Reader’s Favorites of 2013

Here are the all time favorite recipes from the beginning of the blog:

5.  2 Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies  – Published 11/19/11

4.  Pumpkin Granola – Published 10/09/12

3.  Sausage,cream cheese, and rotel dip – Published 03/09/12

2.  Peanut butter blossoms – Published 10/24/10

1.  Baked Spaghetti – Published 01/07/12

Here are the favorite recipes of 2013:

5.  Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

4.  Homemade “Shamrock” Shake

3.  Key Lime Smoothie

2.  Almond Butter Protein Pancakes

1.  Biscoff Mug Cake


Favorite recipes of 2012

Candy Cane Peppermint Puppy Chow

I had some leftover candy canes and Chex cereal left over from making Chex Mix so when I found this recipe I knew I needed to make it.  It may be difficult finding peppermint baking chips.  Look for them anyway because this recipe is delicious.

I decided to post it so I can put it on my Christmas baking and making page for next year.

Candy Cane Peppermint Puppy Chow

Daily Dish Recipes


Stars of the recipe:

  • 5 c. Chex cereal (rice or corn)
  • 10 oz. Andes  peppermint baking chips (red bag) or any other peppermint chips
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 6 candy canes, crushed


  1. Place peppermint baking chips in a microwaveable bowl.  Melt at 50% power in 30 second interval periods, stirring each time, until the chips are melted.
  2. While the peppermint chips are in the microwave, place the Chex cereal in a big bowl.  Pour the melted peppermint chips over the cereal.
  3. Stir until the cereal is coated with the melted peppermint chips.
  4. Put the powdered sugar and crushed candy canes in a gallon sized bag.  Add the cereal to the bag.
  5. Shake until all of the cereal is coated with powdered sugar.
  6. Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.
  7. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe


Mom, What’s for dinner? – Week of December 30

It’s the last week of December/first week of January.  Crazy 2013 is almost done.  This year has been full of highs and lows.  The high being our vacation to Virginia, South Carolina, Atlanta, and Alabama.  The low being the loss of my father-in-law.  We knew that my father-in-law was not in the best of health but we didn’t know we would lose him so suddenly.  The vacation is full of memories with him that the whole family will cherish.  I’m so glad we went on the vacation.

I’m now looking towards 2014.  We are planning our trip to Disney.  Todd and my fourth time as a couple and the second time as a whole family.  It’ll be the sixth time I’ve visited Disney.  However, I don’t think you would count one of the times because I was down there for four months as a college intern.

I don’t have any resolutions for the next year.  Actually I do have one resolution.  My father-in-law played Santa for 45 years and was kind towards family, friends, and even strangers.  He would talk and really listen to others.  So I am going to be a Santa to my friends, family, and even strangers.  Do you have any resolutions?

Onto the menu for this week:

Monday – Chicken veggie packets, rice, pretzel rolls, homemade strawberry jelly

Tuesday  – Mexican fish, warm bean salsa, left-over rice

Wednesday – Pork or sausage, sauerkraut, roasted potatoes

Thursday – sausage and sweet potato bake

Friday – Chicken broccoli soft noodles

Saturday – veggie chili

Best Soup and Salad of 2013

I didn’t have enough soup and bread recipes so I chose to do soup and salad instead because I had a lot of different salad recipes.


Ham and Black Bean Soup


Mason Jar Salads


Stone Fruit Salad


Spinach and Pear Salad


Buffalo Wing Chicken Salad


Pesto Orzo Pasta Salad


Last years’ best soups

Best Breakfasts of 2013

Here are the top breakfasts for 2013:

5.  Apple Jack Smoothie


4.  Tastes of Thanksgiving Green Smoothie


3.  6 Easy Breakfasts

Yogurt Parfait ready to be eaten

2.  Key Lime Smoothie


and the top breakfast was

1.  Almond Butter Protein Pancakes


Last years’ Best Breakfasts

This post is linked up to Finding Joy in my Kitchen’s Countdown to 2014.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Here’s another easy gift idea.  Who doesn’t like a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows?  Okay maybe someone who doesn’t like chocolate.  Since it’s winter, this is a nice gift to help the recipient of the gift warm up on those cold days.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Stars of the recipe:

  • 2 c. dry milk
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. non dairy creamer (I used French vanilla.)
  • optional:  mini marshmallows, mini candy cane, or chocolate chips


  1. Combine all the ingredients except for marshmallows, mini candy cane, or chocolate chips.
  2. When ready to make a cup of hot chocolate, place 2 to 3 heaping Tbsps. of mix in a coffee mug.
  3. Pour 6 ounces of boiling water over the mix.
  4. Top with either chocolate chips, marshmallows, or mini candy cane.
  5. Enjoy!

If you want to make a Mexican hot chocolate, add 2 tsp. ground cinnamon to the mix.

If you are going to give it as a gift, place 6 Tbsp. of the mix in a bag and the marshmallows or chocolate chips.  If you are going to give a candy cane, tape it to the outside of the bag.  Place the instructions: combine 2 – 3 Tbsp. mix with 6 ounces of boiling water.

Printable Recipe



French Onion Dip Mix

Are you looking for an easy gift to give for Christmas or the holidays?  This is an easy mix to whip up.  Place in a fancy holiday bag with instructions and give to a friend or relative.  (Or be like me and put in a snack sized bag with the instructions.  I have an overabundance of sandwich/snack bags.)

French Onion Dip Mix

Grandma Loy’s Kitchen

Stars of the recipe:

  • 3/4 c. minced onion
  • 1/3 c. beef bouillon granules
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. parsley


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Store in an airtight container.
  3. When ready to make the dip, mix 5 Tbsp. of the mix with 1 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  4. Chill for an hour.
  5. Enjoy with your favorite veggies or chips!

Printable Recipe

Gingerbread Granola

As I stated in the blog entry about the ginger snaps, I’ve really been loving the flavors of gingerbread this holiday season.  So when I decided to make some granola to give to friends and family members, I decided a gingerbread flavored granola sounded yummy!

While to base of the granola was baking in the oven, I was on the phone with my mom.  I asked her what add ins I could use that would be yummy with the gingerbread flavor.  It was decided that pecans or walnuts would be yummy and cranberries or even raisins would also be yummy!  I ended up putting pecans and cranberries.  You could even put chocolate chips for a chocolate gingerbread flavor.

Gingerbread Granola

Gingerbread Granola

Stars of the recipe:

  • 2 c. oatmeal (I used quick oats.)
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses (Spray measuring spoon with cooking spray before measuring.)
  • 1/4 c. honey (Spray measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring.)
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4  – 1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries (I used cranberries.)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (I used pecans.)
  • Optional:  1/4 c. chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a medium measuring bowl, combine oatmeal and spices.
  3. In a small bowl, place coconut oil.  Melt in microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Add the molasses and honey to the coconut oil.
  5. Pour over the oatmeal and spices.  Stir until all of the oatmeal is combined.
  6. Place on cooking sheet in a thin layer.
  7. Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir.  Place back into oven.
  8. Bake for an additional 8 minutes.  Take out of the oven.
  9. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before adding the raisins or cranberries and nuts.
  10. Store in an airtight container.
  11. Enjoy with yogurt or milk!

Printable Recipe



The Importance of taking pictures

Today’s challenge for Elf 4 Health is to share our expertise.  I wracked my brain and could not come up with anything.  I mean I take pictures but I’m not an expert.  I know about aperture and shutter speed.  I’ve manually set the camera but am not an expert.

I teach all day long but you could call me a Jack of all trades but a master of none.  There is nothing that I teach that stands out  that I could say I’m an expert at.  I write Individualized Education Plans and some of them have been great but I don’t think anyone would want to read about IEP’s and how to write them.  Plus the laws constantly change so what I teach you today could be different tomorrow.

Then yesterday my family’s world changed when we lost my father-in-law.  He was a great guy who played Santa every year.  He will always be Santa in my heart.  As family sat around last night, I gave my mother-in-law and sister-in-law their presents which were photo books from our big vacation in July/August.  Their were pictures of the whole family together in a happier time.  Memories were shared.

It was decided that my expertise is taking lots of pictures.  It drives people nuts but in times like these those pictures are a good remembrance of the person.

So why should you take pictures?

1.  It documents important events in your lives.

Last Christmas, Hubby started making plans for the whole family to go down to Charleston, SC for a family vacation.  We knew that my father-in-law’s health was not the best so we wanted these memories of everyone at the beach for one last time.  I probably took around 4,000 pictures at the different places we visited.  Some of the pictures are scenery and sunrises/sunsets but others are pictures of family members.  One of my favorite pictures is my father-in-law sitting on the balcony of the condo.  He looks like Wilson from Home Improvement with the bars of the railing covering his face and you can only see his hat.  Another picture I took was on our last night of the trip.  It is a picture of my mother-in-law and him kissing.  The second picture is my mother-in-law looking at me while he’s still looking at her wanting another kiss.  That picture shows me what true love is.

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2.  You never know what is going to happen in life.  

It’s great to have pictures of people who have impacted your life.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

3.  To document your family history.  

I love looking at pictures of family members who lived before I was born.  The boys get to see their great grandparents who lived and died before they were born.  They get to hear stories about their great grandfather who flew in a bomber during World War II.  We have pictures of him wearing his bomber jacket 50 years after he last flew.  The boys know about him and what kind of person he was.

4.  For moments like these


Those special moments that happen once in a life time.  My father-in-law played Santa for 40 plus years.  He was at our local mall for many years and now played Santa for parties.  My father-in-law seemed to be rough at the edges but once he put his Santa suit on, he was truly Santa.  It was magical.  This picture was taken at our town’s lighting of the tree last year.  My father-in-law did not know the boys were standing there.  Even though it looks staged, this picture was totally candid and is one of my favorite pictures of them with Santa.

My words of advice though are:

1.  Don’t worry about capturing everything that you miss out on experiencing life.

2.  Don’t take the pictures and never look at them again.

3.  Sometimes the best pictures are not the staged picture where everyone says cheese.  The best pictures are the candid ones.  Our wall is covered with those candid shots that turned out the best.  They looked staged but were not.  I just captured the picture at that right moment.

4.  Share the memories with those you love and care about.

When I made the memory book, I left out writing any captions except for on one page.  I did that so people could share the memories and our family history.

Almond Joy Granola

One of my favorite candy bars is Almond Joy.  This is a good thing on Halloween because the  boys won’t touch them with a 10 foot pole or if the Imaginative One is being his snarky self a 9 and 3/4 inch pole.  I get their Almond Joy candy bars on Halloween.  The combination of chocolate and coconut is pure heaven!!  🙂

My other favorite treat is granola either plain or with plain Greek yogurt.  So the combination of the taste of Almond Joy candy bars with yogurt is the best flavor combination at least it is to me.

Almond Joy Granola

Kiss My Broccoli

100_0611 100_0624


Stars of the recipe:

  • 2 c. quick oats
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil (I heated mine up in the microwave for a minute.  Then it smelled like paradise.)
  • 1/3 c. honey (Spray down your measuring cup with cooking spray first.)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut (I used sweetened.)
  • 1/2 c. almonds – 1/2 whole, 1/2 slivers


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil after it’s heated up, honey, sugar, and almond extract.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over dry ingredients.  Mix until combined.
  5. Spread in a thin layer on a cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes, stir, and then bake for another 8 minutes.
  7. Take out of oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Then add almonds and coconut.
  8. Store in an air tight container for 2 weeks.
  9. Enjoy by itself or over yogurt!

Printable Recipe

Mom, What’s for Dinner? – December 16

Breakfast – granola and yogurt, OJ with protein powder (snack at work)
Lunch – left overs, kiwi, mini peppers
Dinner – salmon cakes, salad

Breakfast – smoothie, OJ with protein powder (snack at work)
Lunch – left overs, kiwi, mini peppers
Dinner -braised chicken with cauliflower and pinto bean mash

Wednesday –
Breakfast – granola and yogurt, OJ with protein powder (snack at work)
Lunch – left overs, kiwi, mini peppers
Dinner – left overs

Breakfast – smoothie, OJ with protein powder (snack at work)
Lunch – left overs, kiwi, mini peppers
Dinner -turkey tacos with pintos

Breakfast – Carry in at work
Lunch – left overs, kiwi, mini peppers
Dinner – chicken and dumplings

Ginger Snaps

This year I’ve been loving the flavors of gingerbread.  I love the taste of the mixture of molasses, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.  So when I was going to bake some cookies for my husband for a cookie exchange, I decided to make some ginger snaps which have those flavors.  These ended up being delicious!!!!  🙂  (Think I used enough exclamation points.)

Ginger Snaps

Jamie Cooks It Up



Stars of the recipe:

  • 3/4 c. butter (room temperature)  – 1 and 1/2 sticks
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. molasses (Spray measuring cup with cooking spray before adding the molasses.)
  • pinch of cloves
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 – 1/2 c. flour (I used white whole wheat.)


  1. Preheat at 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter, sugar, and egg until nice and fluffy.
  3. Add the molasses until incorporated.  (You might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to assure you’ve gotten all of the molasses.)
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, egg, and molasses mixture.  Mix until completely combined.
  6. Place 1 inch balls on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed down with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle the balls of cookie dough with granulated sugar.
  7. Bake for 8 minutes or until you see the cracks on the top of the cookies.
  8. Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and then move to wire rack.
  9. Store in an airtight container.
  10. Enjoy!!!

Printable Recipe