Fresh Spinach Dip (lower salt)

I like spinach dip, but I never liked the texture using frozen spinach. Using fresh spinach is fantastic. I also wanted to ditch the Ranch dressing mix to try out making a lower salt version. This could be spiced up any way you like–even add salt if you’re not trying to cut back on it. Or if you like the usual spinach dip recipe, I think fresh spinach would be great in that, too!

Fresh Spinach Dip

  • Servings: 6-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 8 ounce bag fresh spinach (I used baby)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayo (I used Kraft with olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Zesty Garlic Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper

Fresh Spinach DipChop the spinach. This will take the most time. Chop in small batches and chop as fine as you can. You’ll have some bigger pieces but don’t worry. It adds texture. Put the chopped spinach in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix all the other ingredients until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings if you like.

Add sour cream mixture to the spinach and stir until everything is well mixed. Makes about 3 cups.

Tips
Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors incorporate.

Serve in a Kings Hawaiian bread bowl. Or make little dip sandwiches with the hawaiian bread buns.

Mix this dip with some cooked pasta for a different take on pasta salad.

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More Herbs, Less Salt Day

herbsThere seems to be a food holiday for everything! August 29 is More Herbs, Less Salt day. This seems like an appropriate holiday for me to observe.

As I wrote earlier, I’ve had to cut way back on my sodium intake. It’s not easy. I guess because after so many years of cooking for myself, I thought it’d be nice to make it easier. But sadly, shortcuts usually require processed foods. There’s no getting around it–a reduced/low sodium diet requires a lot more cooking. In addition, I really LIKE canned soups and Ramen!

But I digress.

I think the day should be expanded to include spices. I seem to be more of a spice user than a herb user. When I got the idea of writing this post I started looking up information about herbs and spices and it’s a mind boggling rabbit hole of people trying to define what is an herb (generally a leaf) or a spice (generally made from dried parts of a plant like bark or seeds). And then where does garlic fit in? The experts just made me tired.

So for More Herbs, Less Salt day I plan to make garlic chicken in the crock pot. It may not be an herb but garlic sure is tasty. Basically I just chuck a chicken into the crock pot. I add a bit of water because I also want to have broth as a by-product. Then add an onion cut into wedges. Finally, add about 20 (or more) cloves of peeled garlic. That’s right. I said 20 or more. The garlic isn’t overpowering. In fact, it mellows out and makes a nice rich flavor. You can fish out the garlic cloves and mash them up and stir them into rice or potatoes, too.

Once the chicken is done I generally debone it for use in various recipes. I save the cooking liquid in the freezer to use for cooking rice or making gravy. Sometimes if I’m in a cooking mode, I’ll put the bones back in the crock pot with more water and cook up another batch of broth to save. I wring everything I can out of that poor chicken!

How will you celebrate More Herbs, Less Salt day?

Red Velvet Cake from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

Red Velvet Cake

My birthday was the other day and I dearly love Red Velvet Cake. So the birthday cake was this luscious creation from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. I wasn’t sure how this would work out since it’s the heat of summer and the shop is several states away from me. But it did not disappoint!

The cake arrived frozen, packed in a styrofoam cooler and surrounded by dry ice. It came more quickly than we expected so it went into the freezer at home until 3 days before we were going to eat it. Those three days it lived in the fridge, and was taken out a few hours before lunch on the day.

Even after freezing, shipping and thawing, this cake was outstanding. The cake itself was soft and pillowy–like eating a cloud. And the cake didn’t taste of food coloring which a lot of bought Red Velvet cakes do. The frosting was a lightly sweet cream cheese that was smooth and creamy. It was decorated with crumbled cake on top and chopped pecans all around the bottom.

I’ve eaten Red Velvet cake made by many people from many bakeries and home kitchens and I think this might be the best one I’ve ever had. As a person who doesn’t tend to buy really expensive food items, it’s a pricy cake. But I feel it is worth every penny because the cake is so rich a little bit goes a long way!

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is fast becoming one of my favorite places to get special treats. I’ve ordered two other items from them. The first was the Praline Cheesecake. It’s a creamy cheesecake with the perfect texture enrobed in a pecan praline shell. My word. The only thing that could possibly add to this cheesecake would be chocolate, but that might be overkill to be honest! As with the cake, a tiny piece went a long long way!

The other thing I ordered from them was a box of Pecan Logs. I love these things and they’re getting harder and harder to find in stores. And the ones I do find are small and the nougat inside leaves something to be desired. But not these! Oh no. The five rolls in the box each weigh 7 ounces. The nougat is soft and pillowy with a nice vanilla flavor. The caramel is creamy and the pecans are perfectly fresh.

I’m not an affiliate or anything for Savannah’s Candy Kitchen but I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a special treat for an occasion or for themselves! I shared the birthday cake but I didn’t share the other things. Not sorry!

Veggie Pasta Salad

Veggie Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 12-15
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2.5 cups dry macaroni
  • 12 ounces fresh green beans cut into 3rds
  • 1 red bell pepper diced (or any color)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (or use green onions)
  • 1 can black olives (I used reduced sodium)
  • 1 1 can dark red kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Mayo with olive oil

Veggie Pasta SaladCook macaroni according to package directions. Add beans the last three minutes of cooking time. Rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly.

Mix the macaroni and veggies. Add the vinegar, mayo and olive oil. Mix well.

Tips
This makes a LOT. Great for a potluck. It can easily be halved.

If you don’t like a mayo style salad, this tastes just as good by increasing the oil and vinegar and using that as the sole dressing. Much lighter that way I think. You could even use a bottled oil and vinegar dressing.

This is fairly low in sodium, and half of it comes from the mayo! The whole recipe has 3228mg of sodium, and 1524mg of it is from the mayo.

Nacho Average Taters

I whipped up these tasty taters today! In the recipe I’ll list what I did to get the ones shown, but really, you can use your imagination with these. This batch is surprisingly low salt–I didn’t add salt but you certainly can if you want to!

Nacho Taters

  • Servings: sixish
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoned pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 green onions, chopped including green parts
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Nacho potatoesSlice your potatoes how you like. I used a wedge cut–about 8 wedges per potato. I think they’re easier to eat that way. Place potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 15 minutes or until just barely fork tender.

Drain potatoes and toss with the olive oil and seasonings. Spread out on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle on the chopped onion followed by the cheese (so the cheese keeps the onions from burning).

Bake at 350F until cheese is nice and browned–about 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with a little more cheese if you like. Serve with sour cream or other condiments if desired.

Tips
You could use any toppings you like on these. Some cooked black beans might be nice. Or some bacon or cooked crumbled ground beef. Likewise you can change up the seasonings to suit your taste.

Powdered Peanut Butter? Really?

PB2 with chocolateYes. Really! I’d been reading about this stuff for awhile. The brand I was looking at (and ended up buying) is PB2, manufactured by Bell Plantation. Basically, it’s peanuts turned into a powder which you then mix up with water to make peanut butter.

Now, for you purists, it’s not got all the stuff that peanut butter usually has, but that’s what made me try it. For a two-tablespoon serving the PB2 with Chocolate (of course that’s what I got) has 45 calories, 1 gram of fat, and only 70 mg of sodium. Real peanut butter has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat and 140 mg of sodium.

Why would you want this product if you aren’t concerned about any dietary issues (sodium in my case)? Because you can mix it up to any consistency you like! I mix it up pretty thin and use it as a dip for apples, crackers or cookies. It spreads great on bread mixed thinner. I like it because you mix up what you need right then. I’m not tempted to have a walk by tasting since I love peanut butter!

Another use for it is to add a peanut butter flavor to smoothies or even desserts you make. No messing with that sticky peanut butter! Stir it into some ice cream! Tasty.

The flavor is a little milder than full bore peanut butter. The chocolate variety tastes like a mild peanut butter cup. There’s no aftertaste or odd undertaste.

PB2 is a little more expensive than regular peanut butter, but comparable in price to all-natural peanut butter or specialty peanut butters. My Kroger had it on sale for $2 recently and I stockpiled a few containers!

Yummy Baked Apples

These are so easy!! They taste like Apple Crisp without all the slicing and layering!

Yummy Baked Apples

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 apples cut in half and cored
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons butter (or margarine) melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon if you like

Baked ApplesMix everything but the apples together. Top the apple halves with the mixture. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until the topping is brown.

Tips
I baked these in a table top convection oven. If you use a regular oven increase the time to about 30 minutes or until topping is brown. If you use a small toaster oven the time might be less.