Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barium Springs Home For Children

As our Gala planning is under way, Cookies For A Cause has chosen Barium Springs as our charity to support. For every sponsorship that is given to C4AC, 20% will be donated to help the children at Barium Springs.

So what is this charity all about you might ask yourself?

Barium Springs Home for Children has been operating since 1891. They service over 700 children per year and are committed to provide a safe and nurturing family life for every child. Barium Springs provides a place to live for abused or neglected children, early childhood development for low income families, counseling services and foster family programs. They also offer behavior treatment in a school setting for troubled teens as well as early intervention services for children still living in the community. With staff increases and campus expansion, Barium Springs' goal is to expand and grow as the needs of NC children increase.

"By teaching them, keeping them safe, and above all loving them, we show these hurting children there is promise for a bright future."

Check out their website to learn more about who they are and how we can help our community! If you would like to sponsor the Gala please let us know and we can provide you with additional information.

Remember...together we can make a difference....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Baking tips

I love it when I have a great tip that helps me in the kitchen to make my experience all that better. I have written about a couple of my favorites. Please take a look and let us know what your best tip for baking is.

Take a heavy-duty zipper-seal plastic bag and snip off one corner, making a slightly curved cut. Using a standard two-piece plastic coupler (available wherever cake decorating supplies are sold), insert the larger piece into the hole. Choose a tip and secure it with the coupler's ring. Fill the bag and zip the top closed. Decorate away, then remove the coupler/tip assembly and toss the bag. No messy cleanup!
Add ¼ cup all purpose flour to any box of cake mix and it will taste much more like a homemade cake made from scratch.

Applesauce and plain yogurt are great fat substitutes. For maximum texture and flavor, replace no more than half the fat listed in a recipe. So if a recipe calls for a 1/2 caup of butter, you can substitute 1/4 cup applesauce. You'll cut out more than 40 grams of fat and 400 calories.

If your cake recipe calls for nuts, heat them first in the oven, then dust with flour before adding to the batter to keep them from settling to the bottom of the pan.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Simple Money Saving Tricks for Home!

Who wants to save $ and conserve energy??? I am sure many of you do and here are a few easy things we can all do at home to conserve energy:

Lower Your Water Heater-Lowering the temperature on your water heater from 140 to 120 degrees will reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10%. Try it, its not as bad as one would think!

Learn about Heating and Cooling-
With high prices for heating fuels and electricity stalking the nation, it's good to know that there are some easy ways to save money in the area of climate control. According to the Department of Energy most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, What to do? Simply installing a programmable thermostat will save you approximately $150 a year, according to the EPA -- that means it will pay for itself in just a few months. In warm temperatures, resist the temptation to set the air conditioning too low, and be vigilant with heating when it's chilly.
Fact: Aiming for 78 degrees or higher when you're at home while reduce your cooling loads 10-20%. When you're away, make it 85 degrees and save an additional 5-12%. In colder weather, for every degree you lower the thermostat, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill.

Change out old appliances to Energy Star Appliances-
Energy Star was designed by the EPA to take the guesswork out of appliance buying. Look for the blue-and-white label, which means the item is at least 10-50% more efficient than standard models (depending on the class of product). That means lower energy bills and less pollution.
Fact: More than 18,000 products in 35 different categories are covered in the Energy Star program, and most major manufacturers participate.

Unplug Unused Chargers-
Even when they aren't charging anything, plugged-in cell phone, laptop and other chargers continue to draw electricity. Fact: Americans throw away about 8% of our annual electric bills this way, wasting billions of dollars.
The solution is simple: just unplug them, or plug them into a surge protector and flip that switch when your device is charges.

Install Low-Flow Water Fixtures-
Toilets used to use 5 gallons per flush, but these days more efficient models are readily available. So-called low-flow models use less than a gallon, and work great.
Fact: American Standard, Toto and Kohler are leaders in the field.
Also save water and money, and still have ample water pressure, with a low-flow showerhead, which can slash bathing-water consumption 50 to 70 percent. The devices are simple to install and start at around $8.
Low-flow faucets are also available.

Plant Low-Water Plantings-
Lawns take a huge amount of water in dry climates, which leads to both high water bills and a lot of hassle and worry. Plus, the possibility of mandatory water restrictions means the yard may end up looking unkept.
Instead, plant drought-tolerant native shrubs, trees and grasses. They won't require nearly as much water and will serve as habitat for local wildlife.
Fact: Low-water plantings are called xeriscaping.

Challenge yourself to at least do 2 things in the next month and let us know what you've done~

Monday, July 28, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Let Them Eat Cake!

I found a real "goodie" on this website today and absolutely could not resist writing about it (even though today is our "What's For Supper Ya'll?" featured piece!) So, I thought "Let them eat cake!"

There's swimming pools and sandcastles and firetrucks, and the list goes on an on! Family Fun is a website I found some time ago that has all kinds of wonderful food ideas for families. These ideas, however, really take the cake! They are currently showcasing a "Best-Ever Birthday Cakes" article that shows a wonderful inventory of cake ideas! The sleepover cake is one of my favorites: One of the best things about this article is it not only gives you ideas with the pictures, it gives your recipes and instructions for making them! Check this site out at FamilyFun and have a blast!

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to make your cake stand out!

So, you've baked all day, you got the icing just right, the rosebud decorations absolutley perfect - now what? You're going to showcase your masterpiece cake on a plain old dish????? Puuuhhleease.

Why not do what the professionals do? Put your cake on a silver cake plateau and let your guests oooh and ahhh over your spectacular creation!

I had this idea last year when my daughter was turning one. Now, granted, I didn't bake the cake, I bought it at Specialty Cakes in Lake Norman. But the point is, the cake was just way too beautiful not to show it off properly. So, I rented a cake plateau - oila!

I liked the idea so much, that I told my friends and family if they were looking for gift ideas for me at the holidays, well, I'd love a cake plateau! So, off Diva Michelle M. went in search of the silver plateaus and bought me one! She found several suppliers on the internet and you can get these beauties starting around just $40.

If you'r a hostessing nut like me, why stop at one? They make several shapes and sizes and you just don't know which one will strike your fancy the next time you're displaying your cake!

Let us know how you like to display your food at your parties!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Nontraditional" Charities

Everyone has heard of your typical American Cancer Society, The American Heart Assoiciation, etc. but you can also be charitable and help ordinary people who are in need!
Remember Cookies For A Cause and The Divas In The Kitchen want to help make a difference one morsel at a time.
Learning of others who need our support inspires us all to give back. And if we all give back just a little, we'll make a huge difference in this world.
I am writing today about a little boy named Camden who was brought to my attention by a friend. He is four months old and has recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. He started his chemo treatment yesterday. He along with his mommy and daddy will be living at the hospital for about four to six months depending on how his treatment progresses.
As one can can only begin to imagine the grief, sadness and other emotions this family is going through.....they will also run into financial burdens along the way. So I was asked by a friend to say a prayer, and pass the message along.
If you can say a prayer or want to donate, it would be more than appreciated. This type of situation will bring a community together that these people didn't know existed and I am hoping to help make a difference in the life of this little boy.
Please visit his journey at and if you would like to donate please send a check or money order made out to Camden Kibler.
Mail it to:
Camden's Journey
P.O. Box 1065
Oakland, FL 34760-1065

Thank you for all your support! Remember to be kind to others!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mis en Place

The trick to a speedy and accurate recipe is to have all the ingredients ready, pans prepared, and the oven preheated before you start. Called "Mis en Place", its a French term for pre-assembling your wet and dry ingredients. It helps so that recipes can be assembled quickly and easily and helps to prevent your leaving something out.

Have you ever started a recipe and had one of your lovely darlings call out "Mom I NEED you". You then find out that what they needed was to tie a shoe or reach the crayons. I recently had this happen to me. After I took care of that dire moment I came back to find that I couldn't remember if I had already added the baking soda. Hmmm what should I do? Start over? Add the baking soda again if in fact I already had? What would you do? Of course I threw it out and started over.

I now read my recipe twice and pull out all my ingredients that I will be using. I also premeasure everything before I start to add and mix. I have also learned that cleanup is much easier and faster if I clean as I go. Put away your ingredients when you are done measuring them wipe counters and rinse measuring cups and spoons when done that way they can easily go right into your dishwasher. Before you know it your kitchen is clean and your cake, pie, or cookies are in the oven baking and you can sit and rest before it comes out of the oven instead of cleaning your mess.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ways to Save Energy at Home!

Energy conservation is mostly common sense, yes, but sometimes we can all use a few reminders. These 7 tips will help you get started; once you give it a little thought, we're sure you'll find even more ways to $ave.
Turn Off Unneeded Lights-

Did your dad ever say "Turn off the lights, we don't own the electric company!" My dad always did and now I know why. :)

Fact: Lighting is responsible for about 11 percent of a home's energy bills.

Change out your current light bulbs- (when the oldones need to be replaced)

The little spiral-shaped bulbs known as compact fluorescents use less than a third of the energy of regular bulbs and last ten times longer, paying for themselves in lower energy bills within months.

Fact: If every U.S. household replaced just one regular bulb with a CFL, the amount of energy saved could light 2.5 million homes for a year. Style: The good news is CFLs now come in a variety of colors and styles, including flood lights, candelabra sizes and much more.
Tip: Recycle Your CFLs
Order the consumer pak on Sylvania's website ($15, including shipping), fill up with about 12 burned out bulbs, attach the prepaid shipping label, and your retired CFLs will be responsibly recycled. Larger sizes and community packs also available.

Turn Off Your Computer at Night-

You'll save energy and money if you turn your computer off at the end of each day. It will also reduce wear and tear on your hardware, extending its life.

Fact: According to the Department of Energy you'll save an average of $90 of electricity a year.

Use a Laptop Instead of a Desktop-

Laptop computers use only 15 to 25 watts during regular use, as compared to the 150 watts used by a conventional desktop computer and monitor. Plus, laptops also draw just a fraction of a watt when in sleep mode.

Install Motion Sensors-

Very inexpensive to do! Install motion sensors on lights in your home, which turn on only when movement is detected and turn off automatically.

For me each time I read or write about something, I get new ideas and a better understanding of what and why we should change some of our ways. Please share with us some of the ways you save energy and ways you plan on improving...

Together we can make a healthier earth for generations to come!

Monday, July 21, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll - "Meat and Three"

Let's just see how southern you are. When I say "meat and three" do you immediately know what I mean? Does a particular restaurant come to your mind? Or are you sitting there scratching your head saying "three what?"

"A meat and three is a style of food, a name for a restaurant that serves it, and a Southern tradition. A meat and three is a casual—frequently extremely casual—Southern diner that serves meat entrées accompanied by three side dishes. Your meat options frequently include fried chicken, roast turkey, roast beef and gravy, fried flounder, or perhaps a pork chop, though sometimes neck bones, chitlins, and fried bologna sandwiches appear on the menu. Sides might include collard greens, rice and gravy, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, mashed potatoes, fried okra, turnip greens, squash casserole, steamed broccoli with cheese sauce, lima beans, carrot salad, and coleslaw. Cornbread and sweet iced tea are usually included in the price" (quote from

For me, when I think of a meat and three, I think about Jeneanes Cafe located in the heart of Macon, Georgia. I went to law school in Macon and clerked for a federal judge who ate there EVERY DAY. It was a way of life. Judge Fitzpatrick (or simply, "Judge" as he was called) used to gather his staff at noon each day to head on over for a meat and three. Jeneanes is famous for its meatloaf and fixins, but nothing tops her chocolate pie!

My favorites included the meatloaf, fried okra, collard greens and the mac and cheese. Don't forget to order the glass of tea (if you ask for anything else, you may get kicked out!)

Quite honestly, everything on the menu is devine! If you're ever in Macon, Georgia you'll have to be sure to stop in. Don't worry about the address, just ask any local to point you in the direction of "Jeneanes" and you'll get there - "it's just down the road a piece".

I found a great reference guide to "meat and threes" all over the country, check out (appropriate domain name don't you think?)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Party Favors

One of my favorite things when planning a party is deciding on the party favors! They're so much fun and add just the right panache to your affair!

Quite often, there are so many options to choose from, that I have a hard time making a decision. I love giving candy, or flowers, or candles, or anything really! I love to wrap them, display them, showcase them, you name it!
One of our divas, Diva Robin, recently gave out tin pots with gardening soil and flower seeds for her 2 year old's birthday party! Exquisite!
My neighbor just had made customized t-shirts with "got fun?" printed on them for the 220 guests attending her kids' joint birthday party (that's right, I said 220!).

Last year I gave out flowery soaps wrapped in flower paper for my sister-in-law's baby shower! (Get it, soap because it was a shower?)

There are so many ways to be creative when coming up with party favors. Tie them in with your theme and go crazy.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Monogrammed Card Holders:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Support the Local Animal Shelter

If you are an animal lover and looking to get involved in something local, look no further!

With town approval and the support of good neighbors all over North Mecklenburg, the Cornelius Animal Shelter is looking forward to their move from the current tarped facility to a new building.
In order to finish construction, they need help to help us raise the additional $250,000 needed for the new shelter!

You can simply donate money, host a Cookies For A Cause event (, or go to one of the events around town to show your support!

TV Raffle
: Thursday, July 17
What: Raffle tickets sold to win a flat screen TV go towards the shelter
Where: Midtown Sundries

Midtown Sundries
When: Band nights, All summer long
What: Your cover charge supports the new shelter


Send a tax-deductible donations to:
Cornelius Town Hall Attn: Finance Department 21445 Catawba Avenue Cornelius, NC 28031. Please write on the check "Animal Shelter Construction Fund."

Just recently, C4AC held their first kick-off cookie book party and $1.00 from the sale of each cookbook was donated to the shelter.

I also hosted a Barefoot Book party and instead of receiving free merchandise, I took my sales percentage and donated to the shelter! (contact Lyndsey Burr if you are interested in hosting a Barefoot Books Party at

We'd love to here what you've done! Please comment if you donate, host a party or attend an event.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What is baking

Baking has been done for many years but did you know that baking is, simply, a cooking technique in which dry heat is applied to a food product in a closed environment, such as an oven. During the baking process, consistent temperature is maintained to ensure proper browning and doneness.

Baking is one of the most versatile of cooking techniques because it can achieve a variety of unique results-puffy soufflés, crispy baked potatoes, creamy casseroles and delicate pastries-using one simple but exacting method. Put together your ingredients in the right proportions, select the appropriate oven temperature, maintain that temperature consistently throughout the baking process, and your finished result should be perfect. (If it isn't, but still tastes delicious, serve it anyway!).

So with that being said my daughter's birthday is coming up and she has asked (as both of my children do every year) to make her cake. My mind races as I'm not the best baker. "What to make?" I ask myself. I want something different and wonderful she will remember and love! I finally come up with brownie popsicles (she is having a pool party). What a great idea I think, no cake to cut, plates and silverware to remember. Yes, perfect! I scan through my cookbooks, pick my friends brains, and finally sit at my desk to browse through the internet (don't you just love the internet you can find the right thing if you ask the right questions).

Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Brownie Popsicles
1 package Supreme brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch)
Water, oil and eggs called for on brownie mix package
24 wooden sticks with rounded ends
1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
2 teaspoons shortening
Assorted decors or sprinkles

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil so foil extends about 2 inches over sides of pan. Spray foil with cooking spray. Make brownies as directed on package for 13x9-inch pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
2. Place brownies in freezer 30 minutes. Remove brownies from pan by lifting foil; peel foil from sides of brownies. Cut brownies into 24 rectangular bars, 6 strips lengthwise and 4 rows across, each about 1 1/2 by 3 1/4 inches. Gently insert stick into end of each bar, peeling foil from bars.
3. In microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and shortening uncovered on High about 1 minute; stir until smooth. If necessary, microwave additional 5 seconds at a time. Dip top third to half of each brownie into chocolate; sprinkle with decors. Lay flat to dry.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eco-Friendly Home Gifts

Does going green mean you have to become a "granola"?? Contrary to what some people might think, going green just simply means to help the environment and allow ourselves to be more healthy! So does that mean we can't give our friends and family or hostesses unique gifts? Certainly not! Here are just a few items that I have discovered that are earth friendly and worthy of giving as a gift.

Everyone loves candles but these Paddywax Eco Candles are made from soy-based inks, to hemp twine, to recycled paper, this collection is committed to conserving our planet’s resources, but still has great scents.

If you have a music loving guest, the Recycled Vinyl LP Record Coasters might be a big hit.

These are just a few of many you can find if you look online. Here are a few websites that I have bookmarked that offer a variety of items.

I hope you enjoy them and please post any eco-friendly gifts you have bought or websites you shop at.
One person inspires a handful and that handful can inspire more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Chop Chop Salad

So, if your weekend was anything like mine, you may have eaten more than usual and are searching for something lean after a weekend of cookouts and sweets!

Try a fresh chop chop salad and a tall glass of tea and you'll feel almost new again!

Chop Chop Salad
by FamilyFun

1 romaine lettuce heart
4 to 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked until crisp, cooled, and chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Light Salad Dressing (Ranch or Blue Cheese)
(I like to add grilled chicken.)

1. Chop the lettuce heart into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Combine it with the bacon (and grilled chicken), other vegetables, and nuts in a large bowl and toss the mixture well.

2. Keep the salad chilled until serving time. Then toss it again with enough dressing to lightly coat the vegetables, and season it with salt and pepper.

Serves 6.


If you have any favorite salad recipes, please share them with us. (A Diva can never have too many salad recipes in her recipe box!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Creating the Perfect Centerpieces

(photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens)

A party may be good, but it isn't spectacular without the perfect centerpiece!

Where do I even begin on this topic? You may have thought you were done with centerpieces once your wedding was over, but, honestly, that was just a warm up! Every gathering you have should include a centerpiece, and not just any centerpiece, but a masterpiece!

The centerpiece is the defining characteristic of your gathering. It sets the mood and creates your ambience. For example, at our Cookies For A Cause gala every year, our centerpiece is an extravagant display of uniquely designed cookie jars, each representing a different charity - in other words, it tells our story.

Your centerpiece by no means needs to be flowers, it can be anything really so long as it captures the essence of your affair! For example, you can use floating rubber duckies at a baby shower,

(photo courtesy of

Or, a jester hat for a Mardi Gras party:

Whatever your style, keep it fun and creative!

You don't have to spend a lot of money and the internet has fabulous resources for ideas. One place I found is Google Images.

I also found a great craft supply store, which has lots of unique items for great prices.

Share with us your centepiece ideas, we'd love to hear about them!

(jester photo courtesy of Love To Know)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What does it mean to be charitable?

Charity entered the English language through the Old French word "charité" which was derived from the Latin "caritas". Caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others, such as the love of God.

A charitable organization (also known as a charity) is an organization with charitable purposes only. Charities are all non-profit organizations, however, not all non-profit organizations are charities. Most charities rely on third party funds. More than 80% of the money raised by charities in this country comes from individuals.

Most people have a charity that is close to their hearts. Cookies For A Cause™,our sister non-profit organization has raised several thousand dollars in less than a year and have made contributions to such charities as:

Share Our Strength
Grin Kids
Give The Kids The World
Children's Speedway Charities
Elon Homes for Children
Humane Society
Cornelius Animal Shelter
Lymphoma Research Foundation

and our 2008 Gala which will be held at the Mint Museum & Craft in Charlotte, NC will donate 20% of all sponsor donations to Barium Springs Home For Children.

We would love to hear about your favorite charity. If you have raised money for it, please tell us how you did it! These stories are always sure to inspire someone else to do charitable things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Although I am not the greatest baker, I have recently started to do it a little more. I once read that cookie baking is a good place for a beginning baker to start. So that's what I did. I will tell you they were not all yummy, delicious or pretty (nothing like the picture), but it didn't stop my family from eating everything I put in front of them. Hours of preparing and baking, but no cookies to show for it. Nothing but tidbits left!

My mother always said that you spend hours in the kitchen and minutes at the table....

COOKIE- A flour-based, sweet, hand-held small cake (from the Dutch word "koekje," meaning "little cake"). Cookies can be prepared in different shapes and textures and are usually categorized by the way they are formed. Drop cookies are dropped from a spoon. Rolled cookies are made from a chilled dough that is rolled out and cut into shapes. Bar cookies are baked in sheets and then cut into squares or bars. Molded cookies can either be shaped by hand, stamped with a pattern before baking or baked directly in a mold. Bagged or piped cookies are shaped with a pastry bag or a cookie gun.

What better way to start then to try a recipe from Cookies For A Cause First Annual Cookie Book.

One of my favorite cookies from the book is:


1 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 cup peanut butter

11/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 Tb peanut butter

In medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan. In a metal bowl over simmering water or in microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting into squares.

Buy the book, pick your favorite cookie and tell us about it...or one of your own favorites.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Going Green With Style and Sophistication

What does GREEN mean?? How does one GO GREEN?? Where do you start??

I think for so many of us, these questions become so overwhelming that it is better to ignore than to make small changes.

"Going green" means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

First, let me say that I am not an expert, but I am learning to "go green" with style and sophisticaton one small step at a time.

Here is my journey to becoming more "green".

I have been making small changes for about 3 years now since I took a class at the gym and learned about partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup!

I went home and began checking all food labels in our pantry. I was shocked to see all the foods that contain these 2 ingredients! EVERYTHING!! I have found alternatives for most of the foods we eat at home. This was a pretty easy change because little by little, I just replaced the food products with a healthier choice as I grocery shopped! This change led me to my next change.....

Now 3 years later- not only do I buy foods without these ingredients but now I buy foods that are all natural and/or organic (grown with no pesticides, hormones, etc). My newest goal is buying more locally grown foods.

One of my most recent changes has been to use my own bags at the grocery store and other stores I visit. If you want a more stylish look check out these really hip modern totes at You can't go wrong with the quality & style of Envirosax reusable shopping bags.

Fun Fact: Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.

And last but not least, we are recycling like crazy! Things I never thought about recycling are getting to the recycle bin now. Check out this site to figure out how and what to recycle if you are just getting started.

We'd like to hear from you....What are you doing to "go green"? or What is going to be your first step to help the environment?

Also, please share any and all products you use that have style!

Monday, July 7, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Keepsake Recipe - Grandma Sylvia's Lasagne

We all have a favorite keepsake recipe and sometimes we're lucky enough to have a story go with it.

Mine, while simple, has a lot of meaning to me.

My grandmother, Sylvia, taught me how to make lasagne when I was a little girl. One day, when I was about 8 years old, Grandma Sylvia took me into her kitchen in McKeesport, PA and said, "I'm going to teach you how to cook one of my favorite recipes and you can pass it on to your family one day!" Wow! What a responsibility. I'd been in the kitchen helping before, but to actually learn how to make something from beginning to end was a whole new ballgame! I had arrived! I was a young lady now and was going to learn the traditions of my family!

I didn't know at the time how true Grandma Sylvia's words would be. For one thing, she did teach me how to make a delicious lasagne. And for another, I do cook this for my family. I've changed the recipe slightly and consider it my way of adding to a family heirloom. One day, I will show my daughter how to make it and hopefully she'll keep the tradition going. Again, simple, but meaningful. And quite honestly, it's the little things in life that I have truly come to appreciate!!

So here we go (this one's for you Grandma Sylvia! I hope you don't mind me sharing our little secret!)

Lasagna Recipe

1/2 lb lean ground beef; 1/2 lb lean ground sausage; 1 package pepperoni slices; 1 large can of sliced mushrooms; 1/2 medium sweet white onion, diced; 1/2 lb dry lasagna noodles (requires 9 lasagna noodles - unbroken);1/4 cup sugar;1 28 oz can tomato sauce;1/2 28 oz can (16 oz) stewed tomatoes;1/2 6 oz can (3 oz) tomato paste;1 lb Ricotta cheese; 1 1/2 lb Mozzarella cheese (large flat square slices); 3/4 lb freshly grated parmesan cheese; Garlic Powder; Oregano; Italian Spice; Salt; Garlic Salt;1 Garlic Cloves, minced; White wine vinegar


1 Brown lean ground beef and lean ground sausage in skillet until lightly browned and cooked through. Drain off excess beef and sausage fat. Add diced onion to skillet, brown for a few minutes on medium high heat, add browned beef and sausage back to the skillet, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for 5 more minutes stirring frequently.

2 Transfer browned beef, sausage, and onions to large pot. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste. Open stewed tomatoes and dice, then add to pot. Add seasonings. Add a dash of white wine vinegar. Stir and allow sauce to simmer 15-45 minutes to thicken. Set aside.

3 Cook 1 lb lasagna noodles in larger pot per cooking directions. Drain and allow to sit in cool water.

4 In lasagna pan, spoon one cup of sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. Apply a layer noodles 3 or 4 length wise (edges overlapping). Spoon sauce over noodles. Apply a layer of mozzarella cheese slices on top of lasagna sauce. Place ricotta cheese dollops (about a Tablespoon) every 2 inches in center of noodles on top of mozzarella cheese slices, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese in thin even layer on top of ricotta cheese. Add a layer of pepperoni slices and mushrooms. Apply second layer of noodles, repeat three time topping with noodles. If you have extra sauce and cheese you can spread that over the top. Tent lasagna pan with aluminum foil.

Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

Friday, July 4, 2008

How we're starting our Fourth of July out with a bang - Diva Style!

We're turning our Fourth of July festivities into something bigger this year - we're raising money for Half the Sky Foundation, an organization created to help China's orphaned children.

Every year we do what most American families do on the fourth of July -we cookout, watch our children play in the backyard, eat ice cream, then watch the sky light up with magical fireworks. All of us become kids again as we take the time to enjoy one another, slow ourselves down to appreciate the lights in the sky and reflect upon how lucky we are to be a part of this wonderful country.

One of my neighbors, Diva Jen W., is hosting this year's Fourth of July celebration! At her celebration, she has decided to honor Half the Sky Foundation, the organization that helped her and her husband, Peter, connect with their daughter, Leah, a once orphaned child from China. If it were not for this organization and the freedoms affored to us by our own country, Leah would not be here in America today, nor would the lives of her parents be as rich and complete.

When her guests have asked what they could bring to the party, Jen W. has simply asked that they bring a small monetary contribution ($1-$5) to be donated to the Half the Sky organization. With just a handful of guests, we're likely to raise a couple hundred dollars for this organization. Wow!

It's really that simple, yet makes such a difference in the lives of these children and their future families.

We'd like to hear from you. What charities do you support? Would you consider doing something similar at your Fourth of July party to support your charity? What other ideas do you have?

Happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Perfect Hostess Gift

You know the story. You spend all day, balancing, juggling, running around to get your to-do list done, all so you can be done in time to go to your girlfriend's little get together. You're getting ready to walk out the door when it dawns on you - you forgot to pick up a little hostess gift to bring! So you go flying around the house looking for a presentable bottle of wine, wrap a bow around the top and say "oh well, boring, but I guess it will do!"

For a long time, that was me. Then one day a light bulb went off! Why don't I get a little stash of hostess gifts built up so I can bring something cute without scrambling the day of the party?!? Genius!

So, in my "spare time" I do what I like best - I shop! I look for trinkets and small gifts, clever ways to wrap the beauties, and create personalized gift cards. I buy them, wrap them, and on a moments notice am out the door with a hostess gift I can be proud of!

Here's a few of my favorite items:

pineapple snuffer

floral clock

french bull pinwheel plate and saucer set

pink paisley round platter

Here's a great resource for wrapping supplies:

Nashville Wraps

And, here's a great place to have personalized gift tags made:


Be creative. Remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Presentation and personalization is the key! If it's cute and you put some energy into it, your hostess will really enjoy the token of your appreciation!

For lots of great hostess gifts, you can also visit:

Our hostess boutique at Cookies For A Cause. 100% of all profits go to charity.

Summer Means Birthday Parties!

It's a wonderful time of year. It's warm, school's out, and for some reason there are a million birthday parties! If you're like me, you not only like going to them for the entertainment value they provide your kids, but you like throwing them (for the entertainment value they provide you in coming up with creative ideas that remind you of being a kid!).

My daughter is turning 2 next week and I've been planning her party for months! I said that I was only going to go crazy for her 1st party (where I rented silver wedding platters, a silver fountain with pink lemonade and pink frills galore!), but who am I kidding - it's GRACIE'S BIRTHDAY!!! You're only 2 once! : )

So, this year, I was inspired by Michelle H.'s wedding that she had memorial day weekend at the beach! Gracie's 2nd birthday party is a "Backyard Beach Bash!". I've ordered six 6' tall inflatable palm trees, pink flamingos, a mermaid centerpiece, and of course, a birthday cake built like a sandcastle (and that's just for starters!)

We've got inflatable slip 'n slides, toddler pools, sprinklers and an enormous whale pool to be constructed in the backyard - poor Doug, he's the groundskeeper for the event, so I suspect he'll be blowing up beachballs and yard toys all night the evening before!

At first, I thought we'd have an "elegant" beach bash, but that simply isn't enough fun. Tacky, wacky, pink and expolsive is the route we're going! I figure I better get all my party plans in before Gracie is old enough to have plans of her own. Soon she'll probably just want me to drop her off at the mall with her friends and all my dreams of pink poodles and flowers will be left at the curb!

It's nice to know I'm not alone in this pursuit of birthday party fabulousness! So many of our divas love to throw a party in diva style. For instance, my good friend, Steffie T. just had an Air Museum party for her 5 year old where you could actually watch planes take off and land on the runway - talk about the perfect setting!

Or, my sister-in-law, Allison L., who threw a double whammy carnival birthday party for her 3 year old and 1 year old - she had a cotton candy machine, carnival games, corn dogs, popcorn and pretzels!

The nice thing about these parties is we get to use our imagination - bringing in memories of our own childhood. These parties are not to be mistaken for the pricey, out-do the neighbors, kind of events. We keep the costs down, but the imaginations high!

We'd love to hear what you've been doing for your kids!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What's for supper ya'll?

It's a question that's been passed down generation to generation. I remember asking my mom that every day and just thought she had it all planned out (probably since birth!) I had no idea how hard that question was until I too became a mom!
When it was just me and my husband, Doug, we lived in DC and take-out (or better yet, home delivery) was everywhere! We would meet up in Georgetown after work for dinner (and cocktails!) or grab something to go on our way home! In one apartment we lived in in DC, we even had a Harris Teeter below us with zillions of pre-made meals - so needless to say "What's for supper?" was a question that could be easily answered!

Today, that question has become a lot more difficult, and I have a new appreciation for how effortlessly my mom made it seem.

Being the mother of a 2 year old, I am not only challenged with what likes and dislikes she may have, but I am highly in tune with what I am putting into her body! I never paid too much attention to how much sugar was in this, or sodium in that - I just watched what I ate as best as I could, and thought "heck, it seems to be working for me, so I'll keep going with it!" It's a whole different story when I have no idea what works and doesn't work for my daughter, Gracie. I think about her long term health, her weight, and all the other things you hear on the news (oi vey! - that's yiddush for "Good Gracious" - that's southern for "yikes!")

In any event, I am on a daily mission to find good things for my family to eat! Once you start really paying attention to labels, you can get neurotic! I'm not quite there yet (or at least I don't think so, but I'm not sure what the rest of my family and friends would say), but I do care about what I put on the dinner table and how it impacts the health of my family.

This is where The Divas In The Kitchen comes in! Every day, one of us will post a menu for supper! Sometimes it will be simple, other times, more extravagant, but most importantly, it will attempt to be fun and nutritious!

We'd also like your recipe ideas!

I have found that my network of friends and family have provided me with the greatest recipe tips! I'm constantly asking other women what they're having for supper, and the ideas they come up with are fabulous!

So, from now on, "What's for supper ya'll" will be a new resource added to our page daily!

Send us your ideas and check back with us daily!

Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

Featured Charity of The Week

If you're looking for a cause...

American Red Cross