homemade peppermint hot chocolate with whipped cream

homemade peppermint hot chocolate with homemade whipped creamThis amazing hot chocolate has been my current obsession and one of my few pregnancy cravings.  It’s rich, chocolatey, peppermint-y, and delicious!  It takes a few extra minutes to make this versus heating up some water and adding a packet of the store-bought stuff but boy is it worth it!

You will need milk, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla for the plain hot chocolate (and a little water, which I didn’t show).  If you want it to be peppermint flavored then you’ll need some peppermint essential oil too (I use Young Living).  And for the whipped cream you’ll need heavy whipping cream and sugar, plus a mixer (I guess you could do this by hand but I can’t imagine how tired your arm would be!)

homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream ingredients

I highly recommend going with the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa (or your preferred brand, as long as it’s dark) because this recipe is sweeeeeet and the dark chocolate cuts the sweetness better than using the regular baking cocoa.

Hershey's special dark cocoa

To make the hot chocolate I use this recipe:


  • – 1/2 cup sugar
  • – 1/4 cup cocoa
  • – 1/3 cup hot water
  • – 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • – 4 cups milk
  • – Young Living peppermint essential oil


Stir together the sugar, cocoa, and water in a saucepan.  Heat on medium until it boils, stirring frequently.  Boil and stir for two minutes.  Add milk, stirring frequently until it reaches the desired drinking temperature.  Remove from heat; add vanilla extract and peppermint oil.  The amount of peppermint oil you use depends on how strong you want the peppermint taste.  I find one to two drops for the whole recipe to be plenty; some people prefer one drop per cup so start small and see what you like – you can always add more!

This makes a lot (obviously… since it uses 4 cups of milk) and it’s very rich so usually one mug hits the spot!  I store the leftover in a mason jar in the fridge and be warned that it separates when it cools so make sure to shake/stir it up good.

hot chocolate

To make the whipped cream:

You’ll need 1 Tbsp sugar for every 1/2 cup of whipping cream that you use (I usually do one cup of whipping cream at a time so I use 2 Tbsp sugar).  Whip the cream and sugar together in a mixer (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer and mix it on 6 or 8) until it thickens.

Since I’m using this on top of an already peppermint flavored drink then I leave the whipped cream plain.  However, you can absolutely add a drop (or more) of peppermint oil to make peppermint whipped cream (or cinnamon bark for cinnamon whipped cream or a citrus oil for citrusy whipped cream…how good would those be on some pancakes?  Yum.)

homemade whipped cream

You can stop there and have yourself a delicious treat of peppermint hot chocolate or you make it into a mocha if you’re a coffee person.

Now, if you’re a *true* coffee person you might not want to read this.  I like coffee but very rarely drink it and I am by no means a coffee connoisseur so what I’m about to suggest might be shunned by hard core coffee folks….

I just add a spoonful of instant coffee to my hot chocolate to make it into a mocha.

homemade peppermint mocha

If the thought of instant coffee makes you shudder maybe you could brew some strong coffee and do partial milk/partial coffee when you make the hot chocolate recipe?  I’m really not sure how that would work but it’s worth a try!  But for me I just add that scoop of instant and go on about my day ;).

This hot chocolate is SO GOOD!  And perfect to curl up with on a chilly night (now if only it would actually get cold and stay cold around here…)


DIY mint recipe

DIY mints using essential oilsDid you know it’s super easy to make your own mints?  Yep!  Like, crazy ridiculously quick and easy.

All you need is some gum paste and essential oils (powdered sugar is optional but not necessary) as well as a rolling pin and something to cut with.

DIY mint recipe ingredientsThere are a TON of oil flavors and combinations you could use but these were a few that I had in my stash that I thought would be good (orange, peppermint, Thieves, spearmint, wintergreen, and cinnamon bark).

Young Living essential oils to flavor mintsTake approximately 1/4 cup of the gum paste and knead it in your hands like playdough until it’s nice and pliable.

1:4 cup gum pasteFlatten it out a bit and add your oil drops (I’ll talk a bit about how many in a minute).  Fold the flattened “pancake” in on itself to keep the oil in the middle and then knead some more until you think the oil is evenly distributed.  This step smells amazing!

DIY wintergreen mintsRoll your ball of oily gum paste out on a flat surface using a rolling pin and then cut the mints into whatever shape you desire.

cutting out DIY mintsMy first batch I cut them into squares and then rolled them into balls

rolling mints into a ballMy second and third batch I left them just as squares

DIY mint recipe

My fourth batch I used a straw (the straw with the largest circle opening I could find, which was the plastic bendy one from the cup they gave me at the hospital after I had Hudson) to cut out small circles.

using a straw to cut out DIY mintsTwo of the batches I tossed in powdered sugar as soon as I cut them out and before they had started drying (trying to get that altoid-like feel) and the other two batches I left plain.  Personally I prefer them without powdered sugar.

DIY mintsThen let the mints sit out and harden.  It takes several days before they are really good and hard.  The first few days they have a chewy, gum-like consistency.  After a few days though they harden and become hard enough that you have to suck on them instead of chew them.

DIY mints drying

DIY mints

What you need:

  • – gum paste (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby, it’s in the cake decorating section)
  • – essential oils (I use Young Living)
  • – powdered sugar (optional, only if you want to coat your mints with powdered sugar)
  • – rolling pin (I’m loving our new stainless steel one)
  • – something to cut the mints out with (knife, straw, tiny cookie cutter, etc.)

What you do:

Knead 1/4 cup of gum paste in your hands until soft and pliable.  Flatten out and drop oil onto the paste.  Fold the paste in on itself, keeping the oil in the middle so it doesn’t roll out, and then knead some more until you feel like the oil is evenly distributed throughout the paste.  Dust a flat surface with powdered sugar and roll the paste out flat to whatever thickness you prefer.  Use a butter knife or other sharp utensil to cut into squares or use a straw or small cookie cutter to cut into circles.

Once the mints are cut out you can toss them in some powdered sugar or leave them plain.  Then spread them out and let them dry for several days.

Depending on how you cut them, one 1/4 cup recipe yields about 50 mints.

How do I know how much oil to use?

This was my main concern when I started making the mints.  Essential oils are strong so it doesn’t take much but I wasn’t really sure how much to use.  I tinkered around with the recipe and found that 5 drops seems to be perfect for my taste but of course every person (and ever flavor) will be different so play around with it!

These are the combos I tried:

  • – 3 drops peppermint (definitely not strong enough in my opinion, a very light peppermint flavor, not even close to that of an altoid if that’s the strength you’re going for) rolled into balls (I liked rolling the mints into balls.  It increased the drying time since they were thicker in the middle but they didn’t have sharp edges like the squares)
  • – 4 drops cinnamon bark (not my favorite flavor and not strong enough) cut into squares (the edges of the squares are kind of sharp and can be pokey while being sucked on).
  • – 5 drops wintergreen (this is perfect and my favorite of the four flavors that I made!) cut into squares with powdered sugar (not a fan of the powdered sugar, it’s like an initial super-sweetness that you suck off in the first few seconds and then the rest of the mint is not quite as sweet so it’s an obvious difference)
  • – 5 drops orange + 3 drops spearmint (Michael loves orange mints and wanted me to make him some; these are his favorite of the four but my least favorite) cut into little circles with powdered sugar (the circles take a bit more time but look much more like a “real” mint)
  • – I had so many mints made that I decided to take a break and let us use these up first.  However, I think a Thieves mint would be wonderful too and you’d be getting some extra immune support as an added bonus!  One of the girls in my group made an orange Thieves mint and said it was really good.

I’m not sure that I ever would have thought of this on my own but one of the girls in my oils group asked one day if anyone had made mints with their essential oils.  She found this recipe, did some experimenting of her own, shared with the group, some others of us tried it out, and then I wrapped it up into a (hopefully) easy to follow recipe.  So it was definitely a group effort and I certainly don’t want to take all the credit.  I’m just the one with the blogging platform to share :).

What do you think?  Worth a try?  What flavor or flavor combinations sound good to you?

peanut butter banana smoothie

peanut butter banana smoothie recipeI am a super boring breakfast person.  I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast for weeks and weeks on end.  I just don’t need much variety in the mornings and the last thing I want to do when I get up (I’m not really a morning person) is to try to figure out what I’m going to fix.

Sometimes I’ll want oatmeal for a while, sometimes it’ll be lots of eggs, but right now I’ve been on a smoothie kick.

Smoothies are so easy and can be made tons of different ways.  My favorite is a peanut butter banana smoothie so that’s what I make 99.9% of the time.  Here’s my recipe:

peanut butter banana smoothie ingredients Ingredients:

  • – 1 banana
  • – 2 TBSP peanut butter (use natural peanut butter, folks…SO much better for you!)
  • – 1/4 cup Green yogurt (I’m not a yogurt fan at all but you can’t taste it in the smoothie and Greek is protein packed so I use that; you can use whatever plain yogurt you prefer)
  • – 1/2 cup milk
  • – 1 cup spinach (Or other greens, whatever you have on hand…you can’t taste them and it’s a great way to sneak some veggies into your diet!  They do turn your smoothie a lovely shade of green so don’t be alarmed.)
  • – 1/2 TBSP honey (love getting to use ours…yum!)
  • – 8 cubes of ice

To be totally honest, I never measure any of these ingredients.  I only measured as I was making this one so I could give you an idea of how much I use but typically I just eyeball it and dump stuff in there.  I also like my smoothies super runny, nearly the consistency of milk.  If you prefer a thicker smoothie then reduce the amount of milk and maybe increase the amount of ice too.

peanut butter banana smoothie

What you do:

Well….not really much to say here.  Just toss all the ingredients in a blender and blend until it’s the consistency you like.  Then slurp it down!

This is a pretty calorie-heavy smoothie, just fyi.  It’s full of lots of healthy things – fruit, veggies, protein (the peanut butter and yogurt), dairy, good fats (peanut butter), etc. but just know that’s it’s also high in calories.  I calculated it at 450 calories so definitely a meal by itself!  It keeps me full until lunch though so that works great for me.


super simple fudge pie

super simple fudge pie

I used to think making a fudge pie would be difficult and time consuming.  Guess what…it isn’t.  But shhh, that’ll be our little secret ‘mkay?  You can wow your friends and family when you make this pie and then chuckle gleefully to yourself since it took all of ten minutes of work.

This recipe was passed on to me from Michael’s mom who got it from Michael’s grandmother…a true family recipe.  It has quickly become my go-to dessert recipe since it is so very simple and quick to make.  In fact, I use I recipe so much that I quit putting it in my recipe folder and instead I leave it out on display to give me easy access (because yes, even though I’ve made it a million times I still have to reference the instructions…maybe someday I’ll have it memorized!).

fudge pie recipe

I try to always have the necessary ingredients at home; I can’t tell you how many times that has saved me when I’ve realized we have a potluck at church the next day or I have people coming over and I want to whip up something for dessert or I’m just too tired to spend time cooking something more complicated.

fudge pie ingredientsButter, eggs, sugar, and flour are staples in my pantry, then I make a point to keep several pie crusts and a few boxes of the bakers chocolate on hand as well.

This literally takes less than ten minutes to throw together.  Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

fudge pie 1Melt your chocolate in a medium mixing bowl

fudge pie 2Then add butter and melt some more

fudge pie 3Mmmm buttery, melty goodness.  Give it a good stir.

fudge pie 4Now add the sugar,

fudge pie 5the flour,

fudge pie 6and the eggs.

fudge pie 7Pour the mixture in your pie shell, pop it in the oven, and voila!

super simple fudge pie


– 1 stick of butter
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate baking squares
– 1 unbaked regular pie crust

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on high for one minute.  Add butter and melt on 3 (or for our microwave that is 30%) for two minutes.  Stir.  Add the sugar and flour, then slowly stir in eggs.  Pour in the pie shell.  Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.

So easy.  So delicious.  Guaranteed to impress.

Coffee Oreo Cheesecake Brownies

coffee oreo cheesecake browniesPardon me while I wipe drool off my screen…after all, this is my absolute favorite dessert.

Ok, that’s better.  Ahem, hi there.  How are you?  Are you ready for a long, Memorial Day weekend?  I sure am.  Normal weekends are just never long enough, are they?

Maybe your Memorial Day plans include food (let’s be real, what plans don’t include food?).  If so, I’ve got the perfect dessert for you…if you are a coffee lover.  If you aren’t a coffee lover I feel sad for you quit reading and go check Facebook or something.  If you are a coffee lover, hold on to your seat – you are about to meet the best dessert in the world.

I’m not kidding.  I get rave reviews every.single.time I make this and people are always asking for the recipe, so you know it’s a winner.

And not only is it delicious, but it’s also extremely easy.

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 2What you need: a box of brownie mix (or a homemade brownie recipe if you’d rather go that route), Oreos, Cool Whip (What in the world, Walmart?  You don’t even sell Cool Whip anymore and now you’re forcing me to buy the Walmart brand!  Boo on you.), cheesecake instant pudding mix, milk, and instant coffee.

(Imagine a picture of brownies here) Bake the brownies according to the directions on the box.  Let cool.

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 3coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 4dissolve the coffee granules into the milk

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 5stir in the Cool Whip

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 6then add the pudding mix

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 7don’t worry about the lumps – keep stirring and I promise they will smooth out

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 8crush the oreos and add them in

coffee oreo cheesecake brownies 9spread the topping over the brownies

coffee oreo cheesecake browniestry not the eat the whole pan yourself (these are very rich, so go easy!)

Recipe (adapted from a Pampered Chef recipe I was given years ago)


  • 1 box of brownie mix (or one recipe of homemade brownies that will fill a 9 x 13 pan…I suggest doubling this one – it is fantastic, I just didn’t feel like the extra work this time)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee granules
  • 1 8oz container of whipped topping (aka Cool Whip), thawed
  • 2 packages (3.5 oz each) cheesecake instant Jello pudding and pie filling
  • 20 Oreos, coarsely chopped


Bake the brownies according to the instructions on the box (or according to the recipe if making homemade brownies).  Cool the brownies (I like to stick the pan in the fridge to speed up the process).  In a large bowl, dissolve the coffee granules into the milk.  Whisk in the Cool Whip and then the cheesecake pudding mix.  It will look lumpy at first, but keep stirring and it should smooth out quickly.  Mix in the Oreo pieces and then spread evenly over the cooled brownies.  Keep refrigerated.

Idea: I haven’t tried this before, but next time I think I’m going to alter this recipe and make it into a trifle by crumbling up the brownies and layering the crumbled brownies and the Oreo cheesecake topping in a trifle bowl.  I think that would be very pretty.

Fun fact: I once assembled this dessert in the car.  Yep, that’s how easy it is.  We were chaperoning a church function one weekend and then going straight from that to a family dinner with no time to go home and no good place to store our big dessert pan if I made it ahead of time (we were staying in a hotel).  So, I made the brownies ahead of time since they didn’t need to be refrigerated.  I measured out and packed the milk, crushed Oreos, instant coffee, and pudding.  We stopped at a grocery store on our way from the retreat to our dinner to buy the Cool Whip.  Then I hopped in the back seat, mixed the topping together in a bowl I had packed, and spread it on the brownies.  Pretty inventive, huh?

Now go forth and make this dessert!

creamy cheesy potato soup

creamy cheesy potato soup

Oh my, y’all.  I love me some potato soup.  I’ve tried the potato soup at just about every restaurant that serves it and I’ve made several recipes myself.  I’ll had some really good ones, and I’ve had some really bad not so delicious ones.  But this recipe I have to say is the best potato soup I’ve ever had.  It’s way better than my old potato soup recipe or any of that stuff served in the restaurants.  I love it and it’s pretty easy, too (total plus).

It’s creamy.  It’s cheesy.  It doesn’t require peeling any potatoes.  It’s delicious.

Let’s make some, shall we?

potato soup ingredientsYou don’t need too many ingredients – just potatoes, onion, chicken broth (we make our own so it’s way darker than store bought), cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and garlic.

potato soup 1Chop up those potatoes but don’t even worry about peeling the potatoes…just leave the peel on and chop them up into a small-ish pieces.

potato soup 2Ok so I got a little overexcited and forgot to take pictures of each step, but the gist of it is…chop the onion and then put the onion, potatoes, garlic, and chicken broth in a pot.

potato soup 3Bring it to a low boil and cook it until the potatoes are nice and soft.

potato soup 4Add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese.  Stir them into until they are melted.  Once that’s all mixed together then you’re all done!

creamy cheesy potato soupServe it up, top with some more cheese and bacon (chives and/or sour cream would also be good here), then enjoy!

Recipe (adapted from here)


  • 2.5 pounds of potatoes, chopped with peel left on
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 (or so) cups of chicken broth (we make our own but you could certainly use store bought) – sometimes I have to add a bit more broth but I always start with 6 and then add if I think it needs it
  • 2 TBSP garlic powder
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • any desired toppings (extra shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, chives, sour cream, etc.)


Combine the chopped potatoes, chopped onion, garlic powder, and chicken broth in a stock pot.  Cook on a low boil until the potatoes are soft, the peeling is starting to fall off, and it looks creamy rather than brothy.  For our stove this takes about an hour.  Stir occasionally and don’t be afraid to stir vigorously – this helps the potatoes break up and dissolve a little, which gives it that creamier texture.  Add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese; stir until melted and mixed thoroughly.  Top with desired garnishes and serve!

This recipe makes about 8 cups of soup.  It can easily be doubled to feed a larger crowd, but it will take longer for the potatoes to cook down, and make sure you use a large pot.  A double recipe fills my 6 quart pot nearly to the top and I have to be very careful stirring it.

Oh and one other note…2 tablespoons of garlic powder seems like a ton, and it may smell super garlicky when it first starts cooking, but I promise it doesn’t taste strong at all.  So don’t worry.

Mmmm.  I’m not even hungry right now but I still want to go heat up a big ‘ole bowl.

If you’ve been looking for a good potato soup recipe, you can stop looking now.  Go try this recipe out and see if you agree with me.

the best hummus ever

best hummus ever

Growing up I was a huge BabySitter’s Club fan.  I so bad wanted to be a part of their group.  I distinctly remember in one book when Dawn’s friends from California threw the BSC a party and served hummus, one of Dawn’s favorite foods.  I didn’t really know what it was (in my head I pronounced it “hew-muss”, not “huh-muss” like it’s supposed to be) but I imagined it to be some crunchy, health-nut-y, weirdo food.

Fast forward to college.  That heath-nut-y weirdo food was starting to become part of my life.  I was so fortunate that we had an AMAZING cafeteria at our school.  We had a ton of choices and lots of pretty heathy variety.  One day there was homemade hummus.  I tried it and thought it was delicious.  I still didn’t really know what it was, but I definitely liked it.

After that hummus experience in the cafeteria I searched for more hummus.  However, every batch or brand of hummus I’d ever purchased at the store was not at all like the hummus I remembered   Every single one was way too garlicky and had a super strong flavor.

Until one day while shopping at Whole Foods.  They had a sample station set up with pita chips and hummus.  I tried a bite and felt the relief of the end of a long journey…I had finally found a hummus that tasted like the stuff we had in college!   We bought some immediately and I gobbled it up.  We went back a few weeks later and bought some more.  It was so so yummy.

The only problem was that the closest Whole Foods is an hour away from us.  We only make it there once a month at the most so buying hummus there to have on a day-to-day basis just wasn’t practical.  So I checked out the ingredient list…it only had a few ingredients listed (garbanzo beans, lemon juice, tahini, extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, and cumin), so I figured I could make it myself, I just didn’t know what proportions to use.  Making it myself would also be a cheaper option than the pre-made hummus.

Thanks to Pinterest, I found The Barefoot Contessa’s hummus recipe.  It had almost the exact same ingredients as the Whole Foods hummus so I used that as a jumping off point for my recipe.  I’ve now made this recipe at least five times and we love it!  I eat it every day for a snack with some raw veggies.  Hummus is a perfect alternative to ranch if you want some variety, it has less calories, and it’s much more “real” than bottled ranch.

So here it is.  The best hummus recipe ever.

hummus ingredientsWhat you need: garbanzo beans (chick peas), tahini, hot sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, and salt


Put a little bit of water in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Drop the garlic clove in and let boil for 30 seconds.  From what I’ve heard, this takes the bite out of the garlic and gives it a nice, garlic flavor without being too strong.
hummus collage

The rest of the recipe is easy…just a bunch of mixing in your food processor.  Chop the garlic (picture 1), then add the chickpeas and lemon juice (2), the hot sauce (3), the salt (4),   olive oil (5), and tahini (6).  Then process until smooth.  Easy peasy.


Yum.  So good!

Hummus Recipe (adapted from here)


  • 2 cups garbanzo beans (chick peas) – I use dried beans.  I soak them overnight, rinse them, boil them in water until soft, and rinse again.  You could also use canned beans to save a few steps
  • 1/4 cup tahini – It’s like peanut butter but made out of sesame seeds.  I found mine in the organic section at Kroger
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5-7 tablespoons water or liquid left from cooking the beans (depending on how thin you like your hummus)
  • 4-8 dashes of hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it)


Put enough water in a pot to cover a garlic clove, bring it to a boil.  Drop the clove of garlic in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove.  Chop the garlic with your food processor.  Then add chick peas, tahini, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, hot sauce, and water/liquid.  Process until smooth.


This is a South Beach Phase 1 food and has 30 calories per tablespoon.

favorite holiday recipes

Along with the upcoming holidays comes lots and lots of eating.  If you’re like me, every time you turn around you are taking food somewhere for a party.  To try to help you get ready, here are some of my favorite (and most are very simple) recipes to make at the holidays.

Better than Cinnabon cinnamon rolls

Once you have these babies you won’t ever want to go back to the store-bought cinnamon rolls in a can.  These take a little bit of prep work, but I promise they are so worth it!  We just had some Sunday morning for Michael’s birthday and they were divine.  These cinnamon rolls would be the perfect Christmas morning breakfast, too.

amazing pumpkin bread

This pumpkin bread is so ridiculously easy to make – just mix up the ingredient, pour in a pan (or muffin tin) and bake.  No kneading or waiting for it to rise.  The recipe makes two big loaves, too, so you get a lot of food for a little work.  Perfect to give as presents, hostess gifts, or to whip up for a brunch.

buffalo chicken dip

This is a definite crowd pleaser.  I get tons of compliments and requests for the recipe when I make this.  It’s yet another easy dish to make and takes just a few minutes to mix together.  One full recipe makes a bunch so you can feed a crowd (I recommend cutting the recipe in half unless you have a huge group coming).

Mexican rice

During the busy holidays it can be hard to find time to cook nutritious meals for your family.  Mexican rice is a great, quick meal that can be whipped up in seconds (although you have to let it cook for 30-45 minutes) and is delicious.

parmesan lemon basil broccoli

If you need to bring a side dish to a holiday dinner, I highly recommend this broccoli.  It is the best broccoli I’ve ever eaten.  Michael and I will polish off one big bunch of broccoli (usually 3 large heads) in one meal when we cook it like that, and will often still want more. It’s that good.

chocolate chip cheesecake dip

This is by far one of the easiest desserts to make (especially if you have a stand mixer) – just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them up, and you’re ready to go.  Then try not to eat this by the spoonfuls out of the bowl…it’s difficult, I know.

eclair cake

Another crowd pleaser, and by far my most loved dessert  (that picture isn’t the best ever…but just trust me that it’s ah-mazing).  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like this dessert.  This is also another super easy one (that seems to be my type of recipe!) – I made this Sunday morning before church to have for Thanksgiving Sunday lunch and it took all of ten minutes to assemble.

pecan pie brownies

I make these for the first time last Christmas and they were amazing.  I’m not even a pecan pie fan, and I still loved these.  They aren’t quite as quick and easy as some of the other recipes I’ve posted, but they are way good and you should definitely give them a try.

pretzel Rolo turtles

These are all over Pinterest so this probably isn’t anything new for you, but I have to mention them anyway.  I discovered these last Christmas and have made them several times since.  They are super easy (the most time consuming thing is unwrapping the Rolos) and everyone loves them.  All you do is melt Rolos on pretzels and top with a pecan.  I’ve also seen them made with Hershey’s kisses instead of Rolos and M&Ms instead of pecans.  With all the fun Hershey’s kiss flavors out there, you could make all kinds of cool combinations.

This is just a sample of some of my favorite holiday recipes.  To see all the other recipes I love, check out my recipe index.

Linking up to Works for Me Wednesday

homemade pizza sauce

homemade all natural pizza sauceWe’ve been homemade pizza makers for years, thanks to our super easy whole wheat pizza dough recipe.  However, we’ve always used jarred pizza sauce and after starting on our real food journey we decided we needed to find something a little more natural.  After searching online for recipes, I found this tomato sauce recipe that seemed pretty easy – I used that as a base and then added my own blend of spices.

I was way intimidated by the idea of making a sauce from fresh tomatoes – I’ve never done anything but open up a jar of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, or pizza sauce, so I didn’t even know where to begin.  I had no idea how to get from fresh firm tomatoes to a nice smooth sauce.  The good new is, it was much easier than I expected and now I’m here to pass on what I’ve learned to you!  So don’t be scared!

base for tomato sauceThe tomato sauce recipe calls for 2 pounds of tomatoes – I don’t have a food scale so I just guestimated and used about 10 Roma tomatoes.  I like Romas the best because they aren’t very watery and have much more tomato “meat” to them.  You’ll also need an onion and some butter.

blanch tomatoesUse a paring knife to cut Xs in the bottom of each tomato – this is optional but it only takes a second will make it easier to peel the tomato once we blanch it.

blanch tomatoesBring a pot of water to a boil, then drop the tomatoes in the water and boil for one minute – the skins should start to crack and/or peel back.

blanch the tomatoes in ice waterRemove the tomatoes and immediately submerge them into an ice water bath until they are cool enough to handle.

FYI, boiling something for a very short time then putting it in ice water to cool it down quickly is called blanching…it’s very useful for freezing vegetables, too.

peel the blanched tomatoesThe tomato will be slimy and messy, but the skin should peel off very easily.

Now roughly chop the tomatoes (I chop mine into 8ths usually), melt the butter (hint: pour out the water you used to boil the tomatoes and use that same pot to make the sauce), and add the chopped tomatoes to the butter.

tomatoes butter and onionChop up the onion and add that as well.

If you stopped here and let just these three ingredients cook, then you would end up with a  very nice, generic tomato sauce base.  Since we’re making pizza sauce we need to add some other stuff to give it that pizza sauce flavor (but you could go other directions and turn this into a spaghetti sauce, or chili, or any other tomato based sauce, just by tweaking the ingredients a bit).

This is my typical pizza sauce lineup (starting in the bottom left and going clockwise): parsley, green bell pepper, black pepper, crushed red pepper, LOTS of basil, oregano, and garlic (in the middle of the picture).  This is very flexible – you can use dried spices if you don’t have an herb garden.  You can add or subtract whatever suits your fancy.  One time I chopped up some carrots and added them in just because they were starting to get mushy and I needed to use them up – it didn’t really alter the taste and I suppose it gave it a few extra nutrients.

The rest is pretty easy – chop up the herbs, pepper, and garlic and add it along with a few shakes of the other spices to the tomato/butter/onion mixture.

Let the sauce cook for 45 minutes to an hour. It will start to cook down and get thicker, like so.

homemade all natural pizza sauceAfter the sauce has cooked down, toss it in a blender and blend it to a nice smooth consistency.  And you did it!  You made pizza sauce!  Now whip up some homemade crust, slather on your sauce and the yummy toppings of your choice, and enjoy your fresh, natural pizza.



  • 2 pounds of tomatos (I use Romas and it takes about 10)
  • 1 onion
  • 5 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • parsley, oregano, basil, black pepper, and crushed red pepper – to taste (I use a few sprigs of parsley and oregano, a big handful of basil, about a tsp of black pepper, and just a shake or two of crushed red pepper)


Cut Xs in the bottom of the tomatoes.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the tomatoes into the water.  Boil for one minute (the skin should start to crack and peel off) and then remove and immediately submerge tomatoes into a bowl of ice water.  Once the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, peel the skin off.  Chop the tomatoes and remove the hard core.  Melt the butter in a large pot, then add the tomatoes and chopped onion.  Also chop and add the bell pepper, garlic, herbs, and spices.  Simmer for 45 minute to an hour.  Blend sauce in blender until it reaches a smooth consistency.

This makes enough for about 4 pizzas and will keep for several weeks in the fridge.  It also freezes very nicely so if you aren’t going to eat it quickly then I suggest you freeze it so it doesn’t go bad.

Banana Mocha Smoothie

real food banana mocha smoothie The people have spoken…I mentioned a banana mocha smoothie in a recent High Five for Friday post and several people mentioned wanting the recipe…which I have happily provided!

Since starting our real food challenge, we’ve been eating lots and lots of smoothies.  They are a nice “dessert” without being full of sugar and junk.  One of my most recent smoothie creations is a banana mocha smoothie.

I love mochas and mocha frappes – in fact, I’ve actually posted recipes for South Beach friendly mocha and a copycat McDonald’s mocha frappe.  However, while pretty low-calorie, neither of those recipes could be considered real food since they both use lots of fake, processed ingredients.  I had to get a little creative to figure out a way to make a mocha “real”, but I think I’ve found a pretty good solution. 

ingredients for a real foods banana mocha smoothie

What you need: banana, instant coffee, cocoa, honey, yogurt, milk, flaxseed, and greens (acutally the flaxseed and greens are totally optional, but I like to include them to add a few extra nutrients)

banana mocha smoothie

I start by putting the banana and yogurt in the bottom of the blender

banana mocha smoothie

then I add my flaxseed

banana mocha smoothie

next comes the coffee and cocoa

banana mocha smoothie

a handful of greens…

banana mocha smoothie ice

follow with some honey, ice, and milk… then blend

real food banana mocha smoothie Yum yum.  So easy, and quite healthy while still tasting like a decadent, frozen coffee treat.



  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 TBSP instant coffee
  • 1/2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1/2 TBSP honey
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk
  • 12-14 cups of ice
  • 2 cups leafy greens
  • 2 TBSP flaxseed

A note on these ingredients – all of these amounts are approximations and can be easily changed, substituted, removed, increased, or decreased to your liking.  If you like your coffee black then you may not need the honey as an extra sweetener.  If you like your coffee strong, you may want to add more that what I use.  I’m not really sure why I use both yogurt and milk – I’m sure one or the other would be fine (yogurt if you want a thicker, smoothie like consistency, milk if you want a more drinkable shake).

The greens and flaxseed are 100% optional and don’t really effect the taste at all.  I just add them in so I can get a few more nutrients.  The flaxseed can be a bit gritty, but I blend my smoothie on the liquify setting on my blender because I like mine drinkable, so the flaxseed gets pretty ground up.  If you haven’t tried putting greens in your shake, I challenge you to give it a try.  Start with just a little and work your way up to a big ‘ole handful (that’s what I did).  You really can’t taste it (at least, I can’t) and it’s like eating a bowl of salad while having a yummy smoothie snack.


Add all ingredients to the blender.  Blend until smoothie reaches desired consistency (hint: add more ice if it is too runny, more milk if it is too thick).   Enjoy!