Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cream Cheese Hummus Pita Bites

Our neighborhood is pretty awesome. It is December 22 and there are people out BBQing together. The other day one neighbor came over with a plate of cookies and a chat by the Christmas tree. The next day another neighbor called to ask if we needed some extra lights as they had leftovers. And last night we all got together to do a Progressive Party up and down the block.

Yup, we are pretty rockin'.

I know there are many neighborhoods like this -- I grew up in one -- but it seems to be less and less common. At least in my adult years. People are busy, schedules are full, lives are different from one house to the next.  But I am grateful that today I get to be a part of a place that celebrates community.

My contribution during the stop at our house? Sparkling cider and this: cream cheese hummus. Everyone else ooh'ed and ahh'ed, and I smiled because I know it took me five minutes. I mean, really, do I have time during the holiday season to make something time consuming? No, I do not. Which is why this is perfect. Perfectly simple, perfectly delicious. And will go perfectly with our Christmas dinner in a few days... one less thing I have to stress over. That's a holiday win.

(This hummus is great for the usual "dip" and also spread on pita crackers topped with green onions. Both taste fabulous, one looks a little more fancy... you choose :) )



  • 2 cans Garbanzo beans, one fully drained, one still with liquid
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of pita crackers, plus any item for dipping
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth.  Either spread on pita crackers and top with green onion garnish, or serve as dip.

COST: $7.42

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peppermint Joe-Joe Ice Cream (No ice cream maker required)

I am a lover of peppermint.  Not just at Christmas time, either.  It isn't unusual to hear me order a peppermint hot chocolate at Startbucks in July.  And they comply, albeit with a slight shake of the head. I know -- I am breaking the peppermint rule: it is a Christmas treat, and that's that.

But who says so?  Not me.  I say give me peppermint all year long, and I will show you a happy girl.

My favorite peppermint thing?  Peppermint Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's.  Crazy goodness, right there. Like an Oreo (but better!) with real pieces of candy cane crushed into the cream.  Um, HELLO.  Could they have created anything better?  No, definitely not.

Except... I did :)

I took my favorite cookie (which we stock up on around Christmas so they can last until about April when they expire -- smart, right?!) and turned it into my favorite type of dessert: ICE CREAM.

Best part is that you don't even need an ice cream maker, just a blender or food processor, and mixer of some sort, and a freezer.  SHEZAM!  Pepperminty deliciousness in a bowl.

Merry Christmas!



  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 5-6 Peppermint Joe-Joe’s cookies from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend sweetened condensed milk with cookies.
  2. Combine whipping cream and peppermint extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat cream/extract with a mixer on medium-high speed until whipped cream is formed. 
  3. Combine sweetened condensed milk mixture with whipped cream and pour into airtight plastic container, such as a larger-sized Ziploc Smart-Snap container.  Freeze eight hours or overnight.

COST: $6.23        COST PER SERVING (6): $1.04

Ice Cream    //    Dessert    //   Peppermint

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great FB Cookie Swap: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

It's the most wonderful time of the year... COOKIE SWAP TIME!

I know that sounds a little exaggerated, but seriously, this tradition (now three years in the making) has become one of my favorite things about the holiday season.  Not only do I get to look for the best cookie recipe to add to my collection, and not only do we all get to connect with other food bloggers, but by working/baking/shipping together, we raise money for causes that are worth all that effort.


That beautiful number right there (so pretty, isn't it?) is the amount that was raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a non-profit that works to help fund research that can help children live a full, long, and healthy life.  

This year I chose a simple recipe, straight from Martha: Peppermint sugar cookies.  I must confess, the cookies in these pictures are the old, rejected ones. The weather was so gloomy and I kept saying I would take pictures later, later, later, and this is what I would up with.  But oh!  Oh oh oh.  (Not to be confused with ho ho ho ;) )  I could NOT stop eating these.  Peppermint cookie, peppermint glaze, topped with (you guessed it!) peppermint pieces! The recipe said it made two dozen so I doubled it: 1 dozen for each of my matches, 1 dozen for us... except it made about six dozen.

And I did not share.

Not very Christmassy of me, but if you make these you will understand why.  At least I did share with my cookie recipients.  In the baggies and boxes they went, off to Utah, Arkansas, and another part of California, while I received three batches of delicious cookies from across the map. That is what makes this fun -- bake, raise money, and connect with people you have never met before.  It's a triple win.

A big shout out to the companies that sponsored the cookie swap (by giving in addition to what we bloggers donated): OXO, Pure Cane Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma's Molasses. Their contributions stretched our dollars -- and hopefully bring us one step closer to a cure for cancer!

If you would like to find out about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (and maybe participate next year!), click on their logo below.

Recipe from Everyday Food, Dec. 2012


  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 candy canes, crushed, for decorating

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, use mixer to beat butter, granulated sugar, and ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract on medium-high until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in egg, then flour mixture on low.  Stir in chocolate chips if you are using them.
  2. Roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until edges are lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer to racks and let cool completely.
  3. Stir together confectioners’ sugar and enough cream to make a spreadable glaze (if you like a strong mint flavor, stir in up to ¼ teaspoon extract).  Spread a thin layer of glaze on top of each cookie and sprinkle with candies.  Let dry completely on racks.

Can be stored in an airtight container, three days.

COST: $4.79        COST PER COOKIE (24): 20 cents

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cost of Eating Healthy (and my two cents)


After a busy two weeks, I was getting ready to put something on my blog.  No, not the amazing peppermint cookies I have been chowing down on (because I have yet to take pictures of them -- blame it on the minimal hours of daylight), but something to say, "Hey, I'm here!  Don't forget me!" Something fun. Something cute.

But then I saw this article pop up in my newsfeed on Facebook.  And after reading through it, and then reading through the comments, I changed my plan.

Fun and cute can wait for another day.

Today we need to talk about eating healthy (yes) and the cost of it (yes).  But most importantly, we need to talk about perceptions of this.

I am not going to sit here and give you figures about the cost of eating a healthier diet, because you can find that information quite easily.  I am also not going to share how eating more fruits and vegetables costs more money than packaged food because, at least in the USA, we all know this to be a general truth. My eyes were really opened to this when I took a master's level class on how health impacts a student's ability to learn, and how income impacts health. As you may be aware if you have followed this blog for awhile, that class combined with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution were the main reasons I set out to learn to cook. That is why this blog is here -- because I wanted to be able to eat healthy food that I could afford and still tasted great.

We get it. Eating a healthy diet is more expensive. It is unfortunate, but it is a reality.

I also get that food deserts exist. For the 7-10% of Americans who live in these areas, that is a real problem, and I am not here to offer a solution, because I do not have one. I wish I did...

What I am going to say is this: for those many, many people who instantly commented on NPR's article saying that it costs on average $600 a month PER PERSON to eat healthy, or all those people who clearly commented without reading the article as the examples shared in the comments don't fit with what the article said at all but then rattled on reason after reason why this article is full of BS (with all caps here and there)... let's all just stop and breathe. 

And then, let's read the information, look at where their findings are coming from, see if we agree with it or not, and then move on with our lives.

As for me, I agree. Why? Because I have been pricing out food for the past three years. That was the whole reason I started this blog: to keep a record of what we ate, how much it cost, and then use that information to make wise decisions while planning for what we are going to eat next week. Through this, and finding out tricks like shopping at the Farmers' Market or making beans from scratch, I have learned to keep our food costs quite low.

I get that there are a lot of variables in this equation, and that many things (location, time, availability of products, etc.) can change what is possible. Maybe your shopping style is different than mine. Maybe you don't enjoy cooking and you need something fast.  Maybe you really just want to eat a Big Mac. Go ahead. That's OK, that's your decision. I've been there, I get it. But people, we've got to stop attacking the messenger just because we don't like the message. And please, please, please, let's stop ganging up on people (fellow commentors) because they have a different experience than us.

Maybe you really do spend $600 per month for one person to eat healthy without ever going out to eat.  I am sorry for you, and I hope you find ways to cut back on that. But either way, that's OK. It's your money.

Maybe you really struggle to just make ends meet. I grew up in that reality, and I know a lot of people live in that daily. My heart goes out to you, for I know it is a challenge.

For most of us, though, we probably fall somewhere in the middle. Let's take ownership of our decisions. Heck, when I want a McChicken, I am going to get a McChicken. Yes, even me with a blog on finding healthy food. And that's alright. As long as I don't yell at NPR for it.

What are some ways you have found to keep the cost of food down?

(Looking for some low cost meal ideas? Click for $1 meal ideas and $2 meal ideas (per serving).  Cheaper than a Big Mac :) )

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