Baked Spinach Dip

Spinach Dip
Besides cucumber dip, this is my absolute favorite dip/appetizer EVER. And it’s obviously healthy since cream cheese, bacon, mayo, cheddar cheese, spinach is such a prominent ingredient. Duh. How could you go wrong with that list of ingredients? It’s really one of those things you indulge in rarely, but when you do it’s totally worth every.single.calorie.

You can bake this dip in a bread bowl or baking dish or you can throw it in the crock pot on low a few hours before serving. I have made it all three ways and I have to say my favorite is when it’s just in a baking dish. It seems to get more melty and gooey that way which is always a good thing in my opinion. If I am making this for a party where people will be eating over the course of a few hours, I either put it in the crock pot after all the ingredients have been mixed up (like stated above) or bake it in a dish then put it in the crock pot on warm.
Spinach Dip

This dip almost always graces our football gatherings…it’s kind of become a requirement and expectation.

Spinach Dip
recipe from Taste of Home The New Appetizer Cookbook

2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened (I use 1/3 less fat)
1 cup mayonnaise (I use the reduced fat olive oil kind)
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry*
1 cup (4 0z.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. dill weed
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 round loaf (1 lb.) unsliced sourdough bread
Assorted fresh vegetables
Tortilla chips

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and may until blended (I sometimes use my food processor for this to make quicker work of it). Stir in spinach, cheese, bacon, onion, dill and garlic; set aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until it’s time to bake.

2. Cut a 1 1/2-in. slice off top of bread; set aside. Carefully hollow out bottom, leaving a 1/2-in. shell. Cube removed bread and place on a baking sheet. Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown; set aside.

3. Fill bread shell with spinach dip; replace top. Place any dip that doesn’t fit in the shell in a greased baking dish. Wrap bread in a large piece of foil. Place on a baking sheet.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until dip is heated through. Cover and bake additional dip for 40-50 minutes or until heated through. Open foil carefully. Serve dip warm with veggies, reserved bread cubes and tortilla chips.

*Make sure it is really dry! After it is thawed, I put it in a kitchen towel and squeeze the heck out of it until no more liquid drips through the towel (sometimes I go through two towels). I didn’t dry it enough once and a weird green liquid collected on the top of the dip. It tasted fine but looked quite unappetizing.


Pumpkin Pie Cashews

Pumpkin Pie Cashews

I’m pretty sure these are the best mixed nuts I have ever made (although Burnt Sugar Almonds are pretty darn good). Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts so I was immediately drawn to this recipe. It originally called for a mixture of almonds and pecans but I had a big bag of cashews I wanted to use up so cashews it was. The richness of the cashews worked nicely with the sugary, buttery, spicy mixture they were doused in.

I love that these nuts weren’t baked so they make for a quick and easy snack that I almost always have the ingredients for. I have made them for several occasions  and they have been a huge hit every time. Try these out for your next fall gathering, everybody will love them!

Pumpkin Pie Cashews
recipe from The Fajdich Times

2 cups cashews (or any other nut you prefer, I have made them with almonds and they were really yummy)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt

1. Toast the nuts in a dry pan for 5 minutes over medium low heat, stirring so they don’t burn. When done, pour them into a separate container. Put all the rest of the ingredients in your hot pan, be careful with the water because it might splatter. Stir for about 2 minutes until it thickens. Pour the nuts back in the pan and stir well while cooking for 2 minutes more.

2. Pour the nuts onto a foil lined or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, spreading them out, and let sit until cooled. Keep in a sealed container.

Oven Tacos

Oven Tacos
I have never really been a big fan of ground beef tacos. I rarely had them as a kid because my mom makes a mean shredded beef that is incredibly easy so that was almost always what filled our taco shells. I surprisingly haven’t shared that recipe, I need to get on that.
Oven Tacos
Although I’m not a ground meat taco fan, I was intrigued by the name of these tacos so I had to take a closer look. They sounded a lot like a simplified version of enchiladas that you could throw together on a busy weeknight. And that’s how they tasted too. The original recipe made a large amount of tacos so I halved and tweaked it a bit to fit our tastes. These tacos were simple and required few ingredients with great results. They will be going on our regular menu rotation this fall!
Oven Tacos
Oven Tacos
recipe adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

1 lb. ground turkey
8 ounces of  canned refried beans (1/2 a can)
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 batch homemade taco seasoing (or half if you like things less spicy)
3/4 cup shredded cheese
Approximately 10-12 hard taco shells
Lettuce, salsa, sour cream, for serving

1. Brown ground turkey. Drain off any fat and add refried beans, tomato sauce, and seasoning.

2. Spoon mixture into taco shells.

3. Place filled shells into a baking pan, standing up. Sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes or until heated through.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Man do I have the perfect football food for you today! It combines two football favorites, buffalo sauce and meatballs! I don’t think it could get much better! We are Husker fans around here so every Saturday we get together with our Nebraska friends to watch the game. When we host a game I always over do it when it comes to the food. Surprise, surprise. Luckily, these meatballs come together quickly and can be made a few hours ahead of time then placed in the crock pot on warm. That gives me more time to make other food…wait, maybe it’s not a good thing that these are so easy. Somehow I always seem to make things more difficult than they need to be.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Anyway, make these meatballs for your next football gathering either as an appetizer or sandwiches. Your guest will totally love you!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
recipe from The Stir

1 pound ground chicken
1 small egg
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (depending on the size egg you use you may need to add a bit more)
2 Tbsp. wing sauce
1 Tbsp. milk
Couple dashes of salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Pub Sauce:
12 oz or 1 1/2 cups of your favorite wing sauce
3/4 cup (more or less to taste) blue cheese or ranch dressing

1. Place ground chicken in a large bowl, add in egg, breadcrumbs, wing sauce, milk, salt, pepper, and blue cheese if using. Mix it all up well with your hands.

2. Form into balls (not too big) and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large pot combine wing sauce and blue cheese or ranch dressing, heat it through, stirring often.

3. Once meatballs are out of the oven add them gently to the sauce and heat through for a bit. Serve alone or with a roll for a sandwich and enjoy!!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites
These have football season written all over them! Not only are they a perfectly portable, bite-size snack but they have all the necessary elements for game day: sweet, salty, smooth and crunchy. Yum!
Pretzel Bites
I’ve said time and time again that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is pretty much a match made in heaven for me. I also love chocolate covered pretzels so I knew when I saw these that they would be an instant favorite….and they totally were! They take a bit of time to make with the rolling freezing time and dipping but they are absolutely worth it for your next gathering! I dipped half in white chocolate and half in semi-sweet and both versions were great.
Pretzel Bites
Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
recipe from Two Tiny Kitchens

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. softened butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 bag  semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 package white almond bark (optional)

1. Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a fork or whisk, or in a stand mixer.  Add the sugars and mix to combine.  At this point if the filling will roll easily into balls without sticking to your hands you’re ready to go.  If not, add a little more of each sugar until you reach a consistency that is easy to roll.

2. Use a teaspoon measure to scoop the filling.  Roll each portion into a small ball, then sandwich them between two whole pretzels.  When all the balls are rolled and successfully sandwiched, stick the whole tray in the freezer for about half an hour.

3. Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted.  Chop the white almond bark and place in a seperate bowl then melt in 30-second intervals. Remove half of the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip half-way into the melted chocolate. Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches, dipping them into the white almond bark.  When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely.  Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.
Pretzel Bites

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding
Whenever Joel was sick growing up, his mom always made him butterscotch pudding. So when Noah had Croup, followed only days later by Hand, Mouth and Food Disease I knew pudding would be a perfect little treat that wouldn’t hurt his sour throat. He had basically been living on yogurt, smoothies and popsicles so he was very glad to indulge in a chocolate-y dessert he had never eaten before. And I think I created a monster because he totally loved it…not that I’m surprised, he’s a total and complete chocoholic.
Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate Pudding
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate (it took mine more like 30 minutes – I don’t think the water was simmering enough). Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Muffins

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Muffins
You know how Noah is a chocoholic? Well, turns out he is a peanut butter’oholic too. Whenever he sees that yummy JIF jar in the pantry he gets all hyped up and starts, first calmly, saying “butter” then he gets more and more frantic until he gets a taste of the good stuff. He loves the ‘butter!

He also thinks muffins are cupcakes so it wouldn’t be too great if he told people he had butter cupcakes for breakfast…..  Oh, I can just picture the judgemental looks I would get over that one!
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Muffins
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Muffins
recipe from Cupcakes, Muffins and More (Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

2. In another bowl, beat egg, peanut butter and milk until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in peanuts.

3. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.