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Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach, Florida with (& without) Teens!

Visiting Shell Island, jet ski rentals, airboat rides, and swimming with dolphins are just a few fun things to do in Panama City Beach, Florida! Here’s info on it all and our favorite Panama City Beach Restaurants you will enjoy with (and without) your teens!

panama city beach florida

SimplifyLiveLove occasionally receives complimentary products, hosted travel, and/or compensation related to the content shared here. This story may contain affiliate links which means we receive a small commission on your purchase.

Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach, Florida with (& without) Teens!

Last fall I was invited to visit Panama City Beach with one of my teenagers for a Real.FUN.Thrills press trip. The two of us hadn’t gone anywhere on our own since she was a toddler and when I asked her if she would like to go, she was 100% ready!

Shell Island at St. Andrews St Park

As winter grabs a hold of us here in Eastern Iowa, I am thinking how warm it was in Florida and all the fun things we did. I’m ready to go back! Here were just a few of the fun things Anna and I were able to do in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Shell Island Panama City Beach

Shell Island in Panama City Beach is a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay. Part of  St. Andrews State Park (the most visited state park in Florida), it’s completely undeveloped and absolutely stunning!

shell island panama city beach

There are no concession stands, restrooms, picnic tables, trash cans etc to spoil your views, so make sure you take everything you need when you visit this beautiful island. And don’t forget to take your garbage with you when you leave.

playing in the water at shell island

To get to Shell Island, you’ll have to take some sort of water craft as it is not accessible by car.  We took the Bay Point Lady boat shuttle from the Sheraton Bay Point Resort where we stayed.

Learn more about Shell Island by clicking here.

Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals Panama City Beach

Jet Ski Rentals Panama City Beach

Not only did we take the resort shuttle to Shell Island, but we also drove there on jet skis one day, which ranks right up there as one of more terrifying things I’ve done. Marine Family Go-Cart Rules stipulate that once you step on the gas, you can’t let off, you see. No matter what, keep on the gas.

Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals Panama City Beach jetskis

When the jet ski rental people told us to hit it and go, I listened. In retrospect, that might not have been the best course of action since this was really my first time on a jet ski in the ocean. We did not tip but it was very bumpy, and I have to admit that more than once I feared for my life. After we got to Shell Island my screaming teenager (who clearly also feared for her life) said she’d find her own ride back. And she did. You know what – the ride back to the marina was blissfully quiet and not nearly as choppy. LOL!

Shell Island from jet skis

And just look at the views from Shell Island! Learn more about Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals in Panama City Beach here.

Airboat Rides Panama City Beach wild thang airboat tours

Airboat Rides Panama City Beach

While Anna’s favorite part of the trip was playing at Shell Island with her new best friends, my favorite part was the airboat ride. I loved can’t tell you how much I enjoyed skipping over the water and touring the West Bay Marshes with Wild Thang Airboat Tours.

wild thang airboat tours panama city beach florida

Our knowledgeable guide taught us a lot about the marsh ecosystem as he pointed out birds, an Osprey nest in a power pole, and took us on an alligator hunt. He was as entertaining as he was knowledgeable and we really enjoyed our first airboat ride!

West Bay Marshes Panama City Beach

Ride the SkyWheel Ferris Wheel at Pier Park

Pirates of the High Seas Fest at Pier Park in Panama City Beach

We happened to be in Panama City Beach during Columbus Day weekend and were super excited to attend the Pirates of the High Seas Fest at Pier Park. Featuring all sorts of pirates, parades, fireworks, live music, and more, you have to go if you’re PCB at the right time!

SkyWheel Ferris Wheel at Pier Park in Panama City Beach

While we were at Pier Park for the pirate parade, we decided to take a ride on the SkyWheel Ferris Wheel for a lovely view of the sunset! The ferris wheel is not for the faint of heart as you’ll ride 200 feet up in an enclosed gondola. The stunning views of Panama City Beach are totally worth it though!

Swim with Dolphins Panama City Beach

Swim with Dolphins Panama City Beach

Another very amazing experience we had on our press trip to Panama City Beach was a dolphin encounter at Gulf World. You can swim with dolphins, penguins, harbor seals and stingrays at Gulf World. They also have educational shows featuring dolphins, sea lions, tropical birds and more, indoor and outdoor exhibits with a variety of animals, and a pool where you can touch and feed stingrays.

petting the dolphins Gulf World Marine Park Panama City Beach

As part of a small group, we participated in the Dolphin Encounter where we touched, kissed, and hugged a dolphin. Anna really loved this experience – it was one of her favorite activities on the trip.

parrot at Gulf World Panama City Beach

Learn how to swim with dolphins in Panama City Beach here.

Our Favorite Panama City Beach Restaurants

Of course, you’ll also have to eat! Fortunately, you don’t have to look far for delicious places to eat in Panama City Beach! We liked everywhere we visited – from popular local spots to more upscale seafood restaurants. Here are a few of the Panama City Beach restaurants we really enjoyed.

Andy’s Flour Power

Andy’s Flour Power was voted the best cafe and brunch spot in Panama City Beach for good reason!.Featuring pastries, omelets, cake, live jazz and more, we all really loved this stop. If you go, make sure to try the Hummingbird Cake. I’ve never had it before and it was oh-so good. Made pineapple, banana, pecan, and cream cheese frosting. I suggest going with a group and trying a lot!

Liza’s Kitchen Panama City Beach

Liza’s Kitchen

Another favorite local breakfast place, Liza’s Kitchen doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s located in a strip mall but don’t let that deter you! I can personally recommend the Hippie Hash, and if you like eggs benedict, breakfast sammies, and homemade biscuits, they serve all that up too!

Thomas Donut & Snack Shop PCB

Thomas Donut & Snack Shop

Sadly, we didn’t get to try the donuts at Thomas Donut & Snack Shop (located right off the beach at Laguna Beach)- but if the line was any indication of how good these donuts are, I highly recommend that you go. Several of my Iowa friends mentioned to me that they always stop there when they go to Panama City Beach, so I’m going to go ahead and recommend it! If you’ve been let me know what you thought!

Finn's Island Style Grub

Finn’s Island Style Grub

Finn’s Island Style Grub was really one of my favorite places to eat in Panama City Beach. Another unassuming restaurant, Finn’s has a huge outdoor patio and more a food truck vibe. Featuring tacos, bowls, wraps, and salads, my favorite was the ahi tuna tacos! And the ceviche was lovely too.

Finn's Island Style Grub PCB

Next door was gift shop with some great souvenirs I’m still kicking myself for not buying and a coffee shop that also sold smoothies and kombucha on tap! If you end up with a sunburn, we found a great sunburn spray called Solar Recovery Hydrating Mist. Several people in our group were quite red and were thrilled to have found this spray and the instant relief it provided.

The Grand Marlin Panama City Beach

The Grand Marlin

If you’re looking for a fancier meal, The Grand Marlin will not disappoint. Don’t worry – it’s still a casual atmosphere, but the most fancy of any of the spots I’ve mentioned here. We had a variety of food at the Gran Marlin from oysters to Grouper and local Red Snapper. We were told they also have beautiful views of the Florida sunset, but we were too late to see it, sadly.

Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grille

Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill

Runaway Island Beach Bar was the last place we ate before heading home. Located right on the beach, it’s a lovely beach bar and grill. The food was fine, but I think the bigger reason to go here is for the amazing atmosphere! It’s not that often that we get to eat with such beautiful views of the ocean!!

With all of these fun things to do and delicious places to eat, it’s easy to see why Panama City Beach is a favorite Florida getaway destination. I’d love to hear you favorites about the area too!

Sheraton Bay Point Resort Panama City Florida

 

 

Keto Smothered Instant Pot Pork Chops + Giveaway

This delicious Smothered Instant Pot Pork Chops Recipe from Dr. Karen Lee’s new Keto Cooking with your Instant Pot Cookbook is amazing! If you’re looking for keto pork chops that will melt in your mouth and are also easy to make, make sure to try this recipe. Make sure you read to the end of the post and enter a giveaway for the cookbook as well!!

Instant Pot Pork Chops and Keto Cooking with Your Instant Pot Cookbook giveaway

This recipe was reprinted with permission from Keto Cooking with Your Instant Pot by Karen S. Lee, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.

Instant Pot Pork Chops

Dr. Karen really hit it out of the park with this smothered pork chop recipe! Not only is it very easy to make, but it’s a huge hit at my house. Featuring ingredients including heavy cream, white wine, and mushrooms, these keto pork chops will be a hit at your house too.

Keto Smothered Instant Pot Pork Chops

Keto Cooking with Your Instant Pot Cookbook by Dr. Karen S. Lee

Before we get to the recipe, I need to tell you about this (this post contains affiliate links which means I earn a commission on your order) amazing cookbook. We don’t really subscribe to any particular diet other than trying to eat real food from scratch as much as possible, but I am very intrigued by the Keto diet.

I love that Lee’s recipes focus on from-scratch ingredients. You won’t find anything packaged or processed in her cookbook, and all the recipes look very delicious. Her collection of 75 low-carb, real food, wholesome recipes to make in your Instant Pot is just what you need to get a delicious dinner on the table in a hurry.

A little about Karen Lee – she is a retired chiropractor, cookbook author, and food blogger with an emphasis on holistic health and real food recipes to help working moms with busy families. Keto Cooking with Your Instant Pot is her second cookbook. She also wrote Paleo Cooking with Your Air Fryer: 80+ Recipes for Healthier Fried Food in Less Time. You can buy both books on Amazon, or enter to win a copy of Keto Cooking with Your Instant Pot at the end of this post!

All righty, are you ready for the smothered pork chops recipe?

step for making keto pork chops in the instant pot

Keto Smothered Instant Pot Pork Chops

One of the many reasons I love my Instant Pot is that it makes this a one dish meal, and that means clean up is a snap. To make this recipe, simply prepare everything right in the IP! From saute to cooking, everything happens right in the Instant Pot.

To make this recipe, you’ll saute bacon in your Instant Pot, then sear the pork chops and cook the onions and mushrooms right in the bacon grease. I’m a big fan of cooking with bacon grease and use it for all sorts of things. It’s really useful in this recipe too.

After the pork chops are seared and the veggies are soft, just put the pork chops back in and cook on HIGH for 20 minutes. The last step is making the sauce, and that is easy as can be too.

Once that’s done, you have a lovely low-carb, keto friendly meal your family will really love. Here’s the printer friendly recipe!

keto pork chops

Yields 4 servings

Keto Smothered Instant Pot Pork Chops + Giveaway

Delicious and tender pork chops with a creamy mushroom gravy that you will want to make again and again!

10 minPrep Time

33 minCook Time

43 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

5 based on 3 review(s)

Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 - 6 oz boneless pork loin chops
  • 2 strips uncured bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter, more as needed
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 12 oz white mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup full-fat heavy cream
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs tapioca powder, more if needed
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley chopped, reserve 1 tbs for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle both siders of the pork chops with the garlic powder mixture and set aside.
  2. Turn on the Instant Pot by pressing "Saute" and set to "More." Insert the inner pot and wait until the panel says "Hot." Add the bacon and saute for 3 minutes, then add the pork chops, two at a time, and brown both sides for 2 minutes per side. Add butter at this point if needed. Transfer the pork chops to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and mushrooms and saute until the onion is soft. Add the white wine and stir and scrape the bottom for 1 minute. Place the pork chops on top of the onion and mushrooms.
  3. Close the lid tightly and move the steam release handle to "Sealing." Press "Cancel," then the "Pressure Cooker / Manual" button and set the timer for 20 minutes on High Pressure. When the timer ends, you will hear a beeping sound. Allow the Instant Pot to cool down naturally until the flat valve drops down. Press "Cancel" and open the lid. Place the pork chops on plates to be served and let rest.
  4. Meanwhile, add the rest of the ingredients in the inner pot except 1 tablespoon of parsley and stir for 2 minutes until it thickens. Add more tapioca flour if needed, depending on how much liquid was produced from the meat and vegetables cooking. Top the pork chops with the mushroom gravy and garnish with parsley before serving.

Notes

Nutrition information: Per serving: 343 calories, 21 g fat, 23 g protein, 12 g total carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber

Tags

Diet
keto
7.8.1.2
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https://simplifylivelove.com/keto-smothered-instant-pot-pork-chops/

keto pork chops made in the instant pot

Win a Copy of Keto Cooking with your Instant Pot Cookbook 

Want to win a signed coy of this awesome cookbook? Enter the Rafflectoper Giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents 18 years of age only. SimplifyLiveLove is not responsible for shipping. Winner will have 48 hours to provide a mailing address or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you liked these keto pork chops, you might like these keto friendly recipes too:

Salmon & Asparagus Sheet Pan Dinner

Salmon Street Tacos (use keto friendly tortillas)

Better than Take out Beef w/ Broccoli (replace honey with SWERVE to make this recipe low-carb and omit rice)

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (replace honey with SWERVE to make this recipe low-carb and omit rice)

 

 

Unwind & Recharge at Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa

If you’re in need of calm place to get away from everything, head to Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa.  These lovely and luxurious cabins offer the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and recharge. While you’re there, check out these fun things to do!

winter glamping at Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa

*I was treated to a Winter Glamping Retreat courtesy of Red Cedar Lodge, but the opinions here are all mine.*

Winter Glamping at Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa

Life can really be overwhelming sometimes, can’t it? Between work, families, cell phones, school, and all our other obligations, it’s hard to turn it all off. Sometimes, a getaway is what we need to re-charge so we can attack our lives with gusto again.

Red Cedar Lodge offers the perfect place to do that. Located just outside Charles City, Iowa in the north central part of the state, this lovely vacation spot features three luxuriously appointed log cabins nestled along the Cedar River. Awarded the Outstanding Lodging Award by Travel Iowa, you will not be disappointed when you book a glamping getaway here.

unwind at Red Cedar Lodge

What is glamping anyway?

Shortly after our stay at Red Cedar Lodge, I posted pictures of the cabin and our time in Charles City on facebook. Another travel blogger asked about the definition of glamping, as in her mind glamping happens in elaborate, luxurious tents. She wondered when the term evolved to include cabins, chalets, and resorts. I wasn’t sure, so I posed the question to Lorraine, the owner of Red Cedar Lodge. Here’s what she said:

Yes, I believe originally the term Glamping was all about luxury tent camping with some modern conveniences.

However, in recent years it seems to have transitioned to overnight lodging that embraces nature. So these days, cabins, yurts, treehouses, cute vintage trailers and of course, tents are all the means in which to Glamp.

But, not just any old dusty, buggy, musty accommodation provides Glamping. It must be beautiful, clean, cute, unexpected, and luxurious in its own right.

luxurious bedroom at Red Cedar Lodge

And Red Cedar Lodge offers all of that and more! From soft fluffy pillows, to bathrobes, to fully equipped kitchens, hair dryers, and even iron and ironing boards, you don’t have to take anything on your trip except yourself and a swim suit. Well, you might want to bring clean clothes too. 😉 While I enjoy tent camping too, I very much appreciate arriving at a beautiful location where everything is already set up for me.

one of 3 log cabins at Red Cedar Lodge

But seriously. I have stayed in cabins before where we were required to bring our own sheets, towels, and dishes. As far as I’m concerned, if I have to pack all of that, I might as well stay in a tent.

great room at red cedar lodge

Glamping in the Winter

Typically, I think of glamping as an activity for the summer. But winter also a great time to glamp. While, it doesn’t need to be winter to head to Red Cedar Lodge, it is a lovely time of year to visit. Think of softly falling snow. Crunching footsteps. Crackling fireplaces. Beautiful Christmas decor. It’s only found in winter.

Be sure you take the right people along when you head to Red Cedar Lodge. I was thrilled to spend some time with fellow travel writers. It’s always fun to collaborate and who says a little bit of learning can’t be relaxing?

drone photo of Red Cedar Lodge

Spend Quality Time with Great Company

Kylie from Between England and Iowa took this photo of Red Cedar Lodge with her drone. I have been so inspired by her DJI Spark drone photos that I got one for my son for Christmas. He’s started taking photos around our homestead and they are amazing. I guess I’m either going to have to learn how fly the drone myself or start bringing him along on all my blogging getaways. 😉

Besides Kylie, I also got to meet Mary from Farm Girl Cookin’ for the first time in real life. She made the amazing beef stew I shared the recipe for recently. We also made a wonderful crunchy artisan bread and homemade ricotta! Mary told us all about the beautiful farm weddings she’s starting offering at her lovely farm. If it had been a possibility when I got married 21 years ago, I would have loved to have my wedding at her place! So beautiful.

Teresa Goodrich from The Local Tourist was also one of my housemates. We met a couple years ago on a quick trip to the Minnesota State Fair and she is absolutely amazing. Couldn’t ask for a more inspiring roommate! Maybe one of these days I will be able to put her genius photo organization tips into action.

Val Plagge from Corn, Beans, Kids, and Pigs was there as well. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Val several times. She helped organize the Franklin County Harvest Tour my family was treated to in Hampton, Iowa several years ago. And she brought sausage that she and her husband made themselves from pigs they raised and also butchered themselves! You know I’m a sucker for homegrown and homemade.

And last but not least, Katy Flint from Flint and Co. was there too. We also met in Minnesota several years ago and she’s always ready with a laugh and easy smile.

The Cedar River in Charles City Iowa

Things to do in Charles City, Iowa in the Winter

While it’s perfectly acceptable to hole up in one of the cabins at Red Cedar Lodge and not leave, there are several reasons to head into Charles City, even in the winter.

what to eat in charles city iowa

Where to Eat in Charles City.

Your cabin is equipped so you can cook your own food if you want. But there are several yummy restaurants to explore in Charles City. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cheeseburger Pizza from Cedar River Pizza Co, even hough I thought I would never like cheeseburger pizza. I mean pickles on pizza? Sounds a little gross – but tastes delicious! This delicious pizzas is carry out only, so pick one up to enjoy at your cabin!

We also enjoyed good pub fare at the Pub on the Cedar. They serve a large selection of brews we were happy to sample. I ate a turkey bruschetta sandwich and tried Katy’s sweet potato puffs! Pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. Pub on the Cedar is included on Iowa’s 99 Must Try Restaurants list – so make sure you stop in!

Looking for good coffee? You’ll find a great cup of joe at Aroma’sAroma’s roasts their own coffee beans so you can buy a cup and also a bag of beans to take home!

local shops in charles city iowa

Peruse the local shops.

I love checking out local shops and Charles City has several to choose from. From Iowa State gear (not much for you Iowa fans in this town, I’m afraid), to art, souvenirs, and even plants – here are a few of the shops I really enjoyed.

Darbe Co. & Boutique

Here you’ll find lovely baby shower gifts, women’s clothing, hats, scarves, jewelry, and maybe even a few truffles if you’re lucky! You can pick up a bottle of local wine at this cute little boutique as well.

The Rustic Corner

The Rustic Corner has a little it of everything including personalized ornaments they can make on the spot, Hallmark ornaments, home and decor. They also have a hilarious collection of socks, kitchen towels, and more that some people might find inappropriate but I loved. And you can even attend painting classes and more here as well.

Otto’s Oasis

A walk through the warm greenhouse on a cold day was really fun for me. I love plants and flowers and they have a lovely assortment at Otto’s Oasis. They also sell fun gifts and decor items as well. But my favorite thing here was a DIY succulent bar where you can pick out succulents and make yourself a little planter. Super cute!

Mooney Art Gallery at the Charles City Public Library

Check out the Mooney Art Gallery.

Located in an unassuming library, this free art collection is completed unexpected. You’ll have to stop in and check out this amazing collection of original classic art prints from famous artists including Dali, Picasso, Rembrandt and Goya! This astounding collection of art was donated to the Charles City Library in 1941, but it took over 50 years before it was made accessible to the public. Not only was there no space to display the art, but each piece had to be framed, matted, and treated for preservation. You’ll definitely want to stop in and see this art collection!carrie champan catt girlhood home charles city iowa

Head out to the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Musuem

I loved this stop so much that I dedicated an entire post to this amazing woman who helped pave the way for the 19th amendment and my right to vote! Head over here to read all about it.

Again, many thanks to Red Cedar Lodge, Charles City Chamber of Commerce, Pub on Cedar, and Cedar River Pizza Company. My only regret is that the glamping experience was so short.

If you haven’t been to Red Cedar Lodge or Charles City, Iowa, what are you waiting for?

 

 

A Stop at the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home

Until last December, I had never heard of Carrie Chapman Catt, but this amazing suffragette deserves to be remembered. Without her hard work, who knows when American women would have gotten the vote. If you are a history lover, make sure to stop at her girlhood home outside Charles City, Iowa.
carrie champan catt girlhood home charles city iowa

A Stop at the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home

One of the things I love most about traveling is the amazing learning that happens with each and every trip. This is the girlhood home of Carrie Chapman Catt, a determined women who worked tirelessly during the late 1800 and early 1900s to give women the right to vote.

As part of a fun Winter Glamping Getaway at Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa last December, I visited Carrie’s girlhood home. I’d love to take my family back in the summer. It’s an inspiring place to visit.

barn at the carrie chapman catt girlhood home

Carrie Chapman Catt’s Fight for Women

A defining moment happened at this farm when Carrie was 13 years old. Her father and his hired man were going to town to vote in the 1872 presidential election. She asked why her mother wasn’t going to vote too, and her father told her voting was too important a civic duty to leave to women. Can you even imagine??

After that, Carrie devoted her life to women’s suffrage. She went to college at a time when most people (women especially) did not. She worked as a law clerk, a teacher, and a principal. In 1883, she became a superintendent of schools, one of the first women in the nation appointed in this role.

Carrie joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association in 1887 working as a professional writer and lecturer. From there she worked nationally for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and helped organize the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. After the 19th Amendment officially became part of the United States Constitution on August 26, 1920, she continued to work for noble causes like world peace and child labor.

It took 144 years after the US became independent for all women to be guaranteed the right to vote.

To the wrongs that need resistance, to the right that needs assistance, to the future in the distance, give yourselves.”

— Carrie Chapman Catt

When Carrie was a girl, not only could women not vote, they also couldn’t keep the money they earned for themselves if they were married. They couldn’t own property. They weren’t allowed to keep their children in the event of a rare divorce. All of these facts combined make her accomplishments even more remarkable. I can’t fathom what life was like for women during Carrie’s lifetime.

A bit about the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home

Carrie’s family built and moved to this house from Wisconsin in 1866 when she was seven years old. Her family lived here for an number of years, and Carrie was married in the house in 1885. In 1891, the Lane family sold the home.

By 1991, it sat empty and neglected, in danger of ruin. It was sold to the non-profit National 19th Amendment Society and Preservation architect Bill Wagner and supervised the restoration.

interactive displays at the Carrie Chapman Catt girlhood home

In addition to the restored home that is dedicated to Carrie’s work on women’s suffrage, there is also a visitor’s center with interactive displays and fun events from throughout the summer. Kids will enjoy trying on period costumes and measuring their waists. Did you know that in 1890, the maximum desired waist size (for women) was 18 inches? I don’t know when I last had an 18″ waist, but was probably pretty darn young.

The Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Museum also features a restored prairie perfect for exploring. Iowa used to be almost all prairie, but with the advent of modern agriculture, most of it has been turned into corn and soybean fields. Families will enjoy heading out in September for the annual apple picking day from the heritage apple farm still in operation. I would love to go to that and I know my kids would enjoy it too!

The home and visitor center is open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mondays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is also open by appointment.

girlhood home carrie chapman catt

To learn what else you can do in Charles City, Iowa make sure to read this post!

Do you enjoy learning about history when you travel? What’s been your favorite learning experience?

Gardening for Beginners Made Easy

Gardening for beginners does not have to be hard! If you want to start your first garden but aren’t sure where to start, these 10 practical tips for first time gardeners will be a big help. Ten Practical Tips for First Time Gardeners

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Gardening for Beginners Made Easy

Growing a garden can be very rewarding, but there are a few things you should consider before you start.

1. Start small and manageable

Gardens take a lot of work and the work increases exponentially with the size. You’ll need to have time to plant, water, weed, de-bug, harvest, and cook, so it makes a lot of sense to learn small. You can still grow a lot of food, even in a small garden. You’ll be surprised at how much food you can grow in a 4 x 8 or even a 4 x 4 raised garden bed! Keep it small the first year so you don’t get scared off from trying again. grow veggies you like

2. Grow fruits and veggies your family loves to eat

It’s really easy to get caught up in the beautiful seed catalog and order many different types of seeds, but keep it simple the first year. If you don’t like zucchini, there’s absolutely zero reason to plant it. I give you permission to skip zucchini if you want! 🙂

3. Plant these seeds directly in the garden

Some plants do fine when you plant them as seeds. And some you must plant as seedlings. Know the difference! 🙂

  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini / Squash

4. Plant these as seedlings

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel Sprouts

Buy Tomato Seedlings

5. Buy veggie starts at the garden nursery instead of trying to start your own.

Stating seeds is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding, but if this is your first time gardening, it’s easier and more practical to just buy the baby plants at the store. It might even be cheaper in the long run too.

6. Learn your frost free dates and garden zone.

It’s very important to plant your garden at the right time, so head on over to this first and last frost calculator, plug in your zip code, and learn when it’s safe to plant your garden. Frost kills plants so make sure you know this very important detail! You’ll also want to know what your garden zone because some plants grow better in certain zones. Go here to learn your garden zone.

7. Choose a good garden location.

Most plants need full sun (at least six hours of sun each day) so keep that in mind when choosing where to place your garden. You’ll want to avoid trees of course, and also consider tall fences or other vegetation that may cast shadows on your garden.

8. Keep a garden journal.

If you want to continue gardening, it’s important to learn from your mistakes. Keep track of what you plant, when you plant it, how it grows, and how well it harvests. This will help you plan future gardens. This is the amazing garden journal I have!

don't forget mulch

9. Don’t forget mulch

Mulching your garden will help keep moisture in and weeds out. All of your plants will benefit from mulch, so don’t forget to include it in your garden. Straw, grass clippings, and wood chips can all make good mulch and sometimes you can even find free mulch too!

10.  Spend time in your garden each day.

Make sure you head out to your garden each day to check for bugs, weeds, and other problems. Tending a garden does take devoted time each day so make sure you’re able to spend at least 10 – 30 minutes a day with your plants (depending on the size of your garden).

More awesome garden posts to check out!

5 Must Know Tips for Planting Tomato Seedlings

Tips for Planting Seedlings

How to Plant Potatoes – No Dig Method

Tips for Spring Garden Planning

Tips for Ordering Garden Seeds

How to Grow a 3 Sisters  Garden

Companion Plants You Must Have in Your Garden

My Favorite Garden Seed Organizer

If you want to start your first garden but aren't sure where to start, these tips for first time gardeners will be a big help. Growing a garden can be very rewarding, but there are a few things you should consider before you start.

Happy gardening, my friends! Make sure you check back each Tuesday for more gardening tips, tricks, and tutorials. If you liked this post, you may want to sign up for my weekly newsletter too!


The Perfect Refined-Sugar Free Southern Cornbread Recipe

Homemade southern cornbread was a staple in my grandma’s Arkansas kitchen and we ate it all the time. If you’re looking for delicious and refined-sugar-free healthy cornbread, you’ll love this easy recipe!

The Perfect Refined-Sugar Free Southern Cornbread Recipe

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Refined Sugar Free Southern Cornbread Recipe

When I was young, I didn’t appreciate the bean soup my grandma served us, but I always enjoyed her cornbread. A homemade cornbread is a real treat, especially when you use an easy southern cornbread recipe, like I’m sharing today!

Now I know that the perfect cornbread recipe can be a hot topic. Should it be sweet or not? Crumbly or not? I guess it all boils down to personal preference, but this recipe more closely resembles how I’ve seen cornbread prepared in the south. I’ve had “cornbread” here in Iowa and I do not consider it true cornbread. They best way to describe it is moist and cakey. Ick!

refined sugar free cornbread

This cornbread is flavorful, yet crumbly. I do add a few tablespoons of honey to give it a slight hint of sweet, but it could not be described as cake-sweet. It’s a family favorite recipe and I hope you like it!

Ingredients for this healthy cornbread recipe

You’ll get a better result if you use better ingredients. I grind my own corn meal and flour in my Nutrimill grain mill. While I think there are a lot of benefits to grinding your own flours, you certainly don’t have to. I would recommend that you buy a high quality corn meal flour though – Bob’s Red Mill makes a nice medium ground cornmeal that I like. I also recommend using aluminum-free baking powder (Rumford is my preferred brand) and buttermilk as well. If you don’t have buttermilk, easily make your own by combining 1 TBS with enough milk to make a cup! Super easy.

the perfect southern cornbread recipe, refined sugar free

Overall, this recipe is really easy. Mix the dry ingredients, fold in wet ingredients, bake in a cast iron skillet in a hot oven. Using bacon grease to oil the skillet gives the cornbread a little bit of bacon flavor – highly recommend! By the way, here’s the super easy way I save bacon grease and a ton of uses for it!

Here’s the easy peasy recipe! Try it and I bet you’ll never go back to a pre-bought mix!

Easy Cornbread Recipe

Yields 8 servings

Refined Sugar Free Southern Cornbread

If you're looking for delicious and refined-sugar-free healthy cornbread, you'll love this easy recipe!

5 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

20 minTotal Time

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Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour {I use freshly ground hard white wheat}
  • 1 cup cornmeal {I use freshly ground blue cornmeal}
  • 3 TBS raw honey
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS bacon grease
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat over to 450F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Melt 1 TBS bacon grease in a round cast iron skillet. If you don't want to use bacon grease, you can also use butter.
  3. In a small bowl, combine eggs, milk, and butter. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just mixed.
  4. Pour into the hot skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Serve with honey and or butter. Enjoy!

Notes

If you don't have buttermilk, make it quickly by putting one TBS vinegar in your one cup measuring cup. Then fill with milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and you have homemade buttermilk.

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So now the biggest question is – what’s the perfect topping for cornbread? Butter? Honey? Or, something else??

cast iron southern cornbread from scratch

If you liked this easy cornbread recipe, you might like these recipes too:

Wilted Lettuce Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

How to Store Bacon Grease & 12 Ways to Use It

How to Make Whole Wheat Bread with a KitchenAid

Great Grandma Shafer’s Amazing Strawberry Shortcake

How to Store Seeds – My Favorite Garden Seed Organizer

Are you wondering how to store seeds? I’ve been using a photo box for several years now and think it makes the best garden seed organizer ever! Take control of your seeds using this cool box! The Best Garden Seed Organizer Ever!

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my site.*

How to Store Seeds – My Favorite Garden Seed Organizer

For years I had a haphazard garden seed organizing system which amounted to shoving seed packets in a shoebox or a ziplock baggie (or both) and putting them in a “safe spot” I was sure to forget about. Sound familiar at all? If you’re like I was, I highly recommend upgrading to this awesome photo box I got on Amazon. I think it’s a real bargain at under $20.

4 x 6 boxes for saving seeds in my favorite box

Photo keeper boxes come in many different sizes, but the one I like best is this one. It’s one big box with 16 – 4×6 little boxes inside. The little boxes are exactly the right size for my beloved Baker Creek seed packets. One of these days, I will even label the outside of the 16 little boxes so I have a better idea of what’s inside each one. For now, it’s pretty easy to see what’s inside because the boxes are see-through. The only time suck is I have to physically lift each one to see the front. 😀

tomatoes in my favorite seed saving box

I try to keep like seeds in one box. For instance, tomato seeds are in one box. Pepper seeds in another, flowers, herbs, zucchini, corn, etc. Believe it or not, all 16 of my boxes are full. Sometimes I even keep empty packets in the boxes so I can go through them in the winter and decide what to order again.

Close the seed packets tightly

My only caveat is that you have to close each envelope tightly or the seeds will fall out. That’s not necessarily a huge problem unless you have a lot of different types of seed packets open in each box. It’s pretty hard to tell one broccoli seed from a kale or cabbage seed!

Garden Seed Storage Made Easy!

All in all, I love this seed saving box. It’s easy to use, handy to store, and quick to find. It makes ordering new seeds a snap and keeps all my pretty little lovelies safe and sound. If you’d like to order one too, head on over to Amazon. You can order a box with a purple handle for under $20, or get the white handled box for $30. I’d personally save $10 and order more seeds. 🙂 If you have an absolute ton of seeds, you can also get two large white boxes for $35.

Make sure to keep the box in a cool, dark place to give your seeds the longest life. Happy Organizing!

seed-saving-box

Need more garden awesomeness? Try these posts:

Tips for Ordering Garden Seeds

Helpful Supplies for Starting Seeds Indoors

Tips for Starting Broccoli & Other Brassicas

Free Containers to Start Garden Seeds

Free Catalogs for the Organic Gardener / Homesteader

My favorite way to store garden seeds is in this garden seed organizer.

What’s your favorite way to store garden seeds? I’d love to know! 

Hearty & Delicious Simple Beef Stew

There’s not much better than a bowl of hearty and delicious simple beef stew on cold winter days. Made in a dutch oven, beef stew is a fantastic make ahead meal that your entire family will love.

1 Hearty & Delicious Simple Beef Stew

*This recipe contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Hearty & Delicious Simple Beef Stew

This simple beef stew starts on the stove top and finishes in the oven. I first tried this recipe when Mary from Farm Girl Cookin’ made it for a group of travel bloggers this winter. We were glamping at Red Cedar Lodge and this oven beef stew was a meal one night. Mary made most of the stew ahead of time, froze it, and then finished it off in a slow cooker the day we ate it.

Everyone loved it so much that Mary shared the recipe with us. She made it by combing recipes from Julia Child and Ina Gartner’s classic beef stew recipes. It’s very versatile and can be adapted to about any cooking style from stove top, to oven, to slow cooker, to instant pot. Mary gave me permission to share it all with you! Everything about this stew is delish! I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family does.

dutch oven beef stew

Dutch Oven Beef Stew is so Yummy and Versatile

While the recipe is not difficult, the prep does take time, so I recommend that you start this recipe either in the morning or the day before you want to eat it. Letting it slowly cook for several hours is the key to melt-in-your-mouth beef stew, so rich in flavor that you will be licking the dutch oven clean after you finish the recipe.

A few questions about this stove top beef stew recipe:

What’s the best beef for this stew?

I recommend 100% grass fed beef for this recipe. You can use pre-cut stew beef, but in my experience, taking the time to cut up a roast on your own will yield a much better result. I’ve used rump roast and arm roast in this recipe and both are fabulous. I’m lucky to have a farmer two miles away who I buy the most amazing grass fed beef from, but if you aren’t as lucky, check out these deals from Butcher Box. It seemed a little expensive to me at first glance, but I have heard rave reviews about their meat and service. When you compare the price to other humanely raised, quality meat, the price is actually not that bad. This January, you can get 2 lbs of wild caught Alaska salmon for free with your first purchase too! Join ButcherBox today and get 2 lbs of Wild Alaskan Salmon free!

Is red wine necessary in this beef stew?

This delicious stew calls for 3 cups (basically an entire bottle) of red wine  which is really the foundation of the recipe. I highly recommend including the wine. It enhances the flavor so nicely!! If you don’t want to use red wine though, you can substitute beef broth, but don’t expect the same rich flavor the wine imparts.

delicious and hearty beef stew recipe - adaptable to the slow cooker or instant pot

Can I Make this Oven Beef Stew Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! And I highly recommend that you do make it ahead of time. Cutting up a roast and searing it in batches will take a while. While you could use pre-cut stew meat instead of a roast, the roast provides such great flavor! Prep the recipe on a day when you have a lot of time and then finish it in the evening for a delicious meal.

Is this Beef Stew Freezer Friendly?

Yes! Prepare the stew ahead of time and freeze it before you add the potatoes. Potatoes don’t really freeze that well, so adding them the day you eat the recipe is the best bet. The rest of the recipe freezes just fine, however.

Can I make this Beef Stew in a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot?

Yes! You can make it in either. To make this recipe in a slow cooker, simply put everything in your favorite slow cooker after searing the beef and cook on low for 6-8 hours. I would add the potatoes during the last hour of cooking and the peas at the very end, just like the recipe card below specifies.

To make it in an Instant Pot, cook the bacon and sear the beef using the sauté feature on your IP. Put all ingredients (except potatoes and peas) in the IP and cook on manual for 40 minutes. Use a natural release for 10 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure. Turn sauté feature back on and add potatoes and cook for about 2o minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Then turn off the Instant Pot and add the peas.


Here’s the printable recipe!

Nutrition

Calories

1538 cal

Fat

2 g

Carbs

158 g

Protein

109 g
Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Yields 8 servings

Serves 2 cups each

1538

Hearty & Delicious Dutch Oven Beef Stew

A rich and flavorful hearty beef stew, slow cooked for hours in the oven.

45 minPrep Time

3 hrCook Time

3 hr, 45 Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe
Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • 4 - 6 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • REAL salt
  • 1 lb carrots sliced diagonally into 1-inch chucks
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups dry red wine (I used Winking Owl Merlot from ADLI)
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) beef broth
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tsp fresh
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 2 lb potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 3 TBS flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Cook the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a large platter.
  2. Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper and sear them in the bacon grease on all sides, 4-5 minutes. You will likely have to do this in batches as you don't want the beef cubes to be touching while they sear. As they brown, remove the beef cubes to the plate with the bacon. Work until all of the cubes are seared, then set the plate aside.
  3. You may been to add a bit more bacon grease or oil to the dutch oven. Now add the carrots and onions and saute for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions lightly browned and fragrant.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
  5. Put the meat and the bacon back in the dutch oven.
  6. Add the wine, beef stock, tomato paste and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid.
  7. Put the covered dutch oven in the lower third of a preheated oven and let it simmer slowly for 3 -4 hours. During the last hour of cooking, add the sliced potatoes. Cover pot, and let it continue cooking until the potatoes are done. Mix the butter with the flour. Remove from oven, add the peas and the butter/flour mix, cover the pot, and let it rest for 10 minutes. The peas will heat up and the stew will thicken nicely.
  8. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Notes

A roast will result in the most flavorful beef stew, but you may use pre-cut stew meat to save time if you would like.

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Which method would you use for cooking this stew?
Delicious beef stew started on the stove top and finished in the oven

If you liked this one pot recipe, you’ll like these too:

Old Fashioned Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Asian Rice Bowls

Oven Baked Beer Brats & Potatoes – One Skillet Oven Meal

Sustainable Health Care – How Green Business Practices Benefit People & the Earth

Social and ecological responsibility are two of our goals here at SimplifyLiveLove. As self-employed business owners who do our best to protect the environment, we’re always curious to learn what other business are doing to protect the Earth too. Have you heard of sustainable health care? It combines green business and sustainable business for the benefit of both people and the Earth. I’m excited to share a few things about the concept with you today!Sustainable Health Care - How Green Business Practices Benefit People & the Earth

This post is sponsored by Providence Health. All opinions are mine.

Sustainable Health Care – How Green & Sustainable Business Practices Benefit People & the Earth

joel gilbertson on sustainable health careI recently spoke with Joel Gilbertson, Senior Vice President of Community Partnerships at Providence Health to better understand the concept of Sustainable Health Care. It’s honestly not an idea that I’ve heard about before, but I am very familiar with the green and energy efficient building concepts. From that perspective, I am very familiar with a lot of the ideas that Joel mentions in this post. It is possible for a business to do better for the Earth while still making a profit and serving the people well too. I wish more businesses would adopt models like this!

Here are a six ways sustainable health care is seeking to improve quality of care for patients and benefit the Earth at the same time.

1. What is sustainable health care?

Simply put, sustainable health care is when sustainability is adopted and integrated into the delivery of health care to enable healthier people – patients and caregivers; planet, and pocketbook. Health care is the second most energy intensive commercial consumer, so hospitals play a big role in generating greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore have an important responsibility to mitigate that impact. As caregivers, we know that without protecting the Earth, our common home, we cannot achieve our vision of health for a better world. 

2. How does sustainable health care benefit hospitals? 

There is a wide range of benefits of sustainable health care for hospitals, from operating more efficiently, to improving the environment of care for patients, to boosting caregiver morale, to lowering operating costs, and the list goes on and on. Examples include: 

green hospital mechanical room

Operating more efficiently

Operating equipment as efficiently as possible and installing higher efficiency equipment wherever possible empowers caregivers to focus more on patient care, calling in fewer complaints about temperatures being too warm or cool, or burned out bulbs. Operating efficiently enables hospitals to deliver quality care yet mitigate the impact of energy intensive operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

whole food at a hospital cafeteria - improving patients lives

Improving the environment of care for patients

As a key partner in the community, it is critical to deliver quality care while striving to mitigate the impacts of operations for the surrounding populations. Hospitals with energy efficient equipment such as those bearing the ENERGY STAR® tend to be top performing high-quality products, and support hospitals’ genuine desire to provide a top-quality environment of care. 

Boosting caregiver morale

Sustainable health care demonstrates a hospitals’ commitment to the Earth and its obligation to the surrounding communities. Caregivers want to work and live in a healthy place where their employer cares and invests in their environment – both indoors and out. There are many factors to employee retention, and hospitals who “walk the walk” and do their part to preserve the Earth create one more positive reason why caregivers will take pride in their organization and stay for the long term. 

Lowering operating costs

Energy efficient equipment reduces operating costs due to lower utility bills and reduces maintenance labor costs due to longer lasting equipment. For example, LED lighting provides high quality illumination yet the bulbs can last 8-10 times longer than standard CFL bulbs, which also reduces maintenance time and expenses. Both the energy savings and the maintenance savings result in lower operating costs which can be reinvested into more energy efficiency or patient care. Similarly, reducing waste generation means fewer waste hauler pickups which will lower hauling bills.

3. How does sustainable health care benefit consumers?

While some consumers travel great distances to access quality health care, most patients seek treatment at health care facilities that are close to their homes. Sustainable health care aims to mitigate the environmental impacts of health care operations, which benefits consumers who live in the neighborhoods and communities surrounding the health care facilities.   

Consumers benefit from sustainable health care while seeking treatment, as well, since they will experience a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment, be exposed to fewer hazardous chemicals, and be treated by quality professionals who are proud of their organization’s mission and sustainability efforts.  

4. Why should we care about sustainable health care?

The Pope has called upon all of us globally to care for the Earth, our common home. According to Pope Francis “I urgently appeal… for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environment challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all…” 

This calling is familiar and embedded in our DNA as a system. Our founding sisters called upon us to care for the Earth as part of our mission to serve the poor and vulnerable, who today are most subject to the harmful effects of climate change. In fact, one of our core values is Justice: “We strive to care wisely for our people, our resources and our Earth.” 

The effects of climate change are apparent in our daily lives, too. We witness these effects whether we are experiencing extreme weather events in our communities or observing the suffering of others in the news. We know that the nature of our work is energy intensive and has an adverse impact on the surrounding communities so we must act to mitigate those impacts, caring for our common home.

5. How are hospitals making the switch to more sustainable practices?

One critical step that we have taken to adopt more sustainable practices was to establish a comprehensive tracking system to set a baseline, measure progress, and report results across an array of sustainability metrics. We have done this through our partnership with Schneider Electric where over half (and counting) of our 800+ hospitals and health care buildings are onboarded onto the “Resource Advisor” platform, which allows us to monitor utility cost and usage and trends for energy, water, waste, associated emissions, and ENERGY STAR benchmark ratings, among other features.

Hospitals are also networking to share best practices and assist fellow hospitals within the system to accelerate their efforts through information exchange. For example, we have a group called the Action Collaborative for Environmental Stewardship (ACES) which meets monthly to learn and discuss various topics in sustainable health care.

Finally, another way in which hospitals are making the switch to more sustainable practices is by “greening” the operating rooms (ORs) since ORs represent one of the departments with the largest environmental footprints. ORs are one of the largest purchasers of supplies and one of the largest producers of waste. According to case studies referenced by Practice Greenhealth, “between 20-30 percent of the total waste generated by the hospital comes from the OR”. Ways that hospitals have chosen to “green” the OR include:

    • Regulated medical waste reduction and segregation
    • Single-use device reprocessing
    • Reusable surgical gowns and basins
    • LED lighting and power booms
    • Medical plastics recycling

6.  Is sustainable health care common in the health care industry?

Like Providence Health and Services dating back twenty years, many health care organizations began integrating sustainability into operations long before the impacts of climate change were apparent. The combination of long-term ownership interests, growing aging population, energy intensity relative to other sectors, and more recently: financial challenges due to and the Pope’s “Global Call to Action” have contributed significantly to the need to address sustainability more intensely and comprehensively in health care. Traditional efforts focused on energy and engineering, not a broader sustainability umbrella which exists today, is relatively new, and is transforming how we think about sustainability in health care.

Many thanks to Providence Health for teaching me a little bit about sustainable health care. I’m glad to see hospitals take an active role in reducing green house gases and conserve wherever possible. 

If you liked this post on Green Healthcare, you might like these posts too:

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Immune Boosting Creamy Chicken Stew

Delicious & Easy Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Featuring a delicious chocolate graham cracker crust for cheesecake, these easy mint chocolate cheesecake bars are a huge hit! No springform pan or fuss required.These easy cheesecake bars are always a huge hit and perfect for a large crowd!

peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake

Delicious & Easy Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

This recipe for Delicious & Easy Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars is for you if you love homemade cheesecake but hate the fuss of spring form pans and cracking cakes! It’s easy and makes either one big sheet pan dessert, or two 9x13s, so you can eat one and freeze the other for another day!

My family always begs me to make cheesecakes, but I rarely do. Primarily, I don’t want to find my spring form pan and deal with the disappointment of another cracked cheesecake. Luckily, this recipe is much easier than a traditional cheese cake. Rest assured, though, it certainly doesn’t sacrifice taste! Three simple steps will have this wonderful sheet pan cheesecake on your table without too much effort.

chocolate-peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake

Let’s Make these Easy Cheesecake Bars

First, gather tools and ingredients. You’ll need either a sheet pan (18 x 13), these are my favorite, or two 9×13 pans for this recipe. You’ll also need parchment paper. I like the brand If You Care’s Unbleached & Chlorine Free variety. It also helps to have a food processor and a stand mixer, though neither are necessary. Make sure you let the cream cheese come to room temperature for about an hour or so before you’re ready to mix it or it won’t cream as nicely.

Easy Graham Cracker Crust for Cheesecake

It’s easy to make a delicious graham cracker crust for cheesecake.The crust is just crushed chocolate graham crackers combined with melted butter and pre-baked for about 5 minutes. And if you line the sheet pan with parchment paper, the cheesecake bars come off the pan effortlessly.

bake-the-crust-and-add-the-cheesecake

Make the cheesecake batter

To make the cheesecake batter, I busted out my Kitchen Aid stand mixer  and creamed the cheese and sugar before adding eggs one at a time. Finally, add the extracts and the mint candy pieces and pour the mix onto the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the middle has just set. After the cheesecake has baked, let it cool for 15 minutes, and then put it in the fridge for at least three hours.

bake-the-cheesecake-cook-then-add-the-ganache

Make the ganache

While your lovely cheesecake is cooling, make an easy ganache.  Yes, I made a ganache – doesn’t that sound fancy?! No, it’s not hard, don’t worry. 🙂 Just make sure you coarsely chop a cup of chocolate chips before adding hot cream. I used my food processor to chop the chocolate – easy peasy. Let the cream and chocolate mix sit for ten minutes, and then stir until the chocolate is melted. That’s it! After the cheesecake is completely cooled, spread the ganache on top.

cheesecake-with-chocolate-ganache

By the way, don’t let your son drop a grapefruit on the cheesecake after you’ve nicely smoothed out the ganache or it will look terrible. You can just trust me on that one. I was NOT a happy mama and I didn’t display very nice mama skills after that happened. How many times does a person have to tell her kids not to throw balls {or anything resembling balls} in the house?!

chocolate-peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake-vertical

Here’s the printable recipe

Nutrition

Calories

4381 cal

Fat

271 g

Carbs

438 g

Protein

60 g
Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Yields 40 squares

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

An easy and delicious cheesecake bar recipe - no spring-form pan or fuss required!

15 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

55 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe
Recipe Image

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 3 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers
  • 10 TBS butter, melted
  • For the cheesecake
  • 6 - 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint candies
  • For the ganache
  • 1 cup heavycream
  • 1 cup finely shredded semi-sweet chocolate, chocolate chips work fine

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To make the crust, combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Firmly press on a sheet pan (or two 9 x 13 if desired) covered with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, remove from oven.
  4. To make the cheesecake, combine cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer over medium speed. Slowly add eggs one at time until combined.
  5. Add the extracts and candies and mix one last time.
  6. Pour the cheesecake batter on the crust and bake for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool to touch, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  7. To make the ganache, shred 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate. I ran a cup a chocolate chips through my food processor, but if you have mad knife skills, feel free to use your knife to chop.
  8. Heat one cup a cream over medium high heat until just boiling. Then, pour cream over chocolate in a heat safe bowl.
  9. Let the cream and chocolate sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes are up, stir the mixture until a nice ganache forms. Top the cheesecake with the ganache. Put the cheesecake back in the fridge for another 15 minutes or so.
  10. Finally, cut into bars (roughly 2" x 2") and top with a few more candies, if desired
  11. Store leftovers in the fridge.
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If you liked this recipe for easy cheesecake bars, you might like these recipes too:

Busy Week Night Greek Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner

Easy Instant Pot Dessert Recipes

Delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake

I hope you like these mint chocolate cheesecake bars! It is a new family favorite. Happy baking!