Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

The Best Mississippi Mud Pie Recipe

Mississippi mud pie on a plate and in the pan

This Mississippi Mud Pie recipe was a family favorite when I was growing up. I’ve mentioned before that we were never fans of traditional birthday cakes, but Crazy Chocolate Cake and Mississippi Mud Pie frequently made an appearance.

We stumbled across this Mississippi Mud Pie recipe on a family vacation one year. We were staying at a ranch and one night this was served for dessert. After my entire family enjoyed it, the cook kindly gave my mom the recipe and it’s been a part of our family ever since.

Nope, it’s not “healthy” but we don’t make it often so I’m okay with that! A fun treat for a birthday celebration or company coming over for dinner.

What exactly is Mississippi Mud Pie? It’s an easy layered dessert that begins with a thin, shortbread crust and is topped with a layer of a cream cheese/whipped cream mixture followed by chocolate pudding and finished with whipped cream.

You may use nuts in the crust or leave them out.

The original recipe uses boxed pudding and Cool Whip. I will give the original recipe amounts, but also share how to do it with homemade whipped cream – my preferred method.

I have also made this with homemade pudding. You will need to use a recipe that call for 4 cups of milk and then decrease the milk to 3 cups. Do note that the homemade pudding won’t set up quite as nicely as the instant pudding but it does taste amazing.

Mississippi Mud Pie Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Butter, melted
  • Pecans, optional
  • 2 boxes instant chocolate pudding (3.4 ounces each) 
  • Milk
  • Heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and cornstarch OR Cool Whip
  • Cream Cheese at room temperature
  • Powdered sugar

Mississippi Mud Pie Recipe Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and stir the melted butter, sugar, and optional pecans in a small bowl. Press into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. It will be very thin.

unbaked shortbread crust

Bake for 10-14 minutes, until barely turning golden. Remove from oven to let cool.

Pan with the baked crust

Beat room temperature cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.

mixing bowl with the beaten cream cheese and powdered sugar

In a mixer, using the whisk attachment (or in a bowl with hand beaters) whip 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks are formed. Then drop the cream cheese mixture in several spoonsful over the whipped cream. Beat just until blended and spread over the cooled crust.
(If you use Cool Whip, simply combine 2 cups of cool whip with the cream cheese and powdered mixture until smooth)

Cream cheese mixture dropped on top of the whipped creamMixing bowl with the combined whipped cream and cream cheese

Make both boxes of instant pudding using only 3 cups of milk instead of 4. (If making homemade pudding, make sure it cools completely.) Spread over the cream cheese layer.

Chocolate pudding spread in the pan

Place 2 cups of heavy cream in the mixer (I used the same one that I used in the previous whipped cream step) and beat until soft peaks form. Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch or arrowroot (this will help keep the cream stay set – if you are serving the same day, you can omit this), 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat until heavy peaks form and plop spoonsful over the pudding layer and carefully spread. (It should be 4 cups of whipped cream.)
(If using Cool Whip, you can omit this step and simply spread the remainder or the 16 ounce container on top of the pudding layer – approximately 4 cups.)

Finished Mississippi Mud Pie in the pan

You can garnish with chopped nuts or chocolate pieces if desired.

Keep refrigerated until serving.

It is actually a really simple dessert and everyone loves it!

More Dessert Ideas:
Crazy Chocolate Cake
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Brownie Brittle

Picture of mississippi mud pie in a glass pan

Mississippi Mud Pie Recipe

Mississippi Mud Pie
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This Mississippi Mud Pie recipe is easy & so good! It has been a family favorite for the last 20 years. It's a delicious layered dessert everyone will love.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, optional
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 2 packages instant chocolate pudding (3.4 ounces each)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder, optional
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (OR substitute the last three ingredients and the heavy cream with a 16 ounce carton of Cool Whip - see recipe notes for instructions)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix melted butter, flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, & pecans (if using) in a small bowl. Press onto the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10-14 minutes (until barely turning golden). Let cool.
  3. Beat room temperature cream cheese and 1 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. In another bowl, beat 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Drop the cream cheese mixture over the whipped cream and beat just until combined. Spread on cooled crust.
  4. Mix both packages of pudding with 3 cups of milk. Spread over the cream cheese layer.
  5. Use the remaining heavy cream to make whipped cream: Beat 2 cups of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Carefully spread over the pudding layer.
  6. Optionally, garnish with chopped pecans and chocolate pieces.
  7. Refrigerate until serving.
Notes
If using Cool Whip:
In step 2 beat softened cream cheese with powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in 2 cups off cool whip until combined and spread on the crust.
In step 4, simply spread the remainder of the Cool Whip (about 4 cups) over the top of the pudding layer.
See recipe post for more information and details about using homemade pudding.

A piece of Mississippi Mud pie on a glass plate

 

Easy May Day Basket Ideas

A homemade pink paper May Day Basket

Spring is just around the corner and we all know that March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. Once spring arrives, one of the fun things to look forward to with your kids is May Day and May Day baskets! Today, I have several great May Day basket ideas for you!

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What are May Day Baskets?

May Day baskets are small baskets (purchased or homemade) that you fill with flowers and even little treats or gifts! You can make them as simple or as elaborate as you want. If you are struggling with coming up with what to put in your May Day basket, I have some ideas coming up below.

Once you have your baskets compiled comes the fun part.

Make a list of people you want to deliver the baskets to, and then you go and hang them on doors or place them on the front porch ring the doorbell and run back to the car and go to your next stop.

Of course you could also ring the door bell and hand deliver the basket or leave it on the porch and send a text after you leave!

What kid wouldn’t love that? And as a parent it’s always great to find ways to have our kids think of others.

[Check out this post on other service project ideas you can do with your kids!]

A purple May Day basket

May Day Basket Ideas

Baskets:

If your kids like crafts like mine do, they will love the DIY baskets! I love that most of these options don’t take long to make. That’s especially important if you are planning on making a lot!

Paper Plate Basket
Construction Paper Woven Basket
Purchased Basket
Mason Jar (Add a wire handle or use a ribbon)
Flower Pot (You could even paint them like this)
Paper Cone
Paper Cup with pipe cleaner handle (something like this)

What to Put in May Day Baskets:

Now comes the fun part, figuring out what should go inside!

  • Fresh flowers
  • Plant
  • Homemade paper flowers. Here are some cute options.
  • Flower seeds and gardening gloves or tool.
  • Cupcakes
  • Cookies
  • Trail Mix
  • Candy
  • Other treat (Brownie Brittle would be yummy)
  • Tea bags or coffee
  • Pinwheels (Buy them or make them)
  • Bubbles or sidewalk chalk if there are kids

Pink paper May Day basket with tea, flowers and candy

As you can see from these May Day basket ideas, you can make your basket as elaborate or simple and has expensive or frugal as you’d like! Just pick something within your budget and go for it. Your friends will appreciate whatever you do.

Even the simplest option will bring smiles to their faces and make their day just a little brighter.

I promise that your kids will look forward to this each year. In fact, they probably won’t let you forget it. We dropped off cinnamon rolls at Christmas and heart sugar cookies at Valentine’s Day to a lot of friends and neighbors and the kids thought it was the greatest thing. It’s fun to see our kids get exciting about giving, even if it’s such a little thing.

For even more ways to celebrate May Day, keep on reading!

What is May Day?

It’s a celebration of spring and is always on May 1 which is about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. (Learning about the spring and autumn equinox and summer and winter solstice would make a great mini science lesson!)

This holiday is an ancient one and as such as pagan origins. When the Romans began celebrating it, it was for their goddess of flowers. In more modern times, it became a celebration of the return of spring!

May Day Traditions.

We already know about the tradition of May Day baskets, but there are even more things you can do to celebrate.

Other Ways to Celebrate May Day

I hope that you are inspired to start a fun tradition with your family this year! A great way to surprise and encourage those around you. May Day baskets are such a simple thing but will be so enjoyed.

Purple may Day Basket with bubbles and goodies

 

Easy Instant Pot Tomato Soup

a white bowl filled with Instant Pot tomato soup

This Instant Pot tomato soup is easy and delicious! Definitely a recipe you need in your dinner rotation.

I love that it is dairy free and gluten free but still tastes amazing. Of course, if you want to jazz it up, feel free to finish it with a drizzle of cream or go all the way and grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Everyone in my family enjoys this soup – even my picky 7 year old. They 5 year old might make a mess while she’s eating it but if she actually likes it, that’s fine with me!

I love blended soups as an easy way to get in extra vegetables, so I always include carrots and celery in my tomato soup – extra flavor and nutrients!

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Instant Pot Tomato Soup Ingredients:

Ingredients for the Instant Pot tomato soup

  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 onion, diced (red or yellow – whatever you have)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • Dried basil and oregano
  • Salt
  • Broth, chicken or vegetable
  • Oil

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Directions:

Raw vegetables added to the pan

  • Turn your Instant Pot to sauté and let heat a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute.
    the vegetables after cooking for 5 minutes
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
    Tomato Soup ingredients in the pot before being pressure cooked
  • When the 10 minutes are up, let natural release for 10-15 minutes and then turn the valve to quick release. (If you are in a hurry, you can skip the natural release and just do quick. You might want to set a wash cloth on top of the valve to catch the steam/liquid that splatters out.)
    Cooked tomato soup before blending
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add more salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste. If you do not have an immersion blender, you will want to let the soup cool slightly and transfer to a blender in batches to puree. I’ve probably had my immersion blender for just 5 years, and it has been so useful! Mine was a cheap one that isn’t made anymore, but there are tons of affordable options!

For another kid friendly soup recipe, check out Chicken and Veggie Noodle Soup!

Bowl of easy tomato soup

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

Instant Pot Tomato Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
This Instant Pot Tomato Soup is super simple, healthy, and so good! Love having this for an easy supper.
Ingredients
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • Oil
Instructions
  1. Set your Instant Pot to sauté and let heat up for a couple minutes. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan and put in the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic. Sauté an addition 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients. (Tomatoes, basil, oregano, broth, and salt.)
  4. Put the lid on the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, let natural release for 10 minutes and finish with a quick release.
  6. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
  7. Adjust salt to taste. Add more basil or oregano if needed.
Notes
You may also make this on the stove. You will just have to simmer the soup longer, until all the vegetables are tender.
In the summer, I like to use fresh herbs but this still tastes amazing using the dried ones.
Number of servings will be determined by if you are serving something hearty along side the soup.

 

 

Tips for a Road Trip with Toddlers

Two little girls sitting in the back of a car

Does thinking about vacations and holidays have you a little stressed because you have young children? Here are some simple things you can do to help you have a successful road trip with toddlers!

For some background I have 3 kids. They are now 10, almost 8, and 5.

Neither my family nor my in-laws live near us so our kids have been taking road trips ever since they were born.

These are the trips we take on about a yearly basis. This is the actual driving time one way, stops not included.

  • 2 1/2 hours (one way) to my husband’s parents
  • 7 1/2 hours to my parents
  • 10 1/2 hours to a sister
  • 3 1/2 hours to another sister

We have also gone on a few vacations, some fairy lengthy.

  • 9 1/2 hours (one way) to Colorado with a newborn, just turned 3, and 5 year old
  • 4 1/2 hours (one way) with a 2 year old and newborn; 3 and 1 year old; 1, 4 & 6 year old
  • 19 hour drive (one way) to Orlando, FL with a 2, 5, and 7 year old
  • 15 hour drive (one way) to West Virginia with a 2, 5, and 7 year old

All of that to say, we have put a lot of miles on our van and are no strangers to taking road trips with toddlers and kids.

(However, when it comes to airplanes, I have no advice – we haven’t done that yet.)

We do not have DVD players, ipads, or any other movie/streaming devices that we use in the car. If you want to utilize them, that’s up to you but do know you can have fun, successful road trip with toddlers without electronics!

This means that this list does not including movies as one of my tips. If you choose to use them, I’d suggest spacing out when they are allowed. A show in the morning and one in the afternoon or whatever you decide rather than giving them to your child all day long.

an empty road with words road trips with toddlers

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Tips for a Road Trip With Toddlers

Naps and Bedtime

Work with naps and bedtime. Plan to be driving for nap time and make your stops when they should be awake.

For long trips, after you stop for dinner put your kids in pajamas and a night diaper for the remainder of the drive. This will help them know night time is coming and hopefully they will fall asleep for you. When you arrive at a hotel or your destination, carry them in and put them straight into bed. No need to wake them for potty or pjs.

Some other ideas to consider:

  • Wake your kids up super early and carry them into the car still in pajamas (or have them go to bed already in their clothes for the next day). If you are lucky, they will go back to sleep and you can get a couple of hours of driving in before they are awake.
  • For some families it works to leave the house at bedtime and have the parents rotate driving shifts through the night. Again, the hope is that your kids will sleep all night for you. This is one option we have not done.
Don’t Stop When They Are Asleep

This one is huge for me and I try to avoid it if at all possible!

Wait on food and try to avoid a bathroom break for the grownups if the kids are asleep. As quiet as you try to be, I can almost guarantee your kids will wake up when you stop. And trust me, that is no fun.

Coordinate Stops

To help make the previous tip possible, coordinate your stops. Use the bathroom when eating your lunch. Fill up with gas even if you still have a half a tank left. You don’t want to have to make a separate stop just for gasoline – especially if your kids have fallen asleep or are traveling well. Don’t ruin the momentum.

Snacks

Bring a bag of snacks along with you. Have them portioned out into toddler sized amounts and every hour or two pass the kids a little treat. It can be a few crackers, some berries, a sucker, or whatever your toddler favorite snacks are. The food helps break up the trip for them and gives the kids a little distraction.

You might find some new snack ideas on this list!

Entertainment

That’s right, you can find other forms of entertainment for your kids besides screens! We always pack a few car appropriate toys and activities. On a road trip with toddlers these are obviously pretty simple but still useful. Find things around your house or check garage sales and the dollar store to find things you won’t mind being ruined.

Do just what you do with the snacks and rotate through the available options every hour or two.

  • Small toys. A new car, toy animal, doll etc.
  • Stickers. Kids love stickers. Yes, their skin, car seat, and window might be covered with stickers but they will think it’s awesome.
  • Magnets. Bring a metal pan and magnets for the kids to play with.
  • Books. Board books tend to be sturdy and you might be surprised how much kids enjoy looking at the pictures when they are confined to a car seat.
  • Pen and paper. For toddlers that are a bit older, they love to doodle. Keep a few coloring items and a blank notebook or a coloring book in a bag.
  • Music. Yes, I know they are just toddlers but music can still be fun and soothing. Introduce them to some of your favorites and you can also bring along some classical music and kids cds. Yancy, Slugs & Bugs, Seeds Family Worship, and Hide ’em in Your Heart are fun Christian ones.
  • Audio Books. You can find children’s audio books and ones for adults that are appropriate for children. Don’t be too skeptical, well written kid’s books are great even for adults. My husband has been surprised several times by a book he thought would be stupid. Bring shorter picture book length options and even consider chapter books like Tale of Despaurex or Charlotte’s Web for little kids. Obviously 1 year old toddlers probably won’t pick up what’s going on, but for the 2 and 3 year olds you will be surprised what they comprehend. Check your library or library app for for audiobooks you can checkout for free!
Drive Length

One last thing that people have multiple perspectives on is whether you should spilt the drive up into multiple days. You may need to try both ways to see what works best for your family.

If our trip is under 12 hours of driving (one way) we drive it all in one day. Our vacations that were 19 and 15 hours away, we split into 2 days. (This summer we will be going on our longest trip yet and our first day will include a 16.5 hour drive so that the following day we will only have 7 hours left.)

Some people like breaking trips that are just 8 hours into two days. We much preferred knocking it out in one (long) day knowing that the following day we’d be able to enjoy our destination instead of being in the car again. Give both methods a try if you need to!


These suggestions have helped us on our many road trips with toddlers! Yes, we still had our fair share of tears and fighting but overall I never minded traveling with kids. It was (mostly) enjoyable and fun.

Don’t be scared to travel with your kids, short distances or long. You will make a lot of fun memories!

two kids sitting in the open back of a car with suitcases

The Best Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Graphic of crazy chocolate cake

This crazy chocolate cake recipe is one we’ve been making for years. As in for over 30 years! This is probably the easiest chocolate cake you will ever make and it’s super cheap too.

What exactly is crazy chocolate cake, you ask? Well, it’s a dairy free, egg free cake that you mix right in the pan it’s baked in! Fewer dishes and no special ingredients are always a good thing!

When my siblings and I were little none of us were fans of the traditional frosted birthday cake. One year I begged my mom for one – it was white with blue flowers – and I hated it. Oops, sorry mom.

This exact recipe for crazy chocolate cake was our most common pick for a birthday dessert – it was a cake we actually loved! Angel food cake, Mississippi Mud Pie, and a few other things made an appearance as well.

I think I have only made one other type of chocolate cake in my life and now my non cake loving kids enjoy this too.

Crazy Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Hot water

Crazy Chocolate Cake Instructions

This cake is so easy! It’s the perfect recipe for your kids to add to their repertoire.

  1. Sift dry ingredients into a greased 9×13 inch pan. I have made this in both glass and metal pans. You can also make this is a 8 inch square pan by simply cutting all of the ingredients in half (and just watch your bake time). If I’m honest, on occasion I’ve even skipped the sifting step. Don’t tell anyone, just make sure you don’t have any clumps of soda or cocoa.
  2. Make three holes in the dry ingredients with a spoon. 2 small holes and one a little larger.
    Dry ingredients for crazy chocolate cake
  3. In one hole put the vanilla in another the vinegar and in the largest hole the oil.
    chocolate cake dry ingredients with oil, vinegar, and vanilla
  4. Pour 2 cups of warm water over the entire mixture! (I use water I heated in the microwave because I don’t like using our tap water. If you bake with tap water, you can use hot water right from the tap.)
    Crazy chocolate cake with hot water over the top5. Use a fork to blend the mixture gently but thoroughly.
    Mixed crazy chocolate cake
    6. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Start checking at 30 minutes. What kind of pan you use and how your oven cooks will make the length very. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean, but don’t overbake!7. Let cake cool and frost with your favorite frosting or one of the following 2 options.

Crazy Chocolate Cake Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, melted
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place above ingredients into a bowl and add milk or half and half until smooth.
crazy chocolate cake frosting
Spread on cooled cake.
Frosted Crazy Chocolate Cake
The other frosting option is the one to use if you are dairy free!

Frosting Option 2:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • dash of saltStir in water until the desired consistency.

Overhead shot of a slice of crazy chocolate cake

Check out these other desserts:

Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This is the easiest chocolate cake in the world! Not only is it easy, it's my kids' favorite cake recipe. Topped with a rich frosting this is perfection.
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder (I use ½ cup)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup salad oil (or neutral oil of choice)
  • 2 cups warm water
Frosting Option 1
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 3 heaping teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Milk (or cream or half and half)
Frosting Option 2
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients directly into the pan.
  4. Make three holes with a spoon. I one hole put vanilla in another vinegar and in the third the oil.
  5. Pour two cups warm water over the entire mixture and blend gently but thoroughly with a fork.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.)
  7. Let cool and frost.
Frosting 1
  1. Combine all ingredients except the milk. Stir and add milk or cream until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Frosting 2
  1. Combined powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Stir in water until desired consistency.