Category Archives: Appetizers

Simple Black Bean Nachos

Columbia County, New York I Friday, 29 March 2019

Last June, I blogged about Black Bean Nachos, and I’ve been eating them quite a bit ever since. I’ve been sticking to a very simple recipe, which is cheap and easy.

Tortilla chips
Black beans, drained
Red onion, thinly sliced
Taco sauce, Ortega brand
Sour cream

Choose a microwave-safe plate and layer tortilla chips, black beans, and red onion. Drizzle taco sauce across. Repeat layers, then microwave for one minute. Add several small scoops of sour cream on the side. Enjoy!

I use one bag of tortilla chips to make this three times. (No, I’m not really interested in knowing how many servings the bag of tortilla chips claims to have, so keep that little factoid to yourself, please. Ha!)

One can of black beans and a small red onion make three servings. An eight-ounce jar of taco sauce and an eight-ounce carton of sour cream last me for six servings.

I eat this as an entire meal, and not just as a snack. I never seem to get tired of it, and it fills me up for a long time. Try it! I hope you like it!



Raj’s Black Bean Nachos

Columbia County, New York  I  Tuesday, 26 June 2018

I’ve had a certain love affair for a long time now, going way back to college.

Who is it, you ask? Well, turns out it’s not a person, but a thing, and that thing is chips and salsa!

I’m not sure how it started, and I know I didn’t eat them while I was growing up. It might be because we, The Rockets, sometime splurged and went to a Mexican restaurant in Orem, on a street colloquially known as The Diagonal, to a place called Chi Chi’s.

Also, I remember one time Lori, Julie and I were headed up to Idaho in Lori’s big white Oldsmobile. Of course, neither Julie nor I wanted to be the odd one out, sitting in the back seat, so all three of us crammed into the front seat.

Poor Lori, that must have been an uncomfortable way to drive, elbow-to-elbow with me.

On the way up, we were eating chips and salsa. I specifically remember I was wearing a matching navy blue skirt-and-shirt combo, and by the time we got to our destination, I was wearing a bit of salsa, too. Hahaha!

Later on, after college, when I got working full-time, I remember frequent trips to Chili’s, for Chicken Crispers with an amazing honey mustard sauce, and one of those little cobettes of corn.

But first, a basketful of those amazingly warm and light, airy-thin tortilla chips, with their signature salsa, not chunky, but thin. Sometimes, I would even go there alone, after all The Rockets moved away, and I didn’t have as many close friends around.

I’ve never been one of those people who’s afraid to go out to eat alone. Sometimes I’ll bring a book or a magazine to look at, or some writing to do, and oftentimes (I admit) I pretend in my own mind I’m a career woman, traveling for business, and that’s why I’m alone.

Sometimes, in my head, I’m also a food critic and secretly writing a review for a magazine, newspaper, or website. Heh heh…

You overhear the most interesting things when you’re alone, and observe a lot about other people. It’s fun for me to spy a bit and try to imagine what other people’s lives are like.

But, back in my Utah days, I also remember lunches at Los Hermanos, a nearly legendary Mexican restaurant on the corner of University Avenue and Center Street, in Provo.

When I worked in a marketing department, we went there a few times for business lunches, or when it was someone’s birthday. (Man, I miss those days, and the group of people I worked with. It was my favorite job, but of course I didn’t know it at the time.)

Lots of times we would order Nachos Supreme as a group appetizer, and by the time our entrees arrived, we were already bordering on full, after gorging on cheese-smothered chips.

Much later, many years after I married, I started making a dip I call guacamole, but it also has tomatoes and onions in it. My friends seem to like it and think it’s something special, but it’s actually really easy and simple.

There was also one time when we were staying late at Barnes & Noble, doing inventory, and one of my coworkers (the one who makes killer hummus I still crave) brought chips and a large container of Costco’s Mango Peach Salsa.

It was so good, I didn’t even want to do inventory, I just wanted to stay in the break room and eat this stuff by the gallonful.

I admit, I’ve been guilty of (and perfectly satisfied with!) many meals which were nothing other than: chips and tomato salsa, chips and mango peach salsa, or chips and guacamole.

But now, I have a new favorite.

My friend Raj shared this recipe for Black Bean Nachos. He and I go back a bit to when we worked at Barnes & Noble together.

I managed the front end of the store, which included the cashiers, their registers, and the gift department. Raj managed the nooks (Barnes & Noble’s tablets) and they were also located at the front end of the store.

Oftentimes we were dreadfully bored, when it was slow, so we’d talk a lot and discovered we have a mutual love of pens. Not those expensive Mont Blanc types or handmade ones (that was my friend Phil, the editor from the marketing department) but just nice-quality black felt tip pens from the office supply store.

One time Raj and I even conducted ultra-scientific smear tests, seeing which pens held up to water best. (Shhh! Don’t tell our manager!)

Well, Raj eventually quit and moved away, with his wife and kids, back to Nebraska, but we’ve stayed in touch on Facebook. I asked for cheap and easy meal ideas one time on My Copper Kitchen Celebrations! This is what he came up with.

Basic ingredients:
Tortilla chips
Black beans, drained
Red onion, shaved
Taco sauce
Shredded cheese

Add ons:
Ground turkey or ground beef (fried), or
Shredded chicken or pork (cooked)
Cherry tomatoes, halved, or
Grape tomatoes, quartered
Black olives, sliced
Green onions, sliced

Add this on the side, after heating:
Lime wedges
Sour cream, cream cheese, or cottage cheese

Choose an oven-proof plate or round pan. Layer your basic ingredients in the order shown above, (and any add-ons if you choose them), and then repeat.

Toast a few minutes in a warm oven, or in the microwave for 30 seconds to one minute, to melt the cheese. Squeeze lime across the chips and add dollops of sour cream, cream cheese, or cottage cheese on the side.

You can get away with hotter taco sauce if you have some type of dairy on the side, or milk to drink.

This is my new favorite snack which becomes a meal, and I don’t feel too guilty about it, because it has a bunch of the food groups and it’s quite inexpensive.

I bought the basic ingredients, plus a lime and a carton of cottage cheese, for $12. It made three big servings, so that’s not bad for $4 a serving,

Lemme tell you why I prefer cottage cheese over sour cream. Lately, I’ve been craving cottage cheese when it’s hot out, or when I’m feeling sick. The past few times, when the urge has hit me to eat cottage cheese, I haven’t had any in the fridge.

Lemme tell ya, here’s never once been a time when I’ve craved eating sour cream on its own. Seeing as how I end up having leftover cottage cheese after the tortilla chips are gone, I can be reasonably confident I’ll eat the rest of the cottage cheese, and it won’t go to waste.

But how many cartons with a bit of putrified sour cream left in them have I thrown away? Quite a few…

Try it! You’ll like it!



Setting My Table

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 22 September 2017

The other night, as I was getting ready for dinner, it occurred to me once again how much I love to set the table. That night we were having spaghetti, so it was very simple: just a bowl, fork, napkin, and glass. But still, it seemed so satisfying, making sure each piece was perfectly in place.

Several months ago, I had company over for dinner, my parents and the missionaries from church. I wasn’t sure if my dining room would work for six people, because the most I’ve had seated at this table was four, with it pushed up against the wall on one side. And since most of my dishes are in storage, I wasn’t sure how to set the table nicely, but I figured it out!

I had four basic white Corelle plates and two nice Edward Knowlton plates, antiques from 1922. I had a bunch of plain, clear glasses, and four pretty orange and cobalt blue flecked glasses, a gift from my wonderful friend, Lori.

I decided the fancy plates would be paired with the plain glasses and the plain plates would be grouped with the decorative glasses. I made sure the silverware was spot-free and shiny, my treasured Oneida Northland Musette stainless steel set I got for college graduation.

Might I brag? The centerpiece I made was simple, yet beautiful, I thought. I cut two orange lilies low in the stem and put them in clear glass spice jars, and lit three tea lights, floating them in clear votive holders. It seemed just right to me, elegant, but not overdone or distracting.

Since I had to pull the table out from the wall in order to seat six people, I was concerned the doorway would be blocked once everyone was seated, but there was actually still room to get around, so I was pleasantly surprised!

If you want to have people over for dinner, or even if it’s just a special meal for your family, don’t worry if you don’t have a huge set of fancy dinnerware. It’s fine to mix and match with what you have. Just make sure everything is sparkling clean and you take time in advance to set things up properly, without having to rush around once your guests have arrived.

Enjoy setting your table. People will appreciate your effort, how pretty it looks, and how special and loved it makes them feel.

To see some interesting, elaborate table settings, go to this blog and click on the tablescapes option in the menu bar:


Cream Cheese Crackers and Cocktail Dresses

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Friday, 23 September 2016


I went to a 60’s cocktail party the other night at my friend Emma’s house and discovered a wonderful appetizer I’d never had before!

By the time I arrived, the party was already bustling with new and interesting people I’d never met before, some people dressed up glam, cocktail-party style, and others dressed very casually.

One lady was sporting a red cocktail dress with big bows at the shoulders, a fur stole, black pumps, and carried a beaded clutch. Her black hair was held up with sparkly clips. She was also wearing a gold and pink and red necklace she got from her mother, which looks very much like one I got from my mom. (The one I broke all over the bathroom floor a few weeks ago, when I took it off, argh.)

Anyhoo, Emma wore a chic and simple black sleeveless dress with daisy necklace, and did her hair in a beehive. And the cat-eye glasses she wears every day lend a very 60’s vibe.


I didn’t have a cocktail dress, despite my best efforts at Savers and TAG’S thrift store the morning of the party, so I wore a simple black wrap shirt and long black skirt, with a necklace made of jade green and turquoise rings, a real statement piece made by my friend Marlene. I also carried a little black party purse. Nothing makes me feel more festive than carrying a little tiny purse draped over my wrist, instead of my usual ginormous tote.


At the thrift stores I found some green and black Japanese plates for myself, and a set of fabulous short-stemmed gimlet glasses to give Emma and Vivian. (Hint: If I like you, I’ll give you something new, but if I reeeeally like you, I’ll search out something vintage for you.)


Anyways, Emma and Vivian live in a cool apartment in an old 30’s or 40’s house, with great original yellow tile in the kitchen and green tile in the bathroom. The place also has many original light fixtures and a glass doorknob on the bathroom.

They had the cutest bar cart set up in their kitchen, complete with handmade recipe cards hanging on the wall above, recipes for cocktails and mocktails. Isn’t Emma a great artist?

14355037_1492461130780217_1465011141672728462_nphoto courtesy of Vivian

In the living room, on a cool mid-century modern grey Formica table, Emma and Vivian had set up a buffet of fancy European cookies, Smokies in a Crock-Pot, deviled eggs, olives, grapes, crackers, and dips.

I discovered it then, the cream cheese and red pepper jelly spread for crackers. To die for! Sweet with just the right amount of spicy, I ate more crackers than I could count, eventually parking myself on the chair closest to that end of the buffet. Cuz I’m classy like that! Ha!

Directly after the party, even though it was past midnight, I went to the closest grocery store for Ritz and Club Crackers, cream cheese and red pepper jelly, and then I went home and made even more!

I asked Vivian where she got the recipe and she didn’t remember, but thought it was from a magazine like Family Circle or Woman’s Day. After I went home I Googled it and it appears to be a fairly common recipe, possibly originating in the south.

I’d never had it before, but it was love at first bite!  Here’s the recipe, and the best part, besides the fact it’s sooo delish, is it’s super easy.


One block of Philadelphia cream cheese
Jar of red pepper jelly
Club or Ritz Crackers

Place the block of cream cheese on a platter and pour half a jar of red pepper jelly over top. Surround with crackers and place several spreaders on the platter.

If you want to spread the goodness around your party room, you could split two cream cheese blocks in half (the horizontal way, so you have thinner slabs) and pour jelly over each piece. Surround with crackers. This way you can have some dip on four different end tables and people can avoid the buffet line when they want more.

If you have time and not too many people are coming to your party, or if you  want a little treat just for yourself, you can spread the crackers yourself. A little schmear of cream cheese, followed by a half spoonful of red pepper jelly, that’s all it takes. In this case, go ahead and use a tub of cream cheese and not a block, for easier spreading.

I tried the spread on both Club Crackers and Ritz, and liked the taste best on the Club Crackers. Instead, I ended up serving the Ritz crackers with cream cheese and cucumbers, adding a dash of RealSalt over top. A dab of egg salad with a thin slice of cucumber would also be divine. Enjoy!