Tag Archives: chocolate chips

Monday Musings: Got M&M’s?

28 Apr

If you have M&Ms and a messy house, host an M&M Cleanup!


As I look around my living room at this very moment, I see laundry in two big piles waiting to be folded, leftover birthday party paraphernalia on the table, today’s pajamas from someone on the floor (those might even be yesterday’s now that I think about it) and I think to myself, “We need an M&M Cleanup!”

The M&M Cleanup is my husband’s invention, I must give him all the credit on this one. He started it when our kids were little as a way to entice them to clean up quickly with a little chocolate for motivation. Because it’s chocolate related, it still works even when they’re big. In fact, if you offered me an M&M right now (I prefer Peanut M&Ms,) I might just clean it all up myself.

Let me tell you a little bit more about it.

First and most importantly: You don’t need to have M&Ms to do this. You could use Skittles, fruit snacks, my personal fave-chocolate chips- or whatever you think is extra special, would motivate your child best and you’re comfortable rewarding them with. In fact, mini M&Ms work just as well as full size. Other than Halloween and maybe Easter, our kids don’t get M&Ms on a regular basis, so if we have them on hand, they work well because they don’t get them often. Conveniently, Santa always leaves them in the stockings and the Easter Bunny usually leaves them in the baskets, so we often get restocked around the holidays.

Second: We only save the M&M Cleanup for big messes, and only periodically do we use it. Otherwise, it’d lose its motivating factor. If you do it all the time, it’s not special. If our downstairs playroom is a huge, overwhelming mess after a multi-kid play date, for example, rather than yell and demand over and over that they clean up, and them whine that it’s too much or they don’t want to, or my favorite, “That’s not mine, I didn’t put that there,” we just announce an M&M Cleanup and they literally run to the mess and start cleaning up.

How it works: You can do it a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s one M&M or chocolate chip for each “thing” they pick up and put away, or for each trip they take from the living room to the bedroom for example, to put something away. Or, you could do an M&M per handful so that they’re not picking up a tiny scrap of paper and getting an M&M for each one. Really, the details and logistics are up to you. And, once that’s determined, how many rewards they get is up to them and how hard they work. If everyone works equally as hard (and in our house that is NOT always the case,) you can give a final little handful to all when the job is done just to make sure it’s fair all around and that no one who worked just as hard, is neglected for being a little bit slower, or whatever the case may be.

Most importantly: Make sure you are the one holding the M&Ms. This allows you most importantly to treat yourself as they clean up. I’m sure you worked just as hard about your day, without reward, so now’s the time. Secondly, this allows you to make sure no one is digging into the reward without doing their job first, or that no one is sneaking any more than what’s due them (such as the one for you and three for me routine.)

Although you can’t use this all the time and nothing is 100% foolproof when it comes to working with kids, The M&M Cleanup has worked wonders for us. It leaves us all smiling at the end and feeling rewarded for our hard work, and everyone needs that every once in a while!


Photo credit:

M&M image for the public use:

German Apple Cake

18 Nov
German Apple Cake is a recipe I loved, growing up.

German Apple Cake is a recipe I loved, growing up.


**I decided to re-post this today, November 18, 2013 because I made it this weekend for our friends who came for dinner. Making it reminded me of this post, so I thought I’d run it again for my newer followers who may have missed it.**

Growing up, this was one of my favorite recipes that my mom made. I have one specific memory also, of a time (the ONE time) when my mom was sick and my dad helped us make this recipe for her. I still think of that each time I see the recipe or eat this cake.

As with all of my recipes it’s super easy and of course, super delicious.

What’s your favorite apple recipe for fall?


3 c. chopped or shredded apples

1 c. oil

2 c. flour

1/2 c. choc. chips (or a few more if you love ’em as much as I do!)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla


Mix all ingredients together by hand in large bowl.

Grease and flour bundt pan.

Pour batter into pan.

Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool 1/2 hr. before removing from the pan.


Monday Musings: It’s over and done…have a cookie.

26 Aug
All's quiet as we prepare for the first day back to school, back to routine.

All’s quiet as we prepare for the first day back to school, back to routine.

Well folks, that’s that.

Summer’s over, at least for us. The best two months of the calendar year have flown by, but they’ve been two wonderful months, for sure.

Tomorrow is the first day back to school.

We’ll be starting our first year where both our elementary kids are on the intermediate hallway. No more primary grades. Ever.

We’ll be starting our last year of middle school for our first kid. Next year…high school.


On a happy note…only ten more months until summer.

To celebrate, let’s have a cookie.

A couple of weeks back I tried out a new recipe, modified it for our needs, and it was a huge success. So today I’m sharing that recipe with you. Enjoy your week, munch on a cookie, it makes everything seem better.

These were in a new cookbook I received from a family friend recently. Everyone loved them!

These were in a new cookbook I received from a family friend recently. Everyone loved them! They’d make a great after school snack!

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

(with our modifications in italics)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter (we use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk (we use skim)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cup white flour (we did one cup of white and 3/4 cup wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional and I did NOT add it in)
2 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking or old fashioned rolled oats
1 pkg. Semisweet Chocolate morsels
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional and I did NOT add it in)
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar.
Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, milk and vanilla.
Beat at medium speed until well blended.
Add flour, baking soda and salt.
Beat at low speed until soft dough forms.
Stir in oats, chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12-13 minutes for a crisp cookie (I DID TEN.)
Let cool for 1 minute before removing from cookie sheets. Cool completely before storing.

Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

A Sweet Treat for a Summer Snack

8 Jul
These barely had any time on the plate before they were devoured!

These barely had any time on the plate before they were devoured!

We tried a new snack recently. I’d seen a recipe somewhere for chocolate covered apricots. I love dried apricots, and I love chocolate, so I thought this would be worth a try. When the time came though, I couldn’t find wherever it was that I saw the original recipe so I Googled them and came up with one from About.com. It called for nuts, but I omitted the nuts and doubled the recipe since I had two bags of apricots to use.

The recipe was fast and easy and made a yummy snack. I’d definitely make them again. There are lots of fruits you can dip in chocolate including strawberries and bananas. I’ve also seen recipes for chocolate dipped kiwi, and since my kids love kiwi I thought I’d try that in the future too, so be on the lookout.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe as we tried it from About.com, modified for our nut-free preferences.


I melted my chocolate in a double boiler on top of the stove.

I melted my chocolate in a double boiler on top of the stove.

Ingredients: (we doubled this recipe)

  • 24 whole dried apricots
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate


1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Place the chopped almonds in a small bowl. (if using)

2. Temper or melt the chocolate in a medium bowl. (I did a double boiler on top of the stove.)

3. Holding an apricot by the tip, dip most of the fruit into the melted chocolate, swirling to ensure even coverage. Remove it from the chocolate and drag it along the lip of the bowl, removing excess chocolate.

Dried apricots are a pretty healthy snack, before you add the chocolate! We used semisweet chocolate.

Dried apricots are a relatively healthy snack, before you add the chocolate! We used semisweet chocolate.

4. Pat both sides of the chocolate-dipped apricot on the chopped almonds, covering both sides with nuts.

5. Place the candy on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat for the remaining apricots.

6. Place in the refrigerator to set the chocolate for approximately 10 minutes. If the chocolate has been tempered, the candy can be served at room temperature, but if it has not, it should be kept refrigerated until served.

New cookie recipe: I consider these “Superfoods”

8 Mar

I have a new chocolate cookbook that I received from Caroline for Christmas this year. IMG_0115

It’s fantastic.

I already went through it and tabbed a bunch of recipes, and we’ve already made two of them so far, both were delicious. One of them I am going to share with you today. Elizabeth and I made it together last weekend as a surprise for the rest of the family when they were out.

Overall, many of the recipes in this cookbook are already “healthified,” made with some healthier options. Today’s recipe is one of those healthier option recipes.

In fact, it’s so healthy, I might consider these cookies a “Superfood!”

You laugh (I can hear you) but just look at the ingredients in this recipe, read my post about super foods from last week and read the following blurb that I just read *today* in the March 13 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, that supports my superfood cookie claim:

“When you think ‘superfood,’ you probably picture kale or blueberries. But potent plant goodness comes in liquid form, too. Coffee is the nation’s number one source of antioxidants, accounting for 40% of our overall intake, according to research from the University of Scranton.”

Elizabeth was so excited to be the kid in the kitchen this time around!

Elizabeth was so excited to be the kid in the kitchen this time around!

First, let me just say that reading this thrilled me. I think I probably get more like 50% of my antioxident intake from coffee!

And second, although I’m being humorous, this recipe actually has coffee in it, which is why I drew your attention to that fact.

The cookies were a hard, crunchy cookie, which is the kind I prefer. Everyone here loved them, all thumbs up, and I didn’t think twice about offering them dessert, knowing that I was really providing them with daily doses of antioxidants!!

Below is the recipe. Now keep your eye open for all the healthier choices and you’ll see why these cookies were a superfood in my house!

My new superfood cookies

My new superfood cookies


3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine (we used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.)

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg (we used egg substitute)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

pinch of salt

scant 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon bran (We took bran flakes and crushed them up in a ziploc bag and took 1 tablespoon from there.)

1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups rolled oats

1 tablespoon strong coffee (I used decaf!)

2/3 cup hazelnuts toasted and coarsely chopped (I skipped this ingredient.)

Using the larger of my two Pampered Chef scoops makes our cookies more uniform.

Using the larger of my two Pampered Chef scoops makes our cookies more uniform.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grease two large cookie sheets (I don’t grease, mine are fine.)

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg and beat well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add in the whole wheat flour and bran.

Mix in the egg mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips, oats, coffee, and hazelnuts.

Mix well.

Put 24 rounded tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 16-18 minutes or until golden brown. (Ours took less, around 15 minutes.)

Remove from oven, then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before serving.


New friends, new recipe!

25 Feb
An exciting Kids' State Dinner reunion took place on Sunday afternoon at our house!

An exciting Kids’ State Dinner reunion took place on Sunday afternoon at our house!

Yesterday was a very exciting day!

Our new friend Debra, one of the moms from the Kids’ State Dinner, visited us at our house! She was traveling from her home in Virginia to see family in nearby Massachusetts so we were able to reconnect for a couple of hours.

Debra stopped by in time for lunch, so Don cooked up some of his yummy pizzas and a meatball calzone, and I made a new dessert.

I know that in general you shouldn’t try out a new recipe on new guests, but I thought that Debra would be okay with it, being someone herself who cooks and experiments with recipes.

Until about an hour before she arrived and I realized I was going to have to make a change to the recipe, and then at that point I got a little nervous.

But, luckily it all worked out great. We had a wonderful visit, which flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for dessert.

Debra brought us this pretty trivet, which makes a pretty backdrop for our Fudge Meltaways!

Debra brought us this pretty trivet, which makes a pretty backdrop for our pretty Fudge Meltaways!

That too, was wonderful as well.

It all ended much too soon, but luckily Debra has family here, and we have family in Virginia, so we know we’ll get to reconnect again and again.

In the meantime, here is the new dessert recipe for you. I got it from one of my cookbooks and as I write it for you I’ll explain what happened partway through and how I solved it.

Lately, I often go to the internet when I’m looking for something new to cook, but this time I grabbed a cookbook off my rack, opened up to any random page and moved a page or so beyond it, and found one to try. It ended up being a no bake recipe too, which was a bonus.

There were three layers to the recipe, so I’ll write it out and explain it layer by layer for you.

FUDGE MELTAWAYS (from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book)

First layer.....

First layer…..

First layer:

1/2 cup butter (We used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1 sq. unsweetened chocolate (one ounce)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 beaten egg

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

(We did not use the next two ingredients: 1 cup coconut, 1/2 cup chopped nuts)

Second layer....

Second layer….

Second layer:

1/4 cup butter (We used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1 tablespoon milk or cream (We used skim milk)

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Third (top) layer....

Third (top) layer….

Third Layer:

This was our issue. The third layer was supposed to be 1 and  1/2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted and spread over the top of the second layer. However, the unsweetened chocolate tastes terrible by itself and we couldn’t guarantee it’d taste any better on top of the dessert. At Caroline’s suggestion, I made a half-batch of Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook instead, and spread that across the top. It was delicious. Essentially it was almost the same as the second layer, but chocolate, but it worked.

So here is the recipe for the top layer, , so for a full recipe, double this one:

2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

1/8 cup milk (add more as needed)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp vanilla


1) Melt 1/2 cup butter and 1 sq. chocolate in saucepan.

2) Blend in granulated sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, eggs, crumbs (and coconut and nuts if you choose to use them).

3) Mix well and press into 11×7 or 9×9 dish.

4) Refrigerate.

5) Mix 1/4 cup butter, milk, confectioners sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Spread over crumb mixture.

6) Chill.

(I left this overnight before completing the top layer. )

7) Using the Better Homes and Gardens frosting recipe above, combine and spread across second layer.

8) Refrigerate and later serve.

Enjoy, but tell me, what would you have done with that third layer? Would you have served it as is? Or, would you have changed it too?

A Chocolaty Chinese New Year Dessert

8 Feb
Gramma's Haystacks

My mom’s dessert was chocolaty and delicious!

I cannot take credit for today’s dessert.

My mom brought these for dessert to our house last weekend after bringing another tray of them to a Chinese New Year party the week before, and she has shared the recipe with me.

In fact, it was her idea to use the Chinese New Year theme on my blog this week, and I took it and ran with it. Alex’s salad yesterday was a perfect addition to my main dish and Mom’s dessert.

My Grandma Rose makes something very similar to these with the chocolate and the noodles and sometimes she puts chocolate and walnuts. These are a little bit different, using the chocolate, but adding butterscotch and cashews along with the noodles.

Really depending on your own personal preferences, you can use just about anything you want in them: peanuts, marshmallows, dried cranberries, raisins.

And really, isn’t anything covered in chocolate just perfect?

I’ll warn you though: it’s hard to eat just one of these. There’s something about the combination of the salty and the sweet that makes you want to eat several of them. It’s a slippery slope, taking that first bite!

Thanks to Mom for bringing dessert and sharing the recipe with me, and thanks to Grandma Rose for sharing these with me over the years!


1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips (or choose your own ingredient)
One 10 oz. bag of Chinese noodles
1 1/2 cups cashews (or walnuts or peanuts)


Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in glass bowl in microwave or in sauce pan on top of the stove.

Add Chinese noodles and nuts, as well as any other optional ingredients, mixing well.

Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Cool until completely hardened.



Can’t get to a cannoli? Try this dessert instead!

1 Feb
This picture of Jill's cannoli made my mouth water!

This picture of Jill’s cannoli made my mouth water!

One afternoon on Facebook, my friend Jill, of Jill’s Cakes and Bakes in Canton, Georgia, shared a mouth-watering photo of her bakery’s cannoli. I have shared the photo with you here, so that you too, can drool with longing, just as I did that day.

I wanted a cannoli right then and there. If you live anywhere near Jill’s bakery in Canton, I highly recommend you high tail it right over there. Right now.

Of course I couldn’t have a cannoli right then and there, and I do not live near Jill, but I had a backup plan.

I’d have my new favorite guilt-free dessert, one that I found in the South Beach Diet Cookbook in my quest for lowfat foods. As I was perusing the book in December, I noticed that in the Phase I plan of their diet they do a lot with ricotta cheese for dessert. They add in all different flavors like orange, vanilla and…..


Yup, I went right to the Mocha Ricotta dessert page as soon as I saw that because I have always loved ricotta cheese. I don’t know if that’s a typical thing to love, but I love it, and I always have.

The recipe was a simple one, and it makes one serving, just enough to satisfy my urge for a little something.

On that particular day, it satisfied my urge for three cannolis. In fact, the dessert itself is very similar to the inside of a cannoli.

Works for me.

Since I’m not actually ON a diet, I threw some fat free chocolate syrup on top, not a ton, just a little, and some fat free whipped cream on top also. It was like an ice cream sundae in the middle of the day, but much better than an ice cream sundae.

Now clearly, it’s not a cannoli, but if you can’t have one, maybe this is the next best thing!

Next time you’re having a craving for something sweet, give this dessert a try!

I've had this dessert at least six times since finding it in the South Beach Diet book.

I’ve had this dessert at least six times since finding it in the South Beach Diet book.

South Beach Diet’s



1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I use fat free)

1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pkg. sugar substitute (since I’m not dieting I just throw in about 1/4 tsp. of sugar)

Dash of expresso powder (I don’t have that so I use instant decaf granules, about 1/8 tsp.)

5 mini chocolate chips (again, I can use regular sized, a couple more than five but not a ton.)


Mix together the ricotta, cocoa powder, vanilla, and sugar substitute in a dessert bowl. Serve chilled with a dusting of expresso powder and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips.

Per serving (as original recipe is written): 261 calories, 15 g. protein, 17 g. carbohydrates, 14 g. fat, 9 g. saturated fat,  166 mg. sodium, 42 mg. cholesterol, 0 g fiber

Quinoa Muffins

25 Jan
These muffins are hearty, healthy and taste great!

These muffins are hearty, healthy and taste great!

I’ve mentioned previously that I really love getting ideas from Pinterest. I first had quinoa at the White House when I had lunch there for the first Kids’ State Dinner. After that I was hooked on quinoa and I searched for lots of different ways of cooking it.

Today’s recipe was originally a Pinterest recipe for Martha Stewart Quinoa Muffins.

We had to healthify it a little bit. I’ve put the link to the original recipe above, and I’ll make notes to tell you how we changed the recipe to suit our needs.

Everyone in our house likes these muffins. I’ve made them twice now, once following the original recipe back in the fall, and once a few weeks ago with our modifications. If you haven’t cooked with quinoa, I encourage you to try it. I like having another ingredient option for my cooking and baking. The last time I used it, I cooked up a big batch and used some for the muffins, some for a side dish with dinner another night, and some I ate like oatmeal in the mornings for my breakfast. It’s quite the versatile ingredient.


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan (We used 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt.)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan (We used 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup white flour.)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (We used craisins for half the batch and chocolate chips for the other half the batch.)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (We used skim milk.)
  • 1 large egg (We used egg substitute.)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Splitting the batch in half allowed for using both craisins and chocolate chips as filling options.

Splitting the batch in half allowed for using both craisins and chocolate chips as filling options.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; (we used fat free nonstick spray) dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Liz’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

18 Jan

One of the things I love about recipes is the fact that they often remind me of people, places, of times in my life. Today’s recipe reminds me of all of those things.

When we eat our cookies, I'll be thinking of Liz!

When we eat our cookies, I’ll be thinking of Liz!

A while back we lived out of state for a few years and conveniently enough, we were in the neighboring state to where my brother and his roommates were living at the time. We were less than an hour away from them, which was fun.  Liz was one of the roommates, a friend of his from college, and a wonderful person. In fact, all of his roommates and friends were wonderful, but today’s recipe is from Liz, so today we focus on her.

Technology being what it is, we’ve been able to stay in touch with Liz and share the events of our lives with each other, which is so great. She is still living nearby, just a few hours from here, and now she has two children of her own.  She’s a fan of The Whole Bag of Chips, and recently she sent me today’s recipe. She knows how much I love cookies and she also knows that I love cookie batter. She specifically sent me this recipe because there were no eggs in the batter, so it makes it safe to taste.

I love that this recipe replaces some of the sugar with honey. It also lent itself well to being a low-fat recipe between the lack of eggs (great for people with egg allergies) and the fact that I could replace the butter with my new go-to, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. It may just be my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for all of those reasons. This time around, I even replaced half of the white flour with wheat flour, just to healthify it even more. Every little bit helps!

Each Friday we spend a chunk of our afternoon with my Grandma Rose, the girls’ great-grandmother. I’ve begun bringing along a low-fat or non-fat snack for our dessert, to make things easier for her and for us. At 91 years old, she puts out quite a spread, and I’m glad I can help out a little bit. Today we’ll be bringing along a batch of Liz’s chocolate chip cookies for everyone to enjoy.

These make a great long-weekend baking project too, so give them a try this Martin Luther King Weekend!


1 1/4 cups flour (I did 3/4  cup white flour and 1/2 cup wheat flour)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

1 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

I used my small Pampered Chef scoop to put them onto my ungreased trays.

Bake at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes (18 was perfect for my oven.)


Grandma Rose

We enjoy being able to spend some time with Great Grandma Rose! This photo was taken a year or so ago, at her house on her 90th birthday.