Monday, May 30, 2011

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Happy Memorial Day!

**My family and I would like to say THANK YOU to our military men & woman, past and present, for serving and protecting us!**

We had this Bow Tie Pasta Salad at our little family picnic today. It was 95 and very humid here so we ate inside in the AC. ;)  We had a simple picnic of hot dogs, pasta salad, cake w/strawberries and iced tea.

Bring on summer!

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

2 -12oz boxes of bow tie pasta, cooked
2 medium tomatoes, diced into small pieces
1 large cucumber, diced into small pieces
1 can of black olives, drained and diced into small rings or pieces
12 oz Kraft Greek Vinaigrette salad dressing
6 oz Kraft Italian salad dressing
1/3 c. Salad Supreme

Cook pasta. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again.

Stir in tomatoes, cucumber, and black olives.

Pour salad dressings and Salad Supreme over pasta. Stir to mix well.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve cold.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookie Bites

If you're looking for a cookie that will travel and hold up well for summer picnics, my Lemon Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookie Bites will work perfectly.

The tartness of the lemon cake mix balances well with the sweetness of the semi sweet chocolate chips. I used a mini cookie scoop so that you would end with just a bite or two of each cookie, making them easier to handle. These cookies are topped with a simple lemon glaze but they taste great leaving them unglazed, too. I loved the extra tang from the lemon in the glaze but my kids loved the cookies without the glaze.

I love how quickly cake mix cookies come together. I chose to use semi sweet chocolate chips this time but you could easily sub sprinkles, white chocolate chips, walnuts, macadamia nuts or even sunflower seeds would create a nice texture and taste. If you choose to let the cookies plain, roll the cookie balls into sugar before baking for a pretty crinkled look. You could also drizzle melted chocolate over top of the baked cookies. Versatility...another reason that I love cake mix cookies!

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookie Bites 
adapted from Duncan Hines


1 Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake mix
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. lemon juice (original calls for fresh lemon but I used bottled)
3/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips


1 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice (original calls for fresh lemon but I used bottled and omitted the zest)

Preheat oven to 350*

Mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and lemon juice. The batter will be stiff.

Using a mini cookie scoop or a teaspoon, drop cookie batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the cookies start to turn brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool cookies on the sheet for 1-2 minutes. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to cooling racks to cool completely. If you are going to glaze the cookies with lemon glaze, do so while the cookies are still slightly warm.

To make glaze: 

Stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes. Spoon glaze over warm cookies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tuscany Pasta

I haven't been inspired to try much of anything new lately but with all of the veggies and fruits coming into season right now, I don't want to miss out on them, either. My recipe for Tuscany Pasta came together rather quickly with some fresh ingredients that I had on hand. It's a light dish full packed full of flavor.

Tuscany Pasta

1 lb of shell pasta, cooked
2 cans of diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
3 tbsp Italian seasonings
 olive oil for cooking vegetables
1 16 oz container of button mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp minced garlic in olive oil
1 bag of fresh spinach
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

Cook pasta, drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, pour the two cans of tomatoes into a large sauce pot. (big enough to hold cooked pasta). Stir in Italian seasoning and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large frying pan, drizzle two tbsp. of olive oil. Add mushrooms to the pan, along with the garlic and saute until the mushrooms start to soften. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl and keep warm.

In the same frying pan, drizzle in one more tbsp. of olive oil. Add entire bag of spinach to the pan. Toss the spinach to coat it with the olive oil. Cook over medium heat until the spinach just starts to wilt. This will happen very quickly so do not stop tossing the spinach while it is cooking. Spoon the spinach into the bowl with the mushrooms.

Once the tomatoes have cooked for 20 minutes, add the mushrooms and spinach to the sauce. Stir to mix well. Continue simmering for 5-10 minutes.

Pour the cooked shells into the pot of tomato sauce. Toss well to evenly coat the pasta.

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy 8th Birthday Alexis!

My daughter and I celebrate our birthdays during the same week in May - her's on the 24th and mine on the 26th. I'm still finding it hard to believe that she turned 8 yrs. old yesterday. We took her on a shopping trip so that she could pick out some of her gifts - mostly clothes and shoes! She is a shoe fiend! The girl is madly obsessed with shoes!! She is at the point where she can wear girl's shoes or small sizes in ladies' shoes - lookout a whole new arena now. She has a great, quirky sense for fashion and needs little help when it comes to pulling whole outfits together. Plus, she is already loves searching for good sales, yard sales and thrift stores! Yay! Chalk one up for Mom for showing her the way!

She is growing up so quickly and becoming quite a little lady (and still partly tomboy, too). She cracks me up when she goes out the door wearing a dress and pretty shoes and is adorned from head to toe with earrings, a necklace, bracelets and a watch but then comes home with her hair pulled into a ponytail and her jewelry in her book bag. If you ask her why, she'll tell you that you can't play football the right way with the boys when you are wearing jewelry. Did you know that you can't beat the boys in relay races if you are wearing flip flops? That's why she will sneak out of her teacher's sight to kick them off to run in her bare feet so that she can win the races. ~ Ugh. ~ At least she is listening to part of what I've been telling her - absolutely no running around in flip flops because you will get hurt. I chose to ignore the latter part of her running around in bare feet. I know, bad Mom. But at that moment, I was ok with it.

She is loving and kind, lovable, stubborn, sometimes mouthy, rough yet gentle, smart, independent and already a leader. She is doing very well in school. She says that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. I think that children would greatly benefit from a teacher like her. She's a sports fanatic - she loves playing soccer, football, basketball and golf. Boys, watch out...she doesn't back down to challenges. She's also a die-hard Steelers fan!! (like her Mom - not like her Dad - he's a Jet's fan).

It took so long to bring her into this world and even though she drives us batty at times, we love each and every minute with her. We wouldn't change a thing.

Happy 8th Birthday Alexis! 

We love you!!

Singing 'Happy Birthday' in the dark

Alexis' cupcake request - homemade Funfetti Cupcakes topped with Nerds

May all of your troubles.....

Go Up....

In Bubbles!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Pastitsio or "Greek lasagna" contains layers of pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce. Derived from the Italian word "pasticcio", it means mess or hodgepodge. There are many recipes out there for Pastitsio. Some of the recipes call for literally making everything from scratch. Since I don't usually have that kind of time, I opted to take some shortcuts to make this dish somewhat quicker and easier.

Once again I've used a recipe from Kraft as a base for my recipe. I added some spices and extra cheese into my recipe.  It was also another opportunity for me to use some of my flourishing cinnamon basil.

adapted from Kraft

1 1/2 lbs  elbow macaroni, cooked al dente & drained well- (measured before cooking - I eyeballed pouring 1/2 a 3 lb box into a large pot of water. I used all but about 1 cup of the cooked mac in this recipe.)

Meat Sauce
1 1/2 lb ground beef
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
24 oz spaghetti sauce (I used jarred sauce)

Bechamel Sauce
4 tbsp butter
2 1/2 c milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
16 oz  Greek nonfat yogurt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 + 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. cinnamon basil, chopped


Cook elbow macaroni. Drain well and set aside.

For meat sauce:

Brown ground beef in a large skillet. Drain excess grease. Return ground beef to the skillet and stir in spices and spaghetti sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally. Stir in cinnamon basil. Remove from heat.

For Bechamel Sauce:

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Stirring constantly, pour in milk and nutmeg, stirring to blend. Bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 - 7 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken. Stir in 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt.

Add macaroni and stir until it is well coated.

Preheat oven to 350*

To assemble:

Pour ground beef mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish. Spread the macaroni over the beef. Top with 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until warmed through and the top has browned lightly. Cool in pan for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

~*~* My thoughts *~

The dish was very tasty. All of the herbs and spices came shining through, especially the cinnamon basil and the nutmeg. If you don't like a heavy spice taste in your food, I would suggest cutting back on the spices or even leaving out the cinnamon basil.

This is a traditional Pastitsio by any means. As you can see in the pictures, it did not hold together in layers but it did hold true to the definition of it's name. All the same, it was really good.

If I were to make this recipe again, I would use penne pasta instead of the elbow macaroni. I would also add another layer of pasta to the bottom of the pan, and then add the beef in the middle and top with more pasta.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet & Sour Pineapple Shrimp and Rice Bowls

I've been searching the Internet for recipe ideas that would be outside our normal everyday meals. I found a recipe on for Pineapple Shrimp Kabobs. Instead of making this a kabob meal, I made it a "stir fry" of sorts. It turned out to be a quick 30 minute meal with tons of flavor.

I made some changes to the recipe and in the end I was very pleased at how it turned out. My happiest moments came as my kids took their first bites and both surprisingly said "I really like this!" You had to be here while I was preparing the meal. My daughter kept insisting that she hated shrimp and that she wasn't going to eat dinner ...and, of course, she said that I was going to starve her on purpose. She ended up eating more shrimp than anyone else. My son admitted that he thought that he would hate but that he really liked it.

What more could I ask for?  :)

Sweet & Sour Pineapple Shrimp and Rice Bowls
adapted from

4 cups of cooked rice of your choice, kept warm
3/4 c. zesty Italian dressing
2 tbsp + 2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 - 4 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/4 c. unsweetened pineapple juice
2 bags large size frozen shrimp, tails removed and thawed
3/4 can of unsweetened pineapple chunks
1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped

Prepare rice and keep it warm until ready to eat.

In a medium-sized frying pan, stir together Italian dressing, brown sugar, garlic, chili sauce and pineapple juice. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and starts to thicken just a bit.

Stir in shrimp. Cook for 5- 6 minutes.

Add pineapple and basil. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes.

To Serve:

Scoop rice into individual bowls.

Spoon the pineapple shrimp sauce over the rice.


Linking to:

Tempt My Tummy

Tuesdays at the Table 

Tasty Tuesdays

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Secret Recipe Club: Strawberry Mascarpone Ice Cream

It's strawberry time here in NC. When I decided to participate in this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was hoping that my secret blogging buddy would have a strawberry recipe on her/his blog that would draw me in and convince me to make it.

I was in luck! I was matched up with Ruchi @ Ruchi's Simply Food. She has a delicious recipe for Strawberry Mascarpone Ice Cream that I just had to try. Her ice cream recipe has just a handful of ingredients and she made it into a no churn recipe.

I made a few changes to the recipe, plus I used my ice cream maker to make it smooth and cold. I did need to convert her recipe amounts. Once I converted the amounts, I rounded everything up for ease and also so that I didn't have bits of everything left over. The results were delicious. A thick and creamy strawberry ice cream that my whole family loved. Excellent in a dish or a cone!

You can view her original recipe here.

Here's my version:

Strawberry Mascarpone Ice Cream

14 ounces strawberry, diced into small chunks
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
8 ounces homemade mascarpone cheese* - recipe below
8 ounces heavy cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar - I added this to make the cream a bit sweeter

Mix chopped berries, powdered sugar and lemon juice together and set aside.

Using a hand mixer, mix together Mascarpone cheese* and heavy cream.

Mix in extra 1/2 c. of powdered sugar.

Mix in strawberries.

Pour mixture into the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker.

Process according to manufacture's directions until ice cream is thick and creamy.

Serve in bowls or ice cream cones or freeze until ready to eat.The consistency will change from smooth and creamy to a hard ice cream texture if frozen. It is delicious either way.

To make homemade Mascarpone Cheese:

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 1/2 tbsp. sour cream

Mix together until smooth and creamy

If you would like to join us in the Secret Recipe Club, here's what you need to know.

Enjoy our blog hop! Comments are welcomed!

Linking to:

It's Berry Season! Gooseberry Patch

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Menu for May 15 - 21

This month seems to be flying by. We're not as busy this week as we were last week. My son has one game playoff soccer game scheduled for Tuesday if the weather holds out. Weather reports are conflicting right now. Some say rain, some say sun so we'll just have to wait and see. The end of grade tests are over so the kids can relax now. All reading points have been earned, too. It's just a matter of waiting it out 'til the end of the year. We are attending my son's honor roll awards ceremony on Thursday.

Can't wait until our tomato plants have tomatoes hanging on them. I've been craving fried green tomatoes. :) Haven't had them in so long. Yum.

On to this week's menu:

Sunday - meatloaf and mac n cheese - didn't have it last week

Monday - pineapple shrimp skewers with Asian noodles

Tuesday - blts and hashbrowns

Wednesday - pastitsio (Greek lasagna) with salad and bread

Thursday - Greek lemon roasted chicken with rice and corn

Friday - open

Saturday - Tuscany chicken and pasta with garlic bread

Enjoy the week! If you're reading this, stop by and say "hi!". I'll visit you back.

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Cheese, Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs

Here's a more grown up version of our family's favorite pita pizzas. White pizza is one of my all time favorites. I like to change up the ingredients every time I make it for myself. This one gets lots of flavor from fresh oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme.

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Cheese, Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs
makes 2

2 whole wheat pita breads
2/3 cup shredded cheese. I used Sargento
Artisan Blends Mozzarella & Provolone &
Double Cheddar - 1/3 c. of each
1c. white button mushrooms, sliced
olive oil
fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. ricotta cheese

Lay the 2 pita breads on a baking sheet. Divide  and sprinkle 1/3 c. shredded cheddar cheese over both pitas. Set aside.

Thoroughly wash the fresh herbs. Pat dry with paper towels. Finely chop herbs and set aside.

In a frying pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil. Add mushrooms. Saute mushrooms in oil until soft, stirring in herbs and garlic during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Divide the mushrooms mixture between the two pitas, covering both to the outer edges.

Divide and sprinkle 1/3 c. shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses on top of the pitas.

Using a teaspoon, drop the ricotta into 6 small circles on each pita. I used a butter knife to lightly draw lines in the cheese, dividing the pitas into 6 pieces. The end point of each piece got a dollop of ricotta cheese.

Bake at 450* for 8-10 minutes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pineapple Sage Cupcakes

I'm so happy that my little herb garden is in full bloom. I planted the regulars like basil and oregano but I also veered off the beaten path and bought some pineapple sage and cinnamon basil that day, mainly because they smelled so good. I figured that I would find something to do with them when the time came to use them.

I was looking through a new cookbook that I just received called "Southern Living Big Book of Cupcakes". In it there's a recipe for Lemon Basil Cupcakes that convinced me that I could use my pineapple sage to flavor some cupcakes of my own.

The results were light, airy cupcakes with a hint of pineapple. I used pineapple in the cupcakes to add to the flavor of the pineapple basil since the flavor of the pineapple basil is so faint when you cook or bake with it. Whole wheat flour adds a bit of nuttiness to the cupcakes, too.

Pineapple Sage Cupcakes
inspired by Lemon Basil Cupcakes from 
Southern Living Big Book of Cupcakes

3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. unsweetened pineapple juice, reserved from can of pineapples
1/3 c. unsweetend pineapple chunks, crushed or cut into very small pieces
4 tbsp. pineapple sage, chopped into small pieces
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt 

Preheat oven to 350* Line cupcake pans with papers for 24 cupcakes and set aside.

Stir together milk and pineapple juice.

Crush pineapple chunks in a food processor or cut the chunks into very small pieces. Add to the milk and pineapple juice.

Cut pineapple sage into small pieces. Stir into the pineapple mixture and then set the bowl aside until you have finished mixing the dry ingredients.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Combine flours, baking powder and salt. Mix in butter mixture, alternating with pineapple mixture, mixing just until everything comes together resembling a cake batter.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full - do not over fill. These cupcakes do not rise too high.

Bake for 14 - 15 minutes or until the edges of the cupcakes turn light brown.

Cool in pans for 2-3 minutes. Remove cupcakes to cooling racks to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Linking up with:

Cupcake Tuesday at Hoosier Homemade

Monday, May 9, 2011

Join in Donating to the United Way of Western Alabama Tornado Relief Fund!

During the 24-hour period from 8 am April 27 to 8 am April 28, The National Weather Service estimates there were a total of 266 tornadoes causing over 340 deaths and countless miles of destruction in the Southern US. One of the hardest hit areas was Tuscaloosa, AL. Estimates indicated that the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa could have been on the ground for 176 miles, with winds between 167 and 200 mph.

Throughout the month of May, please consider donating your Swag Bucks to the United Way of Western Alabama for their Tornado Relief Fund. The United Way of Western Alabama has committed to giving 100% of these donations to go directly to the Tornado Relief Fund.

Please make all donations through this link .

Here's how the total Swag Bucks collected will be converted into a cash donation:

10,000,000 SB = $100,000.00
7,500,000 SB = $73,750.00
5,000,000 SB = $47,500.00
2,500,000 SB = $23,250.00
1,500,000 SB = $13,750.00
1,000,000 SB = $9,000.00
750,000 SB = $6,375.00
500,000 SB = $4,050.00
250,000 SB = $1,925.00
200,000 SB = $1,500.00
135,000 SB = $1,000.00
68,000 SB = $500.00

The deadline for donations is Tuesday May 31st at 12:00pm PDT.


Not a Swag Bucks member?!?  

Join Today!

Earn 30 Swag Buck today just for joining!

It's easy and fun! Earn Swag Bucks and redeem them for prizes!

What are you waiting for?!? Click here to get started!

Menu Plan for May 7 - 14

Is it Monday already? Where did this weekend go so quickly?

I must admit, I felt sort of guilty for not blogging much for the last two weeks. But, in the same breath, I have to tell you that I truly enjoyed the first week with my kids while they were off from school on spring break....and then the ol' allergy/sinus infection caught up with me last week. I'm on the rebound and ready to blog again. :)

While the kids were on vacation, we planted containers full of herbs and flowers. We also filled our Topsy Turvys with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. So far, so good! (More about our planting coming soon!)

We have a busy week ahead of us - my son's soccer games wrap up this week. We're waiting to hear about playoff dates. He will be busy taking EOGs (end of grade tests) on Wed., Thurs. & Fri. and I will be proctoring at his school for the tests, too.

Good news that my husband will go back to having his usual days off - Thursday and Friday. We survived with him having Mondays & Tuesday off but his regular-to-us days are coming back none too soon. :)

On with the menu for this week!

Saturday - hot dogs and sweet potato fries

Sunday - out to dinner for Mother's Day

Monday - Mediterranean pasta and meat sauce and salad

Tuesday - Thai style pork kabobs, cooked potatoes and a side veggie

Wednesday - chicken nachos and taco rice

Thursday - Tuscany cavatelli  and salad

Friday - grilled pork tenderloin, spinach parmesan risotto and side veggie

Saturday - meatloaf and macaroni & cheese

If you stop by to check out my menu, please take a minute to say "Hi"! I love meeting new friends!
I'll be sure to jump over and visit your blog, too!

Linking up to:

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope that all Moms out there are enjoying their day!


Monday, May 2, 2011

April Cookie Carnival Round Up

It's that time again! Time for another Cookie Carnival Round Up!

The two recipes chosen for this month were:

Iced Pink-Lemonade Cookie Pops
Toasted Coconut Shortbread with Pineapple Filling

April was a busy month for everyone so only two of us participated in baking.

Tessa @ The Cookin' Chemist said "We had some friends over yesterday for the first barbecue in our newly finished backyard, and these cookies turned out to be the dessert hit of the party! I have to admit that the coconut-pineapple combination in these proved to be pretty awesome!"

Tami @ Tami's Kitchen Table Talk said "The shortbread cookies are stacked with pineapple cream filling in between and on top of the cookies. I could sit and eat the pineapple filling with a spoon! It's that good!"

If you're looking for a light and very tasty cookie for a party, shower, or a girls' get-together, I highly recommend these cookies! They are not only really pretty but delicious, too!

The Cookie Carnival is open to everyone who loves to bake! You don't even need to be a blogger to join in on the fun! Click here to find out more information on how you can bake with us starting this month!

Check out all of the gorgeous cookies from previous Cookie Carnival Round Up!

May Cookie Carnival - Guest Host

Hi Everyone!

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, I'm going to be busy, busy, busy working at both of my kids' schools. For that reason, Krista, from Meet the Swans has offered to fill in as a guest host for the Cookie Carnival this month. Thank you so much, Krista!!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me.

If you enjoy baking cookies, why not give the Cookie Carnival a try?!?

There are two different recipes to choose from each month. Pick one or both and bake along with us!

For more information on the Cookie Carnival, click here!

Happy Baking!
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