kid-friendly · Recipes

Rotini with Asparagus, Peas & Goat Cheese

Clearly, I am revving up for spring, because this is a decidedly non-wintery dish. Fluffy rotini drenched in a light, lemony goat cheese sauce mingles nicely with whatever vegetables you have on hand; I love the blend of asparagus and peas, because it’s like a signal to my taste buds that nicer weather is around the bend.

This is perfect for meal prep Sundays, or for throwing together right after work. All you need on hand, after all, are your vegetables of choice — even frozen work well — and a small package of chevre, one lemon, plus a box of pasta. This is a great one for little helping hands, too, because there are just a few simple steps and easy tasks to share!

By the way, chevre and goat cheese are the same thing. They are a goat’s milk cheese which can be easier to digest for anyone with low tolerance for cow’s milk; chevre is also a bit lighter in fat and has a pleasingly tangy flavor and smooth texture. I save about a cup of the pasta cooking water here, and add it in gradually to the dish to loosen up the goat cheese and thin it into a silky, smooth sauce.

CHEVRE ROTINI

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box rotini pasta (or similar shape)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (or bag frozen, such as Trader Joe’s grilled)
  • 1/3 package frozen peas, or about a good palm full (I estimated)
  • 1 small log goat cheese, about 4-5 oz.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

If you are using fresh asparagus, I like to roast them on a sheet of aluminum foil in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 for about 12-15 minutes, or I pick up a frozen bag of the Trader Joe’s grilled spears. No matter which way you prep them, frozen or fresh, chop into rotini-sized pieces after they are done cooking and set aside.

Next, boil water for the rotini and cook the pasta until al dente, or 8-10 minutes. I like rotini because it really grips sauces, but any shape of pasta is OK. If you are using frozen peas, cook them at the same time as the pasta.

Drain pasta (and frozen peas if using), reserving one cup of cooking water.

Return rotini to the pan, stir in the asparagus and goat cheese, and zest the lemon into the pan. Halve the lemon and juice both sides into the pasta, being sure to catch the seeds (using an inexpensive hand-held citrus press is a great way to do this). Lastly, pour in the pasta water a little at a time, stirring until you reach the right consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm!

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This makes such great leftovers for the work week, and actually tastes good hot or cold. I haven’t tried this yet, but I bet it would be good to bring to a cookout in the summer as a cool pasta salad. If you try that, let me know. Until then, happy meal prepping, and stay safe if you’re impacted by the Nor’Easter hitting the East Coast right now!

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Baked Ziti

I dread the onset of winter with its cold, dark, depressing ways, and anyone with little kids can tell you the havoc daylight saving time wreaks on family sleep schedules. We had an oddly warm fall here in New England; it was 70 degrees out Monday, when I started writing this, and as nice as that felt, I’m ready for the casseroles to start showing up again — even if Mother Nature isn’t. I’ve also been ready to dig into hibernation food for months now!

In that spirit, I’ve made this wonderfully simple Baked Ziti a lot this fall, including for potlucks, Sunday dinner, and for friends with new babies.

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This makes the perfect dish for visiting a newborn: it is comforting, filling, and reheats very easily, and can be eaten with one hand while holding a baby. It can also be frozen if your friends don’t have room to eat it right away. As a bonus, little kids like it, too, which is always an implicit goal of any recipe I post! Georgia simply gobbles this up, and it’s one of Mark’s, favorites, too. Win-win.

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This recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen with a few adaptations to make it my own.

Cook time: 30 minutes    Serves: 4-6

Classic Baked Ziti

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ziti, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning (I like Wildtree)
  • 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 2/3 cup finely grated pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
  • fresh basil slivers
  • optional: red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

To start, preheat your oven to 400 F.

Heat a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta very al dente, or at least 2 minutes less than the normal cooking time stated on the box. Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

Heat a large skillet over  medium and add a swirl of olive oil until warm, then add the meat alongside the onion, garlic, seasonings and a healthy dose of salt and pepper over medium-hihg for up to 8 minutes, or until the beef is browned, stirring often.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Add in the reserved pasta water and then the spinach, cooking until milted (maybe another minute or two). Here, I like to add in some fresh basil, slivered, and maybe a couple fresh tomatoes from my garden if I need to use them up.

Stir in the drained pasta and mix together. Pour half into a 9×13 glass baking dish or lasagna pan, and sprinkle with half the two cheeses; repeat with another half of the pasta then top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until nice and crispy and browned on the edges. You can even run the dish under the broiler for a minute if you’d like it extra crispy! Enjoy warm.

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NOTES:

  • You can also use Italian sausage, casings removed, if you prefer the taste.
  • To cook al dente, shave 2 minutes off the cook time stated on the package of pasta. Taking care not to overcook is essential for this not turning mushy!
  • Seasoning the ground beef well with salt and pepper is essential; it’s less important if you opt for Italian sausage.
  • I like to serve this with more slivers of fresh basil and, if you have it, fresh ricotta. But that’s totally optional!
  • I have never tried this week meat substitutes, but it’s certainly possible. Other good substitutions to make it vegetarian would be mushrooms, beans, or lentils.

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Stay tuned for my first holiday shopping guides soon, and some inspiration for Thanksgiving dinner! I’m so excited Christmas is right around the corner. I basically live for the holidays once Halloween is over every year 🙂 Have a lovely, cozy weekend.

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Spring Fettuccine

Hmm. Where did we go for 21 days? It sure whizzed by rather mysteriously for me, until I woke up and realized I hadn’t written a new recipe all month. But I can tell you one thing — we did very, very, VERY little cooking these last three weeks, so that right there is probably the secret to why this blog went silent.

We had my mom’s 70th birthday party, the end of school for Georgia, the start of summer camp, the tail end of audition season for Mark, and annual reviews at my office, plus graduation from the political candidate training program I underwent all winter, Emerge.

I guess we were busy, huh?


You’ll notice this post has the word “Spring” in the title. That’s because that is when I started writing it! It’s probably even more exciting as a meal option now, though, because it’s just that easy — and easy is what you want in the heat (which we finally have here in Boston). And, bonus: you can use any greens that are ready to harvest from your garden now, if you’re in the Northeast.

The title of this should really be “Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken, Asparagus, Kale and Rosemary” but that is just WAY too long, so I’m leaving the flavors a bit to your imagination with a festive-sounding word like “Spring” instead. Because when I think of this season, and eating outdoors or on the porch, with something light and easy to pull together on a weeknight, those foods are for sure on my list…right next to a crisp glass of white wine or rosé.

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I originally made this as part of my Blue Apron subscription but have since redone it and adapted it for our family, and you could do the same. Chicken and Rosemary are natural buddies, but you can leave out any part that doesn’t appeal, including the chicken if you want to make this vegetarian, or the red pepper flakes if you don’t like so much heat. The greens are also interchangeable, so a spring mix or spinach would be fine here, too. Other ideas: you could add in some garlic to the saute step, or even some mushrooms — especially for a heartier vegetarian option if you omit the chicken tenders. I might even add some fresh peas if I saw them at the farmer’s market.

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Spring Fettuccine

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 chicken tenders
  • 6 OZ fettuccine
  • 1 bunch kale
  • ½ bunch ssparagus
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 2 TBSP crème fraîche or Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan
  • ⅛ TBSP crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce and eat a medium pot of salted water to boiling. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus, then cut into 1-inch pieces on an angle. Remove and discard the kale stems and finely chop the leaves. Pick the rosemary leaves off the stems, or run through an herb stripper; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and chop into bite-sized pieces, then transfer to a bowl. Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

In a large pot, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes or until it is lightly browned and cooked through.While the chicken cooks, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Reserving ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water, drain thoroughly.

While the pasta cooks, add the asparagus, kale, rosemary, 2 TBSP water and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be, to the pan of chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and the kale wilts.

Add the cooked pasta, crème fraîche and half the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan of chicken and veggies. Cook, stirring vigorously to coat the pasta, until thoroughly combined, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce seems dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water to reach a better consistency. Top with cheese and enjoy!

This makes about two servings, so it’s perfect for date night. Or, it doubles easily.

Buon Appetito!

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Technically summer started last week, but I think you can still safely make this “spring” pasta and be on-season with your ingredients. I know my garden is still overflowing with greens like lettuce, cabbage and kale! In fact things are growing so fast and furious after our heavy spring rains that allergies have hit in full force for me lately, and I hope you aren’t suffering too! Have a great rest of the week, and an awesome start to your Fourth of July vacation if you’re taking off soon. We are staying in town but hoping to savor the warm sun and maybe get to some boating and beach or pool time! 🍉🇺🇸☀️


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Gymboree Sale On Now!

kid-friendly · Recipes

BLT Pasta Salad

Hot nights call for cold pasta salad! Here, I’ve taken flavors pretty much everyone loves — that of a BLT sandwich — and modified slightly to use a combo of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce instead of mayonnaise for dressing. It tastes light and sweet, and if you use salad bar bacon bits like I did, it’s actually vegetarian to boot. (Did you know most bacon bits aren’t made of meat? It’s true!) This is a sneaky way to get some vegetables into your kiddo for lunch or dinner, too. Consider it Georgia approved!

BLT PASTA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta, cooked and drained
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup bacon bits, or about half package bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
  • 1 head of romaine or other lettuce variety, chopped
  • ranch dressing and barbecue sauce to taste
  • pepper, seasoned to taste

DIRECTIONS

Put a pot of pasta on to boil and prep the remaining ingredients: chop the romaine, bake and crumble the bacon (or use bacon bits pre-crumbled from the salad bar, as I did, to save time) and dice the tomatoes. This entire recipe is flexible, so add more or less of any ingredient to your preference.

Cook and drain the pasta until it is al dente, making sure not to over-cook so they don’t turn mushy when mixed into salad. Let cool.

Toss together the tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and pasta in a large bowl, and drizzle ranch dressing to coat, using your judgment as to how heavily dressed you’d like the pasta to be. I would start with about a quarter cup and work upwards from there. Season with pepper and drizzle barbecue sauce over top. Toss once more and serve warm, room temp, or cold right out of the fridge. Will keep very well outdoors for a picnic, potluck or cookout. Enjoy!

BLT pasta salad

Recipe inspired by Life in the Lofthouse.

Blue Apron · kid-friendly · Recipes

Updating a Classic: Orechiette with Kale & Paprika-Roasted Chickpeas

Back in the early days of my blog, I made this Spinach and Chickpea spaghetti dish that quickly became a favorite and a regular in our rotation. It’s healthy, hearty and easy. Well, I recently updated it a bit and loved the results, so I’m doing a quick post to share! The new version uses orechiette instead of spaghetti and kale instead of spinach, and I roasted the chickpeas in advance to give them some crunch and an extra pump of zest thanks to a sprinkling of paprika when they’re fresh out of the oven. Such simple switches, but they made all the difference! And there was so much flavor that I was able to cut way back on the dairy used for the creamy sauce. 


Orechiette with Kale & Paprika-Roasted Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

  • Half of a one-pound box of orechiette
  • 1½ Cups Chickpeas
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Kale
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Onion
  • one pat of butter (about 2 TBSP)
  • 1 TBSP Capers (I keep a jar in the fridge)
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • Grated Parmesan (or Pecorino) Cheese, amount to taste (approx. 1/4 cup)

DIRECTIONS

First, roast the chickpeas. Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas, then dry thoroughly between paper towels (laying on a flat surface and rolling sometimes works well). Discard any loose skins that come off. Arrange on the baking sheet in an even layer, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper,  and toss to coat, then roast — stirring halfway through — for about 25 minutes, or until crispy and browned (but not burnt!) After removing from the oven, season the chickpeas with the smoked paprika, tossing to coat evenly, and set aside.

While the chickpeas roast, wash and dry the kale. Prep the produce: peel and dice the onion and garlic, roughly chop the kale leaves (or tear by hand), discarding the stems, and roughly  chop the capers. Quarter and de-seed the lemon. Finally, put a pot of water on to boil the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium-hot in a large pan. Add the diced onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the kale and 1/4 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens have wilted and the water has cooked off.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan of kale and then throw in the capers, butter, juice of three lemon wedges and the reserved pasta cooking water. Cook for a few minutes, stirring thoroughly to combine, and season again with salt and pepper after removing from heat. Once off the stove, top the dish with the roasted chickpeas and stir to combine. Top with cheese and squeeze the remaining lemon wedge over the dish before eating.

Voila!

Without the cream cheese, this actually felt light enough to be in contention as an early spring dish, instead of a heavy “load up for hibernation” winter dinner. Georgia really loves roasted chickpeas as a snack, so she mostly kinda ate this, picking the onion and kale out and setting it off to the side. Cooked greens = bad, but cold fresh greens in a salad = OK by her. Pasta, of course, is always a toddler win.

I live by toddler logic.

That’s all from me today everyone! I hope you try this and like it as much as we did, and that you stay dry in the soggy northeast this week. Happy Tuesday!

Recipes

Chicken Piccata for Two

I don’t eat chicken that often, but when I do, this is one of my favorite dishes. It looks so simple on the surface but so many flavors lurk within, and it’s always so satisfying. I’ve never really had a go-to recipe for it, though, and it always seemed silly to order chicken in a restaurant when there are so many more complex dishes and new cuisines to try when ordering out. Plus, chicken? Put it right alongside pasta and risotto as having the biggest markups of any food you could order in a restaurant.

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Well, now I’ve lost my fear of doing Chicken Piccata right, and thanks to one of my first Blue Apron deliveries way back when, I now have a date-night dish that I whip up for just Mark and I to feel special without any of the hassle I was expecting.

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Chicken Piccata for Two

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Chicken Cutlets
  • 6 Ounces Fresh Linguine
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Garlic Chives
  • 1 Organic Lemon
  • 1 Large Bunch Parsley
  • 3 TBSP Chicken Demi-Glace (reduced stock)
  • 3 TBSP Flour
  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 2 TBSP Capers
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan Cheese

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a medium pot of water to boiling on high. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Cut the garlic chives into ½-inch pieces. Zest the rind, then quarter and deseed the lemon. Pick the parsley off the stems, discarding. Thinly slice half the parsley, keeping the rest whole. Rough-chop the capers.

Separate the strands of the pasta by hand and add to the pot of boiling water. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, or until al dente (still slightly firm to the bite). Reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water, thoroughly drain the cooked pasta; rinse under cold water to prevent sticking. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Rinse and wipe out the pot.

While the pasta cooks, pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the flour on a plate. Coat the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. In a medium nonstick pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the coated chicken and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and add half the butter. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

To the pan of browned chicken, add the chicken demi-glace, capers, sliced parsley, the juice of 2 lemon wedges and ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, occasionally swirling the pan, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly; season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

In the pot used to cook the pasta, heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, garlic chives and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic is golden brown and the garlic chives are bright green.

To the pot of aromatics, add the cooked pasta, Parmesan cheese, remaining butter and ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through and the sauce is slightly reduced in volume. If the sauce seems dry, gradually add the remaining pasta cooking water to achieve your desired consistency (I usually use all of it). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the finished pasta between 2 dishes. Top each with a finished chicken cutlet. Garnish with the whole parsley leaves and remaining lemon wedges. Enjoy!

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Want to make it vegetarian? Try using Seitan instead of chicken.

Miss that white wine flavor of many piccatas? Deglaze the pan of chicken with a splash before proceeding to add the next ingredients.

Can’t get enough lemon taste? Squeeze the quarters over the dish before plating instead of just using as a garnish. That’s what I did.

Need some more veggies? Serve a salad alongside.

Chicken cutlets too thick for your liking? Pound them flatter before cooking.

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This takes me under an hour start to finish (probably around 40 minutes total) and is a stress-free recipe that turns out a special dish. I hope you get a chance to try it soon.

Georgia and I are going away for Labor Day and will be back shortly after, hopefully with lots of fun pictures. See you then!

Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Garden-Fresh Tomato Sauce

Georgia’s party was this past weekend! The weather was gorgeous, the party was a success, and mama is tired. This is a recipe I made last week, while trying to use up even more of our garden tomatoes, which are ripening at the rate of dozens per day (!!) I like a chunky sauce but in this heat I don’t want to simmer it for hours, so I use a base to get me started, then just add tomatoes, fresh basil and seasonings. This time, I decided to see how shallots in butter would taste as a foundation for a quick summer tomato sauce, and I really liked the way it turned out. Here’s the recipe!

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I chose to make it with frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s mixed into the sauce, with a side salad featuring additional tomatoes from our garden. Greens were just one head of romaine that I picked up at a sidewalk stand on my way home. The pasta pictured is penne, but you can use anything.

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Garden-Fresh Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 12-oz. (1 lb) can of crushed tomatoes as a base
  • 1 package frozen meatballs (or fresh) if using, such as Trader Joe’s
  • Handful of fresh basil, quantity to your taste, torn into smaller pieces (with stems removed)
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced, then soaked in water for at least 5 minutes
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • ~ half a dozen fresh tomatoes, sliced and seeds removed (scrape out with a spoon)
  • salt, pepper and any other seasonings to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place the frozen meatballs in a medium sauce pan if you are making this sauce with them included, then pour in the entire can of crushed tomatoes and heat over medium-low, covered, while you chop the tomatoes from your garden, farmer’s market or CSA. I used between 5 and 6 smaller tomatoes, but eyeball it. You always want to have more sauce than not enough.

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Roughly dice your shallot and let it rest in a cup of water that just covers it (yes, I used a baby food bowl!) which helps them to get a little less sharp. In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon (approximately) of butter (or your choice of a substitute spread, such as Smart Balance) over medium-low until melted. Add the shallot to the butter and cook for a few minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper, until translucent. Turn off the heat.

While the can of crushed tomatoes and meatballs simmer, add any seasonings to the  sauce pan and keep covered over low while you boil water to cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water so it stops cooking.

Add the shallots (including the butter) and freshly-torn basil to the sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and your choice of other spices such as garlic powder, oregano, sugar, etc. I used a hearty Italian-style blend. Cover again and let simmer a little while longer. If the sauce looks too thick, add a splash of water or olive oil; if it looks too watery/thin or there isn’t enough, you can do what I did — throw in some leftover pizza sauce, which I always keep on hand — or add more garden tomatoes to bulk it up. Really, this is a very flexible recipe and you can sort of play it by ear!

I like to add in some more freshly shredded basil right at the end, and then more on top of the plate when I serve it. But I REALLY like basil, and there is a LOT in Mark’s garden right now. Pretty much, once the meatballs are cooked through (aka fork tender), this is ready to eat! I don’t mix the pasta and sauce together in one pan, but rather plate the penne and pour some sauce and meatballs over it, and finish with my side of salad. As Georgia says, “deeee-licious!”

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Basil: It goes with everything.

You can serve this however you like, with or without a side, and I’d bet you could also add meat to the sauce as well if you wanted to brown some sausage or ground beef up with the shallot. I almost threw in some roasted eggplant, too, but it was so hot I didn’t really want to put on the oven to bake it. Penne was great but any pasta you prefer will do just fine! This came out tasting like I’d simmered it for hours, when in reality it is done as soon as the fresh tomatoes have broken down to your liking. The longer you cook it the more they will fall apart and liquify, but they taste good no matter how chunky you leave them. I myself prefer them to hold a little bit of form. I also added my favorite spaghetti sauce seasoning, the organic blend from Wildtree, which added so much flavor.

I hope you like this! Party photos and recap coming soon! 

I can’t believe we have a two year old…this feels like just yesterday (although this doesn’t). Here she is on her birthday, at two minutes, one year, and two: