160412_001

Haggis and cheese toasty.

First, haggis. Can we talk about how amazing haggis is? Our “goals” for this trip were geology, food, and beer/whisky. We accomplished those goals, and then some. We had the best fish and chips we’d ever eaten, we had black pudding for breakfast, we compared sticky toffee pudding at various restaurants, and haggis. Well, I had haggis. Turns out most of it has beef, so it wasn’t as much of a thrill for Josh as it was for me.

I had tried to find some restaurants on TripAdvisor before we got there, and when we had WiFi we used it, but we fared pretty well everywhere we ended up eating. I almost wish I hadn’t planned so well, and we had been forced to wander more – but  on the other hand, we had such limited time, it may not have been the best use to wander looking for food.

IMG_0435

Doune Castle! Now go watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The castles were all unique, and all incredibly interesting. There was a huge difference between the ones that had been continually inhabited and updated throughout history and the ones that were further outlying and less continually lived-in, but both were equally awesome.

IMG_0947

Dunstaffnage Castle. Say that three times fast.

IMG_0889

Also, sea castles. Castle Stalker, which we happened to just drive by. Because in Scotland, you randomly run across castles on your drive through town.

We hiked a lot. We did two hikes around Edinburgh, one at Bienn Lora, and one on Isle of Arran. We decided we’re going to make hiking a priority on every big vacation we go on.

IMG_0364 - Copy

Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. We raced the fog to the top and lost miserably.

IMG_0921

View from our Bienn Lora hike.

The most unexpectedly useful thing we brought with us? Hiking boots. We almost didn’t even bring them because we thought the hikes we’d planned were tennis shoe friendly, but decided to throw them in because we had room. HOLY COW I wore mine almost every day.Turns out castles don’t have super even floors and walkways, and my hiking boots were so comfortable, I ended up just wearing them instead of other shoes I’d brought. Also, my leggings. I wish I’d brought more pairs, because they were so comfortable and versatile and easy to wash in the sink. I bought a new pair of crops when I got home, and am waiting for colors to stock back up to buy a second pair of full-length leggings.

IMG_0438

Our favorite of the three distilleries we visited.

I also ended up using my Patagonia backpack endlessly. I bought it for the trip because it would be more comfortable to carry through the airport than our smaller one and thought it might come in handy on the hikes, but it ended up just being my purse for the entire trip. It’s an amazingly useful, comfortable, and well-designed bag. I’m finally starting to get the hang of this, “you get what you pay for” stuff.

IMG_0479

Stirling Castle

We will go back. Our plan is to spend a longer time there, and spend most of it in the Highlands. Isle of Skye is high on the list, as is getting to Inverness to visit Nessy. More haggis, black pudding, whisky, and sticky toffee pudding will be had. Scotland was comfortable (once we got used to driving), and we can’t wait to go back.

IMG_848_1

Three Sisters, outside Glencoe

I baked my own birthday cake.

Because I wanted to. It was actually cupcakes, and they were delicious. They were Brownie Batter Chocolate Fudge cupcakes, and they were perfect. The frosting… uh, I couldn’t stop eating it.

I make no claims that this recipe is, in any way, healthy. In fact, BFF Cara had to convince me that it was ok to make it, because I will NEVER be able to justify making it again. It literally took my 30th birthday for this recipe to happen, and it may never happen again. But the frosting.

WP_20160319_025

I’m clearly not a decorator. 

I strayed from the recipe a bit in method, because that’s what I do. I used all of the proper ingredients (except I COMPLETELY forgot the mini chocolate chips in the cupcakes), I just assembled them a little bit differently than suggested. But first, brownie balls.

WP_20160318_003

They started out so pretty and round. Also, terrible kitchen lighting.

These delicious little balls of brownie goodness are scooped, frozen, and the smooshed in the middle of the cupcake batter before baking to create the brownie batter center. But… the amount the recipe says it makes (36) is not correct. It can’t be. I even went out and bought a 1.5 tablespoon scoop for this recipe (happy birthday to meee!), and I couldn’t make it happen. After just a couple brownie balls, I could tell I wasn’t going to get 36. So, I shot for balls that were about a tablespoon, and had to scrounge and borrow from other balls at the end to get to 30. Seeing as this part of the recipe mostly comes from a pre-packaged cake mix, I have no idea how the author made 36 brownie balls using a 1.5 tablespoon scoop. (So, she does say “about” 1.5 tbsp, but I looked, and that’s the standard measurement for that size of cookie dough scoop. I’m running on the assumption she has the standard.)

The next morning, while the brownie balls were still freezer-ing, I finished the cupcakes. The batter was tasty, but I have to admit, at this point I still wasn’t convinced. I could taste the Jell-O and cake mix flavors.

WP_20160319_003

I have the prettiest Kitchenaid. 

But I persevered. Here is where I strayed momentarily. The recipe says to fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full, then press the brownie ball in the middle and bake. With it all uncovered and exposed! I wanted my brownie ball enveloped in cupcake, so that’s what I did. I used my 1.5 tbsp scoop, filled them halfway, added brownie balls, and put another half scoop on top. I also used a bit less batter than would have been 2/3 because I didn’t want my cupcakes expanding all over the place like hers did in her photos. I’m a neat freak, apparently (not).

WP_20160319_005

These baked up beautifully, and I was so pleased with the results.

WP_20160319_013

For about five minutes. Then, as they cooled, they caved. There were giant caverns in the middle of my beautiful cupcakes.

WP_20160319_014

In hindsight, this makes perfect sense. The brownie balls are taken from the freezer and put directly into the cupcake batter, then into the oven. Of course, they’re not going to cook all the way from frozen, thus creating the delicious, brownie batter center. And, because they’re still borderline batter when the cupcake outside is cooked through, they weren’t going to hold the structure of the cupcake. So, for the next pan, I did them the way the recipe suggested.

WP_20160319_015

Turns out I shouldn’t have been worried about getting to 30 brownie balls. I only had enough batter for 28 cupcakes (perhaps because it was missing the mini chocolate chips). The two lonely brownie balls got baked anyway.

This method yielded similarly sinking results, and weren’t as pretty.

WP_20160319_017

They were already starting to cave!

In the end, there was no difference in taste, and I figured I’d just fill in the caverns with frosting. Oh, the frosting…

WP_20160319_022

I wish I’d taken more photos than just of the butter.

Why yes, that is 4 STICKS OF BUTTER in this frosting! And yes, I then added sugar, corn syrup, dark cocoa powder, and melted chocolate chips! And yes, it’s heavenly. It’s the best frosting I’ve ever eaten, hands down. Which makes me SUPER happy that I only used about half of it to frost the cupcakes.

WP_20160319_023

LEFTOVERS!

It’s rich, so I used restraint when frosting. Also, I like a good mix of cake-to-frosting in a cupcake, so I was trying to keep it in check. In truth, I piped some frosting into my mouth when I was done, and I think the cupcakes would have been fine with a little bit more. But, they were just fine without it, too. They were deliciously amazing, with a gooey brownie center, slightly crunchy top, and the frosting. The frosting really made these cupcakes.

WP_20160319_024

So, so worth it.

Let me end by saying that this birthday was awesome. I have made some amazing friends in the last few years, and I am really so, so lucky to have done so. They and Josh made me feel so special and loved, and really, that’s all a girl can ask for as she enters a new decade. So, thank you. All of you. You know who you are. ♥

 

Goodbye, Fresh!

Hello Fresh nights 3 and 4! Woo!

Last night, Josh cooked, so I have few pictures. I try to stay out of his way when he’s cooking… because I’m a pain in the ass. If I go in there, I’d just be examining what he’s doing and perhaps pointing at things and telling him to do things differently…so I just don’t.

InstagramCapture_8aaa6183-0d6c-48f6-bffe-eb4f05acca25

His dinner was roast chicken with vegetables, Basmati rice, and a lemon pan sauce. It was definitely the most prep-heavy recipe in the box. And it was, by far, the largest portion. I was STUFFED. But it was very tasty.

WP_20160126_002

The Brussels sprouts trimmings. And half a lemon.

The chicken cooking method was one I’d heard of, but not used: sear (essentially) the chicken on both sides, then stick it in the oven. It was lovely, because it kept the chicken nice and moist. I don’t usually roast whole chicken breasts because I never like how they turn out, but this makes me think I should try again/more often.

WP_20160126_001

It’s sauce! In a pan! It’s PAN SAUCE!

 

Tonight, I made the last meal in our box: Pork and apple burgers with rosemary potatoes and another cute little salad. This one was, far and away, my favorite. Could maybe be my small obsession with burgers, but it was good.

WP_20160127_004

I was afraid the potatoes would be too starchy, but they were lovely. And the brioche buns… we’re never going back to pre-packaged. The salad was the same as the one with the burritos (oil and balsamic vinegar), but the addition of the green apple was SO tasty. Like, going to start taking something very similar to that for lunch tasty.

WP_20160127_003

cheery!

I had never worked with fresh rosemary before. It looked like a Christmas tree, and definitely smelled like one. It didn’t taste like one, though, unless I was thinking about Christmas trees. Then my potatoes had a hint of cheer. Tasty cheer, especially when tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.

WP_20160127_005

The pork was mixed with grated apple to make the burger patties. If you’ve never grated an apple before, this is what it looks like after you’ve squeezed the excess moisture out of it. And don’t let any recipe fool you – this excess will rip through at least two layers of paper towel while you squeeze. And possibly apple pulp will go flying in random directions. I’m not sure about that last part, just saying.

WP_20160127_008

YUM.

 

New experiences from Hello Fresh:

1. Thyme and rosemary – two herbs neither of us had worked with (Josh did the thyme). That was one perk of Hello Fresh that I would struggle to recreate in a grocery store: I always have extra fresh herbs and HATE throwing them away, so I tend to not buy them. It was nice to use all of each in these recipes.

2. Brussels sprouts – I had eaten these maybe once or twice in my life, and never prepared them. Josh did those, too, but even just seeing his leftovers really explained the process.

3. Lightly seasoning things – This is a bit bizarre, but I love experimenting with mixtures of spices. Sage and cumin was an obsession for a while. Chipotle anything and… well, anything is also a favorite. Rarely do I just season with one spice at a time, or just straight salt and pepper like the Pescado Veracruz called for. Both the chicken and pork only had one added flavor besides salt and pepper (thyme and rosemary, respectively) and it was a bit of a revelation for us. Something I will definitely keep in mind in the future.

4. I want a stick blender. Dammit, Jamie Oliver.

5. I want/need to meal plan on Saturday/Sunday/sometime before the week starts and go grocery shopping and be ready for the week. It was so much easier knowing exactly what I was going to make for dinner that night when I woke up in the morning, and knowing that I had everything I needed. No last minute grocery runs, no agonizing conversations trying to decide what to have for dinner. I think I knew it would be better if I planned ahead, but actually experiencing it has made all the difference. It will be a priority now.

Thoughts on Hello Fresh as a service:

I’m glad we did it. I tried new things and I have a new perspective on meals. I like cooking, not just throwing together something last minute, and this was a nice reminder of that.

Would we do it again? I’m… not so sure. For one, without the promo code, it’s expensive. We also have a pretty sporadic weeknight schedule. We were motivated this week to do it and knew we had 4 nights free, so it worked – but that’s a fairly rare occurrence in our lives. That being said, for the week before we go to Scotland and don’t want extra groceries in the house and don’t want to have to think about extra things, hell yes, we’ll do it again.

I do feel like Hello Fresh is a bit misleading. They market themselves in a way that implies healthy, quick meals. Three out of four meals listed “cooking time” as 30 minutes (the burritos were 40) and “difficulty level” as 1 (burritos were 2). The times were…  wrong. The burritos were the most accurate, as we got those done in around 45 minutes (and they were also quite easy, in my opinion – not a level 2). The other three meals took around an hour each. I suppose they can get away with it because they call it “cooking” time and not “total” time – if I looked solely at the time the ingredients spent cooking, sure, 30 minutes works (except for the burritos… damn the burritos). But it seems unfair to do things like that. Healthy, yes. Quick… depends on your definition.

It was fun. It was mostly easy, required very little prep thinking, and was a huge relief at the end of the day to have everything ready and waiting for us. Overall, I would recommend Hello Fresh to someone who can afford it and who is looking for what it provides, along with the time disclaimer. We will plan ahead and use it again, at least before vacations, for sure.

And, to end this somewhat ramble-y, food-y post, a cat picture. Because you can never have too many adorable cat pictures in your life (and my cat is damn adorable).

WP_20160126_006

Mya says goodnight!

Night Two

Second night of Hello Fresh meals is in the books. And it was… different than the first. It was the recipe created by chef Jamie Oliver for Hello Fresh, and while it was much faster to make than the first night, I was a little perturbed by a few things. First, this recipe called for half of almost every ingredient included in its little box, except in the case of the tomato paste. That came in a giant tube, and the recipe called for a half teaspoon. Now, I’m not complaining that I now have a giant tube of tomato paste that I feel like I didn’t pay for, it just seems odd. Also, half an onion, half of the can of tomatoes, half of the black beans… It was a little weird storing those things when I was done cooking. It also called for only half of the red bell pepper, but the one they sent us was TINY, so I used the whole thing – and I was glad I did. The burritos would have felt empty without them.

WP_20160125_005

It all went together very easily. The times seemed stretched – my filling came together and reduced MUCH quicker than the recommended time, but it worked out well and was tasty. Nothing wrong with caramelized onions, ever.

WP_20160125_007

The thing that bothered me most about this recipe, though, is that it called for a stick blender. I don’t feel like that’s an appliance that a lot of people who are using a service like Hello Fresh have. I don’t have one, and I’m not unfamiliar with cooking. And the substitute for a stick blender? “Just mash it with a fork.” I’m sorry, onions, no matter how beautifully caramelized, don’t mash with a fork. Nor with a masher, as it turns out. So, while the photos on the recipe card show this beautiful bean paste that you spread on the tortillas, what I had was this:

WP_20160125_008

Lovely!

All of that being said, the burritos were quite tasty. I have a tendency to forget salt at various steps, so they were bland, but that was 100% my fault. It was well seasoned otherwise, and the slightly-crunchy peppers and burritos after baking a few minutes were an awesome compliment to to the mushy beans. Also, there was cheese, which I always like.

WP_20160125_009 - Copy

My official burrito roller. Because I. just. can’t. I’ve tried, I can’t.

The salad was simple, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and delicious. And this one was done closer to the suggested 30 minute prep time – about 45 minutes for me. With the leftover ingredients, I will be making this recipe again!

WP_20160125_011

Husband is making tonight’s installation. I have to say, I’m pretty excited. Report to follow!

Hello, Fresh!

So, my lovely sister sent me a $40 promo code for Hello Fresh, which is one of those recipe box delivery services. With the discount, it’s a killer deal, so I decided to try it out. (Side note: want a promo code? Tell me! I can send you one!) It worked out really well, being the end of the month, this forced us to NOT go out to eat this week, thus, ending the month with more money in our bank account and fewer calories consumed.

I made our first meal last night. It was Pescado Veracruz with Olive Ragout, Burst Tomatoes, and Basmati Rice. Big fancy name, but not too bad to prepare. Everything comes in a cute little box (except the fish itself, it was separate), ready to use.

WP_20160124_009

I loved the cute little olive packets. In fact, the olives were my second favorite part of this dish. The recipe was supposed to take about 30 minutes to prepare – it ended up taking me close to an hour. It didn’t feel like I could really do more than one thing at once for most of it, which slowed me down. But, part of that could also have been that I was unfamiliar with the recipe. Also, slicing olives takes a while.

WP_20160124_012

Cute little sliced olives in the ragout.

We also agreed (we being husband and me) that it was a little rice-heavy, but that could have been for a number of reasons: presentation, fullness factor, to soak up the sauce. It was portioned well, though, and we were both satisfied (not stuffed) at the end of dinner. Also, the house smelled fantastic.

WP_20160124_015

BURST TOMATOES!

Can we talk about burst tomatoes for a second? I didn’t even know these were a thing, but holy shit, they are so good. It was just grape tomatoes tossed in a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. I’m going to find other ways to use them. I must.

WP_20160124_011

Oops.

While the oven was preheating, the kitchen started to smell funny. Then I couldn’t find one of my baking sheets, and asked the husband if he’d seen it. He turned on the oven light and said, “Well, there’s one in the oven.” Ooops. That’s the pan I put under the Pecan Pie Bread Pudding the other day. And that’s burnt, stinky sugar. Thankfully, the oven fan and the delicious smell of the ragout were able to combat the smell and it didn’t last long. Still, go me.

InstagramCapture_729a4c08-0406-4f21-b076-cc1d3feab7e9

Hooray for Instagram making my photos prettier!

The finished product was quite tasty. I’d definitely make it again, especially now that I’ve made it once and I feel like it would go faster. Or maybe it wouldn’t, because I’d have to spend the extra time portioning things out that was done for me this time? Hard to say. Either way, it was a good dinner.

Oh, and do you see any parsley sprinkled on that lovely dish? No? Me either. Because when I walked back into the kitchen after we ate to put my dish in the sink, it was still there, on the cutting board. I’d forgotten to sprinkle it. Oh well. Sorry parsley.

WP_20160124_020

Someone please donate to the “Re-do Courtney’s Kitchen” fund so my kitchen doesn’t look so bland.

Tonight we’re having the recipe Jamie Oliver put together for Hello Fresh this week, Cool Mexican Bean Wraps. More on those tomorrow!

My cat has the right idea.

I’m in a bit of a funk today (rainy Saturday, plans de-railed, etc.), so we’ll see if thinking about food helps.

I made this recipe last weekend for the Seahawks game with friends. It’s decadent and wonderful. And something I would never make for a group smaller than 6. Please allow me to introduce you to Pecan Pie Bread Pudding.

Initially, I was apprehensive of this recipe. The post I got it from is questionable: her photos are obviously from two different sources, and her ingredient list doesn’t match the photo of ingredients she included (half and half vs. heavy cream), so I was worried the pudding wouldn’t turn out. But, oh buddy, it did.

WP_20160117_007

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding

1 loaf day-old French bread (approx 16 oz – I think mine was closer to 19, though)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt (I actually forgot this)
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped (leave a few whole for the top!) (I used Trader Joe’s roasted salted, probably why we didn’t miss the salt I forgot)

Depending on how soft/hard your bread is, cube it and leave out overnight to stale. I did, but I don’t think it would always be necessary.

WP_20160116_004

SORRY it’s crooked!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×11 pan.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, half and half, vanilla, and sugar. Carefully add the cubed bread and stir it a little bit to make sure all the bread is nicely coated. Let this lovely little mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.

WP_20160117_004

Meanwhile, mix the butter, brown sugar, and pecans with a fork. It’ll be crumbly and wonderful.

Once the bread is nice and soaked, pour half of the mixture into the 9×11 pan. Top that with half of the brown sugar pecan mixture, then the other half of the bread. Go ahead and dump all of the liquid in with it – it’ll keep the pudding nice and moist. Top with the rest of the brown sugar pecans, then add some whole pecans on top for decoration. My pan was full – enough that I put a cookie sheet below it in the oven to catch overflow and was glad I did.

WP_20160117_005

Bake for 45-55 minutes (I did 55). It will come out golden brown and your kitchen will smell amazing. If you eat it right away, it may be a bit wiggly in the middle still – it will set as it cools. We waited until half time to eat, and it was warm and perfect. Much better than the first half of the Seahawks game.

I like just about everything I make, and I can say this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I’m not even a huge pecan pie fan, and this was just scrumptious. With 7 people and bigger-than-we-should-have servings, we had about a third of the pan left, and it’s heated up well as leftovers this week. Make this recipe. You won’t regret it.

WP_20160117_007

 

Meatless Monday

So, I have to admit: this recipe is crazy easy. We had it at a friend’s house during a day of board gaming – they have one of those amazing tables that has the green felty material for gaming UNDER the panels that make it a real dining room table. So anyway. I requested this soup recipe, and the friend sent me a picture of the recipe card, which I thought was amazing. That’s what I love most about the internet, and Pinterest in particular: everyone’s recipe cards are now just a search away. Everyone’s favorite recipe that Grandma used to make is easily share-able, no longer an inconvenience to re-write or even to type and send. Does it take away some of the sacredness of those recipes? I don’t know – my family didn’t have any of those sacred recipes, but I feel like it would actually make them MORE precious to know that THE INTERNET appreciates them as much as your family does. What a compliment!

Anyway, back to the soup. It’s ridiculously easy, and equally as good. It’s a dump-and-heat recipe, which you can scoff at if you wish, but for my first day back at school after Christmas break, it was perfect.
The downside: I only took one picture, and it was after husband and I had eaten and I was deciding if I wanted to write about it or not. I don’t feel like we’ll be missing much without photos, though – like I said, dump-and-heat.

 

Taco Soup
Approx. 6 servings? I’ll let you know in a few days when we finish it.

15 oz can pinto beans
15 oz can kidney beans
15 oz can diced tomatoes
11 oz can Mexicorn (I had never heard of this, but found it in my tiny grocery story. Top shelf!)
7 oz can chopped green chiles
1 quart tomato juice
12 oz bag Quorn ground meat substitute*
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, etc.

WP_20160104_001

*When our friend made this for us, that’s what she used, and it’s what I used tonight. It’s lovely. I actually like the texture of it better than ground meat. HOWEVER, on the recipe card, it also notes that you CAN use 2 lbs ground beef or turkey. But I definitely recommend Quorn.

And that’s that. Try it. Trust me.

 

In other news: it snowed yesterday and this morning, and we have attempted a few fires in our fireplace. The first one was successful, but it was just a starter log, and therefore didn’t really put off much heat. We bought firewood last night and tried to make a bigger fire, but the wood was damp. It appears to still be so tonight; the fires we started lasted a little longer, but has now fizzled out. And I should have been paying closer attention to the Dr. Who episode that husband has started.

Happy Monday!

Look! A new thing!

A blog! I started a blog! Finally!

Now, what to do with it. Initially, I wanted a food blog. A place to take pictures and post recipes I love and disasters to laugh at. And then I started thinking that it doesn’t have to just be about food, I could include some of my running escapades, as well. And then, well, what about the rest of my life? Why not?

So, a little bit of everything it is. But, maybe primarily food. Because who doesn’t like that?

 

To start, a no-fail recipe I made for NYE – warm, cheesy bean dip. Yes, I did intentionally plan this as the first recipe I would photograph and post on a blog because I knew I couldn’t screw it up. Also, because cheesy bean dip is one of my favorite things. Well, really, any dip. And anything with cream cheese. And this recipe is both of those things. Winning!

Disclaimer: the lighting in my kitchen is currently terrible. We have a nipple light (YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT DON’T YOU!) in which one of the bulbs constantly doesn’t work, and sub-par lighting elsewhere (I use my stove light a lot). Also, I’m using my cell phone camera, because I haven’t figured out how to bake usable money yet.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, and modified it slightly. The original is here. But I like mine better. 🙂

Cheesy Bean Dip
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 cans refried beans (16 oz each)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 small can diced green chiles, drained
2 cups shredded cheese, Monterrey jack and cheddar
Tortilla or corn chips for dipping

Oven: 350 degrees F
Pan: 9×13, sprayed with non-stick
Bake time: 25-30 minutes

Mix the cream cheese and sour cream (I used low-fat versions of both) together. I used a hand mixer – it was a good idea that I do not regret.

WP_20151231_003

Add the refried beans and chiles and mix it up again. I used one can of non-fat beans, one can of low-sodium. I looked for the kind that has chiles mixed in already, but I was at the tiny grocery close to our house and they didn’t have them. They would work swimmingly in this recipe. Go nuts.

WP_20151231_006

This was one can of chiles. Two cans would not be a bad idea, if that’s your thing.

Then add the taco seasoning and do the final mix. I used a packet of taco seasoning this time because, well, it was easy. For other recipes and for this one in the future, I usually use a taco seasoning that I buy at a local spice shop – but I was running low, and had the packet, so I just did it. It happens.
This would also be really good with chipotle seasoning. I’m definitely doing that next time.

WP_20151231_007

Once it’s all mixed together, spread it in the 9×13 pan. Woo rubber spatula time!

WP_20151231_008

mmm cream cheesy beany goodness.

Here is where I really deviated from the original recipe. I halved the cheese amount. HALVED IT. USED LESS. The original called for 4 cups, and I bought that much. But as I was sprinkling it on, there was just so MUCH. I even had my husband look, and he agreed. I ended up putting on almost 3 cups, but even that was a bit much when all was said and done and we were eating it. Stick with two. Shred it yourself if you’re ambitions; I was not. I found delightful pre-packaged bags of shredded cheddar and Monterrey jack. I don’t think I’d ever noticed that combination before, but it was the same price as if I’d bought the bricks and shredded them myself, so I went with it.

WP_20151231_009

Stick it in the oven and bake it for 25-30 minutes. I did the full 30, but my oven tends to take the full time + on most things. It came out beautiful and melty and just slightly brown around the edges.

WP_20151231_014

And then I had to put the lid on it and put it in a warm carrier (THIS one it’s amazing!) and not eat it for a few hours. Torture. We had two shin-digs to attend last night, and the cheesy bean-y goodness was for the second. But it was still delicious. So much so that I forgot to take any photos of it while we were eating it.

 

And that, folks, is my first contribution to the world of food-blogging. And blogging in general. Feedback is whole-heartedly welcome.

Happy 2016!