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!

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

Best Foods for Baby

My little baby boy Z  recently passed the 10 month old marker. He is growing up so quickly, and of course I have mixed feelings about that! But I sure am loving this sweet little boy.Lately I’ve been thinking about spicing up Baby Z’s menu. (I’m actually thinking a lot about the menu plan for our family too, but that will have to wait for another post). He’s been eating baby cereal and fruit and vegetable purees for quite a few months now. But he inserts his independence and only allows himself to be spoon fed as long as he has something on his tray that he can finger feed himself at the same time. Until now we have relied mostly on cheerios, small banana chunks, and the Gerber baby puffs and dried fruit. But with 6 teeth and more bursting out, it us long past time to branch out.

From a little research online to review, here are the top finger foods for babies:

-Avocado, diced

– Peaches, pears, plums; diced

– Bananas, diced

– Beans, cooked (Black, Kidney, Garbanzo, etc.)

– Peas, steamed

– Semi-soft cheese (pasteurized), diced

– Carrots, cooked until soft

– Small, whole grain pasta, cooked

– Edamame, steamed

– Sweet potato, baked and diced

– Green beans, cooked until soft

– Toasted “O” cereal, dry

I discovered a really helpful site called NurtureBaby. It is full of recipes appropriate for ages 4-18 months (or older!), as well nutrition checklists and helpful tips and techniques. I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but the following struck my fancy and are on my list to try:

Sweet potato bites

Supermac and cheese

Confetti pasta

Baby biscotti biters

Looking for more recipes I discovered Weelicious. The site has a ton of healthy and yummy sounding recipes. I think it’s time I finally try my hand at hummus!

What are your favorite foods to feed your baby? I would love to hear your tips!

A chicken soup recipe worth repeating

Monday night for dinner we had White Chicken Chili. Living in Florida does not lend itself to many cozy, warm, soup-making days, so I haven’t made this recipe since last winter. I have to say, it was delicious and enjoyed by all (well, except for the Sweet Bee, but she really only eats frozen bananas and pink sandwiches. Although she actually ate some of the chicken from the soup, so that was positive). The soup/chili is easy to make and one of my favorites, so even though I have posted it before, I thought it was worth repeating today.

White Chicken Chili
1 small onion, peeled and chopped fine
2-3 medium garlic cloves, peeled/chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1- 4oz can chopped green chilies
30 ounces (2 cans) white bean undrained (great northern, cannellini, or garbonzo)
1 can chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt and a couple shakes of pepper
2-3 chicken breasts (can be frozen-shred them once they are cooked)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in crockpot pot except for sour cream and cheese. Let simmer for 4-6 hours on low. Add the sour cream and cheese for the last hour.We like to eat ours with taco chips, and usually a big green salad to go with it.

You can find my other favorite winter soup recipes here. Up next on my list to try is Meck Mom’s Easy and Delicious Chicken Soup recipe.

What’s your favorite soup recipe?

A Christmas Eve Menu

I’ve been little absent from this blog this month. December is always the craziest time of year. Ward parties, school parties, work parties, piano recital, and all of the hustle and bustle of shopping and gift giving. I’ve been making a number of gifts this year (details to be posted someday), so a lot of projects have kept me busy. And my to-do list hasn’t been helped by a crazy injury to my eye that keeps relapsing and causing me periods of near-blindness.

But Christmas is this week, hurray! And I am almost ready for it.

So today I’m menu planning. In our family, Christmas Eve has become the time where we traditionally plan the big feast with yummy food. The menu has varied from year to year, but the dessert is always Crunchy Ice Cream Balls. We love ice cream at our house, and the crunchy recipe makes a nice once-a-year variation on a good theme. This year I’m in the mood for Chinese! We feasted on typical Chinese food 6 years ago with my husband’s family and it was delicious. Below are the recipes I will be featuring.

Pork Chow Mein
(recipe courtesy of the Barnwell Cookbook, via my sister Deanna)
1 lb. pork or chicken
12 to 14 celery stalks
1 lb. bean sprouts
1 large onion
1 pkg. chow mein noodles
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
dash of pepper
Wash vegetables and drain. Rinse and drain bean sprouts. Cut celery into lengths (1 1/2 inches). Slice them thinly, lengthwise like match sticks. Halve the onion or slice thinly crosswise. Cut pork into thin strips. Heat large skillet, add 2 Tbsp oil. Fry meat well, add celery, onion, bean sprouts and mein noodles. Add seasonings. Do not stir. Cook at medium heat covered for about 15 minutes. Remove cover and mix well. If noodles seem a little hard turn off heat, replace cover and let stand for a few minutes.

Sweet and Sour Sauce
(to go with the chicken we will get at Sam’s Club, still to be purchased—that’s the plan. Or whatever yummy chicken we can find at the store that is already prepared, I’m making things simple and realistic for myself to put together 🙂
Juice from a 15 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 1/2 Tb. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Mix all together and cook over medium heat until thickened. May be prepared in microwave in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave about 4 minutes on high until thick, stirring every minute.

Fried Rice
I haven’t ever made this before, so I’m looking for a good recipe. Anyone have a great one to share? Here are a few recipes I’m considering: Our Best Bites and Epicurious.

Crunchy Ice Cream Balls
(recipe from the Tanner Family Cookbook)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups crushed cornflakes
Vanilla ice cream
Melt butter, add sugar and cinnamon. Stir until well blended. Stir in cereal, spread on cookie sheet to cool. Crumble and store in air-tight container. Roll vanilla ice cream balls into the mixture. Refreeze these until ready. Serve with chocolate, caramel, or strawberry sauce. Top with whipped cream and a cherry. These are sort of like fried ice cream, except without the extra fat. This recipe makes enough to cover about 30 ½-cup ice cream balls. You can substitute peppermint ice cream for vanilla during the holiday season, if you can find it at the store.

Hmmmm, my mouth is watering already. What’s on your menu for the holidays?