Find me on Facebook!

After following numerous recipe pages on Facebook, it finally dawned on me… “hey, I should do that.”  Well, I finally did it.  I now officially have a Facebook page for my blog recipes.  I’ll be posting some oldies (but goodies), and of course new recipes as I blog about them.  I hope you’ll take a moment to like my page.  You can click here to be connected to my Facebook page.

If you are unable to be connected as above, please enter the following web address to be directed to my page:

https://www.facebook.com/asymphonyinthekitchen/

Thanks for “liking” my page.

Happy Cooking!

Christine

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Rigatoni Pie

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So for months I had been seeing this pasta entrée going around Facebook and frequently would just pass it by.  Meh.  I thought to myself.  But it kept showing up in my news feed – over and over and over again.  Hmmmm.  This is obviously popular.  OK I’ll bite (no pun intended).  I’m referring to the Rigatoni Pie that you may have seen going around the internet.  It is made in a springform pan and the rigatoni stands vertically in the pan and is covered with sauce and cheese.  In pictures it looks delicious and being Italian, I had to give it a try.

So, I grabbed my springform pan and boiled up some rigatoni.  I mixed in a little tomato sauce and then began assembling the pie standing the rigatoni vertically in the pan.  I found it difficult, truthfully.  The pasta just kept falling over.  Usually when I make rigatoni, I mix in a little ricotta cheese with it (and boy do my kids go crazy over it!).  So I decided that would be my “glue.”  I mixed in some ricotta cheese and it helped the pasta stick to each other and allowed me to be able to fill up the pan.  I squeezed in as much pasta as I could.  Then I covered the top with sauce and a big layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Then into the oven it went to bake and get nice and bubbly and brown.

A lot of people prefer meat in their pasta dishes.  My older cousin is a strict vegetarian, so growing up our Italian family always made meat dishes on the side.  Meatballs, chicken cutlet parmigiana, sausage and peppers, etc.  Everything was served separate from any pasta dish.  Our baked ziti and lasagna dishes never had meat in them and because of that I still can’t bring myself to like lasagna served at restaurants since they fill them up with meat!  It’s what you get used to.  So, I never make my pasta dishes with meat.  You can use ground beef in this recipe if you’d like, but I chose to make it without.  I also really didn’t follow a particular recipe.  I just took the main ingredients and combined them how I wanted.  It’s a flexible recipe that you can really make your own.  Don’t like tomato sauce, try pesto.  Don’t want ricotta cheese, use a meat sauce.  The possibilities are endless!

It’s a little bit of effort to assemble, but it’s worth the reactions you’ll get from your family or guests when you release that springform pan.  My kids were in awe and I should have taken an “after” picture – because there was none left!  I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as mine has!

Rigatoni Pasta Pie

1 9″ springform pan, lightly oiled
1 lb. rigatoni pasta, cooked al dente
1 8 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4-6 cups tomato sauce (reserve some for final plates)

  1. Combine the cooked pasta with about a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and the ricotta cheese.  Mix well.
  2. Place a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the springform pan.  Begin tightly packing the rigatoni in the springform pan, standing the pasta on its ends (vertically) working your way from the outside towards the center.  Pack it as tight as possible, without destroying any of the pasta.  You may or may not use all of the pasta.
  3. Once the pan is filled with the pasta, pour over some tomato sauce and then sprinkle on the parmesan and mozzarella cheese. (I wrapped my springform pan in aluminum foil and placed it on a cookie sheet so any juices that dripped wouldn’t leak.  However, do not cover the top with aluminum foil.)
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted, brown, and bubbly.  Remove from oven and let stand about 10-15 minutes before removing springform.
Recipe courtesy of mostly myself and numerous Facebook posts!  Enjoy!

Margarita Pie

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Margarita Pie.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  MARGARITA pie.  What to say about it… it’s like eating a frozen margarita.  WARNING:  A little too much of this pie could lead to a margarita buzz!

In all seriousness, I was looking for something light and refreshing for Easter dessert.  I hadn’t made my Margarita Pie in a long time and I thought it would be a nice treat for the adults, along with my Icebox Cake for the kids.   Plus, who doesn’t love a margarita? My mother-in-law LOVES them (me too) so I knew she’d enjoy it and I thought it would be a nice twist.

I first found this recipe about 12 years ago.  I was looking for a different Summer dessert recipe to bring to a family barbecue and I happened to come across this recipe.  I love margaritas so why not, right?  Any dessert with alcohol in it HAS to be good, right? So, I decided to give it a try.  It was incredible.  After tasting one bite, I really didn’t want to share the rest!  It was sooooo good!!!  It uses sweetened condensed milk, which creates a sweet, creamy base and alcohol you would typically use in a margarita – Triple Sec (an orange flavored liquor) and Tequila (well – you know – it’s Tequila!)  Along with some lime juice, this combination is outstanding.  Some added whipped topping gives it some lightness and fluffiness – and it’s like a margarita mousse!  I added a couple of drops of green food coloring to give it a light green color – similar to that of a margarita.

If you like margaritas – on the rocks, no salt – like me or frozen like my husband and his mom – this dessert is definitely for you.  The only thing to keep in mind is that with this dessert you do use alcohol and since it is a no-bake dessert, the alcohol does not burn off or cook out.  So, be careful how much you eat – because it can give you a buzz!

Margarita Pie

1 9″ graham cracker crust (I buy the pre-made kind)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup Tequila (I use Jose Cuervo)
5 Tbsp. Triple Sec
1 16 oz. container Cool Whip
Green food coloring (2-3 drops)
Whipped Cream for Garnish

  1.  In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, Tequila, and Triple Sec.  Whisk together until well blended.
  2. Add food coloring and mix until the color is evenly incorporated and there are no streaks.
  3. Fold in Cool Whip until mixed well.
  4. Pour into prepared crust.
  5. Freeze 6-8 hours or overnight.  Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

 

 

Greek Pasta Salad

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One of the dishes that is a big hit among family and friends is my Pasta Primavera.  My grandmother, my mother, my aunt, and my cousin made it often as I was growing up. It was always on the table at some summer get together.  I made it for an office pot-luck one time and my co-workers went crazy over it – everyone wanting the recipe.  It was definitely a keeper.  I introduced it to my husband and kids and it wasn’t such a big hit.  My husband and my daughter eat the pasta, my son eats the olives, my toddler doesn’t like it at all, and I eat everything else.  It’s a fairly popular dish at most summer barbecues among extended family and friends and I like it, so I keep making it.  It’s a light, refreshing, cold pasta dish that is really perfect for hot summer days.

I happened to come across another chilled pasta recipe and when I read the ingredients list, I was very intrigued.  I love Greek food – my family, not so much.  So, I don’t really get to enjoy it too often.  But this Greek Pasta Salad was a recipe I really wanted to try. So, I decided to make it – regardless of whether or not my family would try it!  More for me! 🙂  And truthfully, since it is a vegetarian dish, I really didn’t expect them to want any of it!  My hubby and kids are meat and potato loving people!

So, I made the salad and it was spectacular!  While the recipe calls for Orechiette pasta, I used Rotini.  Here’s a little side story…..  I went grocery shopping and included all of the ingredients for this salad on my list. I even bought Orechiette pasta.  You know – the ones that look like little hats.  Here’s a picture….

orechiette-pasta

So, I go to make the salad and I cannot for the life of me, find the box of Orecchiette pasta.  I know I bought one.  I know I put it in the pantry.  And now I can’t find it. Hmmmm.  Interestingly enough, the sudden disappearance of my box of pasta came right after my in-laws shared with us some odd occurrences that were happening in their house.  The joke became – is there a ghost in their house?  I think maybe it took a trip over to our house and stole my box of pasta!  I digress….

Rotini it is!  So I made the salad using rotini.  No big deal – just a little different.  But, truthfully, the rotini gave it some additional texture.  I love the combination of this salad.  There is such an incredible combination of textures and flavors – its a party in your mouth.  Literally!!  The dressing is a nice vinaigrette with just a hint of sweetness to balance all of the acidity and is nicely seasoned without being overpowering.  The ingredients of the salad are an incredible array of textures and flavors as well.  I love the slight chewiness of the artichokes with the tang of the marinade, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the crunch of the cucumbers, the creaminess of the garbanzo beans, and the saltiness of the kalamata olives.  Wow! What a party in your mouth!!  And I still didn’t even mention the crumble of feta cheese on top!  I need a moment…

 

OK

 

I’m good.

I don’t think I’ve been this excited over a pasta salad recipe – but this one really blew me away.  It’s a variety of ingredients and textures that I’ve really never seen combined before – but it is a combination of pure deliciousness!  If you’re looking for a refreshing pasta salad to serve at a summer barbecue – I highly recommend giving this one a try. You (and your guests) will not be disappointed!

You’ll see chopped raw red onions in the ingredient listing, but I absolutely cannot stand raw onions.  They are just too much for me.  Even the sweeter onions leave a nasty aftertaste and even burn eating them.  I can only eat cooked onions, so I chose to leave them out.

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Greek Pasta Salad

For the dressing:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

For the salad:

1 lb. small shaped pasta (orecchiette, small shells, rotini, ditalini, elbows, etc.)
1 (14.5 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion (I omitted this, I hate raw onions!)
1 (9.5) oz. jar kalamata olives, drained
2 (14.75) oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained (and cut if pieces are too big)
Crumbled feta cheese

  1. In a quart size mason jar or medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients.  Shake well if using a mason jar or whisk together until a vinaigrette consistency is formed using a wire whisk.  Let sit for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld and develop.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Add a small drizzle of olive oil in the water while cooking.  This will prevent the pasta from sticking together while cooling. Drain and rinse well allowing the pasta to cool down.
  3. Once pasta is cooled, transfer to a large bowl.  Add salad ingredients (garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and artichoke hearts).  Shake or whisk dressing to ensure it is well combined and pour over pasta and salad ingredients. Toss together ensuring the dressing coats all of the ingredients.
  4. Serve chilled and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
  5. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and eat within one week.

Oh, and by the way, I did find the lost box of Orecchiette pasta.  It reappeared in my pantry – the day after I made this salad.

Recipe adapted from noblepig.com

Icebox Cake (Eclair Cake)

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When I was growing up my family and I would visit my grandparents every Sunday.  It was an Italian tradition to spend Sundays with Grandma and Grandpa.  And Grandma would always make some amazing Italian dinner followed by some form of dessert.  After the meal was eaten and the dishes were cleared and cleaned (my Grandma didn’t have a dishwasher), the classic Farberware percolator coffee pot would get prepped and plugged in and dessert would be ready for the table.  On some occasions, we would bring dessert, and other times my Grandmother would make something.  One of the things she would make was a delicious “cake” layered with graham crackers, chocolate pudding, and vanilla pudding.  O.  M.  G.  It.  Was.  Amazing.  She used to call it Icebox Cake.  I don’t know why, but that was her name for it.  It was a perfect combination of deliciousness!  The creaminess from the pudding and the soft crunch of the graham crackers gave it a really nice contrast in texture.

Fast forward to married life and motherhood.  We were hosting a party for Fourth of July a few years ago and I wanted to do something different for dessert.  My Grandmother’s Icebox Cake came to mind and I decided to go with that.  I made a huge tin of it and it was gone before the end of the day!!!!  It was an immediate hit and now a favorite among our family.

We were hosting a party for Super Bowl Sunday a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to do something different for dessert.  My husband mentioned Icebox Cake!  YES!  And again, it was an instant hit and was gone by the end of the night!  Which I guess is a good thing – so I don’t eat the leftovers!

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Icebox Cake

1 large package instant vanilla pudding
1 large package instant chocolate pudding
2 small containers Cool Whip
20-25 Graham Crackers

1.  In a medium bowl, make the vanilla pudding according to package directions for pie.  Let set. Add half of one of the containers of Cool Whip.  Mix well.  Chill for about 20 minutes.
2.  In a separate bowl, make the chocolate pudding according to the package directions for pie.  Let set.  Add the remaining half of the container of Cool Whip.  Mix well.  Chill for about 20 minutes.
3.  In a deep dish or tin, place one layer of graham crackers.  On top of the graham crackers, spoon over enough chocolate pudding to cover the graham crackers in a thick layer.  Add another layer of graham crackers.  Spoon over the vanilla pudding in another thick layer.  Continue layering in the same manner until the dish is full.  The final layer should be the Cool Whip.  Use as much or as little as you’d like to top off your “cake.”
4.  Chill for about 2 hours to allow pudding to set.

This “cake” is best prepared and served the same day.  Overnight, the graham crackers can become mushy from sitting in the pudding too long.  But trust me, once you serve this “cake” you probably won’t have to worry about that!  ENJOY! 🙂

Beef Stew

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I live in Las Vegas and it seems that the majority of people think the only weather we get in Vegas is heat.  While that’s not too far from the truth, we do get cooler weather for about 2-3 months out of the year.  December, January, and February are actually COLD!  Now, everything is relative.  When you’re used to 80-90 degree Summers, 20-30 degrees is cold.  When you get 110-115 degree Summers, 40-50 degrees is COLD – and there are times our temperatures dip down into the 30’s during the Winter months. And nothing is better than a dinner that warms you from the inside out like a delicious, hearty bowl of beef stew.

My mother used to make beef stew frequently when I was a kid.  Our family really loved it too.  It was pretty cold here in Vegas and I was looking for a dinner that would be a “stick to your ribs” kind of meal and my mom’s beef stew came to mind.  I had never made it before for my family, and while I knew Rob would love it, I was curious to see how my kids would react.  Turns out they liked it, but we still had some negotiating with respect to the vegetables.

The dish has a lot of depth and flavor.  The beef broth and browning sauce gives it richness, the Tabasco and chili powder give it a little heat, and the vegetables and meat give it a variety of texture.  It is a great dish perfect for a cold and wintry night.

When making the dish I usually use about 1-2 cups of beef broth.  However, combined with the liquid that is already present from the sauteed onions, diced tomatoes, and the frozen vegetables as they warm and cook through, the stew can become a little too liquid.  Add the broth a little at a time to help avoid this.  However, if that happens, you can make a slurry consisting of a little cornstarch and a little water mixed together. Then pour it into the stew.  As it comes to a boil, the slurry will activate and thicken the mixture.  Be sure not to add too much as you don’t want to create a paste.  You could add some more beef broth as needed to thin it out.  However, in doing this – you begin to compromise the integrity of the flavor of the stew.

Enjoy!

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Beef Stew

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 large onion, finely diced
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 can diced tomatoes and juice
5 Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, large dice
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder to season
1/4 tsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet Browning Sauce
1-2 cups beef broth
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, peas, green beans)

  1.  In a large pot or Dutch Oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent.  Add the meat and cook about 6-7 minutes turning frequently, to brown on all sides.
  2. Add the tomatoes and potatoes.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and paprika.  Stir.
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, browning sauce, and beef broth.  Mix well.  Cook about 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Add the frozen vegetables and cook another 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked through.  Serve immediately.

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

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I have never been a fan of Mexican food.  Neither of my parents cooked Mexican food when I was a kid and we never went to Mexican restaurants as a family either.  So, it was something I never really ate.  When I was finally introduced to Mexican food, I wasn’t really crazy about it, and truthfully I’m still not.  There are a few things I like, but I keep it pretty simple.  My husband, on the other hand, grew up eating a lot of Mexican food and he loves it all!!

I was watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network and she was making her Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup.  I was intrigued.  Most of the ingredients she used I liked so I thought this might be a good Mexican recipe to try! That was until she added black beans.  If there is one thing I really don’t like, it’s black beans.  Ugh.  So, as I normally do – I took the recipe and made my own version!  It was a huge hit in my family.  My husband really enjoyed it and my in-laws loved it too.  It wasn’t very spicy – which can be modified.  You can add more spice if you like things spicy.  It turned out to be a very hearty and robust soup.  A perfect meal for a cold, rainy day.

So, here is my version….

 

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Mexican Chicken Soup

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 each red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) whole or diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with chipotles, with juice
1 can (6.5 oz) tomato paste
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernal corn, drained
1 lime, juiced
3 cups chicken broth

If you like it more on the spicy side, feel free to add a chipotle chili pepper in adobo (with stem and seeds removed).  You can also add some chipotle chili powder as well to increase the heat if you prefer.

Fixin’s:  Tortilla Strips, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Diced Onion, Chopped Cilantro

1.)  In a large slow cooker, place the chicken breasts on the bottom.  Add chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
2.)  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, lime juice, and chicken broth.
3.)  Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours.
4.)  When timer is done, remove chicken breasts to a separate plate and shred using two forks.  Return shredded chicken to the soup and mix in.
5.)  Serve with various “fixin’s.”  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman – Ree Drummond

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

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Carrot Cake.   It’s popular.  It’s my husband’s favorite cake.  But I hate it.  Most are generally moist and full of flavor, but I just never acquired a liking to it.  So, because I don’t like it, I never make it for my husband.

We were hosting a Father’s Day barbecue for Rob and his parents were also coming over to celebrate with the family.  I couldn’t decide what to do for dessert.   I was perusing through websites and blogs and happened to come across this recipe for Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches.  I wouldn’t have a lot of cake leftover and the cookies would probably go faster than the cake!  Plus the kids may even like them.  So I decided to give them a try.  They turned out fantastic and were a big hit.  I did not personally taste them so I can’t really describe the taste to you.  But my husband loved them and my kids did too.  With a delicious cream cheese frosting, these cookies were a huge success!

If you like Carrot Cake, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these as well! 🙂

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

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Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

Makes about 10 cookie sandwiches

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup finely grated carrots
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup old fashioned quick oats
1/2 cup raisins (if desired)

Recipe courtesy of TodaysMama.com

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Gently stir in the carrots and applesauce.
  3. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon into the wet ingredients.  Stir gently until combined.
  4. Form dough into uniform balls (I use a medium size cookie scoop – about 1 – 1 1/2 Tbsp. of dough for each cookie).  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. To make the frosting, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to combine the softened cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract.  When combined, add the powdered sugar and mix well.
  7. Spread cream cheese frosting between two cooled cookies and press together to make sandwich cookies.  Repeat with the remaining cookies.  Refrigerate or freeze in an air tight container.  (I store mine in Ziploc freezer bags in the refrigerator.  They don’t last long enough to go into the freezer!)

Enjoy!

Recipe from todaysmama.com

Chocolate Fudge White Chip Cookies

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A couple of months ago I actually had some time alone!  Whoo hoo!!!  As a mom of three kids ages 6 and under, this is a big deal!  I’m constantly running and chasing after my almost 2 year old, getting my 4 and 6 year old to their respective schools, appointments, activities, getting homework done, laundry, house cleaning, dishes, meals, etc., etc., etc.  It.  Never.  Ends.

I digress.  Seriously, though.  I was craving something really ooey, gooey, and fudgy. Some really delicious fudge brownies would be perfect, but I didn’t have all of the necessary ingredients to make them and I didn’t feel like running out to the store.  So, the search online for another recipe began.  I ended up coming across this recipe for chocolate fudge cookies that seemed perfect.  I had just about all of the ingredients so I decided to give them a shot.  I substituted white chocolate chips for the milk chocolate chips since I didn’t have any.  But they still turned out great.

They turned out to be fabulous.  They were very fudgy and chocolatey.  They still baked up more cake-like, but I think the trick would be to shorten the baking time just a little bit to keep those centers really gooey.   For all of you chocoholics out there, this cookie is definitely for you!!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Fudge White Chip Cookies

Chocolate Fudge White Chip Cookies

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup + 3 Tbsp. AP flour
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for 1 cup milk chocolate chips, but I didn’t have any.  You can use whichever you prefer.)

  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place the semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in a small bowl.  Microwave in increments of 15 seconds and then mix until the mixture is combined and the butter is completely melted.  (I did this over a double boiler instead by placing a heat safe bowl over a pot of boiling water allowing the butter and chocolate to melt and combine together.)  Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. In another medium-sized bowl, combine sugars, eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Whisk together.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Do not overmix.
  6. Fold in the melted chocolate/butter mixture and stir until combined.
  7. Scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.  Place the pans in the oven. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool completely before serving.

Recipe adapted from http://www.bakerbynature.com.

Get Organized!

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I have always loved hosting events at my home.  Whether it was a simple dinner with a couple of friends to an elaborate event celebration.  I’ve enjoyed this since I was a little kid!  It was always fun having people come over to visit!!  My mother, on the other hand, didn’t like it as much as I did.  She seemed to focus more on the unpleasant things associated with having people come over – make sure the house was clean, buy the necessary supplies (paper plates, utensils, cups, soda, etc.), buy the food, prepare the food, etc.  My mom was not big on cooking.  My dad always used to joke that my mother’s idea of dinner was reservations.  As I got older, I was able to help out more and I think my mom did it more for me since she saw how much joy I got out of it.

Well, the tradition of hosting continues to live on strong in my home.  My husband and I love hosting parties, get togethers, dinners, events, holidays – you name it.  Pretty much everything happens at our house and I love it!  I wish my mom and dad could be here to be part of all of the celebrations and gatherings, but I know they are with me in spirit.

Just recently, we celebrated the Baptism of our three children.  Jesse, Tatum, and Julia were Baptized at our church and then we celebrated with a party at our house.  We enjoyed the company of family and friends as well as some great food and desserts.  It was a great day, but it certainly didn’t come without planning!  My dear friend, Darci, helped me out a few months ago and we prepared a number of dishes in advance.  My son wanted lasagna, so we made lasagna!  We also made meatballs, eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers, chicken cutlets, and chicken piccata.  All of which freeze wonderfully!  I took them out a few days in advance of the party to let them defrost and then baked them off in the oven before the party.

Then it was dessert.  My son wanted chocolate cake, I wanted vanilla cake, my daughter wanted lemon cake.  So many to make!  I decided to do one of each and some cookies!  My cousins were coming in from out of state and I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible – not spending so much time baking and decorating cakes.  So I prepared and pre-measured my ingredients in advance.

I simply measured out all of my dry ingredients for the cookies and wrote the recipe on the front of a Ziploc bag with a Sharpie marker.  Then all I had to do was add my wet ingredients, mix, and bake off the cookies.  I also premeasured the powdered sugar I needed for my buttercream and make that in advance as well.  It was such a huge time-saver and I got to enjoy so much more time with my family!  It was wonderful!

So that’s my tip!  Organize in advance and you’ll save time in the end!  Enjoy your party with these time saving tips!!  (And don’t worry, these delicious chocolate fudge cookies will have a posted recipe on this blog shortly!)

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