chocolate tiramisu

Had I known that my family hated tiramisu, I probably wouldn't have made it for Christmas.

I might note that this is the same family that loves coffee. And cake. And whipped cream. I'll let you ponder that one.

So, anyway, as I was saying: I made this for Christmas not knowing that my family hates tiramisu. So there we were. Post dinner and gingerly touching the tape lines of our doled-out presents, and everyone but me (who loves tiramisu) was preparing themselves to choke down the dessert.

And, now, looking back on it, I do remember some semi-private moments of them staring down the tiramisu as if it was it or them. Note that I was completely oblivious at the time.

I had half a piece down and a couple of presents ("prizies," as my family has come to call them) opened before I noticed that my stepfather was already going for slice number two, mumbling sweet nothings at the remaining coffee-laden hunk that it "just went down so fast."

I really wish I could take credit for this one, guys. And I really wish I could say this one is healthy. But this recipe is Giada's and is just perfect for a special gathering like Christmas. Give it a try when you want a spectacular dessert and can make it a day in advance. And serve it just before eating to keep it looking fresh.

While this was fantastic - yes, with italics - be warned that this one isn't for the faint of heart. It is time-consuming and dishes producing, yet it's so. so. so. worth it. Merry (caffeinated) Christmas to all!

Chocolate Tiramisu
  • 6 ounces container mascarpone cheese
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Chocolate Zabaglione, recipe follows
  • 2 1/2 cups espresso coffee, warmed (I used a bold, decaf Starbucks coffee in a pinch)
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for garnish
  • Optional: dark chocolate shavings, for garnish
  1. Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Then fold in the chilled Chocolate Zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Whisk the warmed espresso and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in another medium bowl until blended. Line a 9 1/4 by 5 by 2 3/4-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to extend over the sides. Working with 1 cookie at a time, dip 8 cookies into the espresso, and arrange in a single layer side by side over the bottom of the prepared pan. 
  3. Spoon 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies to cover. Repeat dipping 8 of the cookies in the espresso and layering the cookies and remaining mascarpone mixture 2 more times. Dip the remaining 8 cookies in the espresso and arrange side by side atop the tiramisu. Press lightly to compact slightly (the last layer will extend above the pan sides). Cover the tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate at least 6 hours.
  4. Unwrap the plastic from atop the tiramisu. Invert the tiramisu onto a platter. Remove the plastic. Sift the cocoa over the tiramisu, and with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, make dark chocolate shavings and sprinkle over top.

Chocolate Zabaglione:
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream, or heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala
  • Pinch salt
  1. Add cream and chocolate to a heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and salt in a large glass bowl until blended. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Whisk the egg mixture over the simmering water until it is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate to chill completely.


infused liquors

For Christmas this year, I went crafty. Craftier than usual. Maybe it was the alcohol that got my creative juices flowing.

We made infused liquors as gifts for friends and family members, a treat which can be enjoyed for weeks (or months, if it lasts that long) to come. And a little recipe book that provides ideas for using the seasonal spirits. Here's how you can make it for someone special in your life.

First, choose your liquors and flavors. I chose tart, cherry-red cranberries for vodka; fresh, piney rosemary for gin; and spicy cinnamon sticks for rum. We infused the gin and vodka in their original bottles, but put the rum straight in their gift jars with the cinnamon sticks, since they don't degrade as easily as the fresh ingredients.

A week before you are ready to give the gift, combine ample amounts of liquor and the add-ins to air-tight, clean jars. Gently swirl the jars a couple of times a day. In a couple of days, the liquors will begin to take on the color of their bottle buddies. 

When the liquor is ready for packaging, start with freshly cleaned (preferable classy or cute) jars. I chose ones with a nice square shape and a pretty cork. Make sure that your jars can be sealed tightly.

Add fresh ingredients (in this case, rosemary and cranberries) to the gift jars. After removing the older ingredients from the original bottles, slowly pour the infused liquors through a sieve and funnel into the gift bottles. This will help the gifts to look nice and fresh for the lucky gift-getters.

Seal tightly and tuck into cute baskets with raffia, ribbon and a note. I also made little drink books to go along with the treats.  

Merry Christmas!


bacon-stuffed portobello mushrooms

Bacon for the win. Again.

This time in an almost-vegetarian dish. (Vegetarians eat bacon, right? They should.) Our produce box this week provided two beautiful portobello mushroom caps, onions, green peppers and garlic. They provided the inspiration (bacon added the ka-pow!) and an easy, and relatively healthy, weeknight meal was born. Especially when served with a green side dish and a small roll for dipping into herby olive oil. Yummmm.

Though the meal does have natural bacon in it, the two-person recipe only calls for two to three slices, which is less than most people would consider a serving size. Three slices average less than 10 g of fat, less than a quarter of which is saturated, and lots of protein. (Just watch the salt and buy low sodium when possible.) And portobello mushrooms are incredibly low in calories, yet high in nutrition, and are very filling - thanks to their high fiber and density. They are packed with B-12 (think energy), potassium (relieves muscle cramping and high blood pressure), copper (helps red blood cells deliver oxygen) and Vitamin D (helps to absorb calcium). Bingo.

Here's how to do it.

Bacon-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, destemmed and gently wiped with a paper towel
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large or 3 small center-cut, natural bacon slices, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 c each onion and bell pepper, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 c Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1/8 c fresh herbs, like rosemary or parsley
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten 
  • Salt, pepper
Start by sauteing bacon in pan. When halfway cooked, add the onion and bell pepper. Salt and pepper lightly. When onion appears translucent, add the garlic. Stir for 30 seconds and remove from heat.
Next, add the bacon mixture to a food processor with the breadcrumbs, herbs, Parmesan, season salt and a swirl of olive oil. Pulse until finely chopped and the ingredients are combined. Remove from processor and place in a bowl with the beaten egg. Stir to combine. 
Gently rub the portobellos with a little olive oil and place in an oven-proof dish. (I prefer pretty ones, like my new orange one shown above.) 

Divide the bacon mixture evenly on top of the portobellos and grate a little Parmesan on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve hot!

Ready for a bacon tip? Buy a good quality, natural bacon with no nitrates, hormones or antibiotics and freeze the slices together in sets of 2-4 pieces. This eliminates waste (therefore saving money) and provides you with pre-portioned amounts for recipes and splurge Sunday-morning breakfasts!