Tired of Turkey? Optional Thanksgiving Treats

Wild Turkey

Gobble, Gobble… Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

In anticipation of the USA’s annual stuff-our-stomach-with-as-much-turkey-as-possible-a-thon … a.k.a. Thanksgiving, I wanted to be sure that you, dear readers, had a few delicious options for what to do when you are well, simply put – tired of turkey.

Of course, the day after your filling Thanksgiving feast you can always make yourself the traditional turkey sandwich with your leftovers, or simply re-heat the whole meal and enjoy all over again. For me, it usually ends there and even at Christmas time my family is still too tired of the turkey taste to cook another on Christmas Day. Instead, my husband has always prepared a delicious filet mignon with lobster tail meal – and there is never a leftover in sight to have to worry about!

Several years ago at a chain store called Ollie’s, near my mother’s house in a small Pennsylvania town, I bought a set of 10 short hardback cookbooks for $10.00 (LW Press – a division of Publications International, Ltd.). What a bargain, and they are simply adorable! I know, perhaps a strange adjective to describe cookbooks, yet it’s true. Each has a different theme: Comfort Food, Slow Cooker Recipes, Soups & Stews, Favorite Chili Recipes, Hearty Casseroles, Simple Winter Meals, Classic Appetizers, Easy Appetizers, Holiday Appetizers, and Kids’ Favorite Christmas Cookies. These cookbooks are great because rather than search through one big one for a recipe that might suit my craving, I can just breeze through the few pages in the book I’m interested in. All of the recipes are easy-breezy and do not require a lot in the way of fancy, what-in-the-world-is-that ingredient and where in the grocery store would I find it? The cooking directions are clear, and pictures accompany many of the recipes.


The best $10 I ever spent!

Below, I share with you three of my favorite recipes from the categories of Appetizers, Slow Cooker Recipes, and Desserts. Bon Appétit!

Oh, and of course … let me know if you enjoyed making any of these tasty dishes as well!

Sweet potatoes

Turn these spuds into Sweet Potato Chips! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Appetizers –

Microwave Sweet Potato Chips

2 cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons margarine

Place sweet potatoes, in single layer, in microwavable dish. Sprinkle with water. Microwave at HIGH 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and margarine. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.


Slow Cooker Recipes – Cheesy Slow Cooker Chicken

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds)


Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

2 cans (10 ¾ ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 can (10 ¾ ounces) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1) Place 3 chicken breasts in slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Repeat with remaining 3 breasts and seasonings.

2) Combine soups in medium bowl; pour over chicken. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Garnish with parsley before serving, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.



Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Desserts – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chippers

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter

1 egg

¾ cup milk chocolate chips

granulated sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, and egg in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add chocolate chips; stir well.

3) Shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

4) Dip fork into granulated sugar; press criss-cross fashion onto each ball, flattening to ½-inch thickness.

5) Bake 12 minutes or until set. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: This simple recipe is unusual because it doesn’t contain any flour – but it still makes great cookies!



Oatmeal: It’s What’s for Breakfast

As the temperatures drop on fall mornings, we need warm breakfasts to help us get moving! The re-post below is one of our most popular articles of all time, thanks in great part to Pinterest. Originally published in March of 2013, if you haven’t experimented with Mary Ann’s recipe for crock pot oatmeal yet, maybe these cool, fall mornings will provide the perfect opportunity!

By Mary Ann Filler

My Breakfast This Morning!

My breakfast this morning! There’s nothing like the warmth of home-cooked oatmeal to start the day!

If you love oatmeal but for convenience sake find yourself grabbing the pre-made packets with the high amounts of salt, sugar and who knows what else, this post is for you!

If you want to lower your cholesterol, boost your immune system, protect your heart, stabilize your blood sugar, lower your risk of diabetes, prevent cancer, or want a gluten-friendly/free meal this post may also be for you!

One of my highest priorities as a mother of two teens and a tween is to provide them with healthy meals. For several months, my oldest son has been reporting to school daily by 6 a.m. for early morning workouts with the baseball team.  I really wanted him to have a healthy breakfast before heading out the door in the wee hours of the morning.  However, waking up at 5 a.m. to prepare him breakfast was not too appealing.  Oatmeal made the night before in the crock pot was a perfect solution.

Apparently, crock pot oatmeal recipes are quite popular these days, but my recipe is one that I have developed over time.  I just love waking to the aroma of baked apples and cinnamon and a hot, healthy breakfast that takes no time at all to scoop in to individual bowls.   Of course you can add the fruit, cinnamon and nuts or a splash of cold milk after the cooking cycle or not at all.  You may even allow the “kiddos” to top the oatmeal as they wish.

MA’s Crockpot Oatmeal

Place the following ingredients in a slow cooker, stir and cook on low 6-8 hours.  As long as you have enough liquid in the crock pot you may vary the cooking time.  Also, I’ve noticed other crock pot oatmeal recipes recommending that the crock pot be greased prior to adding the ingredients.  I personally have not done that, and have not had issues with clean up.  If you typically prepare the surface of your crock pot to avoid sticking use butter or coconut oil for a healthy “lube  job.”

  1. 2-2.5 Cups of Liquid such as Water, Cow’s Milk, Almond Milk or Coconut Milk (I use Almond Milk)
  2. 2-3 Tbsp. of a sweetener such as Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, Maple Sugar (I use either Raw Honey or Maple Sugar)
  3. 1 Tbsp. of Butter…the REAL stuff!
  4. Pinch of Salt
  5. .5 to 1 tsp. Cinnamon (or more)
  6. 1 Cup Oatmeal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats)
  7. Fruit such as Apples (1-2), Bananas (1-2), Raisins or Dried Cranberries (a sprinkling to taste)
  8.  Chopped Nuts such as Almonds, Pecans or Walnuts (the amount here is a personal preference…1-2 Tbsp or more is a good start)

Other add-in/topping ideas may include but certainly are not limited to:  nut butters, cocoa powder, coconut, chia seeds, ground flax meal or seeds, blueberries, peaches and chocolate chips!  Isn’t this exciting, folks!  You can top your oatmeal just as you would your ice cream!

IMG_0213Or… Let Your Refrigerator Do the Work:

In the last couple of months I was introduced to a new “make the night before” oatmeal recipe.  Believe it or not, this oatmeal is made in the refrigerator!  The basic premise is to place all ingredients in a jar or bowl, stir and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, you may eat the oatmeal hot or cold.  If you find yourself unable to eat breakfast prior to leaving the house in the morning, this is a great take along meal idea.

Here is the link to help you begin discovering the world of refrigerator oatmeal!  Who knew?!?

Click here for “Smart Sweet:  Chia, Choco and Banana Overnight Oats.”   Ladies, if you love chocolate…try the recipe!!

For more info on the health benefits of oatmeal, check out this link to Mother Earth Living.

Have you experimented with any of these alternative ways of preparing oatmeal?  We would love feedback!

Answering the “What’s for Dinner?” Question

By Jen Ashenfelter

Mmmmm... spaghetti! (Photo credit:

Mmmmm… spaghetti! (Photo credit:

“What’s for dinner?”

When I was younger, this question was important to me, and waiting to hear the answer filled me with nervous anticipation. With dinner the most important meal (to me), I just needed to know which way my day would go. Spaghetti or meatloaf and mashed potatoes could make the day, and hot dogs or lima beans could break it. (There’s nothing worse than knowing the day was ending with a spoonful of evil.)

Apples don’t fall far from the tree: I have two boys and everything revolves around food. I totally understand their need to ask me what’s for dinner first thing in the morning (with apologies to my mother for constantly asking), but that doesn’t mean I have to actually answer them. And no, we never end the day with lima beans.

With that in mind, a little preparation every week goes a long way toward maintaining a lot of sanity—and it probably saves time and money too! I can’t remember exactly when I started planning meals for the week, but I can tell you it makes it big difference and whenever I fall out of the practice—chaos ensues.

There’s no silver bullet or divine secret to meal planning—just takes a little time and creativity. I’m happy to share what works for me, and I encourage discussion on what works for you. Regardless of your work/home balance, from grocery store to dinner table, we are usually responsible for feeding the family. Who really has the time; why not make it as easy on ourselves as possible?
• Collect recipes – Keep them in a notebook, envelope or box—doesn’t matter where, just as long as you can quickly scan through recipes of family favorites or easy one-pot dishes. Research the web and ask friends for great recipes.
• Find a planner – Go to AC Moore, Michaels, or your local arts-n-crafts or dollar store for a planner pad you can stick to the refrigerator. (My pink and black zebra print pad has seven columns so I can plug in the date.) You can use your computer or iPad, but I prefer old-fashioned paper because I can stick it on the frig where everyone has 24/7 access—which eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” Q&A…and, at times, the follow-up whining and complaining.
• Plan for the coming week – I start by noting which nights have soccer or karate or meetings—dinner should be quick and easy on these nights. Before I go grocery shopping, I look through my recipes and/or store flyers to help keep the menu interesting and inexpensive. Cook enough for two nights when you can—eat half now and freeze the other half for later, so next week’s menu is easy to create and the only requirement is reheating.
• Make the grocery list – Use the back of last week’s menu to write your shopping list. With recipes on hand, it’s easy to list everything you’ll need. Planning and shopping for the week saves time and money since I’m less likely to run to the store for a few items and return with a cart full…or resort to spending money on fast food. We definitely eat healthier when I take the time to plan for the week.

That’s it! I fell out of practice during the summer, and by Friday evenings I was so frustrated with the questions about what’s for dinner and last minute planning that I didn’t care if anyone got dinner. (Note the snippy tone.) Now that school is back in session and the activities and sports are in full swing, planning is essential. And I actually like Friday evening dinners again.

Here’s a delicious recipe for chicken that turns any dinner into a Sunday dinner without much effort. Add some rice or bread, microwave a bag of green beans and dinner is served. Please share your time/money-saving tips or a favorite recipe with everyone. Enjoy!

Orange chicken
Chicken A L’Orange
4-8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise (quartered if large)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 3-3 ½-lb whole chicken (I use package of cut-up chicken w/extra package of thighs so there’s enough to create 2 dinners.)
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1) Heat oven to 425. In a large shallow roasting pan, toss the shallots with 1 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper.

2) Cut the chicken into pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, rosemary and remaining oil and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken; toss to coat.

3) Place the chicken mixture in the roasting pan, nestling the pieces among the shallots. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and browned and shallots are tender, 25 – 30 minutes.

Chocolate Makes the End of Summer Sweeter

By Jen Ashenfelter

Wow, where did the summer go? Labor Day is around the corner which means a final round of picnics and parties to help us transition into the fall season. The scene is the same at every gathering–tables packed with personal serving dishes filled with a plethora of foods you’ll give up on Tuesday–including the desserts.

Here’s a homemade dessert everyone will love. Best of all, nobody has to know you whipped these 4 simple ingredients into a thing of chocolate beauty in the blink of an eye. I discovered this tasty gem in the September 2011 issue of Woman’s Day and tucked it into a collection of dessert recipes without eggs. I needed a dessert for a recent gathering and my egg-allergic youngest asked me to make it.

chocolate creme pieChocolate Crème Pie
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese
8 oz semisweet chocolate
6 oz ready-to-fill chocolate cookie pie crust
1 cup of heavy cream (plus 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Place the ricotta in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high, stirring every 15 seconds until no longer cold–about 1 minute. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high, stirring every 15 seconds until the chocolate is melted and smooth–about 1-2 minutes.

Add the warm chocolate to the food processor and puree until fully incorporated and very smooth. Spread the mixture into the crust and refrigerate until firm–at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to serve (or before taking to that party), using an electric mixer, beat the cream–and I added a tbsp of sugar and a tsp of vanilla extract–in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and top with either shaved chocolate or chocolate sprinkles, if desired.

While you’re at it, make two pies–one to take and one to keep–because there won’t be a bite left. Enjoy!

Cupcakes and more summer fun on Pinterest

By Karen Hendricks

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? Not only are they sweet, pretty packages of deliciousness, but they can be healthy too–surprise! I recently discovered two cupcake recipes through my addiction to Pinterest–one for Peach Cupcakes and another for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. If you have access to either fresh peaches or a garden full of zucchini right now, I guarantee you’ll enjoy either recipe.

Choc Zucchini Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes – adapted from Susquehanna Style magazine, originally courtesy Terra Brownback, Spiral Path Farm

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups packed, grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (Note: the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips but I amped this up a bit 🙂 )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake wrappers into pan, or spray or lightly grease muffin pans with oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs or egg substitute, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon into muffin pans and bake for 25 minutes; cool before frosting. (The original recipe calls for a cream cheese frosting, but my daughter and I made our favorite chocolate frosting to go on top–or–they are delicious without frosting!)


Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream – adapted from the blog Cathlin Cooks (Kudos to Cathlin!)


  • 2-2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh peach puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar


  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup peach puree
  • Vanilla, to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin, or lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into a bowl. In a measuring cup, mix together the peach puree, oil and vanilla. Add the peach mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together until combined. At this point, you may want to add some yellow and food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. The batter will foam slightly where the baking soda and vinegar are reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes if making cupcakes, or 25 to 30 minutes it making cake. Allow to cool before glazing or frosting.

Peach Buttercream:
Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add peach puree and vanilla and beat again until smooth. You may want to add some yellow and red food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. Can be piped or spread onto cakes.

I pinned both recipes to our Off the Merry-Go-Round account on Pinterest, and created a special board “Featured on the 8/16/13 Blog” so you can easily find the originals. If you need inspiration as we gear up for a new school year, I’ve included some fresh new ideas for school lunches, back-to-school crafts and more:

  • 30 Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas from the awesome blog Six Sisters’ Stuff
  • Photography Tips for Visiting a County Fair
  • Back-To-School Crafts with Apple Prints
  • Make a DIY Toothbrush Holder–with a toy dinosaur or other creatures (to brighten those early school mornings)
  • Lunchbox Ideas

Have you found inspiration on Pinterest? Tell us about your favorite finds, by leaving a comment with links, below. We may feature your “pins” in future posts. Thanks & enjoy!

Summer Dessert Ideas

By Ruth Topper

In the summer, picnics are popular and often are of the “potluck” variety where everyone is asked to bring a dish to share.  Desserts are my specialty so that’s usually what I whip up. Below are the recipes for two of my family’s favorite summer desserts–enjoy!

E-Clair Dessert – Whether you are 2 or 92 – you will love this one:

Eclair Dessert - Photo Credit:

Eclair Dessert – Photo Credit:

Spray a 13 x 9 pan.  Line it with graham crackers.

Mix in one bowl:  1 box chocolate instant pudding with 1 ¾ cup milk.  Beat 2 minutes.

Mix in another bowl:  1 box vanilla instant pudding with 1 ¾ cup milk.  Beat 2 minutes.

Divide an 8 oz. container of whipped topping (Cool Whip) in half.  Add ½ (or 4 oz.) to the chocolate pudding mixture.  Add the other ½ (or 4 oz.) to the vanilla pudding mixture.

Pour the chocolate pudding mixture over the graham crackers.   Add another layer of graham crackers.  Pour vanilla pudding mixture over this layer of graham crackers.  Add a third layer of graham crackers.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Finish with the following:

Melt 2 – 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares or use 6 tablespoons of cocoa + 2 tablespoons of oil instead of the squares.  (No need to heat if using cocoa/oil).

Add to it:  2 teaspoons white Karo syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons margarine

3 tablespoons milk

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Beat until smooth.  Spread over graham crackers.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Enjoy!!!!  Yum!!


This is a recipe my mom used to make all the time in the summer for picnics and special occasions:

Mmmm... Scotcheroos - Photo Credit:

Mmmm… Scotcheroos – Photo Credit:

Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup corn (Karo) syrup – Cook over moderate heat until it bubbles or you can heat in the microwave.  Remove from heat and stir in:

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups rice krispie cereal

Stir until blended and press into a buttered 13 x 9 pan.

Combine 6-9 oz. butterscotch bits and 6-9 oz. chocolate chips – Melt either in the microwave or on top of the stove.  Spread over the rice krispie layer.

Refrigerate until set.  Cut into squares.  Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite recipe you make in the summer to take to picnics or family reunions?  Do you have any special memories of this recipe/dish?  We’d love to hear about it!

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken

A star-spangled summer centerpiece

A star-spangled summer centerpiece

By Karen Hendricks

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken... sizzling on the grill!

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken… sizzling on the grill!

Happy 4th of July!

Looking for an alternative to the traditional burgers and dogs for your summer cookouts? Four words for you: SWEET. TEA. BRINED. CHICKEN.

Ok, I am guilty of pinning a gazillion recipes on Pinterest, but this is one of a handful that I have actually tried. And my family loved this chicken so much that we’ve made it numerous times. Even though I discovered it on Pinterest, it’s originally from Southern Living.

If you like sweet tea, trust me, you’ll LOVE this chicken. The chicken stays very moist and retains a lemony, tea flavor with the zing of rosemary.

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken:

  • 2 family sized tea bags (or 8 regular sized tea bags)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed black pepper
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 3-4 pounds chicken pieces
  1. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, so I keep a pot outside my kitchen door. Which herbs are your favorites? Please share your tips for growing/cooking with them!

    Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, so I keep a pot outside my kitchen door. Which herbs are your favorites? Please share your tips for growing/cooking with them!

    Boil 4 cups of water, add tea bags, and steep for 10 minutes.

  2. Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Add onion, lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Add ice and cool completely. Put the chicken into plastic bags or covered mixing bowls and pour the brine overtop. Let the chicken sit in the brine for 24 hours. (The recipe does not specify, but I refrigerated the chicken at this point.)
  3. Take the chicken out of the brine, and throw the brine away. Dry the chicken off with paper towels. Heat the grill to medium, but only on one side. Put the chicken skin side down, on the side that is not lit. Weird, but it works. Cover the grill and cook for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until cooked through.

Enjoy! And if you give the recipe a try, jot a note below to let us know.

I have added this recipe to the Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest page.  In need of more summertime inspiration? Give us a follow, and find many more summer recipes, ideas for kids’ summer activities, and much more–even a board we call “Giggles.”

Wishing you many delicious summertime moments… 🙂