Blue Cheese Dip

Blue Cheese Dip @ NancyCIf you like thick, creamy dips and blue cheese, you’ll have to try this! This Blue Cheese Dip is made with plain Greek yogurt (or you can substitute light or fat-free sour cream). I like to use fat free Greek yogurt. I know not everyone is a fan of blue cheese–in fact, people seem to either really love it or hate it. I’ve always liked it. Actually, I can’t think of any kind of cheese that I don’t like!🙂

This is a good recipe for summer, if you want to have a snack with fresh veggies. It’s good with crackers or chips, too. And it would also be yummy with something spicy like buffalo chicken wings. It’s super quick and easy to make and if you have time, you’ll want to make it a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it–for some reason, this dip seems to taste better when made ahead!

BLUE CHEESE DIP by NancyC

Makes about 1 2/3 cups (tastes best when made a day before serving)

  • 4 oz. finely crumbled blue cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) plain Greek yogurt or light sour cream (or 1/2 cup of each)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • Optional: salt and pepper to taste; you can also add in some garlic or onion powder too, if you like!

In medium size bowl, mix blue cheese crumbles with plain Greek yogurt or sour cream. Add in the lemon juice and mayonnaise, blending everything well. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Spoon mixture into serving bowl and serve or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve–it tastes best if you make it the day before serving it!

Serve with crackers, veggies, or chips. Also tastes great with spicy foods like Buffalo Chicken Wings!

So are you a fan of blue cheese too? Do you have a favorite blue cheese recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Full Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, Show and Share.

Nourishing Banana Face Cream

Nourishing Banana Face Cream @ NancyC

One of the things I love about this DIY face cream is that it’s so simple and easy–and has just 2 ingredients that just about everyone has on hand–a banana and some milk! I found 510skQgPAgL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_this recipe in my review copy of The Complete Guide to Natural Homemade Beauty Products and Treatments (Robert Rose, softcover). This book includes 175 easy-to-follow recipes for a variety of skin and hair care items. And all the ingredients in these recipes are chemical-free, using natural ingredients like aromatic and medicinal plants, flowers, fruits, and essential oils. For example, there’s a Rejuvenating Bath recipe that includes dried sage, thyme, and eucalyptus leaves, along with patchouli and sandalwood essential oils. And a Lemon Hand Cream that’s made with shea butter, apricot kernel oil, castor oil, and lemon essential oil.

I decided to try the Nourishing Banana Cream for the face because it was such a simple recipe that we all could try without having to buy any special ingredients. This is actually more like a mask than a cream, because you just keep it on for 3 to 4 minutes. It really does make your skin feel nice and soft after you wash it off–it felt so refreshing, too! If your skin is dry, you’ll probably want to apply your regular moisturizer after you rinse this banana face cream off.

Here’s what the book says about bananas: Bananas are good for beauty, both inside and out. They contain a host of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamins A, C, and E and potassium. So pamper your face and try this out when you get a chance!🙂

NOURISHING BANANA CREAM from Natural Homemade Beauty Products and Treatments

Makes 1 application – works best for normal skin

  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 3 Tablespoons milk

Slice banana. In a small bowl and using a fork, mash banana with milk to form a paste (I actually found it easier to mash by putting the ingredients in a baggie and mashing it with my hands)

Using fingers, spread banana mixture over face and neck. Let stand on skin for 3 to 4 minutes.

Rinse off banana mixture with lukewarm water. Gently pat face and neck dry with a towel.

Isn’t that easy? I used a medium-size banana and it made plenty of “cream” to apply; in fact, I had some extra. So I saved the rest and used it in a smoothie!

Have you made any DIY beauty products with simple, natural ingredients?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Show and Share, Full Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Banana Bread Granola

Banana Bread Granola @ NancyCI was needing to make some granola and I had also been thinking about making banana bread, so instead I made Banana Bread Granola. It was also handy that I had a bag of dried banana chips too, since those make a perfect add-in for this recipe! Just so you know, it’s very lightly sweet (unlike the granola  you buy at the store, which is too sweet for me). But you can make this Banana Bread Granola a little sweeter by adding some packed brown sugar, which I’ve noted in the recipe below. If you’re serving it with milk or yogurt for breakfast, you can also drizzle some honey on it, which tastes really good!

BANANA BREAD GRANOLA by NancyC

Makes about 7 1/2 cups

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Optional: 2 Tablespoons flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup raw sunflower kernels
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (or use a little of both)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (if you want your granola sweeter)
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil or canola oil
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas or 1 medium) and 1 small)
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped banana chips (add these after the granola is done baking)

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line a large 13 x 18″ rimmed baking sheet or two 10 x 15″ rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, mix the oats, flaxseed or wheat germ (if using), sunflower kernels, chopped nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together until combined (also add the brown sugar, if using); set aside.

In medium bowl, mix the oil, honey, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas until well-blended. Pour over the oat mixture in large bowl; mix until everything is moistened and evenly coated.

Spread mixture evenly onto lined baking sheet and bake at 325˚F for 45 minutes total, stirring the granola every 15 minutes so mixture bakes evenly.

Remove from oven and let granola cool on baking sheet(s) for about 20 minutes (the granola will get crunchier as it cools). Transfer granola into a large bowl and stir in the banana chips.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Serve with yogurt, milk, or eat it plain as a healthy snack!

Since I started making homemade granola about 5 years ago, I rarely buy store-bought! It’s so easy to make your own, and it’s fun making it with different add-ins! Are you a granola-maker too?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Show and Share, Full Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Strawberry Fruit Dressing and Dip

Creamy Strawberry Fruit Dip @ NancyC

The weather feels very summery where I live, and when it’s warm outside, I tend to eat more fruit because it’s so refreshing. And when you serve fruit with a dressing or dip, it makes a great warm-weather dessert! This Strawberry Fruit Dressing and Dip is big on strawberry flavor and really good served with strawberries or a mix of fresh fruit chunks–pineapples, sliced bananas, apple wedges…whatever fruit you like.

I call this recipe a dressing and a dip because it’s thin enough to use as a creamy dressing, drizzled over your fruit, but you can also dip your fruit in it, if you don’t mind the thinner consistency. I think it’s best when you make it a day ahead and refrigerate it–it gets a little creamier the next day and thickens slightly more.

This recipe is really easy to make–just add all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and you’ll have a delicious strawberry dressing or dip to enjoy with your favorite fruit!

STRAWBERRY FRUIT DRESSING AND DIP by NancyC

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) package softened cream cheese, regular or light
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup strawberry jam, preserves, or fruit spread

Make your block of cream cheese extra soft by heating it in the microwave in a small microwave-safe bowl for 40 to 50 seconds. Then add all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend well (the mixture is on the thick side initially, so you may have to help stir it along several times if using a blender).

Keep fruit dip refrigerated until ready to serve–it’s best if you can make it a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. You can serve the dip in a small bowl with a large platter of fruit or serve the fruit and dip together in individual small bowls or cups. You can also serve the fruit on individual small plates with the dip drizzled over the fruit.

Note: You can substitute another kind of fruit and fruit jam for the strawberries–you could use blueberries with blueberry jam, pineapples with pineapple preserves, etc. Use whatever fruit you like best. You can use either fresh fruit or drained fruit from a can. I prefer using fresh fruit, but either works.

Do you have a favorite dressing or dip that you like to serve with fruit?

This recipe was featured on Meal Plan Monday.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Show and Share, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins @ NancyC

I’m looking forward to blueberry season when I can pick my own berries! Until then, I have to settle for buying them at the store. I prefer using fresh blueberries when I bake, but the two markets I went to were totally out of them! So I had to use frozen, but this muffin recipe works well with either fresh or frozen berries.

Some muffins are dense, but these muffins have a lighter, more cake-like texture. They also have lots of juicy blueberries and a simple cinnamon sugar topping. So there’s nothing real fancy about these–they’re just good, basic blueberry muffins. And this recipe makes 24 muffins, so you’ll have plenty to go around!

BLUEBERRY BUTTERMILK MUFFINS by NancyC

Makes 24 regular-size muffins

  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

  • 1 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour and baking powder.

In medium size bowl, cream softened butter and sugar (it will be more crumbly than creamy), then add eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk, blending well. Add this mixture to the flour mixture in the large bowl, mixing just until everything is moistened. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into muffins cups, filling 2/3 full. Make sugar topping by blending the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle topping over the top of the batter in each muffin cup (you’ll probably have a little topping left over).

Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I really like how these muffins puff up with rounded tops as they bake. Do you have a favorite blueberry muffin recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Inspire Me MondayWeekend Potluck, Show and Share.

Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls @ NancyC

The first time I had sausage balls was about 20 years ago. I thought they were amazingly good and I’ve been hooked on them ever since! They’re perfect for group breakfasts-or-brunches or potlucks–easy to make, and easy to take. And everyone loves them!

The very first time I made these, I didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to cook the sausage before hand, and mine turned out very dry. So be sure not to cook the sausage! Mix it up raw with the baking mix and the cheese. You’ll have to use your hands, since it’s such a thick mixture (those plastic disposable sanitary kitchen gloves come in handy for this). After the ingredients are mixed together, you just roll into balls, place them on a baking sheet, and pop in the oven. And everyone will love you for making these.🙂

SAUSAGE BALLS

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 2 cups baking mix (like Bisquick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic or onion powder, optional
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound uncooked pork sausage at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease (or line with parchment paper) a 15 x 10″ or 13 x 18″ baking sheet; set aside.

Mix baking mix and sausage together in a bowl; blend well, then add in the cheddar cheese (the mixture will be very thick; you’ll need to mix everything well with your hands). Roll mixture into 1″ to 1 1/8″ balls; arrange balls on prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and sausage is fully cooked. Drain on paper towels, then serve warm.

Some of my friends bake these at 375˚F for 18 minutes with good results, if you like having a shorter baking time. And you can freeze any leftover sausage balls and reheat at 350˚F for 10 minutes. But don’t count on having any leftovers!

Have you ever made sausage balls? It’s definitely a favorite recipe of mine!

Linked to Throwback ThursdayFiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Create With Joy, Meal Plan Monday, Show and Share, Wow Me Wednesday, Create it Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Finding Strength in Beauty

Lovely Pansies @ NancyC

51AAkaaspaL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In some way I feel you here with me as I write, and I hope you feel that I’m there with you as you read, just your friend, across the table at a coffee shop, swapping stories and sharing hope,” Annie F. Downs writes at the beginning of her new book, Looking for Lovely. And as I read my review copy of the book, I really did feel that way–like I was having coffee with a good friend, sharing life…funny stories, disappointments, struggles…and most importantly, seeing together the hope beyond the difficult times.

Annie challenges us to look for the beauty around us in simple everyday moments, because it’s in those moments we see God in unique ways and we’re reminded of His love and care for us. And we draw strength from that–strength and encouragement to keep us going on our journey. Annie explains, “There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance….Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.” 

Strength for the journey–we all need that! Annie, in her very personal, honest style, shares some of her own struggles–things that so many of us can relate to. And how finding loveliness in simple things like a sunrise or time spent with friends helps her see God’s love and His truths more clearly. God blesses our lives with loveliness in so many ways and it’s all around us, like little gifts He surprises us with every day.

I found that I had a new perspective after reading this book. I realized, as Annie points out, that an everyday occurrence like a sunrise is a beautiful reminder that there’s an end to darkness–it’s the beauty God created for us that helps get us through the hard times, keeps us from quitting, and gives us hope. Annie sums it up perfectly when she says, “I’m believing what I cannot see because of what I can see.” And after reading her book, I’m inspired to do the same.

Linked to Thursday Favorite ThingsCreate With Joy.

Banana, Mango, Ginger, Orange Smoothie

Banana Mango Ginger Orange Smoothie @ NancyC

Yes, that’s quite a long name but it sounds good, doesn’t it? This smoothie recipe comes from a cookbook called Eating Clean in Costa Rica (softcover). As I looked through my review copy, I found lots of easy, healthy foods that the book describes as 616-fPC8brL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_“farm-to-table” recipes and there are 108 to choose from for breakfast and brunch, main dishes, veggies and sides, salads, soups, and desserts. The instructions for most of the recipes include amounts measured in grams, milliliters, etc., so if you’re used to cups and ounces like I am, you’ll have to convert the amounts.

I thought I’d try the Banana, Mango, Ginger, Orange Smoothie. It sounds kind of summery, but the day I made this it was almost 70 degrees. So a tropical-sounding smoothie was in order to celebrate this warm sunny day! It was so smooth and creamy, and had a great lightly-sweet taste. Normally I like to sweeten smoothies with honey, but this recipe does not need any additional sweetener.

BANANA, MANGO, GINGER, ORANGE SMOOTHIE from Eating Clean in Costa Rica

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 mango
  • 1 to 2 bananas (I used 2 bananas)
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 200 ml plain yogurt (I used 1 cup–it’s not an exact conversion, but it’s very close!)
  • A pinch of ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 12 ice cubes
  • 2 slices of lime

Cut mango into cubes, removing the pit and skin. Chop the bananas. Juice the oranges.

Combine these ingredients into a blender, including the ginger and yogurt. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a little water if needed.

Add ice cubes and blend once more. Serve in tall glasses decorated with a slice of lime.

I love smoothies and I’m sure I’ll be making this quite often during the warm weather. Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Show and ShareFull Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Easter Egg Bark

Easter Egg Bark @ NancyCI can’t believe Easter is almost here! If you haven’t had a chance to make any Easter treats yet, here’s a really easy recipe you can put together quickly–and no baking required! It’s so fun and colorful, too. I based this Easter Egg Bark on my Candy Corn Bark recipe I had posted a few years ago. It’s really yummy, packed with those super-good Cadbury candy-coated mini milk chocolate eggs and Easter M&M’s, along with a colorful dash of sprinkles!

This is a thicker bark, compared to some others I’ve made; if you like thinner barks, you could spread the melted white chocolate base in a thinner layer on a 10 x 15″ baking sheet instead of a 9 x 13″ pan. One important tip: It helps if you have the mini eggs and M&M’s pre-measured so you can sprinkle them on quickly before the white chocolate starts to set!

EASTER EGG BARK by NancyC

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 2 (12-ounce) packages white chocolate (vanilla) baking chips
  • 1 cup Cadbury milk chocolate Mini Eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk chocolate Easter M&M’s
  • Colorful Sprinkles

Line a 9 x 13 ” pan with parchment paper, going up the sides and leaving 2 extra inches of paper on each side (so you can lift the bark out of the pan later); set aside.

In a medium microwaveable bowl or container, microwave the white chocolate chips for one minute, then stop and stir. Continue melting the chocolate in the microwave, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds, until all the chips are melted and smooth, for a total of about 2  to 2 1/2 minutes (be careful not to overheat, or the white chocolate will become clumpy!).

Spread the melted white chocolate evenly in a thin layer in the parchment-lined pan with a large spoon or spatula. Sprinkle the Cadbury mini eggs over the melted chocolate, pressing eggs about halfway into the chocolate as you’re placing them. Then do the same with the Easter M&M’s (it helps if you have all these ingredients pre-measured so you can sprinkle them on quickly before the chocolate starts to set). Last of all, top with colorful sprinkles, pressing lightly into the white chocolate if necessary. Note: Make sure all ingredients are pressed into the melted chocolate, or they will just fall off when you are breaking up the bark later.

Let bark set about 1 hour, or until completely firm (you can chill the bark in the refrigerator to help it set quicker). Lift bark from the pan (with the sides of the parchment paper) and place on kitchen counter. Peel parchment paper from bottom side of bark, breaking bark into pieces as you peel. Serve on a platter or in a bowl, or package into treat bags. Store any extra bark covered in an airtight container at room temperature.

That’s all there is to it! What fun sweets and treats are you making for Easter?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie @ NancyC

When it comes to pie-making, I’m more of a beginner. I just haven’t made a lot of pies. But I did make a pie for Pi Day, which was March 14. And it was a very easy pie–one with a pre-made cookie crust. All I had to do was mix up the filling and let it chill in the fridge. What could be easier than that?

The filling for this Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie is made with heavy whipping cream, which makes it nice and rich. And there’s peanut butter in it, of course, along with marshmallow cream. The filling is topped with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and some chopped, salted, dry roasted peanuts which give the pie a great sweet-and-salty taste!

CHOCOLATE CHIP PEANUT BUTTER PIE by NancyC, adapted from RealSimple

Makes one 9″ pie

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
  • 1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 (9-inch) pre-made chocolate graham cracker or cookie pie crust (I used a 6-oz. Oreo Pie Crust)

For Topping:

  • 1/3 cup chopped salted dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 -3 Tablespoons semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (you could use regular-size chips instead and other flavors if you prefer–milk, white, or dark chocolate; or peanut butter)

Using an electric mixer, beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Beat in marshmallow cream and creamy peanut butter.

Spread mixture into the pie crust and top with chopped peanuts and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Chill until firm, about 4 to 5 hours.

You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate in a pie! Did you make or eat any pies for Pi Day?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Create With Joy, Wow Me Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, You Link It, We Make It.