Cream Cheese Toffee Dip and Happy Anniversary!

Cream Cheese toffee dip

A Pinch of Joy is one year old!  Actually, it is older than that because I did a lot of research and learning and planning before posting the very first post.  And that was August 22 – just one year ago!  In case you missed it – and I’m sure most of you did! – here it is again.   The first month, readers were numbered in the tens – and I knew the name of every one of them!  Your words and feedback were so encouraging!  I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time to write those notes!  You know who you are. . . .

This has been a learning year!   I was fairly proficient at using MSWord and knew my way around the internet really well.  And I heard about C Prompts and FAT 32s when Bytes studied for his certification exams.  None of that was any help at all in blogging!   I had to learn a whole new version of computerese – and a whole lot of it!!  But thanks to Google and Bytes – and some very, very late nights—it’s not nearly as intimidating anymore!   I continue to learn about blogging and readers now come by the thousands each month.  Each and every one is deeply appreciated!

I hope you have learned a bit from me as well. Just one or two things, like:

  • Cooking is not intimidating because once you learn a few basics you can change ingredients, try something a bit different in the method of preparation, make the dish fit your family situation and the ingredients you have available.
  • If something isn’t working for you, try a new way.  Like our raised garden beds in the area where we hadn’t been able to produce much of anything before.  Or learn a new skill such as how to add moulding to spiff up a boring room.
  • Organization makes life so much easier and is worth the time thinking things through to find the best way.  Organization includes your financial life and family management, too!
  • Family and friends are important and so are the little things we do to nourish those relationships.  Beauty, whether in nature or well done crafts, enriches our lives.  Money isn’t the big deal in doing any of those things.   You know it – love and caring is the big deal.  Always!

Thanks for making this such a great and exciting year!  Stay tuned to see what falls off the keyboard throughout the coming  year!!!!   Don’t miss a thing —  subscribe by email or RSS feed, follow on facebook or twitter to catch the latest post!

Cream Cheese Toffee Dip and Happy Anniversary!
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ – ½ package of Heath toffee bits
  1. Beat together cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy. The secret is to beat until the volume of the cream cheese is almost doubled.
  2. Add toffee bits.
  3. Refrigerate for at least two hours, overnight is even better.
  4. Serve with apple slices, pretzels, pretzel crackers or other sturdy dippers.

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Sweet Pepper Fiesta Salad

Orange, red, yellow sweet pepper salad

Orange, red, yellow sweet pepper salad

I love the bright colors of this salad.  It just sings party!  You can slice the peppers and onion into rings before marinating for a fun party look.  Or slice the peppers lengthwise and dice the onion for a side salad.   Or you can slice the peppers lengthwise and then cut them into pieces about an inch long, as I did, and used diced onion.   With the smaller pieces, you can add the marinated peppers to a tossed salad, put a spoonful on top of a burger or use it to flavor another dish – besides eating it as a salad.  Besides its colorful versatility, this combination has several “good for you” benefits!

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in the “new world”, the sunshine colors give a hint to the nutrional punch packed by bell peppers,  One small red, yellow or orange pepper has three times the daily required amount of Vitamin C.  They contain Vitamin A which helps night vision and other compounds which help protect against macular degeneration and cataracts.  These two vitamins boost immunity and guard again heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.  They are a good source of Vitamin B6 and folic acid.  Lycopene is found in red peppers and helps protect against certain cancers.  Peppers are a good source of fiber, with its associated benefits.  That’s a lot packed into a pretty pepper!

The dressing has a lot of health benefits as well.  Continuing studies, in particular at Arizona State University and Lund University in Sweden and Tokyo University in Japan, verify the benefits of acetic acid found in vinegar.  Vinegar decreases blood glucose levels.  According to Dr. Carol Johnston of ASU,   “[Vinegar] in inexpensive and can be easily incorporated into the diet. Used in combination with diet and exercise, it can help many people with type 2 diabetes.”

Other studies have shown regular consumption of as little as 2 teaspoons of vinegar a day  will help with metabolic syndrome ( pre diabetes) and produce moderate weight loss.  Dr. Johnston recommends an easy way to consume vinegar is through dressings on salads and cooked vegetables with a mix of 50-75% of vinegar to oil.  Our dressing is 75% vinegar.  If you are using this recipe for that purpose, you can eliminate the sugar or choose a sugar substitute.

Who knew healthy food could look so festive and taste so good???

Sweet Pepper Fiesta Salad
  • 1 each red, yellow and orange bell peppers
  • 1 small onion
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley – optional
  1. Wash, seed and slice the peppers.
  2. Prepare the onion – diced finely or sliced thinly into rings.
  3. Whisk together oil, vinegar and sugar.
  4. Place peppers and onion into bowl and pour the dressing over them.
  5. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  6. 6 servings

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Meals that mend: eating to heal

Meals that mend, eating to heal

Meals that mend, eating to heal

Had a burp in the bubble of serenity (such as it is!) here at Chez Charlene. Wheels had surgery yesterday (at home now and doing fine – thank you!) but has to be off his feet for several days followed by reduced activity for a couple of weeks.   Good health is controlled by diet and exercise, so it takes a little planning to keep that balance during a down time.  Even the healthiest of us can’t avoid strains, sprains, or some periods of forced inactivity for other reasons. It is possible to adjust your way of eating to maintain health during those times – and even to aid quick recovery!

Off to the grocery to do some thinking and planning on the move. Problem: Control the number of carbs and calories per meal to avoid weight gain and unstable blood sugar and still provide enough food and nutrients to heal, feel well and stave off hunger!    Solution:   Spread things out with five or six small meals instead of three larger ones.   Increase protein, as studies have shown protein to be  essential for healing.  Protein can also speed the healing process!  Up the amount of fiber and drink plenty of water to prevent that sluggish feeling from inactivity,as the nurse reminded me. Once I had those three guides in mind, the rest was much easier. Here’s what I put in my grocery cart*:

  • Several packages of microwavable fish fillets – each 2 carbs, 15 grams of protein.   Two fillets for lunch with a salad
  • Eggs – 4-6 grams of protein.   Scramble or poach for a meal, hardboil for sandwich, add to salad, by itself
  • Yogurt- low carb – 4-8 grams carb and 8 grams of protein.  Anytime stand alone or addition to meal
  • Sugar free jello    Free food anytime – minimal nutrition but adds to liquid intake.
  • Peanut butter – Good source protein 8 grams in 2 tablespoons, 7 grams carbs.    It was on sale for $2 – a steal since the drought in Georgia raised the price of peanuts!  Veggie accompaniment, spread for sliced apples, cracker spread
  • Cottage Cheese – 4 grams carb and 12 grams protein.  Meal accompaniment or snack, with salad
  • Cheddar Cheese – ¾ oz pieces – 0 carb and 5 g protein. With fruit, on sandwich, with meal, snack
  • Thin pork chops –counter top grill ready – 16 grams protein.  I already have a big ham, ground beef, roast beef and chicken in the freezer at home.   For sandwich, alone or on top of salad
  • Slim Buns, wholegrain – 4 grams protein, 20 carbs.    I’m a latecomer to this bandwagon, but each brand we’ve tried have proven to be tastier than low carb bread, and 10 – 15 carbs lower than using two slices of bread for a sandwich. Actually we don’t eat a lot of sandwiches, but convenience, ease in eating and whole grain won out this time.
  • Fresh vegetables – great source of fiber, and many vitamins and minerals essential to the healing process.   Includes Wheels’ favorite of the month — Brussels sprouts and asparagus  (I’m trying to keep my opinion on those two to myself — bleccchhhhhh –oops, failed!)  Carrots, cherry tomatoes, salad greens, celery, peppers – with meal and for unlimited snacks.
  • Fresh fruit – generally 15 carbs per standard serving, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Apples, clementines (small size portion control!), strawberries and cantaloupe.  With meals or alone as snack – serve with a protein such as peanut butter or cheese
  • Weight Watchers Strawberry Smoothie and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bar    One bar is 12 grams carb and 3 grams of protein. (Their “serving” is two bars)  While the carb count for a single bar is too high to ignore, it is reasonable for the feeling of indulgence!
  • A big bunch of miniature roses — for a pinch of joy every time we see them!

These foods aren’t unusual in our routine, but I will pay closer attention to making sure they are worked in regularly with the balance weighted toward keeping a higher protein level and a lower carb level than normal. Wheels should be well fed and on his feet soon! Hope this will save YOU some time if you are ever in this situation!

*Now . . . do you call it a grocery buggy or a cart? Or something else??


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