Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Holiday baking keeping us busy...

We have not been baking very much for us lately as we are trying to get prepared for the Christmas Gift Baking Spree we do each year. I try to get as much done ahead of time as I can - getting the packaging together, writing down a good inventory of the ingredients we need and making doughs or baking cookies to place in the freezer. I think we have our list finalized for this year, but I never know until the packages actually get sent out!

When I was going through the list and picking out recipes, I remember how much we loved making those delicious Seven Layer Cookies - it is a bit of a process, but so worth the effort! If you're feeling adventurous and looking for a fun, impressive treat to give away this year, give these a try!

I'm also trying to keep the weeknight dinners a little less time consuming - pasta recipes usually fit well into this category and tonight I made this Penne with Asparagus, Spinach, and Bacon dish.

I didn't notice anything unusual when I was going over the recipe last night to make sure I didn't need to pick up anything from the market today, but as I was getting prepared to make it, I caught something that looked a little odd. The original recipe has you add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth to help cook the asparagus - when the asparagus is done, you are to then add the cooked pasta. However, it only takes 3 to 5 minutes for the asparagus to cook and there is no way 1 1/2 cups of broth is going to cook down enough so you are not eating a bowl of pasta lounging in broth (this is not a soup recipe after all!). I cut the broth down to 1/3 cup and saved some of the pasta cooking water in the event the dish was too dry.

Anyway, 1/3 cup was just enough and I didn't need the reserved pasta water - there would have been way too much liquid if I used the full amount called for. When the asparagus was crisp tender, a few cups of baby spinach, along with the cooked pasta and a handful of fresh grated Parmesan cheese, is added to the skillet. To serve the pasta, crisp crumbles of bacon and a sprinkling of more Parmesan is added to each plate. Jeff and I both thought this healthy and colorful dish was flavorful, speedy and one we will have to prepare again when we can get our hands on some fresh asparagus at the farmers market next spring.


  1. I love those cookies! They're also called Italian Tri-colors. I make a batch every year at Christmas.

  2. Those cookies are fabulous! Not only are they colorful and cute but they look just like mini seven layer cakes! should submit them to our Holiday Cookie Contest!

  3. Hi! Do you think you could do a detailed post on your preparations for holiday baking? I'm attempting to do something similar this year and would love any tips you have. For example, what doughs do you make now and freeze? What has to be made as close to shipping as possible? What packaging do you use?

    Thanks!! Love your blog :)