Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies {dessert}

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from scratch. Full of peppermint and dark chocolate chips makes this cookie perfect for Christmas, St. Patrick's day, or any time of year. delicious. yummy. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora Open a book

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I'm not a drinker, but I do love mint.  In regards to celebrating the day, I'm sure mint is the equivalent to a Guinness I'm sure.  ;) 

I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Mint and chocolate is my second favorite combo (only peanut butter and chocolate beat it out).  It's just delicious.  

I love mint and have a few other mint cookies.  These Andes Mint cookies are delicious, and these Double Chocolate Mint M&M cookies are scrumptious as well.  

However, I was lacking a GREEN mint cookie, and felt this Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie was just the recipe I needed to share with you on St. Patrick's Day!  It's green.  It's mint. It's delicious.


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe: Alohamora adapted from TheFoodCharlatan
Active Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time; 2.5 hours
Servings: 22 large cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, large
1 tsp peppermint extract
10 drops of green food coloring
3 c. and 2 Tbsp flour  (3 cups for flatter cookies)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag (11 oz) dark chocolate chips


  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  2. Add the eggs, yolk, peppermint, and food coloring to the to the bowl mixing after each addition. 
  3. Add the remaining dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips, to the bowl in the order listed.  Mix the dough until it is just combined.  
  4. Add the chocolate chips to the dough until just combined. 
  5. Using the large cookie scoop (or about 1 1/2 Tbsp) to scoop the dough into balls and place them all on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat map. Let the dough freeze for 30 minutes and then place all of the dough in a labeled sealed airtight bag.  The cookies can stay in this sealed bag in your freezer for a couple months.   
  6. When ready to cook the cookies, add 6-8 dough balls to a parchment paper or a baking mat pan.  Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until they are no longer shiny.   
  7. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes or so.  
  8. Enjoy the cookies warm with milk, or just enjoy them!
  9. Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter. 

Happy Green wearing St. Patrick's Day fun! 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

5 Best Books for Babies {book list, picture}

The 5 Best Books for Babies and Newborns.  This booklist is full of my favorite and well loved books for babies and newborns.  These books have great rhythm, simple concepts, textures, shapes, and high contrast colors to benefit babies. Great books, raising a Reader Alohamora Open a Book, alohamoraopenabook,

I was a high school librarian here in Arizona for a year before I had my first child.  In that year I got to work with amazing teachers, supervise hard working library assistants, be guided by a fantastic principal, help coach a high school varsity team, and teach and interact with some of the very best students.  

There was one young lady who was a senior, that was incredibly driven and knew exactly what she wanted in life.  It was inspiring and impressive.  Well that beautiful lady has an adorable newborn son, and she reached out to me on Instagram  about the best books for babies.  

I decided an official book list is needed so I could share my favorite, and therefore the best ;) books for babies.  These 5 books all have reasons why I consider them to be amazing books for babies; therefore, pick them up for your own little ones, or give them as a gift.

However, I will say... Read, read, and read some more to your babies.  Consistently reading to them is the best way to Raise a Reader. 

The 5 Best Books to Read to Your Babies

This book has great rhythm; rhythm makes the book exciting and fun.  Reading is fun, and Boynton helps makes things fun and silly.  The topic, pajama time, makes for a great book to read before bed. 

Feely Bugs is a simple fun read with lots of different textures.  Letting your baby, and helping them, feel the different textures is what makes this book so perfect for babies. 

This Foam Book is interactive as well as a easily and harmless "chewed" on or gnawing book.  It has been a favorite baby book to teach the concept of counting and improving fine motor skills for all of my babies.  I love that my babies could turn the pages, take the elephant, lions, monkeys, and other animals in and out of their puzzle like compartments.  All of the animals pieces together add up to 10 which was fun to count after pulling them all out.  I love this book, and often brought it to church or a place that my babies needed to be quiet. 

This book is fantastic.  Simple, but stunning, graphics help this concept (concept of colors) to be taught and enjoyed.  The colors are bright and high contrasting.  I LOVE this book and bought it after all my babies were grown.  Deneux has other concept books in the Touch Think Learn series, but this one is my favorite.  

This was my favorite board book to read to my babies.  I love the high contrasting pictures, especially the black sheep, which are especially perfect for newborns and the colors they can see.  High contrasting colors in this simple book with repetitious lines are just what babies need to hear and see.  

These 5 books are my favorite for newborns and babies.  They have been well loved and read at my house, and they are my favorite books to give at baby showers.  

I also want to say as your baby gets bigger and squirms around be sure to keep reading to them.  They still benefit from you reading even if they are jumping around.  Just keep reading!  

Happy Reading and Raising Readers! 

Of course, if you have any other book list requests please let me know.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Reeses Cookies {gluten free}

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Reeses Pieces Cookies- Naturally gluten free cookies.  Soft, flavorful, and oh so delicious cookies. AlohamoraOpenaBook Alohamora: Open a Book

I have a strong love for anything chocolate and peanut butter.  I definitely have a strong like for Reese's Pieces; they are so addicting and delicious.  I'm definitely a big fan of anything that is naturally gluten free, aka flourless.  Gluten free flours are great, but if I can make a gluten free treat that anyone can make b/c they don't have to have any special ingredients then I am all for that. 

Basically these Naturally Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies with Reese's Pieces are a must make recipe.  They are my 6 year olds #1 cookie, but if you aren't a baker...  I'll always make them and ship them to you if you head over to my cookie business, Meg's Cookie Crate

These cookies are yummy! 

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe: Alohamora
Active Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
Servings:  12-15 cookies with a medium scoop

1 c. peanut butter, creamy
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 medium eggs*
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 c. cocoa
 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. mini Reese's Pieces or 1 c. peanut butter chips

*or 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk will work


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper. 
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, add all of the ingredients except the Reese's Pieces/pb chips to the bowl and mix until combined. 
  3. Add the Reese's Pieces or peanut butter chips to the bowl and mix until just combined, or stir it all with a spoon. If you mix with a spoon you are less likely to break your Reese's Pieces. 
  4. I can fit all 12-15 cookies on a single cookie sheet.  Use a medium cookie scoop to place the cookie dough balls on the prepared pan.  
  5. Press the cookies down with the palm of your hand to flatten them a bit before placing them in the oven.  
  6. Bake the cookies at 325 for 8-10 minutes. Remove the cookies when they are no longer shiny.  They will continue cooking on the pan outside of the oven.  
  7. Enjoy the cookies warm or cooled.  
  8. Store leftover containers in a sealed container. 

Happy Naturally Gluten Free and Naturally Delicious Cookie eating!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Chex Mix {gluten free}

Chex Mix - Gluten Free. Homemade. Super easy and simple to make.  Great snack for family game night, gatherings with friends, or a movie.  Recipe. Delicious. Alohamoraopenabook Alohamora: Open a Book

My mother-in-law is one of the nicest people I know.  I hope to be half the grandma she is.  She is incredibly kind, thinks of others, never turns on the TV with my kids, goes outside and plays with them, and she always brings us snacks and treats.  Seriously, my kids and I are so lucky to have her in our lives. 

For years she has brought her famous Chex Mix (that recipe coming next week), but since I had to go gluten free I had to stop enjoying it's deliciousness.   However, Gma being the amazing lady she is, started working on perfecting a Gluten Free Chex Mix.  

This Gluten Free Chex Mix is amazing; my husband even claims it to be better than the original. #wow   This GF snack mix is perfect for a family game night, a gathering with friends, a road trip snack, or whatever you need a fun snack for... maybe the Super Bowl

Gluten Free Chex Mix
Recipe: Elaine
Active Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
Servings: about 10 cups

6 Tbsp butter
2 tsp Lawry's Seasoning Salt 
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 c. Honey Nut Cheerios*
1 1/2 c. Multi Grain Cheerios*
1 1/2 c. cashews
1 1/2 c. peanuts
1 1/2 c. Gluten Free Pretzels
1 1/2 c. Rice Chex
1 1/2 c. Corn Chex

*These items are gluten free, but if you're Celiac and your dietary needs don't do well with oat flour feel free to change these to a different gluten free cereal. 


  1. Melt the butter in a large glass bowl in the microwave.  Use a large glass bowl that fits in your microwave; a colored plastic bowl can change how the Chex Mix cooks. 
  2. Add seasoning salt and Worcestershire sauce to the butter and stir to combine everything. 
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir it all together to coat the mixture with the seasoned butter.  Be sure to thoroughly combine this mixture so that the butter is mixed into the cereal and nuts. 
  4. Place the bowl with the mixture into the microwave and cook it at full power for 2 minutes.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir it well. 
  5. Cook another 2 minutes at full power and stir it well after.  
  6. Cook the mixture 3 more times for 2 minutes at 70% power.  Be sure to remove the bowl from the microwave and stir it well after each 2 minutes b/c this snack mix can burn easily. 
  7. If you think the nuts still taste rubbery cook it for 1 minute intervals stirring after every time the Chex Mix cooks in the microwave. 
  8. Enjoy! 
  9. Store the Chex Mix in an airtight container on the counter. 

Happy Gluten Free Super Delicious and Fun Snack Mix Eating!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Genuine Fraud gets 4.5 Stars {mystery, thriller, ya lit}

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart is her latest YA/Young Adult/Teen read reminds me of We Were Liars, another Lockhart book as a mystery and a thriller.  Check full review on the blog for content, If it is a clean read. Alohamora Open a Book Alohamoraopenabook

I like E. Lockhart's books.  I'm a sucker for contemporary fiction, and if you add a mystery aspect to it I am sold.  I loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and thoroughly enjoyed We Were Liars.  

Lockhart's latest book, Genuine Fraud, was published last fall, and I'm a fan.  I give Genuine Fraud 4.5 out of 5 stars in my book review. 

I thought the layout of the story, told backwards, hence the story starting at chapter 19, was interesting, fun, and is what made it a mystery.  Sure, this was probably the most confusing story layout I've read.  The book started on chapter 19, next came 17, and then it was down from there.  Chapter 18 finally appeared at the end of the book which told you what happened.  This layout definitely made the book unpredictable, and kept you, as the reader, involved in the story.  Overall, the layout was confusing, but it worked really well with this story.  

I thought the main characters Imogen and Jule especially showed a lot of depth.  However, the reason the story didn't get the coveted 5 star rating is b/c I didn't care for any of the characters.  I know, I don't have to like the characters and Lockhart wrote Jule that way for a reason.  However, for ME to LOVE the book and give it 5 stars liking the characters is definitely a big deal. What about you?  Does it matter if you care for the characters at all?   

Genuine Fraud reminded me more of We Were Liars than The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  Both stories are mysteries and have a definite shock/surprise factor at the end.   Personally though, if you liked Lockhart books then you should definitely give Genuine Fraud a checkout... then tell me what you thought. 

Happy Young Adult/Teen Mystery/Thriller reading!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Best For: 14 - 18 year olds, 9th grade and up.

Clean Read: No, there is murder, alcohol, sexual assault, and language
Worth a Check Out: Yes
Buy It or Not: Not for a personal library
Read Aloud: No. 

Lesson Ideas: Mental illness. Sexual Assault. Story layout- in reverse order. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

5 Minute Homemade Hot Chocolate {instant pot, dairy free, paleo}

Instant Pot Hot Chocolate- gluten free, vegan, dairy free, paleo, easy to make and ready in 5 minutes. Simple, fast, quick, and delicious homemade hot chocolate drink. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

I thoroughly enjoy my Instant Pot.  I'm not one of those that use my IP every day, but I use it a couple times a week.  I still think it was a great purchase; especially b/c of how it cooks eggs perfectly. 

I absolutely adore Hot Chocolate.  It is one of my favorite drinks, and it always brings fond memories or hot cocoa at my Grandpa's Ranch.  We always had Swiss Miss up there, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago I realized I could, and probably should, make my own.  Well, Hot Chocolate in the Instant Pot makes the job incredibly fast, easy, and oh so delicious.  

This recipe can easily be adjusted for a dairy free diet.  It can also work for vegans and paleo diets as well.  I've enjoyed this drink paleo style, but I actually prefer the milk version.  

However, no matter which version you make this 5 Minute Homemade Hot Chocolate it is fast and delicious.  Enjoy! 

5 Minute Instant Pot Hot Chocolate
Recipe: Alohamora adapted from Paleo Cooking
Active Time: 2 minutes
Inactive Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 3 cups

3 c. milk (dairy, almond, coconut, etc.) 
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp sugar (granulated or coconut palm)
2 Tbsp maple syrup

Optional Toppings: cinnamon, nutmeg, whipped cream (heavy or coconut whipped cream), marshmallows


  1. Combine the 4 ingredients in an Instant Pot stainless steel bowl. 
  2. Stir to combine everything and secure the Instant Pot's lid, and secure the valve into the "sealed" position.  
  3. Set the Instant Pot to Manual and change the time to 5 minutes. 
  4. When the time is down, quick release the valve and open it when able. 
  5. Either stir to combine everything, or place an immersion blender in the pot to blend the ingredients together. 
  6. Serve the hot chocolate drink warm, or keep the warming button on.
  7. Top the mugs with any desired toppings. 
  8. Store leftovers in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
  9. Enjoy! 

Happy Delicious and Quick Homemade Hot Cocoa Eating! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lighter than My Shadow gets 3.5 Stars {ya lit, graphic novel}

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green is a teen, young adult memoir graphic novel.  Intense quick read about anorexia, mental illness, depression, sexual abuse, sexual assault, tough, sad, recovery. Sponsored. Book review. 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green is a young adult/teen memoir in graphic novel format.  This fast/quick read is perfect for reluctant readers, and anyone that has struggled with an eating disorder and/or sexual abuse.  

This book is heavy and talks about many tough subjects including the pain, frustration, and recovery from those subjects.  However, this tough heavy book is quite well done.  Overall, Lighter than My Shadow felt real and raw; it was hard to read at times, but it was also enlightening and encouraging. 

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green is a teen, young adult memoir graphic novel.  Intense quick read about anorexia, mental illness, depression, sexual abuse, sexual assault, tough, sad, recovery. Sponsored. Book review. 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

Lighter than My Shadow gets 3.5 out of 5 stars in my book review.  I think the artistic vision is great, and telling this story in graphic novel format was a great choice.  However, I sometimes found myself confused with the pictures and what exactly was going on.  This book is definitely not clean as there are drawings of Katie naked and drawings of the sexual abuse.   

I will say that this book is not one I am going to own, and I don't think it is one most people are going to buy.  However, there is a definite place for it in a school or public library collection.  Lighter than My Shadow has value, and it should be accessible for all those that need it.  Anyone looking for a help and hope with anorexia, eating disorder, recovery, and sexual abuse should definitely pick this book up.  It's a beautiful and valuable book; though, it is definitely not a book for everyone. 

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green is a teen, young adult memoir graphic novel.  Intense quick read about anorexia, mental illness, depression, sexual abuse, sexual assault, tough, sad, recovery. Sponsored. Book review. 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

Happy reading even if it is an incredibly difficult subject. 

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Best For: 14 years old and up, 9th grade and up. 

Clean Read: No. Not clean at all, though in context with this tough subject.
Worth a Check Out: No, unless you want a great perspective on mental illness, eating disorder, and sexual assault.
Buy It or Not: No.
Read Aloud: No.
Lesson Ideas: Anorexia, eating disorder, mental illness, depression, sexual assault, sexual abuse, recovery, perspective. 

I received this book from Myrick Marketing in exchange for my review and honest opinion.  All of my thoughts, opinions, and words are my own.