Friday, December 6, 2013

Make your own bean dip!

All ready to eat my chip with my homemade dip!
One of the things I stopped buying when the economy tanked was bean dip. That probably sounds funny to some of you, but really it was too expensive and went too fast for me to justify it to myself. We could quickly go through a can of Fritos Bean Dip in one sitting, along with half a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I have to say I missed that dip, and Doritos just weren't the same without it and I rarely ate them because of that.

A few days ago it hit me: I make my own honey butter, garlic butter spread (to make garlic bread and grilled cheese sandwiches) and frosting--all things I once bought from the store without much thought. I figured out how to make those things because it was cheaper and often tastier to do them myself. So why couldn't I make my own bean dip?

I did what I do best and scoured the internet for a recipe that would taste just like the Fritos one (because you could say I'm a bit picky). I found a recipe on a site called Eat Cake for Dinner that I decided to try. It calls for a 16 oz can of refried beans, sliced jalapenos, some of the brine, paprika, cayenne (red) pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and sugar.

I keep most of these things as staples in my pantry, so I only had to go buy cayenne pepper and jalapenos from the store to give it a try. The main reason I didn't hesitate to try it was because it sounded so easy! I only had to put all the ingredients in the food processer.

The recipe is as follows:
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans 
5 slices bottled jalapenos 
1 1/2 Tbl. brine from bottled jalapenos
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

I put all of the ingredients in my little kitchenaide chopper on the puree setting and ran it until it was smooth. Then I scooped it all into a storage bowl. We did try it after only about 30 minutes in the fridge. I prefer it colder than that and liked it better after it'd been in the fridge overnight. 

I think I'll make some tweaks to it to make it less spicy (I no longer have a gall bladder and spiciness is a luxury my body can no longer afford! Haha!). Next time I'll cut it down to 3  jalapenos and keep the brine the same. It only calls for 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper, so I don't know if I'd cut that the second time I make it. I think I'll try cutting down the jalapenos first and see. Not that it's super hot as it is, but it is spicier than the Fritos dip as I remember it. So if you like spicy things, you can leave it as it is. I like a little spice, but I don't want anything burning after I've swallowed it. :)

Overall, I think it was a hit. Both my hubby and my oldest son couldn't stay out of it. It's cheap though, so for once it didn't panic me to see it disappearing so fast!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I think I just may be a scrooge

My 9 year old daughter came home from school this week and asked me if we could do "Elf on the shelf." Had she asked me this last year at this time, I'd have been clueless to what she was talking about! But in this day and age of the internet and Facebook, I've come to find out what this game is. Apparently parents buy a toy elf and move him around to let their children know that he is watching them before Christmas for Santa Claus (at least that's how I understand it, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Some parents make the game more simple in having this elf move from one shelf to another, or even from room to room. Some parents get more elaborate and have their elves get into mischief (i.e. making messes around the house that the elf supposedly did while everyone was sleeping). I, for one, have enough messes to clean up without getting into anything like that! Hah!

I looked my daughter straight in the eyes and said, "No, I'm never doing that. Sorry." I'm sure all her childhood dreams were subsequently crushed and she'll need years of therapy to make up for this deprivation. I did go on to tell her that while I think it's a fun game for some families to play, with six children, and being the primary one responsible for researching and grabbing all the good deals for Christmas online (which takes quite a bit of research!), I just don't have the time or the desire to start this game.

I should probably note that my 9 year old doesn't believe in Santa anymore. Before you think I'm terrible, I'll say that while I love the idea of Santa Claus and we do play along with the fantasy with our children when they're young, we also have the "Honesy when asked" policy. So when she came to us last year and said she wasn't sure she believed anymore, I asked her if she was sure she wanted to believe anything other than what she knew about Santa being real. She said she really wanted to know, so my husband and I told her about the history of St. Nicholas and how the idea of him lives on in Santa Claus. She thought this was great!

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking this year. I think in some ways some people might think I've become a bit of a miser when it comes to Christmas. I just hate what it's becoming. I remember when I was little and we had next to nothing sometimes, that it didn't really matter what I got, I just remember the time spent with those I love. Now it's all about who can get the best gadgets and gizmoes. It's all about taking away yet another holiday from workers and opening businesses on Thanksgiving so people can fight, push and shove on a day we profess to be thankful for what we already have (this is a favored holiday of mine) and it just goes on from there.

Early in my adulthood, I did try Black Friday at Walmart a few times, but the last time I did people were crashing their carts repeatedly into my heals, pushing me out of the way to get to something first and one man was even deteremined that he wanted to get into a fist fight with my husband because we walked around him while he was looking at movies in the aisle! We didn't butt in a line, we didn't shove him, we just pushed our cart quickly around him so as not to block his view for long so we could make it to the other side of the store and the bathroom for our toddler at the time. Yeah! That's what Christmas is all about! And from the news articles and YouTube videos I've seen, this seems to be the accepted norm.

After those experiences, I tried waiting to shop until the week of Christmas. Then I started doing all of our shopping online several years ago, so as to minimize the amount of time we have to spend out in the crazy stores. That's just not my thing! I really don't care about this stuff. You can't take it with you and most of it's forgotten in a month anyway. That's not to say that I don't enjoy finding gifts for my children that I think they would genuinely enjoy. I do. But in moderation, so they appreciate it when they get it.

I also don't do much by way of decorating. I hate heights. I get severe vertigo so you will never catch me attempting to hang the lights on the house. My husband doesn't mind roofs so much (he's used to it in his profession), but he's not that driven to go out there in the freezing cold temperatures to get the lights on the often slippery roof, only to have to do it again to take them all down again in a month. Not only that, but we noticed the jump in our utilities when we had all the lights up and decided it wasn't that big of a deal and we could just do the stockings, tree, wreaths, nic nacs and perhaps the ground decorations outside.

Saying all this out in the open here makes me think I probably sound like a grump. I don't really think I am. But I am practical. We have a very small Christmas budget to stretch out amongst our children here (my husband and I don't even do gifts for each other so as to maximize what we can do for our children) and if I can save money by not doing some of these other things, I will.

We do like to watch Christmas movies starting on Thanksgiving. It's a family thing and we do it several nights a week up to Christmas day with all of our children. We make goodies for our neighbors (though we missed last year because I was so sick with my pregnancy).

We do a Christmas dinner and talk about the nativity and why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Sometimes that's so easy to forget in the commercialism and age of political correctness we live in now. I don't say Happy Holidays. I say Merry Christmas because I'm celebrating Christ. I believe in Him. I'm thankful for Him and I'm not going to belittle or skirt around that and I don't want my children to either. That's not so say that I don't respect those who believe differently from me. I won't ask them to change the wording and ways they celebrate their holidays and expect the same courtesy.

So if that makes me a scrooge, because I know I'm not as much fun as some of these Supermoms out there, then so be it. That's just who I am. :)