When You Need a Little Pick Me Up: Tiramisu

While there are plenty of things at which I excel, one of the things that I’m not so good at is keeping a tidy and well-organized house.  I struggle with day-to-day chores like vacuuming, dusting and keeping toys picked up and counters wiped off.  It’s just not my thing.  I envy people for whom this comes naturally – like my cousin.  Her house is always spotless, and her kids’ toys are neatly organized and stowed away in color-coordinated bins.  I’m working on it,. but I’m not there yet.My most recent foray into home organization can be seen above.  I got tired of everyone coming home (me included) and leaving their jackets draped across the backs of dining room chairs and kitchen stools, bags sitting on counters or floors and shoes strewn about the house.  I thought if we had a place by the front door where we could remove our shoes and hang our jackets and bags it would be a step in the right direction.  For the last year or so, I’ve been looking for photos of mudrooms and entryways, and when I found something I liked, I would add it to one of my pinterest pin boards.  My goal was to try to recreate these ideas at home on a very restricted budget. I finally managed to do this for under $150, and so far it seems to be working.

Now I just have  to get to work on organizing the rest of the house.  And keeping up with the laundry.  Which is never ending.  Just thinking about all of it is exhausting.

Yesterday, after a morning of house cleaning – which really just entailed me locking myself in my bedroom for four or five hours and filling trash bags with junk and removing every bit of stuff from all of the flat surfaces and thoroughly dusting each and every bit of furniture (including the bookshelves and the books), and vacuuming under the bed, dresser and side tables – I emerged with my lungs full of dust and a hankering for something a little indulgent (as you do).

I settled on Tiramisu, which in Italian means “pick me up.”  It seemed appropriate after a long morning of terrible housework, plus I knew it would be a hit at a neighborhood get together that evening.  Espresso-soaked lady fingers, layered with a rich combination of zabaglione and mascarpone – what’s not to love?

Tiramisu
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 8-10 minutes
rest time: 2-4 hours
yields: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 7 oz. packages lady fingers
  • 2 cups brewed espresso
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Begin by making the zabaglione.  Combine 5 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of honey granules in the top part of a double boiler.  Using a hand-held mixer, beat on high speed until light in color and foamy.  Bring water to a boil in the bottom part of the double boiler then reduce to a simmer. Add the marsala wine to the egg yolk mixter and place over the simmering water.  Continue to beat on high speed until it has thickened and increased in volume – it should form soft mounts.  Removed from the heat, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream, mascarpone and 2 tablespoons of honey granules.  Beat on high using the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.  Once the zabaglione has cooled, fold it into the mascarpone mixture.

For the espresso mixture, take two cups cooled espresso, add 2 tablespoons honey granules and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.  In a glass trifle or baking dish, assemble the Tiramisu.  Begin by dipping one side of each lady finger into the espresso mixture and then laying them in the bottom of the dish.  Once you’ve covered the bottom, pour 1/4 of the mascarpone/zabaglione mixture over the ladyfingers and spread it out to cover them.  Sprinkle this with a dusting of cocoa powder, and repeat three more times (ladyfingers, espresso, mascarpone, cocoa).

Once the whole thing is assembled, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

This was the perfect little pick me up yesterday – the strong espresso plays perfectly against the rich, creamy mascarpone and the eggy zabaglione. Paired with a hot cup of coffee or a bit of freshly brewed espresso, it’ll keep you going for hours.

Enjoy!

 

Sockeye Salmon with Whole Wheat Pasta

I feel like I’ve been terribly negligent in keeping you all updated on my Whole Foods Pantry Challenge.  Because I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to see just what I’ve been cooking with all of those pantry staples – right?  Like you have nothing better to do than sit around wondering about my meal-planning abilities.

Mostly you’re probably just wondering when I’m going to get around to choosing a winner for that awesome $50 Whole Foods gift card.  Don’t ask me why I decided to make that contest go the whole month of January.  In retrospect that seems like an awfully long time.  However, the good news is you still have a week left to enter, so get on it if you haven’t already.  Just follow the link above, or tweet: I want to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift card from @HFM_Alpharetta and @lifeinrecipes: http://bit.ly/AsEio7.  If you’ve already done both of those things, then yay! you’re entered (don’t do it again, though, because you can only enter twice – once in the comments and once on twitter).

Today, I’m talking about salmon.  Which I always want to pronounce saL-man (as in Salman Rushdie).  It’s annoying.  However, it tastes good, and it’s good for you, so I eat it despite the fact that I practically embarrass myself every time I have to ask for it at the fish counter.

I don’t buy salmon (rushdie) often, because I like to buy wild-caught, preferably Alaskan (because their fisheries are reputed to be some of the most sustainable) and that can be expensive.  Luckily, every so often Whole Foods will run a sale, and you can get whole salmon filets for $7.99 a pound (normally it costs $14.99 a pound).  When that happens, like it did this past Friday, I like to stock up.

Today was one of those days where I just didn’t want to do much of anything.  Last night I helped a friend out by catering a dinner for 50 people at her church, so I was tired.  Exhausted really.  And the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  It was a lazy, rainy Sunday, is what it was.

At almost 5:00 this afternoon, I remembered that I was supposed to do the Week 4, Day 3 workout in my Couch to 5K program (I bet you thought I’d given up on that, since I haven’t really talked about it in the last three weeks.  But I didn’t – I’ve been very good.  In fact, today I did something I never thought I’d be able to do – I ran for 20 minutes straight without stopping.  I realize that for some people that is a small feat, but for me (who could barely run for one minute when all of this started), it’s huge).  Despite the fact that the last thing I wanted to do was get on the treadmill and run, I made myself put on my workout clothes, lace up my running shoes, and do it.

The point of all that (aside from giving myself a huge pat on the back) is to say that I usually try to have dinner on the table by 6:00.  If I didn’t start my workout until almost 5:00, that means I didn’t get finished with the workout until almost 5:30, and that means I had fewer than 30 minutes to get dinner ready.  Luckily, fish is fast.

Seared Sockeye Salmon over Whole Wheat Pasta in a Saffron Cream Sauce

adapted from this recipe from Cooking in Sens

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds wild-caught sockeye salmon, cut into 4-oz. portions
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used the spaghetti I bought at the beginning of the month, for the pantry challenge)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white whine
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in boiling water (also from the pantry challenge)
  • parsley for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put a large pot of well salted water on to boil. Cook pasta.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the diced onion and cook until traslucent.
  4. Add the wine and saffron, stir in the mustard and mascarpone.  Cook to thicken a bit.
  5. Add the sundried tomatoes.  Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the the cream sauce and stir to combine.
  7. Heat a large iron skillet over high heat.  Add the olive oil
  8. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper.  Place them in the skillet, skin side down.  Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
  9. Serve  salmon over the pasta, garnish with some chopped parsley.

This was a hit with the entire family.  The youngest asked for seconds, and the oldest barely complained (which in my book is a huge accomplishment).  My husband, who isn’t a huge fan of salmon (he prefers the milder, whiter fishes), even liked it.  The sauce was light and mildly floral from the saffron.  The pasta had a nice bite to it, and the salmon was delicious – crispy skin, nice sear, tender and flaky on the inside (please don’t chastise me for the layer of albumin sneaking out in that picture above.  I realize it’s not cooked to Top Chef perfection, but it was good enough for us).  If you’re looking for a quick, flavorful and relatively healthy meal, this is a a good one.

In Celebration of a Life: Peanut Butter Pie

There’s this strange and wonderful thing called the internet.  On it, you can read the news, catch up with friends, share your thoughts on the day, and find up to the minute tidbits about just about anyone.  It’s really a marvelous and scary place sometimes.The other day, I was doing a little bit of all those things.  I found myself on Twitter, which I use infrequently at best, and this tweet came across my screen.  It was from a fellow blogger – many of you probably saw the same tweet, in fact.  It was from Jennifer Perillo, she of In Jennie’s Kitchen, and it read “He’s gone.  And my heart is shattered in a million pieces.”

I don’t know Jennifer.  I’ve never met her.  I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now, and I read her blog.  I know that she and I are about the same age, we both have two small children, and we both love our husbands dearly.  I know that she works hard to feed her family healthfully and sustainably.  That’s about all, though.  We’re not friends in even the remotest sense of the word.  But when that tweet rolled across my screen, my heart broke for her.  I didn’t even know what it meant at the time, but I knew it must have been something terrible.

Later that day, or maybe early the next, I learned that Jennie’s husband had died suddenly of a heart attack.  And I watched as a virtual community gathered to show their support.  And I marveled at the strength of a woman who could take time during mourning to post this video, and then this beautiful tribute, in memory of her husband.In the second post, Jennie asked that everyone reading make a peanut butter pie, her husband’s favorite, in celebration of his life.  It’s a fitting exercise for a community who came together through food, and a it’s amazing to see the number of people who’ve signed up to participate on the facebook event page.  I’m sure most of them are like me – we don’t know Jennie, but we want her to know that she and her girls are thought of and supported during this difficult time. And that the memory of her husband, and the love they shared, will not be forgotten.

The night that first tweet came across my screen, I was struck to my core by the tenuous nature of life.  I hugged my boys extra long when I put them to bed, and I made it a point to tell my husband how much I loved him before we said good night.  The truth is, we never know what tomorrow, or even later today, may bring.

Peanut butter and chocolate is also my husband’s favorite flavor combination.  He could eat an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups in one sitting if I’d let him.  We’re headed to an end-of-summer pool/dinner party with some friends tonight, so I thought it only appropriate that I make these little peanut butter pies in mason jars to share with everyone.  They were made, after all, in celebration of life.

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. chocolate wafer cookies
  • 4 oz. butter, melted
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  1. Place the cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to create crumbs.
  2. Turn the food processor on and pour the melted butter through the feed tube
  3. Spoon three heaping teaspoons of the crumb mixture into 4-oz. mason jars – there should be enough crumbs to do 12 small jars.
  4. Press the crumb mixture int the bottom of the jar with your thumb.  Refrigerate to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  6. Once crust has set, spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate into each jar and sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.  Refrigerate to set.
  7. Combine the peanut butter and mascarpone cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high to combine.
  8. Slowly add the powdered sugar.
  9. Stir in half the whipped cream, just to loosen the peanut butter mixture.  Carefully fold in the remaining cream, creating a mousse-like filling.
  10. Place the filling in a zip-top bag fitted with a 1-inch star piping tip.  Pipe the mousse into the mason jars.
  11. Sprinkle with chocolate chips to garnish.
  12. Enjoy!

Hug your families, and tell them that you love them every day.

Thank you, Jennifer Perillo, for inviting us to celebrate with you.