The fastest, simplest S'mores ever!  My 6-year-old had a blast making these nearly by herself.  If you have a toaster oven, you can make just a few and hardly heat the kitchen up at all.  Even a big batch doesn't make your whole kitchen hot, or make you smell like campfire, or have the neighbors wondering what's on fire.  
If you use GF/CF chocolate chips and GF grahams, these are also a gluten-free, dairy-free treat.

For a big batch, you will need:

1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semisweet, you choose)
one 10-oz bag regular marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used precrushed ones) OR 4-5 crackers, crushed
A cookie sheet, an oven with a broil setting, and a sheet of parchment if you want the easiest cleanup.

Put the oven rack in the highest position.  Dump the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl; I used a Corelle cereal bowl.  Microwave for one minute; stir.  If it's not quite melted, microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Repeat if needed, but once you get past 2 minutes it overheats and clumps.  (You can rescue it by stirring in 1-2 tsp. oil.)

Dip the bottom half of a marshmallow into the chocolate, then dip into graham cracker crumbs.  Place on cookie sheet, at least 1/2" apart.

Turn the broiler on and put the marshmallows in.  If you have HI and LO options, here's what happened in my oven with them:

HI:  browned at 35-40 seconds.  Centers were still firm.
LO:  browned at 1 1/2- 2 minutes.  Nearly the whole marshmallow was now melted and gooey.  

Either way, watch these things closely!   Don't walk away for even a few seconds or they may be black when you get back.  Flaming marshmallows over a campfire in the dark may be entertaining, but they're not nearly as amusing in the house!

The marshmallows ready to be broiled.
Bonus- this fudge can be made dairy-free and still have that creamy, melt-in-your mouth text ure!

This week in Joyschool I taught the kids about the process of making chocolate.  I had a library book that had pictures of each step, from cacao tree to wrapped chocolate bars, and I brought hands-on things, as well.  They got to see, smell, and taste bits of roasted cocoa beans (didn't like them!- it's like eating unsweetened chocolate but crunchier.), see and smell cocoa powder, see, smell, and have cocoa butter rubbed into their skin, we melted and molded chocolates (cute little Easter shapes).... and then made this baggie fudge.  If you're making it yourself or have careful children, a single bag is fine, but for this group that includes a few 3-year-old boys, I double-bagged it. :)  This could be a fun Family Home Evening activity AND treat. 
Our batch was made using the coconut oil and coconut cream, since 3 of the kids can't have dairy.

I had brought walnuts in the shell to use in the fudge, but the kids had so much fun cracking the nuts first and eating the bits inside that they were all gone before the fudge was ready.  It's good fudge either way!

Baggie Fudge
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened or melted
1/2 c.  cocoa powder
1/3 c. coconut cream, OR 1/4 c. water and  1/2 c.  nonfat dry milk powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups unsifted)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Put the ingredients in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  Put this bag inside another bag if  it seems like a good idea.  Squish, knead, or pound the bag until everything is well mixed.  (Giving the kids 30 -second turns seemed to work the best- and gave them practice counting.)  

Once it's mixed, squish the mixture into a rectangular shape near the top, making the rectangle about an inch narrower on each side than the bag.  Put the bag on a cutting board or similar surface.  Cut down one side of the bag and across the bottom with scissors. Cut fudge into squares, or use small cookie cutters to make cute shapes.  Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

If fudge is a little too soft, let it chill in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

These have fiber, protein, and much lower in sugar than almost any baked treat!  And they really are good.  My family snarfed down this batch. 
Besides all that, they're also wheat-free and dairy-free.

Healthy Peanut Butter-Chocolate-Banana Bars

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (one can, drained and rinsed)
2 eggs
2 ripe medium bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. brown sugar or honey (1/2 c sugar. if you like things on the sweeter side)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 c. chocolate chips (the darker the better)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Put the beans, eggs, bananas, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a food processor or high-powered blender.  Run until very smooth.  Stir in the baking powder, salt and oats.  Spread in a greased 8x8 pan then sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake 30 minutes or til test done with a toothpick.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.  These are even better the next day.

For a variation on this, substitute pumpkin puree for the banana, increase sugar/honey to 1/2 c., replace almond or cashew butter for the peanut butter, then add 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.
I hate playdough.  It gets stuck in the carpet, smells funny, dries out, and gets thrown away.  My children, however, love playdough. 

Here's a way to let them have fun with playdough, have it over and GONE in one session, and not waste anything!  Whatever the kids roll out gets baked- as crackers!

Other things you can use as playdough: yeast dough, homemade Tootsie Rolls, Peanut Butter Balls (all recipes are also in my cookbook)

Edible Playdough

1/3 c. water
1/3 c. quick oats (or one envelope instant oatmeal and an extra 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. water)
1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking powder, optional
2-6 drops food color, optional

Bring the water to a boil, add oats.  Let sit a couple minutes to plump and cool slightly.  If adding color, it's easiest to do right before adding the flour.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder (a pinch of sugar is always popular; omit if using sweetened instant oatmeal).  Stir until you've worked in at least half of the flour, then dump everything onto the counter and knead until smooth.  Mixing in the flour while dough is warm or hot helps it become more elastic.   (So does cooking the oats.)

If you have a toaster oven, it's the perfect size to bake in.  Oil or spray a cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees until the crackers are crisp.  This may be anywhere from 10-25 minutes, depending on how thick they are.  (Hint- the thinner, the better they'll be!)  Anything thicker than about 1/4 " will never be crisp, just hard.  Teething biscuits.  Entertaining to chew on.

The baking powder is not necessary, but it helps lighten the crunch of the baked product.  This is nice because those little fingers rarely roll out the dough evenly.
This color is from adding about 1 1/2 tsp. dried beet powder when cooking the oats.  After this, my daughter said she wanted purple- so I added 3 drops blue food color.

I make beet powder when my garden beets become too big and a little tough to eat normally.  To make the powder, slice the beets thinly, dehydrate until completely dry, then put them in a blender or food processor.  Grind to a powder.  Store in an airtight container, like a jar with a screw-on lid.  Best nutrition within one year.

The ideal thickness is about 1/8" thick, but...  it's for fun, with a bonus snack at the end!  My kids love that they're making actual food.

I've seen mango salsa before, or peach salsa, but it had never occured to me to try adding fruit to regular salsa. 

Try it, you'll like it!

Pico de Gallo           

16 oz. jar salsa (mild, medium, hot, whatever you prefer)
1 large apple, diced
4 drops lime essential oil OR use the juice and zest of one fresh lime

Stir together, and use as any salsa.
Peach or mango can be used in place of the apple.  Other fruits could be good, too- strawberry, raspberry, pear, ...

The idea came from a recipe for
Tangy Lemon Coconut Salad.  The recipe was a tad too complicated for dinner that night, plus I had no fresh tomatoes.  I pulled out a jar of salsa, added the recipe ingredients that weren't already in the salsa, and put it with the salad.  It was amazing!
When I walked over to a friend's house early this week, she had brown paper bags of popcorn on the counter.  "Look at this!" she exclaimed, and told me all about it.  Now I'm excited to share it with you!

You don't need the overpriced, often chemically-laden bags of microwave popcorn; only a brown paper bag (lunch-sized), plain popcorn kernels, and toppings of your choice.

Put 1/4 to 1/3 cup of popcorn in a bag, and fold it over once. The original instructions, on, said to staple it once.  While I was surprised to find the metal caused no problem, I also found it wasn't necessary.  So I just fold the top over.  The original also said to add oil to the popcorn before cooking.  It works just as well without, and the oil soaks mostly into the bag, not into the popcorn.

Stand it upright, then microwave on high power until there are about 2 seconds between pops. On my microwave, that's right at 2 minutes.  My neighbors' takes 2 1/2 minutes.  Plan on between 2-3 minutes. 

Do not walk away during this time! There are reports of bags catching fire- so don't let it cook too long!

The bag will fall over during the last bit of cooking.  That's fine.

Top off your popcorn with a drizzle of melted butter and some salt, close the bag, and shake to coat.  I prefer 1-2 teaspoons of butter for a bagful, but use whatever you like.  It's easier to shake if you used the 1/4 cup of kernels.

You could also use butter spray, or olive oil, or coconut oil, Parmesan, cinnamon/sugar, Seasoned Salt, Ranch dressing mix powder, or cheese powder and a bit of cayenene and mustard powder.  The sky's the limit.

Simple, and lots of fun to eat!

Yes, they could be fancier, but they're still cute!  This way I'm willing to give each child a whole apple's worth of butterflies.  It takes almost no extra time to cut them this way. 
Cut an apple into quarters, then cut the seeds out using a shallow 'V' cut.  This gives a curve to the outside edges of your butterflies' wings.

Then cut each piece so you have eight more-or-less-equal wedges.

Cut carefully, starting at what was the center of the apple (the narrow side of the wedge).  Cut almost through, stopping about 1/8- 1/4 " from the last bit of edge.  

 I like to make the uncut part about 1/3 the way down the outside edge, it makes the butterflies look a little more realistic.

Open the two pieces, leaving that skin 'hinge' intact.

See how it's attached still?  If you accidentally cut all the way through, just set them back-to-back.  They just aren't quite as much fun to eat that way.

This is as fancy as I like to get when I'm trying to get lunch on the table quickly.  The antennae are strings off a stalk of rhubarb in the garden. 

You could get really fancy and creative here, if you have the time and inclination.  Strings of licorice would also work for antennae, but kinda defeats the purpose of the healthy snack.  (Besides, you know what happens once a package is opened...)
You could also decorate using raisins, other dried fruit (think colors here), mini chocolate chips, colored sprinkles, even paint on the wings with diluted food color, or a finger dipped in a natural color-- cocoa powder, blueberry juice, turmeric or curry powder, crushed safflower, dried powdered beet or tomato.

(originally from 6/24/10)

First I need to make a clarification from last week- for those of you wondering what “wheat berries” are, that’s just the chef’s term for what we simply call WHEAT.   Uncooked, whole, wheat; what we buy in those 25- or 50-pound bags. 

Here’s a great link, and while I disagree slightly with what the author calls “healthy”, there are some good recipes in it.  Here it is:

Free e-book of healthy snacks

This is one of the recipes in it- something sweet, cold, and delicious for these hot days we’re now getting into….

Banana Pops

Slice bananas into disks.

Roll banana discs into PLAIN yogurt (you can use vanilla yogurt or other flavored yogurt; it's just sweeter)

Add any kind of topping you wish. We rolled our disks in chopped pecans. I know that's expensive, but we love pecans so much. After freezing these we ate them and you wouldn't believe the taste! It was like eating a frozen candy bar. Okay, maybe not that good, but they were sweet and refreshing, and I didn't have to put a limit on how many the kids could eat.

Other toppings that work well: chopped raisins, granola, any kind of nut (cashew, peanuts, almonds), peanut butter (this would be without the yogurt), and of course, melted chocolate or chocolate chips.

My son is not a fan of bananas, but he really liked this treat. You can even eat them plain. Oh, yeah, another topping we did was a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Believe it or not, it was good too!

I will warn you that it's messy because of the yogurt. And super messy if the kids help! But you don't have the guilt of giving them something unhealthy, and it's a cheap "popsicle."

(originally 7/08/10)

Here in the Salt Lake Valley, we still have a couple months of the growing season left; it’s not too late to plant some things.  Beans, beets, carrots, and turnips are good ones to put in right now.  You can even grow cool-season crops like peas, lettuce, spinach, chard, and cabbage, if you wait a couple more weeks for temperatures to drop a bit.

Here are a few quick tips for growing tomatoes- 

*fertilize with 1 Tbsp. nitrogen (34-0-0) at four and eight weeks after transplanting.  For me, that’s right about now. Put the fertilizer on the ground, to the side of the plant.  Gardeners call this “side dressing”.

*Give them 1-2 inches of water per week, water deeply and infrequently.  To know how often to water, dig a 4” deep hole, feel the soil at the bottom.  If it feels cool and moist, you don’t need water yet.  Wait until the top four inches dry out, then water again.  Mulch around them to keep moisture in and to reduce weeds.  *It will take about 25-35 days for a flower to become a ripe tomato.  It seems to speed up ripening if you break off a few little branches.  This tells the plant it had better hurry up and produce seeds before something happens to it.

for more info on tomatoes, including what causes blossom end rot:

info on planting beans:

and information on growing about any fruit, vegetable, or herb:    

Here are a couple great quotes I ran across recently:

"Self-reliance is a product of our work and under-girds all other welfare practices. It is an essential element in our spiritual as well as our temporal well-being. Regarding this principle, President Marion G. Romney has said: “Let us work for what we need. Let us be self-reliant and independent. Salvation can be obtained on no other principle. Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things.” - (In Welfare Services Meeting Report, 2 Oct. 1976, p. 13.), quoted in “In the Lord’s Own Way” Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, May 1986

"There is more salvation and security in wheat than in all the political schemes of the world". - Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 2:207  Or in whatever food you end up storing.

Now for the recipes:

The two below are almost the same thing:  the first is stiff because of the large amount of milk powder and powdered sugar, the second starts with the same ratio of PB and honey, but thickens it up with cereal/oats and just a little milk powder.  Just goes to show you can do your own variations if you like.  On those days that we’re out of bread and don’t know what to do for lunch, we’ll whip up a batch of these Peanut Butter Fingers (though we usually shape them in balls) and eat those.  It’s our peanut-butter-sandwich, fun-sized.  If you go by what the PB jar says is a serving (2 Tbsp.), the PB Fingers recipes only feeds 3 people. 


 Edible Playdough  - makes about 2 cups’ worth, 1 ¼ lbs.

1   cup   peanut butter   
1   cup   dry milk powder   
1   cup   powdered sugar   
1/2   cup   honey   

Mix peanut butter and honey together until smooth.  Stir in milk powder, then add powdered sugar.  Stir as much as you can, then dump out on counter and knead with your hands until it all sticks together.

           Peanut Butter Fingers  (small batch)

Yield: about 20  (2”) "fingers"

1/3   cup   peanut butter   
3   Tbsp.   honey   
1/2   cup   corn flakes   
1/2   cup   quick-cooking rolled oats   
1/4   cup   dry milk powder   
1/4   cup   raisins or dried fruit bits    
Sesame seed, if you like   

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the peanut butter and honey until smooth.  Put corn flakes in a plastic sandwich bag.  Close the open end.  With your fist, crush the corn flakes into small pieces.  Add corn flakes, oats, milk powder, and raisins to the peanut butter mixture in the bowl.  With your hands, mix well.  If mixture is too dry to hold together, mix in a few drops of water. 

       Using a well-rounded teaspoonful for each, shape into logs 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, or about the size of your finger.     Spread the sesame seed (if you're using it) in a pie plate.  Roll peanut butter fingers in the sesame seed.      Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  If they don’t disappear first.

(Originally 7/15/10)

JULY in the garden:
• Plant beets and turnips for fall harvest.
• Thin out plants and fertilize.
• Fertilize potatoes with nitrogen.
• Watch watering on tomatoes! Even deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering to avoid blossom end rot.
• Irrigate at ground level rather than over head spray to avoid diseases.
• Keep looking for any signs of pests. Use insecticides only as necessary.
• Stake tomatoes if you haven’t already.
• Remove suckers and pinch back tomatoes as necessary.

This was from Glover Nursery’s website; see it for a month-by-month checklist. 

Remember that you can also plant shorter-season crops; the seed envelope will tell you how many days until harvest for that variety.  The official information for our area (data from Riverton) is that the earliest-ever fall freeze was Sept. 13, average date is Sept. 24, and latest was Oct. 4.  So worst-case scenario is 58 frost-free days remaining, best-case is 80 days, plus whatever length you can extend your growing season by covering your garden with a sheet or blanket for those first frosts.  

Now, for that fruit that some of you have coming out your ears-  our favorite way to eat it is ‘Fruit Leather’. 

Here are two samples of how much to use:

Apricot leather:
1 c. apricot puree (1 ½ c. pitted apricots)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Around 3 Tbsp. sugar or honey

Cherry leather:
1 c. cherry puree (1 ½ c. pitted cherries- or use the food mill for this one)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Dry until there are no more sticky spots, roll up and store in an airtight jar.  We’re still eating leather made two summers ago, it’s holding up fine.

 The best leather is made with overripe fruit, too, which is helpful!  Basically, you puree or mash fruit, or send it through a food mill, sweeten it to taste, then dry it.  You can sweeten it with concentrated fruit juice, or with sugar, or honey.  We like it best with sugar because that way the fruit leather crystallizes over time, rather than getting tougher.  You can also add a little lemon juice to keep the leather from turning brown as much.

Whatever you’re going to dry it on/in needs sprayed with Pam or oiled first.  Trust me, you don’t want to forget that step.   Leather is no fun to chip off of trays!  Pour about a ¼” layer, and put it someplace to dry.  It’ll be done in about 24 hours in a dehydrator.  You can also dry it on cookie sheets in your oven (lowest setting, door slightly ajar for air circulation), or in a car parked outside on a hot day. 

A good article on drying is at