I can’t tell you how many times I have Googled “best way to cook spaghetti.” I thought about why I would ever have to look this up more than once…seems to me if I knew how to do this, I’d only have to look it up one time, at the most! Truth be told, there are so many hints and tricks out there. So, in true Forks & Flowers fashion, I’ve done the work for you. 😉

– To use salt or not? I’ve always added a pinch of salt to my boiling water while making pasta…but I never really knew why (other than it made me look like a real chef)! Come to find out, adding salt to the water raises the boiling temperature and adds flavor to the pasta—but you’ll need more than a pinch. Just remember: you need about 1Tbsp. of salt for each serving of pasta you’re cooking.

– How to keep water from boiling over? This is just good ol’ common sense. Use a bigger pot. You should choose a pot that’s taller versus wider, and if you want, add a splash of oil to the pot. The overflowing bubbles are caused by the starch of the pasta cooking out—the oil keeps the bubbles from forming. Or you could just lay a wooden kitchen spoon across the top of the pot—or a wooden kebab skewer!

– How long do I cook my pasta? Well, it depends on what type of noodle you have. The smaller in diameter, the less time it takes—just pay attention to the timing instructions on the box! It is important to know that you want to add the pasta when the water is truly boiling—not just a few bubbles popping up—you want a rolling boil. And stir the noodles as soon as you put them in the pot—in a figure-8 motion—to keep them from clumping together!

Hope that this helps!



Meat-free Masterpiece

When I was in high school, I decided to become a vegetarian. It was a New Year’s resolution that ended up lasting about 7 years…and drove my mom crazy because she had to modify meals due to my newfound, self-inflicted dietary restrictions. Looking back now, I can say it was all worth it because it provided me with years of meat-free recipes that I still use today–especially during Lent!

One of my favorites came to fruition when I was trying to recreate one of my favorite meals from a restaurant I loved to go to when I was in college. Penne alla vodka. A delicious dish of penne pasta, mozzarella cheese, topped with an uh-mazing sauce.
In my recipe trial-and-error, I discovered that there was a LOT of ingredients in the sauce. So, naturally, I took some liberties with it and made a few time-saving changes. I also felt like it needed a bit more—so I added some seafood to it. (I’m allergic to shrimp, but the kids love it—so I’ll make the sauce and add the scallops, pour out my portion, and add the shrimp for everyone else to enjoy!)

Now, you can buy the sauce already made, but if you’re looking for a homemade-with-a-few-shortcuts recipe, look no further!

Penna alla vodka
1 box of Penne pasta
1 cup of sour cream
1 jar of pasta sauce – whatever kind you like!
½ cup to 1 cup of vodka
Mozzarella pearls
Shrimp or scallops, already cooked

In a medium saucepan, heat the pasta sauce over medium heat. Once it’s warm, stir in the sour cream and vodka. Allow to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes—this will allow the alcohol to ‘cook off’ so that you aren’t serving your little ones any booze! While the sauce is cooking, prepare the penne pasta according to the instructions on the box. Add the mozzarella pearls and shrimp/scallops to the sauce and continue to cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Serve the penne with the sauce on top as is or add some freshly grated parmesan or even more mozzarella cheese!

Sometimes you just need a good meat-free recipe—and I can always count on this one to be a crowd-pleaser!



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A Valentine’s Day Sweet Treat

Every year, I sign up to bring a treat for my daughter’s Valentine’s Day party at daycare…and every year, I remember two nights before the party. Fear not, busy/forgetful moms—you are not alone! And I’ve got a lovely little recipe that is perfect for Valentine’s Day…and every other color-coordinated event you might have!

Chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks
1 bag of pretzel rods
Chocolate chips or candy melts (either white, red or pink!)
Coordinating sprinkles
Cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

Take a tall drinking glass—make sure it’s microwave-safe—and fill about ¾ full with the chocolate chips/candy melts. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring between each. When it’s melted, take a pretzel rod (either a whole one or break them in half for mini sticks) and dip it in the glass, swirling it around so that about ¾ of the pretzel is covered in chocolate—you don’t want too much excess, so let that drip back into the glass before placing on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Dip as many pretzels as you need/can fit on the cookie sheet and then shake the sprinkles onto the chocolate-covered pretzel sticks as soon as you can. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer and allow the chocolate-dipped sticks to cool. Place in a clear treat bag, tie with a red or pink ribbon and there you have it—the cutest little sweet treat for Valentine’s Day!

This is one of those ‘recipes’ I use for just about every party—birthdays, tailgates, Christmas…just change up the candy melts and these fit right in!
Hope you love it!