Baked Tortilla Chips with 7-layer Dip

As of right now we are in Day 2 of the 2nd week of “adverse weather conditions” – which means that we are all at home again. The children are home from school, no extra-curricular activities to rush off to, no cooking classes to teach or buses to catch. This comes directly after we spent a week shut in doors with the stomach flu. Kai is spending his free time working on magic tricks and JP is writing a story.  I’m borderline obsessed with the iPhone game “Wordscapes” and may finally finish needle felting the garland I started back in July. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to step back and think. Flexibility is not always my strong suit so it’s good to flex that muscle.


As you know, I love cookies, candy and holidays. Yet, sometimes its nice to celebrate without relying solely on sugar and chocolate (though we will have plenty of that as well), which is partly why I love this recipe so much. The heart chips and dip are festive and delicious, while also being useful as a lunch or snack. Win win!

This layered dip is so easy! I like that the bean layer is extra thick and the red peppers add a welcome crunch and sweetness to keep it all in balance. Most 7 layer dip recipes use taco seasoning but I know I didn’t miss it here. Of course, the heart chips steal the show. Tortilla chips are a staple around our house and I could’ve definitely used them but those hearts are too cute!


This baked tortilla chips and 7 layer dip recipe was a great project to do with my bored children as well. They had fun cutting out the shapes, brushing them with olive oil and sprinkling the sea salt on top. A quick bake in the oven and snack was ready to go. Now I just need to decide on our Valentine’s Day dessert.

Baked Tortilla Chip Hearts

I find that flour tortillas work best for baking. Corn tortillas seem to turn out a little more tough and chewy where flour tortillas turn crisp. To cut the shapes, press firmly and wiggle the cookie cutter so that the tortilla is cut all the way through.

Using a small and medium cookie cutter, I was able to get ten heart shaped cut outs from one tortilla.

Feel free to double or triple this depending on how many people need feeding.

Serves 1-2


  • 1 large burrito sized flour tortilla
  • 1 tablespoon olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons flake sea salt


Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut shapes out of flour tortilla and set on baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat with oil and then sprinkle with flake salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until tortilla is crisp, puffy and slightly golden along the edges. Let cool before eating. Best eaten the day they are made.

Individual 7-layer Dip Cups

Easily doubled, tripled and adjusted for personal tastes. If a smaller cup is used, then 1/2 recipe and only make one layer. I bet that 4 oz mason jars would work amazingly well for toddler sized portions.

Serves 1 hungry child


  • 1- 9 oz clear cup (I used Chinex) but any low, wide cup or jar would do
  • 1/4 cup refried beans (I use Annie’s Traditional)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • Salsa for topping, optional


Using a spoon, spread 2 tablespoons refried beans on the bottom of the cup. Next, spread 1 tablespoon sour cream and top with 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese. Finally, sprinkle 1 tablespoon each red bell pepper and black olives. Repeat with beans, sour cream, cheese, red pepper and black olives. Finish with salsa if desired. Serve with homemade tortilla chips and a spoon. Cover leftovers with saran wrap and store in the refrigerator. These can be made ahead of time but wait to top with salsa until ready to serve.





My Favorite Banana Bread

“Did you make something yummy today mom?” my son asks skipping home from school. Today the answer is yes. Though banana bread transcends seasons, I tend to make it more during the winter months. Domed golden brown loaves that toe the line between bread and cake sit on the counter waiting for afternoon snack time. I gently slice the tender loaf revealing the speckled interior. I hand each a thick slice, warm and slathered with butter.


Banana bread is chock full of memories. I smile thinking of sitting at the kitchen table with Grandma Pat and eating the loaf she brought with her. She would say how healthy it is since it is full of bananas and give anyone a friendly swat if they dared to disagree. She would probably be sporting Sponge Bob Square Pants socks or Betty Boop jewelry and have a few crumbs clinging to the corners of her mouth. Banana bread was one of her favorite foods. Shortly after she passed away, Kai was born. His middle name is Patrick in remembrance of her. Making banana bread connects me to sweet memories of the past, while creating new memories for the future.


I’ve made chocolate banana bread and bourbon banana bread. I’ve made olive oil banana bread and banana bread with flax seeds. None of these variations disappoint but I find that when I want banana bread, I want the classic. I want the bread to taste strongly of banana. I want it to have a light crumb. I want butter and warm spices. I want all the ingredients to already be in my cupboard. I want it to stand on its own without needing nuts or chocolate. I want my home to smell like heaven. This recipe checks all the boxes and I hope you feel the same.

What special memories does banana bread hold for you? I’d love to know!


Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf

I adapted this recipe from Chef John’s Banana Bread on Though commonly called “quick bread”, I think that is a misleading name. Anything that takes an hour in the oven is not quick in my mind. If I truly am in a hurry, I scoop the batter into muffin tins. I might also put the batter together and refrigerate it over night and bake it the next day. I find that light colored pans give the best results. I also always end up covering my bread with foil half way through so that the top doesn’t burn. It will look done on the outside but be completely raw in the middle. Use an instant read thermometer, like you would for meat, to determine if the bread is done baking. The bread is fully cooked at 200° F. You could also stick a skewer in the middle and when it comes out clean, you will know that the bread is finished baking.


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (10 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Thoroughly whisk flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Add in eggs one at a time and beat on low – medium low to emulsify the batter. Scrape the bowl in between each egg.
  5. Mix in mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla extract. The batter will look chunky and not well mixed but hang in there, you are doing great!
  6. Add the flour mixture and stir until the flour is incorporated. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl and sides. The batter should be a cohesive mixture, thick like pancake batter and loose enough to pour.
  7. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans. Tap bottom of pan on the counter to get rid of any air pockets.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Check at 30 minutes and cover with foil if getting too brown. An instant read thermometer should read 200°F when done.
  9. Let the bread rest in the pan for 15 minutes and remove from the pan onto a cooling rack.  Once completely cool, wrap in saran wrap and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator over night. The bread’s texture is improved with a rest and is much easier to slice. It will keep for 3-5 days.


Quick Cinnamon Orange Rolls

fullsizeoutput_17aThe count down to Christmas is in full swing and it has me thinking about the act of gift giving. As a child our family of six would pile into the car and drive two hours to the nearest mall on Black Friday. It was especially magical when the year’s first snow would coincide with this family outing. I would have my allowance in my hand and head out to find the perfect gift for each family member. I doubt I had more than ten dollars to spend but that didn’t bother me. One year I found the perfect snow globe for my twin sister. I was mesmerized by the snow floating and swirling around the little figurine. Waiting a whole month to give it to my sister felt like an eternity. It was one of my earliest memories of the anticipation of giving and not just receiving on Christmas day.


Though I love finding gifts for others, it can also be a source of stress, especially this time of year. I want each and every gift to reflect thought and care. I want each gift to be perfect. But let’s be honest – this is a tall order for any package. It’s good to keep it in perspective. The true gift is the time and thought goes into each oen. This in and of itself is an act of love. I think of the gifts I’ve received over the years and the time and effort required and feel so much gratitude.

To me the gift of time and attention is one of the most thoughtful and lasting presents we can give each other. There are a multitude of ways to show our affection and love this season and they don’t all have to be wrapped in bows.

But I really would like a snow globe of my own.


Quick Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Baking breakfast is an especially kind act of love and these orange cinnamon rolls are just the trick. They come together quickly and require no wait time or frosting. Cinnamon rolls are always a favorite in our family but I find the timing for breakfast challenging. Normally, this means that breakfast is ready closer to lunch. So when I saw this recipe in Cooks Illustrated, I had to give it a try. The technique is similar to making biscuits. I added orange zest and nutmeg to punch up the holiday cheer.

Tip: Altogether you will need about 8 tablespoons of melted butter. Three tablespoons are used in the filling and dough and are best measured precisely. The other 4-5 tablespoons are used to grease the pan, brush the dough before adding the filling and brush on the rolls before baking. I melted it all at once and then measured it out as needed.



3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon melted butter


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (I prefer aluminum free)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 – 1 teaspoon orange zest (I used a mandarin orange)

1 1/4 cup buttermilk, warmed (butter will stay in liquid form when added together)

2 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use some melted butter to grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter and mix. The mixture will stick together slightly when pressed. Set filling aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter to the warmed buttermilk. Pour into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will be shaggy.

Dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times so that dough becomes smooth. Roll out the dough to a 12 x 9 inch rectangle. Brush with a couple tablespoons of melted butter, leaving an inch or two around the border. Spread filling evenly on top and press it down gently.

Start with your hands on the long edge nearest you. Begin to roll the dough away from you. Once your dough all rolled up, use a bench scraper to cut the dough into 8 even pieces.

To transfer the buns to the pan, pick them up one at a time and gently pinch the under side of the bun to help keep the filling in place. Put 7 rolls around the edges and 1 in the center of the pan. Brush with the rest of the butter.

Bake on the center rack for 23-25 minutes. The buns will be dark golden brown and the filling will be bubbling beautifully all over. Err on the side of over baked if not sure.

Let cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Serve directly out of the pan.

Like most baked goods, these are best eaten right out of the oven, but I found them completely acceptable 1 – 2 days later. Store in a air tight container. I wouldn’t feel bad at all about baking them the night before and then warming them back up in the oven (or microwave) in the morning. I would suggest transferring the buns to an air tight container though so that they don’t stick to the pan. Enjoy!