Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Spumoni Cookies, Savory Ricotta Cakes, Vegetarian Meatballs, Vanilla Mug Cake, Veggie Fried Rice, Tomato Pie, Vegetarian Meatloaves, and Oven Roasted Potatoes…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy February!  With all the cold weather and snow, I have been baking and cooking up a storm…I mean what else is there to do? In the last few weeks, I’ve experimented with a ton of new recipes, so let’s get started. The first new recipe I tried was for cookies.   As I am sure you know, I LOVE LOVE LOVE cookies.  They are my absolute favorite dessert. I DSCN2295have a few chocolate chip cookie recipes that I use all the time, but this recipe looked different as it had oats in the recipe.  I’ve made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies before, but this recipe was different than the one I used, so I decided to give it a try.  I am happy to report that the cookies came out great. Ryan didn’t prefer them, but the rest of us liked them a lot.  I used dark chocolate chips, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the flavor.  I usually use semi sweet chocolate chips, so the dark chocolate chips were a nice change. I’d definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for spumoni cookies.  I’m not really an ice cream person, but I do love me some spumoni.  If you are unfamiliar with spumoni, it is a molded Italian ice cream. It looks like Neapolitan ice cream in that it has three distinct layers: cherry, pistachio, and chocolate.  Heaven!!  I mean cherry, pistachio and chocolate all mixed together??  DONE! Anyway, usually some time around Christmas I get in the mood for spumoni, so I will pick some up from the grocery store.  FYI, if you like spumoni and really want toDSCN2297 indulge pick up “Alinosi’s Spumoni,” it’s the best I’ve ever eaten. When we lived on the east side, I used to get it from Nino Salvaggio’s. Alinosi’s ice cream is still individually wrapped in single serve squares…so cute.  Since I love spumoni, when I saw a recipe for spumoni cookies I knew I had to make them. I am happy to report that I love love love the mixture of flavors in these cookies, and I would definitely make them again. Ryan didn’t care for these cookies, but the rest of us LOVED them.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used :

The next recipe I tried was for savory ricotta cakes.  I had some ricotta left over, and wanted to try something new, so I selected this recipe. These tasted yummy, but I had an DSCN2298issue with the cooking time.  The original recipe indicates to bake these cakes for 30 minutes.  I increased the cooking time to about 50 minutes, and the cakes were still a bit soft.  Next time I will bake them even longer as I’d prefer a crispier ricotta cake. We dipped them in marinara sauce, and that was a really nice combination of flavors. It goes without saying that Ryan didn’t try the ricotta cakes. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for vegetarian meatballs.  I totally love spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I make veggie meatballs all the time, but I am always on the hunt for a new recipe. To date, I’ve made veggie friendly meatballs using soy crumbles, cannelloni beans, and spinach.  This recipe calls for nut meal as the DSCN2301main source of protein. I specifically purchased cashew meal from Trader Joe’s so I could make these veggie meatballs, but you can also use walnut or pecan meal.   This was a really easy recipe to execute, and the result was delicious. As with the savory ricotta cakes, we dunked these in marinara sauce, and ate them with pasta.  Dan, Victoria, and I really liked them. What did Ryan think?  Yep, you guessed it…not even a baby bite. Oh well, maybe next time I make them he’ll give them a try.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for vanilla mug cake.  Since Ryan didn’t prefer the last two desserts I made, I decided to bake a mini dessert just for him.  He absolutely loves vanilla so I wanted to DSCN2306try and make a mug cake for him.  Last year, we tried the 5 minute single serve cookie made in the microwave, and it was just okay.  Personally, I’d rather make a regular ‘ol batch of cookies, than use that recipe again.  Cake on the other hand is different.  Sometimes you just want a single piece of cake, without having to put in the time and energy it takes to bake a whole cake. Well this recipe is perfect for that.  I have wanted to try this for years, and am so glad that I finally got around to it.  The recipe was simple, and I always have the ingredients on hand.  Also, there is no egg required in this cake recipe, so it works for those that need to avoid eggs.  The best part is that you only dirty one mug, and you end up with a little cake for one in under 10 minutes.  After seeing Ryan’s mug cake, Victoria wanted to try one too.  So, I ended up making a second one for her.  For Ryan’s cake I used a few white chocolate chips as a frosting of sorts.  Victoria prefers chocolate, so I used semi sweet chocolate chips for her. The kids loved the cakes, and I would definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe is for vegetarian fried rice.  I LOVE fried rice, but what I don’t love is how much salt Chinese take out usually contains.  Also, the closest Chinese restaurant is about 25 minutes from our house so we never get Chinese take out.  If we eat fried rice in our DSCN2312house, it is because I bought a package at Trader Joe’s.  Or at least that’s how it used to be…until I found this recipe that is. It is so simple to make this fried rice, I can’t believe it took me this long to do it.  The best part was that I could control the salt, as well as all the other ingredients.  I used brown rice instead of white, Bragg liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and I added green beans and broccoli in addition to the peas and carrots.  I also used a veggie chik’n substitute, and served this rice with veggie egg rolls.  YUM!  We all loved it, except for Ryan.  I think he ate pasta that night…or any night I let him 🙂  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for tomato pie.  I have made dozens of tomato pies, but it’s been a really long time since I last made one.  To be honest, we got sick of this dish.  You know how it is…you find a new recipe that you really love, so it becomes a “go to” meal.  Well that was tomato pie in our house, especially in the summer when I have tons of tomatoes in the garden.  Dan and Victoria actually requested that I stop making tomato pie, so I did.  It’s DSCN2322been a few years since we had it for a meal, so when I mentioned that I was making one, I got a few groans.  Well that night at dinner, the groans changed into “Mmmmm’s,” as Dan and Victoria were reminded why this pie had been a staple in our house.  It really is delicious.  If you like tomatoes (or even if you don’t…Victoria isn’t a huge fan) you will  love this pie.  It is ridiculously simple to make too. I made one pie for the three of us, (of course Ryan wouldn’t try it), and there was only one piece left over after dinner.  I am happy to report that the left over piece made a great breakfast for me the next morning.  Here is the  link to the recipe that I used:

The last two recipes, I made the same night for dinner…vegetarian meatloaves withDSCN2324 roasted potatoes.  I have made roasted potatoes a bunch of times, but I always look for different flavor variations.  I’d never used this recipe before, so I decided to give it a shot. Additionally, I’ve made veggie meatloaf for years, but I always use soy crumbles.  I have mentioned in numerous past posts, that I am trying to limit how much soy we eat.  With that in mind, I decided to use this recipe as it calls for oatmeal and not soy.  The mini meatloaves DSCN2326have great flavor, and the potatoes were a nice complimentary side dish.  Dan, Victoria, and I really enjoyed this meal, and I will definitely use both recipes again.  They made for a hearty and healthy meal.  The vegetarian meatloaves recipe made quite a few mini loaves, so we were able to stretch the meal for two days. Here are the links to the recipes that I used:  and

We have been really busy over the last few weeks.  Victoria started archery which is scheduled everyIMG_4446 Friday night!  I don’t know about you, but by Friday night I am toast.  All I want on Friday night is a quick easy dinner, and then a relaxing evening with my family in our jammies. Well that is out the window for the foreseeable future.  Happily, Victoria loves her archery sessions, and shows some natural talent with her bow.  Ryan is considering archery as well, so I guess that means we are busy every Friday night.

Also last weekend, Victoria had her orchestra ensemble festival.  She had a solo at 8 a.m., and a duet at 8:40.  Well, she had to be there an hour early, and the venue was an hour from our IMG_2033house.  I’ll patiently wait whilst you do the math. ☺ Yes, that meant, we had to be there by 7 a.m., so we had to leave the house by 6 a.m., so we had to get up at 5 A.M!!!  Holy cow!!! 5 a.m. on a Saturday?!?  Yep.  Thankfully she got 1’s on her solo and on the duet, so it was totally worth the ungodly early wake up, and predawn ICY hour long drive.

Later that afternoon, we had my nephew Ian’s birthday party to attend, so it was a FULL day.  By the time we got home we were all exhausted.  The next day was Superbowl Sunday, and we just hung out at home.  Over the next few weeks, we have even more events and activities scheduled.  Despite all the hustle and bustle, I am certain I will still manage to test out a few new recipes.  I look forward to being able to share them with you.

Enjoy! ♥♥♥


Posted in Cakes, Chocolate, Cookies, Italian, Pies, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate Pudding, Arancini, Ravioli, “Butter Beer,” Broccoli Cheese Soup, Seven Layer Italian Rainbow Cookies, Dark Chocolate, Orange, and Almond Lace Cookies, Fettuccine with Roasted Tomatoes, Peas and Fresh Mozzarella, and Mini Doughnuts with Chocolate Frosting…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday with your families. Our holiday was great…and unexpectedly long.  The kids got four extra days off school due to snow and ice.  YAHOO! Luckily, with all the extra time, I was able to experiment in the kitchen a lot… so here we go!  The first recipe I tried was for chocolate pudding.  I have made chocolate pudding multiple times in the past, but I’ve only made healthy versions.  I have two different recipes in which the base of the pudding is made from avocados and dates.  This time, however, I wanted to make a traditional chocolate pudding, so I needed a new recipe. DSCN2118Additionally, I had a TON of egg yolks left over from Christmas baking as a few of my recipes only required egg whites. I searched online, and happened upon Martha Stewart’s recipe for chocolate or vanilla pudding, so I decided to give it a shot.  WOW! I am sooo glad that I did because it is the best chocolate pudding I have ever eaten.  My family LOVED it too.  It was very simple to make, and it was amazing warm or cold.  The only drawback is that this pudding recipe isn’t as healthy as my other pudding recipes.  Oh well…every now and then, it would be a nice treat. I would definitely make this pudding again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next two recipes I tried were for homemade ravioli, and homemade arancini.   I love love love arancini, and I’ve always wanted to make ravioli from scratch, so I decided to  make them both the same evening and enjoy an Italian food fest! If you are unfamiliar with arancini, they are Italian rice balls, usually served as an appetizer.  I fell in love with arancini, back in the mid 90’s.  Dan and I were newly married, and living in our apartment in Sterling Heights.  There was a restaurant not too far from where we lived called “Tony Pepperoni’s,” and one night we went there for dinner.  I’d never eaten arancini before so we decided to try it out.  YUM!  We were hooked from the first bite! “Tony Pepperoni’s” eventually became “Benedetto’s,” and we’d occasionally go to IMG_1826 (2)Benedetto’s for dinner, just to get the arancini.  After we moved out to the sticks, we stopped going to Benedetto’s as it is about an hour away from our house.  The distance that separated us from those yummy rice balls, prompted me to research the recipe so I could make them at home.  I’ve made them over the years and we enjoy them, but it’s a very time consuming process.  Traditionally, arancini starts as risotto.  Now, I do love me some risotto, but I don’t always love how long it takes to make. Risotto is a simple dish, but it requires a minimum of 20 minutes to make it appropriately.  Most of that 20 minutes is spent stirring the risotto as you gradually add broth to the rice.  I don’t usually mind that task, but since I was also making ravioli from scratch, I wanted to quicken the pace a bit. I found a recipe on Pinterest in which you utilize regular left over rice in place of the risotto, so I decided to give it a try.  The result??


I am totally smitten with these rice balls, and plan to make them all the time.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  For the record, I didn’t try the sauce as I already had my own homemade sauce ready to go.  Also, I substituted asiago instead of fresh mozzarella…YUM!

Next, I made ravioli.  As I mentioned above, I’ve always wanted to try and make ravioli from scratch, but it is a time consuming process.  Since I had nothing but time, I decided to roll up my sleeves and go for it.  The result was a mixed bag.  Let me explain.  Although I did enjoy the process of making the dough, I don’t have a pasta maker.  Well, let me rephrase, I do have an DSCN2112electric pasta maker, but it doesn’t make sheets of pasta.  I can make all different sorts of noodles, but not sheets of pasta like for making lasagna or ravioli.  Since I don’t own that sort of pasta maker, I had to roll the dough by hand.  The problem was that I couldn’t get the dough thin enough to make good ravioli.  I have been assured by my good friend and avid ravioli maker, Dean Overholt, that if I get the right attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer, I will be able to make perfect ravioli.  Well I’ve added the attachment to my “kitchen wish list” so we will see.  Anyway, I got frustrated with the dough, so Dan stepped in and finished the ravioli.  In the end, the ravioli tasted really good, but the dough was way too thick in my opinion. Until I get that pasta maker attachment, I’ll have to stick with store bought ravioli.  Even though the result was somewhat disappointing, it was fun to spend time in the kitchen with my handsome husband. Here is the link to the recipe that we used:

The next recipe I tried was for “butter beer.”  If you have read the books, or seen the DSCN2264“Harry Potter” movies, you will be familiar with this reference.  If you haven’t, suffice to say it’s a beverage that the characters like to drink. Victoria and Ryan are total “Potterheads,” so as a treat I decided to make this for them.  I personally thought the butter beer was WAY too sweet, but the kids really liked it.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  Fun fact.  This drink is on the Starbuck’s “secret menu,” so next time you are there, pick one up.☺

DSCN2279The next recipe I tried was for broccoli cheese soup. I love love love broccoli soup, and I love to make soup when it’s cold outside.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, and decided to try it out.  I am super glad that I did, because it was really good.  Dan and I loved it!  Victoria doesn’t like broccoli, and Ryan doesn’t like any sort of soup so they didn’t try it.  Fortunately this recipe doesn’t yield a ton of soup, so it was just right for Dan and I for dinner.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for seven layer Italian rainbow cookies.  They are called seven layer cookies as there are three layers of cookie (green, white, and pink), two layers of chocolate (top and bottom), and two layers of apricot preserves (between the cookie layers)…heaven!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE these cookies, and have for as long as I can remember.  I buy a little package of them every time I am at Nino Salvaggio’s, or an Italian bakery.  Fun fact: if you have ever seen the movie “She-Devil” (a movie that I love, but that Dan hates) these cookies are in the box of bakery delights that “Ruth Patchett” aka “Vesta Rose” (played by Roseanne Barr) offers to her co-worker DSCN2270“Hooper” (played by Linda Hunt.) Anyway, I have wanted to make these cookies FOREVER, but they take two days to complete.  Since I had extra time whilst the kids were off school, I decided to give it a shot.  HOLY COW!  These cookies are totally amazing, AND totally worth the effort!!! They got rave reviews from everyone…everyone except Ryan.  Yep you guessed it, he didn’t care for them.  SIGH…oh well, more for me! I will absolutely make these cookies again. Here’s the link to the recipe that I used: Next time I am going to experiment a bit though.  For instance I am going to add a bit more almond extract as I felt the cookies weren’t “almondy” enough.  Also, I want to try different flavors of fruit preserves…I am thinking raspberry or cherry…YUM.

My next recipe was for dark chocolate, almond, and orange lace cookies. Apparently, it’s a copycat recipe for cookies sold at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never actually seen them at the store, but when I’m at TJ’s, I’m not shopping for cookies. ☺ I have seen cookies that look similar to these cookies at a bakery, and there were called “florentines.”  Anyway, I found this recipe on Pinterest, and was immediately intrigued. These cookies look totally different than the cookies I usually make, so I decided to test the recipe. As a side note, I have been baking cookies like nobody’s business lately.  In the last three weeks, I have made four different varieties of cookies. I am not certain why I have baked so many cookies lately, but hey I DSCN2278am not getting any complaints.  I am seriously thinking of making more cookies this weekend…stay tuned! ☺ Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a shot, and I am glad that I did.  This cookie received great reviews, and I got requests for more. It’s not a cookie I’d make all the time, but I’d make it again for sure.  I actually have another “lace cookie” recipe that I want to try, so I’ll probably try that one before making this one again.  Here’s a shocker…are you ready???  Ryan didn’t like these cookies either.  He did try them though, and told me that they tasted like “Fruit Loops.”  I liked these cookies as they were both crispy and chewy.  I enjoyed the flavor, and I love the way they look. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for whole wheat fettuccine with roasted tomatoes, peas and fresh mozzarella.  I saw this recipe on an episode of “Giada at Home,” and knew immediately that I’d have to try it. I didn’t use whole wheat fettucine as my family doesn’t like thick DSCN2283noodles that are whole wheat or multi grain. That said, in my opinion, this dish requires a heartier noodle.  I mean angel hair or spaghetti simply would not do, so I chose regular fettucine noodles.  I am so happy that I tried this recipe because it was totally delicious. It was hearty, healthy, and just perfect for a cold winter’s night.  I will absolutely, positively, make this fettucine again.  Ryan wouldn’t try it of course, but Dan, Victoria, and I loved it.  Here is the link to Giada’s recipe:

The last recipe was a request from Ryan.  He said he was “in the mood” for cinnamon sugar doughnuts, and politely requested that I make him some.  Well of course I couldn’t refuse his sweet face, so I decided to make some doughnuts for my boy.  I’d recently gotten a mini doughnut pan that I hadn’t used yet, so Ryan’s request came at a perfect time. I could try DSCN2285out my new mini doughnut pan, and a new recipe at the same time.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, and I found the pan at Meijer. I’ve made doughnuts multiple times in the past, and I always bake them as I don’t own a deep fryer.  I love my doughnut pans, and even though I don’t use them a lot, I am glad that they are in the cupboard waiting for a request like Ryan’s.  I am happy to report that the mini doughnuts came out great.  I did half the batch cinnamon sugar, and the other half plain with chocolate frosting.  Ryan liked them, but he didn’t love them. Unfortunately he still prefers “Tim Horton’s.”  Victoria and I liked both of the doughnuts, but Dan LOVED them. He jokingly cursed me, because he couldn’t stop eating them.  I will definitely make these doughnuts again, but next time I want to try chocolate doughnuts with chocolate frosting. YUM! Here is the link to the recipe that I used:   Also, if you haven’t ever made frosting at home before, try this recipe.  I promise after making and eating this frosting, you will never buy a tub of store bought frosting ever again!!!

I loved being able to try all the new recipes…most of them were keepers.  I hope you all have a great January full of wintry fun, lots of family time, and of course really great food! Thanks for reading.  Enjoy! ♥♥♥


Victoria and Ryan making a snowman

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Chocolate, Cookies, Italian, Savory, Soup, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marshmallow Brownie Cupcakes, Vegan Pad Thai With Sweet and Sour Veggie Chik’n, Copy Cat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup, Sprinkle Cookies, Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate Fudge, Spritz Cookies, and Candy Cane Biscotti…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy December! The last few weeks have been super busy.  I swear right after Halloween, someone hits the fast forward button, and the rest of the year flies right by.  I have been fortunate enough to test a few new recipes a midst the craziness, so here we go. The first new recipe was for marshmallow brownie cupcakes.  O.M.G.  These brownie cupcakes are amazing!!  Let me start by saying that marshmallows are NOT veggieDSCN1474 friendly as they contain gelatin.  If you aren’t sure how gelatin is made, please stop reading and “Google” it immediately…ICK!  I know what gelatin is, so right off the bat I knew I’d have to substitute. I realize that some things contain gelatin, and we cannot avoid them (think antibiotics that are in a capsule form, OTC pills, and some vitamins). I’ve made my peace with it when  absolutely necessary, but readily avoid it as much as humanly possible.  Happily there is a such a thing as vegan marshmallows.  That said, they don’t really melt up the same as regular marshmallows, so I used marshmallow fluff, which fortunately is veggie friendly. I made these brownie cupcakes on a whim, and they got rave reviews!!  They are fudgy in the middle, and the marshmallow fluff on top gets toasted and crispy…YUMMO!! I would definitely make these again!!  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next two recipes combined equaled a really yummy dinner.  I came across two separate recipes for Asian dishes on Pinterest, and knew immediately that I would DSCN1479combine them into one delicious dinner.  I am happy to report that I did and it was super good.   I will definitely add this to the regular dinner rotation as we loved it.  Of course, Ryan didn’t try it, but the rest of us enjoyed dinner immensely. I was totally craving Pad Thai, and these recipes satisfied that craving.  Here are the links to the recipes that I combined:   and  I did make a few substitutions.  First I didn’t have the type of vegan chicken that the first recipe called for, so I substituted some Quorn naked cutlets.  Also, I don’t use soy sauce, so I substituted with Bragg liquid amino as an alternative. Next, I didn’t bread the chik’n like the second recipe recommended.  Last, after the first batch, I ran out of rice noodles so we substituted regular spaghetti.

The next recipe was for minestrone soup.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE soup, and I LOVE to make it in the cold months. Soup is so comforting and warm, and I feel cozy when making and eating it. I really wish Ryan liked soup, but alas this is another dish he won’t even try.


Anyway, the rest of us liked it.  I LOVE minestrone soup, but wanted to try a differentDSCN1484 recipe, so I selected a copy cat recipe of Olive Garden’s minestrone soup that I saw on Pinterest.  I am happy to report that the soup  is delicious.  If I am being totally honest, it’s not as good as my other minestrone recipe (a copy cat recipe of Lelli’s minestone), but it is still pretty good. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

WARNING: The rest of this post contains pictures and recipes for delicious and decadent desserts.  I have been informed that the pictures cause intense cravings for cookies and chocolate.

The rest of this post may also include…oh I don’t know…an edible cookie plate and candy dish.


Yep.   True story.

You’ve been warned. Continue reading at your own risk! ☺

The first yummy treat I made was sprinkle sugar cookies.  As a kid I LOVED sprinkles. I used to put them on ice cream, and all the goodies that I made with my Easy Bake Oven. Flash forward to current day, and my kids LOVE sprinkles like I used to when I was a kid. DSCN1531So in that spirit, I decided to pay homage to that little ice cream sundae condiment, and make a cookie that featured them.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, and decided to give it a whirl. The cookies came out great, but mine didn’t puff up like the ones in the picture. There were really yummy, and everyone ate them up in a hurry, but they were not as puffy as I’d hoped. I am glad that I tried this recipe, but I don’t know that I’d  add them to my regular rotation.  If someone requested a sugar cookie, I’d definitely consider this recipe, but this isn’t a cookie that I will crave and HAVE to make again. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next yummy treat was homemade fudgy brownies.  I got this recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I hadn’t ever tried this brownie recipe before, so I was eager to give it a try.  The result?


I’ve had better brownies. I’ve made better  brownies before. I was really surprised thatDSCN1535 these didn’t turn out better, but I don’t think I did anything wrong.  I reread the recipe multiple times, and the only thing I can come up with is that they should have baked longer. My brownies kind of sank in the middle, so I am guessing they needed more time in the oven. If I try this recipe again, I would add 10 minutes to the total baking time.  Going forward, if I am going to make brownies, I’d probably use another recipe. That said, these brownies were gone in less than 24 hours. Poor Ryan was too full from dinner to have one for dessert, and by the time he wanted one (the next night after dinner) they were gone!   Poor baby.  Next time, I will make sure I set aside a brownie or 3 just for him. ☺ Here is the link to the recipe that I used:   FYI…I didn’t frost the brownies when I made them.

Since Ryan didn’t get to enjoy a brownie, I decided to make fudge.  I was planning to make my annual goodie bags for the elementary office for Christmas anyway, and the goodie bags always include fudge.  Since Ryan didn’t get his chocolate fix the day before, I decided DSCN1621to make, and then deliver the goodie bags early.  I have used the same fudge recipe for as long as I can remember.  I copied it off the side of a jar of marshmallow fluff back when Dan and I were first married.  Dan LOVES this recipe, and you don’t fix something that isn’t broke, so I’ve never tried a different chocolate fudge recipe.  Actually, I take that back. Once, when we lived in our old house, I tried a different fudge recipe, and it was awful.  I remember that it was really gritty, and we didn’t care for it.  Since then when I make fudge,  I always use this recipe:    Anyway, my Ryan has been requesting fudge for about a month, but I kept putting him off, knowing I was going to make fudge at Christmastime.  When he requested it on Sunday, I couldn’t resist his adorable face, so I decided to make my Christmas treats for the office a few days early.  This fudge is amazing and my family LOVES it.

The next recipe I tried was for spritz cookies.  Okay so I have eaten these cookies my DSCN1609whole life, but I’d never made them until now.  I actually own a manual cookie press that I bought back in the day at a Pampered Chef party.  Oddly, I’ve never used it for cookies.  I remember the Pampered Chef demonstrator using it to make deviled eggs and fancy mashed potatoes, and I was smitten.  Anyway, I still have that cookie press somewhere, but for these cookies, I actually used an electric press. I bought it the first summer in this house.  I remember the purchase, because I bought it from a hardware store that was going out of business.  The store is gone now…completely gone…torn down, but the cookie press is alive and well, and residing comfortably in my kitchen. I’ve had the press for eight years, and until Sunday, hadn’t even opened the box!  Well eight years is long enough, and that cookie press needed to earn her rightful spot in my kitchen cabinet.  Well earn it she did.  It took me a bit to get used to the press.  Okay so truth be told, it took Dan to use it and show me how.  I tend to have a short fuse when it comes to using new appliances, or any other sort of new “technology,” so Dan helped.  I had a hard time putting the press together, but once Dan “engineered” it for me I was good to go. Even after he put it together the right way though, it would only work when he stood at the counter and watched me. The minute he’d walk away, I’d begin having problems.  This little spectacle was extremely amusing to my daughter and her friend that was visiting for the day.  Honestly, the only reason I didn’t drop a few “F bombs” was because there was an underage visitor in the house.☺  Anyway, the cookies came out great.  I used two different discs to make the cookies.  I used the tree disc, and dyed a portion of the dough green to look like Christmas trees.  I also used the sparkler disc as it reminded me of a poinsettia.  I added a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to the remaining dough to make it chocolatey, and added a few chocolate chips in the center. I would definitely make these cookies again.  They really tasted good and my family loved them.  The tree cookies went first so I’d say that they preferred that dough to the dough that I added cocoa to. Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

The next two treats I made serve two purposes.  First, they hold food as one is a plate and one is a bowl.  That said they are both edible!!!  Yep, I made an edible cookie plate, and an DSCN1605edible candy dish!!!  So you can serve food on or in them, and then if you are so inclined you can actually eat your plate!  I saw this on Pinterest a few months ago, but just recently got around to purchasing the candy required. They are super simple to make, and I absolutely LOVE them.  Next year, I may make enough to gift them, but this year, I only made a couple. Here is a link to how to make this festive and yummy plate:  In DSCN1594addition to the plate, I made a bowl.  I followed the same procedure, but whilst the mints were still hot and pliable, I inverted the plate over a small bowl and molded it.  BE CAREFUL…I did burn my fingers the first time. My oven only took 7 minutes, so I’d watch the time closely if you attempt these.

The last treat that I made was candy cane biscotti.  I usually make peppermint bark to go with my fudge at Christmastime, but this year I decided to change it up.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE biscotti, but I’ve only ever used two recipes.  Well that changed on Sunday when I made this biscotti recipe. I am happy to report that it is delicious, and I totally LOVE it. Even Dan who doesn’t care for biscotti thought it was good.  The recipe is super simple, and I will definitely make it again. Here is a link to the recipe that I used: I madeDSCN1620 one change to the recipe.  I divided the batch in half and dipped half in melted white chocolate.  The other half I dipped in melted dark chocolate.  YUM!

Sunday was a marathon baking day for me. I began on Sunday afternoon, and I finished about 10:30 p.m.  I made the edible plate and bowl,  the fudge, the spritz cookies, the biscotti as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner for my family. The Lions weren’t playing so what the heck…why not spend a day in the kitchen.  Ryan had a birthday to go to, and Victoria  had a friend over, so the kids were occupied.  Dan was also occupied installing, and then using his early birthday present…an Everlast heavy bag. He has wanted one since he was a kid, and we got it for him on Saturday.  We had breakfast with DSCN1611Santa at TRW(where Dan works), and then we had some errands and shopping to do.  Part of the shopping was a stop at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  We all needed running shoes…okay so I don’t use mine for running, but the rest of the family does.☺ Even Victoria has been recently bitten by the running bug.  Anyway, whilst we were there, we got Dan the heavy bag.  I still think the juxtaposition of our activities on Sunday is hysterical. Picture this…Dan is in the basement installing and then kicking the crap out of his new heavy bag…looking very “Rocky-esque.”  Meanwhile, I am in the kitchen making dozens of cookies and edible plates…looking very Mrs. Claus!  It totally cracks me up.

With the Christmas holiday next week, I have totally kicked into high gear.  In the last week, I have completed all the Christmas shopping, shopping for Dan’s birthday, the Christmas cards, most of the food shopping for Christmas eve (we host for the family), and baked and delivered all the office staff goodie bags.  We’ve had several Christmas movie nights, the kids went sledding, and then completed all their “snowman soup” for passing out to friends, and all the teacher gifts are delivered.  Now I will literally white knuckle it until December 26th that we make it through the holiday untouched by sickness.  I realize that’s a tall order, but that’s my Christmas wish.  Speaking of Christmas wishes, I saw this post on Facebook and it said, “I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets smaller, and things you really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”  I agree one hundred percent, because this year I don’t really want anything you can buy in a store or on line.  My Christmas list is very different this year.  My “wish list” includes: good health for myself and all “my people,” peace and solace for every troubled soul, rest and comfort for every hardworking individual, and freedom and equal treatment for everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or age. I wish ALL people would speak kinder, hug longer, smile more, and really count their blessings.  Most of all, I wish heaven had a phone line so we could all speak to our loved ones that are celebrating Christmas in heaven.  I know this is unrealistic, but Christmas is a time of hope, and that is mine.  I wish you all a very merry holiday season, and a happy, healthy 2014.  Cheers! ♥♥


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Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Angel Kisses Cookies, Homemade Tomato Soup, Homemade Vegetarian Meatballs, Pumpkin Pie Fudge, Homemade Stuffing, Homemade Vegetarian Gravy, and Homemade Pancakes …made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy day after Thanksgiving!  I hope you all had a great day filled with happiness, family, and really yummy food.  We sure did.  Leading up to Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough DSCN1357to experiment with a few recipes.  Most of them were dessert recipes, but I was also able to try out a few savory recipes. Let’s get right to it.  The first recipe was for chocolate hazelnut brownies.  I saw this recipe on an old episode of “Everyday Italian,” and knew immediately that I had to try it. We LOVE LOVE LOVE brownies in our house, and I knew my family would enjoy this one. Well enjoy it we did, and I would definitely make these again.  Even Ryan liked them, and that is really saying something.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

The next few recipes were for my favorite dessert ever…cookies.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE cookies, and I have loved them since I was a kid.  To this day, my favorite dessert in theDSCN1374 whole world is a homemade chocolate chip cookie. I LOVE to bake cookies as well.  It was in that spirit that I made the following cookie recipes.  The first recipe was for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I have made these before, but it’s been a few years.  I love to utilize pumpkin, especially this time of year, so I was excited to make these cookies.  I am happy to report that they came out great again.  Ryan doesn’t care for them, but Victoria and Dan LOVE them. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

DSCN1375The next cookie recipe was for “angel kisses.” I have made these once before but it was a long long time ago.  At the time I originally made them, we only gave them a B, but I really wanted to try them again.  This time, we gave them an A.  I am not sure what was different this time, but we really enjoyed them.  Ryan didn’t like them, but the rest of us did.  Angel kisses are a meringue cookie, and I am happy to report that they are delicious.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for homemade tomato soup.  I LOVE soup…especially tomato soup. DSCN1378Victoria loves tomato soup too.  What I don’t love is all the sodium that is inherent in canned soup, so I decided to make some from scratch.  The resulting soup is amazing, and I won’t ever purchase canned tomato soup again.  This soup was a snap to make and tastes even better than store bought tomato soup. Victoria and Dan loved it, and agreed that we should always use this soup recipe when we eat tomato soup.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:   My version of this soup, has even lower sodium content than the recipe in the link, as the bouillon cubes that I use are “no sodium added” cubes.

The next recipe was for vegetarian meatballs.   I love love love veggie meatballs, and was inspired to make this recipe after watching an episode of “My Grandmother’s Ravioli.”  It is my all time favorite cooking show.  On the show, the host Mo Rocca, cooks with various DSCN1383grandmothers and grandfathers around the country.  The back story is that he LOVED his grandmother’s ravioli and her cooking, but unfortunately never learned to cook.  So he travels around the country, and visits with other grandparents and learns to cook their favorite recipes.  It’s great!  If you are interested, here is a link to info about the show:   Anyway, in a recent episode Mo cooks with a couple that are vegetarians, and they make meatballs…veggie meatballs.  They use pecan meal to make the meatballs, and that inspired me to research alternatives to using soy to make veggie friendly meatballs.  I found a ton of recipes that sounded good, but decided to start my experimentation with this one.  The meatballs do not have the same consistency as a regular ‘ol meatball, but they were good.  Victoria didn’t prefer them, and Ryan wouldn’t even try them, but Dan and I liked them.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:  I would definitely make these again.

The next recipe was for pumpkin pie fudge.  I have made this fudge in the past, DSCN1393but it has been at least 6 years since I made it last.  I thought it would be a fun dessert to share with the elementary office staff, and because it was made with pumpkin, it was perfect for Thanksgiving week.  If you like the flavors of pumpkin pie, you will like this fudge.  It really tastes like a piece of pumpkin pie, minus the crust.  Ryan of course didn’t like this because he doesn’t like pumpkin pie. Victoria doesn’t like pumpkin pie either, but thought the fudge was okay.  Dan and I LOVE pumpkin pie, so we thought the fudge was great. Here is a link to the recipe that I used:


My thanksgiving dinner plate

The next two recipes were for our annual vegetarian Thanksgiving feast.  Every year, I prepare a veggie friendly feast for our house.  We go to my Aunt Pat’s every year for Thanksgiving dinner, so I don’t technically need to cook for Thanksgiving day. Despite not being responsible for Thanksgiving dinner, I cook anyway as we LOVE to eat Thanksgiving left overs.  Every year I make a turk’y roast manufactured in the United Kingdom by a company called Quorn.  I also make all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes…veggie friendly side dishes of course.  This year on our Thanksgiving table there was: turk’y roast, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn, homemade stuffing, homemade gravy, rolls,  pasta (for Ryan), and a chocolate pie for dessert. The homemade gravy and stuffing DSCN1406were new recipes for me…here’s the story.  As vegetarians we don’t eat gravy a lot, but for those few recipes I make that require it, I’ve always used Kroger’s fat free brown gravy.  I used it because it was veggie friendly (since it was fat free, there was no rendered beef  in the gravy, so it was veggie friendly).  Well flash forward to this November, and Kroger no longer carries it!!  I have tried a few mushroom gravies in the past, but I DO NOT LIKE them…yuck! So I had to flex my culinary muscles and use a homemade recipe instead.  Well  I am soooo glad that I did, because this recipe is delicious!! As an added bonus, I used all organic ingredients, and my gravy contains a TON less salt, and questionable ingredients than the store bought kind I used to use. I will definitely make this gravy again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  I made a substitution to the recipe.  I don’t use soy sauce, I use Bragg liquid amino as a soy sauce substitute.  You can purchase Bragg liquid amino at Whole Foods, or on-line.

The next Thanksgiving recipe was for stuffing.  Until this year, I’ve always used a stuffing mix from the store.  Well this year, I wanted to make a stuffing from scratch, and I did DSCN1402using my new Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Okay…side story. I have wanted this cookbook for years.  I am still uncertain as to why I didn’t register for it when Dan and I got married, but I didn’t.  Over the years, I have looked at it many times whilst in a bookstore, but couldn’t convince myself to spend 30 bucks on a cookbook that included so many recipes that were unusable to me as a vegetarian.  That said, I still loved and wanted the book as it is so iconic to me. It was the cookbook that my parents used when I was growing up.  It’s the cookbook that I used anytime I baked cookies when I was young, and living at home with my parents. It’s the cookbook that I’ve seen countless “brides-to-be” receive at their showers.  It’s the cookbook that has been in publication since 1968, and is still one of the most popular cookbooks in our country.  Well just last month I was at the library, and I was perusing the used book sale cart when I saw a cookbook…THE cookbook. I immediately snatched it off the cart, and began searching it for damage.  I found none.  It looks brand new,  almost as if it’s never been used.  I took it to the counter and paid…wait for it…a whole dollar!!!!! OMG a dollar for this cookbook that I have wanted for years!!! SCORE!!!  I was so excited that as soon as I got home, I began perusing the recipes that I wanted to try. Well one of the first that I selected was the old fashioned bread stuffing recipe.  I decided I’d try it for Thanksgiving this year, and I am glad that I did…it was amazing!  After tasting this recipe, I will never buy dry stuffing mix, or pre-cubed bread again. This was so easy to make, and it was delicious to eat!  Ryan doesn’t like stuffing, but Dan, Victoria, and I LOVED it.  The cookbook was totally worth the dollar even if only for this recipe. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  As another side story, I was at the library this past Tuesday, and was again perusing the used book sale cart, and scored two more cookbooks: Pillsbury’s The Complete Book of Baking, and The Kitchen Garden both for $1.00!!!  I am in cookbook heaven…stay tuned for recipes courtesy of Pillsbury…Hoo hoo (that was supposed to be the Pillsbury dough boy giggling☺)

The last recipe was for homemade pancakes.  Okay, so I have always used Bisquick or Krusteaz baking mix to make pancakes and the like, but wanted to try to make my own. So DSCN1414I searched the internet for a recipe and came across this one.  I had all the items in my pantry so I decided to give it a shot.  I am happy to report that the pancakes were amazing!!! Ryan was the person who requested pancakes for breakfast yesterday, and I am happy to report that he LOVED them.  In fact he told me, and I quote “…oh my God…Mom…your pancakes gave me chills…they are so good…”  Well that’s good enough for me.  I will definitely never buy a baking mix again, as this is now my “go to” pancake and waffle mix recipe. Here is a link to DSCN1417the mix recipe that I used:  I made one substitution to the recipe.  When mixing the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients to make the pancakes, I added about a tablespoon of vanilla to the batter…YUM

If there was a theme to this entry is was definitely “homemade” or “from scratch.” Five of the recipes that I shared were recipes in which I had previously relied on store bought products/ingredients.  I would love to make everything from scratch, but realistically that isn’t possible.  So, I am attempting to make as much as I humanly can from scratch as I LOVE that I can then control the ingredients, and  know exactly what my family is eating.  I have heard it said that if “…your Grandmother didn’t recognize the item as food, you probably shouldn’t eat it,” and I am trying to adhere to that sentiment.  In doing so, I am making more and more from scratch, and honestly I LOVE it. I don’t mind the extra work and time it requires in the kitchen, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE to be in the kitchen creating a meal that is filled with wholesome ingredients for my family. If I had to pick just one ingredient that is my absolute favorite, I would have to choose love.  I add it to all my recipes, and it’s always available in my kitchen.  The best thing is that love never expires…it is easily replenished, and it always…always… makes food taste better.  Enjoy! ♥♥


Thanksgiving ~2013

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Chocolate Ricotta Muffins, Brown Butter Pear Crisp, Chocolate Coconut Cream Cake, Candy Corn Cupcakes, Ricotta Cookies, Sweet Potato Pie, Creamed Spinach, and Mini Vegetarian Meat Loaves…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy November!! I hope you all are enjoying this lead up to the holiday season.  I am totally not ready for Christmas, but the kids sure are.  Victoria tells me almost everyday how many days are left until Christmas…ahhhhhhhh!  I prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving to start getting excited about Christmas, so much to Victoria’s chagrin, I still have some time left.  The last few weeks have been pretty busy, but I have managed to experiment with some recipes, so let’s get right to it.

DSCN0944The first recipe is for chocolate ricotta muffins.  I came across the recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  I love muffins, and I love chocolate, so as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I’d have to make it.  I don’t routinely have ricotta cheese in the fridge, so I had to pick some up especially.  I am glad I did, because these muffins were really good.  I don’t use ricotta that much in sweet recipes, so I’m always a bit concerned that unless I am really sweetening the ricotta up, that you’ll be able to taste the cheese.   Happily, these muffins are dense and chocolatey, and don’t taste at all cheesy. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe was for a brown butter pear crisp.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a TON of DSCN0948pears, thanks to the annual “Pears Gone Wild” party that Jim and Kim host.  The hard part about having so many pears, is that they all tend to ripen at the same time.  With that in mind, I decided on this recipe because it requires a lot of pears… 6 cups of pears to be exact. I actually made two pear crisps (one for the elementary office and one for home), so I needed 12 cups of pears.  This recipe is simple, and I had all the ingredients.  I will definitely make it again, because it is DELICIOUS!!!  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  The only substitution I made was that I used a baking dish instead of a cast iron pan.

The next recipe I experimented with was for chocolate coconut cream cake.  I made it for DSCN0976my sister Amy’s birthday.  Amy loves all things coconut, and her birthday was coming up, so I decided to make her a cake.  This is a pretty simple recipe too, and I had most of the ingredients in the pantry.  The only ingredient that I had to buy especially for the recipe was cream of coconut.  Honestly, I’d never heard of cream of coconut before.  I’d used coconut milk and coconut extract, in recipes before, but never cream of coconut.  I needed to go to Trader Joe’s anyway so whist there, I picked up a can.  I am happy to report that this cake is AMAZING!!!  Amy loved it, and requested it be served at all parties from here to infinity.  The cake is chocolatey and full of yummy coconut flavor, thanks to that cream of coconut.  The icing is simple, just some “Cool Whip” sprinkled with toasted coconut.  YUM!!! I will definitely make this again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe I experimented with was for candy corn cupcakes.  DSCN1001I LOVE candy corn, and every year I buy a few bags of “Brach’s Autumn Mix” which contains candy corn, Indian corn, and pumpkins…YUM.  When I was growing up, my Grandma Ann always had candy corn at her house, and she called it “witch’s teeth.”  I remember liking it, but being a little concerned about the name. ☺  I only buy candy corn in the fall, but every time I eat it, I think of her.  Anyway, this year I decided to make candy corn cupcakes on Wednesday October 30th as it was “national candy corn day.” It also worked out great because the next day was Halloween, and I was sure the elementary office would be flooded with treats.  So as a special “calm before the Halloween storm,”  I took the cupcakes to the office on Wednesday.  I am happy to report that they came out great.  They tasted good, and looked even better.  I LOVE the striped cupcake that mimics the look of candy corn.  I have only done striped cakes and cupcakes a few times before, but I always love the way the finished treat looks.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe I made was ricotta cheese cookies.  This recipe was part of my first blog “Cookie of the Week.”  If you are interested you can read that entry here:  Anyway, I had some ricotta left over from making the chocolate muffins, so I decided to use it up by DSCN1251making these cookies again.  They are soooooo good.  The ricotta cheese makes the cookies soft, and happily the cookies do not taste cheesy at all.   Here is the link to the recipe that I used:   These cookies remind me of my Aunt Rose’s Italian cookies that I also wrote about in the above mentioned blog.  I LOVE her Italian cookies so I was happy to make these again.  Since I only had about 8 ounces of ricotta left, I cut the recipe in half.  It made just over 2 dozen cookies. The original recipe makes a TON of cookies, so if you don’t want a TON of them in your house, just halve the recipe like I did. ☺

The next recipe I tried was sweet potato pie. I’ve only had sweet potato pie once in my lifeDSCN1332 and it was years ago.  A coworker made it for an office Christmas party, and I loved it.  I decided to make this pie for dessert for gingerbread day. For those of you unfamiliar with gingerbread day or g-day for short, I will explain. Nine years ago, my good friend Connie and I decided that in lieu of exchanging gifts for the kids, we’d get together to make gingerbread houses to kick off the holiday season. We take turns hosting the event every year, and this year g-day was at my house.  As the hostess you are responsible for dinner, assembling the gingerbread houses, and making the royal icing. As a guest, you are responsible for bringing the decorations, aka the candy and all the yummies used on the gingerbread houses.  At the DSCN1311time we started this tradition the kids were little.  The oldest (Connie’s daughter Sarah) was only 6, and the youngest (my son Ryan) was only a year old.  Sarah and Ryan are now 15 and 10 respectively.  A few years ago, we recorded the kids promising that they would never be “too old or too cool” to participate in g-day.  Now that the girls are actual teenagers, and infinitely cooler than when they swore that oath, I am happy to report that we don’t need the video evidence.  The kids love g-day just as much now as they did when we started…p.s. the boys love it too.  Anyway, this year I decided to have a Mex-fest for dinner.  I made taco soup, salsa (for dipping chips and veggies), and quesadillas…pronounced “kay-sah-dill-ahs.” Yes, if you said it the right way, I’d correct you and make you pronounce it as stated above. DSCN1329 Why?  Just because it cracks me up to say it wrong. ☺ In addition to the Mex-fest, I decided to make a sweet potato pie.  First,  it was gluten free  (Connie is trying to eliminate gluten as much as possible…I also used a gluten free crust), and it was also a new recipe that I wanted to try.  The pie came out great, and I would totally make it again.  Here is a link to a recipe that is similar:  To make the pie the exact way I did, eliminate the cinnamon, and add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.  Also, eliminate the butter and the milk, and add 1 cup of evaporated milk.  Lastly, cut the sugar to 3/4 cup.  I topped the pie with a little whipped cream.  YUM.

The last two recipes creamed spinach and mini vegetarian meat loaves, I made last nightDSCN1352 for dinner. The mini veggie friendly meat loaves I have been making for years, it’s just been a while since I made them last.  The creamed spinach was a new recipe for me.  I LOVE spinach.  I LOVE going to a restaurant, and ordering spinach dip too.  What I don’t LOVE is how much salt and fat are usually in a creamed spinach, or spinach dip you get at a restaurant.  This spinach recipe has very little fat and almost no salt, so it was totally guilt free.  As an added bonus, it’s a really simple recipe too.  The mini meat loaves are simple as well.  I love that DSCN1356you make them in muffin tins so they are perfect for a light dinner, or even a quick snack.  Ryan of course doesn’t eat either of these dishes, but the rest of us LOVE them.  Since Ry doesn’t partake,  and the recipe for the mini loaves makes a dozen, each of us gets 4 mini loaves.  We never eat 4 at a sitting so there is usually left overs.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE left overs.  I always say that my absolute favorite breakfast is a left over dinner.  So  today I happily ate mini veggie meat loaf and creamed spinach for breakfast…DELISH!  Here are the links to the recipes for both:   and  I made a few substitutions to the recipes.  First, the creamed spinach was a bit bland for my taste, so I added pepper, garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese to the recipe.  Also, the creamed spinach calls for chicken broth, and I used low sodium vegetable broth instead.  Additionally, the mini loaf recipe says that it yields 10 little loaves. Well I always get 12.  Here’s why.  I use crescent rolls instead of refrigerated biscuits, and I never use a whole triangle per muffin cup.  Most crescent rolls come 8 to a package, but I am able to stretch the dough to line 12 muffin cups.  I have found that if I only use the 8, there ends up being way too much filling left over, and the loaves are too doughy for my liking.  So if I really stretch the dough from 8 to 12, I find they come out perfect.

DSCN1126As I reflect on the fall so far, I am happy to report that it’s been great.  Here in Michigan, we’ve had lovely weather just until a few weeks ago.  The last few days have been pretty cold.  As I write this there is still a dusting of snow on my deck.  That said, on Sunday it’s supposed to be 57 degrees with rain.  Well ya know what they say about Michigan, “…if you don’t like the weather here, just wait 5 minutes!”  Okay so maybe it takes longer than 5 minutes, but just last year, the kids had a snow day on a Friday, and by Monday it was 60 degrees! OOF… holy allergy and migraine season.  Unfortunately, in our house we have both, and these crazy weather shifts are brutal.  I am thankful that we have medications that help, but the weather really causes issues.  Despite all that, it’s been a good fall.  We had a great albeit really wet DSCN0907Halloween.  I’ve been fortunate to take some really awesome pictures of the kids outside.  I ADORE fall pictures and the kids really indulged me this fall. My Spartans and Lions are rocking it every weekend, and g-day was a smashing success. Dan and I had a lovely anniversary, and now I am looking forward to a great Thanksgiving.  October and November really are my favorite months of the year, as they contain some of my favorite things.  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, health, love, and of course some really great food.   Enjoy! ♥♥    DSCN1211

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Stuffed Zucchini Boats, Chocolate Cherry Cake, Homemade “Hostess” Ding Dongs, Bulgur Pilaf with Tomato and Zucchini, Spiced Pear Cake with Brown Butter Icing, and Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy October!  This is my favorite month of the whole year.  The leaves are changing, the temps are a bit cooler, my favorite tv show “The Walking Dead” returns, and we end the month with one of my favorite holidays, Halloween.  This is the month in which I also start thinking about “cold weather recipes.”  I love soup, but don’t eat it a ton when it’s hot outside.  Starting at the end of the month, I really kick it into “soup mode,” and begin experimenting with new recipes.  I already tried one new recipe this month that I will happily add into my soup rotation.  So let’s get right to the recipes…

The first recipe I tried was for stuffed zucchini boats.  My family is Lebanese, so I am no stranger to stuffed zucchini.  I grew up eating “koosa” and it is still one of my favorite Lebanese dishes.  This recipe is different than koosa in that you cut the zucchini in half, and top it with the stuffing.  When making koosa, you hollow out the squash, and then stuff it with a mixture of rice, spices, meat (I use veggie beef substitute), and tomato…YUM. DSCN0102Anyway, I had a few zucchini that I wanted to experiment with so I chose this recipe.  I had all the ingredients on hand, except the chicken sausage.  As vegetarians, we don’t eat chicken, and unfortunately they stopped making our favorite veggie sausage substitute, so I had to make my own.  I used Morning Star Farms veggie crumbles, and then added garlic, pepper, and ground fennel seed.  I am happy to report that these zucchini boats turned out amazing!!  We loved them and I would definitely make them again.  We doesn’t include Ryan of course, but I am sure you knew that already…haha.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  I did have a little of the “sausage filling” left over, so I used it later in the week for a veggie lasagna…delish!

The next recipe I tried was for cherry chocolate cake.  I made this recipe out of necessity…no really.  I know… I know… you’re probably thinking “… is cake really a necessity??”   Well…in this case yes… it was.  You see I had cherry pie filling that was about to expire, so I needed to use it asap. I have never made a cherry pie, and when I bought this pie filling I had every intention of making one.  I have made a lot of apple and pear pies in the last few weeks, and they came out really good.  That said, I was hesitant to use a can of pie filling, and have it pale in comparison to the yummy pies, that I had made from scratch, with fresh fruit from my little organic orchard.  So I decided to switch it up DSCN0108completely and make a cake instead. So in this case you can clearly see, that baking a cake was completely necessary…wink wink.   Anyway, I came across this recipe and I knew I had to try it.  I love love love chocolate and cherries together.  In fact, growing up, chocolate covered cherries, were my favorite candy.  My Grandpa Gene used to buy me a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas and my birthday every year.  To this day, every Christmas, I  buy a box of chocolate covered cherries in his honor.  As soon as I saw this cake recipe, I knew I had to try it.  I am really happy that I did, because it is delicious!!  It is decadent…so yummy and rich.  We loved it.  Ryan actually tried it, and liked it too, so it must be good.  I think my favorite part was the homemade chocolate fudge frosting…YUM!!!  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

Next, I made “Hostess ding dongs.”  When I was a kid I LOVED Hostess Ding Dongs.  Flash forward to my adulthood, and the love affair continued.  It continued until I read the box and discovered that it listed “beef fat and lard” as ingredients…EWWWWWW.  As a vegetarian that didn’t sit well with me, so I swore off them.  Okay, flash forward a bit more, and “Hostess” declares bankruptcy.  Bye bye Ding Dongs.  Bye bye Twinkies.  Bye bye a little piece of my childhood.  Now flash forward to this past August, and I received a catalog from Sur La Table in the mail.  Well inside that catalog I saw three different pans made by a company called DSCN0695 “Fat Daddio’s.”  The three pans were for making copycat versions of “Hostess Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Snowballs!!”  SWEET!!  Better yet, the pans were on sale for $12.95 a piece.   AWESOME!!!  Best of all, the catalog included a ten dollar off coupon!!  WHOO HOO!!  Now I could get two of the pans for the price of one regular priced pan!!!  LOVE IT!!!  I went to the store that week, and purchased both the canoe pan (for making Twinkies), and the chocolate cream cake snack pan (for making Ding Dongs.)  I already had copycat recipes for both snack cakes, but the “ding dong”pan came with a recipe so I decided to use that one.  The result?  I thought they were good, but much sweeter than the “Hostess Ding Dongs” that I remember.  That said, the little cakes were very chocolatey and decadent, and contained absolutely no beef fat or lard.  I would definitely make them again for a special treat some time.  I love the idea that I own the pans now, and can make them again whenever I want.  I am definitely planning to make the “Twinkies” sometime soon…stay tuned!  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:   Okay so the perfectionist in me needs to speak up here.  I actually forgot to take pictures of the perfect looking little cakes that I delivered to the school office.  I wrapped them up cute in plastic wrap, and they really looked like the Ding Dongs that I remember.  I usually deliver the “pretty treats” to the school office and teachers, and my family eats the “less than picture perfect treats.”   The picture used above, was the last Ding Dong in the house, and as I got the sweet treat ready for her close up, I left a thumb print on the top.  I know it’s silly, but I wanted to photograph the little treats I took to school  because they looked so cute, but I just plain forgot.  Oh well…next time I make them, I will snap a few pictures, before they are devoured! 😛

The next recipe I tried was for bulgur pilaf with tomato and zucchini.  I have to admit, other than making kibbee, I have never cooked with bulgur wheat before.  I had some tomatoes and zucchini that I wanted to use, so this recipe was perfect.  I found it in one of DSCN0741my fav cookbooks that is titled, “3 in 1 Vegetarian Cookbook.”  I had all the ingredients and it seemed simple, so I decided to make it for dinner.  I am glad that I did, because it was really good.  I would definitely make it again. I really liked the bulgar too, it was almost like a quinoa or couscous dish.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe I made was for spiced pear cake with browned butter icing. So I have a ton of pears to use.  My “brother from another mother” Jim, and his lovely wife Kim, have an annual pear picking party at their house. It is titled “Pears Gone Wild,” and  I LOVE it.  This year was extra special as Christopher aka Ferfie my “other brother from another mother,” was also here for the pear-a-palooza.   His attendance wasn’t planned, but it was totally meant to be, as the events leading up the party cosmically fell into place.  First of all,  Kim and Jim got a ton of pears this year.  Last year was a bad year for fruit here in Michigan, so we still had the party, but there were no pears to pick.  Thankfully, Mother Nature was little kinder this year, so there was plenty of fruit to pick.  So much fruit in fact, that people were starting to steal Jim and Kim’s pears!  Kimmy came home from work, and there was some random freak sitting in their car, up on the grass, against their fence, picking pears through their open car window!  Who does that?!?  Well after that, Jim and Kim decided to bump up the pear picking extravaganza by a few weeks.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to any of us, on a whim, Ferfie booked a flight home to surprise us.  His trip home just happened to coincide with the pear picking party!DSCN0369   I swear sometimes things just work out.  So the day before “pears gone wild,” I come home from picking up Ryan from school, and there is a random car in front of my house.  Out here in the sticks we notice things like that right away.  First of all we live on a dirt road, so the car was literally parked on my property, as there is no curb in front of my house.  Second, anyone I know would’ve parked in the driveway, so there was a random unattended vehicle on my grass as I pulled up.  Third, there are only 11 houses on my road, so I recognize all the vehicles that actually belong to someone who lives here.  Lastly, I had left Victoria and her friend home whilst I ran to pick Ryan up, so I was nervous that someone came to the door, and they may have gotten scared.  Remember, we live in the country, and sometimes we go for months without someone coming to the door. Therefore, if indeed someone unexpectedly rang the doorbell it would have freaked them out.  So as soon as I came into the house I asked Victoria about it.  She said she had no idea about the car.  Then she and her friend began pestering me about going into Victoria’s room to listen to them play a piece of music.  I had just walked in and wanted to take off my shoes, sort the mail I just picked up, empty and put away lunch boxes from the week, but they wouldn’t let up.  So begrudgingly I abandoned the tasks at hand, and I walked down the hall to listen to them play.  As I rounded the corner into Victoria’s room, I saw Ferfie sitting on the bed.  It took a minute to register what I was seeing, as I couldn’t believe he was home.  I generally don’t care for surprises, but this was a great surprise and I LOVED it.

Ferfie's surprise entrance at "pears gone wild"
Ferfie’s surprise entrance at “pears gone wild”

I was so happy to see Ferf, in the flesh, in my house.  I had spoken to him a few days before, and because it was a surprise, he obviously didn’t mention his plan to come home for the weekend.  Happily, because Kim and Jim had decided to move the date of the pear party, we were all going to be together the following afternoon at their place.  It was great.  Everyone was really surprised to see Ferfie, and we had a blast picking pears, eating yummy food, playing games, and just being together.

Well since I have so many pears, I definitely wanted to make a sweet treat with them. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and it sounded interesting.  I have never made browned butter icing before, so I decided to give it a try.  I am so happy that I did because this cake is amazing!  Happily the recipe made two cakes, so I had plenty to share.  I will definitely make this cake again, and I plan on making the icing again for use on all different types of cakes,  muffins, or sweet breads.  With all the excitement of “pears gone wild” and Ferfie’s surprise visit, I again forgot to snap a picture of the cake.  Rest assured mine looked just like the picture on the website.  Here is the link to the recipe:

The last recipe I tried was for tomato basil parmesan soup.  As I mentioned above I LOVE soup, and I love making soup.  I found this recipe on Pinterest over the summer, and I couldn’t wait for the first chilly day so I could make it. It has really cooled off here in DSCN0744Michigan over the last few days, so this soup was perfect.  I had all the ingredients, and it sounded amazing, so I decided to try it out.  I am so glad that I did because it is super yummy.  Ryan of course didn’t try it, but the rest of us LOVED it.  I will happily add it to my regular soup rotation.  Here is the link to the recipe:  P.S. I made the stove top version, and before serving I used my immersion blender to smooth out the consistency.

I hope that you all have a great October, and a great Halloween.  I hope you enjoy the recipes, we sure did.  Happy Fall!!  ♥♥

Picking pears!!
The  “pears gone wild” crew!!
Posted in Bread / Muffins, Cakes, Chocolate, Italian, Savory, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Toffee, Cheese Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic, Vegetarian Chicken Noodle Soup, Apple Crostada, Apple Poke Cake with Caramel Glaze, and Apple Pear Pies 2 Ways…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

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Posted in Brownies, Cakes, Chocolate, Pies, Savory, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment