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Category Archives: Announcements & Awards

Coming soon to a blog near you…

Today is reveal day for Group C (my group) of the Secret Recipe Club.  I usually schedule my posts for 8 am but our agreed upon reveal time for the club is 11 am CST so please check back then for a delicious cookie recipe and a tip on how to whip  misshapen cookies back into shape!

If you’re super bored and need something to do in the mean time, you can scope out my past posts for the Secret Recipe Club:


February: Steak au Poivre
March: Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore
April: Lemongrass Chicken
June: Blueberry-Lemon Upside Down Cake
July: Whole Wheat Potato Bread
August: Quick Veggie Quesadillas
September: Sour Cream Pound Cake
October: Apple Pie Cupcakes


November: Gołąbki {Polish Cabbage Rolls}
October: Sugar-Free Banana Bread Two Ways
September: Chuncheon Chicken Wings
August: Choco-Cherry Cheesecake Cookie Bars
July: Raw Double Chocolate Brownie Bites



Celebrating 3 Years

Veronica’s Cornucopia is now three years old!  Happy birthday, VC! :)  In keeping with my annual blogiversary tradition, let’s review the top ten posts (those with the most views) within the last year…

Cake Pops

You guys are seriously. obsessed. with cake pops.  I’m convinced this will always be my number one most popular post, though I’ve grown enough that the pops don’t account for most of my blog views as they did last year.  Only a third of them now!

Cake Pops, Balls, & Truffles: Troubleshooting & FAQ

I had to post this a year and a half ago because of the obsession.  I got so many questions about cake pops that I finally had to close down the comment section on that post after it reached over 200 comments.  This really helps answer most questions regarding cake pops, whether how to store them, or troubleshooting, etc.

Baked Potato Salad

Thanks to Pinterest, my Baked Potato Salad exploded in popularity over the summer.  I can actually thank Pinterest for most of my page views this year, I believe.  I’m thankful because my photography isn’t good enough to be on Foodgawker or Tastespotting, so it’s nice to have a place like Pinterest where my amateur point-and-shoot photos are good enough for most people.

Oreo Cookie (or Cookies ‘n Cream) Cake

Although I really don’t like Oreos, I love this cake.  So much that I even submitted it to our company’s fundraiser cookbook.  I really need to make this more often.

Turtle Cookies

(AAAA my eyes, my eyes! Why did I leave that blue cast on the photo? I need to fix that!)  I’m proud that a recipe I posted within the last year and created myself made it to the top ten!  I really love these cookies, you just can’t beat the combination of chewy caramel, nutty pecans, and semisweet chocolate in a buttery vanilla cookie dough.

Cupcake Bites

Of course! Another variation of cake pops and people are all over it! This is my favorite way to make them, so easy, no cracking, and so cute!

Cherry Cordials (Chocolate Covered Cherries)

I used to love cheap cherry cordials but now, I can’t really stand them.  But I will totally eat these!  Homemade is almost always best.

Homemade Kahlua {Coffee Liqueur}

This reminds me I need to make some more!  After my last batch of Kahlua brownies, I only have about 1/2 cup left.  Better get on that!

Vegan Dark Chocolate Cake Pops

What, did you think vegans didn’t obsess over cake pops too?  This is a universal obsession, people!

Favorite Chocolate Cake, plus tiered cake tips

Ohhhh yeah.  OK you guys, I have to tell you I make this cake at least once a month (the two-layer cake recipe, not a three-tier version.  I’m crazy but not that crazy.)  Everyone goes c-razy for it.  If you haven’t made it yet…do it. :)

After looking at all that sugar, I’m so ready to eat a healthy dinner!  LOL!  I wanted to include my own favorites (right now I’d pick all savory foods–I’m totally sugared out with today’s post-lol!) but don’t have time today, so hopefully I can do that tomorrow.  In the mean-time, you can scope out my updated “current favorites” in the side-bar, which are all Thanksgiving-friendly. Thanks everyone for making this a great year for Veronica’s Cornucopia!

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts for An Edible Mosaic’s Virtual Book Launch Party

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Ever since my blogging buddy, Faith, announced that she’d gotten a cookbook deal, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its release.  Pins and needles, I tell you.  The day finally came and her cookbook, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flare, is now available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!  I’ve been following Faith since I started my blog and it’s been pretty surreal to watch her blossom and become so successful, eventually publishing her very own cookbook.  I’m so thrilled for her!  It is an incredible thing to fulfill your dreams.

Faith Gorsky, photo by Michael Safarini

From the title of her book, you may have guessed that Faith is from the Middle East.  Well, Faith was born and raised in America!  After getting married, she spent six months living in the Middle East where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region.  Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way.

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts, photo by Faith Gorsky

An Edible Mosaic contains over 100 Middle-Eastern recipes with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East.  As part of the virtual book launch party, I’m joining with other bloggers to announce her book’s release and share  her recipe for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts from the cookbook (click the launch party link to enter all the giveaways from sponsors on Faith’s blog!).

I made the rice to accompany a simple dinner of roasted chicken and a green salad, and it was fabulous.  She says the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are optional but I highly recommend them.  (I didn’t have the whole spices but added pinches of the ground spices.)  While I’ve never traveled to the Middle East, I felt like I brought a piece of it to my own kitchen as soon as I opened the pot and the fragrant steam wafted up.  The savory rice in combination with the spices & sweet bits of plump golden raisins had me wishing for a complete Middle Eastern meal, and I’ll surely be cooking one up as soon as I have my hands on the cookbook.

FYI, I had some of the leftovers for breakfast, heated with almond milk as a hot cereal.  It was good, I promise!  And vegan & gluten-free, too. :)

If you are interested in getting your own copy of the cookbook, please click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble links above, and don’t forget to head on over to the launch party headquarters on Faith’s blog!

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
  4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

 OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

Mixed White & Yellow Rice, photo by Faith Gorsky


Mixed White and Yellow Rice
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
2 pods cardamom, cracked open
2 whole peppercorns
¾ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
  4. After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
  5. Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.

My socks are missing

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Do you know why my socks are missing?  Because you rocked them off!  I could not have imagined the bake sale going any better than it did.  When I imagined what the day would be like, I thought I’d be checking my email once an hour, being excited that there would be maybe one or two new bids, updating my post, and then returning to doing something else in the mean time.

Instead I was glued to my computer the entire day, getting new emails at least every fifteen minutes if not more often.  Not every one was a bid, but that’s how often I was receiving emails about the bake sale.  And yeah, that collage up there was about how it went for me on Friday, feeling like a train wreck when I had to act like a normal person and wake up at 8 AM (I was up until 4 am, which is actually an early bedtime for me), but then I was pretty much rocking out (not necessarily with banana bread in hand but I think you get the idea-lol) for the majority of the day-it was so exciting the day just flew! And then by the end of it, I was melting with exhaustion. It. was. awesome.  (BTW, try not to be too jealous of how photogenic I am!)

I know you’re dying to know how we did with raising money for Suzie so without further ado, here’s the breakdown:

Total bake sale bids: $860

Donations from Suzie’s friends and family: $315

Extra donations from bake sale bidders & bidders that didn’t win anything but donated anyway: $265

Total to date: $1440

I’m so happy with the amount we were able to raise!  Her medical expenses will be much more, but $1440 is a whole lot more than she had to put toward them, and she will be that much less in debt after her gallbladder surgery. And I’m not done yet!  I have a few more tricks up my sleeve.  :)

But first, I want to thank everyone who donated, baked goods or money (in some cases, you did both!) everyone who played a part-not only those who made bids or donated money/baked goods, but also those who tweeted and shared on Facebook and in messages.  One friend sent me a message saying she asked Martha (Stewart) to retweet about the bake sale and she was going to hit up Ellen next. Bwah!  So that’s why we did so good! ;)

OK, so are you ready to hear about these tricks I have up my sleeve?  First of all, I started “selling” my award-winning recipe for carrot cake for donations, and that’s part of the reason why there was so much extra donated from winners and from non-winners that participated in the sale.  And I’m now going to open this up to every one.  If you make a minimum $5 donation on Suzie’s fundraising page, I will email you my blue ribbon & sweepstakes carrot cake recipe as soon as you forward your donation receipt to VRAKLIS@YAHOO.COM.    (Sweepstakes means it won best of all cakes submitted for judging, not just best carrot cake.)  I will not be blogging this for at least another year so you will have a recipe that is pretty special and not readily accessible.

The other trick up my sleeve is something else donated that didn’t make it to the bake sale in time.  My Foodie Mama, whom I’ve mentioned extensively in many posts, has kindly offered two of her cookbooks, which she will sign to the winners with whatever inscription they choose.  Marina has won hundreds (and hundreds!) of ribbons for her recipes, sweet and savory alike, over the last thirty years.

Just a few of Marina’s ribbons.

I have blogged some of the recipes in this book so you can sneak a preview of the yumminess you’re in store for by checking out my posts on Cookie Brittle, Chocolate Eclair Squares, Heavenly Peanut Butter Pie, Crab & Avocado Enchiladas, and Fiesta Chicken & Southwest Cornbread Casserole.  She has a special section in the back for some of her award-winning recipes, including that peanut butter pie, and she is also offering to include four bonus recipes with each cookbook: Grace’s Danish Pastries Tea Cakes, Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies, Four Layer Dessert, and Eggnog Pie Apple Pie Cookies (Marina realized too late her Eggnog Pie is already in the cookbook so I had to update this).

Marina’s 4-Layer Pistachio Dessert

If you’d like a cookbook, you can email me at VRAKLIS@YAHOO.COM with your bid ($10 minimum starting bid).  The auction on these will run until the end of the week and I’ll email the two highest bidders on Saturday. I will put the current high bids on this post so you can check back from time to time to make sure you’re still one of the high bidders. :)  Current High Bids: Joan $10

The last trick I have up my sleeve is something I would need help with.  I would like to put together a PDF cookbook holding all my own award-winning recipes so that I could “sell” it for more donations for Suzie.  But I simply don’t have the time to put it together.  If there is anyone reading this that has mad Adobe skillz and also has time to put the cookbook together, please let me know!  I would be so grateful.

I’m terribly sorry this post is so long, I’m done now except for a reminder.  Don’t forget the sign-up deadline for the cookie swap is this Friday, November 9th.  Click here for details. Peace out my Cornicopi-cats!

P.S. You owe me a pair of socks!

THE Online Bake Sale

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Update: The bake sale is over. If you missed it or weren’t a successful bidder, I will make you an offer Monday or Tuesday that you can’t refuse. :)  Click here to see how much we’ve raised for Suzie so far!

Welcome to my online bake sale to raise money for Suzie, a friend who fell ill at the beginning of October and needs help paying her medical bills.  (You can read more about Suzie’s situation here.)  The blogging community, along with some friends, have joined together to make this bake sale happen, and you’d better be ready for some deliciousness because it’s about to smack you in the face!

Below you’ll find a list of yummy goodies that have all been donated by bloggers & friends, which are awaiting your bids. :) Before you start bidding, please review the Rules & Logistics. All funds raised from the Online Bake Sale will go directly to Suzie to pay her medical bills. I will update the ‘bid section’ on the bottom of this post throughout the day, so you can see the high bids for each item. Bidding for the Online Bake Sale will run from now until 10 pm CST tonight and I will notify the winners by email (you can also check the final bids on this page to see the list of winning bidders). A few quick reminders:

  • There is a minimum bid of $15 on each item.
  • All bids must be emailed to VRAKLIS@YAHOO.COM with the item you are bidding on in the subject (bids in the comment section will not be counted).
  • If a baked good does not specify a certain shipping location then it is open to U.S. Residents only. I have put those available for international shipping at the end of the list to make them easier to find.  If you have questions, please let me know.
  • The funds from winning bids must be posted to Suzie’s fundraising page within 24 hours of receiving the winning confirmation email or the next highest bidder automatically wins.
  • Winning bidders can expect to have their product shipped within five (5) to seven (7) days of the bake sale as long as shipping address is received promptly.

Now that we’ve got the rules all figured out let’s get to the fun part! Here’s to you getting the goodie you can’t live without! Let the bidding begin!!!

1 batch (about 2 1/2 dozen) Snickercrinkles (a cross between snickerdoodles and molasses crinkles) from Faith of An Edible Mosaic.


1 batch (about 5 dozen) Florentine Lace Cookies sandwiched with chocolate from Faith of An Edible Mosaic.

1 lb. granola of your choice from Katrina of Baking and Boys!  Pictured are 1) Dark Chocolate Raspberry 2) Camilla’s Pecan Stovetop Granola 3) Coconut Lime Granola with Pecans 4) Loaded Fruit & Nut 5) Banana Split  6) Peanut Butter  7) Chunky Monkey 8) Ultimate Healthy Granola, or request a custom blend–Katrina will work with you.


1 dozen large 4″ Jacque Torres’ New York TimesChocolate Chip Cookies from Katrina of Baking and Boys!

2 dozen Wookie Cookies (double chocolate chip, cinnamon-laced cookies) from Debbi Does Dinner Healthy.

Plum Jam and Country Peach Preserves (1 pint each, 2 pints total) from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Healthy Pumpkin Bread made with unsweetened applesauce and flax seed from Jorie of Midwest Maven.

Apple Cider Applesauce Coffee Cake

Apple Cider Applesauce Coffee Cake from Suzanne of A Pug in the Kitchen

1 dozen Brownie Pops from Angela, The Squishy Monster.

1 batch (about 6 cups) Pumpkin Granola from Sarah, The Pajama Chef.  This item is customizeable-specify with or without nuts, with no or more dried fruit.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from Joanne of Eats Well with Others.

A gift basket from Jane of The Healthy Beehive that includes 4 homemade jellies in 12 oz. jars (Raspberry Jam, White Balsamic Peach Jam, cantaloupe jelly, and cherry marmalade), and 4 bars of her homemade soap (2 Vanilla Dreams, 1 Cappucino Layered Soap, and 1 Goat’s Milk Soap).

2 dozen Blue Ribbon Almond Fudge Cookies (gluten-free) from Veronica’s Cornucopia.

1 batch of Cinnabon Caramel Corn, regular or vegan from Veronica’s Cornucopia.

12 half-pint jars of Baja Fresh Grilled Salsa from My Bizzy Kitchen.

Two loaves of super moist Pumpkin Bread from The Gingersnap Girl. Gloria said this ships great, as she has sent it twice to the military overseas (pictured in one of her military shipment boxes).

1 dozen Double Chocolate Biscotti from Heather of Join Us, Pull up a Chair (pictured with nuts but the dozen up for sale will not have nuts).

1 batch (minimum of 20 pieces) of Toot, from Fari & Azita of Fig & Quince. Toot (what a name!) is a Persian confection that translates to Marzipan Mulberry, as they are fashioned to look like mulberries with pistachio “stems” sticking out of the tops.

1/2 pint of Grape Jam with Orange Essence and 1/2 pint of Vintage Secret Family Recipe Grape Jelly, from Debra of Eliot’s Eats.  Both are made with her homegrown grapes.  Please note that although 7 jars are pictured, only TWO are up for auction.

2 dozen Candy Cookies from Desi of Steak ‘n Potatoes Kinda Gurl.

2 dozen Ginger-Toffee-Molasses Cookies from Chris of The Cafe Sucre Farine.

2 dozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from Renee of My Kitchen Adventures.

2 dozen Monster Cookies from Julie’s Eats & Treats.

2 half-pint jars of Kelly’s Jelly: Spiced Pear & White Peach.  Kelly is a co-worker of mine and she uses fruit from her own trees to make her jelly-it is divine and my absolute favorite jelly. I have both kinds in my fridge right now!

2 dozen large Chocolate Chip Cookies from Adriene Rathbun, a friend that does cooking classes here in Wichita.

2 dozen Butterfly-Stamped Sugar Cookies, individually bagged and tied with ribbons, from my friend Tina Freels. She’s a sugar artist and I can attest to her baking skills!  This is a nut-free item.

1 dozen KISD Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies from Lauren of Keep it Sweet Desserts.

3 half pint jars of Robin’s Triple Berry Jam. Ingredients are sugar, pectin, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and butter.


1/2 batch (about 3 1/2 cups) of Coconut-Sour Cherry Granola from Melissa Likes to Eat.  Will ship internationally.

4 dozen Green Spelt Cookies from Angie’s Recipes. Ships to Germany only.

A pumpkin gift basket including  Pumpkin Pie Biscotti drizzled with white chocolate, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and a batch of Spicy Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds from Alice of A Mama, A Baby, and a Shar-pei in the Kitchen. Will ship to the US, Italy, Portugal, Japan, the UK, and Canada – including any APO/FPO addresses.

A signed copy of Faith Gorsky’s An Edible Mosaic cookbook. (!)  That’s right, if you win one of the first two items in the bake sale, you will be eating cookies prepared by a famous cookbook author. :)  I purchased two copies of Faith’s soon-to-be released Middle-Eastern cookbook and Faith has offered to sign one to the highest bidder with the inscription you desire.  Please be aware that you will not receive this until later in the month, as it will ship to Faith on November 6th, when it releases, and then she will ship it to you after signing it. You can preview some of the recipes in it here, here, and here. Will ship internationally.

Bidding is now closed. And just look how well we did!  Thank you!  If you see your name below and have not received an email from me, please send an email to Bakers, I will send address information to you once the donation for your item has been confirmed.

Current bids:
Faith’s Snickercrinkles: Letty $35.00
Faith’s Florentine Lace Cookies: Emma $25.00
Katrina’s Granola: Suzanne $20.00
Katrina’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies: Suzanne $30.00
Debbi’s Wookie Cookies: Michelle $25.00
Natasha’s Plum Jam & Country Peach Preserves: Emma $25.00
Jorie’s Healthy Pumpkin Bread: Cassandra $15.00
Suzanne’s Apple Cider Applesauce Coffee Cake: Angel $35.00
Angela’s Brownie Pops: MJ $15.00
Sarah’s Pumpkin Granola: Aimee $15.00
Joanne’s Pumpkin Swirl Brownies: Suzanne $35.00
Jane’s Jelly & Soap Gift Basket: Emma $50.00
Veronica’s Almond Fudge Cookies: Emma $25.00
Veronica’s Cinnabon Caramel Corn: Icy $30.00
Biz’s Baja Fresh Grilled Salsa: Christine $100.00
Gloria’s Pumpkin Bread: Erin $25.00
Heather’s Double Chocolate Biscotti: Suzanne $25.00
Fari & Azita’s Persian Toot: Danielle $15.00
Debra’s Grape Jam & Jelly: Biz $15.00
Desi’s Candy Cookies: Dru $20.00
Chris’s Ginger-Toffee-Molasses Cookies: Suzanne $30.00
Renee’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles: Desi $25.00
Julie’s Monster Cookies: Marie $20.00
Kelly’s Spiced Pear & White Peach Jellies: Erin $30.00
Adriene’s Chocolate Chip Cookies: Debbi $15.00
Tina’s Butterfly-Stamped Sugar Cookies: Leslie $25.00
Lauren’s KISD Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies: Katrina $25.00
Robin’s Triple Berry Jam: Erin $25.00
Melissa’s Coconut-Sour Cherry Granola: Aimee $15.00
Angie’s Green Spelt Cookies: Andrea $15.00
Alice’s Pumpkin Gift Basket: Icy $30.00
Faith’s cookbook: Lettie $40.00

Are you excited for THE BAKE SALE?

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Update: The bake sale is over. If you missed it, I will make you an offer Monday or Tuesday that you can’t refuse.  Click here to see how much we’ve raised for Suzie so far.

Do you know what time it is?  The online bake sale fundraiser for Suzie is tomorrow!  *happy dance*  I’m so excited and anxious to open the sale up to everyone because there are so many delicious treats that have been donated, and certainly something for everyone.  And I do mean everyone, even international readers!  I should start calling it an “Everything Sale” as there are now jellies, salsa, and even a signed cookbook in the mix!  I’ve kept the list of goodies updated as new donations came in, so you can preview everything here while you’re waiting for the sale to officially open. 

I am still accepting donations of baked goods (or other) until midnight tonight.  I will be getting home from work and checking my email at that time to update the bake sale draft.  All I will need is what you are donating, how much of it, a photo, and a link to the recipe if you have a blog and have posted it.

The bake sale will begin at 8 am CST on Friday, November 2nd, and will go all day until 10 pm CST.

I know many of you are curious as to how an online bake sale works, so here’s an outline of the Rules and Logistics, so you have a clear idea of how this works.

Online Bake Sale Rules & Logistics

First of all, please keep in mind that all donations go directly to Suzie to help her pay her medical bills.  Her health is improving but she still has at least one surgery she is facing and all the money raised is going to help her pay for it.  Most fundraisers benefit charity organizations and you never know which person/people your donation might be helping, but in this case you are directly helping a military mama whose first grandchild was born the same week she came down ill.  I thank everyone who is going to help her get well enough to meet her new grand-baby and keep going for all those who need her, including me. :)

Suzie is in the middle with her son next to her.

On Friday, November 2nd (tomorrow!) at 8 am CST, I will post all the items each baker has donated.  Each item will have a minimum bid of $15.  Once the items are officially posted all buyers will then e-mail with a bid of what they would like to purchase.

To have an official bid on an item you must e-mail me at  Any bids left in the comments section will not be reviewed, only bids e-mailed will be considered official and affirmative.

Think of the bid as a silent auction of sorts. All buyers will have until 10pm CST to submit their bid for the auction, and can bid as many times as they want.

I will be updating the current bids at the bottom of the bake sale post throughout the day so that you can see the current high bid. I am hoping this will encourage others to bid higher for the items they really want or bid for items that have not had a bid yet.

I will notify the winners by email and each winner will then donate the specified amount on Suzie’s fundraising page.  Once the donation goes through I will e-mail the baker the winner’s address and it will be the baker’s responsibility to send the baked goods to the winner within 72 hours.

The winner has 24 hours to make the online donation. If in that time frame the donation is not made, the next highest bidder will be contacted.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments below, and I hope to see you at the bake sale tomorrow! :)

Wait, you didn’t think I’d forget to announce the A Family Farm in Tuscany cookbook winner, did you?  OK, so I almost did. ;)  Congratulations to Kelly D, who said, “I like Eggplant Parmesan.”  A girl after my own heart. <3

Penne alla Boscaiola {Lumberjack Mushroom Penne} & a Giveaway!

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A while back I was contacted by Ginny of Cooking With Chopin to participate in a blog tour for the A Family Farm In Tuscany cookbook (her mother published the book!).  I agreed because 1) I love Italian food, and 2) I love free stuff and I would get a free cookbook if I participated.  Just keepin’ it real, people.  If you like free stuff too, keep reading because you’ll have a chance to win a copy for yourself!

Photo by Dario Fusar, Organic Gardening

This is a beautiful softcover cookbook by Sarah Fioroni that follows the activities on her family’s farm in Tuscany throughout a typical year, such as making prosciutto in January & harvesting saffron in November, and of course there are recipes for each month that include seasonal ingredients. This is more than a cookbook, it is the story of Sarah’s heritage and daily life on Fattoria Poggio Alloro (Laurel Hill Farm), and she includes many simple, delicious recipes that her family makes every day.

Photo by Oriano Stefan

I’m usually drawn to cookbooks that feature colorful photos of the finished dishes, and that was my only  disappointment with this one.  The book is filled with colorful, stunning photos featuring the family, the farm & monthly activities on it, along with a smattering of food photos. However, the more I looked through the cookbook, the less I cared about the meager food photos.  I often read cookbooks like novels, and this one you actually can read like a book, as the stories shared in it flow along with the recipes from month to month.

I’ve been thumbing through this cookbook for several weeks and the longer I have it, the more I love it.  The recipes are simple everyday recipes, which isn’t usually what I think of in connection with Italian food.  I think of long hours in the kitchen and lots of ingredients.  But these recipes aren’t meant to impress you with their length or the time it takes to make them.  They are simple and they are good.  Make that delicious.  Everything I’ve made from the cookbook so far is just incredible.  I honestly didn’t know recipes with so few ingredients could be so good.

Take this Penne alla Boscaiola, for example.  (It isn’t a coincidence that I first chose one of the recipes that included a picture, though I have now ventured forth and tried one without a picture, the Tiramisu Poggio Alloro–do try it, it’s wonderful.)  It is so simple, calling for just a few basic ingredients and only one spice.  I did rewrite the recipe with my small changes, so I wanted to include a photo of the actual recipe so you could see what I’m talking about when I say this book is full of simple, delicious recipes.

Dennis’ reaction to this was, “This is really good.” *chew chew chew* “I mean really, really good.”  *chew chew chew* “I’m almost shocked at how good this is.”  I’m not sure if he meant my food usually isn’t this good, or he was just trying to express how incredibly delicious he found it, but either way, you get the idea of how much he enjoyed it.  This is a man that rarely comments on the taste of anything I make and I have to pull the reviews out of him like teeth.  Not this time.  And I whole-heartedly agree.  This pasta is shockingly delicious.  Shocking because it is just so simple!  How can it possibly be this good?  You’ll have to make it to believe it.  (And make it with the Green Salad from the cookbook, it is another shockingly simple & delicious recipe!)

Penne alla Boscaiola
{Lumberjack Mushroom Penne}

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 of a medium red onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced*
16 oz. pork sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Italian)
1 (29 oz.) can tomato purée
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

4-6 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt
12 oz. penne pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook the onion with the olive oil in a large pot/Dutch oven over medium heat for about five minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook until cooked down and browned, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, then use your hands to break the sausage into smaller chunks and add to the pot. Cook for about ten minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through. Add the tomato purée, warm water, red pepper, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.

In another medium pot, bring water and salt to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, add the penne pasta and stir. Return to a boil and cook until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes, using the package instructions as a guide. Remove and drain, then add to the large pan of sauce. Stir together and serve hot, topped with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 6-8

*Veronica’s notes: I didn’t use fresh garlic because I didn’t realize I was going to miss it until I tasted the sauce without it, so I just added a teaspoon of garlic powder. It was wonderful this way, but I included instructions for using fresh garlic since that is more authentic and most likely would taste even better. Also, a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes did not make this spicy at all so do not fear.  Lastly, if you are like me, you will be tempted to cook the sausage separately and drain off the fat before adding it to the sauce. But if you are like me, you will resist in the spirit of authenticity and be rewarded with delicious pasta that is surprisingly grease-free. I think the mushrooms absorb the fat, because there was absolutely no grease to drain after cooking the sausage with the mushrooms. Oh well, more flavor!

Recipe source: Adapted from A Family Farm in Tuscany.

Would you like to win a copy of A Family Farm In Tuscany?  Just leave me a comment telling me your favorite Italian dish (comments without this will not be counted in the drawing).  For an extra entry, “Like” my Facebook page and leave me a separate comment letting me know you did or do.  For a third entry, you can “Like” Sarah’s Facebook page and leave a separate comment telling me you did so. Giveaway is open until Wednesday (10/31/12)  at midnight CST, and I will announce the winner on Thursday.  Winner will have 24 hours to contact me or I will choose another winner.  Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.  Congrats to the winner, Kelly D!

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