Home Made “Crazy Bread,” Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins, Spinach Burgers, and Skinny Mac and Alfredo…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy last week of summer…BOOOOOOO.  Okay so let me preface by saying I LOVE LOVE LOVE all things autumn, but I am not ready for the crazy pace we keep when school is back in session.  The homework, the projects, the lunches packed solely by moi, the drop offs and pickups at two different times which equals 4 separate runs up to the kids schools’, the permission slips, the conferences, being class helper, chaperoning dances, working the middle school store…you get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all the volunteering that I am fortunate enough to do at the kids’ schools, but the pace is crazy.  Plus, I miss my babies when they are at school.  Even when they are bickering and driving me nuts, I’d rather they were home.  Anyway, I was able to experiment with a few new recipes over the last few weeks, and here they are.

The first recipe is for home made crazy bread.  My Ryan, LOVES “Little Caesars” crazy bread.  He doesn’t eat pizza, so if we get pizza for dinner,  I make sure to get crazy bread DSCN8746for him.  I came across a recipe for crazy bread on Pinterest, and knew immediately I wanted to make it for my Ryan.  The only problem was that it required a can of refrigerated pizza dough, and I never have that at home.  The next time I went to the grocery store, I made sure to pick one up, and gave it a shot.  The result?  YUM. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t care for the breadsticks.  He is so darn picky.  It would have been cool to be able to replicate his favorite “takeout” food, but no such luck.  Oh well, the rest of us liked them.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.food.com/recipe/little-caesars-crazy-bread-75531

The next recipe I tried was for strawberry chocolate chip muffins.  I made these in the attempt to use up some strawberries that I had.  Whilst at the grocery store, the berries looked so yummy that I overindulged.  Victoria and I are the only people in our house who enjoy strawberries so two containers of berries is plenty.  Organic berries can be pricey, soDSCN8753 when I saw them on sale, I lost my mind for a few minutes, and bought four containers of them.  Vic and I did a good job of eating the fresh berries, but our consumption of them slowed after a few days, and the expiration date was approaching quick.  So, I decided to look through my recipes for a way to use them up, before they got mushy.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, and it looked yummy.  As an added bonus, it’s a healthier muffin recipe in that it contains only egg whites, and requires no butter or oil.  The first time I made these muffins, they were gone in a flash.  Dan, Victoria, and I LOVED them.  Ryan didn’t care for them, but he did try them so that was a step up.  The recipe only makes 10 muffins at a time, so we finished them the same day I made them.  I have since baked three more batches of these yummy muffins,  and we enjoyed them just as much.  I would definitely make these again and again.  Some time, I’d like to try and substitute raspberries for the strawberries.  I think that would be delicious.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/01/03/skinny-strawberry-chocolate-chip-muffins/

The next recipe that I tried was for spinach burgers.  As vegetarians, I am always on the hunt for a good “veggie friendly” burger recipe.  I love love love me a good burger, I totally love spinach, and I’m trying to limit our soy consumption.  That said, these were an immediate attention grabber.  I have DSCN8931made other spinach burgers in the past that we love, but I wanted to try another version.  I am happy to report that they are delicious.  I would definitely make them again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://thevillagecook.com/spinach-burgers/

The last recipe I tried was for skinny mac and alfredo.  I already had spinach on the brain, and I had a bit left over from the spinach burgers, so this recipe was perfect.  It did contain an ingredient that I never have on hand though…jarred alfredo sauce.  I love alfredo sauce,DSCN8933 but I hate how much fat it usually contains.  When we indulge, and eat alfredo sauce at home, I make it myself…I don’t buy it jarred.  Anyway, I needed to pick up a jar of light alfredo sauce for use in this recipe, and as soon as I did, I made this dish.  It is delicious!  It is like a healthier version of a white cheese macaroni and cheese dish.  I will still make traditional mac and cheese, but I will also happily add this to the rotation of yummy dinners that I make for the fam.  Ryan, of course, wouldn’t eat it, but the rest of us loved it!  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://www.skinnymom.com/2013/03/06/skinny-mac-alfredo/?_szp=255570

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Victoria at her final middle school “Tiger days.”

In the last few days of summer, we are booked solid.  Over the weekend, we had a bonfire on Friday, a pool party/BBQ on Saturday, plus two birthday parties, and Ryan’s first soccer practice on Sunday.  Yesterday, we had the Middle School’s “Tiger Days,” which is like an orientation of sorts.  Victoria was able to pick up her schedule, her locker assignment, and get her school id, yearbook, and 8th grade photo taken.  She also got an extra supply list that is specific to her Academy classes, so after Tiger Days, we took a trip into Richmond to get said supplies and some “back to school”clothes.  On Wednesday, I have to go to Gordon’s Food Service to pick up all the food for the elementary’s “Back to School Open House” that is scheduled for Thursday.  It is a day in which all students and families, can come to school and meet their teacher, check out their classroom, and then enjoy an early dinner compliments of the parent group.  I have been the chairperson of this event for the last four years, and I am chairing it again this year. It’s always such an exciting day for the kids, as they get to see which friends are in their class, and meet their new teacher. I love all the excitement in the building, and I love running into school friends we haven’t seen since June. My fingers are crossed for Ryan that he has a few of his good friends in his classroom. I know he will be fine and make plenty more, but it’s always nice to see a familiar face that first week.

With summer winding down I have been reflecting over the last few weeks, and all we were able to do as a family.  We purposefully didn’t plan any vacations this summer as we were planning a trip to New York in the fall.  Well, after July 12th (which I referenced in an earlier post…the day our water softener system, sump pump, and car died at the same time), and last week, we are tapped out.  On Wednesday of last week, we had to replace the windshield of the newer Xterra, and have the clothes dryer fixed!  Man, this was totally the summer of home/car repairs!  Currently, the new Xterra needs to be serviced AGAIN as the brakes have begun to squeak, and the passenger window gets stuck in the down position.  It’s not crazy given that the vehicle is 6 years old, but come on. I have said it before and I will say it again.  I love the freedom that owning a vehicle provides, but if we had a really great public transportation system here in Michigan, I think I’d park the car and ride.  What a pain it is to keep a vehicle up and running.  This particular vehicle is going to be paid off in a matter of weeks, so we are desperately attempting to keep both vehicles running until we can free up some monthly monies to finance a newer vehicle. Our other car is 14 years old, so we are literally driving on borrowed time!  UGH…the pleasures of being a responsible adult never cease!! I really am going to invent a font just for sarcasm!!

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Our loot from Norman’s!!

In retrospect, despite all the unfortunate expenses, we did manage to have a great summer together.  We were able to take two different day trips with the kids, and they were great! First we took them to the thumb, where Dan and I spent so much time early in our relationship together.  Both sets of Dan’s grandparents had homes in Caseville, so Dan literally grew up on Lake Huron.  He spent countless summers and vacations with them on the lake.  I started visiting with him when I was 17, and we religiously spent time in Caseville until both cottages were sold after his grandparents passed.  We got engaged on Jenks Beach in Port Austin in 1993, so the area definitely holds an extra special place in my heart.  It was very sad for both of us to go “up North”, and not have family there, so we stopped going.  We hadn’t been to Caseville in a number of years, so we decided to take the kids and show them the places we used to hang out.  We stopped in Bad Axe and went to “Norman’s” aka the store that time forgot.  It is such a throwback.  We loved it.  We actually went in for a few laughs, but came out with a few bags full of bargains.  I have been looking for snow pants for 5 years and I couldn’t find any I liked that didn’t cost a fortune.  I was at Norman’s for approximately 5 minutes, and I found snow pants I like for…wait for it… $20.99!!!!!  SCORE!!  Ryan got a new backpack and few pairs of shoes, Victoria found a cute sundress and jacket, and Dan got a hat and a few five dollar backpacks that he plans to stock and keep in the basement in case of a zombie apocalypse.  Seriously, in the event of a zombie take over, get to our place as fast as humanly possible. Unless of course you have been infected, in which case don’t come here as Dan is totally ready for you!! 😉

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Bankshot basketball at the Family Fun Center in Caseville.

In addition to Norman’s, we took the kids to all the places we used to visit in Caseville and Port Austin.  I think my favorite part was… the whole day.  At one point I looked at Dan whilst we were playing “Bank Shot Basketball” with our children, and had total flashbacks of us being there before we were even old enough to vote!  It was crazy. We also took the kids by both of the homes where their Great-Grandparents lived, the used bookstore in town, the beach where we got engaged, and the pier where Dan carved our initials into the guardrail.  It was unreal to revisit these places with the kids in tow. We ended the day with a stroll on the Port Austin Pier to watch the sunset, and look at the lighthouse.  It was a great day.  We had compiled a huge agenda for the day, and only got through about 45% of it.  We definitely want to take the kids back, and show them all the other special places that time didn’t allow us to visit this trip.

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Dan and the kids on top of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse.

The second day trip was much closer to home. We went from Marine City to Fort Gratiot and stopped everywhere we wanted along the way.  Before Dan and I had children (a time we jokingly refer to as B.C.  before children) we used to take all of our vacations in Michigan to visit the Great Lakes lighthouses and waterfalls.  Fun fact…there are 116 lighthouses in the state of Michigan, and 199 waterfalls all but 1 being in the upper peninsula…true story.  Anyway, Dan and I had been to the lighthouses in this area before, but they were all “B.C.”, so we decided to take the kids to see them. We had a great day, and made some fun memories for sure.

Being in the last full week of August is always a bit depressing.  The kids go back to school next week, and late nights and endless days in the pool are officially over.  We do plan to squeeze every possible moment of fun out of what is left of our summer.  We have a few plans for the Labor Day weekend, and I am certain we will have a great time.  In anticipation of autumn, my favorite season of the year, I am getting super excited for a few of my favorite things.  Football is probably number one…GO STATE!!!  I am also looking forward to the return of “The Walking Dead.”  Dan and I love to watch it after the kids have gone to bed.  Since it airs on Sunday nights,  it actually softens the blow of Sunday evening, which is in my opinion is the worst time of the whole week.  I am looking forward to cooler temps which are totally conducive to building fires, both inside and out. I am looking forward to wearing sweatshirts and sweaters, watching the leaves change colors, and celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving with my family.  Most of all, I am looking forward to spending time with Dan and the kids who make every season worth living.  Happy end of summer everyone.  Enjoy the recipes. ♥♥

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On the pier in Port Austin

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Healthy Chocolate Fudge, Homemade “Magic Shell”, Spaghetti with Spinach Garlic & Lemon, Cucumber Apple Salad with Fennel, Marinated Tomatoes, and Black Bean & Corn Salsa…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy August!  I cannot believe that the summer is almost over!  A few blogs ago, I wrote about how the whole summer was stretched out in front of me. Now, I feel like the majority of it lies behind me…SIGH.  In the last few weeks, I have tried a bunch of new recipes, so let’s get right to it.  First I tried a recipe for healthy chocolate fudge.  Healthy fudge??? DSCN8435What does that mean???  That means that there is no white or brown sugar, and no butter in the recipe. I make fudge every year at Christmastime, so when I saw this healthier recipe on Pinterest I was intrigued. In lieu of butter, the recipe calls for coconut oil.   Also, in lieu of sugar, you use another sweetener.  I used vanilla flavored Stevia.  The results??   Meh.  It was okay.  Honestly,  my “regular” fudge is LOADS better.  I made a chocolate peanut butter healthy fudge, and Dan and the kids gave it a “B.”  I am the only person in our house that likes coconut, so I also made a small batch of healthy coconut almond chocolate fudge for myself, and I like that version better.  This is a raw recipe so it needs to remain refrigerated. Going forward, I think I will just stick to “real” fudge, and leave the ingredients alone.  That said, if you are watching your sugar intake closely, this may be worth a try. It was creamy and chocolatey, and hey it got a “B.”  B’s are good right??  ☺ Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/01/31/sugar-free-chocolate-fudge/

The next recipe I tried was homemade magic shell.  As a kid I LOVED “Magic Shell” on ice cream.  As an adult, I don’t really eat  ice cream too much…maybe a couple of times a year. Anyway, I saw this recipe on “Pinterest” and decided to try it.  Actually, this recipe was part of a recipe that I featured last week.  The strawberry popsicles I wrote about should have been dipped in Magic Shell, but because I added Nutella to the mix, I decided to leave it out.  We don’t usually have ice cream in the house (we aren’t huge ice cream fans), but I DSCN8436had some left over from Victoria’s birthday party, so I decided to make the Magic Shell. The result??  YUM!  The kids had never had Magic Shell before, and they loved it.  It’s probably been ten years or so since I have eaten it, but this is just like I remember. It is ridiculously simple to make, and I always have the ingredients necessary, so I will definitely make it again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://chocolateandcarrots.com/2012/07/homemade-magic-shell  Next time I want to try it on strawberries or pineapple.  The trick is to put the room temperature Magic Shell on something really cold.  So as long at the fruit has been refrigerated, it should work.  Also, if your Magic Shell solidifies at room temp, just microwave it before drizzling. Mine did solidify after a few days, but I stored it in a glass container so microwaving it was no big deal.  For this very reason, I would recommend storing the Magic Shell in a glass container…I used a glass cruet.

The next recipe I made was spaghetti with spinach, garlic, and lemon.  Guess where I came across this recipe??  Yep you guessed it…Pinterest.  Anyway, I had made some spinach pies, and had some fresh spinach left,  so I searched my recipe boards.  As soon as I saw DSCN8457this pin, I knew what I was making for dinner.  Just reading the title of the recipe made my mouth water.  I mean come on…spaghetti…spinach…garlic…lemon…YES PLEASE!  I usually have a few lemons on hand, and I always always have garlic and pasta so I was good to go.  The resulting dish was really good.  We gave it an “A.”  I know it goes without saying, but my Ryan did not try this dish.  Yes pasta is his absolute favorite food, but he likes it plain.  Actually, he likes pasta tossed with a little butter, and then mounded with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. So plain isn’t really accurate.  He just likes it sans sauce.  Anyway the rest of us loved it, and it is a great way to use up fresh spinach, or perhaps spinach that is already getting wilty.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AfSQd8p7GqoFdJym80b9McGWXgadr41R4cRqJGKBHpQ/edit?authkey=CMT6i9AH&pli=1   I did make a few substitutions to my pasta dish.  First, I didn’t have a full ten ounces of spinach left, so I just used what I had. Also, I added some dried basil and red pepper flakes to the dish, to spice it up a little bit. Lastly, I shaved some parm on top for extra flavor…YUM.

The next recipe was for cucumber apple salad with fennel.  I love love love to watch the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. I usually get inspired to try something new, and inevitably I go online to copy a few recipes.  Well over the last few years, I’ve see a lot of recipes that use fresh fennel.  Whilst at Whole Foods, on a whim I bought a bulb of fresh fennel.  I have never cooked with fennel before so once I got home, I wasDSCN8480 like…”okay now what?”  Well I perused all my recipes that include fennel, and just one bulb wasn’t going to do it.  Most of my recipes required more than 1 bulb of fennel, or other ingredients that I didn’t have.  So I logged into my Pinterest account and found this recipe. I obviously had the fennel bulb, and I always have apples and cucumbers.  I’m also growing Italian parsley in my herb garden, so I was all set.  After a quick trip out to my garden, I returned to the kitchen and got to work.  Even though, I’d never worked with fennel before,  I knew how to cut it…thank you Food Network.  See Dan… all those DVR’d shows were worth it!! ☺ This recipe earned me an “A.” Dan and I really liked it.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://nowthingsarecookin.blogspot.com/2012/07/cucumber-apple-salad-with-fennel-recipe.html  The only substitution I made was the variety of the apple.  I didn’t have any granny smith apples, so I used a yellow delicious.

The next recipe I experimented with was “killer marinated tomatoes.” I found this recipe DSCN8482on Pinterest too.  Dan and I love tomatoes, and in the summertime we eat a lot of them.  I usually make panzanella salad, but I wanted to change it up a bit, so I used the tomatoes this way instead. This is seriously one of the best recipes I have found on Pinterest to date.  The name is totally fitting…they are killer.  This recipe got an “A++++++.”  I used these tomatoes on everything.  We ate DSCN8566them alone of course, but we also made panini, bruschetta, and scooped them up with crostini.  The last dish I made with them was a veggie chick’n parmesan.  I will totally make these again.  FYI…these actually got better the longer they sat and marinated.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/appetizers-and-snacks/killer-marinated-tomatoes/  The only substitution I made was the oil.  I ditched the canola oil, and used extra virgin olive oil instead.

The last recipe was for black bean and corn salsa.  I have made this salsa multiple times over the years.  I actually found this recipe on the side of a can of beans years ago. We love this salsa, but it has been a bit since I made it last.  I wanted DSCN8730to make veggie enchiladas, and I knew this recipe would compliment that dish perfectly.  I always have whole wheat tortillas, and I had recently grilled some veggies that I wanted to use up. I also had some homemade salsa in the fridge, (to be exact it was “Chili’s  Copycat Salsa” featured back in April 2012’s post), and I knew these two salsas would meld beautifully.  Here is the recipe for the black bean and corn salsa:

  • 15 oz. can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 15 oz. can of corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 medium tomato finely diced
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1.  Combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, and onions in a bowl.  2.  Mix together and then add lime juice and cumin.  3. Refrigerate any leftovers.

I did make a few substitutions to the recipe.  First, I never have red onion as it doesn’t agree with me, so I used a white onion.  Also, I never have canned corn, but I usually have frozen corn so I used that.  Additionally, my tomatoes were already spoken for, so I used a can of diced tomatoes.  This salsa is delicious, and it especially yummy with some salty nacho chips.  We gave it an “A.”

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Ryan at the soccer tournament in Linden ~ June 2013

With August officially underway, there are only a few weeks of “freedom” left.  Once the kids go back to school, our lives change dramatically.  There aren’t as many late nights, and we have a much tighter schedule to keep. I am wondering how it will be for me this fall. This is the first time since Victoria was in the second grade that I don’t have a Girl Scout troop to manage.  Also, it will be the first school year in four years that I am not a board member for the parent group at the elementary.  I will still attend the meetings, and volunteer as much as I can, but I no longer feel that huge sense of responsibility that comes with being an officer. It’s kind of nice actually. Now I can more evenly split my time between both the parent groups that I belong to (the Middle School has one too), and the community advisory boards that I participate in. Additionally, I have picked up a lot more responsibility at the office, and it is taking up more of my time.  So all in all the change in pace comes at a perfect time.  Additionally, Ryan is playing soccer again and there are two games per week. As I type this, Dan is making phone calls to recruit boys to try out for a new soccer opportunity.  For the first time in our region, we are forming an “AYSO Extra Program” for U12 boys.  It’s AYSO’s version of a travel league, and of course Ryan wants to try out.  If he makes it, there will be an extra game scheduled per week, and an uncertain number of weekly scheduled practices. Guess what we will be doing every Saturday and Sunday??? Add to that the soccer tournaments that our team wants to attend, and we are booked every weekend until November.  GULP  Further, Dan is still coaching, and Victoria is still assisting with Ryan’s team.  In addition to coaching,  Dan is the “coach administrator” for the region, so starting next weekend, he is swamped with admin stuff.   It’s almost like Dan and I have swapped places with regards to our volunteerism.  Anyway, I am looking forward to a slower pace this fall…at least for me. Whoa, maybe then I can actually have some time to myself…WHAT A CONCEPT!

 

I am going to try really really hard to enjoy every moment I can over the next few weeks of “freedom.”  We have a few day trips planned, a  few “play dates” already scheduled, and a few more “summer wish list items” to accomplish.  Every year we compile a “summer list,” and try our best to cross off as many items as possible.  With the few weeks we have left, I’m going to try and make as many “summer dreams” come true as I can.   I hope you enjoy the recipes, and I hope you have a great August! ♥♥

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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:  http://myfridgefood.com/ViewRecipe.aspx?recipe=21011

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: http://www.mostlyhomemademom.com/2011/09/grilled-cheeseburger-wraps.html   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:http://www.food.com/recipe/they-could-be-sliders-if-eaten-with-eyes-closed-white-castle-54259?oc=linkback%22%3Ehttp://www.food.com/recipe/they-could-be-sliders-if-eaten-with-eyes-closed-white-castle-54259?oc=linkback%3C/a%3E   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: http://www.yumsugar.com/Salt-Vinegar-Kale-Chips-26681141

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:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/rainbow-layer-cake/4969fed8-141e-45f5-9a04-e03addd20fbb and http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cake-balls/   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 http://chocolateandcarrots.com/2012/07/chocolate-covered-strawberry-popsicles   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: http://sweetpaul.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/06/re-1.html

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

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

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

Home-made “Little Debbie” Oatmeal Cream Pies, 2 Minute Cookies, Home-Made Cinnamon Rolls, Cheese Rolls, Pagachi, Croque Monsieur, and Croque Madame…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy June!  Wow the last few weeks have been SUPER busy!  The kids are done with school for the summer…YEAH!!  Actually they have been out of school for exactly one week, and so far so good.  We have been enjoying a lot of really yummy recipes, and I can’t wait to share them.  Here we go…

The first recipe I experimented with was a copycat recipe for “Little  Debbie Oatmeal DSCN9248Cream Pies.”  There are very few store bought treats that I actually like and purchase, but this is definitely one of them.  I’ve wanted to try this recipe for a long time, and I am so glad that I finally did…YUM!  So this isn’t exactly a “figure friendly” recipe as it includes both one cup of butter and one cup of shortening, BUT I used vegan shortening so it wasn’t too bad.  Besides, it’s a treat so no fair counting calories.  Anyway, my family really liked the cream pies, and I did too. They don’t taste exactly like “Little Debbie,” but that said, they are pretty darn good. I got awesome feedback on this recipe too.  I bake treats every week for the elementary school office staff, and they LOVED them.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/dessert/cookies/homemade-little-debbie-oatmeal-cream-pies.html

The next recipe was for 2 minute cookies.  I tried this recipe when Ryan and I were “home alone” for the weekend.  Dan and Victoria went on the middle school’s orchestra trip to Cedar Point, so Ryan and I got to spend the weekend as a party of 2. Whilst we were watching a movie, we both were craving cookies. DSCN9175 I didn’t feel like making a whole batch as we were in the middle of a movie, so I decided to try these speedy versions.  I had seen the recipe on “Pinterest,” and saved the recipe, so I decided to  give it a try.  The cool thing about this recipe is that you only need to microwave the dough for about 2 minutes, and VOILA, you get a freshly baked cookie! Well that was exactly what Ryan and I wanted,  so we tried it out.  The result?  Meh…unfortunately it was only so so.    Ryan and I gave the recipe a “B.”  Going forward, I am not sure I’d make these again.  I am glad I tried them as it satisfied my curiosity, but it wasn’t the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever made.  In a pinch if you were totally going crazy and craving a cookie, it might suffice. For me, I’d rather take the time to bake a regular batch of cookies.  Here is a link to the recipe: http://heartmindandseoul.com/microwave-2-minute-chocolate-chip-cookie-for-one/

The next few recipes were sort of chosen for me…let me explain.  We had a few thunderstorms roll through the area, and during one of them, we lost power. It wasn’t a big deal, we lost power about 8 times during the course of an hour, but were only “dark” for a DSCN9315total of about 10 minutes.   Apparently, during one of the outages, the storm tripped the outlet in the garage.  Ya know, the outlet that our deep freezer was plugged in to.  Well I didn’t know that it happened until the next morning.  I opened the freezer to get something for dinner, and noticed that everything was defrosted!  I was able to salvage some things, but we lost a lot.  A lot of expensive stuff too.  We are vegetarians, so we buy a lot of “Morningstar Farms, Boca, and Quorn” products.  Those meat free food items are pretty expensive, and unfortunately we lost most of them.  I was able to salvage all of my bread and pizza dough, since I usually defrost it overnight in the fridge anyway.  What I usually do not do, however, is defrost it all at the same time.  I had 4 pounds of pizza dough and 3 pounds of bread dough to use…NOW.  So I decided to make cinnamon rolls, cheese rolls, and “pagachi.”  By the way I also made veggie sausage pizza and veggie stromboli with the dough, but they were not new recipes for me, so I didn’t include them.  First, I made cinnamon rolls.  This is a recipe I have made multiple times before, but it had been a couple years since I’d made them. I saw this recipe on the Food Network years ago, and my family loved it.  They remind me of “Cinnabons.”  As a side note, “Cinnabons” were my only food craving when I was pregnant with Victoria.  I woke up early on a Saturday morning thinking about “Cinnabons,” and when Dan got up, I asked him to go to the mall and get me one.  He did. ☺  Anyway, these remind me of those delicious cinnamon rolls.  These also got rave reviews from the office staff at Ryan’s school.  In fact Ryan’s Principal stopped me in the hallway to tell me how good they were.  I believe he used the word “outstanding,” to describe them. ☺  Here is a link to that yummy recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/cinnamon-rolls-recipe/index.html

The next “forced recipe” was for cheese rolls.  When I made these, I thought we could use them as little sandwich rolls throughout the week.  At first bite, they were yummy, but then it went downhill…and fast!  The recipe called for garlic salt…an ingredient I almost never use.  I bought a tiny bottle of it to use in a recipe a while ago, and I haven’t used it since.  I generally don’t use salt in recipes for savory dishes.  DSCN9319I just figure if the dish needs some salt, we can just use a little bit at the end right before we eat it.  Anyway, this recipe called for one teaspoon of garlic salt, so I used it.  That was a mistake.  The cheese rolls came out WAY TOO SALTY! So salty, in fact, that I had to throw them out!  In the future, I will use a teaspoon of garlic powder and call it good.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/rolls/cheese-rolls/

The last “forced recipe” was for pagachi.  Let me start by saying that this is a recipe that I have loved since I was a kid.  My Grandma Ann used to make it all the time.  She taught my Mom to make it too.  It is absolutely delicious.  It is total comfort food to me.  It is super cheesy and delicious.  My Grandma and Mom used to mix mashed potatoes into the dough, and then top it with cheese and breadcrumbs.  When I searched the internet for a recipe, I had a hard  time locating one.  I think that I have been spelling it wrong.  In our family, my Grandma called it “pagachi,” pronounced like “pa-got-chi.”  I have a binder of family recipes, and I always spelled this phonetically as I didn’t DSCN9331have a written recipe to operate from.  My Mom just dictated the recipe to me once, and I wrote it down.  Anyway, when I decided to include it in this blog, I did a more exhaustive search and found a recipe that is very similar.  Apparently this recipe is popular in Eastern European cooking, as most of the recipes I found were Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian.  Many recipes I found included variations that included cabbage, but when my Grandma (who was Italian by the way) made this, the main ingredients were cheese and breadcrumbs.  I did have a bit of trouble as my notes weren’t great, and I haven’t ever made this recipe by myself.  The last time I made it, my Mom and Sister were here to help me.  I am actually going to try this again, after I purchase more dough.  I may even attempt one of the recipes I came across on the internet.  Here is a recipe that is very similar to the one I used:http://www.food.com/recipe/pagach-quick-and-easy-474980

Once our forced “carb fest” was over, I decided to switch gears and make something new. Mt. Laundry had taken over the house whilst I was busy cooking up a storm in the attempt to salvage the freezer food, and now I was playing catch up.  I  like to watch tv when folding the laundry, but nothing good was on, so I decided to pop in a movie.  I chose “It’s Complicated.”  Dan and the kids bought it for me a few years ago, and I still watch it pretty regularly.  I love love love that movie.  I love the food, the bakery, the garden…everything pretty much.  In fact, I have been known to rewind the food/kitchen/garden scenes to take inventory of all the items in the kitchen/garden.  Anyway, during the movie, Meryl Streep makes dinner for her architect, played by Steve Martin, whilst they are discussing the DSCN9298plans for her new kitchen, and she makes croque monsieur.  I have seen this movie dozens of times, and have always wanted to make this dish, so I did.  The result??  Two days of deliciousness.  I say two days meaning that I made croque monsieur the first day, and we loved it so much I made it again the next day…and made croque madame too.  Croque madame is the same sandwich just with a fried egg on top…YUM!    I did make a few substitutions to the recipes.  First, I used veggie friendly ham, made by “Lightlife.”  Also, I never have gruyere in the fridge, so I substituted Trader Joe’s “Unexpected Cheddar.”  These sandwiches were delicious, and I will definitely make them again.  Here are the links to the recipes that I used:

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/croque_monsieur_ham_and_cheese_sandwich/ and              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Croque-Madame-237589

I love this week in June.  It is the first full week of the kids’ summer vacation, so we literally have the whole summer in front of us.  I love the fact that the kids are home all day with me.  I love that sometimes we stay in our pj’s all day.  I love the slower pace that comes with summertime too.   Lazy afternoons in the pool, dinner on the deck, bonfires during the week, chasing lightning bugs,  reading in the hammock, and endless summer movie nights.  I am so looking forward to the new recipes I will try, especially those made with herbs, fruit, and veggies from my own garden/orchard.  Our trees are already full of fruit, so I am hopeful that later in the summer, I will be able to include recipes that call for peaches, pears, and apples that I have grown.   I am really looking forward to having a great summer right here at home with Dan and kids.  I hope you have a great summer too!  Enjoy the recipes! ♥♥

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Ryan and Victoria working on their “container gardens.”

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Cookies, Italian, Pies, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stir Fry Pasta with Peanut Sauce, Blueberry Almond Crescent Ring, and Polenta Three Ways…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone!  It has been a crazy couple of weeks in our house.  All of you parents can certainly relate to the “end of the school year” craziness that has invaded our home over the last few weeks.  Field trips, Super Kids Day, Victoria’s spring orchestra concert, soccer games and practices, orthodontist  and allergist appointments, etc. etc. etc…  Well amidst all the chaos, I did find a little bit of time to experiment in the kitchen.  Let me start by saying that I have utilized a lot of tried and DSCN8659true recipes the last few weeks.  When I am short on time, I usually reach for the recipes that I know will work, and that my family loves.  So in the last few weeks, in addition to the yummy recipes I experimented with, I have also made pasta with arribiata sauce, veggie meatballs, broccoli Palermo, panini, veggie burritos/nachos, hummus, and for dessert  chocolate emergency cookies and “my Aunt Toni’s cookies.”  The first recipe I experimented with was for stir fry pasta.  We had a ton of pasta left over from Ryan’s birthday party, and I wanted to try a new recipe. I also had a ton of fresh veggies that I wanted to use, so this recipe was a perfect fit.  Honestly, I have never made stir fry before.  If we eat stir fry at home, Dan usually makes his vegetarian version of pad thai.  I have made veggie egg rolls, veggie wontons, and veggie fried rice but not stir fry, so I was excited to give it a go.  The recipe I decided on did contain chicken, but I just used Quorn Chik’n Tenders (a vegetarian chicken alternative) as a substitute.  I also substituted red bell peppers for the cauliflower as my family doesn’t like cauliflower.  Lastly, I made a peanut sauce to add to the stir fry, and added some chopped peanuts to the dish as well.  The resulting dish was DELICIOUS!!  I will gladly make this dish again.  Here are the links to the recipes that I used: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/stir-fried-pasta-with-veggies/     and http://chinesefood.about.com/od/saucesdipping/r/peanut-sauce.htm  I think the very best part about this dish, was that we got to eat dinner that night on the deck!  Love love love nice weather!!

The next recipe that I made was for Sandra Lee’s Christmas crescent ring.  I have made this recipe in the past, but it has been a few years since I made it last.  DSCN8669I actually got this recipe from my Mom years ago.  She saw it on tv, and made it for a family get together.  After that, she came over to my house, and taught me to make it too.  It has been a long time since that day in “my old house” when my Mom taught me to make this dessert, but I always think of her when I make it.  I had made a few different variations of this dish too.  The original recipe uses raspberry or cherry jam.  I have made this dessert with seedless raspberry jam, but this time I used blueberry preserves.  YUM.  I would also like to try this with apple or strawberry preserves some time.  Anyway, I love love love this recipe as it looks and tastes as if it was  labor intensive, when in fact, the converse is true.  It is very simple to make, and it’s always a crowd pleaser…unless you are Ferf that is.  Haha.  So this probably requires an explanation.  Here it is.  A few weekends ago, my brother from another mother Chris (aka Ferf), came home from New York for a visit.  I was sooooo excited.  I haven’t seen him since Christmas, and bonus, he was bringing his boyfriend Brae so we could all meet him.  Ferf and Brae were coming over for dinner, so I decided to make this for dessert.  As we were eating it, Ferf mentioned that he thought it was a bit on the sweet side.  Actually he said “…this is too sweet.”  Well, I could have bet my life that he would say that as he usually says that about desserts.  Anyway, he then launched into a discussion on his preferences for desserts.  He mentioned that he liked savory desserts, like cheesecake, or that he liked chocolatey desserts.  He also mentioned that he really didn’t care for things that were glazed or too sweet.  Well right in the middle of his sentence, Brae started laughing, cut him off and said  “…yeah so basically I hate what you made.”  We all laughed and then teased Ferf, that we also didn’t care for desserts that were glazed…or made with any type of dough…or with any kind of fruit…or with God forbid sprinkles of any kind…you get the picture.  At this point of the evening, I already liked Brae, but this tongue in cheek jab at Ferf sealed the deal.  Yep, he was one of us.  My Mom used to crack up and say “…man don’t make a mistake around this family…you will never live it down!”  That was in reference to my family’s habit of lovingly teasing each other about our missteps. One

Game time with Ferf and Brae

Game time with Ferf and Brae

example of that sentiment is as follows….there are a ton of them, but this is probably the most infamous.  One time at a family get together, (before we used Sharpies to write our names on our red solo cups or water bottles), my Mom was cleaning up a bit and came across a random cup of pop.  She picked it up and instead of asking “who’s pop is this?” she asked “who’s is this pop?”   Well we all cracked up (Mom included), and for the better part of the last decade her “misstep” makes an appearance at most family get togethers.  Anytime somebody inquires about the unknown possession of any random object, one of us will yell  “who’s is this pop?”  Well that is the spirit in which Brae teased Ferf, AND the spirit in which I will continue to tease him about his dessert preferences from here to eternity.  It is also the spirit in which we all tease Ferf about the seriousness with which he plays board games.  Apples to Apples to anyone?? I’m sorry… was that answer too literal???  Another story for another time.  Here is the link to the recipe for the crescent ring that my Mom loved, but that Ferf finds too sweet ☺ http://www.food.com/recipe/christmas-crescent-ring-154762

The last three recipes I experimented with were made with polenta.DSCN9160  I must admit that growing up, my family didn’t routinely make polenta, so I didn’t have a lot of experience with eating it or with cooking it.  I have come across a lot of recipes in the last few weeks that include polenta,  so I decided to make it.  I used the recipe for basic polenta by Giada de Laurentiis.  It was simple enough, but I must admit it was rather bland…and too salty for my taste.  As a side note, I had a premonition that when I added 2 teaspoons of salt to the bubbling cornmeal on the stove that it would be too much.  BUT since I am a compulsive rule follower (especially the first time I make a new recipe),  I did as Giada instructed, and added the salt.   Well it wasn’t good.  I know that most people eat it with some sort of sauce, soup, or stew, but Giada also writes that plain polenta is to Italians, what mashed potatoes are to Americans.  Well as an  American (of Italian heritage), I beg to differ.  I love love love me a bowl of mashed potatoes, but that plain polenta was not good.  I tried…and I mean I really tried… to like it, but no dice.  Now what??  Well, luckily half of the polenta was already spoken for as I DSCN9164needed 3 cups of freshly made polenta for the “fried polenta” recipe I was going to try.  I had planned on just eating the rest of the polenta like Giada mentioned, with a little sauce on top.  After tasting it though, I knew that if I didn’t like it, my family probably wouldn’t either, so I decided to use it in yet another recipe.  I found the recipe for “cheesy polenta” in a cookbook I have titled “Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Italian Recipes.”  I obviously already had the polenta, and I always have cheese and basil, so I decided to give it a go.  The result?  One word.  YUM.  My family (minus Ryan of course) really loved the cheese polenta, and I will definitely make it again.  My family (again minus Ryan) also really loved the fried polenta, but I WILL NOT make that again anytime soon…OR EVER!  

Let me explain.

To make the fried polenta, you need to spread the freshly made polenta into a baking dish. Then you need to chill it for a few hours.  Then you cut into strips and fry it up in some olive oil.  Sounds simple enough right?  I thought so. That is until I put the first polenta stick into the oil and it went nuts.  Literally it went crazy.  It was like adding an ice cube toDSCN9162 a pan of hot oil.  It exploded and spattered everywhere.  Long story short, I was covered head to toe in oil…hot oil…OUCH!  After the first “oil attack,” I quickly changed into a long sleeve shirt that I no longer care about, donned an apron, put on safety goggles, and dug out my XL grilling oven mitt.  Then I covered the floor in front of the stove with an old beach towel, and braced myself for what would turn out to be the most miserable culinary experience of my life.  I used a pot lid as a shield, channeled my inner “Captain America,” and did the best I could to protect myself from the oil attacks that ensued. Even though I hated it, I did not quit.  Batch by batch, I put the polenta into the oil, and just took the abuse. Picture this…I am in my culinary version of an “outbreak suit,” cussing like a sailor, and cleaning like a madwoman in between each and every batch!  Well, despite all the oil covered walls, DSCN9161spattered kitchen surfaces, and one royally peeved oily Mama, my family had fried polenta on their dinner plates. To add insult to injury…my family LOVED the fried polenta.  My family loving the fried polenta is the equivalent of that damn olive oil daring me to make it again.  I mean if oil could laugh, my olive oil is cackling at me right now.  Well that is one culinary dare that I will not take.  It was too painful, and way way too messy the first time for me to even think about doing it again. So go ahead oil…laugh all you want…this Cookie Mama will not take you on again.  You win! ☺ Here are the links to the three different polenta recipes that I used: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/basic-polenta-recipe/index.html

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/fried-polenta-recipe/index.html

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/grains/cheese-and-basil-polenta/

As I write this, Dan and Victoria are in Cedar Point.  They went with Victoria’s orchestra. They left yesterday, and made a few stops on the way.  First they toured Seneca Caverns, and Lyme Village in Ohio.  Then they checked into the Great Wolf Lodge, and Victoria went to her first water park.  Dan said she loved it.  This morning, Victoria’s orchestra performed, and apparently did great…the medals ceremony is at 5 o’clock tonight so time will tell how great they did…fingers crossed!  Just a few minutes ago, I got a breathless call from Victoria fresh from her maiden voyage on the “Iron Dragon.”  She was crazy with excitement.  Neither of my kids have ever been to Cedar Point before, so this is kind of a big deal.  Currently she is in line for the “Gemini,” and promised to call afterwards.  I must admit that I am a bit jealous that Dan is getting the “front row seat” to her last couple days of “firsts,” but I am very thankful that one of us gets to be there with her.  Thank goodness for Apple’s “face time” app.  It makes Ryan and I kind of feel like we are right there with them.  Ryan and I did have big plans for today, but when Ryan got up this morning, he decided he just wanted to hang out at home.  Works for me.  Hopefully, sometime during  the movie marathon Ryan has planned, I can get into the kitchen and whip up something delicious!  I hope you try the recipes, we really enjoyed them!  ♥♥

The Fam got together to celebrate Vonnie's birthday and to meet Brae ♥

The Fam got together to celebrate Vonnie’s birthday and to meet Brae ♥

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Italian, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spinach Pie Pizza, Baked Mozzarella Sticks, Breaded Pickles, Amish Friendship Bread Three Ways, and Snickerdoodles…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy May!!!  First let me just say HOORAY FOR SPRING!!! Yep, in my little corner of the world, spring has FINALLY sprung…and I have the sunburned forehead to prove it!  Today is May 5th (Happy Cinco de Mayo!!), and just last week here in Michigan, we had snow flurries!!!  UGH!!  Don’t get me wrong, I do love me some snow flakes…IN THE WINTER!!!   BUT snow flurries in the last week of April??? Not so much!!   Anyway, I am so glad that the nicer weather is finally here, as I am in desperate need of some vitamin D.  So desperate that, much to the chagrin of my hematologist, I went to Ryan’s soccer game yesterday sans sunscreen. Okay before I get clobbered for being irresponsible, let me say that I intended to sunscreen up, but I forgot as I was racing out the door.  Per usual, I made sure that everyone had water, that the soccer bag was packed, and that my camera was charged and ready.  Therefore, in my race to the soccer field, I inadvertently forgot to apply my sunscreen to my face.  I mean c’mon it was the first afternoon game in which sunscreen was even necessary, and my moisturizer already has a 15 SPF.  That said, I  didn’t take the time to carefully apply the moisturizer evenly on my forehead.  I just slathered it on after my shower, but didn’t take the time to massage it into my hairline…  which is the only spot on my whole body that got a little pink.  Oh well…moving on to the recipes. I’ve tried a few new recipes in the last few weeks.  The first recipe was for a spinach pie pizza.  I have made spinach pies in the past, and actually blogged the experience in post number 5.  If you are interested you can read about it here: http://thecookiemama.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/spinach-pies-and-veggie-meat-pies-made-with-l%E2%99%A5ve-by-the-cookie-mama-2/    Well, I made those delicious spinach pies again, but I accidentally only prepared 1 pound of dough. DSCN7898 I usually prepare 2 pounds of the dough, as the spinach mixture I make, requires that amount.  Needless to say, I had a ton of the spinach mixture left over, so I defrosted some pizza dough that I had in the freezer, and we had a spinach pie pizza the next night.  Here is a link to a recipe for a spinach pie that is similar to the recipe that I used: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=285181

Next I recreated two of my family’s favorite restaurant appetizers…mozzarella sticks and fried pickles.  Let me start by saying that I do not own a deep fryer of any kind, so I knew from the start that I would need a recipe in which these yummy treats were baked and not fried.  I came across the recipe for the mozzarella sticks on “Pinterest,” and  I knew immediately I would DSCN7929have to try it.  The recipe is simple, and I had all the ingredients in the pantry…SCORE!  I made the mozzarella sticks for a snack during one of our movie nights.  Ryan of course wouldn’t try them, but Dan and Victoria LOVED them.  I thought they were good, but in my opinion, they needed to be crispier.  Therein lies the issue with baking versus deep frying.  I do not regret making this restaurant treat at home, as my version is a ton healthier.  I used low fat, organic mozzarella sticks, organic ingredients, and of course they were baked not fried.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/02/skinny-baked-mozzarella-sticks.html

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My sister Amy and me enjoying a CPK cocktail!!

The next restaurant appetizer recipe that I attempted was for fried pickles.  When Dan and I were in high school, there was a little restaurant in the food court of Eastland Mall called “Wallaby’s.”  It was an Australian themed restaurant, and they served these yummy deep fried pickles called “boomerangs.” Dan and I loved them.  Well that little restaurant didn’t last long unfortunately, and Dan and I always talked about how much we missed those boomerangs.  Flash forward about 20 years, and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” enters the picture.  Dan and I saw our first “Cheeseburger in Paradise” restaurant whilst in Maui on our honeymoon. Happily, there is a now a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” on Hall Road.  We have been there lots of times with family and friends.  It is one of my favorite DSCN8100places to go when we eat out, because I love the atmosphere, all the Jimmy Buffett music, and of course the food.  My favorite things to order off their menu are the “CPK cocktail,” “frickles,” and the chocolate nachos for dessert.  YUM!!! The cocktail is so delicious, and its sweetness contrasts perfectly with the salty goodness of the deep fried pickles.  Then, for a perfect finisher, we order the chocolate nachos for dessert!  I do usually order an entree (veggie burger), full well knowing that it will be breakfast or lunch the next day, as I will only take a few bites.  I introduced my Dad and sister to Cheeseburger in Paradise” as well, and they love it too.  After making the mozzarella sticks, I had the thought of using the same batter but with pickles, in the attempt to recreate the “frickles” that I love so much.  Well it totally worked!  I am so in love with this recipe that I made it twice in one week.  Again, Ryan wouldn’t try it, but Dan, Victoria, and I LOVED it!!!  I am so happy that I can recreate this recipe at home. It is a ton healthier than if I ordered it at a restaurant, but it is still an indulgence.  I love love love pickles, but worry about their salt content.  So I do eat them, but I try to limit how often I enjoy their salty goodness.  If you too want to try this recipe, just use the batter recipe in the above mentioned mozzarella stick recipe, but use pickles instead of the cheese sticks.  I used two different types of pickles.  The first time I made them, I used pickle “stackers.”  The second time, I used a combination of the  stackers, and pickle chips.  Both times I made them, my family devoured the breaded, baked pickles and wished there was more.  I will totally make these again!

The next recipe I tried was for Amish friendship bread.  My “brother from another mother” Jim’s wife Kim, and I belong to an online book club.  The April selection was a book titled “Friendship Bread” by Darien Gee, and Kim and I both really enjoyed the book.  If you ever get a chance, this book is a quick read and an interesting story.  DSCN7944The characters in the book, deal with life issues such as grief and loss, friendship, community, food and family. As a side note, I would love love love to own a tea parlor like the one described in the book. Over the last few months, I have read several books in which food is central to the story’s plot, and in fact, almost qualifies as a main character.  I LOVE books like that, so this book was a perfect fit for me .  Some of the other books like “Friendship Bread” were:  “Like Water for Chocolate,”  “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,”  “Under the Tuscan Sun,” “Everyday In Tuscany,” and  “The Christmas Cookie Club.”  I’d recommend any of those books…especially if you are a “foodie” like me.  Anyway, when I was a little girl, I remember this friendship bread making the rounds at my elementary school.  Then when I DSCN8117was in my twenties, the friendship bread recipe made a comeback, and circulated again.  After reading this book, I was inspired to bake Amish friendship bread once again. True to my nature, I still had the instructions from both my childhood, and my younger adulthood days, so I decided to put together a “starter mix.”  The entire process takes 10 days. You follow instructions every day for 10 days, and then on day 10, you bake.  Every starter batch yields two yummy loaves of the friendship bread.  From my starter mix, I made 2 separate batches of the friendship bread 10 days apart.  The first go round, I made the original version of the bread.  Here is a link to that recipe: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1E0WwPpBh5E-BM5lGrbYFQqQvSqnCxkXVncsgqdv5WMw/edit?pli=1   On the second go round, I made 2 different chocolate versions…double chocolate bread, and triple chocolate coconut bread.  I definitely liked the chocolate versions better, as did my family. Here are the recipes for the chocolate versions:http://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/AFB-Triple-Chocolate-Coconut.pdf   and    http://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/pantry/double-chocolate

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Ryan with his birthday cookie

The last recipe was for snickerdoodles.  These are my Ryan’s favorite cookies in the whole wide world. I have made them multiple times, but I haven’t featured them in this blog yet. There were featured in my “Cookie of the Week” blog.  If you are interested, you can check out that entry here: http://chris-cookieoftheweek.blogspot.com/2010/12/week-2-12-snickerdoodles.html  Ryan’s birthday was on a Thursday this year.  Since his party was on Saturday, and I was making both a cake and cupcakes, I was hesitant to make a third cake just 2 days before his party day.  So in lieu of a cake, I decided to make his favorite sweet treat to celebrate his 10th birthday. When he came home from school, he was pretty excited to see his favorite cookie waiting for him.  The look on his face as he ate his snickerdoodle was priceless. I cannot believe that my “baby” is 10…when in the heck did that happen anyway??  Ryan chose to have a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” themed party this year.  I think his choosing that theme is hysterical.  When Jim and Chris my “brothers from another mother” were little boys, they loved TMNT too.  Ryan already reminds me a lot of them when they were little, so this is just another similarity.  Ryan’s actual birthday was a school day, but when he came home from school we celebrated with Ryan’s favorite cookies.  Then on his party day, we started the day with a soccer game.  I am happy to report that not only did Ryan’s team win (GO RAPTORS!!), Ryan scored his first goal of the spring season! Then after the game, we had family and friends over to celebrate my 10 year old boy!  Ryan was really pleased with his birthday, his party, his gifts, and especially his cookies.

I hope you try the recipes, we loved them.  Enjoy!  ♥♥

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The Fam at Cheeseburger in Paradise…enjoying some “frickles!”

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

Ho Ho Cake, Homemade Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars, Homemade Oreos, Baked Lemon Ziti, Deconstructed Cannoli, & Mozzarella Fonduta…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy Spring…I think.  Okay so I am pretty pumped  about the idea of spring, but I am totally sick of all the “teasers.” You know like warmer temps but then torrential rains…sunshine that quickly changes to black clouds and gusty winds…a day that starts out in the high 50’s but then plummets to the low 40’s by afternoon.  AND perhaps worst of all frigging snow at the end of April !!! UGH!!!  I know that patience is a virtue,but COME  ON ALREADY!!!!!  I am chomping at the bit to wear my “Birkenstocks,”  and to shed by darn winter jacket until next winter.   Oh well, such in life in Michigan…one day you’re happily moving the winter clothes to the back of the closet, and the next day you are begrudgingly digging them out again.  Anyway, I have cooked a ton of new things over the last few weeks.  Here we go…

First for the Easter holiday, the fam got together at my Dad’s house.  I was responsible for the side dish, and the dessert portion of our meal.  For the side dish I made cheesy potatoes…YUM.  I didn’t take a picture as this was not a new recipe for me.  For the dessert portion of the meal, I selected 2 different DSCN7817recipes.  The first recipe was for “Ho Ho Cake.” It was an homage to the now out of production “Hostess Ho Ho.”  I found this recipe a few months back, but was hesitant to make it as it makes a pretty large cake.  I knew it would be way too much for my family of four to eat, so I had to wait for a holiday or other special get together to make it.  Easter was the perfect time to try it so I did.  It was simple to make, but it was time intensive as all three layers had to be made separately.  Also, there needed to be time allotted for cooling and chilling all three layers.  That said, it was simple to make and simply delicious!  It did resemble the flavor profile of a “Hostesss Ho Ho,” but it wasn’t exactly the same.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2010/12/hoho-cake/

The second dessert I made for Easter was homemade “Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars.”  Every year, I like to hand-make some portion of what I put in the baskets for my niece and nephew, so this year I selected this  copycat “Reese’s” recipe.  DSCN7864These are simple to make, and I love the fact that they are a no bake dessert.  Since my oven was occupied with the above mentioned “Ho Ho cake,” this worked perfectly.  I have made these once before, but it has been a number of years.  I had all the ingredients already in the pantry, so this was a no brainer.  Everybody really enjoyed them, and there were no left overs, which is always telling.  I love love love chocolate and peanut butter together, so this really hit the spot.  It doesn’t taste exactly like a Reese’s, but it was pretty darn good.  Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/reeses-squares-5-ingredients-no-bake-reeses-29679#ixzz1EnwzLH5X

Sito G and Sito V doing dishes

Sito Georgia and Sito Vicky cleaning up the kitchen on Ashland.

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These looked the part, but were rock hard and pretty bland : (

Whilst at my Dad’s celebrating Easter, I mentioned to my family that I had attempted to make an old family recipe, and had failed miserably.  My Sito Vicky used to make these “lent friendly” kibbeh balls.  They were completely meat free, so they were “safe” to eat during lent.  She called them “kibbeh trawheb.”   I have absolutely no idea of the correct spelling  of that dish, as when my Sito dictated the recipe to me, I wrote the name out phonetically.  Anyway, I remember every lent being so excited, because I knew that Sito would make these yummy “lent balls.”  They are a meat free kibbeh, and they are stuffed with spinach and chick peas…DELICIOUS!!  Since both my Sito Vicky and my Sito Georgia have passed away, I’ve only been able to eat these yummy lent balls once.  Last year during lent, I happened to be at “Steve’s Back Room” a middle eastern restaurant in St. Clair Shores.  I went there to pick up some “Syrian bread,” and some other delectables for lunch.  As soon as I walked in, these “lent balls” were sitting on the counter.  They were labeled “lent kibbeh.”  I bought a half dozen, and was overjoyed to once again be able to enjoy my beloved lent treat.  When this year’s lenten season rolled around, I drove to Steve’s once again to buy more, but sadly they had none.  I checked the restaurant several different times during lent, and asked an employee about the lent kibbeh from the previous year, but no one remembered it.  On a whim, I called “Emily’s Delicatessan” a Lebanese bakery also in St. Clair Shores, to ask about “lent kibbeh” and they had it!  We immediately jumped in the car and flew over to Emily’s.  Once there, I was told that their lent kibbeh was made with pumpkin. Pumpkin? Huh?  I asked specifically about “kibbeh trawheb,” but they had never heard of it.  I bought the pumpkin kibbeh anyway, and much to my surprise, I loved it!  It tasted almost like the lent balls that my Sito used to make, and nothing like the rock hard bland version that I had made.  I must admit, I feel weird eating the pumpkin kibbeh balls as they are vastly different than the ones my Sitos used to make. However, I obviously did something wrong, but unfortunately I cannot ask her for help.  I fear I may have lost the recipe just like I lost both of my lovely Sitos.  The recipe passed away when they did.  That thought really bothers me.  This was the last Lebanese recipe from my childhood that I had yet to replicate. I have been successful with all the others.  Initially, I felt pretty confident, as I had made the lent balls with my Sito Georgia in the past, and I did have her recipe.  My maiden voyage was a flop though, so there must be some error in the recipe that I copied down so many years ago. Sadly,  I have no way to make it right.  I have “Google” searched the recipe about a jillion times, and I have consulted any Lebanese/Middle eastern  cookbook I can get my hands on, but to no avail.  I guess I just have to admit defeat in regards to this recipe. Going forward, maybe I will just have to begin my own tradition of making those pumpkin kibbeh balls at lent.  I am sure my Sitos would appreciate the effort.  Here is a link to the recipe for pumpkin kibbeh: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/pumpkin-kibbeh-stuffed-with-spinach-chick-peas-and-walnuts-recipe/index.html

On to happier thoughts…  When I made the ho ho cake, I had a ton of the cream filling left over.  I decided to save it, and use it as the filling in a home-made “Oreo” cookie.  I have made “Oreo’s” in the past, and they were good.  They didn’t really taste like Oreo’s to me, DSCN7881but they were good nontheless.  This time when I made the Oreo’s, I used a different recipe for the cookie.  Happily, I liked this cookie better.  It has a wonderful depth of flavor in regards to the chocolate cookie, and everyone really loved it.  Dan said, “…it sort of tastes like brownies but with a creamy frosting in the center.”  I don’t really care for store bought cookies anymore.  That said, Oreo’s are 1 of the 2 store bought cookies that I actually still like (the other is Fig Newtons…FYI I have a recipe for those too so stay tuned ☺) These cookies were good, but again they didn’t really taste like Oreo’s to me.  That said, they were a yummy sandwich cookie, and I’d make them again if the family requested them.  Here is the link to the recipe I used: http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com/2012/02/homemade-oreos/

The last three recipes were made in homage to my Italian heritage.  The first recipe was for baked lemon ziti.  I saw this recipe on an episode of “Giada at Home,” and knew immediately that I had to make it.  I don’t make baked pasta dishes very often, so I was excited to try it.  My Dad was coming over for dinner to pick up my niece and nephew after a sleep over, so I decided to try the recipe out.  It was pretty simple to assemble and the resulting dish got rave reviews.  My Dad, Victoria, Yvonne (my Niece), and Dan really liked it a lot.  I, on the other hand, thought it was good, but I didn’t really enjoy the creamy lemony taste as it reminded DSCN7852me too much of a dessert.  I like my meals to be savory. I don’t really care for sweet meals, which I guess explains why I don’t like sweet breakfast foods like pancakes or waffles for breakfast.  I make the distinction “for breakfast,”  because if I have already eaten a savory meal, I can and do like something sweet.  Sweet on its’s own though… for a meal??  Not so much.  Anyway, I liked the pasta, but prefer something a bit more hearty and savory for dinner.  I would make it again though as Dan and Victoria really liked it.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/baked-lemon-ziti-recipe/index.html   I did make one substitution to the recipe.  I didn’t have any ziti, so I used rotini instead.

The same day that I made the baked ziti for dinner, I also made “deconstructed cannoli” for dessert.  I had already purchased ricotta and mascarpone as I knew I wanted to make cannoli again.  I have only made cannoli once before, and they tasted good, but I didn’t care for the texture.  Unfortunately,  it was a bit gritty from the texture of the ricotta cheese.  So I began a new search for a recipe that used more DSCN7858mascarpone than ricotta, and I came across Giada’s recipe for cannoli cream.  She used it in a fruit salad, but I thought I’d try it as a dip.  Man oh man am I glad I did, because this recipe is amazing.  I know this is one for those recipes that I will use for the rest of my life.  It is so easy and tasty, and it totally performed how I hoped it would.  It may be a bit too thin if I actually wanted to stuff the cannoli shells with it, but as a dip it was perfect!  Instead of deep frying cannoli shells, I used pizzelles.  I love love love pizzelles.  My Aunt Pat usually makes them for family get togethers, and I always enjoy them.  They are delicious and light, and I love the intricate patterns the cookies have. Several years ago, my parents got me my very own pizzelle press as a gift.  I have only used it a half dozen times or so, but I totally love it!  My favorite flavor of pizzelle is anise.  I have made other flavors like almond, vanilla, lemon, and chocolate chip, but anise is still my favorite.  When I have used the pizzelles as cannoli shells in the past, I just mold the cookies into little tubes while they are still warm and pliable from the press.  This time, I just made the pizzelles like normal, and we used them to scoop up the delicious cannoli cream.  This was a great dessert, and I will definitely make it again.  Here are the links to both the cannoli cream and pizzelles:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/fruit-salad-with-cannoli-cream-recipe/index.html    and   http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pizzelles-iii/

My last recipe is for mozzarella fonduta.  I saw this recipe on an episode of “Giada at Home,”  and I was instantly transported back to my childhood.  When I was a kid, my dad owned an Italian restaurant called the “Villanova.”  I used to love to go see him at the restaurant, and when I’d visit he’d always make me “baked cheese.” DSCN7867 He would layer sauce and cheese in a bowl, and then broil it in his pizza oven.  The result was a gooey, delicious, cheesy masterpiece.  Just the other day, I asked my Dad how this recipe came to life, and he told me the story.  He said that when we’d visit his restaurant, he’d always make me chicken parmesan or veal parmesan (I clearly wasn’t raised a vegetarian ☺).  What he noticed was that I’d eat a few bites of the meat, but I’d always finish all of the sauce and cheese. So, one time he just omitted the meat from the dish all together.  Well, I loved it, and a recipe was born.  From then on, whenever I’d go to the restaurant, I’d request baked cheese.  Inexplicably, I never attempted to replicate that dish… that is until now.  All it took was me seeing a similar recipe on tv, and  I knew I had to make it.  I am happy to report that the mozzarella fonduta is delicious.  I have made it three times so far, and it never disappoints.  I talked with my Dad about it, and he said that when he made it for me all those years ago, he used a blend of 5 cheeses that they used on the pizzas at the restaurant.  When I made it, I used fresh mozzarella and parmesan.  It is delicious…total comfort food for me.  Gladly, Dan and Victoria loved it too.  It is really easy to make, and the ingredients are inexpensive.  This is another recipe that I am sure I will always keep in the rotation.  Here is a link to Giada’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/mozzarella-fonduta-recipe/index.html  I did make a few substitutions.  First, I did not use prosciutto as we are vegetarians.  Instead, I made veggie meatballs to add some protein to the dish.  Also, I didn’t use Gruyere, I used parmesan instead.

I have noticed that when I blog now, I usually include a bunch of recipes as opposed to just 1 or 2.  That is in part due to the fact that I don’t religiously blog every week anymore.  I still enjoy sharing my recipes, but it doesn’t feel the same as my “Cookie if the Week” blog.  That blog felt more weighty and poignant to me.  I know that was due to the fact that my blog usually centered around my Mom, and my feelings surrounding her passing. This blog is different.  This is a double edged sword for me.  I am happy to be past those really dark days, early on in my grief over her passing,  but I miss the cathartic feeling I had when composing those entries.  They meant something to me. They were more personal.  After some reflection, I feel like those blogs were closer to my heart.  I don’t know if it’s possible to sustain that sort of emotive writing over a long period of time, and maybe we shouldn’t.  If anything, I think this blog illustrates my way of dealing with stress.  Cooking and baking. I have said in the past that my mantra was “do everything you can to make it right, and when all else fails, go bake something.”  Well that sentiment still holds true.  Part of the reason that I have so many recipes in one entry is that I blog less frequently.  The other is that when things get stressful for me, or if I am feeling blue, instead of taking to the bottle or to my bed, I take to the kitchen.  Once there, I am hoping to find some solace or comfort that is evading me in life.  Most times it works.  Over the last few years, I have come to the understanding that I truly LOVE to feed people.  In fact, watching people enjoy my culinary creations, is better than me actually eating those creations myself.  It makes me feel good to know that I have given even just a little piece of happiness to others via my recipes.  It reminds me of the poem that was read at my Mom’s memorial service, “Epitaph” by Merritt Malloy.  In the poem Malloy writes “…when all that is left of me is love, give me away…”  That’s what I try to do with my cookies, treats, and other yummies…I try to impart a little love.  It doesn’t change the world of course, but maybe it offers a temporary respite.  Maybe it offers a moment in time, in which, the cares of the world seem a bit lighter.  I came across a quote by Jael McHenry author of “The Kitchen Daughter,”  that I absolutely love.  I think it captures my sentiments exactly.  It goes like this …”I want them to bite into a cookie, and think of me, and smile.  Food is love.  Food has a power.  I knew it in my mind, but now know it in my heart.”

Enjoy the recipes!  ♥♥

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From L to R Ryan, Ian, Yvonne, & Victoria ♥

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