Category Archives: pasta dishes

Baking with Children

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“Just one question, Mom,” says my daughter, Sweet Thing Two to me as she opens the door.  “Does it really matter how this dessert tastes?  I mean, are these people going to taste it?”

Although the coffee and Kahlua complimented the chocolate pasta, the pasta didn't absorb the sauce well.
Although the coffee and Kahlua complimented the chocolate pasta, the pasta didn’t absorb the sauce well.

“Really?”  I thought it was obvious.  The point is that I have to develop a recipe involving the penne pasta that Marx Foods sent me.  This recipe will be shared, so if people will be eating it, it should taste good, right?

Earlier in the evening, we were using my kitchen at full capacity.  Sweet Thing Two had been asked to participate in a church bake-off and was testing the recipe that she would use in the cupcakes that she planned to bake on the forthcoming Saturday.

I was working on my Marx Food Challenge recipe.  The Cub was sitting at our island watching us cook.  “I never would have known that this is better than watching TV!  Hey…..can I make peanut butter cookies?”

I couldn’t believe my ears.  This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  He said once he stayed at his friend’s house and they used the recipe on the back of the peanut butter jar.  We had all of the necessary ingredients and even had some mini chocolate chips, which The Cub wanted to include in his cookies.

Sweet Thing Two and The Cub baking with me in the kitchen.
Sweet Thing Two and The Cub baking with me in the kitchen.

So then there were three of us in the kitchen.  It actually worked very well.  I was putting together the components of the pasta recipe in my head, while the other two gathered their ingredients.  I helped the Cub with the measurements for his cookies, and gave him pointers on how to use the hand mixer.

The cookies were delicious, the cupcakes were beautiful.  As for my penne recipe…although it looked delicious, we all decided that the dish as a whole was not going to work.

The peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips were a big hit!
The peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips were a big hit!
lavender cupcakes
Sweet Thing Two’s cupcakes were a lovely shade of lavender.


On to plan B.


My alarm rang at 6:00 AM.  “Oh no!”

The Loup Garoup sleeping beside me says, “What’s wrong?”

“Whew….never mind.  It isn’t Monday, is it?”

“No, baby, it’s Sunday.”

Sunday.  Today is the day.  The deadline.  D-Day.  I think I have the answer, but I am sure there is a reason they call this a challenge.

Dinner for Dessert!

Marx food sent me some chocolate penne pasta, and I am to create an original recipe that is a dessert but looks like an entrée.  This pasta looks like solid chocolate, which is a little deceiving.  It is is a dried pasta that includes as an ingredient, cocoa!  When I cooked the pasta, it was a novelty.  Everyone had to try it…well almost anyone.  The Loup Garou is not a fan of chocolate.  Although the sauces that I prepared to accompany the dish were delicious, I was told by my children and also tasted that the problem with my first attempt was, of all things, the main ingredient.  I realized that like any pasta dish, the sauces that were to accompany the pasta were supposed to compliment it.  I needed something to bring out the chocolate flavor — something that would coat the pasta just like a tomato sauce!

I decided the best way to emphasize the chocolate is to make a chocolate sauce.  A white chocolate custard sauce would provide balance, and a strawberry sauce on top should do the trick of making this dish look like an entrée.  I used mint, and grated white chocolate on top as garnishes.

This dish works best when the chocolate sauce is allowed some time to absorb the sauce.  Sweet thing two and I shared this dessert and enjoyed it.  However, Sweet Thing One wasn’t crazy with the texture of the pasta in the sauce after it had been chilled.  So I recommend serving at room temperature.

chocolate penne pasta
Dessert for dinner!

Dinner for Dessert: Tuxedo Penne


  • 1 cup Cocoa Penne (
  • 2 oz. chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 oz. white chocolate
  • For the strawberry sauce:
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water (should taste like seawater) al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta in a colander. Put the pasta in a large bowl with a pat of butter (around a teaspoon) and toss until the pasta is coated. Put the bowl of pasta aside.
  3. Make the Chocolate Custard Sauce (Recipe from Irma Rombaurer's Joy of Cooking)
  4. Heat the unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler with 2 cups of milk, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together 4 egg yolks 3/4 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. When the ingredients are combined, put it back into the double boiler.
  8. Stir the chocolate sauce until thickened.
  9. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  10. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  11. Make the white chocolate custard sauce:
  12. In a heavy saucepan add 1 cup of whipping cream, 1/2 cup milk. Heat until boiling. Remove from heat. Add 2 oz white chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted.
  13. Beat 2 egg yolks and two eggs. Stir the eggs into the white chocolate and cream mixture. Stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  14. Make the strawberry sauce:
  15. In a saucepan add sugar. Heat until melting. Stir in strawberries.
  16. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  17. Cook until the strawberries have combined flavors with the other ingredients. Stir constantly.
  18. Cool
  19. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves
  20. Puree the sauce in a blender.
  21. This sauce is best when fresh and is a great accompaniment to ice cream!
  22. In a small dish add a spoonful of chocolate pasta. To the pasta add a spoonful of the chocolate sauce. Toss to coat.
  23. On top of the pasta add a layer of the white chocolate custard.
  24. Add another layer of the chocolate pasta and top it with some more chocolate custard sauce.
  25. Finish with a spoon full of strawberry sauce. Garnish with chopped mint. Grate the remaining white chocolate and sprinkle on top.

Let’s Get Cooking photo contest, or, “The important thing kid, is that you’re doing something you like to do.”

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In the 1980’s there was a movie starring Jobeth Williams entitled American Dreamer.  In the movie, a normal, everyday housewife named Cathy Palmer submits an entry in a writing contest.  In the writing contests, entrants must submit a story in the style of her favorite author’s series.  She wins the contest, and the prize is a trip to Paris.  Her husband says that he can’t take off of work to go to Paris just to watch her get a plaque and a pat on the back.  She summons her nerve and goes alone, against her husband’s wishes.  Her first day in Paris, she’s hit by a car on the way to the award luncheon.  She wakes up in the hospital and thinks that she is the sexy, dangerous Rebecca Ryan, who is the main character in her favorite espionage novels.  The rest of the movie involves Cathy’s entanglement in other people’s reality.  My sisters and I watched this movie so many times that I think we know every single line!

I recently entered a photo contest.  Giada de Laurentiis is sponsoring a photo contest in which entrants must cook one of her recipes, plate it and photograph it.  Judging begins on November 14, 2011 and Facebook users can vote on a photo once per day until December 2.

I just love Italian!  When I read about the contest it inspired me to cook a few different recipes.  I cooked three of her recipes on different nights, and took several photos of each.  I enjoyed the experience.   For the sake of variety, I did not serve these on consecutive nights!

The first recipe I chose was the Penne with vodka sauce.  Because the sauce didn’t have meat in it and it had vodka in it, I knew that it might not be appealing to some of my family members.  I cooked my regular meatballs and served them with the simple tomato sauce that is the base for the Penne with Vodka Sauce recipe.

Penne pasta with a tomato and vodka sauce
Penne with vodka sauce

I served penne as the pasta to accompany both.  I was surprised that everyone tried the Penne with vodka sauce.  Perhaps I did not cook it long enough, because my daughter said that she could taste the vodka.  In any case, I have decided to use that simple tomato sauce recipe again!  It is very similar to the sauce I have been making, but doesn’t call for basil or oregano, two herbs that I usually include in my tomato sauce.  I am going to experiment with this sauce some more, because it really is simple and delicious!

Meatballs with simple tomato sauce
I cooked my regular meatballs and added them to Giada's Simple Tomato Sauce

The following week I cooked Giada’s recipe for chicken saltimbocca.  I absolutely love spinach and prosciutto, and couldn’t wait to try it.  The chicken saltimbocca was a little more time consuming because it requires one to pound out chicken breasts and roll them up with spinach, prociutto and parmesan.  One of the best things about this is that the main dish includes a vegetable.  I served the chicken on a bed of angel hair pasta that had been tossed with olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers and basil.  The lemon spaghetti recipe is one that I watched Giada serve with salmon on an episode about spa food at home.  This fresh, lemony whole wheat pasta dish is a great accompaniment to the saltimbocca recipe as well as the third recipe that I photographed.

Chicken piccatta is one of my family favorites, and I have blogged before about a recipe that I have used before.  I was eager to try Giada’s recipe, because it was slightly different than the other recipe that I have used – Giada’s recipe does not use flour.  I altered the recipe slightly and used half wine and half chicken broth, because I was low on chicken broth.  It was delicious!

Chicken Piccatta
Giada's Chicken Piccatta

I photographed all three recipes using different lighting and angles…and even sometimes used different plates.  The deadline to enter the contest was November 11th, and I wanted feedback from my family on the photos as well as the recipes!  It was a crazy week!  A business trip, and then my daughter’s play filled my week.  November 11th came and I told the Loup Garoup that he simply HAD to help me decide.  The day ran away from us, and the next morning as I was about to take a bite of a decadent chocolate doughnut, LG said, “What photo did you decide to enter in that contest?”

I sighed.  I stomped, and I almost cried.  All of that, and I FORGOT to submit my photo?  I had been watching the other entries, and I really thought that I had some good material to submit. “At least we got some yummy meals out of it,” LG said consolingly.  Still.  I just couldn’t believe I had forgotten.  I went to the computer and brought up the contest page.  I couldn’t believe it!  The last date to submit an entry was November 14!!  They must have extended the deadline.  I had no time to waste!  My sister was coming over later that morning, and so was my mother.  I showed my photos to them, and we had a consensus!  We decided that I should submit a photo of the chicken saltimbocca.

Unfortunately, the grand prize is not a trip to Paris, or even Rome.  However, my family got some delicious meals, and I had lots of fun cooking and photographing them!  It will be really exciting if I get to call my sisters and say, “I’ve won!”

Please go to the contest web site and even if you aren’t a Facebook member, look at the many photographs.  You may vote on my entry once per day until December 2 and it may be found here:

Many people put some time and effort into the contest and there are some great photos!  The recipes are great too, and I intend to try some of the others that I did not make for the contest.  Recipes may be found on the Giada de Laurentiis web page at: