Strawberry Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancake Cake Recipe Plus Pancake & Syrup Brand Comparison

This Labor Day weekend I provided my children with an opportunity they’ve never been presented with before.  They got to compare products (content, taste and price) and tell me which they think is the best value.  Then they got to make a Strawberry Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancake Cake Recipe {using the compared products} that was unbelievably delicious!

For the most part, I buy items that are tried and true in our family or that *I* have deemed will give us the best value and taste for our dollar or that are the most nutritious.  This time, they got to decide.

Since my kids are big pancake fans, I decided that it would be fun to compare pancake and syrup mixes.  I purchased the products at Smart & Final and then let my kids compare the back of the boxes of pancake mix and syrup bottles, let them help me prepare the pancakes and then decide based on taste, which brand packed the best punch overall!

It was a super fun experiment because my kids learned a lot while not feeling like the lesson was didactic!  {{score!}}  Plus, the comparison ended with full bellies, and who can complain about that?

We made an amazing recipe that was a mix of two recipes that both looked scrumptious on their own right.  I combined them and doubled the flavor factor.  The end result was so good it should be criminal. 

Strawberry Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancake Cake

Strawberry Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancake Cake Recipe

{Inspired by The Confused Homemaker’s Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Pancake Recipe and by Created by Diane’s Pancake Cake Recipe}


  • 3 cups of First Street Brand Buttermilk Pancake Mix
  • 1/3 granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • 2 cups of blueberries
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 TSBP lemon juice
  • Strawberry Frosting
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries


  • Make 3 cups of First Street Buttermilk Pancake Mix batter as directed on back of bag.
  • Add one cup of Ricotta Cheese to mixture.
  • Add 2 TBSP of lemon juice
  • Add 2 tsp of vanilla
  • Mix together
  • Mix in 1.5 cups of blueberries
  • Mix together gently and then cook on griddle.

Layering Instructions:

  • Reserve at least 6 golden grilled pancakes to make your cake.
  • Make Strawberry Frosting with any recipe you like.  Here’s Diane’s Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.  Luckily child #2 had made cream cheese frosting with fresh strawberries the day before our adventure so we got to skip this step!
  • Start with a pancake.  Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting on the pancake.  Then add some sliced  strawberries.  Repeat with 5 more pancakes, alternating with blueberries and strawberries.  For the top layer slather in frosting and then use strawberries and blueberries to top the pancake cake off.
  • Dust with powdered sugar.
  • Enjoy.

Here’s what we found:

The ingredients in the First Street Buttermilk Pancake Mix and Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Complete Pancake Mix was very similar.  The First Street Buttermilk Pancake Mix is about $1.50 less than the Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancake Mix for a 5 lb. bag/box.  The Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancake has a lighter, fluffier consistency while the First Street Buttermilk Pancake Mix produced a pancake that was a bit denser than the Aunt Jemima pancake.  No matter how many times we tried to find a taste difference between the First Street Buttery Pancake Syrup and the Aunt Jemima Butter Rich Syrup, we couldn’t.  We thought they tasted the same.  For a difference of almost $2.00 a bottle however, the First Street Buttery Pancake Syrup was the clear winner!

I’d love for you to view our Pancake Brand Comparison on Google +!

Psst….Smart and Final is having a Pinterest Party!   Join the #SFTasteTest party from September 5th to the 19th and have the chance to win almost a $1000 in prizes!

To find out more about Smart and Final, look for them on Twitter or Facebook.

Other Recipes You Might Enjoy:

Disclosure:  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias


Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce #La Romanella Style

Looking for Wordful Wednesday?  It’s HERE!

When cooking for plenty {and by plenty I mean at least 50}, it’s always smart to go with a pasta dish.  Baked Pasta Dishes can be prepared ahead of time and then popped into the oven to heat through before the party is set to begin.  At my most recent get-together {for #3′s baptism} I needed a dish that was easy, delicious, and not too pricey.  The Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce #La Romanella Style that I prepared was all of those things, plus more.   It was a crowd pleaser.  Hooray.

Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce

I picked up the ingredients for my pasta dish at my local Smart & Final store.   As has been typical of my most recent Smart & Final shopping trips, I photographed the whole thing and shared on Google +.  {I’d love for you to see it! }   There’s just something about being able to take pictures of everything on the shelves…..

This recipe is perfect for a large family dinner or gathering.

Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pasta directed on package.  In large bowl/pan combine pasta, sausage/ground beef (cooked), pasta sauce and 2 cups of cheese.  Mix well.  Turn into greased 9X13 pan and cover with foil.  Bake 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Uncover and spread remaining cheese on top of pasta and sprinkle with parsley.  Bake 10 minutes or until cheese melts.  Makes 12-15 servings.

*For my gathering, I quadrupled the recipe.  Here’s how I prepared it:

First, grab the ingredients so that they are all on hand when you need them, and preheat your oven.

Second, cut the casing off the sausage and brown in a large skillet until completely cooked through.  Crumble with spoon so that the pieces are bite sized.

Third, grab a big pot.  You are going to need it.  Fill it with water and bring to a boil.  Salt the water, add about a TBSP of olive oil and pour the pasta in. Cook according to package directions for al dente pasta and then drain immediately.

Add sausage, cheese and marinara sauce to stock pot with pasta.  Stir until completely combined.

Put into baking dishes and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Add two cups of shredded cheese and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve while hot!

Wanting to sample the La Romanella line from Smart & Final?  They’d love for you try their line and here’s a little incentive!  {wink}  Just visit your local Smart & Final and purchase any La Romanella product.  Save your receipt because  when you get to a computer, visit the  La Romanella Sweetstakes site and enter the code on your receipt and enter to win any of these pretty fabulous prizes:

First Prize: a weekend trip to one of the most luxurious Italian inspired resorts in Las Vegas! Additional prizes include: (8) $50 SmartCash cards (2 per week given away) WOWZA!!

My readers always seem to have all the luck, so when you win the Las Vegas Trip, consider bringing me along, you hear?

Additionally, if you are a voting kind of person, {and I hope you are}, then you can vote for my recipe!  How fun is that?  {laughing} just visit the La Romanella site to vote for your favorite recipe {I guess it doesn’t have to be mine} created from the La Romanella products.

Have you had the chance to try any La Romanella products?  If so, what are your favorites?

This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias #CBias.  The yummy {tried and true} recipe came from Lori Kessler. THANK YOU!

S’mores Cake in a Jar {Homemade Gift for Teachers}

Looking for Wordful Wednesday? It’s here.

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.  Not only do I totally feel on top of my holiday “game” by giving my children’s school teachers a little holiday “Thank You” so early in the month, they {their teachers} “score” twice.  I’ll explain: I used Dairy Products in my recipe from Smart & Final that have the California Milk Seal on them, and when they redeem the seals, they’ll get Scholastic books free!

I made my kids beloved teachers S’mores Cake in a Jar.  I think they are SOOOO cute, and they’d better be really yummy {I didn’t taste test them, they probably wouldn’t have appreciated that.}


Please note that I found this S’mores Cake in a Jar Recipe on the blog, “How Sweet It Is”, and Jessica graciously gave me permission to share it.  I doubled her recipe, BTW.  {Yahoo!}

S’mores Cake in a Jar Recipe


  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 pinches of salt

Melt butter and mix in graham crumbs and salt. Mix until moistened. Spray 4 mason jars with non-stick spray and press graham crust into jars. Press down with whatever you have in your kitchen that works.


  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream

For Topping:

  • 1 bag of large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add milk, cream, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Mix until batter is smooth. Using a 1/4 cup measure, add batter to mason jars one scoop at a time. You only want to fill them up about half way, and the batter should work evenly for 4 jars. Again – don’t worry if it is perfect. Place mason jars in a baking dish and add about 1 1/2 cups of water to the bottom. Bake for 30 minutes (or much longer if needed), or until cake is set.

Remove cake from the oven and press large marshmallows down on top. Brown marshmallows under broiler for about 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t burn if you can help it! :)

Now, the directions say to serve immediately, but I wasn’t able to do that.  I did deliver them once they had cooled, but it looked like they are just fine to wait a bit to eat!

*Makes {4} 24-ounce mason jar cakes plus {1} 16-ounce mason jar with a little batter left over.

Decorating the S’mores Cake in a Jar

Nothing says fun like a S’mores Cake filled jar that is decorated with an adorable printable.  I found the FREE gift tags printables I used on Today’s Fabulous Finds. Aren’t they so cute?  I just used ribbon and twine I had around the house to tie on the neck of the bottle.

*The California Milk Advisory Board & Scholastic have created a program called “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids” {#HelpOurTeachersHelpOurKids}.  It’s a program designed to help our teachers get Scholastic books by collecting the California Milk Seals from participating dairy brands like First Street Brand from Smart & Final.  All the teacher needs to do is submit the seals collected by students & families and then reap the rewards!  (Each seal counts as one sweepstakes entry. Teachers who submit 100 seals get 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supply gift card. Each teacher entrant gets one Scholastic book.)

*Select Smart & Final First Street products are part of the California Milk Advisory Board #HelpOurTeachersHelpOurKids promotion.

Disclosure:  This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for  #collectivebias #CBias.

Other Recipes You May Enjoy:

Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids #SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchools


You all know how I feel about teachers, right?  Love, Love, Love the good ones and can’t say enough about the difference they make in my children’s lives.  That’s why whenever I’m offered the opportunity to try to spread the word  about ways to help the teachers help our kids (#SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchools), I jump at the chance.

The California Milk Advisory Board & Scholastic have created a program called “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids”.  It’s a program designed to help our teachers get Scholastic books by collecting the California Milk Seals from participating dairy brands like First Street Brand from Smart & Final.  All the teacher needs to do is submit the seals collected by students & families and then reap the rewards!  (Each seal counts as one sweepstakes entry. Teachers who submit 100 seals get 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supply gift card. Each teacher entrant gets one Scholastic book.)

I wanted the teachers at my kids schools to be able to get books for free and so my daughter and niece  and I made a collection box to facilitate this effort.  We had a great time making our own little homemade collection box, and think it turned out pretty great, too!  :)

We started with an old shoe box, picked out some card stock in the two colors we wanted, and cut them to the correct proportions.  We then used a glue stick to adhere the paper to the outside of the box.  Next, we printed out Real California Milk and Smart & Final images from the web to make it clear what the collection box was for.

See how easy and mess free this was?

This was the least messy craft project I’ve ever made, and that makes me very happy!

We even “blinged” up the inside of the box with a California Milk seal and a printout list of all of the items from Smart & Finals  First Street Brand with the qualifying seal.

We packed off the box to school and can’t wait to see how well our school does collecting seals.  I know where my California milk seals are going!  :)

*Smart & Final will be offering a $0.30 coupon good on First Street milk in their October 12th ad and the 1 gallon First Street milk will have a $0.30 coupon, also!

*Smart & Final is so awesome that they’re doing a sweepstakes! Entrants who go to and tell why their Southern Californa school should win will be entered to win $500, $300 or $200 to be donate to the school of their choice EVERY MONTH! That’s right, there will be a total of NINE winners, 3 per month, from those that enter at the site!

Disclosure:  This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for  #collectivebias #CBias.

First Street Brand at Smart & Final: Free Food!

Have you ever tried the First Street Brand of products sold exclusively at Smart & Final (examples shown below)?

Smart & Final carries over 1600 First Street items in their stores, covering everything from cheese to meat to spices to paper goods and more.  I’ve tried at least 50 of the First Street items and have had a positive experience with all of them.  The one line though of First Street Items that I can’t stop raving about is the First Street Cheeses.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they taste, well wonderful.  It’s the only brand of cheese Jeff asks me to buy!

I recently stocked up on First Street Cheeses and made a yummy lasagna using the First Street lasagna noodles, First Street marinara sauce, First Street Mozzarella, First Street Parmesan, and La Romanella Ricotta cheese.  I also used hot Italina sausage, and sauteed an orange bell pepper and egg plant with the meat for a little extra flavor.

The boys especially liked it, and I liked being able to make a really versatile recipe with ingredients I was able to purchase at Smart and Final very economically.

Smart & Final has been running a Facebook promotion through the month of  May that just may entice you to try their  First Street line in case my recommendation isn’t enough.  :)  All you need to do is go the the First Street Facebook page.  5 winners have been/will be chosen each week to get a HUGE VIP bag of First Street products valued at {$50}, plus a {$50} Smart & Final SmartCash Gift Card.

Hop on over. It’s easy to enter, and the weekly prizes are well worth your time!

Lasagna Recipe (FED my family of 7 two nights in a row!)


  • Cook one box Lasagna noodles per instructions on box, drain.
  • Combine 2 eggs, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp salt with 32 oz jar of  Ricotta cheese
  • Remove casings from 1 package of Italian sausage, cook sausage thoroughly, “cutting” sausages into bite sized pieces.
  • Thinly slice 1 lb. of mozzarella cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix cooked sausage with 32 oz jar of marinara sauce

Assembly-layer the following ingredients:

  • cover bottom of pan with marinara sauce
  • layer noodles on top of sauce
  • add layer of ricotta cheese
  • add layer of meat sause
  • add layer of mozzarella cheese
  • repeat until ingredients are used
  • top with layer of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese

Cook for 1 hour or until top layer of cheese is browned and sauce is bubbly.

Disclosure:  Compensated post: I received the First Street Products pictured above to try as well as a gift card to shop at Smart & Final to purchase the items used for this recipe.

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