Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bisquick's Quick & Easy Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

I have been using this recipe for about 10 years. I first discovered it in an old cookbook that featured recipes that used brand names. It intrigued me because it used very little ingredients but were absolutely delicious, moist and perfect every time I made them. They even make a great regular peanut butter cookie and I like to add Peanut Butter chips to them, you can even add semi sweet chocolate chips as well and do the criss cross shape on top of them.

PS: Don't let the thought of using Bisquick deter you. I was hesitant at first especially since the recipe also doesn't use eggs. But I am telling you, Bisquick is a gem in many baking recipes I use when you need something in a jiffy!

I even recommend you invest in their cookbook which you can get here at Barnes and Noble and even Amazon just search for Bisquick Cookbook!

HINT: It's really great to use a cookie scoop to make an even sized cookie each time!

Peanut Butter Blossoms
1 can (14oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
3/4-1 cup Peanut Butter
2 cups Original Bisquick Mix
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Sugar to roll cookie balls in before baking
36 Hershey Kisses (Milk, Dark or Hugs)

Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix milk and peanut butter in large bowl until smooth. Stir in Bisquick and vanilla.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies just begin to brown lightly. Immediately press 1 milk chocolate candy into top of each cookie.

Go and make them. Trust me you'll love them!

Merry Christmas Eve,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Slow Cooker Country Style Ribs and Pulled Pork Sandwiches in a Crockpot

The pulled-pork sandwich at the Twisted Rooster is topped with slaw and cheese. (Credit: Heather Halligan)
Creamy yummy Slaw, Cheddar and BBQ slathered Pulled Pork!  Don't forget a yummy crusty toasted bun!

Hi everyone!  Everyone ready for Christmas?  I don't think I am ever ready for the holidays.  They come so fast!  Well I am just going to sit back and let it happen.  No more worries.

Today I made Country Style Ribs in a crockpot.  I used my favorite BBQ sauce, KC Masterpiece.  They offer many different varieties but I stuck with the Original today.  I've been wanting to make Country Style Ribs for awhile in the crockpot.  My mom used to always make them in the oven.  They are awesome.  She would sometimes make it with BBQ sauce and sometimes without, either way I loved it.  Since now my 2 year old likes to get into things while I'm cooking, if I can use a crockpot it's all the better.  Now I can literally fix it and forget it.

Product Photo by:
I love KC, but you can definitely use your favorite or homemade!

I took out my ribs out of the freezer and defrosted them.  Seared them a little in the pan and layed a layer of ringed onions in the crockpot and layed the ribs down.  I poured a whole bottle of sauce on top of the ribs.  I covered it and slow cooked it on low for 8-10 hours.  At this point they were falling off the bone.  I removed the bones so easily and I was so excited.  Though at one point I thought the meat was so tough at mid time during the cooking process I seriously thought it was a fail.  I left them alone and they proved me wrong.  They became tender, so falling off the bone.  I decided they would also make some great pulled pork sandwiches and that's how I ate them.  I think that the whole pieces were good too and great with any sides like Creamed Corn Cake and Spanish Rice.  Like a Tex Mex dinner.  I took some of the pieces and shredded them up and placed the pulled pork on the toasted buns and added some cheddar cheese and mayo on the other side of the bun.  I think another addition that is great with pulled pork sandwiches is to add some coleslaw on top.  Didn't have any on hand but I definitely will next time!  I've had some pulled pork sandwiches in restaurants that was served with the coleslaw.  So I would definitely suggest adding it to the sandwich for some creamy crunch!

They were great and very filling.  I wish I took pictures but the camera was unfortunately not charged.  I had to share this recipe because it is SO EASY and so full of flavor.  What could be better is that when they are done, I would of placed them on the grill.  It's too cold out for me right now so I look forward to doing it in the summer.  I had to share this with you and I hope you give it a try!  The first picture in this photo is not mine and is credited.  That is how I would build my typical Pulled Pork Sandwich!

Country Style Ribs in a Crockpot and a Pulled Pork Sandwich
3-4 pounds Country Style Ribs
Sliced Onions
BBQ Sauce
Cheddar Cheese Slices
Fresh Crusty Buns to be Toasted

Like I said above this is such an easy recipe. I first seared my ribs in a skillet and sprinkled some salt and pepper on the ribs, you can also use a special pork rub. The searing process help sear off some of the fatty pieces.

Slice some onions and lay them on the bottom of the crockpot. Lay your ribs on top of the onions and pour a whole bottle of BBQ sauce to completely cover the ribs.

Cook the ribs on a Low setting in your crockpot for 8-10 hours. I found that cooking them on the low setting to guarantee tender fall of the bone ribs.

You can certainly serve the ribs whole (some may fall off the bone into good serving pieces). I did remove the bones from the crockpot because they fell right off and I pitched them.

If you want to make the Pulled Pork Sandwiches, remove the meat from the crockpot into a large bowl and shred the meat using 2 forks. Put meat back into sauce in crockpot to keep meat warm. Make sure to turn off your crockpot at this stage or set it on the warm setting.

Toast some crusty buns and place your sauced up shredded meat in each bun, place cheddar cheese slices and add your coleslaw. Serve with anything you like. Chips, fries, baked beans or a salad or the slaw on the side are a few thoughts.

So from the crockpot process you can cook a hearty meal or some yummy sandwiches! You can do both if you'd like.

I really enjoyed this and for a long time I had something against cooking my own ribs. I can't wait to throw these onto the grill in the summer to get that yummy char. If you're lucky to have an indoor grill get grilling or stick them in a pan into the oven and broil them to get that great crisp coating! I can see this process also used with some yummy Baby Back Ribs!

If you try this out, let me know how it turned out for you! This is simple and quick for the busy mom without messing with a lot of ingredients! You can certainly make your own BBQ sauce and coleslaw. Make it your own, after all that's what it's all about!

Enjoy the leftovers too, they are great the next day. I think I may bring some to my mom....

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Banana Cream Cheesecake

I went to a wonderful restaurant which I am sure you can tell by the picture above where it may of come from. It has one of my favorite Cheesecake flavors: Banana Cheesecake. Although it's a treat to have when I go there, it's so hard to choose what flavor, even though this is one of my top contenders. This is a cheesecake featuring fresh flavors of the summer but really this is a cheesecake to be enjoyed all year round.

Most people can relate to the fact the have over ripe bananas in their kitchen. We think to ourselves, well it's time to make banana bread although I will add them to a muffin recipe or a cake recipe but I don't stop thinking just there! They are perfect in creating a delicious cheesecake! Sometimes I secretly want to buy bananas to get them to ripen so that you can't eat them and then make this cheesecake! But I have a little man in the house who loves Bananas, my son Johnny who loves bananas probably as much as a monkey does! LOL!

This recipe reminds me of the good ol' Banana Pudding but made into a Cheesecake.

You have to add this recipe to your cheesecake section because it is so good! It's easy to make and is surely to surprise people. After all how often have you been served Banana Cheesecake at a get together? I know I haven't. Before I made this recipe one Father's Day dinner for my dad/husband and invited the whole family, I bought a whole cheesecake from this restaurant, it's a bit pricey and then I decided to make it myself. My dad, may he rest in peace, loved this cheesecake so I dedicate this recipe to him!

Banana Cheesecake


20 Golden Oreos or 1 1/2-2 cups of Finely crushed Vanilla Wafers
1/4 cup butter, melted


4 (8oz.) packages of Cream Cheese
2/3 cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
3 Eggs
1 cup Mashed Ripe Bananas
1/2 cup Whipping Cream
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place cookies in a blender; process with on/off pulse until finely crushed. Add margarine; process with pulses until blended. Press crumb mixture onto bottom of 10-inch springform pan; refrigerate.

Beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add sugar and cornstarch; beat until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas, whipping cream, and vanilla. Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared crust. Place pan on cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees F (DO NOT forget to reduce temperature - very important) and continue baking 75 minutes or until center is almost set. Loosen edge of cheesecake; cool completely on wire rack before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate cheesecake 6 hours or overnight.

Allow cheesecake to stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Garnish: Garnish with Whip Cream, Sliced Bananas and crushed Vanilla Wafers or Golden Oreos

I leave you with my kids favorite Banana song, okay it's mine too!  I first saw it when Yo Gabba Gabba first aired.  I love Ska music (which also sounds like Reggae at times) and I love Bananas.  I always joke with my kids and sing this song at the same time, sometimes even while we are eating Bananas!  Song by The Aggrolites!  Please take time to listen to it!  It's a feel good song and makes you want to dance!

Go Bananas!

Mediterranean Penne Pastitsio or Pasticcio

This is such a great dish and a great dish to serve to company.  It's a little labor intensive but you eventually get use to it.  It's much like making lasagna.  This dish features 2 distinct flavors from 2 different cultures, Italian and Greek.  Where I am from in Bari, Italy in the Puglia region the flavors can easily compare to Greek flavors.  This dish is also made in Egypt that also has the influence of Mediterranean flavors, they call it "Macaroni Bechamel".  Many people are surprised at the connection of these cultures.

The word "Pastitsio" is a Greek variation on the Italian word "Pasticcio," meaning a hodgepodge or scramble, and indeed this dish combines a number of different ingredients together in a single dish.  It's also a variation of the common Italian dish "Pasta al Forno" translated to "Pasta in the Oven" which is one of my favorite dishes my mamma makes, I will post that recipe soon!

Here is a map of the Mediterranean Region

This is such a comfort food and is loved by the whole family.  Even if you have leftovers this is great for days when you just heat it up.  During the cold months, it's a feel good dish.  I hope that you can enjoy it as much as I do.

Completing the recipe in the step by step process makes it easy to create.  So enjoy, the end results are amazing!


1 large onion, chopped
2 lb ground beef, ground turkey or ground lamb (or a 1 lb. beef and 1 lb. lamb mixture) (as tamara suggests, use some bulk hot or mild italian sausage!)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried greek oregano
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
28 oz crushed tomatoes
dashes salt
dashes seasoned pepper blend


1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
dashes salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c greek yogurt


1 lb box of penne pasta, cooked according to al dente
1/2 stick butter
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten


Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and return to pan.

In a small saucepan, melt butter until golden brown, and pour over the reserved pasta. Add the parmesan cheese and toss well. Leave until cool, then add eggs and toss again. Set aside.

For the sauce, drizzle extra virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and minced garlic, saute for 5 minutes.

Add the ground meat and saute over medium heat for at least 10 minuted and until meat is no longer pink.

Drain most of excess liquid but not all, add the wine, and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the oregano and thyme, mix and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, salt and seasoned pepper blend. Simmer for 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Set sauce aside.

Preheat oven to 350'F.

For the Bechamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes.

Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick.

Add the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs and yogurt and set aside.

Butter a 9x13 Baking dish, you can lay the pasta down, add the tomato meat sauce, then the Bechamel sauce and add the remaining 3/4 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese

You also again butter a 9x13 baking dish. Mix the pasta with the tomato meat sauce, place into baking dish and top with Bechamel Sauce and top with the remaining 3/4 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hours until top is lightly browned and dish is bubbling. Set aside and cool for 10 minutes. Serve dish while hot.

*Note: You can freeze this dish and then cook when your ready to make for dinner. You have to cook longer but have topping lightly browned and mixture bubbling. About 1 1/2 hours or so depending on your oven.

*Serve with fresh warm bread and a fresh green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Buon Appetito,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Italian Roasted Chicken and Red Skin Potatoes

This is a dish that I have grown up on.  My mom made this all the time and it's an easy and quick dish.  It seems like when she did get it we couldn't get enough of it.  The tender chicken seasoned with Italian herbs, pepper and salt and drenched in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  It's an Italian comfort food.  We would eat it with some yummy fresh crusty bread and sop up the left herbed oil.  The potatoes become crispy and tender so yummily (my own word, lol) juiced up and roasted.  You can use regular potatoes or red skin potatoes, whatever you prefer or have on hand.

I found it easiest to just find a big bowl and put the chicken in and just start adding the herbs, pepper and salt and enough extra virgin olive to completely coat the chicken in the oil and herbs.  I add the cut up potatoes in the bowl and mix them in and coat them as well.  I put the potatoes and chicken in a huge roasting pan that I coated lightly in olive oil.

I didn't take pictures with the step by step process because you pretty much just throw everything into a huge bowl.  Measurements are eyeballing.  Just drench with the oil and sprinkle herbs, salt and pepper.

Italian Roasted Chicken and Red Skin Potatoes:
Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks with skin removed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Rosemary (optional)
Red Skin Potatoes cut in Big Pieces

Mix all items in a large bowl until well coated, place in roasting pan and bake at 350'F for 1 hour.

Here it is before I put it in the oven....

Here comes out of the oven:

Then onto my plate, Yummmmm:

Very yummy, very comforting....  The whole family enjoyed it.  This would be great served with a side salad.

The pictures aren't the best but I used my daughter's camera.  Still can't find mine....  Errrr.....

Buon Appetito,


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Italian Almond Macaroons: Amaretti

I don't know if you have had these cookies, but if you are missing out on them, I suggest you make them. These cookies are on every single Italian Cookie Tray. They are an Italian cookie staple next to the Cannoli. They are simple to make even it's flavor says otherwise. They have that crisp crunch outside and the ooey gooey goodness of almond flavor. The main ingredient to this cookie is Almond Paste. You can make your own if it's really hard to find in your grocer or baking supply shop. You can also order it online at King Arthur Flour HERE.

I wouldn't suggest buying it in a tube because it tends to be drier. But if that's what you can get make sure it's still good and squeezable.

These cookies make a great anytime cookie. They are special and the almond past you buy which can be a little on the expensive side is all worth it. You can make many. If anyone gave me a tray of these yummy little presents I would certainly feel happy inside. You can swirl them through a pipe bag or you can simply round them out by using a cookie scooper. I suggest that in the baking process you definitely watch them because you don't want to over bake them.

These cookies are easy and I found that even though I have yet to find my camera and using my daughter's camera, I just can't do it justice. Plus it's such an easy cookie to make and uses very little ingredients.

The best toppings on these cookies are using halved green or red cherries, espresso beans or toasted almonds. These are also great drizzled with Dark Chocolate which I find best but you can certainly use milk, semi-sweet or white.

If you want a cookie that has the essence and flavor of what Italy is, then these are your cookies. They have been around a long long time and never fail to indulge!

PS: They are also naturally Gluten Free Cookies.


1 can(8oz) Almond Paste
1 egg white
1/2 cup sugar
10 Maraschino Cherries, espresso beans or slivered almonds to top off the cookies. (These are optional but recommended)

 Preheat oven to 325'F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Break almond paste into small pieces and place into food processor or mixer. Add sugar and mix well. Add the egg whites and mix until moist, about 2-3 minutes.

Pipe using a large star tip into rounded swirls about 2 inches in diameter or roll into a ball and gently press down a little and top with half of a maraschino cherry, almond or espresso coffee beans. Cookies should be at least 1 inch apart.

Bake 20 minutes on middle shelf, move to upper shelf, (about 4" above middle shelf); for approximately 8 minutes until light golden brown. Move parchment paper with cookies onto baking racks to cool. When completely cool carefully peel macaroons off paper. Store in airtight container.

Buon Appetito!

Come Together Kids 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

*This painting I did inspired by the Immaculate Conception.

This is the story of how it all began. This miraculous event is the reason why we celebrate Christmas. The birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope this story inspires, blesses you and finds you closer to God. Whether you believe in Christianity or not, I hope this lets you be more educated and perhaps opens your heart. May God be with you.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.'

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'

'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'

The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.'

'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said.' Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38

Mary and the Angel Gabriel

Mary and Elizabeth

Mary tells her Aunt Elizabeth she is with child

God Bless,

Come Together Kids

Monday, December 5, 2011

Candy Cane Blossoms

These are such yummy cookies and candies! Chocolaty cookie topped with Hershey's Candy cane kisses are so scrumptious and look adorable on any cookie tray! They look like those cute Peanut Butter Blossoms everyone is always use to seeing but these are different with a chocolate cookie base and a creamy candy cane kiss right on top. The Candy Cane Kisses are smooth with little pieces of candy canes enrobed in white chocolate. Top these on chocolate cookies and it's 'Tis The Season!

Candy Cane Blossoms
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 Tablespoons Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
48 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses

Heat oven to 350°F.

Beat butter or margarine, shortening and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir together 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture.

Add cocoa powder and blend well. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are set. Remove from oven to wire rack. Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack, cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Seasons Greetings,

Come Together Kids 

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Next Saint Painting Dedication: Saint Sofia

At times you will also see Saint Sofia depicted in a picture with her standing behind her 3 daughters who were also Martyrs.  You will also see her name as Sophia, Sofia and Sofiya.

Together they are commemorated on September 17

I will be painting Saint Sofia.  She is my daughter's Patron Saint.  I plan to frame it and hang it in her room.  Her story touches me deeply and is so very sad.  Please look up her story.  Here is a link at where you can find a little bit of the story.  She is the mother of the Saints: Faith, Hope and Love (you will also hear Love known as Charity).  Story of Saint Sofia Her church is located in Bulgaria and her Feast Day is August 1.  

These Saints were from Italy and were persecuted for their strong Christian faith in the 2nd century, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Faith was only twelve years old; Hope, ten; and Love, nine—each was tormented and then beheaded, from the eldest to the youngest. Their mother, Sophia, mourned at their grave for three days, where she also fell asleep in peace. Because of her courageous endurance in the face of her daughters' sufferings, she is also counted a martyr. The name Sophia means "wisdom" in Greek; as for her daughters' names, Faith, Hope, and Love—they are Pistis, Elpis, and Agape in Greek, and Vera, Nadezhda, and Lyubov in Russian.

Wish me luck.  I hope that I can do her justice.

God Bless,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

First and foremost I want to apologize for the most horrible pictures I took for this recipe. Problem is, I can't find my camera, I had my camera SD card and I used my daughter's camera which is a Vivitar 3-5 mexapixel camera and has no antishake in it. I did them best I can taking photos. Which didn't do any justice for these cookies because they are fabulous!

To explain these cookies best is saying like it's a little brownie without the mess of cutting and and only having so many before you really feel guilty. These delicious cookies satisfy fudgey and chocolatey cravings and are sure to impress. I will be making these again and hopefully with my camera when it's found.

I added Christmas colored plain M&Ms to bring them into the Christmas season. You can use any season's colored M&Ms to this recipe. I also separated some of the dough and added Peppermint Extract since this would make a great Chocolate and Peppermint mix. It was like eating Chocolate Peppermint Hot Chocolate! So good and full of great flavor. If I could of found the mint chocolate chips I would of added them in the Peppermint dough to really tie in the chocolate peppermint. How I distinguished them between the two was putting Red M&Ms on top of the regular cookies and Green M&Ms on the Peppermint ones as you will see!

This dough is thick so using a stand mixer would be best. Of course if you don't have one you can certainly mix as much as you can with a hand mixer then do the rest by hand. It gets really thick when it's all together with the flour. I also used 1 cup of Bread flour and 3 1/2 cups of regular All Purpose Flour. I was hoping to get a chewier texture but I think it would of just been fine doing all of the dough with All Purpose Flour so if you don't have Bread Flour just use regular flour.

So let's start the yummy goodness process....

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies
4 sticks of Butter cut into cubes
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa
4 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
5 cups of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 package of Plain M&Ms (regular or seasonal colors)

Method with Step By Step Photos:

Mix your Butter and Sugar together until light, fluffy and well incorporated.

Add in the Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa and incorporate well.

Add your Flour, Salt and Baking Powder

Mix well, this is when you will start hearing that strain from your mixer, you can certainly do the rest by hand but my stand mixer handled it well.  She's such a Good Strong Mamma!  This is when I added the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Christmas Colored Plain M&Ms and stir in.  So Pretty!

I used a cookie scoop and scooped 2 times and rolled the amount into a ball.  Well actually this is when my daughter rolled them balls.  I am so glad she helped me.  Sofia of course made the whole process eventful when she dropped an egg.  She felt bad but I told her I've done it many times!  Here she is wishing you Peace, she had fun rolling.  We rolled some and kept them as balls and baked them.  These produced a really thick cookie and took longer to bake.  Then other that we rolled we slightly flattened them which cut the baking time and made a more bigger but still thick fudgey cookies!  Here is where we applied Red M&Ms on top of the cookies that weren't with Peppermint Extract.

Bake in the oven about 15 minutes or so if you do not flatten them.  Be careful not to over bake, they will begin to have that slightly cracked look when they are just about ready.  This is when you pull them out and leave them on the cookie sheets to cool.  This will finish the baking process on the cookie.  If you flatten them, bake for about 12 minutes again keeping an eye on them.  You can touch them but don't burn yourself!

With the separated dough add just a tad of peppermint extract if you like and top them with green M&Ms.  It's an optional step but I thought it was a great twist!  I think next time hopefully if I find them I would like to add some Mint chocolate chips or chopped up Andes Mint Chocolate.

Let your cookies cool and then devour.  I put some of the regular ones aside and plan on bringing them to my mother in law who just had hip replacement surgery.  Putting them in a cellophane bag with some ribbon would make a great gift and a really great Get Well gift!  I used yellow ribbon to make it cheery!

So in the end, I really think these cookies are great.  The embody true chocolate flavor.  I had a great time with my daughter.  I am hoping even if she doesn't know it, I am trying to create memories for her like I had with my mom when she cooked or baked.  Hopefully someday Sofia will look back and remember.

Side Note:  Store these cookies when cooled in a tightly covered container to prevent hardening and drying out.

Wishing you Sweet Chocolate Dreams,

 Photobucket  Come Together Kids

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  God Bless You!  Wishing you Peace and Prosperity!

Lovingly Thankful,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Penne Pasta and Chicken Parmesan: It's Sunday Dinner on a Friday Night!

This was the unexpected dinner.  I asked my daughter what she wanted for dinner?  Sofia always says Pasta like Nonna's (Grandma in Italian).  I thought momentarily if I even had some tomato paste, the right seasonings and everything to make the sauce someone close to my mom's sauce (which may I add, can never be duplicated).  So I decided why not, it's been awhile since I've made homemade sauce.  I know it's crazy sounding.  I used to make sauce all the time.  Life has got more busy and I found a really great jarred sauce that was a close substitute and was actually quite on the money for being close to Authentic Italian Flavors.  It's called MIDS, I would never use Prego or Ragu.  Italian Language Lesson:  Prego means "You're Welcome" in Italian.  Silly name for a Pasta Sauce.

If some of you don't recall, Prego used the tag phrase "It's In There", hence the name of my blog.  Why I chose that name is because of the connection of pasta sauce and my life, It's In There....  The ingredients like the herbs and spices of sauce are many and so does include the ingredients of the makeup of life.  We have our own ingredients that make up our lives, so I though,t It's In There was a good connection.  Hopefully that phrase isn't copywrited, lol!

I grew up with my mom making sauce pretty much everyday especially on Sundays.  Sundays consisted of a huge dinner though.  It was the only day that we were all together.  Everyone worked, had school or had something going on.  So Sundays were a big deal.  I think that's why Sunday dinners are so known for Italian Culture in Italian Households.  It was our feast, our celebration of togetherness.  It was the only time my siblings and I were probably not!  Also we never started eating until dad sat down and it was always an early dinner usually around 2pm.  Now that we are all on our own it was hard to make it to Sunday dinner and eat at 2pm.  Our dad would be so frustrated.  My dad has been passed for 2 years now and Sunday dinners have slowed down.  His passing took a toll on all of us and Sunday dinners aren't the same without him and also now my brother is in Iraq.  So it's been just a bit of a black cloud over us with everything.  I think though honestly when my brother does come home, I think things will be better especially for my mother.

To put a Halloween twist to this story, I have to tell you a little freaky situation.  When my brother was home and wasn't leaving for Iraq yet, we had Sunday dinner.  We all pretty much sat at the same chair when we ate dinner.  My dad always sat at the head of the table.  The chair was empty and then my brother sat in it with the frame of mind that he was now the man of the family (he's the only boy).  Well it was awkward and honestly I didn't think it should of been occupied.  Maybe it was a way for my brother coping.  Who knows.  Well I said to him that I didn't think it was right for him to sit in dad's chair, he ignored me and just didn't think anything of it.  About a half hour later my brother and I talked about it again and I was heading to the kitchen. My brother stood up to do something and the chair flew out from under him like someone was throwing it out from under him.  I laughed and said, "See even dad doesn't want you sitting in his chair!"  My brother looked like he saw a ghost!  I was just about to tell my mom what happened and my brother said, "No, don't tell mom!"  I didn't at the time but I eventually did.  She didn't seem surprised.  We think in a sense that my dad left such an imprint in our lives and in the house we grew up in that we feel sometimes his spirit is in the house. If you knew my dad, you'd understand and it would of been a trick he would of pulled on my brother.  Now you are probably wondering if my brother has sat on that chair ever since, yes, when he came home for a break from Iraq, he sat in the chair.  Nothing happened but I think my brother has a sense of respect for the chair now.  LOL!  That story always gets me!  I laugh hysterically everytime!  That's my Daddy!

So now on to the whole point of this blog.  Don't we all get sidetracked!  When I decided to make sauce I figured should I do more?  I knew I had chicken breasts and was all set for making some Chicken Parmesan. Which is my husband's favorite.  Now maybe in a sense I made it because I knew he would be surprised but honestly I think I just wanted to make it.  I had hoped maybe it would put a smile on Scott's face but I didn't really mind if it was no big deal even though I know it's his favorite food.  I think though it was more for the fact of me going, Blah blah Scott, I made it now you can feel guilty for being a punk sometimes.  Now in marriage to say it's perfect is imaginary.  Fairytales don't exist and if someone goes into it thinking so, they will highly be disappointed.  I don't care everyone has their down days.  I am no different.  Wish it wasn't true but it is for all in every type of relationship.  I know many wouldn't admit it or some may pretend but I live in a very realistic world.  LOL!

It was nice though to sit down as a family be grateful and thank God for blessing us with what we have.  After all that's what the feel of Sunday dinner brings to us.  That is why I say it was a Sunday dinner on a Friday night!

Chicken Parmesan, is yummy.  It came out great for me.  It had been awhile but it all came back to me.  The starter for every Italian tomato sauce is Onions, Garlic and Olive Oil.  That is what I always remember smelling when my mom would begin her sauce.  It was a smell you knew and knew what was coming.

I used tomato paste, tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes.  I had to make a lot of sauce for the Chicken Parmesan and I wanted to have some left over because my daughter could eat pasta everyday.  I grew tomatoes myself in the past and nothing beats using tomatoes from the garden.  My dad had his own vegetable and herb garden.  It was huge and he tended it like it was a baby.  We never bought vegetables at the store unless it was something specifically needed that you couldn't grow yourself in Ohio even though my dad could make fig trees grow in our backyard.  He eventually stopped a little bit after he became diagnosed with cancer.  My parents had so many tomatoes I remember my mom jarring tomato sauce and making sun dried tomatoes.  Technically they oven dried them, not much a sun dried area here in Cleveland, Ohio.  So they used the next best thing, the oven.  Now making dried tomatoes stinks up the house.  How I didn't like being in the house when they made them.

So to make this Chicken Parmesan is quite easy.  It's a little time consuming but not so much if you use jarred sauce.  This time I made my own.

This is what you need:

Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts (usually big breast is a good serving)
Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg Beaten
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cooked Pasta
Crushed Tomatoes or Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste
Italian Seasoning
Garlic Powder

Make your sauce or buy jarred sauce.  This is how I make mine....

I start off sauteing 1 whole onion, some minced garlic with some olive oil in a sauce pot.  This is how my mom starts every sauce.

Add a regular can of Tomato Paste

Add about a can and a half of water and add your 2 big cans of Tomato Sauce, then start adding the above seasonings, how much depends on your taste, just add as you cook the sauce whatever is needed....

Cover and Simmer on low.  You can taste test it and add the seasonings you think it could use more of such as garlic powder, oregano, etc...  Stir occasionally....

While sauce is cooking:

Beat an egg in a bowl and pour Italian Bread Crumbs in a separate bowl, (I will add some Parmesan Cheese to the bread crumbs but not too much).

Dip Breast into beaten egg then into bread crumb mixture.  At this point you can bake your chicken breasts at 350'F until thoroughly cooked or you can pan fry them like I did in this next photo:

Cook each side until golden brown and cooked through, not too worry as it will be thoroughly cooked in the oven.

Take a baking dish and slather some tomato sauce and place all cooked chicken breasts on top of sauce.  Layer sauce on top of Chicken Breasts and bake in oven for about 15/20 minutes.  Take baking dish out and layer shredded mozzarella cheese on top.  The heat of the already baked chicken will melt the mozzarella cheese.  This is when I cook my pasta.  You can make any pasta you like, I used Penne this time.

If you don't want to fry your chicken breasts like before mentioned, you can bake them in the oven, do the layering process and bake until cheese melts on top which should only be a few minutes.  Sometimes you can place your pasta on the plate, place your breaded chicken breast, ladle sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, this will skip the whole baking process.

The kids loved this dish including Scott.  It's nice to make your own sauce but when I do use jarred sauce I love to use MIDS jarred sauce.  I think they are the best out there right now commercially.

Here are my monkeys lovin them some Pasta and Chicken Parmesan!



It's so nice when the kids love eating what I make.  I am so thankful!

This was my plate and it was so yummy!  I love a lot of cheese.  Here it is topped with Parmesan Cheese....  YUMMY!  I was so full after I ate it.  But it was so gooooood!

Buon Appetito,