This dip has been a favorite in our home for years, so the recipe card bears the marks of having been consulted often. The dip can be made with or without black beans, but the added texture of those little guys is worth one more time around with the can opener. Enjoy!

1-8 oz pkg reduced fat cream cheese, softened

8 oz sour cream

8 oz salsa (I use medium heat)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 tbsp diced jalapenos

3 tbsp taco seasoning

1 can reduced fat refried beans

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Tortilla chips (Tostitos “Hint of Lime” is our chip of choice)

Optional toppings: sour cream, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, avocado, parsley or cilantro, sliced jalapenos

1) To large, microwave-safe bowl, add: cream cheese, sour cream, salsa, cheese, jalapenos, and taco seasoning; stir well to combine; add refried beans and black beans; stir well

2) Microwave dip on high 5-7 minutes until heated through (pause and stir every couple of minutes); remove from microwave, add your favorite toppings, and serve with tortilla chips

Serves: 4-6 as dinner

Serves: 12-16 as appetizer


My guys went bowling and all I got was…slow-cooker chili that should have fed four. They got bowling alley food. Yeah, I fared well–would have even if the chili hadn’t turned out so good. And now I have leftovers that I may just keep to myself. So, only one thumbs up on this recipe, but it belongs to a professional…um, eater 🙂

1 lb chicken tenderloins, chopped

1 can Rotel tomatoes (mild diced tomatoes and green chiles)

1-1/2 cups corn (I used frozen)

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1-1/4 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup reduced-fat Ranch dressing

1 tsp cumin

1-1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

1-8 oz pkg reduced-fat cream cheese

Optional: shredded Monterey Jack cheese and parsley for topping

1) Set slow cooker to low heat; add  ingredients in order listed (except cream cheese); stir to combine; top with cream cheese

2) Cook 6-8 hours, stirring a few times to incorporate cream cheese; serve with optional cheese and parsley if you like

Serves: 4-6


Years ago, I gave Pampered Chef’s recipe for Berry Puff Pancake a whirl and my berry-lovin’ guys munched out. Since then, I’ve come up with several variations, but I believe this one featuring a lightly sweetened cream cheese spread is our favorite. And, yes, it’s rather like breakfast (or dessert) for dinner. What’s not to love?

Berry-Cream Cheese Puff Pancake

2 tbsp butter (plus a bit more for coating pie pan), melted

1 cup milk

6 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

3 cups frozen mixed berries, thawed

1/3 cup berry jam

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees; coat bottom and sides of deep dish pie pan with butter

2) In medium bowl, whisk milk, eggs, and melted butter; slowly whisk in flour and salt until smooth; pour batter into deep dish pie pan and bake in oven 10 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake additional 10-12 minutes until center is lightly firm and pancake is beautifully golden and puffed

3) Meanwhile, in medium-sized bowl, mix berries and jam and set aside; in separate medium-sized bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, and powdered sugar until smooth and set aside

4) Remove puff pancake from oven and spread cream cheese mixture over bottom; immediately top with berries and serve (we are talking “yum”!)

Servings: 4


I shocked Junior Too by announcing my intention of making a full-sized cake (apparently, I’ve been stuck in cupcake mode), and shocked him further by handing him a blender and asking him to cream the butter and sugar while I mashed the bananas. But he was a good sport, and my family has a tasty cake to show for it. As for the lattice-style frosting, it’s my way of cutting back on frosting since my guys (not me!) prefer a thin spread. This also resulted in over half a cup of leftover frosting. Of course, less frosting equals less fat and calories. Give this one a try. It’s tasty!

Banana Spice Cake with Lattice Cream Cheese FrostingBanana Spice Cake with Lattice Cream Cheese Frosting 2


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1-1-2 cups granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground allspice

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly butter and flour bottom and sides of two 8″ round cake pans

2) In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (sorry, but this really does take 8-10 minutes)

3) Beat in eggs, mashed bananas, vanilla, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice

4) Stir in 1 cup flour, followed by milk, followed by remaining 1 cup flour

5) Divide cake batter between two prepared cake pans and level tops with a spatula; bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (while cakes are baking, whip up frosting below)

6) Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool in pans 10-15 minutes; run a knife blade around edges of cakes and turn out cakes onto wire rack to cool completely


1-8 oz pkg reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick butter), room temperature

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

3 cups powdered sugar

1) In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth

2) Add vanilla, lemon juice, and powdered sugar and beat until smooth; refrigerate frosting until ready to use


2 bananas, sliced 1/4″ thick

1/8 cup caramel sauce (optional)

1) Fit pastry bag with a tip of your choosing (I chose one with a rather large opening)

2) Fill pastry bag with frosting and gently squeeze to soften up

3) Place first cake layer on plate and pipe frosting in a lattice pattern, allowing frosting to extend down over sides

4) Cover frosting with sliced bananas (reserve a dozen or so pieces to decorate top layer)

5) Place second cake layer on top of first and pipe frosting in a lattice pattern

6) In center of top layer, arrange remaining slices of banana and drizzle caramel sauce over them

7) Refrigerate cake at least one hour before serving

Servings: Well…depends on will power, but probably 12

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 04/14/12


Skillet chicken is fast and relatively easy–and especially tasty when breaded and topped with cheese and ham. Though you can substitute chicken breasts for chicken tenderloins, the fine line between just right and overcooked breasts is much thicker with tenderloins. Practically foolproof. Yum!

Ham and Cream Cheese Chicken

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 eggs

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins (8-10 pieces)

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

4 oz cream cheese softened

8-10 thin slices deli ham (I used Citterio’s Rosemary Ham)

1/4 cup shaved parmesan

1 tbsp parsley

1) Mix flour with salt and pepper in shallow bowl; in separate shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs; to third shallow bowl, add panko breadcrumbs; dredge tenderloins, both sides, in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs and place on a plate

2) In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and olive oil; add breaded chicken tenderloins and cook each side 3-4 minutes until just cooked through; reduce skillet heat to medium

3) Lightly spread cream cheese over each chicken tenderloin (note: if cream cheese doesn’t spread easily, heat in microwave 10-15 seconds); top with ham and scatter parmesan cheese over top; place lid on skillet and cook 1 minute; remove from heat and scatter parsley over top; serve and enjoy!

Servings: 4


It was not omelette night. It was Simple Stacked Sushi night, but I like my sushi and wasn’t hungry enough to savor it (I hope the scales reflect my rare state of denial). Too, since Junior wasn’t home, I was only cooking for two guys. Thus, omelette time, and to make it special, I took a cue from sushi by adding to my gussied-up ham omelette the ingredients of cream cheese and avocado enjoyed in California Rolls. So there you have it: California Cream Cheese Omelette. I did snag a forkful from Senior and Junior Too and can attest to it being a successful experiment.

California Cream Cheese Omelette

7 eggs

1/2 cup milk

sea salt

ground black pepper

1 tbsp butter

3/4 cup cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup ham, sliced thin and chopped

1/2 avocado, sliced thin

3/4 cup tomatoes, diced

1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened and thinned with 3 tbsp milk (reserve 2 tbsp thinned cream cheese to drizzle over top of folded omelette)

1 tsp minced chives

1) In medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper

2) In large skillet over low heat, melt butter; pour eggs into skillet and cook 5 minutes without stirring; as omelette begins to set, gently pull edges from sides of skillet with spatula, tilt skillet, and allow uncooked egg to flow underneath

3) Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) over entire omelette; on left side, scatter ham and distribute avocado slices; on right side, scatter tomatoes and spinach

4) Drizzle thinned cream cheese (reserving 2 tbsp for topping) over left side

5) Fold right side of omelette (tomato and spinach side) over left; scatter reserved 1/4 cup cheddar cheese over top, drizzle with reserved thinned cream cheese, and sprinkle with minced chives; cook another 2-3 minutes until egg is cooked through

6) Cut in half, plate, and stand back as the guys go for the biggest slice

Serves: 2 bottomless guys (and mom with an unusually small appetite and a sneaky fork)

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 04/21/12


Spring break and Junior is happily home and hungry. Though the refrigerator and pantry is stocked with the ingredients to make one of several planned meals, I opted for a cross between Mexican and Italian fare. Chicken-Cream Cheese-Black Bean Pasta Shell Tacos resulted and was quickly devoured. Need I say “all thumbs up”?

Chicken-Cream Cheese-Black Bean Pasta Shell Tacos

2-1/2 cups salsa, divided

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups shredded and chopped deli-roasted chicken (or 2 cans chicken breasts, drained)

1-15 oz can black beans, drained

1-4 oz can diced green chiles

1-8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 cup scallions, sliced thin (divided)

2 tbsp taco seasoning

20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente according to package directions

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Spread 1-1/2 cups salsa (reserving 1 cup) in bottom of 11×9″ casserole dish; set aside

3) In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat; add chicken, black beans, green chiles, and cream cheese; stirring often, cook 8 minutes; stir in scallions (reserving 1 tbsp for topping) and taco seasoning and cook 2 minutes; remove from heat

4) Spoon chicken-cream cheese mixture into cooked pasta shells, about 2 tbsp each; place filled shells atop salsa in baking dish and pour 1 cup reserved salsa over the top; bake 25 minutes; scatter cheese and reserved 1 tbsp scallions over shells and cook additional 5 minutes; remove from oven, scatter avocados and tomatoes over top, and serve

Servings: 4-5


For our weekly get together with friends, I served Chicken and Cream Cheese Enchiladas Doused in Salsa Verde. And–boy!–did they go fast. On top of being decidedly tasty, the dish was fairly easy to put together, leaving plenty of time to toss together a light salad and set a pretty table. All thumbs up!

Chicken Cream Cheese Enchiladas Doused in Salsa Verde

olive oil spray

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced red onion

1-4.5 oz can green chiles

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided

2-1/2 cups chopped baby spinach

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (canned chicken breast works great in a pinch)

1-8 oz pkg reduced fat cream cheese

2-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, divided

sea salt

ground black pepper

12 taco-sized flour tortillas, room temperature

1-16 oz jar salsa verde, room temperature

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 avocado, diced

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly oil large baking dish with spray olive oil

2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high; add onion and cook 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned; add green chiles, cilantro (reserving 1 tbsp for topping), spinach, and chicken, and stir to combine; add cream cheese and 2 cups (reserving 1/2 cup) Monterey Jack Cheese and stir constantly until both cheeses melt; season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat

3) Spoon chicken-cheese mixture down center of each tortilla and roll up; place tortillas side by side in baking dish (I placed seam-side up and tucked tortillas’ leading edges into adjacent enchiladas); spray top lightly with olive oil and bake in oven 25-30 minutes until tortillas are golden brown; remove from oven, pour salsa verde over top, sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and reserved 1 tbsp cilantro; return to oven and bake 3-5 minutes until salsa verde is heated and cheese melts; serve with a light salad and enjoy!

Servings: 6


Happy Sunday! For brunch, I decided on a frittata, but not just any frittata. After going back and forth between adding goat cheese or cream cheese to the dish, I went the cream cheese route since my guys aren’t always enthusiastic about goat cheese. It was a good call, though I do believe goat cheese would have been equally tasty–perhaps more so.

Cream Cheese-Sun Dried Tomato Frittata

2 tsp olive oil

3/4 cup minced red onion

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

8 eggs

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp sea salt

3 oz reduced-fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1) Add olive oil to large skillet and heat over medium heat; add onions and sun-dried tomatoes; stirring occasionally, cook 5 minutes

2) Meanwhile, crack eggs into medium-sized bowl; add mustard and sea salt; beat mixture until well combined; set aside

3) Reduce skillet heat to low and add cream cheese to onion-tomato mixture; stir until cream cheese melts and coats onion and tomatoes; evenly distribute cream cheese-onion-tomato mixture across surface of skillet and gently pour egg mixture over the top; sprinkle with cheddar cheese and parsley; place lid on skillet and cook 12-15 minutes or until egg sets; serve with toast, preferaby smeared with apricot jam

Servings: 4


Though I can’t give an “all thumbs up” to this smoked salmon pizza, it’s only because my guys prefer more traditional pizzas like pepperoni and pineapple-ham. According to Senior, my offering was “too Olive Garden.” But I, for one, am a fan of those lovely restaurants–and was pleasantly surprised by the smoked salmon (not a big seafood fan). So if you enjoy pizza on the un-traditional (AKA exceptional side), this one could be for you.

Smoked Salmon-Red Onion-Cream Cheese Pizza2

PIZZA DOUGH (or you can buy pre-made):

1 cup warm water

1-1/2 tsp yeast

2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp oregano

3 tbsp olive oil + 2 tsp olive oil (divided)


1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 large red onion, sliced thin

1-8 oz pkg reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature

1-1/2 tbsp prepared horseradish

1/4 large red onion, minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup julienned baby spinach

5 oz smoked salmon, broken into small pieces

1/2 cup 6-cheese Italian blend

1) PIZZA DOUGH: Add warm water and yeast to small bowl, stir gently, and let sit 10 minutes

2) To large bowl, add flour, salt, oregano and 3 tbsp olive oil (reserving 2 tsp); stir to combine; pour in water-yeast mixture and stir well to combine; turn dough into lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise 1 hour

3) Preheat oven to 450 degrees

4) PIZZA: To large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and sliced red onion; stirring often, cook 7-8 minutes until onions soften; remove from heat and set aside

5) In medium-sized bowl, mix cream cheese, horseradish, minced red onion, salt, and black pepper; set aside

6) Lightly oil large pizza pan with 1 tsp reserved olive oil (reserving 1 tsp); on floured surface, roll out dough to fit large pizza pan; transfer dough to pan; brush dough with remaining 1 tsp olive oil; bake in oven 8 minutes until lightly golden; remove from oven (do not turn off)

7) Spread cream cheese mixture over pizza crust and scatter with: spinach, red onions, salmon, and 6-cheese Italian blend; bake in oven 4-5 minutes until cheese melts; serve

Servings: 4