Happy National Pasta Day! (10-17-14). Imagine the “impasta”bilities!



Friday, October 17, 2014 is National Pasta Day. Are you planning on celebrating by preparing your families favorite pasta dish?

I love pasta. I love it a lot. I could eat it every day at every meal if it was possible. I’ve never met a pasta dish that I didn’t fully enjoy. My family enjoys pasta too (thankfully).

The great thing about pasta dishes is that they are typically super easy and quick to prepare. You can have a big bowl of spaghetti with sauce on the table for your family in a matter of minutes. That is why pasta is my “go-to” meal option on those nights where I don’t have anything defrosted for dinner or I’m just too tired to cook a bit meal.

One of our favorite pasta dishes is spaghetti tacos (pictured above). It’s spaghetti served in warmed taco shells. Sometimes we add meat and cheeses too.

What if you were asked to celebrate National Pasta Day WITHOUT using pasta? That seems like a very odd request. How can you celebrate day dedicated to pasta without pasta?

Earlier this week I was asked to just that – created a pasta-less pasta dish.

I’m not a “foodie”. I know a lot of bloggers who are. I’m always amazed at how they can wipe out drool-worthy recipes with just a few ingredients and an idea. I love how creative those types of bloggers are. I wish I could be more like that.

I have been known to make a meal out of odd ingredients that might not sound like they would go well together but actually do, like pineapple and mushrooms. Yumm!


Earlier this week myself and a few other bloggers were invited to an event hosted by Ragu in New York City. I grew up with Ragu. It was the only pasta sauce my mom ever used. As far as my family was concerned there was no other pasta sauce available but Ragu. My mom wasn’t even tempted to try another brand.

I married into a 100% Italian family. My mother in law made her own sauce and “gravy” every Sunday. Needless to say she wasn’t exactly too keen on me using sauce from a jar but that was OK with me. It’s what I grew up with.

When I arrived at the event I was thinking we were going to learn how to make some delicious pasta dishes using Ragu’s sauces. That was some what correct, but there was a twist. We learned how to make pasta-less pasta dishes in honor of National Pasta Day.

One of the recipes we learned how to make was Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese. It was made with cooked cauliflower, bread crumbs and a jar of Ragu Cheese Sauce. You could even toss in other ingredients like bacon and/or peas.

I know what you are thinking. How can cauliflower make a delicious “mac and cheese”? I wondered that too. I happen to like cauliflower, but my family won’t eat it. I was surprised just how delicious the Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese tasted. It was so good that I plan on making it for my family. I think they will enjoy it too and I’ll finally be able to get them to eat cauliflower.


Ragu’s chef (I wish I could remember her name!) also showed up how to make Eggplant Lasagna which is basically lasagna but instead of pasta you use sliced of eggplant.

Then came the big surprise. We were paired up and told to create our own “impasta” recipe (a pasta-less pasta recipe). Yikes! I had no clue what to make. Thankfully there were plenty of wonderful ingredients made available to use so we could get as creative as we wanted to.

I was paired up with David from SpicedBlog.com. If you’d like the Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese and other recipes we were taught how to make you should visit his website. David was kind enough to list the recipes on his site – National Pasta Day.

I wish I could give you the specifics for the recipe we created, such as how much of each ingredient. We didn’t measure anything. We literally just put together ingredients we thought would taste great together.

Our recipe consisted of the following.

In a pan we drizzled some olive oil and sauteed some pancetta, onions, red peppers, garlic, a pinch of salt and basil. We also roasted some squash with a drizzle of olive oil on top. Once our ingredients were ready we mixed them into a bowl of cooked spaghetti squash that had prepared (so it looked like real spaghetti). After tossing in all our ingredients we added some ricotta cheese, spinach, breadcrumbs and about 1/2 a jar of Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic and Onion sauce. We also topped our dish off with more of the Ragu sauce, breadcrumbs and some Parmesan cheese. We even topped it off with some fresh basil leaves which sadly shriveled up in the oven when it was baking.


Our “impasta” turned out SO GOOD! I was very impressed. I think we did a great job (it was YUMMY!). I wish I had a way of taking some home with me to share with my family.

After all the teams were done we sat down for lunch and sampled each others creation. The dishes were all A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It’s hard to believe that all the dishes were made our of veggies, Ragu sauce and other ingredients EXCEPT pasta. Most of the dishes were meatless too with the exception of some pancetta.

It was an eye opening experience. I’m excited to try and come up with more pasta-less pasta dishes.

National Pasta Day

If you would like more recipe ideas visit Ragu.com. You can also find the brand (and recipe ideas!) on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like some great “impasta” recipes check out Ragu’s National Pasta Day Impastas Pinterest page. Use the hashtag #NationalPastaDay for more recipe ideas.

Ragu is also hosting a Twitter party on Friday, October 17, 2014 (National Pasta Day) at 1:00 PM (EST). They will be giving away a lot of prizes including a $750 grand prize!

Here are the details.

When: Friday, October 17, 2014 at 1PM EST

Where: #NationalPastaDay on Twitter

Follow: @Crowdtappers & @RaguSauce

Prizes: $725 in Visa gift cards

Questions: Ask @Crowdtappers

Are you planning on celebrating National Pasta Day? What is your favorite pasta dish? What do you think about the idea of creating “Impastas”? Do you think it’s something you and your family would enjoy? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.


*I was compensated for my participation however the opinions expressed are entirely my own and not influenced in any way.

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Check out the winning “Yummification” recipes from 5 Hour Energy


5 Hour Energy Yummification Contest

Today is only Tuesday. Already I ran out of “stream” to make it through the day. Especially because today is a very busy day at work. I work with children through Family Court. Some days we get a lot of children, most especially babies and toddlers. I don’t have the stamina to chase after them like I used to. With that in mind I’ll probably be out of energy before noon and in dire need of a “pick me up”.

Some people opt for 5 Hour Energy when they are slowing down and need a boost of energy to make it through their day.

Not too long ago I posted about a contest that 5 Hour Energy was hosting where they asked for consumers to “yummify” (make yummy) a recipe that featured a 5 Hour Energy product. First prize was a whopping $50,000.

The winning recipes have been selected and they sound pretty good.

First Place ($50,000 winner).

“Pomelimelade” by Tim Merlau, Los Angeles, CA

This winning submission mixes a Pomegranate 5-hour ENERGY® shot with limeade, and then takes us on a musical journey through all that can be accomplished over several hours (spoiler alert:  it’s a lot).


  • 1 glass Limeade
  • 1 shot of Pomegranate 5-hour ENERGY®

Second Place ($30,000 winner)

“Ramalamadingdong” by Mark Golembeski, Los Angeles, CA

The second place video helps us turn that 2:30 feeling frown upside down by mixing a 5-hour ENERGY® shot with lemonade.  This video has it all: a clown, a puppy, a guy in a tutu, and much more.


  • 1 glass Lemonade
  • 1 shot of Berry 5-hour ENERGY®

Third Place ($10,000 winner)

“Arnold Power” by Zac Sheorn, Lugoff, SC

The third place winner reminds us that you don’t have to be good at sports, but mixing a Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY® shot with decaffeinated iced tea helps keep you refreshed while practicing.  And practicing.

“Arnold Power”

  • 1 glass Decaf Iced Tea
  • 1 shot of Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY®

They sound interesting. I especially like the ice tea and pink lemonade recipe.

If you would like to check out these recipes and view videos on how to make them visit http://5hourenergy.com/yummification.

What do you think of these winning recipes? Do you think you’ll try and recreate any of them? Which one is your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts.

5 Hour Energy


*I was have partnered with 5 Hour Energy to bring you this information. Although compensated the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

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October is National Dessert Month


PHOTO SOURCE: Pillsbury.com

PHOTO SOURCE: Pillsbury.com

Did you know that October is National Dessert Month? Mmm… who doesn’t love dessert?

Growing up we almost always had dessert after dinner. As my mom was doing the dinner dishes she would serve us something for dessert. Usually it was pudding, Jello or canned fruit with a dollop of cream on top. A rare treat would have been a slice of pound cake or some cookies.

In honor of this yummy month (National Dessert Month), Pillsbury is sending the finalists to this year’s Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest to Nashville, TN, in November to complete in the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. The grand prize winner will walk away with the $1 million dollar prize.  That is awesome!

Some new things with this year’s competition include;

  • For the first time, America’s vote will be combined with the judges’ decisions to determine the Grand Prize Winner.
  • The Contest ingredient list has been expanded to include Pillsbury’s Gluten Free line of products.
  • Judges will award the Pillsbury® Gluten Free Award to the Finalist with the best recipe which uses a Pillsbury® Gluten Free product and does not contain wheat or any products that include wheat as an ingredient.
  • The Bake-Off® Contest now features four recipe categories – Amazing Doable Dinners, Savory Snacks & Sides, Simply Sweet Treats and Weekend Breakfast Wows.

Check out some of this year’s competition’s recipes. Oh my! They all sound so good!

Do you have a special dessert recipe that your family enjoys? Feel free to share your thoughts.

PHOTO SOURCE: Pillsbury.com

PHOTO SOURCE: Pillsbury.com



*I was not compensated for this post. I posted this for the enjoyment of my site readers. 

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Do you skip your vegetables? Ask Celebrity Chef Gina Neely how to get more veggies in your family’s meals


PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

Growing up my mom always made dinner, most of the time from scratch too. I did not grow up eating take out or ordering pizza. In fact, going to the pizza place or ordering a pizza was a special treat. Sadly for some families pizza and take out are a weekly occurrence.

Growing up dinner always consisted of a meat (protein), starch (such as potato, rice or pasta) and vegetables. We also had dessert after dinner which was usually canned fruit with a dollop of whip cream, Jell-O or pudding, and it was served in a tiny glass dish.

When I cook for my family I cook the same way my mom did, except not always from scratch. Times are different and many families are always on the go-go-go so cooking from scratch is not always an option.

Recently Green Giant put out he 2014 Fresh Takes with Green Giant Frozen Survey** for consumers about dinner time and it resulted in some interesting findings.

When it comes to dinnertime, the majority of parents (78%) would rather spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying dinnertime with their kids. Other finding show that parents run into many challenges at dinnertime, including:

  • Never having enough time to cook dinner leaves more than two-in-three (63%) parents falling back on the same tried-and-true, go-to meals, which most often include spaghetti (60%), sandwiches (39%) or chicken tenders (37%).
  • When genuinely trying to incorporate veggies into meals, 70% identify challenges, including getting kids excited about eating them (42%), not having vegetables on hand (32%) or not knowing how to prepare them (20%).
  • Learning to cook new and different meals comes with its own set of challenges. Nearly half (44%) of parents are worried their families won’t like new recipes, 27% don’t want to spend the time or money trying to hunt down unfamiliar ingredients and 21% say there are so many recipe resources available that they just don’t know where to start.

To be honest with you these results don’t surprise me. Maybe the percentages are a bit higher then I would expect, but the challenges that families face at meal time seem to be common.

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

I am grateful (oh so grateful) that my kids love vegetables. And not just a handful – they enjoy a large variety of vegetables including ones that most kids try to avoid like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach. They snack on veggies (we go through A LOT of baby carrots each week) too. My daughter also prefers her vegetables raw (I always steam vegetables).

When I hear other parents talking about how their child won’t eat vegetables it makes me sad. Not only are they missing out on the nutrients that vegetables provide for our bodies, but they are also missing out on a lot of tasty foods.

Green Giants wants to help families get more vegetables into their diets. To help consumers they’ve created the Fresh Take on What to Make campaign.

“The ‘Fresh Takes’ survey highlights real dinnertime challenges facing parents today who are balancing a lot – work, kids’ school and after-school activities, house chores and pets’ needs, to name a few,” said John Stockman, Associate Marketing Director for Green Giant. “We want to help make dinnertime exciting again by showing families how to transform their go-to meals in simple ways that let the veggies shine and bring families together.”

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

Green Giant has teamed up with Celebrity Chef Gina Neely to show families just how easy it can be to eat more vegetables.

As a mom, I know parents have the best of intentions and want to prepare exciting and nutritious dinners every night, but hectic schedules lead to falling back on those go-to meals – spaghetti, anyone?” says Gina Neely. “Easy steps, like preparing your grocery list and stocking up on simple ingredients like Green Giant Steamers, can make a big difference in the kitchen.”

This campaign aims to teach busy on the go families helpful tips and ideas to reinvent dinner time and to show consumers how simply and easy just adding something like Green Giant Steamers into your family’s favorite “go to” dishes can get vegetables into your diet.

I actually use Green Giant Steamers with my family. They offer 25 different (and delicious!) steam-in-the-bag varieties. Plus I love that I don’t have to break out my steamer, pots or pans to cook them. Simply pop the bag the microwave.

Some of the Green Giant Steamers are made with unique sauces, seasons and blends which add more “pizzazz” to your meal.

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

Green Giant Steamers offer families a convenient and simple way for families to enjoy their vegetables.

Gina came up with some delicious recipes using Green Giant Steamers that take about 20 minutes to make and use just five ingredients. Any family could easily whip these up, even on a busy weeknight.

If you would like more information, tips and delicious recipes please visit GreenGiant.com/EasyMeals.  You’ll even find money savings coupons on the site.

You can also connect with Gina Neely and Green Giant and ask questions during a Twitter Chat on September 16 at 8pm ET and during a Google+ Hangout on September 23 at 8pm ET.

Do you have any questions for Gian Neely and/or Green Giant that you’d like me to ask for you? I should be at the Google Hangout and I’d be happy to ask questions for you and post the replies. Simply leave your questions in the comments section of this post.

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant

PHOTO CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Green Giant


**The 2014 Fresh Takes with Green Giant Frozen Survey presents the findings of an online survey conducted by ORC International from August 5-8, 2014 among a sample of 986 American parents of children under the age of 18, comprising 487 men and 499 women.

*I have partnered with Green Giant to bring you this information. Although compensated the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

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I’m participating in Frito-Lay’s Nacho Throwdown!



Football season is already in full swing. I don’t mind. I actually love football, although I can’t watch it for 16+ hours straight like my husband does on Sundays.

My husband is a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan. I grew up watching the Oakland Raiders with my dad. I liked the Kansas City Chiefs too (not sure why – I just did).

My husband has always been a big time Cowboys fan. So much so our son is named after the team (Dallas is one of his middle names). My husband was so thrilled to have a child named after his favorite football team that he carried his Social Security card around with him for a long time. Ha Ha.

When you are enjoying an exciting football game you need delicious foods. Football and food go hand-in-hand. Whether its chips and dip or a full out tailgating party with barbecue ribs, food is part of the football experience.

Game-day snacks and recipes are as traditional as team chants and lucky jerseys. Don’t get me started on my husband’s game day traditions. Personally I think he’s a bit nutty. Ha Ha.

I was asked if I wanted to participate in the Frito-Lay’s Nacho Throwdown! Frito-Lay is an official NFL partner for the 2014-2015 NFL season.

The challenge is to create a nacho recipe that will go head-to-head with another blogger (just like a football game). After the campaign is over a winning recipe will be chosen based on votes by consumers.

Normally I shy away from these types of competitions. I’m not really a “foodie” and I’m not as creative as other bloggers, however it did sound like a fun challenge so I accepted it.

My recipe is inspired by the Dallas Cowboys and the state of Texas. When I think about Texas I think about barbecues and Tex-Mex foods. I wanted to create something that would incorporate both ideas so I came up with a Barbecue Chicken recipe.

Recipe ingredients


  • 1 large rotisserie chicken
  • 1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 block of your favorite cream cheese
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 2 cans of Mexican corn
  • Mexican flavored shredded cheese (or your favorite shredded cheese)
  • Assorted vegetables (onions, peppers…).

*I made mine in a crock pot. You can use a pot on your stove top to melt the cream cheese and warm up the other ingredients if you don’t have a crock pot.


  1. Remove the chicken from the bone and shred it by hand into small pieces.
  2. Place the chicken in the crock pot (or pot)
  3. Add in the bottle of barbecue sauce (I used the whole bottle), corn (drain out the water first), cream cheese, chopped onions and chopped red and green peppers (I used pre-cut vegetables to make this recipe easier).
  4. Before adding in the kidney beans be sure to rinse them off a few times.
  5. Once everything is in the crock pot (pot) let the ingredients warm up until the cream cheese is fully melted and the recipe has a creamy consistency. Make sure you still often so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Serve on top of nachos or in serving bowls to let guests scoop it up.

This recipe was super easy to make from start to finish. The only time consuming part was waiting for the cream cheese to fully melt. Using pre-cut vegetables made it quick and easy too (my kids snacked on the carrots and zucchini that came with the pack).


Shredded chicken in the crock pot


All the ingredients in the crock pot

Of course once you have something as yummy as this recipe you need some tasty chips to go with it. I picked up some RUFFLES® Original Potato Chips, TOSTITOS® SCOOPS!® Tortilla Chips (this is a “scoop-worthy” topping) and TOSTITOS® Cantina Thin & Crispy Tortilla Chips.

The TOSTITOS Cantina Thin & Crispy Tortilla Chips had information on it about the NFL sweepstakes Frito-Lay is hosting. More on that later.

Frito Lay


Once I had everything ready it’s time to lay it out for family and friends to enjoy, along with a great football game (or two).



The thing poking out is an onion I neglected to cut up.


I used a patriotic basket because football is as American as hot dogs and apple pie. Plus the Cowboys are often called "America's Team".

I used a patriotic basket because football is as American as hot dogs and apple pie. Plus the Cowboys are often called “America’s Team”.

Was it good? YES IT WAS!!! My whole family enjoyed it – even my nitpicky kids.

nacho 2


Here is a photo of the finished product. I neglected to add the cheese before serving it so I had to retrieve one of the bowls to add the cheese.

Dallas Cowboys Dip

What do you think of my recipe? Does it sound like something you’ll want to try at your next football gathering?

My recipe will go head-to-head against other blogger’s recipes. The recipe contest will be held on Frito-Lay’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/FritoLay. I hope you’ll consider voting for me and my recipe.

In addition you can check out Frito-Lay on Twitter (@FritoLay), Instagram and Pinterest (there are a lot of great recipes on the Pinterest page). The brand’s official website is FritoLay.com (also check out Snacks.com).

Frito-Lay is also hosting an Instagram Sweepstakes. Consumers are encouraged to submit their own nacho recipe on Instagram using the hashtag #FritoLayKickoffEntry. Each week one person will be randomly selected to win a prize package from Frito-Lay. So show your team pride by celebrating and making America’s Favorite Snacks part of your tradition plus enter to win a great prize pack from Frito-Lay.

In addition, consumers who vote for their favorite blogger recipe (like mine :-) ) will also be randomly selected to win a Frito-Lay prize package.

Bring game-day party and traditions to life this season with TOSTITOS® brand products.

What is your favorite recipe to create and enjoy while watching football?

Which is your favorite NFL team?

I hope you’ll consider entering the Instagram Sweepstakes and please consider voting for my recipe. I would appreciate that a lot.

Frito Lay Logo


*Although compensated for my participation the opinions expressed are entirely my own and not influenced in any way.

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Take the Ultimate Chili Challenge – Win a “Big Game” Prize Package



The 2014/2015 NFL season has finally started. Technically it started on Thursday, September 4, 2014, but September 7th is the first full day of football. My husband has been counting the days until football’s triumphant return.

The one thing that goes great with football is delicious food. Sometimes I think the football games are just an excuse for people to go all out and cook a scrumptious assortment of foods.

One food you might find at a tailgating party is chili. Just like football, some people take their chili seriously.

There are plenty of chili recipes, each with its own secret ingredient. When I make chili my secret ingredient is sugar. That’s right – I add sugar to my chili. Ideally brown sugar but I have made it with white sugar with an equally delicious result.

My chili served over rice and with a glass of Riunite Lam

My chili served over rice and with a glass of Riunite Lambrusco.

If your chili is legendary and you have people begging for me you might want to consider entering Riunite’s Ultimate Chili Challenge.

Riunite offers consumer’s Italian wines.

I haven’t heard of Riunite until recently when the company sent me a bottle of their Lambrusco wine and some goodies to make my favorite chili recipe.

According to the Riunite website the Lambrusco is…

…an Emilian wine, bright red in color, sparkling, made from the grape variety of the same name.” In fact it would be more accurate to state “grape varieties of the same name,” because at least six different types of Lambrusco are cultivated, in addition to all the grape varieties such as Lancellotta which are traditionally an integral part of the Lambrusco blend.

The wine is very flavorful. It has a deep, rich, fruity taste. Its sweeter then other red wines that I have have experienced.

Picture 3679

Although the wine is made from a variety of grapes you can also sense other types of berries in both the scent and the flavor. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that I taste and smell but there is more to it then just grapes.

The Lambrusco also has a bit of a fizz to it. I was surprised when I opened the bottle and heard it fizz. There is also a light effervescence that tickles your tongue as you drink it.

Because of it’s bold taste this wine could go with a lot of bold, flavorful foods – like chili. I think that is why Rinute has created the Ultimate Chili Challenge.

Rinute is asking cooks across the country to whip up their favorite chili recipe then snap a photo and fill out the information on the contest’s website for their chance to win the ultimate prize – a trip the the Super Bowl, aka, “The Big Game”.


You can find out more about the contest and upload your enter at www.RiuniteTailgate.com. You have until September 20th to enter.

The reason why I didn’t post my personal chili recipe here is because I am entering the contest and I didn’t want anyone to copy my recipe. I would LOVE to win the grand prize and take my hubby to the Super Bowl. That would be a dream come true for him, especially if his team makes it to the Super Bowl.

In addition the brand will be hosting regional chili cook offs too.

Throughout the campaign you’ll find coupons attached to Riunite bottles in retail stores that can sae you up to $4 on Riunite, Del Monte Tomatoes, and Louisiana Hot Sauce, ingredients you might need to create your ultimate chili.

Honestly, I wouldn’t think to pair red wine with chili but I tired the Riunite Lambrusco with my chili and it actually went very well together. My chili is both hot and sweet and the wine has a bold, fruity taste.

Up until now I would never think about serving wine at a tailgating party or get together but now that I’ve tried it I think I’ll do it again. After all, not everyone likes beer or soda. Sometimes  you just want a sweet, fruity glass of wine.

You can check out Riunite on the social media sites – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The official hashtag for the contest is #RiuniteChili.

Do you think you’ll be entering the contest? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Riunite Chili Challenge


*I received a free product sample and other goodies in order to do this review/post. There was no other compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.      


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