Thursday, September 18, 2014

Layered Bean Dip (Best Ever)

I volunteered to bring a "cold dip" to the middle school for the teachers to enjoy prior to a long night of parent/teacher conferences. I don't usually volunteer for food items, and as of late prefer the simple assignments - usually the hearing and vision screening or working the book fair. For whatever reason (a near-empty sign-up genius form), I volunteered.

I always envision things going easily. Thursdays are generally a good "free" day for me, and the only other thing on my calendar was a YW meeting in the morning. I made sure I had all the ingredients, purchasing sour cream, cilantro, and green onions (and I couldn't resist the buy-2-get-3-free 7-UP products deal) the night before from the Safeway directly connected to my salon that I had tirelessly worked at all day. Safeway's entire system was down, which I was unaware of until I graced the check-out line. "Cash or check only," I was told. Luckily I hadn't made my deposit for the night (at the credit union directly connected to the salon on the other side), and had some cash on hand. The cashier calculated totals in her head, gave me a grand total of $18. That was easy.

In the middle of the YW meeting my phone rang. It was Lex, so I excused myself and took the call. She had been sent home from her new job because she didn't have her social security card. If she didn't bring it back to her new place of employment by 5pm that evening, she no longer had a job. I felt sick. I had sent the card to her in the mail on Monday, but I have had numerous experiences with the Provo post office that make me question their ability to properly handle the mail. I told her to go home and wait for the mail - maybe it would come today. I rejoined my meeting, but immediately texted Bill and Britt for backup. We were so thrilled that Lex had a job that she needs so desperately to save money for her next school year, and I felt devastated that there was a real and probable chance that she was going to lose it.

Long story short (okay, semi-short), Billy-my-hero found a place where Lex could obtain her birth certificate TODAY, a mere 1.1 miles from her Provo residence. She drove there, paid her $20 fee, picked up the certificate, and headed back to work. Phew. Catastrophe averted. 

Needless to say, my meeting ran long, I had to make an emergency run to the bank to transfer some moo-lah to my destitute Lex (that's why she needs the job so darn bad), then ran back home to throw together my bean dip. Of course my day couldn't run as smoothly as I had imagined it when I volunteered to help.

In the midst of the chaos, I snapped pictures. That's how I do. I had to post this, my favorite bean dip recipe, originally found here:
 Another one of my wedding gifts, this time from my MIL.
(This cover isn't really connected either)

Here's a portion of the recipe (the rest is on the back and I didn't see purpose in taking a picture of it:

I will be sharing my modified version.


Start with 2 (15oz) cans refried beans. Mix them together and smooth onto a platter. I prefer round, and find great pleasure in the smoothing part of the layered dip process. An offset spatula is my best friend.

Mash up two large ripe avocados with salt to taste and 1 to 2 tsp. lemon juice. Yes, I used lemon juice from a bottle. Sometimes I skip this step when 1) I don't have any avocados on hand, 2) I can't find any ripe avocados for purchase, or 3) avocados are ridiculously priced. It's still really good, I promise. Spread the avocado mixture over the bean layer, leaving a slight edge so your next layer will completely cover it and prevent it from turning a nasty brown color.

This is the layer that makes this dip THE BEST. In a bowl, combine 1 cup mayonnaise with 1 cup sour cream. Add 1 pkg. taco seasoning mix. I don't buy taco seasoning mix, so I always use my own mix, which I prefer BUT either tastes great. I have included my seasoning mix recipe at the bottom of this post. You're welcome. The 1/3 tsp. chili powder from the original recipe seems like a typo to me, so I've always just added another tsp. chili powder to my mix. Whisk together, then spread on top of the avocado layer, making sure to cover edges.

Next add the cheese. I like the big shreds (v the finely shredded cheese) because I like to TASTE the cheese.

Slice up a can of black olives and sprinkle them on (this may be a can minus about... 5 olives).

Then chop up some roma tomatoes (I try to de-juice them a little by scraping out the juicy seeds) and sprinkle them on.

Since I was kinda in a hurry, I forgot to take a picture of the final dip before I wrapped that baby up to deliver to the school. I decided to make my final layer some cilantro leaves, since I figured the teachers may want to avoid onion-breath for their conferences. You can use either cilantro or green onions, or both. I really prefer both.

Since I had gone to all the effort to take pictures along the way, I figured I could sacrifice one or two minutes to un-saran the dip for a decent finished product. (I may have sprinkled on a few green onions once the saran was off before re-wrapping... post picture.)

I'm telling you, it's the best.

Here's the recipe in short form:

2 (15oz) cans refried beans
2 large, ripe avocados
salt, to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (my mix below)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup + shredded cheese
1 can black olives, sliced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
2 green onions, chopped
cilantro (optional)

Mix refried beans and spread on platter. Mash avocados with salt and lemon juice, then spread over bean layer. Mix sour cream, mayo, taco seasoning mix and chili powder together and spread over avocado layer. Sprinkle on cheese, olives, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro if using. Serve with corn chips.


2 Tbs. dried minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. dried oregano

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Favorite Lemon Bars

I've used this recipe forever. On occasion I have tried other lemon bar recipes and then wonder why I did. These, in my humble opinion, are the best. Flat out. No need to search any longer.

Here is where the original recipe came from:

My mom gave this to me when I got married... pert near 27 years ago. It's been well used and well loved, can you tell? (That cover page isn't actually ON the cookbook - I just keep it because I'm an obsessive compulsive memorabilia keeper on a sentimental journey - haha.)

Here's a glimpse of the actual recipe:

Have I mentioned I'm a messy baker? If not, I confess. I am. Did the cookbook page give it away?
A big THANK YOU to Ida and Nyla (don't you love those names?)!

Here is a slightly modified, simpler-to-read recipe for


2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 cubes) butter (I have NO IDEA what "oleo" is!), slightly softened
Pinch of salt

Blend well together (I use a pastry blender) and pat into a foil-lined 9x13" pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

4 eggs, slightly beaten
6 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
grated rind of 2 lemons (or more)
2 cups sugar
5 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix eggs, lemon juice, and grated lemon rind in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together sugar, flour, and baking powder. Add the egg and lemon mixture to the flour mixture, then pour on baked crust and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, lift out of pan, and cut into bars.

Notes:  (1) A friend of mine mentioned that she puts the lemon rind in the crust mixture. I have tried it, but felt like the rind adds more flavor in the filling. If you have plenty of lemon rind, you could add some to both. I love a TART lemon bar, so might try that the next time I make them.

(2) This recipe is oh-so-similar to Paula Deen's, which is where I learned about the foil-lined pan. The foil totally makes cutting them into perfect bars so much easier (and the delectable edges don't get stuck to the sides of the pan). That's a hot tip.

(3) I can't tell you how many times I have burned myself on the pre-baked crust pan. Remember that it just came out of an oven. It's hot. Once you've pour on your cold-ish filling it's easy to forget. Just sayin'.

Enjoy a mouth full of sunshine!