Quick and Easy Strawberry Fruit Dip

easy cream cheese strawberry fruit dipSome of my best creations come out of the necessity to repurpose kids’ lunch leftovers.

Okay, not really. But this great idea was born from just that.

I had already planned to make a simple fruit dip with cream cheese and maple syrup and vanilla. But then … leftover frozen strawberries emerged from not just one … but two lunchboxes.

leftover strawberries in the magic bullet

Because they didn’t have time to eat them.

And so this strawberry fruit dip was born. And the world became a better place. Well, our little food world, anyway … for a few days at least.

This is so incredibly easy, even the least-talented of home chefs could make it. I promise.

I used a Magic Bullet, but you can use a blender or a food processor.

This is really one of those wing-it, suit-it-to-your-tastes kind of recipe, so consider that as you make it. We tend to like our strawberry fruit dip on the less-sweet side, so if you like yours on the more-sweet side, you may need to add some more syrup.

Quick and Easy Strawberry Fruit Dip
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 5 frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor or Magic Bullet and blend until smooth.
  2. Adjust sweetness to your taste.
  3. Serve with fruit for dipping (my favorite was the galia melon).
  4. Share. This is so good you'll want to eat it all yourself.
Notes
If you don't have lunch-leftover strawberries to repurpose, you can use fresh. The dip will likely be a bit thicker.

What do you do with your kids lunch leftovers if they don’t eat them as a snack?

Easy Protein-Packed Pudding

What do you do when your fridge looks like this? …

a full real food fridge

… and you just bought a gallon of milk (because you were at the store and you knew that you’d be out before you were back at the store) but still have about a quarter gallon in the old milk jug and can’t fit both gallon jugs in there?

Not a dilemma you often encounter because you have another fridge? Lucky.

Well, in this particular instance, on this particular day, I decided to make pudding. Not just any pudding … the best pudding! As proclaimed by my 3 toughest critics – one of whom has claimed, adamantly and without question, that he does not like pudding. But when he saw it, looking all creamy and delicious sitting there in front of him, the temptation was more than he could bear.

easy creamy protein-packed pudding

Can you blame him?

They ate it all, leaving me with the bowl. And I’m not too proud to tell you that I licked it. Clean. Every last delicious pudding morsel.

Fortunately, this is so easy that I can make some more.

Easy Protein-Packed Pudding
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup (or more) chocolate chips (I use this brand)
  • dash salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, egg yolks, maple syrup, and corn starch.
  2. Whisk completely to blend in the egg yolks and dissolve any clumps of corn starch.
  3. Place over low-medium heat.
  4. As the milk warms, whisk every few minutes, making sure to scrape the edges of the pot (that's where the corn starch likes to collect). Some people will tell you that you have to whisk this constantly until it thickens... snore. Who has the time for that? I usually just give it a whisk every few minutes while it warms up.
  5. When it starts to thicken slightly, whisk constantly. This is a good time to catch up on email or Facebook, provided that you are an expert at the one-hand whisk.
  6. Whisk until thickened and just starting to bubble.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Stir in vanilla, chocolate chips, and salt.
  9. Pour it into a separate bowl or smaller serving bowls, cover, and stick it in the fridge. If you cover it and it won't get that hard film on top. If you like the hard film, go ahead and just stick it in there.
Notes
To make vanilla pudding, leave out the chocolate chips. This seems obvious, but just in case, I figured I'd let you know. You could also add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, but we thought it was pretty delicious without it.

You can make this with tapioca or arrowroot but they don't seem to hold the firmness in the fridge as well as cornstarch. And you'll need to increase the amount if you choose to use either of them.

This will start to separate after a couple of days in the fridge. I usually pour them into popsicle molds and make pudding pops at this point.

If you don’t make pudding, what do you do when the fridge is jam-packed and you’ve got groceries that need to go in there?

Nut Butter Snack Cake

nut butter snack cake

Snack cake is a frequent visitor to our house after school.  As you can see, it never stays for very long.  I made this right before I left to pick up the kids and when we got home, most of it was gone in 3.2 seconds.

I find this is a good – and SUPER easy – filler for when we’re running out the door somewhere right after school.  Big britches doesn’t love it, but he eats it.  The No Fruit Guy of course scarfs it up  – he would probably eat the whole pan if I let him.  I always let them know that they have to have a fruit or veggie with it, listing the usual and customary options (bananas, apples, grapes, carrots).  And of course, they jump for joy and clamor to the fridge pushing and shoving each other out of the way – a real fight to get there first.  Yeah, no.  They somehow always “forget” or “don’t have time.”

Of course, I know that I should “offer those things first” (said in the most irriating of imitating voices).  Here’s the thing: when we have a quick turnaround in the afternoon, I don’t have the time or enough sanity to fight that battle.  And they HAVE to eat.  My children + starving = veeeeerrrrrrryyyyyyy U.G.L.Y. Which means that I then turn into that mom.  And I do my best to keep her contained inside the walls of our house.  You’re welcome.

This recipe was born from this recipe for Nut Butter Brownies that I found years ago.  I modified it to make it a bit less expensive to make and to make it less nut heavy.

Snack Cake
 
Author:
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • ½ c almond butter
  • ¼ c honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c butter, melted
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 c spelt (or ¾ c whole wheat or sprouted spelt)
  • ½ tsp soda
  • ¼ tsp powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks (or chocolate chips)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond butter, honey, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.
  3. Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour into greased 8x8 pan.
  5. Sprinkle chocolate chunks (or chips) on top. With a spatula or a spoon, gently press the chunks into the batter. (I find that this helps the chips from falling off.)
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Someday I’ll make this and they’ll run in, push it aside, to eat the giant plate of freshly sliced peppers that are also waiting on the counter.

Sigh.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Coconut Oil Popcorn

popcorn pot

I know what you’re thinking.  “What on earth is THAT, Tracy?” (Pardon the poor shot quality – my dad was helping his girl out and took this for me.)

Well, friends, that is the best popcorn pot on earth.  You see, popcorn was a staple in our house when I was a kid.  And this is the pot that my mom has used for as long as I can remember.

This pot has likely cranked out millions kernels of deliciousness over the years.  I’m not sure what we ingredients we used before I had memory, but when Orville Redenbacher came out with his specially-formulated butter-flavored popcorn oil, that became our go-to.  Combined with his big ole tub o’ corn, we were a full-on Redenbacher house.

Ah, fond, GMO-free memories. So beautiful…

And then there was the great topping debate.  Redenbacher’s butter-flavored salt or McCormick’s Season-All?  I was always on team butter.  I think as time passed, I became its lone member.

After I left the nest, I married a man who does not share my love of the popped corn.  I would make it and he would nibble here and there, but he just wouldn’t eat it by the handful – as it is truly meant to be eaten.  There’s something about the popcorn experience that requires someone with whom to share it.   And so, my popcorn eating days waned.  And over time, they disappeared altogether.

Makes me a bit sad, really, to consider my sacrifice.  All those years with no popcorn.  Years, friends, that I can never get back…Sniff…Sniff.

When my children arrived, they fell in love with the bagged cheese popcorn.  Smartfood (a puzzling moniker as it is in fact, not smart food).  It wasn’t a regular thing, though.  No matter how far we fell down the processed food hole, there was always something about powdered cheese that didn’t sit well with me.  I mean, think about it, how do you turn a brick of cheese into powder?  It just isn’t right, friends.  But my kids loved it.  Mr. Selective could probably have eaten an entire Costco-sized bag in one sitting, had I let him.  And he flat refused to eat any popcorn that wasn’t fully cheesed-up.

Until, that is, I formulated this most awesome, deliciously perfect, you-could-eat-an-entire-potful-in-one-sitting recipe for popcorn.  Mr. Selective can’t get enough.  And even He Who Doesn’t Like Popcorn has been known to indulge when I make it.  Which is, sadly, not as often as it used to be.

coconut oil and ghee popcorn from change of plates

And fortunately, it is ever so simple.

Coconut Oil Popcorn
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½-1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ c. non-GMO, preferably organic, popping corn
Instructions
  1. Drop oil and a few kernels into the bottom of a heavy-duty stock pot (I use a 6qt) .
  2. Heat on medium to medium high, with pot lid cracked to let out steam. I have read that some cover the pot with aluminum foil and poke holes in the top. You can if you want, but that makes the next step a bit trickier.
  3. When the few kernels start to pop, dump the rest of the popping corn in and shake the pot so that the kernels evenly cover the bottom of the pan and are fully coated in oil.
  4. Make sure that you lift the lid slightly and leave it cracked for the duration of popping.
  5. When the popping begins to slow, turn the stove off. I usually leave the pot on for about 30 more seconds and then move it to a cool burner until the popping stops.
  6. Dump popcorn into a bowl and season as you like. We like ours served simply, with just a little pink salt.

No go forth and pop some corn!

And try to resist the temptation to keep the whole bowl for yourself.

Because the popcorn experience really is meant to be shared.