A family dessert favorite: Scotcharoos

One dessert that is always on my December planning list to make is Scotcharoos. The recipe comes from my mom’s side of the family, the Larsens. Not the healthiest thing to make by any means, which means that this recipe is a once a year treat for us to enjoy. This year I made a batch of these to share with the family that invited us to share Christmas Eve dinner.

Scotcharoos: A Larsen Family Tradition

1 cup karo syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups rice krispies cereal

8-9 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

8-9 oz. butterscotch chips

Bring to a boil the karo syrup and sugar on medium heat. Be careful to stir frequently  and not to let it boil very long. Add peanut butter. Mix well. Add rice krispies. Press into buttered 9×13 pan. Melt on low the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Spread on top. Cool 3 hours before serving.

A New Year’s Menu

We are enjoying our Christmas vacation, and a little break from the usual routine. It is nice to sleep in and spend most of the day playing and relaxing with the children. Most of our time has been spent building Lego’s, reading books, watching movies, and spending time outside in the gorgeous Florida weather (walking or hiking while the children ride rollerblades or bikes).

Sometime during the holiday break I usually get a little itch to have some friends over for an evening of good food and games. Hosting an event is a good reason to clean the house, and the children are usually more motivated to help! We worked hard yesterday cleaning and prepping food, then rewarded ourselves with a nice evening with one of our favorite neighbor families.

New Year’s Eve makes me want to eat appetizer type dishes (foods that my normally picky eaters usually don’t like). This is what the menu looked like:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs: I have been wanting to make these for years, and they were so easy and delicious. Just three ingredients in the crockpot!

Cheeseball: This is a repeat of a favorite we discovered last year. Served with crackers and carrots, celery, and bell peppers on the side.

A green salad: nothing too difficult here, just green lettuce with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and a little bit of peppers. I mixed up a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing to serve with it.

French bread: easy store bought bread. Some pieces were cut and served plain with butter, while the other half of the loaf was topped with Garlic Bread Seasoning and toasted.

Hmmmm, I am noticing a theme here–all of my recipes come from Our Best Bites! If you haven’t checked out that site, you really should. They are always my go-to source for any recipe (so much that I have two of their cookbooks!).

For dessert we had our Fried Ice Cream Balls. I had planned to serve these on Christmas Eve, but our good friends ended up inviting us over for dinner that night. Happy day! So that means I just adjusted our menu a bit, and we get to have our Chinese food menu for dinner on New Year’s Eve.

Peppermint Pretzel Cookies

2-DSC_0004For a lot of people, baking is a big part of their Christmas holiday celebrations.  Baking isn’t a big tradition that I grew up with, but I enjoy involving my children in the kitchen with me when I can. These cookies are my favorite thing to make at Christmas time because the recipe is very kid friendly!

You only need three ingredients: pretzels, peppermint flavored Hershey’s Kisses (the kind with red and white stripes), and red and green M&Ms.1-DSC_0002Set your oven to 200 degrees.

On a large baking sheet, lay out the pretzels. Top each pretzel with a Hershey’s Kiss.


Place in the oven and WATCH THEM CLOSELY. You want to soften the Kiss, not melt it too much and turn into a gooey mess. It will only take 5-8 minutes. When it is soft you can drop an M&M on top. Chill until set.

4-DSC_0006Enjoy and share some with your friends!

Our Christmas Menu

For most of our married life, we have lived far away from our extended family. Since traveling at this season can be difficult and expensive, we have opted to make the most of Christmas celebrating with our own little family in our own little home. Over the years we have developed a holiday menu that we really look forward to!

Christmas Eve the theme is Chinese Food. You can follow the links to view the recipes. This year I am planning to serve:

Sweet Sriracha Chicken-purchased from Sam’s Club

Egg Rolls-purchased from Sam’s Club

One pot wonder Chicken Lo Mein

A couple of other items I am considering: Chow Mein, General Tso’s Chicken, or these Thai Peanut Noodles.

Fried Rice: my recipe is mostly of the make-it-up as you go along variety, and it varies overtime. Take a guess at the proportions! Saute sliced onion and garlic. Add sliced carrots and bell peppers, then frozen peas. Or you can just use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Scramble 2-3 eggs. Add prepared white rice (2-3 cups, cooled). Toss in some soy sauce until it tastes good. If you want a real recipe, try this one.

For dessert we always have Fried Ice Cream balls. Not actually fried, so at our house we call these Cruncy Ice Cream balls. These are especially good with peppermint flavored ice cream, but with the picky eaters at my house we will stick to vanilla ice cream this year.

Christmas Day breakfast is Butterscotch Caramel Pull-Aparts (made by my husband). We also have hard-boiled eggs, and the oranges that are in everyone’s stockings. Perhaps this year I will try this Bacon & Egg Breakfast Casserole.

Dinner on Christmas Day is the traditional ham and potatoes. I am going to try the Orange and Brown Sugar glazed ham posted by Our Best Bites, as well as Funeral Potatoes. Most likely green beans for a side.

Ever since we moved to Florida I have been trying to learn how to make rolls. My husband’s family makes fabulous rolls, which I have been trying to replicate with moderate success. I think the elevation and humidity have something to do with my failures, but let me just say that bread making is not really my thing. Last January my good friend kindly gave me a one-on-one lesson on roll making. I made them for Thanksgiving this year and they were my best ever. So this is my roll recipe for this Christmas.

Dinner Rolls from Stacey

Proof yeast:

1 Tbs. yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 Tbs. sugar

Mix the first four ingredients in Bosch (I use my Kitchenaid)

2 cups milk (or 1/4 cup powdered milk and 2 cups hot water)

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt


2 beaten eggs

8-9 cups bread flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Heat butter, milk, sugar, and salt until warm. Combine beaten eggs with milk mixture then add yeast mixture (make sure liquid is not too hot before you add the yeast mixture). Gradually add the flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl. Cover and let rise until double. Punch down. Knead and spread out onto a floured surface to make a circle (actually rectangle shape works better for me) and spread with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter, cut 24 even wedges. Roll each wedge beginning at the wide end. Place on a cookie sheet and bend slightly to make a curved roll. Cover and let rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Butter tops while hot.

What do you think? Anyone want to join us for a meal?

Smoothie Recipe Round-Up

We love to eat smoothies, and we eat them nearly everyday for our mid-morning snack. It’s a great way to get some healthy nutrients into my kiddos (and myself!)

I pull out the blender and toss in the following: 1-2 Tbsp of orange juice concentrate, banana, handful of baby spinach, frozen strawberries, yogurt, and milk. I’ve been adding spinach for the last month or so and it is great–the children don’t notice it. I usually make extra and freeze the leftovers in a popsicle mold. Then I only have to make smoothies every other day, with popsicles served on the in-between days.

But lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to mix things up and add some new flavors. I scoured my pinterest board and recapped the favorites I want to try here. Enjoy! Let me know if you try any and what your favorites are!

Smoothies 101 from Meet the Dubiens: great step-by-step instructions for making smoothies, includes 10 recipes, tips on freezing the leftovers.6332563567_a84e42a41c_z

Mix and Match Smoothies from Plan to Eat: great overview on the basics of making a smoothieSONY DSC

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie from Make and Takessmoothie-choc-pb-banana

Strawberry Peach Smoothie from Food for my Familyfreezer-smoothies

Avocado Banana Smoothie from Food Your Way


Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie from My Blessed Life


Orange Creamy from Family Heritage RecipesIMG_0208

Cran Raspberry Smoothie from Simple Bites

Pineapple Smoothie from Gimme Some Ovenpineapple-ginger-smoothie-tall

Make your own yogurt drinks from Meet the Dubiens: not a smoothie, but a good alternative8640539121_849c2aecfd_z

Pumpkin Nutella Smoothie from Kitchen Treaty: yummy….nutella!


Green Smoothie from Pinterest (the recipe was included in the Pin, I can’t find the original source): 2 handfuls baby spinach, 1 cup of chunk pineapple, 2 bananas, 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup watergreen-smoothie-JoaoMFernandes

And lastly…Frozen Spinach cubes: How to guide to saving and using your spinach before it goes bad, from All That is Sweet in Life


Happy smoothie making!

Breakfast at Our House

Monday: Waffles 

I use this heritage recipe for waffles from the family cookbook. I double the recipe and use half whole wheat flour. We have always been a syrup loving family, but we are now mostly using powdered sugar as a topping (slightly healthier, right?!).

But I am thinking of switching things up a bit and trying soon this recipe for Whole Wheat Waffles.

Tuesday: Scrambled Eggs and…

Our scrambled eggs are pretty basic. The kids like them with ketchup. If there are any left then I like them with salsa. Zach and Lily eat eggs and toast with a little bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top, or leftover waffles. Anwyn prefers dry cereal (Life) or granola.

Wednesday: Whatever or Breakfast Date Out

For awhile now I have been pondering ways for Jared and I to have quality one-on-one time with our children. The Breakfast Date Out is our current experiment. Every Wednesday, one child gets to go with one parent out to eat at a restaurant. We rarely eat out, so this is very thrilling. Everyone who stays home eats whatever: toast, leftovers from other days, etc. I eat a bowl of oatmeal, topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.

Thursday: French Toast

I follow the recipe from The All New Joy of Cooking book my mother gave me as a wedding present.

2/3 cup milk

4 large eggs

2 Tbsp. sugar or pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

Add the slices of bread one at a time to the mixture, cook on a girdle (okay, I abbreviated the directions but I’m sure you can figure it out). Top withy syrup or powdered sugar.

Friday: Breakfast Bars or Cookies or Muffins

I am still adding recipes to this category. I really like this Whole Wheat Muffin recipe because it is quick and easy and healthy.

Last week I tried these Banana Oat Cookies and everyone ate them-success!

These Super Strawberry Bars are on my list to try.

The basic criteria here is that it has to be a recipe I can whip together and feed to Anwyn between the time I get up at 6:50 a.m. and we walk to the bus stop at 7:50 a.m.

Saturday: Puffy Pancakes

Technically these are usually called German Pancakes (recipe), but we prefer the more descriptive name of Puffy Pancakes. Top with powdered sugar.

Sunday: Biscuits

This is a new addition to our menu. My husband is an awesome biscuit maker, and he thankfully agreed to be in charge of Sunday breakfasts. I believe this is the recipe he uses. I plan to also serve hard boiled eggs or sausage. On Fast Sunday the kids eat bagels and cream cheese.

Adding in the Fruit: Smoothies

Looking over this menu I realize that it is sadly lacking in FRUIT! I am working to remedy that (when budget and season will allow for it). However…we get a good dose of the good stuff in our mid-morning smoothie snack. I pull out the blender and toss in the following: 1-2 Tbsp of orange juice concentrate, banana, frozen strawberries, banana, yogurt, and milk. This week I finally took the plunge and added spinach leaves–it was great, and the children didn’t even notice. I usually make extra and freeze the leftovers in a popsicle mold. Then I only have to make smoothies every other day, with popsicles served on the in-between days.

Sadly, most days the smoothie snacks are just for Lily and Zach and me (the lucky one’s who still get to be home all day). On school days Anwyn gets a bowl of fruit with breakfast to compensate (frozen strawberries or blueberries).

Special Traditions

General Conference weekends we eat crepes! This is the time of the year we indulge in Nutella (if it’s in the house, then Zach will eat it by the spoonful multiple times of day-okay, I am sometimes guilty  too–so I have to limit its availability in our home 🙂

When it comes to breakfast, these blog posts are inspiring to me:

Breakfast at our House (Raising Lemons)

10 Healthy Breakfasts in 10 Minutes or Less

Healthy Breakfast

I would love to hear what breakfast is like at your house!

The Family Cookbook is now a blog!

When my husband and I were married, one of the most helpful gifts we received was a copy of The Family Cookbook. My husband comes from a family with 5 sisters and a brother and they all enjoy cooking (well, I know the sisters do but I have a feeling his younger brother might be more interested in physics than cooking!). Over the years the family has compiled all their favorite recipes into a book format, and that book is well-used in our kitchen. We’ve made waffles and German pancakes and bean dip and lemon bars and muffins and granola and sloppy joes and taco beef soup and orange chicken and macaroni and cheese and texas sheet cake and pumpkin cookies….You get the idea; it’s quite a comprehensive cookbook!

After the latest revision of the cookbook, my sister-in-law Tiffany had the great idea to turn the book into a blog. The same great recipes, now with appetizing photos and helpful “hands on” comments: it’s enough to make me say “Yummmmm…..”

The blog is a team effort by the Tanner family and multiple recipes are being added each week. Feel free to visit and hopefully add some new recipes to your filebox!

Family Heritage Recipes: A living heritage of good food

Unbirthday Party

At the beginning of the summer we sat down as a family and made a list of the things that we wanted to be sure and do this summer. We recently crossed off “Host an Unbirthday Party” on our list. Who doesn’t love an excuse to play games and eat cake?!The Ant Bug pretty much planned and carried out the event, with a little guidance from me. We sent a digital invitation to the family that we wanted to invite, and then she wrote out a list of our planned activities for the party.Party Hats

A creative activity is a great way to start off any party, so first on our agenda was decorating party hats. Using a template we found online (like this party hat shown here), each child chose a color for their hat, then decorated it with color and stickers. Staple it together, then punch holes and add yarn to tie it on.Party Games

We planned two games, and our friends planned a few games.

1). Pin the pom pom on the party hat (poster designed by the Ant Bug)2). Musical colors: just like musical chairs, but since we are a little short on chairs at our house we used squares of colorful felt to jump on instead3). Balloon games: relay race to pop your balloon, keep the balloon in the air

4). Silly lips: apply lipstick to another person, while wearing a blindfold (this was especially funny with children who had no experience whatsoever in applying lipstick!)

Eat Cake

The Ant Bug recently read Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off by Herman Parish. In this silly adventure, Amelia Bedelia helps run a bakery and she ends up winning a baking contest with her cake recipe. The book included the recipe, and that was the recipe the Ant Bug selected for our cake.Amelia Bedelia’s Sheet Cake

3 cups flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2/3 cup cocoa

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups water

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa directly into an ungreased 9″x13″ pan (we used a large sheet pan instead). Add oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour water over all ingredients. Mix with a fork until smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool the cake and ice in the pan with your favorite frosting.

The frosting recipe we used came from the Family Cookbook.

Texas Sheet Cake Frosting

1 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup milk

4 Tbsp. cocoa

1 cup nuts, coarsely chopped, optional

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter, and stir in cocoa. Add milk, and bring butter, milk, and coca to a boil, just until bubbly. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour over hot cake.The cake was delicious, and it was a great extension activity tied in to some summer reading. Each child picked out a birthday candle and and stuck it in the cake where they wanted to, and then everyone got to blow out their candle. We finished off by reading the book as we ate the cake.

About menu planning-again (with help from The Food Nanny)

Have you heard of The Food Nanny? You can watch the episodes online at BYUtv, and I am hooked! (Thanks for the introduction, Janene!) Each episode features Liz Edmunds (real-life mother of 7) entering the home of a family who needs their dinnertime to be rescued. Some of the real-life issues the show has covered include picky eaters, dinners on a budget,  and crazy schedules. Not to sound like too much of an advertisement here, but I really connect with the Food Nanny and I agree with her when she says “Family dinnertime is the most important time of the day.”

So I’ve watched her shows and I checked out her cookbook from the library, and I’ve been making some changes to our dinnertime. Mostly in the area of menu planning. Nearly two years ago I shared my method for menu planning. As was evidenced in that post, my method for menu planning usually evolves every year or two, and so….it’s been evolving again the last few months.

This is my new personal cookbook. Isn’t it cute? It’s a photo album that has been sitting in a box for about 5 years, waiting to be used.

After my last major round of menu method organizing, I have my recipes printed and laminated on these cute recipe cards.

However, I got tired of flipping through the ring to find the recipe I needed, so I thought the album would be a good way to view my recipes. I decided to organize my cookbook by themes. I was inspired by the Food Nanny who suggests planning Monday as Comfort Foods, Tuesday as Italian, Wednesday as Meatless/Fish, etc.

After some thought, these are the menu themes that work well for our family right now:




Meat & Potatoes

Soup/Slow cooker

Quick & Easy/Fun Foods


I haven’t completely designated a specific day to correspond to each theme. Generally Tuesday is Pasta, Wednesday is slow cooker, Thursday is Mexican, and Friday is always leftovers or something fun because it’s the weekend and I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen! But having the themes laid out like this helps me tremendously when it’s time to plan my menu for the week, so I can get the variety in our menu that our family appreciates.

Then I organized my recipes into each theme night, and placed them in my cookbook in the appropriate section. Some recipes overlap (Italian chicken bowties could be pasta or slow cooker), but the system generally works well for me.

I then spent a few hours printing the new recipes I have discovered lately (those gals at Our Best Bites have given me a lot of good food lately!) Actually, I’m still working on this–I’ve got two more to add after this week.

Now all of my menu planning tools can be found at the front of my cookbook, with the recipes to follow.

I also have a section in my cookbook for Breads and Baking (like muffins), and of course Sweet Things (I still need to add the BYU Mint Brownies recipe to that section).

So far the cookbook is working out great. It’s much easier to plan out our weekly menu, conquering the first stage of a successful family dinnertime. If you haven’t seen The Food Nanny, be sure to check her out.

Next mealtime goal: improving table manners and etiquette!

Recipes for one of my new favorite meals

One of my favorite food blogs to read is Our Best Bites. Sara and Kate are “Mormon Moms in the Kitchen”, and their blog is full of tasty recipes. I like that their recipes use mostly “normal” ingredients–things that I typically already have on hand, or at least I know what the ingredients are! They give detailed instructions, and their recipes are easy to follow. Plus, their posts are entertaining and fun to read.

A few weeks ago I was making my menu plan and in the mood for something new. I’m not sure how I first found it, but Sara’s Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos sounded great. If you scroll down and read the whole post, she suggested including black beans with the menu, and then I also had to include her lime-cilantro rice. With leftover cilantro in my refrigerator, this was the perfect meal for our Thursday night.

The verdict: Great meal on all accounts! These recipes get 5 stars and are being added to my personal cookbook. I would definitely suggest giving this menu a try for your next Mexican meal night!

Confession: The Taquito recipe called for green salsa and pepperjack cheese. I used regular salsa and cheddar cheese because that’s what I had. It was still yummy!

Once again, here are all three recipes:

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Quick and Easy Black Beans

Lime-cilantro rice