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
Also:
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.
 
 
The monthly envelope full of local ads and coupons arrived a couple days ago.  As I flipped through it, one summery dessert caught my eye:  a dessert pizza.  It was an advertisement for a local pizza buffet, "only" $5.99 for the buffet.  
Well, we have 7 people at home, so $6 x 7 is not something we're willing to spend very often.  :)  Instead, I could make this for under $4 with what I had on hand.  Frozen blueberries and strawberries are always in the freezer here; I get them at DollarTree in the frozen section.  Cream cheese stores way beyond its sell-by date, so I stock up when it's $1 for 8 ounces.  A local store recently had whipping cream at $.33, and it stores quite a bit past the sell-by date, plus it can be frozen.  And I stock up on butter when it's on sale, then keep it in the freezer.

What are some of your must-have-on-hand ingredients?

Cookie base
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a 10x17 rimmed cookie sheet or 14" or 15" round pizza pan.  Drop cookie dough on top and pat into an even layer; wet your fingers so the dough doesn't stick so much to you.  Bake for 14-20 minutes, until light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely.  

Topping/Frosting 
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

2-4 cups berries or other fruit (I used 1 cup frozen blueberries, about 1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries)

Spread the topping over cooled cookie, cut into squares, and then sprinkle or decorate with fruit.  Serve; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
 
 
Sometimes you pick a perfect watermelon:  firm, juicy, sweetness dripping from every piece.  Sometimes the melon could use a little bit of help.  Or sometimes you just want a little variety in the flavor department.

Several years ago I found a recipe for a lemon-and-mint-infused syrup to pour over watermelon, or over a mixture of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.  It took a few hours to make the syrup, though.  Now that I have essential oils on hand, the flavor base takes almost no time at all!

Citrus-Mint Watermelon Salad
(enough syrup for 4-8 lbs melon while weighed with the rinds still on)

1/4 c. sugar (OR 3 Tbsp. honey)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-3 drops mint essential oil (1 for subtle flavor, 3 for very noticeable)
6 drops any combination of citrus oils (lime, orange, lemon, grapefruit... I used 3 drops lime oil, 3 drops grapefruit oil)

Stir together the sugar and lemon juice; bring to a boil, stirring just until sugar is dissolved.  If using honey, there is no need to heat it; just stir the honey and lemon together.
Let the syrup cool slightly (if the sugar version), then add mint and citrus oils.

Pour over cut-up melon- plain watermelon or a combination of melons- and stir well to coat.

This would make a fun Fourth of July salad if you added some fresh blueberries to the watermelon.  

BONUS:  the juice left in the bottom is delicious plain (you might prefer it diluted with some water) or added to smoothies.

 
 
This is a refrigerator cheesecake; no baking needed!  It takes only about ten minutes until the filling is set enough to serve. This one has a rhubarb topping, but use whatever you like on the top!  The cheesecake can be made gluten-free, and this version is sweetened with honey.  It can even be dairy-free if you have a nondairy substitute for cream cheese; use any milk you prefer in place of the milk called for in this recipe.
This makes one 8x8 pan or one 8" pie pan.  Pick your shape.  :)

Crust:
3/4 c. quick-cooking oats (GF if needed)
1/4 c. oat flour (whirl oats in the blender until powdered)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (melted) or butter
1 Tbsp. honey, liquid

Stir all four ingredients together, then press into the bottom of an 8x8 pan or up the sides then along the bottom of an 8" pie plate.  Put it in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling.

Filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla1/2 cup evaporated milk, half-and-half, or whipping cream (or coconut cream)
2 Tbsp. Ultra Gel

Beat the cream cheese until softened, then mix in the honey, lemon juice, salt, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Gradually add the  milk/cream and Ultra Gel; beat until thick and fluffy.  Spread evenly over the chilled crust.  Let chill for at least 5-10 minutes away if you like. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Lemon Topping:  1/4 c. lemon marmalade (use this recipe, substituting lemons for orange), thinned with just enough water to make it a sauce.

Rhubarb Topping:
1 c. chopped rhubarb (about 1 big stalk)
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. honey, to taste

Combine in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for two minutes; stir.  Repeat until the rhubarb is soft.  Mash and taste to see if it's sweet/tart enough for you.  
 
 
My 11-year-old daughter had decided she really, really wanted some Frozen dolls.  However, having used all her spending money previously on a couple plush My Little Pony toys, the ones we found were way out of her price range.

She flipped through a girls' sewing book, spent a couple days thinking about how to possibly make the dolls instead, and came up with this plan:  find a picture, use it for a pattern, sew two identical pieces together, color, stuff, and stitch closed.

We used plain white knit fabric from my fabric stash so the doll would be softer and a little more forgiving, stuffed it with plain old fiberfill For the Anna doll, we used this coloring page 
Elsa:  in her coronation dress, or with one hand out.  (The one hand out was pretty tricky to turn right-side out, but it worked.)

You'll need a picture, 1/3 yd of fabric (for 11" high dolls, but you'll have enough width for 4 dolls!), needle and thread, sewing machine (optional), a handful or two of fiberfill, and some non-water-soluble markers  (we used a combination of Sharpies and fabric markers).

1- Resize the picture to make the size doll you'd like. 
2- Add 3/8" all the way around the picture*, for a seam allowance, and cut this paper pattern.
3- Pin onto a double layer of fabric, and cut this out.
4- Unpin the pattern from the fabric, take ONE of the fabric pieces, put the pattern piece behind it, hold it up on a window, and, using a Sharpie or fabric marker, trace all the lines you'll need to color later.  Draw in the facial features, neck, dress design, etc. Invent what the back should look like, for the second fabric piece. :)
5- Put the right sides (drawn-on sides) together, and sew 3/8" from the edge, almost all the way around.  Be sure to backstitch when you start and stop!  Leave 2" open.
6- Turn the fabric right-side out, stuff with a handful of fiberfill.
7- Turn the raw edges of the opening inward, and stitch closed, knotting well at both ends.  
8- Color your doll with the markers, front, back, and sides.

*On the coloring pages, the necks are too narrow to pull the rest of the body through when turning the fabric right-side-out after sewing, so shoot for a finished measurement of 1" wide, and just draw the neck the width it should be.

She had a lot of fun marking these- so much that she also made Kristof and Olaf the same way.  

The only question she has left is how much of the ink will survive their first trip through the washer and dryer!

 
 
Salty, sweet, crunchy, and chewy!  Makes one 8x8 pan.

Crust:  
3 oz pretzels (about 1 cup), crushed 
3 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp c. sugar
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it starts smelling delicious.

While it's baking, make the filling: 

Filling:
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 c. corn syrup*  (or use mild molasses and sub light brown sugar for dark, above)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. pecans, toasted and chopped coarsely
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Mix in the brown sugar and salt, stirring until the butter is absorbed.  Beat in the egg, corn syrup/molasses, and vanilla.  Continue to cook and stir the mixture until it is shiny and hot to the touch but not near boiling.  Remove from heat; stir in pecans.  Pour onto the hot crust.  Bake at 350 about 25-30 minutes, until it jiggles like Jello and not like water when shaken.  Cool at least 20 minutes before cutting if you want them to keep their shape.
 
 
Warm, chocolatey, just sweet enough, high fiber, and with little pockets of gooey melted chocolate chips!   My sister-in-law posted a similar recipe on Facebook.  It sounded delicious and had very little added sugar.  The original recipe called for applesauce instead of oil, but I'm a fan using healthy fats alongside carbohydrates so that my kids and I aren't hungry again an hour after breakfast!  It helps you process the fiber in these, too.

Chocolate Fudge Banana Muffins - makes 12
(can be gluten-free and dairy-free)

3 medium bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 c. oil or melted butter (I like coconut oil in these)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. oat flour (or you can use all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
chocolate chips, optional (1/4- 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  
Whisk together eggs and brown sugar.  Mix in the oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients and add to the wet.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide between the muffin cups; bake about 17-23 minutes, or until the top of a muffin springs back lightly when gently pressed.
 
 
These are fun.  We made them as a little homeschool science project.  EVERYONE in the family thought these were awesome, and we had enough to give a couple to some of my son's friends who are fascinated with rocks.  My next-door-neighbor, the Webelos Scout leader, pointed to a pile of broken rocks on her sidewalk.  "This,"  she said, "was what we did so the boys could feel like they might find a geode- we gave them hammers and rocks from our yard.  We should have made these instead!"

They'd love them too.

These would make some amazing and unusual Easter eggs, too:  make a bunch the same size and wrap two halves together to form a ball.

Edible Geodes
Crystal-growing solution (Rock candy syrup)
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Mix the two, heat on high in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Add several drops food color if you want, along with ½ tsp. flavoring (optional). Let cool a bit while you make the rock shells.

Rock Shell (Marshmallow Fondant)
8 ounces marshmallows
2-4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ c. coconut oil or shortening

Mix marshmallows with 2 Tb. water in a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir.  Microwave 30 seconds more, stir. Repeat until it’s melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and mix with a spoon and then with your hands.  Spread 1 Tbsp. coconut oil on clean counter, knead the fondant on top adding more coconut oil when needed.   When smooth and stiff, take half of it and set aside.  Take other half and knead in ¼ c. cocoa powder to make fondant brown.  Roll out ¼“ thick.  Roll out the white half to the same size and stack them on top of each other.    Line a few bowls with aluminum foil, sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cut a piece of the two-layer fondant to fit, and line a bowl with it, with the brown side touching the foil.  Repeat until you run out.   Trim off any fondant that is beyond the lip of the bowl, using scissors.  Set aside.

Pour the sugar syrup into the fondant-lined bowls.  Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least a day (or 2-3 days for bigger crystals).  When ready, break the surface and pour off the syrup. Turn the geodes upside down to drain for an hour.  They’re ready! 

 
 
This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
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.