Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Style Italian - Amber and Heather - March 2013

I wondered how long it would be before someone attacked the Italian feast for a gourmet night.  And leave it to Amber and Heather to beyond knock it out of the park.   
A family style feast it was and oh my!
How can you go any way except red and white when you go Italian?!
We started off with make your own Italian Cream Sodas.  A variety of flavors and mixing choices and even the classic "spaghetti factory glasses" to enjoy them in.
 Every detail done to perfection.
 Appetizers were a huge hit and favorites of the evening for some. 
Crispy Prosciutto Cups and Pears
These were unique and fabulous!
Mini Italian Club Sandwiches
We all went back for seconds on these puppies!
and Caprese Dip with Baguette Toasts.  
The table looked perfect.  
I loved that they didn't put a table cloth or place mats on it.  The contrasting wood looked great against the white and red colors.  And how fun is the tomato?!

The edible bread sticks in glass jars with bakers twine was simple, clean and functional.
They had old black and white photos up all around with a little reg paper flag banner on the windows.  
Next we moved onto a lesson in making Gnocchi!  A first for all of us I believe.
It was fun though.
Then it was time to eat!
Soup: Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup
Sandwich: Salami and Spinach Stromboli
My personal favorite!
Drink: Blueberry Basil Limeade
Entrees:  ROUND ONE
Pesto Pasta with Sausage and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Parmesan, Asparagus and Prosciutto Chicken Roll Ups with Gouda Sauce
Seriously incredibly!  I could have drank the sauce.
Broccoli Rabe and Lemon
A new veggie love!
By this point we were unbuttoning our pants and reclining in our seats.  Only to prep for....
Spinach, Mushroom and Four Cheese Lasagna
A fresh, delicious and different twist on lasagna.
Baked Stuff Artichokes
and Gnocchi, Sweet Corn and Arugula with Alfredo Sauce
The fresh corn and Arugula was great in this!
Lets be honest, it just wasn't going to happen.  We had to taste it all of course, but then to-go plates were required!
And if that wasn't just crazy enough there were six desserts.  SIX!
The large pizza paddle and stone were awesome on the table!
Lemon Basil Panna Cotta
One of my favorites of the desserts.
Italian Cream Cake
Double Chocolate Tiramisu
Aren't the Chocolate curls amazing!?!
Sea Salt Nutella Caramels
Loved the salty twist!
Blueberry Zucchini Crumble Bread
and Nutty Nutella Rolls
Really liked these too!
And those got to be a take home to after a few bites!
We sat and chatted in the family room around the dessert table for a extra long time and I'm pretty sure it was because we needed a fork lift to haul us out the front door!  we. were. stuffed.  Such an amazing evening of food!
But we all declared these two officially CRAZY!!!!
Take homes were recipes, a gnocchi board and 
Italian Easter Bread....just because they can!
Amber and Heather, you totally rock and I think I can say you will never be out done!


Caprese Pizza Dip
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 TBSP + 3 TSP Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1,  8 oz block cream cheese, softened at room temp
10 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesean cheese + 2 TBSP
¼  cup roughly chopped basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of dried oregeno

Preheat oven to 425 F.   Line a cookie/baking sheet with foil.  Place tomato halfs on top. Sprinkle with 2 tsp olive oil and salt and bake for 12 minutes.  Take out of oven and set aside.   While tomatoes are roasting, mix softened cream cheese with mozzarella and ¼ cup of parmesaen.  Stir in fresh garlic, basil, oregeno and salt and pepper.  Place the tomatoes in a baking dish.  Top it with cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesaen and sprink 1 tbsp of olive oil on top.   Bake for 20-22 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.   Serve immediately with crackers, chips or baguette toasts.
Recipe courtesy of

Crispy Prosciutto Cups with Pear
3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 ripe Bartless pear, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut prosciutto into 24 two-inch squares. Place one square (overlapping any tears) in each cup of a mini cupcake tin. Bake until fat turns golden, about 15 minutes. Using a fork, immediately transfer to a paper towel to drain; cool completely. In a small bowl, combine pear and juice. Place 1/2 teaspoon mixture in each cup just before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, December 2006

Mini Italian Club Sandwiches
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (about) unsalted butter
10 slices bacon
2 (8-ounce) round loaves focaccia bread (7-inch diameter)
1 cup purchased pesto
8 ounces thinly sliced turkey
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese

Whisk the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until well blended. Heat a 6-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Brush the skillet with some butter. Pour 1/4 cup of the egg mixture into the pan, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Cover and cook until the egg crepe is just set, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Invert the skillet over a plate, and allow the egg crepe to drop onto the plate. Repeat to make 4 crepes total, brushing the skillet with melted butter as needed and stacking crepes on the plate.

Cook the bacon in a heavy large frying pan until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.

Preheat a griddle or grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the focaccia horizontally in half. Place the focaccia cut side down on the griddle and cook until the focaccia is heated through and golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Spread the pesto over the toasted sides of each halved focaccia. Cover the bottom halves of the focaccia with the egg crepes, turkey, provolone and bacon, dividing equally. Cover with the top halves of focaccia, pesto side down. Cut the sandwich into bite-size wedges. Arrange the sandwiches on a platter and serve.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Authentic Italian Focaccia
1 tablespoon of dried yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of barley malt syrup or honey
320 gr (2 3/4 cups) 00 or plain flour
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of water.

1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast with water, add flour, oil and barley malt syrup or honey. Knead for 5 minutes, then add the salt.
2. Knead vigorously until it looks smooth and elastic (feel free to use an electric mixer with a dough hook).
3. Shape into a ball and rest for 20 minutes in a bowl, covered with a tea towel.
4. Stretch it with your hand to form a rectangle and fold into 3 or 4. This step will give strength and texture to your dough and is essential in order to obtain a soft, airy and chewy focaccia.
5.Place the folded dough in an oiled oven tray, cover it with a tea-towel and let it prove for around 90 minutes or until it doubles in size.
6. Once the dough has risen, stretch it out to cover the tray and sprinkle the surface with seasalt.
7. Let it rest for another 30 minutes, than, using your fingertips, press the dough down onto the tray to create lots of little holes.
8. Drizzle the holes with the glaze and sprinkle with some more salt. You can top it with caramelized onion or cherry tomatoes if you wish, but , believe me, this is already amazing as it is.
9. Let it rest for another 20 minutes.
10. Bring your oven to 200 C (390 F), then bake for 20-25 minutes until it looks slighly golden and utterly irresistible.

Recipe courtesy of
Note: We like to use a small brownie pan to get the perfect size. 

Italian Soda Bar
Step 1: Fill your glass up with ice 2/3 of the way full
Step 2: Add your choice of flavored syrup (we provided blackberry, hazelnut and Irish cream, available at Orson Gygi) 
Step 3: Add sparkling water

Step 4: Add dollop of cream or half and half
Step 5: Add fresh fruit or mint and a fun stripy straw

Parmesan Puffed Pastry Breadsticks

1 package puffed pastry
½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Olive oil
½ tsp dried Italian herbs
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put puffed pastry on a floured work surface.  Roll out pastry just a little.  Cut pastry into ¾ inch strips. Brush with olive oil.  Put grated cheese on a parchment paper or large plate.  Sprinkle with Italian herbs and mix.  Drag pastry strip through Parmesan cheese on both sides.  Twist and place on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  (Can use Fleur de Sel)  Bake for 10 minutes, watch closely so they don’t burn.  Remove the parchment with the breadsticks to a cooling rack.  It only takes a few minutes for them to cool.  Place in tall drinking glass and serve!

Recipe courtesy of

Salami & Spinach Stromboli

13.8 ounces Pillsbury artisan pizza crust
1/4 pound thinly sliced salami
4 cups fresh baby spinach
3 ounces fresh mushrooms - thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat mat (or parchment paper).
Unroll pizza dough onto silpat and form into a rectangle. Top with salami, spinach mushrooms and cheese.  Starting on the short end, roll up the dough. Place seam-side down. Lightly brush top with olive oil.  Bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Recipe courtesy of, Copyright Paula Jones.

Tortellini Soup
1 lb. pork sausage
1 clove garlic
1 onion diced
4 can beef broth (4 pints)
1 green pepper diced
2 zucchini sliced
2 cups shredded carrots
1 12 oz. bag tortellini
1 qt spaghetti sauce

Brown sausage, cook tortellini not completely, sauté onions, garlic and green pepper.  Add broth spaghetti sauce and sauté add meat, salt and pepper to taste. Add tortellini.  Fresh parmesan cheese.
Double for big group.    
Recipe courtesy of Emilie Wilding.

Blueberry Basil Limeade 
2 c. fresh lime juice
1 c. blueberry basil simple syrup (recipe below)
5 c. cold, filtered water
Ice, blueberries and basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Mix lime juice with blueberry basil simple syrup.  Add water and stir again. Garnish with a handful of ice cubes, fresh blueberries and a basil leaf.  

Blueberry Basil Simple Syrup

1 c. sugar
1 c. water
8 basil leaves
1 c. fresh blueberries

Pour sugar and water into a small saucepan and stir for a few seconds.  Over medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve in the water.  This will take about 7-10 minutes.  Once dissolved, remove from heat and add the basil leaves and blueberries.  Muddle the syrup a little to extract the flavors (I used a potato masher).  Cover with a lid and steep for 30 – 60 minutes. Place a sieve over a bowl.  Pour the infused syrup into the sieve, allowing the smooth, purple syrup to flow into the bowl.  Place in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to a week

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Brubaker /

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb. fresh brussel sprouts, ends trimmed and any browned outer leaves removed, then sliced in half
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 lb (16 oz.) orecchiette (or any pasta)
4 chicken sausage links (I used spicy Italian), sliced into 1/4" thick coins
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together brussel sprouts, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently stir until well-combined.
Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and then spread the brussel sprouts on it evenly. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, stirring once partway through, or until they are crispy on the outside and cooked on the inside. (My batch of tiny sprouts only took about 12 minutes to cook.) Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until nearly-browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the sausage is browned.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. (I begin heating my water while preparing the brussel sprouts, and added the pasta to the boiling water just after beginning to cook the sausage.) Once the pasta is cooked, drain the water (reserving 1/4 cup pasta water), and then toss together the pasta, pesto, cooked sausage and garlic, and brussel sprouts. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if needed for extra moisture.
Serve warm, and sprinkle with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe courtesy of Gimme Some Oven. (

Canadian Parmesan, Asparagus and Prosciutto Roll-ups with Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
6 slices thinly sliced prosciutto, trimmed of fat
18 asparagus spears, trimmed, blanched (see cooking tip)
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, fillets removed, flattened (about 2 lb/1 kg) (see note)
Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce:
1 tbsp (15 ml) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (310 ml) 1% Milk
3/4 cup (180 ml) shredded Smoked Gouda cheese
1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper
Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
In microwave-safe dish or pie plate, microwave butter until melted. In another shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, Canadian Parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup (80 mL) of the parsley. In shallow dish, place flour. Coat breasts first with flour, then with butter, then with the Parmesan breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat both sides. Place one slice prosciutto atop each chicken breast, lay 3 asparagus spears crosswise on short end of each breast; roll up tightly.
Place seam side down in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) glass or metal baking pan, leaving space between rolls. Press remaining crumb mixture onto rolls; drizzle any butter leftover from coating chicken over the rolls (see cooking tip). Bake for 30 min or until chicken is no longer pink inside and the coating is golden brown. Let stand 10 min.
Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce

Meanwhile, whisk flour into milk. Gradually stir milk mixture into small saucepan. Over medium heat simmer, whisking often, for about 5 min or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add Canadian Smoked Gouda cheese and pepper. Stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
Cut each chicken breast into 3 slices, fan pieces on dinner plate; drizzle with 2 tbsp. (30 mL) Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce. Sprinkle with remaining finely chopped parsley. Serve with additional sauce.

To flatten chicken breasts: Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound with rolling pin or mallet to about 1/4 to 1/8-inch (5 to 3 mm) thick.

To blanch asparagus, plunge spears into boiling water for 1 min; drain and quickly plunge into ice water or cold running water. Pat dry.
Make ahead: Coat, stuff and roll chicken up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Increase baking time by 5 min. Reheat Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce in microwave on medium (50 %) power for 2 min or until heated through. Stir occasionally.
Recipe courtesy of
Guiltless Alfredo Sauce (used on Gnocchi)
2 cups low fat milk
1/3  cup (3 oz.) low fat cream cheese
2-3 T flour
1 t salt
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Place milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth.  In a non-stick sauce pan, melt butter on med-high heat and add garlic. Let the garlic sauté for about 30 seconds, you don’t want to burn it.     
Recipe courtesy of

Potato Gnocchi
4 large (about 2 pounds) Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons plus 2 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.     Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.
2.     Meanwhile, fill another large saucepan with cold water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. (These are for cooking and cooling the gnocchi.) Drain potatoes, and peel while still hot, holding them with a clean kitchen towel. Pass potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with the finest disk onto a lightly floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound of potatoes, and sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes. Break eggs into the well, and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the pepper. Using a fork, lightly beat eggs, and incorporate the remaining ingredients to form dough. Knead lightly on the work surface until the dough is soft and smooth.
3.     Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Divide dough into four balls, and shape each ball into a rope 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Shape the gnocchi: Hold a dinner fork in one hand, and use your index finger to hold a cut edge of a piece of gnocchi against the curved back of the tines of the fork. Press into the center of the gnocchi with your index finger to make a deep indentation. While you are pressing the piece against the tines, flip it away over the tip of the fork, allowing the gnocchi to drop to the work surface. If the gnocchi becomes sticky, dip fork and index finger into flour. The finished gnocchi will have ridges on one side and a depression on the other. At this point, gnocchi can be refrigerated on a lightly floured baking sheet for several hours before boiling and serving.
4.     To cook gnocchi, drop half of them into the boiling water, and cook until they float to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in the ice bath for about 20 seconds. Transfer from ice bath, to a colander, and repeat process with the other half of the dough.
Recipe courtesy of Martha

Gnocchi, Sweet Corn & Arugula in Cream Sauce

3 medium-sized fresh sweet corn on the cob
3 C fresh arugula (I used a mix of fresh arugula and spinach) 
¾ C fresh mushrooms, chopped (optional) 
1 pound potato gnocchi
¾ C half and half (or half heavy cream, half whole milk/skim) 
3 oz. light cream cheese
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t fresh basil, julienne
¼ t black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper 
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling 

Bacon bits

In a large pot, boil water and cook gnocchi according to package directions, adding in the corn on the cob in the last 5 minutes. Remove corn, transfer to cutting board. Drain gnocchi, but make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Don't rinse your gnocchi.

For the cream sauce, combine half and half, cream cheese, salt, garlic powder, fresh basil, and pepper in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium for about 10 minutes, stirring until cream cheese has evenly dispersed throughout sauce. Stir in reserved pasta water.

Slice your corn off the cob.  In a medium bowl, combine your pasta sauce, corn, gnocchi and arugula. Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, basil, and crushed red pepper if desired.

**We used Best Bites Guiltless Alfredo Sauce with chopped up basil instead of the sauce used in the above recipe.
Recipe courtesy of Baking with adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Spinach, Mushroom, and Four Cheese Lasagna

1 (20-ounce) package fresh spinach, tough stems removed and washed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 pound Portobello mushrooms, stems removed and sliced (about 3 large)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
15 ounces fresh ricotta
1 1/2 cups grated Fontina or provolone
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a large spoon to release as much water as possible. Finely chop and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and have given off their liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To make the béchamel sauce, in a large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, to make a light roux, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, and 1 cup of the Parmesan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.  In a bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and mozzarella cheeses. Fold in 1/4 cup of the béchamel sauce.

Across the bottom of a deep-dish lasagna pan (13 by 9-inches), spoon enough béchamel sauce to cover (about 1/2 cup). Then add 1/4 of the mushrooms and sprinkle 1/4 of the spinach across. Arrange a layer of cooked noodles side-by-side across the sauce. Spread another layer of béchamel over the noodles and top with more spinach, mushrooms, and cheese. Repeat layering with sauce, noodles, spinach, and cheese 2 more times, ending with noodles on top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of Parmesan over the top, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the noodles are tender and the lasagna is hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until golden brown on top, about 10 minutes.

Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, Food

Baked Stuffed Artichokes


2 fresh artichokes
1 fresh lemon cut in half
1 small onion, rough chopped
8 cups water
4 cups white grape juice
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 ea bay leaf
4 ea peppercorn, black


6 Tbsp. provolone cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated


¼ cup butter, salted
1 cup onion, small diced
¼ tsp. fresh garlic, chopped
1 tsp basil, fresh chopped (1/4 tsp dry)
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 ¼ cup focaccia or French bread, small diced
½ cup white grape juice
½ tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
Pinch black pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Use scissors to snip off sharp points of each artichoke leaf.  Combine lemon halves, chopped onion, water, wine, bay leaf and peppercorns in a stock pot. Bring to a boil; add artichokes.  Simmer until artichokes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and allow artichokes to cool in stock.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add remaining onions and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and let cool.  Cut cooled artichokes in half, lengthwise, exposing inner leaves.  Scoop out center prickly leaves with a teaspoon, leaving the choke (heart) intact. Place stuffing in the hollowed-out artichoke.  Top with cheeses and bake at 350ºF until center is hot (about 20 minutes).
Adapted from a recipe courtesy of

Lemon Broccoli Rabe

1 gallon water
2 bunches broccoli rabe, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1 lemon, zested
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large sauce pot, bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Allow garlic to brown.

Add broccoli rabe to skillet with toasted garlic. Toss to combine. Toss in Parmesan and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Recipe courtesy Aaron McCargo, Food

Italian Cream Cake

1 c. buttermilk
1 t. baking soda
5 eggs, separated
½ c. unsalted butter
2 c. sugar
½ c. shortening
2 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
1 t. vanilla extract
7 oz. angel flake coconut
1 c. pecans, chopped (optional) 
additional coconut or white chocolate shavings or whole pecans for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly butter and flour three 8” cake pans.  Mix the buttermilk and the baking soda in a small bowl and set it aside.  In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy and set them aside.  In another large bowl, cream the butter, shortening, and sugar.
Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating each thoroughly.  To the butter and sugar, add the flour and the buttermilk alternatively, mixing gently.   Add the vanilla, the coconut, and the pecans if you are using them.  Fold the egg whites in gently with a spatula as not to deflate them.  Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans and smooth the tops.Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean, about 35 minutes. I rotate the position of the cakes halfway through baking so that they bake evenly.  This cake is incredibly tender and moist, a real charmer, when it’s perfectly baked, so don’t wait for a perfectly clean toothpick.  You don’t want wet batter, but don’t be afraid of a few moist crumbs clinging.
When the cakes are cool, make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
¾ c. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ pounds confectioner’s sugar, sifted or whisked to remove any lumps
1 ½ T. vanilla

Beat all of the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.  To frost the cake, place a dab of frosting on a cake plate and place the first cake layer on top, flattest side up.  Smear about ½ c. of frosting on the layer and spread it evenly. An offset spatula works best here, though any knife will do.  Continue stacking and frosting the next two layers, always placing the flattest side of the cake up.  When your stack is finished, put a very thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake and place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Keep the remaining frosting at room temperature.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and frost the sides generously.  You may cover the cake with coconut or with shavings of white chocolate or stud it with whole pecans if you wish. A combination is also nice.  The cake should be refrigerated. You may bring it towards room temperature before serving if you wish, but don’t let it sit out too long. It cuts best if it’s cool.

Recipes courtesy of, From Dianne Libero, Tokyo, 1998

Nutty Nutella Rolls
16 oz (2 cans) original Pillsbury crescent rolls
½ cup Nutella
½ cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 6 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.  Unroll first can of crescent rolls. Pinch seams together to form 1 large rectangle.  Spread Nutella onto crescent dough, leaving approximately 1” space from sides. Sprinkle hazelnuts randomly on top of Nutella.  Unroll second can of crescent rolls. Pinch seams together to form a1 large rectangle. Set dough on top of first layer. Carefully press sides together.
Using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife) cut 6 vertical strips. Twist strips into a coil. Place coiled strips into muffin tins. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.  Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Recipe courtesy of, Copyright Paula Jones with bellalimento

Ladyfinger Recipe
If you are using this to make tiramisu cupcakes, either cut this recipe in half or double the tiramisu cupcake recipe.
4 eggs, separated
2 tbsp + 2/3 C white sugar
1 C. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line two 17x12 inch baking sheets with baking parchment.  (Or, if you are going to use these for tiramisu cupcakes, line a 12 cupcake tin with cupcake liners).  Fit large pastry bag with a plain ½ inch round tube.  If you don’t have one, just cut off the end of a Ziploc bag.  Place egg whites in a bowl and beat on high until soft peaks start to form.
Slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy.  In another bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar.  Whip until thick and very pale in color.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.  Fold half the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.  Fold in flour, and then add the remaining egg whites.  Transfer mixture to the pastry bag (or Ziploc bag) and pipe strips that look like lady fingers (or whatever shape you’d like) onto the prepared baking sheet.  Alternatively, evenly divide the batter between the cupcake liners.  The cupcake liners will not be filled to the top.  Fold in flour, and then add the remaining egg whites. Bake for 8 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of This lady finger recipe is adapted ever so slightly from the ladyfinger recipe on AllRecipes.
Note: We like to pour all the batter in a small brownie pan lined with baking parchment paper.  Bake like a cake for about 12 minutes, cool and slice in strips.  

Double Chocolate Tiramisu
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
24 ladyfinger cookies (from a 7-ounce package) (see homemade ladyfinger recipe)

In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with 1 1/2 cups very hot water until dissolved; set cocoa mixture aside. In a small microwave-safe bowl, place 1/4 cup cream and chocolate; microwave in 1-minute increments, and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature.
Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl; add cream cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended. Add remaining cream; beat chocolate filling until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Spread 1 cup chocolate filling in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. One at a time, dip 6 ladyfingers in cocoa mixture, then arrange in a single layer in dish; spread with 1 cup chocolate filling. Repeat with three more layers, ending with filling.
Cover tiramisu, and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Dust with cocoa powder before serving.
Recipe courtesy of

*Serve with chocolate curls           
First, USE GOOD CHOCOLATE. Think about it, when you put one of those chocolate curls in your mouth, you want it to taste amazing! I like to use chocolate bars like Green & Black’s Chocolate. They melt beautifully and taste delicious. Two important points when making (and eating) chocolate curls!
So, melt your chocolate bar (I used Green and Black’s 85% Dark Chocolate). I stuck mine in a glass microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds. Stir and heat another 30 seconds. Pour your melted chocolate onto a metal baking sheet (preferably one with no sides, it makes it easier to work with). I used a metal cookie sheet. Try to shape your melted chocolate into a large square, using a knife or spatula. You can decide how thin you want it. I wanted some thicker chocolate curls. If you go too thin your curls will break. Once you have your square of melted chocolate, stick your baking sheet in the refrigerator. I set the timer for 7 minutes, no more no less. It comes out perfect. The chocolate isn’t HARD, but it also isn’t runny. You may need to play with this time, depending on your refrigerator and the thickness of your chocolate square. If your chocolate gets too hard, put it back in your bowl, heat it, and start over!  Now that you removed your chocolate from the fridge, take a metal spatula (I use a small Pampered Chef spatula…not that silicone kind). You can also use a brand new putty knife. Yep, that would work great too. Scrape your spatula along the end of your chocolate square slowly and the curls will form! Here is the first video I watched in how to do it properly from Heather of Sprinkle Bakes: VIDEO. You can see in that video she made small curls like the ones I have on top of the trifle. But if you take your spatula you can change the thickness of your curl and make “tubes.” So fun. AND, if you used good chocolate, SO delicious!
Chocolate curls courtesy of

Lemon Basil Panna Cotta

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
8 lemon basil leaves

zest of 2 large lemons
juice of 2 large lemons
1 package unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1 7.5 container crème fraîche

Lightly coat 8 3/4 cup ramekins with a mist of vegetable oil.  Mix milk and cream in a heavy, medium saucepan with a whisk.  Split the vanilla bean down the center and use a spoon to scrape the seeds out thoroughly (I like to use a grapefruit spoon).  Place the seeds in the milk/cream mixture, as well as the bean itself.  Next, add the lemon basil leaves.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium/medium-high heat.  Remove from the heat.  Cover and allow to steep for 40 minutes.  Remove bean and lemon basil leaves.

Pour the fresh-squeezed lemon juice into a bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon juice and allow it to stand for about 10 minutes.  Stir the sugar and gelatin mixture into the lemon basil infused milk/cream mixture.  Stir over low heat until both sugar and gelatin dissolve (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Whisk in the crème fraîche and lemon zest. 

Place 8 ramekins in a casserole dish.  Divide custard mixture amongst ramekins (I find a very small ladle works nicely here).  Cover with a large piece of plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.

Before serving, take all the ramekins out of the casserole dish (but keep them close by).  Fill the bottom 1/2 inch of the casserole dish with hot tap water.  Run a small knife around each panna cotta.  One at a time, place each ramekin in the hot water for about 1 minute.  Then, invert the panna cotta immediately onto a serving plate.  Serve with fresh berries.  Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Brubaker /

Nutella Sea Salt Caramels
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Nutella
fleur de sel to garnish

In a heavy bottomed large sauce pan, add: butter, sugars, syrup, sea salt and cream. Bring to a boil and stir until sugars are dissolved and mixture is well combined.
Using a candy thermometer, when mixture reaches 230 degrees remove from heat and stir in vanilla and Nutella.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then pour into an 8×8 pan that has been lined with parchment paper.
Allow to cool in pan slightly, sprinkle with fleur de sel and then refrigerate for several hours. Once chilled, cut into small squares.  Caramels can be wrapped individually in wax paper.

Recipe courtesy of, Copyright Paula Jones with bellalimento.

Blueberry Zucchini Crumble Bread
For the Crumb Topping: (We doubled the crumb topping)
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 Tbsp. cold butter
For the Bread:
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
1 tbsp lemon zest (optional)
To make the topping: In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and oatmeal. Using your fingers, blend the butter into the other ingredients until well mixed. Mixture will be crumbly but should stick together in clumps when you squeeze it. Set aside.
To make the bread: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until slightly foamy. Add the oil, sugar and vanilla to the beaten eggs, and mix until well blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until well incorporated, but do not over mix.
Using a spatula, fold in the grated zucchini and blueberries. Stir by hand until thoroughly combined but try and not break up the blueberries.
Sprinkle a 1/3 of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the greased and floured loaf pan. Carefully pour the batter into the pan and evenly sprinkle the remaining crumble topping over the batter. It's okay to have some larger pieces of crumble on top of the bread.
Place the pan into a preheated oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for about 20 minutes in pan before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.