Creamy Avocado Ranch Dip

This is not only yummy with chips or veggies, but makes a great sandwich spread as well! 

This is one of those dump it, blend it, chill it dips that are a cinch to make.  And it can be made a day ahead so it’s great for party planning too!

Creamy Ranch Avocado Dip
Serves 4
Fresh lime and herbs make this avocado dip a step above your normal guacamole! In addition to a great dip, this makes a fabulous sandwich spread in place of your normal condiments.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 ripe avocados
  2. 1 cup sour cream (can substitute Greek yogurt if you like)
  3. ¾ cup mayonnaise
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1/3 of a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  6. 2 tablespoons lime juice
  7. 1 Tablespoon dry ranch seasoning mix
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the avocado in half, take out the pit, and scoop the avocado meat out of the shell.
  2. Place the avocado and all other ingredients into a food processor.
  3. Blend until combined well. It should be smooth and creamy.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use, one hour or up to 2 days.
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Cheesy Chicken Flatbread with Mushrooms and Bacon

This quick and simple meal or snack is ready in less than half an hour. Cheesy chicken flatbread with bacon and mushrooms uses frozen Naan to make a quick meal.

This is one of those things you can throw together really quickly if you have leftover chicken to use up.  Frozen Naan bread and a few staple ingredients paired with just a few minutes in the oven make a great, versatile, meal or snack.

 

All you need is:

Frozen Naan bread

leftover chopped chicken

cheddar and Gouda cheeses

sliced mushrooms

cooked crumbled bacon

 

The Simple Assembly:

You can use whatever amounts of these you like.  If you love mushrooms, layer them on thick.  If you don’t like bacon (what?!) just leave it out.  Don’t have leftover chicken?  These would be great with the just the cheeses, mushrooms and bacon. 

Just put the Naan on a baking sheet and set the oven to whatever temperature the package directs you to. 

Throw the Naan in and bake according to package directions.  Then layer the ingredients on top, finishing with the cheeses.  Put it back in the oven until the cheese melts. 

It’s ready to eat that quickly.  Seriously, less than 20 minutes.

 

Sweet Beet Sparkler

So I made this new juice yesterday and asked my kids if they wanted to try it.  My youngest daughter (8) said, “Oh!  You made us a Valentine juice!”  It took me a minute to figure out why she thought that.  I haven’t been getting enough sleep so my mind is slow.

“Right!”  I said after a beat.  “I’m that fun mom that makes Valentine drinks!”  I’ll just let her think that. 😉  Truth is, it was just coincidence that this drink idea popped in my head on the way to the grocery store.  It happens to be red and it’s the day before Valentine’s Day.

beet juice

I’m not going to the effort to make a recipe card for this one.  It’s so easy.  It does require a juicer though.  Although I do have one friend with no juicer who drinks green juices every morning.  She just puts all her ingredients in a blender with water then strains them and squeezes the pulp through a mesh bag.   However you want to do it.

You should also know that I purchase my produce mostly in organic form.  So I scrub it well but don’t peel it.  (Except for the orange, I peel that) If you use non-organic veggies and fruits for this you will want to peel those beets and carrots. 

for the juicer

Here’s what you need:

1 medium beet, quartered (unless your juicer can take them whole)

1 large carrot cut in half

2 oranges, peeled

2 sweet apples, quartered

1 bottle unflavored sparkling water

 

That’s it!  Just juice it all.  Then fill a glass with ice.  Pour juice in one half to two thirds of the way up the glass (depending on how strong you want it) and top it the rest of the way with sparkling water.  Stir and enjoy.  And if your kids think it’s a special Valentine juice, you can add in a cute Valentine swizzle stick. 

Kale and Sausage Soup

This is one of those soups that I will make just for myself – not because no one else likes it – but because I don’t want to share.   I’ll get a whole pot going, then not tell anyone.  I’ll have it for lunch every day until I run out of it.  It’s hearty enough for my winter appetite and chock full of kale (and some other veggies) for a nutritional boost.

An added benefit is that it is fairly low maintenance.  In less than 30 minutes this can be on your table.  And there’s time in there to toast up some crunchy bread to go with it.

Kale and Sausage Soup
Serves 4
A hearty winter soup chock full of nutrition. Kale and sausage make this soup filling as well as warm.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  3. 1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  4. 1 heaping Tablespoon minced garlic
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  7. 1 carrot, scrubbed and diced
  8. 1 large onion, diced
  9. 1 russet or gold baking potato, peeled and diced
  10. 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  11. 1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed and rough chopped
  12. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  13. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  14. 6 cups chicken broth - low sodium or homemade
  15. salt and pepper to taste
  16. shredded Parmesan for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in large soup pot. When the oil is hot, crumble in the sausage and continue to break it apart with a wooden spoon while it cooks.
  2. When sausage is brown, add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, carrot, onion, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste and cook another minute. Add kale, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add about half a cup of the broth and deglaze the pan. Then add in the rest of the stock.
  3. Bring it to a simmer and it bubble lightly for about 10 minutes.
  4. ladle into bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Goes well with crusty bread.
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Creamy Carrot Thyme Soup

 

I don’t even know where to start with this soup.  Seriously.  It’s creamy sweetness in a healthy warm package.  It’s winter well-being and luxury rolled into one pleasant bowl.  It’s a balance between natural sweetness from carrots and almost caramelized onions, and savory with herbs and garlic.  It’s topped off with a velvety ranch whipped cream to add yet another layer of yumminess.  It’s adapted from a recipe on delish.com that I found on Pinterest.  I’ve made it 3 times to figure out the perfect blend of everything.

It starts with fresh from the garden carrots.  Just kidding.  While those would be fabulous, these are fresh from Trader Joes. 😉  Peel and chop, unless they’re organic (like these) and you can just scrub and chop.

carrots

Then dice a large onion and saute that in butter.

When the onions are beginning to caramelize, add the carrots in and let it go a bit more.add in carrots

 

After about 5 minutes the carrots will start to soften.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add some chicken broth or vegetable broth, a bay leaf and dried thyme and let it simmer until the carrots are mash-able.  It took me almost 30 minutes. 

add in broth

Let it cool just enough to blend in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it. 

While it’s cooling you can make your whipped cream and store it in the fridge.  Just add your homemade ranch dressing to some whipping cream and whip until soft peak stage.

ranch mixI think I posted where I get my recipe for ranch in yesterday’s post.

Return the soup to the pan and gently reheat.  Then ladle into bowls and swirl in a dollop of the ranch whipped cream.

Creamy Carrot Thyme Soup
Serves 2
A warm and creamy carrot soup with a balance of naturally sweet and savory.
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Prep Time
40 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
40 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 1 Tablespoon salt (you might need more depending on your broth)
  4. fresh ground pepper
  5. 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  6. 1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and diced
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  9. 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  10. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. 1 Tablespoons homemade ranch dressing mix
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in soup pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion. Stir and cook until onion is soft. Lightly salt and pepper.
  3. Add carrots to the onion and cook until the carrots are starting to soften and onions are caramelized. Put in garlic and cook 1 more minute.
  4. Gently pour in broth and bring to a simmer. Add thyme and bay leaf and cook until the carrots are mashable, anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on your stove and heat level.
  5. Meanwhile, put whipping cream in bowl with ranch dressing and whip until it reaches soft peak stage.
  6. When carrots are soft, taste and adjust salt and pepper. I have to add quite a bit of salt because I use homemade, non salted, chicken broth. Remove bay leaf.
  7. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture to your desired consistency, or let it cool slightly and use a blender. You might have to work in batches for the blender.
  8. Ladle into bowl and place a dollop of whipped cream on top. Swirl slightly into the soup.
Adapted from Delish.com
Adapted from Delish.com
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Slow Cooker Taco Soup -Day 5 of 30 Days of Soups, Stews, and Chilis

This is one of those soups that whole family enjoys because it can be customized by toppings.  It’s also a crock pot soup so it makes for an easy dinner.  I even prep my toppings in the morning while the meat is browning and put them in the fridge.  That way, at dinner time, everyone is eating in less than 10 minutes!

crock pot taco soupIt starts with browning some ground beef, then adding onions.  Beyond that you dump in a bunch of canned goods from the pantry and you’re set!

A note – I use my own ranch seasoning in this recipe.  I like the recipe for the dry mix from The Crafty Blog Stalker.  I make my actual ranch dressing from this mix slightly different than her version.  The dry mix, though, is something I’ve now used a couple of years.

 

Crock Pot Taco Soup
Serves 8
Crock pot taco soup is easily adaptable to varied tastes and is a cinch to make!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
6 hr
Total Time
6 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
6 hr
Total Time
6 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground beef
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 1 can black beans
  4. 1 can kidney beans
  5. 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  6. 1 8 oz. diced green chiles
  7. 1 package taco seasoning mix (or your own mix)
  8. 2 Tablespoons dry ranch mix
  9. Toppings you like: shredded lettuce, corn chips, sour cream, grated cheddar, sliced olives, chopped green onions, hot sauce, etc...
Instructions
  1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet. When almost brown, add diced onions and continue to saute until the onion is tender.
  2. Place the beef and onion mixture into a crock pot and add in the other ingredients, except the toppings.
  3. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
  4. Serve with topping bar.
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Toasted Corn and Avocado Soup

Day 4 of 30 Days of Soups, Stews, and Chilis is here!

I went with something totally out of my realm of normalcy with this one.  I love avocado and I love this soup! 

 

toasted corn and avocado soup

In the summer you can use fresh corn, but I used frozen this time around.  It’s creamy and flavorful.  It’s rich and lush enough to feel like you are indulging in a little something naughty, but it’s chock-full of nutrients and healthy ingredients.  It fits a Paleo and Whole30 diet and who knows what others. (Really, there are too many to keep track of.)

It starts with olive oil and onion getting sauteed in a pot.  Then add the corn and toast it.

corn onion sauteAfter the corn is toasted, add in the broth and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Then transfer it to a blender.  This is where the avocado and jalapeno come in.  *Blender tip* You know that removable piece in your blender lid?  Remove it for this.  The heat from the soup needs to escape to prevent air expansion that leads to explosive messes.

blender lidBut don’t just leave the gaping hole in the blender lid!  The soup will come up. I put a kitchen towel over it to keep the soup inside the blender, but still let the hot air escape.

blender with towel on topAt this point you’re done!  Just toast some more corn in that same pan to use as garnish.  Ladle up your soup and add garnishes on top like toasted corn, avocado slices, green onion slices, a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of EVOO….whatever sounds good. 😉

Best of all, it comes together in about 30 minutes!

Toasted Corn and Avocado Soup
Serves 4
Delicious, creamy avocado soup, chock full of nutrients!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 green onion, sliced and roots removed
  4. 2 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or fresh corn
  5. 4 cups chicken broth, I used homemade
  6. 2 large avocados, peeled and pitted
  7. 3/4 of 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and diced
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. extra avocado, lime wedges and sliced green onions for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook until onions start soften and turn slightly clear. Stir occasionally while cooking.
  2. Add 2 cups of the corn kernels and continue cooking and stirring until the corn starts to brown. Add a dash each of salt and pepper.
  3. Once onions are beginning to brown and corn is toasting, add the chicken broth. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer soup to a blender. Add avocado and jalapeno pepper. Blend until smooth, making sure the heat doesn't cause your blender lid to pop off. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper.
  5. If the soup has cooled in this process, you can add it back to the pot to heat back up. I didn't need to do this. In the same pot, Toast the other half of the corn kernels for garnish.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with toasted corn, slices of avocado, green onions, lime juice, etc....
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Our Favorite Crock Pot Chili

This has been my family’s favorite chili for years, and it has the added benefit of being a crock pot meal so you can have a great dinner ready on busy nights.  It makes a whole 5 quart slow cooker full so you can serve a large crowd, have leftovers, or freeze some for other meals (like chili baked potatoes, Cincinnati spaghetti, or chili cheese dogs or nachos).  I tend to freeze it and use it for other convenient meals, but I always leave at least 2 servings out for my and my husband’s lunch the next day.

crock pot chili

If you don’t want to use the crock pot, you can still make this, just let is simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.  You might have to add a bit of water during the second half if all the liquid is evaporating out.

Favorite Crock Pot Chili
Yields 5
Use your crock pot (slow cooker) to make a warm chili for a cold day.
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds ground beef
  2. 1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning
  3. 2 teaspoons steak seasoning
  4. 4 cans (15 ounces each) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  5. 2 large cans (28 ounces each ) diced tomatoes, undrained
  6. 1 can (4 ounce) green chiles, undrained, chopped
  7. 1 large onion, chopped
  8. 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  9. 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  10. 2 teaspoons onion powder
  11. 1 teaspoon cumin
  12. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  13. 1 teaspoon paprika
  14. 1 teaspoon oregano
  15. 1 teaspoon salt
  16. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  17. Desired toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado, sliced green onions, etc...
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the poultry and steak seasonings.
  2. When meat is no longer pink, drain and add the beef to the slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients except the toppings.
  3. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours.
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Crock Pot Garlic Ham and White Bean Soup

Crock Pot Garlic Ham and White Bean Soup
Serves 4
Leftover ham makes a great soup!
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
6 hr 20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
6 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 1 ham bone
  3. 3 cups cooked leftover ham, diced
  4. 1/3 cup minced garlic
  5. 1 large yellow onion, dice
  6. 3 carrots, diced
  7. 1 cup celery, diced
  8. 3 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  11. 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  12. 2 bay leaves
  13. 4 cups vegetable stock
  14. salt and pepper to taste
  15. Chopped fresh parsley to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Brown the ham bone in the butter until browning on all sides. During the last side, add in the garlic.
  2. When the bone is brown, add it to the crock pot with the garlic and the other ingredients.
  3. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
  4. Remove the bone and discard. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.
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I’ve always been curious about my college roommate’s favorite soup, ham and navy bean soup.  She talked about how good it was, putting in a ham bone, she’d lick her lips while talking.  I’d never had it.  I grew up in a house that didn’t eat ham.  I’d have some at friend’s houses and restaurants, but not much beyond bacon.

Croct Pot Garlic Ham and White Bean Soup

This year I decided to try it, so I set out to find a recipe.  Then I ran into a problem.  I can’t find navy beans anywhere near me.  So in this recipe I mashed up a general list of ingredients that seem to be shared by most ham and navy bean soup recipes and tinkered with them to get my own levels of each item.  I also substituted white beans for navy beans just out of necessity.

I used a leftover Christmas ham for this.  I wasn’t quite ready to make it right after Christmas, so I froze both the ham bone and the amount of chopped ham I wanted to use in this.  It worked out perfectly.

Set it, forget it, enjoy it!

Sarah’s Beef Stew

My mother in law, Sarah, makes the best beef stew.  The first time I had it, I was dating my husband and took my parents to his mom’s house for Christmas.  We’re talking travel, stay over night in their house a few days, real Christmas.  Looking back, that was rather brave of us.  We weren’t even engaged. 

Beef Stew

Anyway, she served this Christmas Eve and I remember thinking Beef stew?  As in that old fashioned food so one eats anymore?  This was long before the revival of retro dishes.  But I got schooled that night.  Not only did I love it, I couldn’t get enough.  I not only had to ask for the recipe, but I had to stop making it for a few years because I once ate so much I made myself sick on it.  True story.  Everyone around the table loved it (there were other guests that night as well) and my dad even ate the cooked carrots. 

Time has passed and I started making it again a couple of years ago, making sure I don’t eat too much and get sick again.  I’ve made a few small changes over the years to suit our family’s tastes and the types of ingredients we like to use.  The bottom line is that this is warm comfort food with layers of savory flavors that make you welcome the winter cold. 

I think part of the successful marry of flavors in this dish is the unexpected baking spices.  They sound odd, but they play with that beef like nothing I’ve had before.  I always double or triple this recipe because guess what, it freezes well too!

Beef Stew
Serves 4
Layers of savory beef and vegetable flavor in a bowl of warm comfort.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs, stew meat
  2. 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  3. 4 Cups boiling water
  4. 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  5. 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
  6. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 medium onion, sliced
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 Tablespoon salt
  10. 1 teaspoon honey
  11. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  12. 1 dash allspice
  13. 1 bag frozen stewing vegetables (it has potatoes, carrots, onions, and possibly more depending on where you buy them) - no need to thaw
  14. 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  15. 1 Tablespoon cold water
Instructions
  1. Heat butter or oil in large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Brown meat on all sides.
  2. Add everything else except for the vegetables, corn starch, and cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and let it simmer for 2 hours. Add more water if necessary.
  3. Add the stew vegetables, cover and let is cook 30 minutes more.
  4. Remove the stew chunks to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Remove bay leaves.
  5. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch into cold water and pour into stew liquid that is still in the pan. Let it heat and turn into a little bit of a gravy. Add the stew chunks back in and serve.
Adapted from from my mother-in-law's recipe
Adapted from from my mother-in-law's recipe
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