26 May 2015

Cold Queso Dip

Dear Lissy,

School's out and a heat wave's in...hooray for summer!!!!  We are a nacho lovin' family, but in this weather, something cool hits the the spot.  The queso base is three simple ingredients whipped together.  I've been known to serve just the cold queso portion of this on occasion, but it really is yummier as a layered dip.

Photo Credit and Original Recipe

Mexican Layered Queso Dip

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Queso Base:
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 16 oz tub sour cream
1 packet taco seasoning

Bring cream cheese to room temp or warm in microwave until soft. Mix in taco seasoning and beat in sour cream until mixture is smooth.  Spread on 12-15 inch plate or platter.  Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving time.  Add desired toppings right before serving.

Layers: Family Style (budget)
8 oz fresh salsa
2 cups finely chopped lettuce
1 small can sliced black olives

Spread salsa evenly over cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border
Top with chopped lettuce
Sprinkle with sliced black olives

For the family version, I don't add more shredded cheese or any other veg that's already in the salsa.

Layers:  Picnic Style
All ingredients from Family Style
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 cup shredded mexican cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped purple or vidalia onion
3/4 cup diced red, yellow, orange peppers  (Green overpowers the rest of the dish)
Peanuts, crushed

Spread salsa evenly over cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border
Top with chopped lettuce
Sprinkle tomato and shredded cheese evenly over the top
Sprinkle any optional ingredients over the top
Sprinkle with sliced black olives

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving. 

Mom's notes:

For fancier events, make individual serving cups in halved and cleaned small bell peppers.  Garnish with one blue, one white, and one yellow corn chip right before serving.

I use non-fat/low fat alternatives in this dish.  Greek yogurt is good in place of sour cream, and Neufchatel cheese is just as tasty as regular.  Homemade taco seasoning works fine flavor wise, but doesn't have the starch to thicken the queso into a cheese consistency.


09 May 2015

Mother's Day Food for Thought

Dear Lissy,

How strong will your son's marriage be if he treats his wife exactly the same way he treats you? 

01 May 2015

Mother's Day and Wedding Gift Alert

Dear Lissy,

 I don't often put store items into your letters, but this is a broader principle that will serve you well 15 years from now as well as being a blessing to the ladies who read along as I write these letters.  One of my favorite gifts to give is a quality item that I've found deeply discounted.  A Cuisinart Knife set that normally retails for over $!00 just came up on Amazon for $22.  I've used the paring knife in this set for several years and absolutely love it.   A deal like this usually takes a bit of digging on favorite discount sites or in discount stores, but the ability to give a quality gift to a person I love while still maintaining our family budget is worth the work.

Cuisinart Advantage 12-Piece Knife Set


23 April 2015

Two Secret School Subjects That Bring Success

Dear Lissy,

Spring is the time we choose next year's school curricula.  Choosing curricula for you and Matt is both exciting and a tad overwhelming.  We're on a tight budget, so I look at free resources first, and then supplement with programs that cost money.  During my considerations, I have two "secret subjects" that I consider even more important than readin', writin', and 'rithmetic:  discipline and perseverance. In parenting, choosing immediate, complete, cheerful submission to God-given authority and thinking of others are the foundations for every other character trait.  In teaching, a child needs discipline and perseverance to master any (and every) subject.

 Instilling discipline and perseverance were my primary consideration from K-4 right up through 12th. 

Will this program allow me to teach my child to discipline themselves to work through tedious or mundane material?

Success in adult life depends on the ability to motivate yourself to complete mundane, routine, tedious tasks.  Computer or paper programs that offer only games and reward systems with lots of color and flash may teach the subject well, but they often fail to teach the discipline of work. I especially like programs that are divided by day so a child can see their progress through the course in relation to the school year.  Some programs, like Apologia Science, have separate publications available for day-to-day assignments.

Will this program give me the opportunity to teach my child to persevere through challenges?

Teaching a child how to teach themselves is my number one academic goal.  I firmly believe that anyone can learn anything given the proper resources.  I want a program that reinforces that thinking. We use Saxon Math, not just because it is an outstanding curricula, but because the publishers place the relevant lesson number beside every review problem.  When a child can't solve a problem, they know exactly where to look to find a similar problem.  Still struggling? We have the teacher videos that work out each problem step-by-step.   Khan Academy videos are also grouped by subject and skill.  Still struggling?  Now I'll sit down and help you figure it out or find someone who can. 

Choose to teach your children or students these two "secret subjects" and they'll be well on their way in life.

It's no secret how much I love you!