Category Archives: Recipes

Easy Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark

Plate with pieces of dark chocolate pretzel barkYou need this dark chocolate pretzel bark as part of your recipe repertoire! A dark chocolate base topped with pretzel pieces and sea salt it’s a combination you are sure to love!

Think a quicker, fancier, and tastier version of dipped pretzels!

So, if you are looking for the easiest treat ever, this is the one and it’s also relatively healthy. With appropriate pretzels, this is even gluten free!

It’s a great dessert to bag up and use for gifts or to include as part of a treat platter you are giving to the neighbors or to bring to a Christmas party.

After you’ve made it once, you’ll come back to it again and again (and again)!

This is a great Christmas treat! It’s a nice contrast to the normal holiday desserts that are very sweet. Using dark chocolate (and that is the only form of sweetener in the recipe) tones down the sugar. The pretzels give it the perfect crunch and the salt that great salty sweet combination.

If you use your freezer to speed up the cooling process, you can have this ready to go in 10 minutes!

Be aware that the chocolate will melt, so you will want to avoid contact with a heat source (or too warm of a house) to keep it from turning into a soupy mess. Depending on the temperature of your home, you might want to store it in the refrigerator. (If you keep your house cold, like I do, room temperature won’t be a problem.)

hardened chocolate with pretzel pieces pressed in

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark Ingredients

All you need are 4 simple ingredients!

  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Pretzels (gluten free or regular, twists or sticks – but I think twists look a little better)
  • Sea salt
  • Coconut oil

Technically, you can do without the coconut oil but I prefer the texture with the oil a little more.

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark Instructions

Break pretzels into pieces until you have 1/2-2/3 cup.

Take the chocolate chips and put them in a glass bowl. You can use a double boiler or simply put them in the microwave.

chocolate chips melting in a bowl

Microwave the chocolate chips for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds. Add the coconut oil and stir the chocolate until smooth. If your chocolate chips aren’t yet completely melted, microwave in 10 second increments.

melted chocolate chips

Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pour the melted chocolate onto the paper and spread into a 9×12 inch rectangle.

melted chocolate spread onto parchment paper

Sprinkle pretzels over the top of the chocolate. Be sure to press pretzels into the chocolate. (If you don’t push them into the chocolate, they will fall off when you break it into pieces – I always remember this the hard way)

Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.

Let harden in the fridge. After completely hardened, break into pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (It will be fine at room temperature to serve at a party, I’ve done it many times.)

Plate of broken pieces of dark chocolate with pretzels pressed into it.

Other Treats You Will Want to Make:
My Go To Sugar Cookie Recipe
Molasses Cookies
Rich and Creamy Fudge
Dark Chocolate Fudge
Russian Tea Cakes
Peanut Butter Fudge

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark Recipe

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20 pieces
This dark chocolate pretzel bark is such an easy and tasty treat that's not overly sweet! Perfect for gifting too.
  • ½-2/3 cup broken pretzel pieces
  • 12 ounces (2 cups) dark chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Set out ½-2/3 cup of broken pretzel pieces. (Amount depends on your desired chocolate to pretzel ratio).
  2. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil using a double boiler. Or microwave in a glass boil. To microwave cook for 30 seconds, stir, and put in for another 30 seconds. Add coconut oil and stir until smooth. (If not smooth, microwave for 10 second increments stirring each time).
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread melted chocolate onto the paper in a 9x12 inch rectangle.
  5. Drop the pretzel pieces over top of the chocolate. Press pretzels down into the chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle chocolate with a pinch of sea salt.
  7. Let harden in the fridge. After completely hardened, break into pieces, Store in the fridge (or cool location) in an airtight container until ready to enjoy!



The Easiest Dark Chocolate Fudge Ever

Cut pieces of dark chocolate fudge on a white cloth

It’s the best time of the year and that means all sorts of yummy Christmas treats. Today’s recipe is for the easiest ever dark chocolate fudge! Though, I would say fudge is one of those goodies that can be enjoyed year round.

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There’s no secret that I love fudge.

I have a more traditional fudge recipe on the blog (my absolute favorite) that involves boiling sugar and evaporated milk and beating in butter and chocolate. An amazing rich and creamy recipe, but it does take a bit more time than this dark chocolate fudge recipe.

You can also check out this recipe for chocolate peanut butter fudge – another that we love.

As far as simplicity goes, today’s recipe takes the cake.

Sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in a pan

2 main ingredients (plus a little salt and vanilla extract) and you can have it poured into the pan to cool in less than 5 minutes. A great easy fudge recipe that would be a little less dangerous to have the kids make than standing over a pot of boiling sugar.

Not only do I love fudge, I also love dark chocolate. The depth of flavor and being able to taste the almost bitterness of the chocolate mixed with a little sweet. It’s just so good.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Ingredients

Check out how simple these are:

Dark Chocolate Chips
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Vanilla Extract

Use your favorite dark chocolate chips, because they are what you get the chocolate flavor from. You will need 3 cups, which is usually 1 1/2 bags.

All you need is a pinch of salt. You can pinch it out or do what I did and use these fun measuring spoons:

One change you can do is to swap out the vanilla extract for peppermint extract to make a dark chocolate peppermint fudge – yum!

Dark Chocolate Fudge Instructions

These instructions will convince you these is the easiest dark chocolate fudge ever.

Grab a pot and pour in a can of sweetened condensed milk. Add the dark chocolate chips and heat over medium low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

(If you are feeling fancy, you can stir in a couple tablespoons of butter at this point it’s totally not necessary.)

Stir in the salt and vanilla extract.

Stirring salt, vanilla, and butter into melted chocolate chips

Pour into a 7-8 inch square baking pan (mine is 7.6 inches) that is lined with parchment paper.

square baking pan lined with parchment paper

Let cool on the counter. After completely cool, use the parchment paper to remove fudge from pan and use a sharp knife (run knife under hot water and then dry for the cleanest cut) to cut into squares.

Dark chocolate fudge poured into panTo store fudge: Store fudge in an airtight container in the freezer. Let come to room temperature before serving. (Or if you can’t wait, eat it cold!)

cooled and hardened dark chocolate fudgeFudge add-ins: You can make your fudge even fancier by adding in extra ingredients with the salt and vanilla. Think of things like:

  • Chopped pecans
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Chopped candy bars
  • M&Ms

close up of dark chocolate fudge square on white napkin

Easy Dark Chocolate Fudge Recipe

Easy Dark Chocolate Fudge
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 49 1-in squares
This is the easiest dark chocolate fudge ever. A few simple ingredients and in 5 minutes this will be in the pan waiting to cool. Perfect for a rich treat or homemade gift.
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • pinch salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Line a 7 to 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan. Add the chocolate chips and stir over medium low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the salt and vanilla extract. (You may also add in any extra ingredients at this point - chopped nuts, chopped candy bars, m&ms etc.)
  4. Pour into the lined pan. Let cool on the counter - can put in the fridge to speed up the process.
  5. After cool, use the parchment paper to remove fudge from pan. Cut into squares.
  6. You can store leftover fudge in an airtight container in the freezer.


Double Chocolate Quick Bread

sliced loaf of double chocolate quick bread

We have a lot of chocolate fans in our house, so this double chocolate quick bread was a winner!

Quick breads are typically used as a breakfast item. A very indulgent one, in this case. (Though donuts are also considered breakfast, so this can’t be much worse! Perfect for an occasional treat.)

This bread is yummy enough that we have also enjoyed it for dessert after supper in the evening.

Lots of cocoa powder and a decent amount of chocolate chips will make this double chocolate quick bread a frequently requested recipe.

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dry ingredients for double chocolate quick bread

Double Chocolate Quick Bread Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cocoa powder
  • Buttermilk
  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate chips

It might seem like a long list, but they are almost all things you have at home in your pantry already!

Buttermilk might be the only ingredient you don’t have on hand, but trust me it’s worth it! Buttermilk makes yummy dinner rolls, the best pancakes, and also a great quick bread!

double chocolate quick bread batter in pans

Chocolate Chocolate Quick Bread Instructions

The first thing you need to do is measure your buttermilk and set it and the eggs out on the counter to come to room temperature.

This is important because you don’t want to cause the melted butter and coconut oil (if that’s what you choose to use) to harden from the milk and eggs being cold.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

(I learned this tip from Andrea Dekker – always preheat your oven to 25 degrees hotter than what you are going to bake it at and turn down after putting the baked goods in.)

Now combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder & soda, and cocoa powder. Be sure to stir well so there are no streaks of flour or cocoa powder remaining. Stir in the chocolate chips. (Reserving a few for the top)

Note: The amount of chocolate chips is up to you! I recommend between 1 and 2 cups. Obviously, more chocolate is always better but I totally get using less to stretch the bag. Do what you want.

Melt the butter and coconut oil. Let cool until warm, not hot. Add the room temperature buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Pour wet ingredients over the dry and fold mixture until combined. Don’t over mix but you don’t want clumps of flour either.

Grease your baking pans well! Pour mixture in. Press remaining chocolate chips into the top of the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. (Check at 30 minutes.)

Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and remove to cooling rack.

Let’s talk pans!

I use my set of mini USA Pans. You’ve heard me talk about these before. My favorite brand of muffin tin as well. These pans measure 5.25 x 3 x 2.25 and the batter will fill 3 of them. Of course you may use a different pan, or even one large pan – just know you will need to adjust the baking time so watch carefully!

This recipe would also work great as double chocolate muffins!

close up of double chocolate quick bread

If you are want a little healthier muffin, be sure to check out these 3 recipes:

Oat Flour Pumpkin Muffins with Cranberries and Chocolate Chips
Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Dairy Free Oat Flour Banana Muffins

Double Chocolate Quick Bread Recipe

Double Chocolate Quick Bread Recipe
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 loaves
This double chocolate quick bread makes a delicious breakfast bread or you can even enjoy it as dessert. Loaded with cocoa powder and chocolate chips, it's the chocolate lover's dream!
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1⅓ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ¼ cup oil (coconut oil melted or oil of choice)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Measure the buttermilk. Put buttermilk and eggs on counter to come to room temperature. (Very important!)
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter well 3 mini loaf pans (5.25 x 3 x 2.25). (You may use a large loaf pan, you will need to adjust baking time.)
  3. In a mixing bowl combine flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Be sure to mix until no streaks of flour or clumps remain. Add desired amount of chocolate chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on top of the bread.
  4. In a small bowl place (room temperature) buttermilk, eggs, liquid oil, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and fold to combine. Don't over mix but you also don't want streaks of dry ingredients remaining.
  6. Pour batter into the 3 prepared pans. Press remaining chocolate chips over the top of the batter.
  7. Place in oven. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes in pans. Carefully remove from pans and cool completely on rack.


Instant Pot Boxed Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot and a bowl of cooked Macaroni and cheese

Have you jumped on the Instant Pot train in the past few years? Do you know you can make Instant Pot boxed mac and cheese?

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Before you dismiss the idea (because after all isn’t boxed mac and cheese one of the easiest things to make anyway), let me tell you I prefer this method because the noodles and water go into the Instant Pot and I don’t have to touch it until after the time is up.

There’s no waiting for the water to boil to add the noodles and no having the drain the water after the noodles are cooked.

I actually enjoy making macaroni and cheese from scratch and it’s how I always make it when we have it for dinner.

But boxed mac and cheese has become a fun once a week lunch that the kids look forward to.

horizontal picture of 8 quart instant pot and boxed mac and cheese

Instant Pot Boxed Mac and Cheese Instructions

These are the instructions for an 8 quart Instant Pot. (There’s a recipe card at the end of the post with all of these instructions.)

Take two boxes of mac and cheese. Just your basic size and type.

Place the noodles from both boxes into the instant pot. Cover with 3 cups of water.

Make sure the vent is on sealing. Turn Instant Pot to High Pressure and set the time for 4 minutes.

After the time has completed do a Quick Release and turn pot off.

Open the pot. You will see some water, but that’s okay. Use a wooden spoon to break apart the noodles and stir them.

noodles cooked in the Instant Pot

Pour 3/4 cup of milk over the noodles. Add 4-6 tablepoons of butter. Dump both cheese pouches over the milk and butter. Stir to combine. Add more milk if needed.

(If it happens to be too liquid-y, you can turn the Instant Pot to sauté and cook, while stirring, a few minutes until the liquid absorbs. I do not have this problem when using the amounts listed above, though.)

Isn’t that simple!

Finished mac and cheese in the Instant Pot

Things to Add to Boxed Mac and Cheese

We all know there’s nothing fancy about boxed mac and cheese. Here are some ideas to help you jazz it up. And bonus, all of these would work for homemade macaroni and cheese as well.

My mom was a make it from scratch kind-of person (and I tend to follow her in that – thus boxed mac and cheese and store bought bread being something my kids get excited about) but I remember one time she made boxed mac and cheese and added peas and hot dogs to it. A random childhood memory for you.

Now, let’s get brainstorming!

For each of the ideas, you would just stir it in after noodles have cooked. So when, or directly after you mix in the milk and cheese powder.

  • Sliced cooked hot dogs (and some peas if you’d like)
  • Leftover, sliced smoked sausage
  • Taco meat! You can also stir in some diced tomatoes and cheddar cheese.
  • Diced ham
  • Crumbled, cooked bacon
  • Extra cheese (parmesan, smoked gouda, cheddar, monterey jack etc)
  • Cooked ground beef and diced tomatoes (add salt and pepper as well)
  • Veggies: leftover steamed (or roasted) broccoli, mushrooms, sautéed onions, fresh spinach etc
  • Diced or shredded cooked chicken
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Garlic
  • Chili

Basically, there’s an endless number of options.

Look and see what you have available. Try some different combinations that sound tasty. Any of these will take the standard mac and cheese up a notch.

What are you favorite mac and cheese additions?

If you are looking for some other kid friendly pasta recipes, check these out:
Skillet Lasagna
Healthy Chicken Spaghetti

Instant Pot and 2 boxes of Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Boxed Mac and Cheese Recipe

Instant Pot Boxed Mac and Cheese Recipe
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
The Instant Pot is a fast and easy way to cook up boxed mac and cheese! Here's exactly how to do it. These instructions are for an 8 quart instant pot.
  • 2 (7.25 ounces each) boxes of macaroni and cheese
  • 3 cups water
  • ¾-1 cup milk
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter
  1. Place the noodles from both boxes into the Instant Pot. Pour 3 cups of water over the top.
  2. Secure lid. Set valve to sealing. Turn to High pressure and put the time at 4 minutes.
  3. After the 4 minutes are up, do a quick release and turn the pot off.
  4. Remove lid and use a wooden spoon to break up the noodle clumps. (It's okay if there is extra water, the noodles will continue to absorb it.)
  5. Pour ¾ cup milk over the noodles and add however much butter you'd like (between 4 and 6 tablespoons). Sprinkle the cheese powder from both boxes over the mixture. Stir everything until combined.
  6. Add additional milk if needed.
If there is too much liquid (I've not had this problem following these steps), turn the pot to sauté and cook and stir a few minutes until the excess liquid is absorbed.

If you'd like to stir in any additional ingredients (as talked about in the post) do so after the final step and set to sauté and stir if needed to heat through.



Easy Ranch Style Beans Recipe (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or Stove Top)

overhead shot a a bowl of the ranch style beans recipe.

This is a DIY version of the canned variety of Ranch Style Beans you buy at the supermarket. Just like the premade ones, this homemade ranch style beans recipe is easy and flavorful!

If you’ve never had Ranch Style Beans before, I’d describe them as pinto beans with a southwestern flair. Sounds pretty tasty, doesn’t it?

Just this week I used these on top of the nachos the kids the requested for dinner instead of meat. Nobody complained!

I also love using these homemade ranch style beans in this recipe for Mexican Haystacks. They’d also be a great sub for meat in tacos, quesadillas, this Tex Mex spaghetti squash recipe, or even just to serve as a side dish.

I always make a full batch and then freeze the leftovers in meal size portions. It makes them perfect to pull out of the freezer for a super fast and cheap supper.

(For another bean recipe, check out these Crock Pot refried beans!)

ingredients to puree for the ranch style beans sauce

Ingredients for the blender

Ranch Style Beans Recipe Ingredients:

  • tomatoes/tomato Sauce
  • onion
  • garlic
  • molasses
  • apple cider vinegar
  • beef broth
  • pinto beans
  • salt
  • paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • cumin
  • oregano

If you are like me, these are all ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Perfect for spur of the moment cooking in the instant pot.

pureed ranch style beans sauce

The pureed ingredients

How to Cook Ranch Style Beans:

You have three options here.

  1. Instant Pot. This is my go to method. So fast and easy. All you do is combine all the ingredients and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes (mine is 8 quart). You almost can’t have the canned variety opened and heated in that time. Yes, I’m joking but seriously I was able to make these after work and have them done in time for dinner. The Instant Pot has saved me more than once when it comes to getting beans finished in time for supper.
  2. Slow Cooker. Great set and forget it method. I frequently use this method for beans as well. Dump everything into your Crock Pot and let it go. Cooking time varies greatly from slow cooker to slow cooker. Mine tends to cook things quickly.
    On high check at 3 hours and then each hour after that. It probably will be between 4-6 hours.
    On low your Crock Pot will most likely take 8-10 hours, though again, I’d recommend first checking at 5 hours.
  3. Stove Top. Do a quick soak with your beans. (Cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for 1 hour. Remove the water from the beans.) Add all other ingredients and simmer beans for 2-3 hours. Check liquid level occasionally and add broth or water if needed.
seasonings for the ranch style beans

The other ingredients needed for the recipe

Ranch Style Beans Recipe Instructions:

  • Blend the tomatoes/sauce, onion, garlic, molasses, vinegar, and some of the beef broth.
  • Rinse and sort out any bad pinto beans. Place in Instant Pot (or cooker of your choice).
  • Add the pureed liquid, salt, more beef broth, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano.
  • Cook until done. Season with more salt, if needed.

If you want more of a kick, feel free to add chili powder or another chili pepper.

The listed combination is perfect for my family with kids, though.

Finished Ranch Style Beans

The beans after they have finished cooking in the Instant Pot

Ranch Style Beans Recipe

Easy Ranch Style Beans Recipe (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or Stove Top)
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 cups
Easy and tasty southwestern flavored pinto beans! Perfect as a side or in your favorite Tex Mex dishes.
  • 1 can tomato sauce (or 1.5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups beef broth, divided
  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  1. Place tomatoes/sauce, onion, garlic, molasses, vinegar, and 2 cups of beef broth in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Rinse and sort pinto beans.
  3. If cooking on the stove (or on low in the crock pot - I do NOT do this step when using the Instant Pot) do a quick soak - put beans in pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn stove off, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Drain.
  4. Combine beans, pureed mixture, 4 more cups of broth, salt, both paprikas, cumin, and oregano in your cooking device.
  5. Cook until done. Check and see if more salt is needed.
  6. Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for 25-30 minutes. Quick release.
  7. Slow Cooker: Cook on high for 4-6 hours or cook on low for 8-10 hours. (Crock Pots are different, be sure to check doneness of the beans early the first time you make this.)
  8. Stove: (Do the quick soak first) Let beans simmer for 2-3 hours. Add additional broth or water if needed.


Do you buy Ranch Style Beans? What are your favorite ways to use them?

close up shot of a bowl of ranch style beans