Tara’s Tutorials: Chocolate chocolate cake

We have another blog category! Let’s keep it fresh, right? 

I am learning how to bake from my baking-expert sister-in-law, Tara.

We started off super easy with a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Tara did all the work while I observed and took notes; the husband took (most of) the pictures.

Next time, I’ll get my hands dirty while she tells me what to do.

That will probably be more fun for her.

This recipe comes from Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake. Tara has made it numerous times, making it a great beginning for our Tara’s Tutorial’s with Baking. 

Photo credit: Alan Nudi

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Chicken parm casserole

This is an excellent I first tried a few weeks ago, and we ate it outside on one of the first actual nice days of the year.

This chicken parm recipe is brought to us by GimmeSomeOven.com.


  • 12 oz uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (about 2 small chicken breasts)
  • 1 (24 oz) jar pasta sauce of choice
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • about 1 tbsp dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh, roughly chopped)

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Smoky mac and cheese

This macaroni and cheese recipe is adapted from SteamyKitchen.com, where it was originally a lobster mac and cheese.

I prepared the lobster mac and cheese for our most recent Game Night Food Competition – and I lost by just five points.

Cayenne pepper and nutmeg come together to create a perfect smokey flavor.

Add the lobster if you can. I didn’t just because, well, it’s expensive. But it is just as excellent without it.


  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese*
  • breadcrumbs (optional)**
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

*Please note for local folks: The Gruyere I used here is from Trader Joe’s, and I much preferred the Hannaford brand I used when making this recipe before.

**The breadcrumbs I used here, just to sprinkle on top, are Italian seasoned breadcrumbs; Panko breadcrumbs are used in the original recipe, because they’re for coating the lobster. Do use Panko if you’re cooking with the lobster.

Side note: Someone please buy me a cheese grater for my next birthday. It is the one kitchen item I did not receive as a wedding gift and I desperately need it, because this cute but laborious baby is what I’m currently using.

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Difference between: bananas and plantains


  • Banana: a tropical plant of the genus Musa, certain species of which are cultivated for their nutritious fruit.
  • Plantain: a tropical plant, Musa paradisiaca, of the banana family, resembling the banana.

Don’t you just love definitions like those?

Exhibit A: Banana. Exhibit B: Fruit that looks like a banana.

Photo credit: PixGood.com

We may have to dive a bit further to determine the difference between bananas and plantains.

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