Italian Dinner Party Success

We were having friends over for dinner on the 27th and I was really having a hard time deciding what to serve. At this time of the year, everyone feels like they’ve been eating way too much and are literally craving something light. So, it was initially my intention to serve a delicious, but light dinner so that everyone could feel satisfied without having to adjust another notch on their belt. When I decided to serve fish, I figured it would be a nice light alternative to all of the festive meals, snacks and treats that we all tend to indulge in over the holidays. However, as I began to scour my own recipes and search for some new ones, I found some great Italian recipes that I just had to try. Although the meal was not the light meal I originally intended, I did try to balance our the rich and creamy seafood lasagna with a nice big salad and a side dish of mushrooms. It is always a bit of a risk trying something new for company and I figured I was pretty much “walking the plank” when I tried four brand new recipes at one dinner party. I did stick to a tried and true dessert, but everything else was a first and all of the recipes were keepers. The meal was great and nothing was too difficult to make.

Italian Dinner Party Menu:

I must admit the pictures are not the best. Remember, we had company for dinner. No time to stage or adjust the lighting. In fact, I had to hide my frustration when my camera only allowed me a couple of shots before my memory card was full….thanks Eden!! Oh well, if you want to see fabulous pictures, you’ll have to visit the original sites that the recipes were found on.


I’m not even going to bother typing out these recipes. I followed them pretty carefully because I was trying them all for the first time. Here are the links and I’ve added a few notes below outlining a few of the changes I made and tips for success.

Big Italian Salad from Once Upon a Chef

Seafood Lasagna from Taste of Home

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Damn Delicious

Italian Roasted Mushroom Salad by Paleo Paisan

Chocolate Mousse Cake one of our family’s favourites

Exceptions and Hints:

  • Roasted Mushroom Salad:  I ended up using white, cremini and shiitaki mushrooms and omitted the portobello mushrooms that were suggested, but just as a matter of preference. Also, be sure to use trays with sides as the mushrooms will release juice as they roast and caramelize. I coated all of the mushrooms in oil and pepper at the same time in a large bowl, but separated them onto two sheets so that they had lots of room to roast. Mushrooms do not like to be crowded when they cook.
  • I used two cans of crab meat instead of imitation crab in the Seafood Lasagna. I also wondered about adding a tablespoon or two of white wine to the sauce, but didn’t and it was lovely without.  Be sure to allow time for the lasagna to “stand” before serving. Mine was a bit runny, but I could tell it would have been fine had I given it 5 more minutes to sit.
  • The Big Italian Salad recipe doesn’t list green onions under the ingredients, but it was in the pictorial instructions, so don’t forget to add them in.
  • The Chocolate Mousse Cake is a light and decadent dessert that never fails and is always delicious. I chose to make this cake because it is easy and you can make it a day or two before. I love that!  Also, my son has been eating “gluten-free” for the last couple of months (just a trial) and there is no flour in this cake. I love that this flourless cake was a favourite long before the gluten-free experiment. It is a great option if you are trying to avoid wheat/grain.

If you enjoy Italian and seafood, you are absolutely going to love this combination. The recipes blended wonderfully. Both the mushrooms and lasagna were absolutely scrumptious….and those biscuits.  Mmmmm….delicious!

Holiday Red Velvet Trifle

I found this recipe on Artsy Chicks Rule last year and have been waiting for the right opportunity to try it.  I made this Red Velvet Trifle for a Christmas party a few weeks ago and it was quite good. I added Oreo cookies to my version and made a few suggestions at the bottom of the post. I can’t wait to make it again. This would make a great dessert any time of the year, but the red velvet makes it a perfect choice for Christmas or Valentine’s Day celebrations!

Holiday Red Velvet Trifle


  • 1 Red Velvet Cake Mix (prepared according to instructions minus one egg)
  • 1 – 16 oz frozen Whipped Topping (large)
  • 1- small package of either Cheesecake or White Chocolate Pudding Mix
  • 1 – package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar (more or less, to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • White Chocolate Bar (optional)
  • Oreo cookies, about 16 crushed


  1. Mix and bake the cake following the directions on the box. (*Omit one egg.)
  2. Let cool completely.
  3. Mix pudding according to the directions on the box. Once set, fold in 8 oz of the 16 oz Whipped Topping.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the softened cream cheese with the other half of the Whipped Topping. Add in 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla. Mix well. Add about 2/3 of the crushed Oreos and stir to combine.
  5. Set both bowls aside.
  6. Once the cake is cool, remove it from the pan(s) and cut into squares. (I broke mine and I felt it was a bit too “crumb like” – next time I’ll be sure to cut it.)
  7. Layer the cake, followed by the shaved white chocolate, and both fillings. Repeat. (I was struggling a bit because of the size of the bowl and knew I was not going to get good coverage for the filling, so I opted to alternate the fillings.) You should end up with three repeats depending on the diameter of your bowl and height – **see note below.) You really can’t mess this up!
  8. Finish with shaved chocolate, remaining crushed cookies and a few cake crumbs for colour!

* I did not leave out the egg as suggested in the original recipe from Artsy Chicks Rule. After doing some research, I learned that adding an extra egg to a brownie mix can result in a more cake-like brownie – a lighter, softer and less crumbly brownie. So, I’m thinking the reverse would be true when you omit one egg from the mix as suggested. You would end up with a denser, more crumbly version of the cake. I think this texture would be preferable for a trifle. I’ll definitely do that next time.

**Word of caution:  When making a trifle, you want to make sure you use a bowl with a smaller diameter and increased height. If you use a bowl that is too wide, the layers aren’t as thick and this impacts how the layers “meld” together. You want to get good coverage. I usually use such a bowl (7 1/2″ diameter by 6″ height), but opted for a shorter/wider bowl thinking it would be better for a larger number of guests. The result was that the layers too thin. I found it difficult to spread the layers and get good coverage and thus the overall taste was somewhat impacted.

Enjoy! If you end up giving this recipe a try before I make it again, I’d love to hear how your trifle turns out with the recommended changes.

Christmas Chaos

buy christmas treeI have to admit that I have not been myself since hitting my head in July. After several weeks of recovery, I finally felt well enough to get back to volleyball. On the first night out, in early September, I blew my rotator cuff and have been sidelined ever since. Between the two injuries, I have found myself struggling to do simple things like get something from high up on a shelf or reach back for something in the back seat. Needless to say any thing that requires any amount of strength or a large range of motion has pretty much been impossible. My house is neglected, my projects shelved and my motivation at an all time low. I feel frustrated and generally speaking, I’m just not myself. I miss blogging, but to be honest, I don’t have much to say these days. I’m working hard at school, but by the time I get home from work and running the kids to their activities, I’m literally out of gas. Most of my days off have consisted of making lists of the things I need to get done, but with very little actually getting accomplished. It just isn’t like me.

Buy Christmas Tree: ✔︎

I have to admit, I have been pretty slow to embrace the Christmas spirit this year and the little bit of shopping I have done has been online. I can’t even imagine braving the lines in the mall.  I’m usually super organized and done my shopping before most people even start, but not this year. I was even dreading the annual Christmas tree shopping trip. Although I have mellowed over the years, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that picking out a tree was at least a 4 hour event. This wouldn’t be bad if we actually trudged into the forest with an axe in hand and chopped down our own tree, but it seems a little ridiculous when we were shopping the tree lots. It was not uncommon for me to haul the family to 4 or 5 lots in search of the perfect tree, only to decide that the best one was at the first lot. (I can’t actually believe my husband condoned this behaviour.) It is however a testament to the type of radical Christmas fanatic I’ve always been. I have always loved Christmas….the shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, entertaining and making crafts. However, my attitude this year seems to be more of do what has to get done and with the least amount of effort possible. I even bought cookies for the event I had on this evening. To date, I have not stepped into a mall, but have gotten a few gifts to get me started through online shopping, our church craft sale and a gift card fundraiser my son’s hockey team did. I’ve done no baking or crafting, but did muster up the motivation to remove the rag wreath I made last year from the plastic bag and hang it on the nail that is still stuck in my door from last year. (That was my big accomplishment on my last day off….UGH!) You can imagine how surprised my family was when we managed to park, scan the tree lot, pick a tree, pay and strap it on the roof within 6 minutes! I have to admit I went in to it with less of a “its all about tradition” and “let’s embrace the process” type of attitude and more of a “how fast can we complete this mission” kind of thinking. My daughter wasn’t even with us, but I did check with her to see if she minded if we picked-up a tree without her.

With the tree thawing in the living room and the scent of Douglas Fur filling the house, I managed to make a grocery list in hopes of actually getting some baking done. I’m sure that the holidays will provide me with the time I need to recharge my batteries. Until then, I will plug away doing what needs to get done to prepare for Christmas. At least I can say that I have checked one thing off the list of “to do’s”. (I wonder how long the tree will sit in the mop pail in the living room before we actually set it up and decorate it?)

Our church celebrates Christmas every Sunday in December with carols and children performing each week. I’m sure that tomorrow will help to get me into the spirit of the season. If you are looking for a great way to get into the Christmas Spirit, why not check out Springs Church….you’re sure to be impressed!

If you’re interested in some great Christmas crafts, baking, decorating or gift wrapping ideas, check-out the “All Things Christmas” section of my blog.