One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta, Grilled Veggie-Cheeseburger Wraps, Copy Cat “White Castle” Sliders, Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips, 6 Layer Rainbow Cake, Cake Balls, Nutella Strawberry Popsicles, and Lemon and Feta Dip…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy July!!!!  Holy cow…is it hot enough for ya???  UGH…here in Michigan it is ungodly hot and humid.  So hot and humid that I hate going outside…unless of course I am going straight to our pool to camp out for the rest of the day.  Anyway, I have done a lot of cooking/baking in the last few air conditioned weeks, so let’s get right to it.

DSCN9765The first recipe I experimented with was one pot tomato basil pasta.  I love the idea of throwing all your ingredients into a pot, walking away, and letting them do their thing.  So when I saw DSCN9770this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it.  The result??  We gave it a “B.”  It was good, but I prefer a thicker, more tomato-y sauce.  I also like my sauce a bit spicier, so if I make this again, I’d add more red pepper flakes to the pot.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe I tried was for grilled cheeseburger wraps…veggie cheeseburger wraps for DSCN9785us of course. I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and I knew that if I converted it to a veggie friendly recipe, we’d probably enjoy it.  When I say we, I clearly don’t mean to indicate that Ryan would enjoy this.  I mean c’mon you already know that Ryan won’t even try this,  let alone enjoy it!!  Well enjoy it we did…Dan, Victoria, and I gave the recipe an “A+”   I have actually made this recipe a couple of times in the last few weeks, AND it inspired me to use my panini press to make other kinds of wraps too.  We have made breakfast wraps with eggs, cheese, and veggie sausage that were delicious.  We made burrito wraps that were really yummy too. I love when a recipe inspires me to try another variation of the original recipe, and this one did just that. I will definitely make this recipe again and again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:   For the record, worchestershire sauce is NOT veggie friendly as it contains anchovies.  So in addition to substituting a veggie friendly alternative for the beef, I also used a veggie friendly “steak sauce.”  Also, I omitted the cheese as it wasn’t necessary…these wraps are pretty yummy without it. If you love cheese, and wouldn’t dream of omitting it, by all means layer it on.☺

The third recipe was also inspired by Pinterest, but I didn’t use the recipe I found there.  I saw a recipe for “Slyders,” on Pinterest and it made me think of “White Castle.”  I don’t recall eating at “White Castle” since I was in college, but I do remember LOVING their burgers.  I became a vegetarian 16 years ago, so clearly I haven’t had one since then. DSCN8307 As soon as I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I did a “Google” search for “White Castle” copy cat recipes, and came across a ton!  After reading through most of them, I settled on this one as it sounded pretty simple, and I had all the ingredients…all the ingredients except for “Velveeta.”  I don’t use “Velveeta” as it is a super processed food, and I do try to keep the recipes I serve my family as healthy as I can.  That said, I am trying to replicate “White Castle” burgers for goodness sake, which are not exactly healthy in the first place.  So in the spirit of fun and adventure, I threw my principles out the window and bought a hunk of “Velveeta.”  I mean c’mon, sometimes you just need to live a little right???  Right.  Anyway, I bought the “Velveeta” and followed the recipe.  The result??  OMG these are AMAZING!!!  So very yummy!!!  Dan and Victoria LOVED them too.  Ryan, of course, wouldn’t even try them so he didn’t endorse the recipe, but the rest of us LOVED them.  Here is the link to the recipe I used:   In addition to using veggie friendly beef substitute, I made one other substitution.  I used “King’s Hawaiian Rolls” for the buns…YUM!

Stumbling upon the recipe for the “White Castle” burgers was pretty ironic, in that Dan and I had just rented “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”  Dan had caught a bit of it when we got a free trial of HBO through our satellite provider, and was intrigued enough to want to see the whole movie.  I never had the desire to see it, but watched it with him anyway.  It was entertaining.  Except for the part of the movie that skipped!  Damn!   BUT it worked out because as I returned the movie, I told the clerk that it skipped, and was rewarded with a free rental AND an in-store credit for another free rental.   BONUS!!  So, of course, I picked up “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.”  In my opinion, this sequel was funnier than the first movie…but it skipped too!!! Double Damn!! So guess what?  When I returned the movie, I again got another free rental to compensate.  What did we get this time?  Hall Pass.   Not sure we liked it.  I mean parts of it were pretty funny, but overall it felt contrived.  Almost like in the attempt to get the “OMG shock and awe laugh”, the Farrelly brothers went too far, and missed the normal, regular ol humor.  Anyway, all three of the movies were free, so it’s all good.  In my opinion, the best part of all 3 movies was eating the copycat burgers whilst we screened them together.  When I say “screened movies together” I obviously do not mean the kids!!  YIKES…holy inappropriateness!!!

The next recipe I made was for salt and vinegar kale chips. I LOVE LOVE LOVE kale DSCN8311chips!!!  Dan and Victoria LOVE salt and vinegar potato chips,  so I made this recipe with them in mind.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest, and knew immediately that I’d have to try it.   Instead of using the oven like the recipe indicates, I used my dehydrator.   My good friend Sheila, aka Shirley, makes kale chips in her oven, but told me that it was sometimes difficult as the kale goes from done to overdone in a matter of seconds.  So in the attempt to avoid wasting any of my precious kale, I decided to use the dehydrator instead.   The result?  Dan and Victoria gave the kale chips a “B.”  Some of the chips were too salty, and most of the balsamic vinegar dripped to the bottom tray.  So after trying this recipe, I think I can say that this recipe for kale chips is probably more suited to oven cooking versus dehydrating.  Oh well…live and learn.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

Victoria's first Halloween

Victoria’s first Halloween

The next two recipes I made were both for Victoria’s birthday party.  My sweet girl turned 13 on July 8th.  13!!!  THIRTEEN!!!  12+1=13!!!!!  Gulp…we now have an official teenager in the house!!! Holy $hit!!!  I cannot believe my Victoria…my sweet little angel, is now a teenager!  When in the hell did that happen?  Apparently this transformation took place right under my very own roof…I mean right under my nose! WTF?!?!?!? Who is this TEENAGER sleeping in my BABY’S bed?  Sleeping until 10 a.m. no less.  She looks like Victoria albeit a VERY TALL version of her.  She has HUGE feet…bigger than mine in fact.  She has completely straight teeth (I have the orthodontist’s bills to prove it), long nails that are always perfectly manicured, and cool clothes.  Long gone are the sweet LITTLE outfits that I used to pick out for her. Her cute flowery sundresses have been completely replaced by skinny jeans and sweaters from “Forever 21.”  Her sweet LITTLE shoes have been replaced with HUGE “TOMS and UGGS.”

Victoria dancing in the snow!

Victoria dancing in the snow!

Her wavy BABY hair has been replaced by LONG CURLY TRESSES that reach the middle of her back. Her once brown hair is now dip dyed red or rainbow colored by “Hot Hues.”  Her Disney Princess tiaras have been replaced by moustache earrings, neon bracelets, and music note necklaces.  Her pigtails have been replaced by a side pony.  Her alligator xylophone has been replaced with by a viola, a cello, and a violin.  Her “Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody” books have been replaced by novels like “The Hunger Games” and “The Red Pyramid” that are hundreds of pages long.  Long gone are the days of sippy cups and plastic plates.  She is too old to order off the kids menu.  She is old enough to screen PG-13 movies (provided I screen them first.) She no longer needs a car seat or even a booster.  In fact, most times she sits in the front seat so she can “man the radio.”

Victoria's Cookie Monster nails.

Victoria’s Cookie Monster nails.

We no longer have “Snow White” or “Barbie” movie marathons.  They have been replaced by “Harry Potter” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” marathons.  She no longer gets picture books from the library.  Now she puts books like “Divergent” on hold at the circulation desk.  She isn’t afraid of monsters under the bed anymore.  Now she is afraid of “Davy Jones” in the shower.  In fact, she locks the bathroom door now, and I am no longer welcome to sit on the side of the tub and chat whilst she bathes.  She no longer listens to “Strawberry Shortcake” on her portable cd player.  Now she listens to “Ariana Grande” and “Macklemore” on her iPhone whilst polishing her nails for the 100th time in 2 days. Goodbye Playskool phone…hello iPhone.

Victoria gets her ears double pierced!!

Victoria gets her ears double pierced!!

Goodbye clip on earrings…hello double pierced ears.  Goodbye to the playdates in which we went to the park and the Moms had as much fun as the kids.  Now her playdates are at “Partridge Creek Mall” and she is questioning if I really need to come with her.  AND she never lets me forget that she is eligible for drivers training in just 1 year and nine months. Where oh where has the time gone?   Sigh.

Anyway my 13 year old girl requested a rainbow theme for her party, including a 6 layer rainbow cake.  No problem.  I already had an idea in mind as she toyed with a DSCN0143rainbow cake for her 12th birthday last year.  She also requested cake balls.  I love love love cake balls, but the only time I ever made them I had a hard time as the recipe I used misled me.  To be exact it suggested I mix the frosting with the cake while the cake was cooling.  NEVER DO THIS!  You get a delicious, but really gooey and unmanageable mess.  What you need to do is wait until the cake is COMPLETELY COOLED, so the frosting doesn’t melt. This go round, I had a much easier time of it, and the cake balls came out great.  Here are the links to the recipes that I used: and   Please please please follow these guidelines of making the cake balls…  #1) Bake DSCN0120cake as directed. #2) Let the cake COOL!  Don’t mix in the frosting while HOT!  #3) I used a mixer to mix the cake and frosting. #4) Put this mixture in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 3 hours but I did it overnight and it was perfect. #5) Using your hands, roll the balls bite size and put on wax/parchment paper.  #6) Place in the freezer for an hour.  #7) Melt up whatever chocolate you prefer  8) Using a lollipop stick, pick up the balls and dip in the chocolate. NOTE: If your cake balls fall off the toothpick into the chocolate they are not frozen enough. 9) Place in refrigerator to set.

The next recipe I tried was for strawberry Nutella popsicles. Strawberries and Nutella??? Enough said…I’m in!  Originally I was just going to make strawberry popsicles.  I had a lot of strawberries left over from Victoria’s birthday party, and the guys won’t eat them.  I DSCN8454decided to make strawberries popsicles as a fun treat.  Whilst pureeing the strawberries, I got this great idea to add Nutella to the food processor.  I made a few plain strawberry popsicles (as Dan doesn’t like Nutella…what a freak 🙂 ) and to the rest of the puree I added Nutella.  These are the best popsicles I have ever made!!!  Happily they are ridiculously simple to make too.  Here is a link to a recipe   I realize that this recipe also calls for “Magic Shell”, but I did not put it on my popsicles.  That said, I did make homemade “Magic  Shell” and it will be in the next blog ☺ After the strawberries and the water were pureed, I just added a few tablespoons of Nutella and pureed again.  YUMMO!!  I’m totally going to make these again soon, but next time I am trying raspberries and pineapple.  For the record, the only popsicles left in the freezer are the plain strawberry ones…HMMMMM.

The last recipe I tried was for lemon and feta dip.  I love love love feta cheese, and eat it all the time on salads. I also add it to my spinach pies, and I top soups with it.  DSCN8341I have never made this sort of dip with it though.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest, and the consistency of the dip looked like hummus.  I LOVE hummus, so I decided to give it a shot.  I am so glad that I did, because this dip is amazing! It is seriously like a feta hummus…YUM!  Dan and I ate most of it with fresh veggies and pita chips.  I also dunked a grilled cheese in it, and it was awesome! I will definitely make this again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

It has been pretty busy over the last few weeks.  We had Victoria’s birthday and party, America’s birthday, Dan’s vacation, my niece and nephew’s sleep over, the kids playdates, and we went to the movies a few times.  Add to that the normal household and work stuff, and the days have felt pretty full.  It has been an expensive few weeks too.  Particularly on Wednesday of last week, the expenses really added up.  We had Culligan come out to fix the water softener system in the afternoon.  As soon as the tech left, the sump pump quit…AGAIN! As Dan was on his way home from getting the new sump pump, the damn car began acting up.  So on Thursday of last week, it was towed to the mechanic in town! Well, there goes any money we had planned on using for our New York trip in the fall!!  The reason I share all of this is because it doesn’t matter.  Last week we spent a ton of cash, and I’d do it again.  The juxtaposition of my financial crisis cannot hold a candle to another crisis that a local family had to deal with.  One of the teachers at the elementary school lost her son in a motorcycle accident.  He was only 20 years old.  He was her only son.  He was her youngest…the baby of the family.  He was driving to school, and he never came home.  He was wearing a helmet, and he had the right of way.  He was a good kid.  He was a smart kid.  He was a handsome kid.  And he is gone. He was killed on Thursday of last week, and I attended his funeral on Monday of this week.  I sincerely hope I never attend the funeral of another young person as long as I live.  I cannot stop thinking about his family.  Every time I start to get irritated with something, I think to myself, at least I have my family.  At least my kids are okay.  I lost my Mom three years ago, and the loss is still unbearable at times.  I cannot and do not want to imagine losing one of my kids.  So I will pay whatever I have to pay, to keep things running around here.  I will pick up yet another wet towel or swimsuit off the bathroom floor.  I will boil more noodles for Ryan even if I don’t feel like it.  I will watch the kids for the zillionth time do flips in the pool.  I will stop what I am doing, and come and view another funny picture on Instagram, because the kids tell me “…seriously Mom it’s totally worth it.” Better yet, I will chuckle even if I don’t think it’s all that funny, because THEY are totally worth it.  I will hold them longer, kiss them more than I already do, and tell them I love them a million times a day…because I can.  Thank goodness I can.♥

I hope you enjoy the recipes.  I hope you all have a happy and safe July.  xoxoxo


Ryan, Ian, Victoria, and Yvonne in the pool!


About THE cookie mama

I am not professionally trained in any way shape or form, BUT I come from a long line of really great cooks. I learned mostly by watching my parents and grandparents, and then replicating what they did. I love love love to cook and bake, and I love to share what I make with "my people."
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2 Responses to One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta, Grilled Veggie-Cheeseburger Wraps, Copy Cat “White Castle” Sliders, Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips, 6 Layer Rainbow Cake, Cake Balls, Nutella Strawberry Popsicles, and Lemon and Feta Dip…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

  1. Amy says:

    A Lovely Read, as always! 13…. Time flies-I remember sweet Victoria as a toddler princess! It sounds like you are having a great summer. Would love to catch up-call when you have a mo! Hugs and smooches. Amy

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