Happy February friends! I have some chocolaty Valentine cookies for you, and whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, cookies are rarely unwelcome!
You may have heard that you can make cookies with boxed cake mix and this recipe does just that, but with a boost of unsweetened cocoa powder and M&Ms! They are delicious; rich and not too sweet. If you’re looking for something tasty to bake for yourself or someone(s) you love, please try these and enjoy!
- 1 box of devil’s food chocolate cake mix
- 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup of butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of “cupid’s mix” Valentine M&Ms
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pour the cake mix and unsweetened cocoa into a large bowl and stir gently to incorporate.
- Add the eggs and softened butter into the dry ingredients and mix until a thick dough forms.
- Divide the M&Ms: Mix one cup into the cookie dough and place the other cup into a separate small bowl.
- Roll the dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls, then dip the top of each dough ball into the small bowl of M&Ms and place each one onto the baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes depending on the power of your oven.
- Bring the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack for another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat this process until all the cookie dough has been baked, this should yield about 16 cookies.
Zoey, our little Tinker Bell, is one year old! This year has been an unusual one (understatement of the century), but it has flown by faster than I could have imagined and I have been fortunate enough to spend the majority of it at home with her; grateful for every moment.
Like many one year birthday boys and girls, Zoey has not been exposed to much sugar. Now I don’t mind a little sugar, but I did not want to sugar bomb her all at once so I created a homemade smash cake with frosting for her without adding extra sugar.
This Tinker Bell petal smash cake is a variation of a banana bread recipe my family has made for years without added sugar and a variation of cream cheese frosting without powdered sugar. I would consider the cake a tame banana flavor and the frosting a tangy cream cheese flavor, smoothed out with the addition of a natural sweetener (I used agave nectar). I purchased a used Disney Infinity Tinker Bell figurine off of Mercari, gave it a good cleaning, and used it as a cake topper with the obligatory “1” candle.
She was very tentative about smashing her smash cake, almost like she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to. Even with her audience coaxing her she only tasted a little bit of cake I broke off for her and mostly just played around in the frosting. Her favorite part of the cake was the Tinker Bell figurine up top and she ended up fixating on that. And what the hey, as long as she had fun!
So let’s make a smash cake for the little Tinker Bell in your life!
BANANA SMASH CAKE
- 3 bananas, overripe
- 1/2 cup of butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup of flour
- 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease two 6-inch cake pans, or line them with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and bananas together with a (hand) mixer.
- Add the eggs in one at a time, beating each in with the (hand) mixer.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.
- Pour the mixed batter into the prepared cake pans about half to 3/4 of the way full.
- Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. The timing may vary depending on your oven so keep an eye on them!
- Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Mine were pretty flat. If yours do not turn out flat, cut the very tops off of the cakes to create flat tops for stacking and frosting.
- Frost your cake (see below).
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (NO ADDED SUGAR)
- 5 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 packs of cream cheese (8 ounce), room temperature
- A pinch of salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
- 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons corn starch
- Green food coloring
*You can make the frosting up to several days in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before frosting.*
- Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Add the agave nectar (or sweetener of choice), milk, salt and vanilla extract. Whip again, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch and whip until well incorporated. If at this point the consistency is right for you, you can move on to the next step. If not you can add cornstarch one teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired thickness (careful not to exceed 2 tablespoons total).
- Divide the frosting four equal parts in separate bowls. Add green food coloring to each bowl of frosting, ranging from dark to light green. Put each shade of green frosting into a pastry bag.
- Pipe and smear frosting on the top of the first layer of cake and gently place the second layer on top of this.
- Begin the petals by piping a dollop of dark green frosting on the side of the cake at the base. Take a flat slender spatula or butter knife press gently into the dollop and smear it to the right. Pipe another dollop of dark green near the end of the smear and repeat all the way around the cake.
- Repeat this process with the next shade of green and repeat, but stop before you reach the lightest shade of green and the top of the cake.
- Pipe and smear a healthy dollop of the lightest green frosting onto the top of the cake and smooth it out with a flat spatula, then continue with the last layer of petals in the lightest shade of green around the top of the cake.
- Adorn your cake with decorations.
Last week, we brought some of the beach to Zoey with edible “sand” made out of graham crackers and oatmeal. After she was done playing, I could not let good food go to waste so I made her some teething cookies with the remaining “sand”.
Not too sweet, but sweet enough to be called cookies instead of crackers, these treats are a hit! They are springy, yet firm enough to soothe her teething gums and she likes them!…Although so does my husband so I’m going to have to convince him not to eat all of them before she can knaw on a few.
- Grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Combine the ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them with a mixing spoon until a thick dough has formed. You may need to adjust the amount of water or coconut oil you add depending on how juicy your bananas are.
- Section the dough into smaller portions and (using a flat surface and a rolling pin) roll out your dough to 1/4 of an inch thick. You will need to use flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and surfaces.
- With a circular cookie cutter or a drinking glass (I used a drinking glass), cut cookies out of the dough and place them onto the greased baking sheet.
- Cook each sheet of cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. Be careful they are hot! Use the spatula or a spoon to test their springiness. They should be firm yet springy when pressed as they are brought out of the oven.
- Allow the cookies to cool before serving. These can be stored in the refrigerator for a little more firmness.
- Serve and enjoy, but please watch your baby as they eat this to make sure they handle the texture well!
I am now a fledgling intermittent faster. Do you want to try it with me?
If you’re not familiar with intermittent fasting, it is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat (although healthier foods yield better results), but rather when you should eat them.
I’ve chosen the 16/8 schedule, which means that I am restricting my eating to an 8 hour timeframe and fasting the remaining 16 hours of the day. This is what is working for me, but there are several other schedules out there if you’re looking for something different.
- 20/4: Restrict eating to 4 hours of the day and fast the remaining 20.
- 5/2: Eat regularly for 5 days of the week, on days 6 and 7 only consume about 500 calories per day.
- 24 hour: Fast for 24 hours straight, once or twice a week.
- 36 hour: Fast for 36 hours straight once a week.
Why am I doing such a thing you ask? Odd as it may sound, I wanted to conserve food during the pandemic. After breaking my fast, I usually don’t feel hungry again until right before the 8 hours are up. Everything is simpler, there are fewer meals to prepare, cook or clean up after!
In addition to conserving food, I would love to reach my pre-pregnancy weight or lower. As I mentioned above this eating pattern has me eating fewer meals and consuming less calories a day. I’ve also read that intermittent fasting can boost metabolism and that’s encouraging!
There are several other potential benefits, but the best thing I can do is tell you about my personal experience. I will practice intermittent fasting for the next three months at least and report back with my findings. How about you?
I love snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds! So delicious, easy to eat and prepare, and with numerous health benefits, who could say no? Traditionally I make large batches every year after we carve our Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns and snack on them for weeks!
I do not use oil in this recipe.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Seasoned salt (optional)
As you carve your pumpkins, keep all the seeds in a bowl. I find it easier to separate the seeds and pulp into two separate bowls as I go, rather than sort that mess out later.
Throw the seeds into a colander and rinse under cold water, stirring with your hands to make sure all the seeds are all rinsed thoroughly.
Place the seeds in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for each half cup of seeds.
Bring the saltwater and seeds to a boil for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Coat a baking sheet with whichever nonstick cooking spray you prefer and spread the drained seeds out in a single layer.
I took this opportunity to sprinkle seasoned salt over the damp seeds. You are welcome to leave them with just the salt that was boiled into them, or add any variety of other toppings depending on your taste.
Cook the seeds until dry and crispy, this could take an hour or more. Remember to stir occasionally so the seeds get baked evenly.
Let them cool for a few minutes…then let the snacking begin!
The more I research and use coconut oil, the more I am convinced it is one of those rare ingredients (much like apple cider vinegar) that can be used for all kinds of good in your life. Some of these remedies will take more than one application to work, so don’t lose hope if you apply once and your acne doesn’t immediately vanish!
- Acid Reflux – Take a small spoonful of coconut oil with meals to help prevent acid reflux and heartburn.
- Acne – Coconut oil gently fights the bacteria that cause acne. Dab it directly on the offending pimples and watch them shrink.
- After Shave – Coconut oil soothes sensitive skin and promotes healing
- Age Spots – Coconut oil has beneficial effects on any skin blemish. Use it to help fade age spots with powerful antioxidants.
- Athletes Foot – The powerful antifungal properties of coconut oil make it perfect for any fungal infection. Add a few drops of oregano or tea tree oil for more antifungal power.
- Bones – Coconut oil aids the body in the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Both minerals are important for strong bones and teeth.
- Bruises – Rub coconut oil into bruised skin to speed healing and watch the bruises fade fast.
- Canker Sores – Dab coconut oil on canker sores to kill infection and speed up healing.
- Chicken Pox – Ease the itch and encourage healing with dabs of coconut oil.
- Cleanser – Coconut oil makes an effective and gentle cleanser to remove the grime of the day.
- Cold Sore – Coconut oil has antiviral properties that will help the body get rid of the virus that causes cold sores. Rub it on when needed and add a drop of oregano oil to speed healing.
- Conditioner – Coconut oil conditions, strengthens, and repairs hair. Massage it in and rinse it out after ten minutes. A small amount can be rubbed in to dry hair to tame frizz.
- Cooking – Coconut oil doesn’t transform into harmful by-products when heated like most other oils and animal fats. Use it to replace butter, cup for cup in recipes. Sauté, cook, bake, broil, braise, and more using coconut oil as a healthier alternative.
- Cradle Cap – Coconut oil is gentle and safe for infants and helps ease the itching, pain, redness, and flaking associated with cradle cap.
- Curb Appetite – Take a spoonful before meals to curb appetite so you don’t overeat.
- Dandruff – Massage coconut oil into the scalp to ease symptoms of dandruff, both itching and flaking.
- Deodorant – Mix coconut oil with cornstarch, baking soda, and your favorite essential oils for a natural deodorant that smells fantastic.
- Diaper Rash – Coconut oil can help heal mild diaper rash gently and effectively.
- Earaches – Earaches, swimmer’s ear, and ear infections clear up fast with a few drops of coconut oil mixed with garlic oil.
- Energy – Coconut oil and its medium chain triglycerides make it an excellent energy source to improve stamina, endurance, or just to give you a boost through the day.
- Eye Cream – Reduce puffiness and dark circles with a few dabs of coconut oil.
- Fitness – Coconut oil boosts energy, increases metabolism, improves thyroid function, and aids healthy weight loss.
- Furniture Polish – Coconut oil gives a protective shine to wood furniture. Test on a small area first.
- Gum Removal – Coconut oil gets the sticky stuff out of hair, carpet, and anywhere else it doesn’t belong.
- Hemorrhoids – Coconut oil eases the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids and encourages natural healing both internally and externally.
- Lice – Coconut oil kills and removes this pesky problem.
- Lip Balm – Coconut oil hydrates and protects lips and offers some protection from the sun (spf 4).
- Lubricant – Coconut makes an all-natural personal lubricant for intimate moments without chemicals.
- Makeup Remover – Coconut oil removes oil-based makeup easily, like mascara. It cleans, hydrates, and makes skin glow.
- Massage Oil – Coconut oil soothes tired and sore muscles. Add a few drops of essential oils for more effect.
- Moisturizer – Coconut oil is an excellent way to soften and hydrate dry, rough, or damaged skin.
- Nose Bleeds – Rub a bit of coconut oil in nostrils to fight the dry cracking that can lead to nose bleeds.
- Nursing – Coconut oil works great to repair dry, cracked skin, including sore nipples from nursing.
- Pet Health – Coconut oil can do a multitude of things for pets, both topically and internally. It improves breath, makes for a shiny coat, eases joint problems, cleans ears, gets rid of fleas, and much more.
- Ring Worm – Rub coconut oil onto affected area to kill the fungus that causes ringworm. Add tea tree oil to clear the infection even faster.
- Shaving Cream – Coconut oil keeps the razor gliding smoothly while leaving skin smooth and soft.
- Skin Condition – Coconut oil reduces the itchiness, pain, flakiness, and dryness of eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
- Skin Irritations – Ease the itch of poison ivy, poison oak, mosquito bites and other insect stings or bites, and encourage healing with dabs of coconut oil.
- Sore Throat – Dissolve a spoonful in your mouth and let it slowly roll down the throat. This will coat and protect the throat, boost the health of mucus membranes, and fight any infection.
- Stretch Marks – Prevent and soften stretch marks with coconut oil for soft and supple skin.
- Stys/Pink Eye – Rub a small amount of coconut oil on the sty or around the eyes to get rid of these infections.
- Sunburn – Coconut oil can help prevent sunburn for short exposures. When you are sunburned, applying coconut oil will speed healing and take some of the sting away. Wait 24 to 72 hours after the burn to allow the heat to dissipate rather than seal it in.
- Toothaches – Coconut oil strengthens teeth and helps soothe painful toothaches. Adding a drop of clove oil can almost instantly relieve the pain.
- Toothpaste – Mix one part coconut oil with one part baking soda and add a couple drops of peppermint oil. This makes a refreshing, natural toothpaste that whitens and cleans without added preservatives, fluoride, sweeteners, or other chemicals.
- Urinary Tract – Treat urinary tract infections with a spoonful of coconut oil.
- Warts and Moles – Rub oil into area and cover with a bandage. Rub in fresh oil and place a new bandage each day.
- Wrinkles – Rub into lines, creases, and wrinkles to rehydrate skin and soften those wrinkles away.
- Yeast Infections – Coconut oil fights these fungal infections internally and externally.
The more I use apple cider vinegar, the more i’m convinced it is one of those rare tinctures that can be used for all kinds of good in your life. I have known people who are able to drink or gargle with straight apple cider vinegar and I tip my hat to them, it is strong! I personally tried gargling with it undiluted for a sore throat and it stings! After the stinging went away my sore throat was gone, but I highly recommend diluting it with water and in some cases honey.
- Acne – Wash your face morning and night with one part apple cider vinegar to two or three parts water to clear acne.
- Bad Breath – Gargling or drinking one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water will kill the odor-causing bacteria found within your mouth.
- Dandruff – Mix ¼ cup apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup water in a spray bottle, and spritz on your scalp. Wrap your head in a towel and let the mixture sit for fifteen minutes to an hour, then wash your hair as usual. Do this twice a week for best results.
- Diarrhea – Mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into water and drink to soothe intestinal spasm.
- Cholesterol – Drink half an ounce of apple cider vinegar (diluted in water if you prefer) on daily basis to lower cholesterol.
- Headache – Mix ten grams of apple cider vinegar, ten grams of honey and dash of chamomile extract to create soothing balm for tension headaches.
- Hiccups – Take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and it’s sour taste will stop hiccups immediately.
- High Blood Pressure – Drink two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted into one average glass of water 1 to 3 times a day to lower blood pressure.
- Indigestion – Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of honey into warm water and drink it 30 minutes before eating to relieve indigestion.
- Leg cramps – Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of honey into a glass of warm water and drink to boost your potassium levels and relieve leg cramps.
- Sinus Congestion/Pain – Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink to help sinus drainage.
- Sore Throat – Gargle ¼ teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with ¼ cup of warm water once every hour or so to remove germs.
- Weight Loss – Start your day with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted into two glasses of water to suppress your appetite, reduce water retention and increase your metabolism.
- Whiten Teeth – Gargling with diluted apple cider vinegar once a day can help remove stains, whiten teeth and kill harmful bacteria in your mouth and gums. Brush afterwards.