Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

A Month of After School Snacks

I try to have an after school snack ready for my kids each day when they get home from school each day.  I’m not perfect at this, but I try!

The after school snack is a time for my kids to sit down, refill their bellies, and talk to ME!  😉

I will admit, a big reason I make the after school snack a priority is for selfish reasons.  My goal is that as they eat their snack they will tell me all the highs and lows of their day.  It doesn’t always happen this way, but sometimes I see success.  There have been amazing days when they have sat down and poured their hearts out to me over the snack.  And those days make it all worthwhile!

The after school snack is a slightly chaotic time in our household, but one I have come to cherish and look forward to.

I spent the past month taking a daily picture of our after school snacks.  I am NO “pinterest mom.”   My parenting thrives on simple and cheap.  If you are looking for the healthiest, fanciest snacks…..this is NOT that type of blog.  If you are looking for a few easy snack ideas, keep reading, you might find one here!

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Week 1

Day 1:  Peanut butter cookie, raisins

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Day 2:  Cinnamon sugar tortilla, grapes

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Day 3:  Whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffin, strawberries

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Day 4:  Bagel with cream cheese, strawberries

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Day 5:  Applesauce

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Week 2

Day 1:  Peanut butter cookie, dried apples

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Day 2:  Peanut butter crackers for running errands

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Day 3:  String cheese, orange

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Day 4:  Animal crackers, celery with peanut butter

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Day 5:  Fruit leather and dried apples

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Week 3

Day 1:  Animal crackers, grapes for running errands

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Day 2:  Homemade Graham Crackers, grapes

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Day 3:  Apple slices with peanut butter and chocolate chips (I use this mandoline slicer for the apples)

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Day 4:  Monster Rice Krispie Treats

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Day 5:  Frozen Blueberries

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Week 4

Day 1:  Oil popped popcorn

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Day 2:  Muffin Tin Snack of carrots, animal crackers, cheerios, raisins and string cheese

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Day 3:  Pumpkin muffin and raisins

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Day 4:  String cheese and carrots

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Day 5:  Cheerios and raisins

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It was actually so fun to look back and see all of the different snacks we had over the past month!  I hope that you found them helpful!

What are some of your favorite after school snacks?  Share with me in the comments, I’m always needing new ideas!

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Monster Rice Krispie Treats

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When I saw these darling Monster Rice Krispie Treats over at One Little Project at a Time I immediately fell in love with how cute and simple they were to make!  I decided they would be the PERFECT item for the Bake Sale at my kids Halloween Carnival.

Happily, these Rice Krispie Monsters turned out just as darling and easy as I had imagined.

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First, make your rice krispie treats according to the package directions.

Cut them into rectangles.  I cut mine slightly to big, next time I will be sure to cut smaller pieces.  (I must have been hungry 😉 )

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Next, prepare your chocolate.

I found these candy melts from Walmart.  You can order them off of Amazon, but they were cheaper at Walmart.  They were easy to melt and only took about 3 minutes, and no stress!

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Now, you dip your rice krispie rectangles into the chocolate.  You will want to be slightly quick with this.  As the chocolate cools it will be harder to dip.

All that’s left is to add on the candy eyes.  I also bought these at Walmart, but they are available on Amazon as well.  It was so fun adding the eyes and making the fun monster faces.  My kids loved helping with this part, and actually had some good ideas!

Let your cute monster rice krispie treats cool, and the chocolate harden.  And that is it!  All done.  Now, feed your monster treats to your little monster darlings.  😉

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How to Make the Perfect Zoodles

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My zucchini plants have been generous this year, and I have loved cooking with this delicious vegetable!  Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies because, it’s the vegetable that just keeeeeps on giving, and it is also so versatile!  We have been enjoying zucchini in bread, cookies, on the grill, fried, etc.

One of my very favorite ways to cook zucchini is to turn it into zoodles!  Zoodles is a great, healthier alternative to noodles. (and if you pick the zucchini from your garden….it’s also FREE!)  I will usually serve it under marinara or alfredo sauce, but any of your fave pasta sauces will work great!  If cooked correctly, the zoodles are really not a lot different from regular noodles.  They are also much more filling, with much less calories!  Sometimes my kids don’t even realize what they are eating……emphasis on the sometimes.

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Homemade Zoodles Tutorial

A vegetable spiralizer is my best friend when it comes to homemade zoodles.  I couldn’t find the exact one that I use, but this spiralizer on Amazon is very similar in price and design.  It is also only $15.99, great deal!

First things first, if your zucchini is long, you will want to cut it down into smaller chunks.

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Next, you will need to prep your vegetable spiralizer.  I use the Thin Spiral for my zoodles.  Put your thin spiral attachment in the spiralizer and then stick one of the zuchinni chunks into the middle, in between the handle and the blade.

Now, all you need to do is twist!  This part is so simple (and…kindof fun….really!).  The zucchini will spiral through the blade, be sure to have a plate to catch all the spirals!

You can eat the zoodles raw or cook them over the stove.  I prefer cooking them for a few minutes (don’t worry it is quick!).

Heat up 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauce pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the zoodles.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss in oil.  Continue to gently toss the zoodles while they cook.  Cook for 2-5 minutes.  I like them to be soft, but also slightly firm.

Serve with your favorite pasta sauce.  ENJOY!!!

 

 

 

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

Sweet Frugal Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong decade!  I truly yearn for the simple life of the early 1900s.  I think that’s partly why I love being frugal.  I get so much satisfaction from growing and making my own food; and living a simpler, less materialistic life.

When we make our own ice cream it reminds me of simpler times.  It’s a way for the entire family to make our very own ice cream, no need to go to an ice cream parlor or the grocery store.  We can do it on our own!

We always have ice cream in a bag on our summer bucket list.  It’s easy (the kids can do it themselves!).  It’s cheap.  It’s fun.  I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand.  And, who doesn’t love ice cream on a hot summers day????  I know we do!

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Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag Recipe

1 cup Half and Half (I usually just use plain milk and it works just as good!)

2 TBSP Sugar

Favorite Mix-Ins:  any combination of the following

1 TBSP vanilla

1 TBSP cocoa

Chocolate Syrup

Fruit

Mix half and half, sugar and one or more mix ins (we used cocoa) in a quart size Ziploc freezer bag.

In a gallon size Ziploc freezer bag dump in a lot of ice and about 1/2 cup ice cream salt (I never measure this, I just kind of guess).

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Take the quart size bag with the ice cream ingredients and get out all the air and seal it shut.  Make sure the bag is sealed tight so no salt will get inside.  Place the quart size bag inside of the gallon size bag.

Now for the fun part.  You shake it!  This takes about 5-10 minutes of HARD shaking. It’s important to be shaking it constantly. I will usually help my little kids to make sure it gets nice and frozen.

Once the milk mixture looks frozen, take the quart size bag out and rinse it under cold water.  This helps to wash off any excess salt.

Pour it into your bowl, top with sprinkles if you’d like, and ENJOY!  I love the simplicity of this activity, and the excitement the kids get out of making their very own personal ice cream!

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!  It’s fun to try to make different flavors!  My daughter had the idea to use a little mint extract and chocolate chips in our next batch for our own chocolate mint flavor!  There is really no right or wrong combo!

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Bargain Buys · Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Recipes · Walmart Grocery Pickup

What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge

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I just finished my month long pantry challenge!!  If you’re not aware of the term, a pantry challenge is meant to encourage you to use up items you already have in your home, (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.

My goal was to save a little extra money during the month by spending less on groceries.  To do this I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half.  This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five.  This was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.

The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went.  I would LOVE to say that I was able to only spend $200 on groceries….but I didn’t quite accomplish that.  I went over budget by $1.98.  I spent $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!

I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.

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Make a Plan

The ONLY way I could be successful with this pantry challenge was to plan ahead. I’ve always been a meal planner, but I learned quickly I needed to be much more detailed about planning every snack and meal.

At the beginning of each week I looked through my pantry, made an inventory of all our food.  I wrote down the meals and snacks we could make with what we ALREADY had in the house.

I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.  This meal planner that I use is available as a Free Printable in my Free Frugal Living Challenge.

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Successful Meal Plans

I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.  A few of these recipes (starred) are also available for free in my Frugal Living Challenge.

Breakfasts

*Fluffy Eggs

Pancakes

Eggs and Toast

Oatmeal

*Breakfast Potato Casserole

*Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lunch

Muffin Tin Lunch

Sandwiches

Salad from Garden

Leftovers

Dinner

*Freezer Burritos

Layered Zuchinni

Spaghetti

*Taco Soup

*Balsamic Chicken

Pasta Bake

*Taco Tortilla Soup

Grilled Chicken

*Korean Beef

*Baked Island Chicken

Snacks

Pretzels

Homemade Cookies

Energy Bites

Popcorn

Canned Fruit

Bananas

Homemade Pudding

Homemade Bread

Grocery Shopping

I am a little obsessed with grocery shopping using Walmart Grocery Pickup (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME!  Sign me up!).

With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week.  One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping.  (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.

If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items.  This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated!  My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work.

Getting the Family Involved

I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they didn’t really love the idea.  When they saw the amount of food I was bringing home with each grocery trip they started complaining about the lack of food.

I tried to get my kids excited about the goal and had them help me make a lot of our homemade snacks.  They liked being able to help and were somewhat excited at the thought of having a challenge.

Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple of weeks.  As the month went on they began to get a really tired of the challenge.  The biggest problem was the snacks.  They are use to having snacks in the pantry, and we just couldn’t have those this month.  I decided to make a list of snacks we did have available and I hung it on the fridge.  This helped them a lot!  I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.

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Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me.  It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.

What I learned

My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it!  We survived.

Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose.  I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t!  We were just fine having less food around.  I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.

What’s Next

My pantry challenge is over!  Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves?????  Absolutely NOT!

I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month.  I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.

I honestly was terrified for this challenge!  I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge.  But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try!  If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge.  Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!

Crafts · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe

My kids LOVE making play dough, and it is something we do often.  But, when we make Peanut Butter Play Dough they REALLY REALLY love it.

Peanut Butter Play Dough is such a great sensory activity for kids.  They can touch, see, smell, and even taste it.  That is my kids favorite part!  They love that they actually get to EAT the play dough.

It is so so easy to make peanut butter play dough.  It only takes three ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

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Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Stir well and knead until smooth.

That’s it!  So easy!  Let your kids play and enjoy!  We get out cookie cutters and knives and forks.  My kids can spend hours playing.

Recipes

Easy Pizza Night ideas

I talked about one of our favorite family traditions in my post:  My favorite easy Homemade Pizza Crust Recipe.  We all look forward to Friday nights to eat pizza and watch a movie together.

To save on costs I always try to make the pizza at home.  Some Fridays we use My favorite easy Homemade Pizza Crust Recipe, but to try to help us not getting bored with pizza (but seriously, who could get bored of pizza?!?) I try to change the pizza up from time to time.

Here are two very easy, simple pizza ideas for your next pizza night.  The kids love helping with both of these, and It’s a lot easier than making a crust!  😉

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French Bread Pizza

Slice a loaf of french bread in half.  Place both slices on a baking sheet and cook in 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  You do not want it to get toasty, but it helps to harden up the bread just a bit.

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After a few minutes in the oven take it out and put all of your toppings on it.  Bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Slice and serve!

 

Pizza on Rolls

I have made pizza this way using two different methods.  I have used Pillsbury biscuits from the can.  I have also used Rhodes Freezer Rolls.  I think that I prefer the Rhodes rolls better.  But, the Pillsbury biscuits are a little easier because they don’t need time to thaw.

Take the Rhodes Freezer Rolls out of the freezer three hours before you will need to eat.  Place them on a baking sheet to thaw.

Once they are all thawed and had a little time to rise you are ready to make your pizzas!

Gently smoosh and pull the rolls to form flat pizza circles.  This is the step your kids will really want to help with.  Place them on a greased pan.  Add your toppings, let everyone top their own individual pizza just the way they want it.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is slightly browned.

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They are all ready to eat!  Enjoy your own little personal pizza!

for free · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Recipes

Homemade Bathroom Cleaner

My least favorite room to clean in the house is the bathroom.  I’m sure I am not alone in this!  I always put this job off for days!  I would rather make this homemade bathroom cleaner than actually use it.  😉

I started making my homemade bathroom cleaner a few years ago and have not looked back!  Making your own bathroom cleaner is so easy and is a great way to save money!  Buying it in the store can get pricey.  For this recipe I always have the ingredients on hand and it only takes me a few minutes to put it all together.

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You will need a plastic spray bottle.  I recommend spending a few extra dollars rather than buying the cheapest bottle.  It will last much longer this way.

Ingredients:

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup vinegar

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup dish soap

1 1/2 cups water

First, add the baking soda to the spray bottle and then add the vinegar.  I do this in the sink, and do it slowly because it will foam.

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Squeeze the foam out and then add the rest of the ingredients.  After all of the ingredients are added put the lid back on the bottle and shake it up really good.  That’s it!  You are ready to tackle the bathroom!  This lasts me about a year and I use it for every part of the bathroom; the toilet, sink, countertops, shower and bath.

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It does make cleaning the bathroom maybe SLIGHTLY more enjoyable if I know that I am saving money while doing it.  Right?!?!

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Do you make your own cleaners?  Have you noticed a savings when doing so?

Frugal Life · Recipes

How I use ONE Roast for THREE Meals

I have learned that one of the easiest ways to save money on food is to stretch meat through multiple meals.  I am going to share how I am able to use ONE roast for three different meals.  Each of these three meals are super simple, easy dinner ideas.  As a busy mom, I love meals that do not require a lot of effort and time.  🙂

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Meal #1:  Pot Roast

The first meal I use the roast for is a simple Pot Roast cooked in the crock pot.  I make this meal for our Sunday Dinner and serve it with mashed potatoes, gravy and a salad.  My sister shared this recipe with me a few years ago and I still can’t believe how easy and delicious it is to make.

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For the Pot Roast you will need a packet of brown gravy mix, a packet of ranch dressing, a packet of Italian dressing, a 1/4 cup of water and a 3 1/2 lb. roast.  The size of your roast will vary depending on how many are in your family and how many left overs you want to have.

First, mix the three packets and water together in your crock pot.

 

Next, you will need to brown your roast.  Heat a couple of TBSP of oil in a large sauce pan on stove top over medium heat .  When oil is hot add roast and cook it on each side until each side is lightly browned.  This only takes a few minutes to get it all browned.

 

Once the roast is browned place it into the sauce in the crock pot.  Spoon the sauce as much as you can over the roast.  Turn the crock pot to low and let the roast cook for 6-8 hours.

 

After the roast is done cooking set it on a cutting board, cover, and let rest while you prepare the gravy.

For the gravy you will need to dump the excess sauce from the crock pot into a sauce pan.  Heat this over medium-high heat.  In a small bowl mix about a 1/4 cup of cornstarch with approximately a 1/2 cup water.  Slowly add this to the gravy in sauce pan.  Continue heating until it comes to just a boil.  I do not always use all of the cornstarch/water mix.  I slowly add it and stir until the gravy becomes thick.  When it achieves the right amount of thickness I quit adding the cornstarch mixture.  Remove from heat.

 

Slice the roast into thin pieces and it should be ready to serve!  If you want to use this roast for two more meals make sure to set aside 2/3 of the roast slices.

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Meal #2:  French Dip Sandwiches

For dinner the next day I used 1/2 of the Pot Roasts leftovers to make French Dip Sandwiches.  I do not have a recipe for this meal.  I butter the insides of hoagie rolls and lay them face up on a cookie sheet.  I stick them under the broiler for a few minutes to get them slightly toasted.  I then just layer cheese (provolone tastes best) and the roast beef slices on the rolls, and cook them for a few more minutes until the cheese is melty.  While they are cooking I follow the directions on the Au Jus packet to make the dipping sauce.  This dinner is SO easy!  I usually serve it with some carrots or celery on the side.

 

Meal #3:  Beef Stew

I was given this recipe to me years ago by a friend.  It has become my go to dinner for winter evenings when all I want is to eat something warm and let the crock pot do all the work.  🙂  It does require a little bit of prep work to chop all the veggies, but once that is done it is an easy recipe.  I am posting the recipe below.  I cut the rest of my leftover stew meat into chunks, put it in the crock pot and mix with the salt and pepper.  Just add the rest of your ingredients, set it to low and let it cook for 6-8 hours.

 

I hope you love these three meal ideas for one roast.  Do you have any great meal ideas from a roast?  Please share them in the comments!

 

Holidays · Recipes · Valentines Day

Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies Recipe

This is one of my favorite valentine traditions.  I love baking these for my kiddos and make them every February.   We usually hand some out to friends and neighbors as well. The cream cheese gives the cookie a delicious shortbread flavor and the peppermint extract gives the cookie the perfect amount of light flavor.

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Mix your flour, sugar, butter, cream cheese, egg and peppermint extract together in mixer.  I like this pure peppermint extract.  Beat until well mixed.

Add flour and beat until just mixed.

Divide dough in half. Roll each ball in saran wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

 

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut with heart shaped cookie cutters.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 7 minutes.

Let baked cookies cool completely.  Once cool make your glaze bymelting chocolate with butter in a saucepan over low heat.

Dip cooled cookies in chocolate glaze and place on wax paper or tin foil to harden.  Once hardened store in a covered container in refrigerator.

 

These are delicious!

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Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies

Cookie

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup softened butter

3 ounces softened cream cheese

1 egg

1 tsp peppermint extract

3 cups flour

Chocolate

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix sugar, butter, cream cheese, egg and peppermint extract in mixer until light and fluffy.  Add flour and beat until well mixed.

Cut the dough into two half balls.  Wrap the balls in ceran wrap and place in fridge for a couple of hours to chill.

Roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with heart shaped cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 6-7 minutes.

Cool completely.

For the glaze melt butter and chocolate together in saucepan over low heat.  Once melted remove from heat.  Dip cookies into chocolate and let them sit on tin foil or waxed paper.

Store in refrigerator.