7-Layer Dip

7 layer dip finished

Watching football this weekend? Attending a family friendly New Year’s Eve party? Me too. There is no better tailgate snack food for football watching and potlucks than a Mexican 7-layer dip. I will be bringing this crowd favorite to a friend’s house tonight, and I made individual sizes, so we can keep eating more dip during football games tomorrow. Normally, I like to use a layer of diced tomatoes instead of salsa. I forgot the tomatoes at the grocery store, so I went with the salsa layer, which is a totally acceptable substitute. You can see my original recipe with the diced tomatoes HERE. I know many people have a version of this recipe, but I think the Fritos Original Bean Dip and the taco seasoning mixed in with the sour cream makes this variation a little special. Happy New Year!

Ingredients

  • 2 (9-oz) cans Fritos Original Bean Dip
  • 1 container guacamole (about 10 oz.)
  • ~2 cups salsa
  • 1 pkg mild taco seasoning
  • ~12 oz. sour cream
  • 2 c. Mexican cheese blend, grated
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • scoop Frito’s or tortilla chips

Directions

  • Scoop the 2 cans of bean dip into a 9 x 13 casserole dish and spread evenly across the bottom with a spatula.
  • Dollop the guacamole on top of the bean dip and gently spread out using the spatula. Try not to disturb the bean dip layer. It’s kind of like frosting a cake.

7 layer dip guac

  • Dollop the salsa on top of the guacamole layer and spread gently.

7 layer dip salsa

  • In a small bowl (or the sour cream container), mix the taco seasoning with the sour cream. Combine well. It will be a light orange color. Spread the sour cream mixture over the guac and salsa. Gently spread with the spatula trying not to disrupt the layer beneath.

7 layer dip sour cream

7 layer dip sour cream layer

  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  • Sprinkle the green onions over the cheese.
  • Serve with Frito scoops or tortilla chips.
  • Can be made ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

  • Make individual layered dips in ramekins or the clear 9-oz. plastic cups.

7 layer dip individual

Tortellini with Chicken and Pesto

tortellini with chicken and pesto

Once upon a time during my early years of teaching, I would prepare this recipe on a school night solely for the purpose of having leftovers to bring with me for lunch at school the next day. My first teaching teammate loved this dish, and I always brought enough to share with her. I visited my original “teacher wife” last week. The pasta dish came up during my visit, and she talked about how it is one of her grandson’s favorite meals. I had not thought about this recipe in years.

The dish is an easy weeknight meal, can be cooked in one pot, and works well reheated the next day. It is also a good alternative to one of my other favorite pasta dishes– Pasta with Pesto and Peas.

tortellini with chicken and pesto in bowl

Ingredients

  • 2 T. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 bunch of broccoli cut into bite sized pieces (~3 cups)
  • 1 family sized package of cheese filled tortellini (~20 oz.)
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. pesto (purchased or homemade)
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the broccoil and cook until crisp-tender, ~3-5 minutes. Remove broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon (save the broccoli water!) and drain in a colander. Set to the side.
  • Return broccoli water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions. Drain well and set to the side.
  • Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

tortellini chicken

  • In the empty pot that cooked the broccoli and tortellini, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook through, ~3-4 minutes. Remove some of the excess cooking juice before continuing.
  • Add the broccoli and tortellini to the chicken, tossing until heated through. Remove from heat and add the pesto to taste. Stir gently until the tortellini, chicken, and broccoli are coated with pesto.

tortellini broccoli chicken

  • Garnish with pine nuts and grated Parmesan. Serve hot.

tortellini with chicken and pesto close

Notes

  • Can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave. It is a great teacher lunch or meal at the office.

Cranberry Ice Box Dessert

cranberry ice box dessert finished

We were invited to a dinner with some of TheRoomDad’s coworkers, and TheRoomDad offered to bring dessert. That is code for, “My wife will make something.” My first thought was to bring Banana Peanut Ice Cream Sundaes. The sundaes are always a crowd pleaser, and it is easy to assemble the dessert on site. Then, I remembered another group dessert recipe that my mom served when we were all visiting her awhile back.

I abandoned the ice cream sundae idea and decided to make a Cranberry Ice Box Dessert. It is made ahead of time and sits in the refrigerator overnight before serving. It works well for a crowd, and the flavor is a little different from the desserts I might typically have at a dinner party (no chocolate). The dinner guests loved it, and I had requests for the recipe, so here it is.

cranberry ice box dessert slice

Ingredients

  • 2 c. chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1 large banana, diced
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (or chopped pecans– or a combination)
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped

Directions

  • Mix together cranberries, banana, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

cranberry ice box dessert cranberry banana mix

  • Place 1/2 to 2/3 of the crushed wafers in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan.

cranberry ice box dessert vanilla wafer bottom layer

  • Cream butter and confectioners’ sugar together and beat well.
  • Spread the butter mixture over the crumbs. This step is tricky! The crumbs move as you try to spread the frosting-like mixture. I drop little dabs around the pan and then use a spatula and my fingers to gently spread as evenly as possible. the crumbs will mix into the butter mixture a little.

cranberry ice box dessert spreading butter mixture

  • Top the cookie crumb and butter spread with  the cranberry and bananas mixture. Sprinkle the nuts over the fruit layer.

cranberry ice box dessert fruit and nuts layers

  • Spread the whipped cream over the fruit and nuts. Cover the whipped cream with the remaining cookie crumbs (and maybe a few more chopped nuts).

cranberry ice box dessert whipped cream layer

  • Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours.

Notes

  • It is hard to find fresh cranberries at the grocery store if it is not Thanksgiving. I bought a 10 oz. bag of frozen cranberries from the frozen fruit section at my grocery store. I chopped the cranberries in my Cuisinart after letting them thaw most of the way.

cranberry ice box dessert chopped cranberries

  • If you want to use a 9″ x 12″ dish, up the ingredient amounts a little. I needed the larger size for our group last night. I used the entire 10 oz. bag of cranberries, 2 medium bananas, 1 whole box Nilla wafers, a few extra tablespoons butter and ~1/3 c. more powdered sugar, 2/3 c. chopped nuts, and 2 c. whipping cream.

cranberry ice box dessert close up

Leftover Chicken

Italian chicken soup

Yes, we have returned to the school schedule along with many families across the country. It is the time of year when I go from minimal attempts at making my family dinner to hardly ever. I would be OK with cereal and peanut butter every night; TheRoomDad is not. It is perplexing to him the lack of interest I have for preparing food during the school year. Preparing meals is such a time suck, and I am not up for it after a day of teaching.

There is a quick meal that I will cook when I have the ingredients. My kids love the recipe I have for Italian Chicken Soup. It is a lot like chicken noodle soup but with a twist. Any time we have a leftover cooked chicken breast, there is a good chance I am making Italian Chicken Soup for an easy weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 2 t. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 c. canned chicken broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
  • ~9-oz. pasta (egg noodles, mini penne, mini bow ties, macaroni…)
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, diced

Directions

  • Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add red bell pepper, onion, carrot, garlic basil, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper. Saute until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add broth.
  • Cover pot and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add zucchini (if using), cover, and simmer about 5 minutes.
  • Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Add pasta and boil until pasta is tender.
  • Add chicken and cook until heated through about 1 more minute.
  • Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls, and serve.

Notes

  • You can replace the zucchini with yellow squash (and probably celery, but I have not tried it). Red bell pepper can be replaced with green bell pepper.
  • The original recipe called for cheese ravioli, but my family likes non-stuffed pasta better.
  • The recipes makes 4-5 servings, so we usually don’t have many leftovers.

Italian chicken soup close

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

chicken caesar pasta salad plate close up

Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jarIngredients

  • 16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
  • 12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
  • ~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped

Directions

  • Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad ingredientsAdd dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad dressingSprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
  • Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.

Notes

  •  If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jar close