Valentine’s Thin Mint Crackers

A friend mentioned making Thin Mints on Facebook back in December. Having two little Girl Scouts in the house (and as of today 30 cases of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies), I was intrigued. We made these in December with Christmas colors. My dad even loved them (minus the sprinkles!) We decided to remake them with Valentine’s Day sprinkles. Try them … then go buy some Girl Scout Thin Mints too! Cookie Moms like me need them out of their houses! lol

alentine's Thin Mint Crackers

Valentine’s Thin Mint Crackers


  • 1 box of Ritz Crackers
  • 1 package of Vanilla Almond Bark
  • 1 package of Chocolate Almond Bark
  • McCormick’s peppermint extract
  • Valentine’s Day Sprinkles


1. Melt the Almond Bark (one variety at a time) in the microwave as directed on the package.

2. Add a few drops of peppermint extract and stir it into the almond bark.

3. Dip the Ritz cracker in the mint almond bark until coated and lay on a Silpat mat or wax paper.

4. Sprinkle each cracker with Sprinkles.


This is a simple treat to give to a teacher, a friend, or to make with the kids. Our kids are enjoying them in their lunches already!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Let us know if you try this. We would love to know how it turned out for you!

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder for New Year’s

Normally, we don’t do very much for dinner on New Year’s.  I usually make my Hoppin’ John (you can find that recipe over on This Cookin’ Dad) and we might go out to Beth’s parents so that Beth can have the pork and sauerkraut that her mom makes every year.  I’ve long since given up even trying that stuff.  We don’t ordinarily do much here because the kids just haven’t been big enough eaters to warrant cooking up a big meal like that.  This year, I decided to go for it with a Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder!

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder

It was so easy to put together that I’ll probably try to do other versions of this throughout the year.  On top of that, the kids loved it.  They ate up the meat, but they also ate up all of the greens that were stuffed inside.  As you can see, I didn’t exactly hide them.  I guess being flavored with so much pork fat made those greens pretty tasty.  Pork fat will do that!  I’ve seen recipes stuffing pork loin or pork tenderloin but, personally, I much prefer the pork shoulder.  I call for a 3 lb. boneless should here, but those can be pretty hard to find.  One great tip is to use your supermarket butcher.  Grab a 6-7 lb. bone-in pork shoulder (aka Boston butt) and ask him to de-bone it.  Sometimes, they can even butterfly it for you, opening it all up so that you can stuff it.  I take that home and cut it in half for two roasts that’ll feed my family pretty well.

Honestly, that’s the hard part!  If you can get the butcher to do that work for you, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to make this recipe.  I cross-cut the kale so that it almost shredded, small enough to cook up nice in the pork but still have a nice texture.  Next I add in some parsley and minced shallot to help temper some of that bitter green taste.  Mix those with salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and olive oil and you are ready to stuff your roast.  Easy, right?  Feel free to switch up the greens based on what you have or even use frozen spinach that’s been thawed and squeezed out.  Here’s the full recipe.

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder


4 cups chopped kale
1 cup chopped parsley
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 3 lb boneless pork shoulder, butterflied


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine kale, parsley, shallot, bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Lay plenty of the kale mixture onto the opened pork shoulder.  Use more than you think you need (if it falls out when you roll it up, it wasn’t needed :))  Leave about 1-2 inches on one end of the shoulder kale-free.  Starting with the covered end, roll the shoulder pretty tightly.  Use kitchen twine to tie up the roast or skewers to hold it together.  Season the roast with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining oil.  Sear the roast about 3-5 minutes per side.  Place into the oven for 1 hour or until a thermometer reads about 160.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

What do you usually have for New Year’s dinner?  Leave us a comment and share your story.

Recipe Planning with eMeals

Thanks to for making this post about eMeals possible.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

For a 35% discount on your eMeals subscription, enter the coupon code “cyber35″.

The holidays are a busy time and trying to plan out and cook meals can often take away from the joy of the season.  You want to shop for presents, bake cookies, and share in the spirit of the season with the kids.  Add in the various holiday parties, school activities, Christmas programs, etc. and who has time to plan out a week’s worth of meals, put together a shopping list, buy groceries, and cook the meals.

In order to help with meal planning through the holidays and into 2014, we are excited to be reviewing eMeals, a subscription meal planning service that sends your meal plan, recipes, and shopping list to your inbox each week.  As a bonus, the shopping list is coordinated with the weekly sales at selected stores nationwide.  Not only does it take the thinking out of the picture for you, it can help save you money in the process!  In fact, financial planning celebrity and TV host, Dave Ramsey is a big supporter of eMeals, because it saves families so much money!

Still, I love to cook and plan out meals.  If I’m not doing that, at least sometimes, I’m just not a happy camper.  So, for me, I typically use meal planning services to get some great ideas and to supplement holes in my meal plan.  For those nights that I’m not cooking, I definitely look for convenience.  That’s why we picked the Slow Cooker Clean Eating Family Plan.

eMeals slow cooker dinners

The first recipe we tried out was the slow cooker tomato sauce.  To be honest, I found it to be a little bland and loose for my taste, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  I took that sauce, added some frozen meatballs, tossed that with some cooked penne, topped it all with cheese, and popped it into the oven for a lovely baked pasta.  It turned out pretty tasty!

eMeals slow cooker dinners-2

One of the hardest things for me to do is turning the previous night’s meal into something completely different.  Part of what I really like about eMeals is that it helps you out with that.  There’s no way that our family could use up a full pot of pasta sauce.  eMeals knows this and had me pull some of it out to make a tomato soup the next night.  Considering my thoughts about the sauce itself, the soup was actually pretty good.  I paired it with a yummy grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting weeknight meal.

eMeals slow cooker dinners-3

By far, my favorite meal was the White Bean and Chicken Chili.  The cook in me had to amp it up a little.  Instead of just tossing everything into the slow cooker, I started by cooking the vegetables and chicken in a sautee pan, browning it all to develop some flavors before starting the long, slow cook.  I felt like it was a little more soup than chili, but after putting it over some rice, adding in some cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and fresh diced tomatoes, and topping it with some corn chips, I really appreciated that it wasn’t as thick.  In fact, it’s one of the better chilies that I’ve had in a while and one of the best slow cooker chilies that I’ve ever had.  Like so many other chilies, this one is even better a day or two later.  Great for lunches or leftover nights!

eMeals has already been a help to us and I hope it will continue to be throughout the next year.  Make sure you sign up for your subscription and use the code “cyber35″ to save 35%.

How do you keep up with your menu plan during the busy holiday season?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

Transform Your Turkey Leftovers with Hellmann’s

We are excited to help promote a Hellmann’s post featured at MomDot! Check out Trisha at MomDot’s full post here!

Ready to keep saving as you get ready for more holiday meals? Check out the exclusively Walgreens $1 off Hellmann’s coupon that is out right now!

Tired of turkey? Hellmann’s can help with that!

Transform Your Turkey Leftovers

Tired of the same Thanksgiving leftover meals you’ve been serving for years? Say no more to turkey sandwiches and salads! It’s time to bring out the best by turning your leftover turkey into a delicious casserole using Hellmann’s® Mayonnaise! It’s simple to assemble, takes less than an hour cook and is a great new take on turkey leftovers.
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Hellmann’s® is helping you save this holiday and offering a $1 off Hellmann’s® Mayonnaise exclusively at Walgreens! Click here!



  • 4 cups leftover prepared stuffing
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped leftover cooked boneless, skinless turkey breast, (about 1 lb./500 g)
  • 3/4 cup Hellmann’s® mayonnaise, divided
  • 1/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Spray 8-inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Spoon in 2 cups stuffing, then top with turkey.
2. Combine 1/4 cup Hellmann’s® Mayonnaise with cranberry sauce; evenly spread over turkey.
3. Combine remaining 1/2 cup Mayonnaise, potatoes and cheese in large bowl. Evenly spread on turkey, then top with remaining 2 cups stuffing.
4. Bake 40 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish, if desired, with dried cranberries.

Ready to win? Enter to win a $100 Walgreens gift card to get stocked up for your holiday cooking and baking efforts! Good luck!
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Cooking Simply with STAR Olive Oil

Thanks to the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community for making this post about STAR Olive Oil possible.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and its client.

Ever get surprised by the stuff that you can find when you get looking around?  I went shopping at Walmart and would never have guessed that I could find olive oils that are paired for different products.  Did you know that STAR Olive Oil puts out three different oils that are designed for use with vegetables (Arbequina), poultry/fish (Hojiblanca), or beef/lamb (Picual)?  I thought I was an olive oil snob of sorts!  I’ve even done an olive oil tasting at an olive oil plant in Chile!  How little I knew!

Star Olive Oil-2

At home, we use a lot of olive oil.  We’ll often use it in place of or in combination with butter.  It is so much healthier than butter and you can pretty easily find conversion charts that show you how to substitute olive oil in in place of butter in just about any dish.  Have you ever had an olive oil cake?  Sensational!

Since my experience in Chile, I am much more interested in the sourcing of the oil.  I was excited to see that the Arbequina was a blend that included Chilean oil.  The other two olive oils were both Spanish in origin, but were different varieties.  I was so excited at the prospect of these oils that I had to purchase all three.

Right away, I went to work.  I used the Arbequina to sautee veggies for a broccoli rice casserole and the Hojiblanca to sear and roast some chicken breast.  It was an easy dinner, but shows the versatility of olive oil and the simplicity of it’s use in everyday cooking.

Star Olive Oil

Easy weeknight meal, right?  Here’s where it gets even more fun.  Head over to the STAR Fine Foods Facebook page and you can enter a contest to win the complete set of three STAR Usage Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils!  Make sure you follow along on Twitter and Pinterest to get more information about these products and to see what others are cooking up.

How are you using olive oil in your everyday cooking?  Did you know that different types of olive oils work best with different types of products?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

Adding Veggies to Lasagna

One of the hardest things for us to do for dinner in our house is to add green to any food.  We regularly have to hear complaints about not liking “green stuff”.  It’s actually kind of funny since they will gladly eat raw broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. dipped in ranch dressing.  We know they like veggies.  Put them into the dishes, though, and, apparently, it’s just not acceptable.

Still, I’m not one to run from challenges or to “sneak” veggies into a dish without the kids knowing about it.  Thankfully, I know that the kids love everything about lasagna.  It’s an easy way to introduce some of that stuff that they complain about into something that I know they’ll eat.  I took a jarred sauce and added some cooked beef and mushrooms to it.  Nothing to jump out of your socks about there.  I took the typical ricotta cheese mixture and added about 8 oz. of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of all of the extra water.  Again, not really any extra work here.

Adding Veggies to Lasagna

Did the kids fuss about the green?  Of course they did!!  I had them try one bite, though.  When they couldn’t even taste that there was spinach in there, they proceeded to gobble up the rest of it.  I’m trying hard to get them to understand that liking the taste of each individual ingredient is far less important than liking the taste of the final product.  I’m not a big fan of cooked carrots, but to give a stew, tomato sauce, or any number of other dishes great flavor, I might have to cook down some carrots as part of it.  What matters most is how it tastes in the end.

As a bonus tip:  if you want that beautifully perfect, clean cut serving of lasagna, all you have to do is have a little patience.  Wait about 15-20 minutes after the lasagna comes out of the oven.  It’ll still be plenty warm to eat, but the sauce will have cooled down just enough to let it set and not run all over.  Take the time to finish your bread, make a quick side salad, set the table, or even finish up the dishes from prepping the lasagna.  If all else fails, have a glass of wine and admire your handiwork!  Enjoy!

What are your favorite tips for adding more veggies into your kids diets?  Do you sneak them in or hide them in plain sight?

5 Tips for Holiday Baking With Kids

NOTE: Sam Peters backed and provided information for this post.

It’s fall. Fall means wearing Halloween costumes and trick or treating. It means Thanksgiving and Christmas meal prep, present buying, pumpkin spice everything and weekly baking projects.

In other words, it’s the best time of the year. Giving baked goods as holiday gifts is a great way to show you care and save money at the same time. You can even get the kids in on the action—baking cookies, fudge and chocolate bars for your children’s friends.

Some of our favorite recipes include:

Peach Upside Down Mini Cakes

Frosted Zucchini Brownies

Football Snickers Brownies

Frosted Cookie BitesFrosted Cookie Bites

You will undoubtedly have some family favorites of your own (feel free to share them in the comments!) that get made every year. Gather together everything that stands a remote chance of being baked. Now is the best time to start putting together your winter/holiday baking plans because, as you know there is no such thing as too much prep when it comes to baking with kids.

Here are some of the other things that you can do to make your holiday baking sessions go smoother.

1. Stain-proof your kitchen

Make sure you have the materials on hand to cover any surface that doesn’t lend itself to being coated in baking materials. Somehow, no matter how careful everybody is, ingredients get everywhere when you’re baking with children.

PRO TIP: Make sure your kitchen blinds are made from laminate or similar material so they’re easy to clean. You’ll protect your windows and be stylish at the same time!

2. Give Everybody Their Own Apron

Get cheap aprons from Michael’s or JoAnn’s and have your kids go decoration-nuts with fabric paints and markers. This way everybody will have their own very special apron that can be reused every baking session and you won’t waste valuable time refereeing arguments over who gets to wear what.

3. Hands in the Pockets Rule

Your kids will get a thrill out of your allowing them to use your mixers and beaters. Teaching them how to use these machines at an early age is definitely a good idea (and makes them far less tempting than if you were to tell them they were completely off limits). To keep little fingers out of the way, have a rule stating while the mixer is running, your kids can watch the dough being mixed but they need to keep their hands in their pockets and their hair pulled back. This way you won’t have to worry about fingers or hair getting caught into the beaters or blades.

4. Decorate First

The lovely ladies at The Kitchn encourage the use of egg wash tempera paint for the decorating of cookies before they get baked in the oven. This way you only have to run the cookies through the oven once and they are ready to eat (or give) as soon as they are taken out and cooled! And, of course, let your kids do their own decorating!

5. Read the Recipe Together

Reading through the recipe together is a great way to keep the youngest kids involved (and helps improve reading skills). You might even appoint someone the “Official Recipe Keeper” so that nobody feels left out of the preparations.

Have fun!


Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

It’s getting close to the holiday season and that means it’s time to get baking and I can hardly wait for all of the yummy sweet treats.  Thankfully, I have an excuse to get started!  Dixie Crystals and Imperial Sugar are hosting a Cookie Contest for a chance to win a free ticket to Mixed and a grand prize of $500!!  In response, I am offering up my Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies.  YUM!!

Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Mixed is a cool little conference for food bloggers.  It’s very small, meaning that you actually get a chance to know some of the bloggers and presenters.  It’s also located at the lovely Mountain Lake Resort in Southwest Virginia.

It’s pretty close to where we live now, but it is even closer to Virginia Tech, where Beth and I met, fell in love, and where I eventually proposed to her.  As it happens, my grandmother also lives just a few miles away.  All in all, it’s a great trip with some gorgeous views and some great connections to my life.  I went last year and had a blast.

This year, I’m looking forward to taking Beth down to participate in all of the fun.  To help with that, I made up a batch of Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies.

The typical oatmeal cookies use darker sugars (brown sugar, molasses, etc) and cinnamon to achieve a deep, rich flavor.  I decided to clean it up a little bit, opting for white sugar and light corn syrup so that the tartness of the cranberries and the saltiness of the roasted pistachios really shines through.  Boy did it work!  The cookies have that sugary crunch, coupled with the chewiness that we all love from an oatmeal cookie.  Then you get the sweet, the tart, and the salty…all in one bite.  These are cookies that I am proud to share with you all.  Enjoy!!

Cranberry Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies-1

Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies


6 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) dried cranberries
1 cup dark rum
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals or Imperial Sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups rolled (or old-fashioned) oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachios, chopped


Combine cranberries and rum.  Set aside to soak for 10-20 minutes.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about five minutes.  Add corn syrup and beat another 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg and beat another 2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the oat mixture in two stages, until fully combined.  Drain the cranberries, reserving the rum, and stir in the cranberries and pistachios by hand.  Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

To cook:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Form the dough into balls of 1-2 Tbs each and arrange on the baking sheets leaving approximately 3 inches between each cookie.  Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or fork.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies are just set.  Allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Bonus Recipe!  Take about 2 Tbs of that reserved rum and combine with 8 oz of ginger ale for a great little treat to go with your cookies.  Enjoy!!


Are you itching to get baking for the holidays?  What is your favorite go to treat this time of year?


This post serves as my entry in the Mixed Pre-Conference Cookie Contest sponsored by Dixie Crystals.

Ben’s Beginners Contest – Lend a Vote

Ben's Beginners graphic

As you have figured out Brian loves to be in the kitchen. I am in the kitchen when Brian isn’t around  … or I can make a sweet treat. The kids though just being in the kitchen so we were excited to see the Uncle Ben’s Rice “Ben’s Beginners Contest”. Grace and Sophie both wanted to do videos. They collaborated with Brian to make recipes that are favorite dishes.

Part of the prize is $30,000 for the winner’s cafeteria. This would be a wonderful gift for their cafeteria. Grace’s suggestion is new tables because “some of the seats spin around”. That is a pretty good need in the school and she would know seeing this her third year there!

The best part of this contest is that you can vote for BOTH girls each day! You can vote every 24 hours (best we can tell it goes by the clock not the day). So please vote daily … the winner isn’t chosen by the votes but it is 20% of the score the judges are using.

Sophie’s Video …

Sophie's chicken broccoli stir fry


VOTE for Sophie HERE!

Don’t you love how she just keeps looking at the camera?! I do LOVE her Yummies!

Grace’s Video …

Grace's chicken enchilada bake


VOTE for Grace HERE!

Grace was all about doing this by herself but she wants to let you know she has daddy wrapped around her finger. All she has to do ask for his help! :)

By the way … THANK YOU!!

Taking a Minute to Give Back with Minute Rice

Thanks to Minute Rice for making this post possible.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

We are so blessed!  We have a great blog (ok, I’m biased!) and we get to review and give away amazing products all of the time.  We also work with some really wonderful companies who are willing to help us give back to our local community.

Recently, we partnered with Minute Rice to feature a recipe on the blog here.  While we were not offered any monetary compensation, we did negotiate for them to provide some product for our local food pantry in addition to the two boxes that we received for review.  We were overwhelmed when we received 18 boxes of Minute Rice’s new Multi-Grain Medley.  That’s enough to provide a family of four a starch for dinner for over a month!!

One of the best parts of these opportunities is the chance to share the experience with our kids.  On the day that I was to deliver the rice, Sophie just happened to be sick.  As such, she got to help me out!  Just take a look at some pictures of this operation.

We live in a pretty small community, but we still have plenty of people in need.  This food pantry is only open two days each week, so people make it a point to be here as soon as the doors open up.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-3

This is a pretty small organization, but they surely have their acts together!  Look at how well organized they are.  Still, every little bit helps and the Minute Rice Multi-Grain Medley was pretty well received.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-2

This gentleman was working his tail off, accepting my donation, organizing this and other donations, and putting together bags for the people who need it.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-4

My little Sophie was so happy to help out her daddy.  The gentleman above made sure to take a few extra seconds to offer her a small bag of fruit snacks.  What a giving individual!

Minute Rice Food Pantry-5

The local food pantry takes donations from local individuals, but also from local stores.  Day old bread might not be great for sales, but it’s fine for eating.  (Plus it makes great French toast!!)

Minute Rice Food Pantry-6

Fresh produce is one of the more expensive items to purchase at the grocery store.  I’m so happy to see that they have plenty to offer up to the individuals seeking assistance.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-1

The volunteers at this food pantry work so hard.  I hope that everyone appreciates how much they give of themselves.  Hopefully they have their own Minute Rice at home to help them make a quick, easy dinner!  Maybe they can try out this recipe.

Cilantro-Lime Success Rice

Minute Rice Food Pantry-7

This rice dish was fluffy and had the great tartness from the lime and freshness from the cilantro.  The flavors were clean and no one ingredient overpowered the others.  It served as an incredible side for some scrumptious coconut shrimp.  Keep an eye out for that recipe!


2 bags Success Boil-in-Bag Jasmine White Rice
1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the Success Rice according to package directions.  Grate the zest and juice of the lime into the prepared rice.  Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy!

 Broccoli and Success Multi-Grain Melody Rice



1 bag Success Boil-in-Bag Multi-Grain Rice

1 head of broccoli

1/4 cup of Olive Oil

salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the Success Rice according to the package directions. Saute the broccoli in the Olive Oil. Add the rice to the broccoli in the saute pan. Stir often while combining flavors and giving the rice a bit of a crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

How do you give back to your local community?  Share your story with us!  Thanks!