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Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Lasagna

I am by no means a great cook.  I have had my fair share of mishaps in the kitchen.  I have over- seasoned, under-seasoned, burnt, dried, or completely trashed some meals ( ok, my husband would probably say more than some, but he is no one to talk, since he has had mishaps too).  But once in a blue moon I do get it right and come out with something delicious.  I decided to make lasagna the other night and really took my time to get it right and make it flavorful.  No one likes bland lasagna. And my husband is pretty picky about his lasagna.  So this is what I came up with:

(I forgot to put eggs and butter in the picture.  I seem to be on a role of forgetting things lately.  That's what happens with 2 little ones running around the kitchen, while I am cooking.  Oh well, as long as I don't forget to put them in the recipe.)

My Lasagna
  • 1 box (9oz) Barilla lasagne (no-boil kind)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 Italian sausages
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan/romano grated cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced baby portabello mushrooms
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups (16 oz) mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 jars marinara sauce
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Take casings off the 3 sausages by cutting a slit at the top and squeezing out the insides into a pan. Crumble them up with the ground beef and cook until brown. Then drain and set aside.
  3. In another pan place 1/2 tbsp butter and the sliced mushrooms, cook on medium/high until soft and set aside.
  4. Use same pan add the other 1/2 tbsp butter and the diced onion. Cook on medium/high until soft and golden brown.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, and the parmesan/romano cheese. Then add the onion, all the dried spices and the garlic powder. Mix until all is well blended.
  6. Then it's time to start layering. First I lined my 13 x 9 pan with Reynolds' Non-Stick Pan Lining Paper. Then spread 1 cup sauce on bottom.
  7. Layer 4 uncooked pasta sheets, 1/3 cup ricotta mixture, half browned meat, 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup sauce.
  8. Layer 4 uncooked pasta sheets, 1/3 cup ricotta mixture, cooked mushrooms, 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  9. Layer 4 uncooked pasta sheets, the remaining ricotta mixture and browned meat, and 1 cup sauce.
  10. Layer 4 uncooked pasta sheets, the remaining sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella.
  11. Bake covered with foil until bubbly, about 50-60 minutes. Then uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. (I leave mine uncovered, I like the top crunchy)
  12. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Then cut and serve. Makes about 12 servings.

Carmelized onions add so much flavor to recipes.  And they are so easy to cook.

I love mushrooms and so do my husband and daughter so we use them a lot in recipes.

I had a coupon for this pan liner and wanted to try it out.  I hate scraping dried lasagna. 

I don't put a foil on top when I bake the lasagna, but if you like your cheese nice and soft go right ahead and foil it.

Otherwise it turns out like this, which is the way I like it.  By the way, the liner worked great.  Saved a lot of time in the clean up.  Hubby really enjoyed this lasagna, so this recipe is a keeper.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Apple Cider Mini Donuts with Maple Glaze

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  Since I do not have to cook the turkey dinner it's time to use my babycakes machine again. It's so easy and fun.  I wanted to try another one of Aimee's recipes at .  The Apple Cider Donuts sounded so yummy.  Of course I replaced 1/4 cup of sugar for 1/4 cup of my dad's maple syrup (forgot to put in picture, oops).  Apple and maple syrup, what could be better?

Apple Cider Mini Donuts
adapted from Shugary Sweets

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Cooking Directions
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add maple syrup, eggs, apple cider, apple sauce, and vanilla. Using a mixer on medium speed, blend until smooth.
  2. Fill each cooking reservoir with about 2 tbsp of batter.
  3. Bake 2-4 minutes or until toothpick inserted in donut comes out clean. Makes about 24-28 donuts.    

Mmmm...can you smell them?  I used a different glaze then Aimee.  I made a Maple Glaze to enhance the maple flavor I put in the mini donuts.     

Maple Glaze
by The Sweet Chick

  • 1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 - 4 tbsp pure maple syrup

Cooking Directions
  1. Blend together sugar and syrup. Add more maple syrup to make a glaze consistency.
  2. Dip donuts in glaze and place on wire rack to allow glaze to set up.

I added sprinkles to some of them for the kids.  The donuts were delish!  I didn't hear any complaints.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chocolate Mini Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

I was so excited.  I have been wanting to make mini donuts for some time.  Last week I saw the mini pans at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I didn't buy them because I thought I could get a better deal elsewhere.  I then proceeded to spend my week going to every craft store looking for the Wilton mini donut pan.  No luck.  OK, so I went back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond over the weekend to pick one up.  They were now sold out.  Arg!  I was not a happy camper. 

They did however have one left of the babycakes donut maker, so I said what the heck and took it home.  I tried Aimee's Chocolate Donut recipe from

Chocolate Mini Donuts
 By Shugary Sweets

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder (oops forgot to put in the picture)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add milk, eggs, vanilla and butter. Using a mixer on medium speed, blend until smooth.
  2. Fill each cooking reservoir with about 2 tbsp of batter.
  3. Bake 2-4 minutes or until toothpick inserted in donut comes out clean. Makes about 24-28 donuts.          

Chocolate Glaze

adapted from babycakes

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Cooking Directions
  1. Whisk all ingredients together adding more cream if necessary for glaze consistency.
  2. Dip donuts halfway in glaze, place on wire rack and allow glaze to set.
  3. Add sprinkles.

I did end up using a different glaze than Aimee for the donuts.  I really like how they came out.  The donuts were light and fluffy and not too sweet.  I used dark cocoa for the glaze , so it gave it a nice finish.  The babycakes machine was easy to use and easy to clean.  The donuts really only took 2 minutes to bake.  I still want to get the pans in the future, so I can make more at a time.  And I have more donut recipes to try. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet Finds

I was at T. J. Maxx this weekend and found some cute stuff.  First were these adorable sprinkles.  I think I am going to use them for my holiday cake balls that I am going to make for my daughter's teacher.

Then I found this vanilla.  Someone on Instagram had posted it and said it was good, so I have to try it.  The original price was $20, but T. J. Maxx had it for $12.99.

Of course my daughter found something for herself too.  They had this cute set of an apron, baker's hat, dishcloth, cookie cutter and wooden spoon with a cupcake motif on it.  A great gift for the little baker in your life.  It was only $7.99.  I love T. J. Maxx, they always have great stuff at great prices.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mini Brownie Cups with Salted Caramel Frosting

This past weekend I was looking for something to do with all this leftover Halloween candy we have laying around.  We didn't get a lot of trick-or-treaters due to the fact our Halloween had to be postponed a week.  As I mentioned before, we had a freak snowstorm pass on through our state which led to tree branches being too heavy with leaves and snow, breaking off and taking power lines down with them.  No power = no Halloween.  Thank goodness our neighborhood agreed to do it the following Saturday so the children wouldn't miss out.  However, not all the kids came out.  So that left me with a lot of goodies.  I could eat them all by myself, but that wouldn't end well.  So instead I scoured the cupboards to get some ideas.

I found a box of brownies, a lot of Milky Way bars and a recipe for Salted Caramel Frosting that I have been wanting to try.  The plan was set.  I took out my mini cupcake pan and set to work.

First I chopped up all those pesky little Milky Way bars that keep calling my name.  Then I made the brownie mix according to the directions on the package, except instead of putting the mix in a pan, I sprayed my mini cupcake pan with some Pam and poured in the brownie mix.

I took the bits of Milky Way bars and put a piece in each brownie cup.  You want to push them all the way in till they are covered.   I didn't and some kinda popped out in the bakng process.  I baked the brownie cups for 10-15min.  When done I let them cool off.

They looked good just as they were, but I can never leave well enough alone.  So I took out the recipe for Salted Caramel Frosting and got back to work.  First thing was to make the salted caramel.  It's just sugar with a little bit of water.  Who woulda thunk it? It actually wasn't that difficult to make.

I only messed up a little bit when I went to add the cream and added it to quickly.  It made the sugar clump up a little.  But I just took the clumps out.  Shhh.  Don't tell anyone.  It still tasted great.  Yay! My first caramel.

Salted Caramel Frosting

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
  3. Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.
  4. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using.

Time for a taste test.  Mmmm.  That was good.  Before I even had a chance to post this, I was looking at Amanda's post at and it looks like she had the same idea over the weekend.  Except she made regular sized chocolate chip cups with Babe Ruth bars, topped with vanilla buttercream frosting.  How funny is that.  Great minds think alike.  I will have to try her recipe now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Growing up in a household with Canadian parents, crepes were pretty much a staple.  My mom made them for us all the time.  I remember coming in from playing out in the snow with my brothers and my mom would make us crepes and hot chocolate.  Mmmm.  My mom's recipe was flour, eggs, and milk.  I tried to get the combo right, but my crepes never came out as good as hers. They were always too thick, not light and fluffy.  That is until I found the recipe that works for me.  I found it in one of the flyers the grocery gives out.  Simple ingredients, great taste.  

adapted from Big Y

1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsps pure vanilla extract

In a blender or with hand mixer, combine all ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  Heat a nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat.  Pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet; lift and tilt the skillet to spread batter evenly across bottom of skillet.  Return to heat.  Cook about 1 minute or until light brown.  Flip crepe with a spatula and cook the other side for about 30 seconds.  Cool crepe on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Makes about 12 crepes.

I love crepes they are so versatile.  We usually eat them for breakfast with pure maple syrup (no Aunt Jemina stuff).  My husband is Argentinian so he grew up eating them with dulce de leche.  They are also great with Nutella and bananas or just plain fruit.  I have even used them for dinner in place of pasta when making manicotti.  Oh the taste is incredible.  So much better than pasta.  I just leave out the vanilla extract.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ghiradelli Guinness Brownies

Yay! Our Halloween party has finally arrived.  It was delayed one week due to a crazy snowstorm that passed through the northeast and knocked down all the trees onto power lines and left us in the dark.

But alas, the snow has melted and it's time to party.  The theme this year was kings and queens.  My husband went as the King of Pop (Michael Jackson) and I as a Queen Bee.  This was an adult only Halloween party that our friends hosted.  As such, I wanted to make some adult brownies. 

What better combo than chocolate and beer. The Guinness Cupcakes I made not long ago were so yummy, but hubby wanted brownies this time. I gave him a list of ingredients and he was kind enough to go to the store for me. He came back with Ghiradelli baking chocolates. He knows me well.

I found this recipe on It sounded good and looked easy. Two of my favorite words.

Ghiradelli Guinness Brownies
adapted from Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter, cut into cubes
  • 8 ounces dark bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Ghiradelli white chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup superfine or granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer
  • 1 cup Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.  I use the Perfect Brownie Pan you see on TV all the time ( At first I thought it was another gimmicky unnecessary piece of equipment that my mother so kindly bought me.  But after the first use, I was hooked.  This thing is the best.  It makes perfect brownies every time.  Anyway back to the recipe.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.

Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips in a double-boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat.  I don't have a double boiler so I just put a glass bowl on top of a pot of water.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined.

Beat reserved flour mixture into melted chocolate mixture. Whisk in Guinness stout beer. The batter will seem a bit thin. Drop semisweet chocolate chips evenly on top of batter (some will sink in).

Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on center rack in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Let brownies cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Or just do like me and eat them warm and gooey.  I had to taste them before taking them to the party.  Quality assurance.

Note: The Guinness should be at room temperature. This recipe uses a little less than a standard 12-ounce bottle of Guinness stout beer. Do not include foam in the measurement. Either spoon off the foam or let it rest until the foam subsides.  Feel free to drink the remaining 2 ounces, I did.

These came out so moist and rich.  All the chocolates and Guinness really gave the brownies a unique flavor.  I will be making these again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Maple Chocolate Chip Scones

It's nice to be home after one week of living with my parents.  We had a freaky snowstorm last Saturday that took out power in most of the state.  We were one of the unlucky ones to lose power, but thank goodness my parents have a generator and a wood burning furnace.  We were able to keep warm and cozy.

Before the storm I had baked up a batch of scones.  A friend gave me a recipe that her daughter was able to extract from a restaurant she had eaten at.  The original recipe called for raisins or cranberries, but I of course had to put my twist on it.

I skipped the raisins and instead added chocolate chips and maple syrup.  Mmmmm.  What can I say?  I like it sweet.

Maple Chocolate Chip Scones
adapted from someone else's scone recipe

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder.  Cut up butter and add to flour mixture.  Add maple syrup and chocolate chips.  In a separate bowl mix eggs and milk until blended and add to the flour mixture.

Drop by spoonful on cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until tops are golden.

Makes about 12 scones.

These came out so yummy.  Chocolate chips and maple syrup were a great addition.  My husband and daughter couldn't stop eating them.  Ok, I couldn't stop eating them either, especially with a cup of Nespresso.

They came out more like nice fluffy cookies than scones, but hey, who cares.  They taste magnificent!  They are not too sweet and not too heavy. Just perfect.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ming Ming Cupcakes

Here is anther cupcake I did with my daughter when she loved the show Wonder Pets.  This is Ming Ming the duck.
This recipe was also from Nick  And no it's not as hard as it looks.  If I can do it, anyone can. And there is lots for kids to do to help.  I put my daughter in charges of unwrapping the Tootsie rolls and the Starbursts. 

Then she had to go through all the M & M's and take out the brown ones.  She was happy, because she got to eat all the other colors.

Then she had to unroll the fruit roll ups.  She was a very good helper.  She was three years old at the time.

Ming-Ming Cupcakes

36 chocolate taffy candies (such as Tootsie Rolls®)
1 roll green apple taffy (such as Fruit by the Foot®)
24 pink taffy candies (such as Starburst®)
48 brown candy-coated sunflower seeds or mini candies (such as mini M&M's®)
48 brown candy-coated chocolates (such as M&M's®)
2 plastic resealable bags
Ming-Ming Hat template ( )

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions and divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake pans. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 to 21 minutes. Transfer the cupcake pans to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Invert the cupcakes and cool completely.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of vanilla frosting into a resealable bag and set it aside. Tint the remaining vanilla frosting pale yellow. Spoon 1/2 cup of the yellow frosting into a resealable bag. Cover the tops of the cupcakes with the remaining yellow frosting.

Cut 12 of the chocolate taffies in half lengthwise. Soften them in the microwave for several seconds and roll them out flat. Use the hat templates to cut out Ming-Ming's aviator hat. Arrange the two side flaps on each cupcake, and then place the top piece. Add the green apple taffy (soften in the microwave for a few seconds) to the bottom of the cupcake to make Ming-Ming's scarf. Snip a small corner from the bag of yellow frosting and pipe a few feathers over the scarf.

Heat the pink taffy in the microwave for a few seconds to soften. Shape them into the beaks. Use a toothpick to make the nostrils. Press the beaks into the center of the cupcakes. Add the small brown candies to make the eyes. Snip a very small corner from the bag with the vanilla frosting and pipe white dots on the eyes. Pipe frosting dots on the hat and add the larger chocolate candies to make Ming-Ming's goggles.

I didn't find any green fruit roll up, so I used strawberry flavored.  I didn't find any chocolate covered sunflower seeds, so I used raisins.  I also couldn't get the nose to look like the one on the Nick Jr. website, but all in all , I was pretty impressed with myself and my daughter was delighted.

Gotta love that cheesy smile and the yellow frosting on her face.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dora Cupcakes

I made these 2 years ago when my daughter was into Dora the Explorer.  The recipe is from Nick  It really easy and fun to do with kids.  Gosh, she looks so little.  My how time flies!

Dora Cupcakes

You will need:

1 1/2 cups dark-chocolate melting wafers
1 can (16 oz.) prepared vanilla frosting
Brown and red paste food coloring
24 semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 roll (3/4 oz.) strawberry or cherry fruit leather (such as Fruit by the Foot®)
1/2 cup dark-chocolate frosting
Resealable plastic bags


Line two cookie sheets with wax paper and place the Dora Cupcake template under the wax paper.

Melt the chocolate wafers in a medium glass bowl in the microwave until smooth, about one to two minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon the melted chocolate into a resealable plastic bag. Snip a small corner from the bag, pipe the outline of Dora's hair, and fill in with the chocolate. Repeat to make 12. Place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes or until the chocolate has set.

Spoon 1/3 cup of vanilla frosting into a resealable bag. Use the paste food coloring to tint the remaining frosting a light reddish brown. Remove two tablespoons of frosting and tint it a darker brown; spoon this into a resealable bag.

Frost the tops of the cupcakes with reddish-brown frosting. Peel Dora's hair from the wax paper and arrange on top of each cupcake.

Snip a small corner from all the bags of frosting. Pipe white eyes and light-brown centers freehand. Press a chocolate chip into the eyes, flat side up, as her pupils. Pipe a white dot on top of each chip.

Cut a 1-inch triangle from the fruit leather for Dora's mouth. Outline her nose, mouth, and hair with the dark chocolate frosting.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Makes about 12 cupcakes.

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