Monday, November 30, 2009

Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peppermint Filling - When You Need to Bake and an Award

My goodness - this may be the longest blog title in my history - and I am wordy. When my daughter starting dating her boyfriend, they baked. Well, sort of. Box mixes and pre-made cookie dough lined the kitchen cabinets a few nights a week. That was when they were seniors in high school. That was then.

This is now. What a difference three years makes.

Why they needed to bake a complex holiday chocolate cake when the fridge was filled with turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple tart, pumpkin bread, etc. remains to be seen. But the need to bake comes from a powerful zen-like place and Saturday was designated "Bake a splashy chocolate cake day."
They assigned each other duties: You make the ganache, I bake the layers, you mix the filling, I'll crush the chocolate squares.

The Christmas CD's went on in the kitchen and they baked and sifted and stirred and chopped and voila! A Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peppermint Filling straight from the pages of Bon Appetit.

The cake was split in half and each family got to sample the cake. Gooey, creamy, minty, lusciously velvety smooth, it is an offering of love.

In truth, we had a weekend of great poignancy. The very act of stirring and sifting and filling your head with the next step of a recipe is a wondrous thing. And in the end, just by the mere act of following directions, you can create sweetness. And that's what they did. Since they didn't change a thing, you can go to Bon Appetit and find the recipe here: Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peppermint Filling. It is a grand addition to your holiday table.
Meanwhile, an Apple and Pear Salad gets all dressed up for the holidays here.

I will confess to being remiss about posting awards. They are appreciated and I want to thank My Little Space for gentle reminders and Claudia at Pegasus Legend for thinking of me. It belongs on all of your blogs. Please, post it - some sparkly gold for the holidays is good for the heart.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving ... have a cranberry in Marsala wine on me

I am up to my earlobes in yams, pumpkin, citrus salt, sausage stuffing, maple glazed carrots and there's a turkey in there somewhere. Rock 'n roll is blaring and I couldn't be happier. But I needed a pause - to say Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
I figured out how to make cranberry sauce Italian - Marsala wine! Cooked it in sugared-Marsala with Pom syrup and pomegranates. The jewel-like recipe is here (in case you hadn't decided yet!). May you be well-fed, well-loved and warm. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pumpkin-Mascarpone Pie, An Award and Thanks

I have a story about this pie. Well, actually - it's a secret. So I cannot tell you yet - because if a family member should read this ... But it has to do with my taking a perfectly good American tradition and then giving it an Italian twist. "Why can't I leave well enough alone," exclaim some people? (Non-Italians.) And I can't. I'm still tyring to figure out how to get pasta on my Midwest Thanksgiving table.

This is pretty close to the pumpkin pie recipe on the canned pureed pumpkin! I periodically lower the sugar amount - thinking pumpkin is sweet enought, thank-you. But I was determined (shh) to make this pie a tad Italian. And why not celebrate harvests world-wide? I'll start with Italy and you can run with the ball!
Oh and the crust! make your favorite. Use pasta frolla, use Cook's Illustrated - whatever works in your day. Or buy a prepared one!

Gather your ingredients:

1 can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar (sometimes I flip-flop the sugars)
2 eggs

1t cinnamon

1t ground ginger

1/2t nutmeg (I freshly grate it and guess and usually use more)

1/4t ground cloves

1/4t salt

1t vanilla

1 8-oz container mascarpone

Mix your pumpkin, sugars and eggs.

Add the spice and vanilla.

Watch the color brighten after the creamy clouds of mascarpone are blended in.Pour into favorite pie crust and cook at 350 degrees F for one hour till set. (Stoves vary so check your pie after 50-55 minutes. Mine took exactly one hour.) Cool and serve with spoonfuls of whipped cream. (Can be made one day ahead of time. Cool, cover and refrigerate. If desired, rewarm in 325 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes.)

Piping hot.

And perfect.

But going ...

going ...


gone. As American as apple ...well pumpkin pie and as rich as the tapestries of Italy. Layered, sweet, spiced, creamy and "worth the calories!"

I would like to offer thanks and .. apologies. My Little Space presented me with the sweetest of awards:

... in October. As I have only been posting on the run and once a week these days, I have yet to post it. So I am posting it proudly and happily and thankfully. My Little Space
is a treasure trove of wonderful recipes: breads, sweets, yams, dim sum. Pay a visit. I promise you you'll stay.
I am grateful for so much: being busy which means I have a rich full life, cyberspace friends who I feel I chat and drink coffee (and ahem wine) with many days and that my table does have a harvest when so many do not. I would like to pass to all but last time I did that, there were no takers. You are all so shy. So for today, the friendship blogger will go to:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A plate of cheese, a Pip, and thou

On Thanksgiving, you have your traditionalists that must have a certain stuffing, must have mom's Pumpkin pie and you must make the gravy the way Grandma made it. Happily, with appetizers - you can play. I always had an Italian-American Thanksgiving (where pasta was served before the turkey; this terrified my husband in our early years - the ravioli was brought to the table and he thought there would be no turkey. He ate all and was full when the turkey arrived). This year one of my Italian touches will be the Italian Cheese Platter. It's no-cook (freeing up the stove) and easy to assemble plus - it's just plain Italiany, autumn-goodness, sweet, savory, splendiferous fun!

I treated my family to a "trial run." Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, asiago, boschetto with truffles, goat cheese, a piave, taleggio - what's not to like? I will be adding some provolone and buttery bel paese on Thanksgiving.
I scattered almonds, grapes, Sicilian olives, chocolate turkeys and pickled vegetables.

Raspberries, balsamic vinegar jelly and cranberry-fruit spread were the condiments.

The fresh mozzarella paired well with the sun-dried tomatoes on bread.

The asiago stood up to the salty Sicilian olives and pickled carrots.

Some balsamic vinegar jelly atop tangy, creamy goat cheese - brought together with some rosemary crackers from Panzanella.
The taleggio took all in stride: the berry fruit spread, the olives and the raspberries. Nutty, mellow as a cream-cloud, it was the first cheese to disappear.

I am looking at adding Celebrity's goat cheese with cranberries and cinnamon for Thanksgiving. Just the scent alone is worth the plating!
And our little mischievous feline Pip? He's back chasing the dog's tail, sliding cell phones under the stove and demanding snuggles and nuzzles. Cats with FIP have had decent success with holistic treatment. I am grateful for all.
For product information and more detailed info: Click here
For information on making your own cheeses: Click here

Monday, November 9, 2009


Tapenade. It has been my breakfast, lunch and dinner. My daughter's after-school snack and my husband's late night appetizer. I am not home. I didn't even make the tapenade! I have been betwixt and between Betwixt and Betweened and Stuart Little. I never do two shows at one time. But I thought - as the playwright - how often do I need to be at rehearsals? Well, come dress rehearsal - a lot. Mainly for support. When 23 middle school students premiere a new play, the excitement is infectious, contagious and joyous. They want to chat with the playwright. And so after writing every morning, I spent my afternoons at a Black Box Theatre in Mahtomedi, MN and then ran to Lakeshore Players in White Bear Lake to audition, cast and start work on Stuart Little. It's kind of like dividing your time between Never-Never Land and Oz. En route, I smeared cream cheese on a slice of Italian bread and covered it all with some olive tapenade.

Heaven. My reward. My treat. Salty, tangy, briny olives mixing with the milky creaminess of the cream cheese (mascarpone would be good!).
Scarfing them down at home, in a car and at the theatre. Olives running down my chin. I felt decadent - living on a rich Mediterranean treat. No bags of potato chips for me!
I bought the tapenade. But if you'd like to try your hand at making your own, a simple recipe can be found here.
Amid cars overheating, lovely open-faced youthful eyes staring at me during auditions, glorious autumn days, belly rubs for the dog and planning my daughter's 21st birthday, we have had lots of cuddles and nuzzles with Pip. (aka Pippin, Sir Pipster, Pipperoni, Pyip).
The little fellow does indeed have something nasty. And one can learn a lot in two weeks. Because there is no traditional treatment, he is being treated holistically by "my-friend-the-research-veterinarian" and we have decided that we will take all the Pip time we can get. Even when he is knocking over hot candles, climbing the chandelier, chasing the dog's tail and sneezing into my coffee and wine.