Chocolate Tiramisu

Two major, life changing events occurred this morning that have had such a profound impact on me, I’m still in a state of bewilderment.

First, Alexander went to work this morning. Yes, you read that right – work. Pretty impressive for a kid whose biggest achievement each weekend was to sleep until 2:30 in the afternoon.

And the other event (hold on to your tea Dad, this is a big one!)…..

Sabrina finally cleaned up her room. And when I say cleaned up, I mean clothes were hung, shoes put away, room vacuumed, boxes unpacked and trash thrown out.

Epic.

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I hope this doesn’t mean the zombie apocalypse is coming…….

Chocolate Tiramisu - adapted from Serious Eats

  • 1 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 1 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs. cocoa powder, divided
  • 5 tbs. coffee liquor such as Kahlua (optional), divided (I used Amaretto)
  • 28 ladyfinger cookies
  • 2 cups (about 17 1/2 ounces) mascarpone, slightly softened 
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 6 tbs. confectioners sugar, divided
  • 1 tbs. pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups heavy cream, very cold
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
    • In liquid measuring cup, stir together coffee, granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa, and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) coffee liquor. Lay 14 ladyfinger cookies in single layer in bottom of pan. With pastry brush or spoon, douse ladyfingers with 1/2 of coffee mixture.

In large bowl, gently whisk mascarpone, melted chocolate, 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon coffee liquor (if using), and 1 teaspoon vanilla until just combined. Spread over soaked ladyfingers in pan and smooth top. Place 14 more lady fingers in single layer over mascarpone mixture. Soak with remaining coffee mixture.

Using stand mixer or handheld mixer, whip cream with remaining 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, remaining tablespoon cocoa, and remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla to medium peaks. Spread over soaked ladyfingers and smooth top.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours to allow ladyfingers to completely soften. Dust with cocoa, cut into squares and serve.

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole

It just dawned on me that Thanksgiving Day is 5 weeks and 1 day away.

Say WHAT?

Whoa. Dare I say I’m ready for it? I truly am, because this holiday season is going to be epic. J and I have a few options this year, as the posse will be away from home again. Oh, it’s ok, don’t feel sad for me, because Thanksgiving, to me, is akin to a Sunday Dinner. Which means, quite frankly, you can do it any day of the year. Everyone comes together, there’s lots of chatter, reminiscing, sharing, love, family, and of course, copious amounts of food and wine.

Wait, that sounded like my birthday week in Vegas…..

Anyway, as I said, it’s not a holiday that has monumental sentiment for me (that would be Christmas, and you can bet your last dollar they will be home with us for that!), but don’t think for one minute that I don’t get sucked into every glossy magazine showing off their finest and most delectable dishes for the season.

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With 98% of my cookbooks/baking magazines still  in storage, I’m having to exercise tremendous self control not to buy each and every one of them. Actually, I told Sabrina this morning that next week, we will break into the storage unit and start pulling out holiday lights and a few boxes of books.

Yes, I’m one of those people that starts decorating in November. Like November 1. 

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole – adapted form Southern Living

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.Stir in egg, cheese, and pepper. ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

Our Favorite Tiramisu

I recently learned, that along with an extreme fondness for Oreos, my beloved J also has an extreme fondness for Tirasmisu.

I suspect, through my exceptionally high level of intelligence, that it has something to do with his coffee addiction.

Well, maybe addiction isn’t the correct term. His propensity for several cups a day, including his proclivity for at least one grande vanilla latte with two shots of espresso per day may be a contributing factor to his caffeination fixation.

Really, though, the coffee ritual is all part of the daily grind for him (and myself, included).

Ha! I made a funny……. daily grind……..routine……. coffee….

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This is absolutely the best tiramisu out there – the texture is light, it isn’t overly sweet, and if you can find ladyfingers, score extra bonus points. All I could find was angel food cake, so I sliced it up and used that instead.

Edit update: About a week ago, I found ladyfingers at HEB – in the Italian section.

Guess I should have thought to look there first……

Tiramisu – adapted from Lidia Bastianich

2 1/2 cups strong warm espresso
30 ladyfingers cookies (I used angel food cake, it’s all I could find)
6 egg yolks
¾ cup  + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups mascarpone cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ tbs. dark rum
Cocoa for dusting

A few at a time, dip the first eighteen ladyfingers in the espresso and line the bottom of the 12 x 9 x 2 inch pan with them. Sprinkle with a generous dusting of the cocoa on the ladyfingers. Set aside.

Combine the yolks and ¾ cup sugar and mix on high with a mixer approximately 10 minutes. By hand, mix in the mascarpone until incorporated and relatively lump free. Set aside.

In a mixer or by hand, whip the cream, 1/3 cup sugar and rum until stiff peaks are formed. Add the mascarpone mixture and whip again until homogenous. This is the completed filling.

Spread half of the filling on the ladyfingers in the pan. Soak the remaining ladyfingers and make a second layer (with spaces in between the ladyfingers). Sprinkle with another dusting of the cocoa. Spread the remaining filling evenly over the ladyfingers and lightly sprinkle with cocoa. Wrap, refrigerate, and chill for four to six hours–overnight is best.

Before serving, sprinkle again with a light dusting of cocoa. Slice and serve with a spoon or spatula.

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Parfaits

It recently came to my attention that my beloved J has a “thing” for Oreos.

As in, when he saw the package of the aforementioned cookies on the counter, his reaction was, “Oooooh Oreos!” And promptly instructed the posse that they were to maintain a 10′ distance from the cookies at all times.

Ok, the second part of that sentence isn’t true, but he did inform them that they would need to get their own package if they wanted any.

And that really is true.

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No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Parfaits – adapted from live love and sugar

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz whipped cream)
1 cup Oreo crumbs (from about 9 Oreos)
5 Oreos, chopped, optional
additional Oreo crumbs for the top, optional
Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth and well combined. Gently fold in whipped cream). Add Oreo crumbs and chopped Oreos and gently mix until well combined. Spoon the filling into 4 parfait glasses, and top with additional Oreo crumbs, if desired. Top with a whole Oreo to serve.

 

 

Vanilla Panna Cotta

I realized something quite comical yesterday, while navigating the busy streets of Austin.

My car, which is low to ground to begin with, is practically invisible here in Texas.

Why is that, you might ask? Well, the short answer is that 90% of the population here drive trucks. And of those 90%, 85% of the aforementioned trucks are lifted.

So…. I seem to spend a lot of time staring at bumpers.

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Which makes me feel like the shortest kid in the class.

Vanilla Panna Cotta – adapted from epicurious

  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Pour 1/2 cup milk into a medium bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let sit until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cream, sugar, and remaining 1/2 cup milk in a large saucepan. Scrape vanilla seeds from bean into saucepan; add bean. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cover and let steep for 10 minutes.

Bring cream mixture back to a simmer. Add gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Strain. Divide among six 3/4-cup ramekins. Chill uncovered until panna cotta is set, at least 6 hours.

Using a small sharp knife, cut around edges of each panna cotta. Place a small serving plate atop each ramekin and invert, allowing panna cotta to settle onto plate. Serve with fresh fruit.

 

Chocolate Lasagna

Somehow, I don’t think the Italians had this in mind when they invented lasagna oh-so-many moons ago:

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An Oreo cookie crust, cheesecake filling, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and mini chocolate chips?

Exceptionally unorthodox.

But……… incredibly tasty.

Many thanks to my good friend Lana, who told me about this unusual concoction. And from what I can gather, it is a knock-off of the Chocolate Lasagna formerly served at Olive Garden restaurants.

Chocolate Lasagna – adapted from center cut cook

  • 1 package regular Oreo cookies – about 36 cookies
  • 6 tbs. butter, melted
  • 1- 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs. cold milk
  • 1- 12 ounce tub Cool Whip, divided (I used a pint of heavy cream that I whipped by hand)
  • 2 – 3.9 ounce packages Jello Chocolate Instant Pudding.
  • 3 1/4 cups cold milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
  1. Crush the Oreo cookies into fine crumbs in the food processor.
  2. Transfer the Oreo crumbs to a large bowl. Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and use a fork to incorporate the butter into the cookie crumbs. When the butter is distributed, transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you work on the additional layers.
  3. Mix the cream cheese with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add in 2 tbs. of milk, and sugar, and mix well. Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups Cool Whip (or whipped cream). Spread this mixture over the crust.
  4. In a bowl, combine chocolate instant pudding with 3 and 1/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for several minutes until the pudding starts to thicken. Use a spatula to spread the mixture over the previous cream cheese layer. Allow the dessert to rest for about 5 minutes so that the pudding can firm up further.
  5. Spread the remaining Cool Whip (or whipped cream) over the top. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly over the top. Place in the freezer for 1 hour, or the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.

Baked Vanilla Custards

You know, the little things in life truly make me happy, because deep down, I’m actually a very simple girl.

Although, I will confess that several times during my life, I’ve been accused (unjustly, I might add) of being high maintenance. Or, to paraphrase Billy Crystal in “When Harry met Sally”, I’m the worst kind of girl, because I’m high maintenance but I think I’m low maintenance.

Between me and you, I’m low maintenance.

riiiiiiight.

As I was saying, it doesn’t take much to make me happy, and a new baking book really hits the mark. I was very excited to purchase not one but TWO new baking books last week – it’s been way too long since I’ve done that, and I promptly read each one cover to cover while the posse was away.

Because nothing invites conversation more than a mother sitting down quietly with a book….which is why I waited until they were gone.

And if you have kids, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Anyway, inspiration struck when Mom and Dad came over for dinner last week, and I decided to try these simple baked custards first.

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Although I overbaked them a bit, this really is basic comfort food at its finest – suitable for dressing up or down, with either a bruleed sugar crust, fresh fruit, whipped cream, or powdered sugar.

And I just realized, I have the last one of these in the fridge.

Perfect.

Oh, and I highly recommend serving them warm…..

Baked Vanilla Custards – adapted from Back In The Day Bakery

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and have six custard cups or ramekins ready.

Mix together the eggs, sugar, milk, nutmeg and vanilla. Strain the mixture into a large Pyrex measuring cup. Divide the mixture evenly among the cups, and place the cups into a large baking dish. Add enough hot water to the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the custards are just set. Remove from the oven and serve warm or chilled with fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or whipped cream.