Summer Berry Trifle

Ah Summertime. Sweet, sweet summertime. The skies are blue, the sun is shining. It gets a little hot, but that’s what the pool and slip ‘n slide are for, right? Most important, it’s perfect BBQ weather!

Even though the first official day of summer isn’t until June 21, we usually consider Father’s Day our first BBQ of the Summer. 

This year, we weren’t going to be able to spend Father’s Day with my dad and the rest of my family, so my parents came up to our house the day before. We threw a tri tip on the smoker and I made my slow cooker baked beans, some cornbread, and cut up some watermelon. 

It was all delicious and led up to this super yummy dessert. Fruit this season has been so good here in SoCal, so I asked my husband if I should make a peach cobbler or a berry trifle. His answer was a resounding yes for the berry trifle.

This looks really pretty and people will think it was a lot of work, but it really isn’t. And it is so yummy! The fresh berries are so sweet and refreshing, so there isn’t really a lot of added sugar. You can make the vanilla custard from scratch, which is so good, but if you wanted to make it even easier you could use instant pudding and it would still be just as delicious.

For the pudding:

1/2 cup sugar

5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the berries:

1 lb of strawberries 

1 small container each of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries (I think they are about 6 oz)

1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries

For the cake:

Store bought pound cake

For the whipped cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you want it

Start with the custard:

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

Add the milk, and whisk together so everything is very well combined. Turn the heat in medium-high. Let the mixture come to a boil for about 30 seconds. It will become thick.

Put your egg yolks (make sure it’s yolks only… Don’t ask…) to a bowl and add a little bit of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs. Whisk together and then add that back into the rest of the milk. 

Add your butter and vanilla and pour into a bowl to let cool completely.

While you wait for the custard to cool, you can prep your berries. I left the blueberries and raspberries whole, but I cut up the blackberries and strawberries. You can really use whatever berries and fruit you like.

Sprinkle with a little sugar and let sit until ready to assemble.


To assemble:

Cut the pound cake into 1″ cubes. Put 1/3 on the bottom of a trifle bowl. Top with 1/3 of the custard. I thinly sliced some strawberries and put them around the side of the dish. This is decorative and optional, but easy enough. Then add 1/3 of the berry mixture on top of the pudding.

Repeat your layers, ending with the last of the berries.

Just before serving, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form. Top the trifle with the whipped cream.

This was so good. Really… SO GOOD!! We all had seconds… and maybe little bites here and there as I walk past the fridge. Maybe.

The berries are sweet and refreshing. The pudding gets slightly absorbed into the pound cake and it all just comes together in the most delicious way possible.

And the main component is berries, so you know, it’s practically good for you. 

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Italian Love Cake 

I first saw this cake on Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show on Food Network. It looked really good when she made it, so I saved the recipe to my Pinterest board and then, as with most Pinterest pins, promptly forgot all about it. 

When it came time to make a meal for my friends who just had their baby, I found myself going with an Italian theme (lasagna, Caesar salad, garlic bread). I wanted to make dessert too and randomly this cake popped into my head. 

Valerie called it “Sicilian Love Cake” on her show so I thought “Perfect. An Italian cake to go with the Italian dinner!” Well, when I Googled “Sicilian Love Cake” all I got was Valerie’s recipe. I did find a few others for “Italian Love Cake” so I assumed that she just tweaked the name a little because she’s Sicilian. I changed my Google search accordingly and as it turns out, there is no real reason why this cake is called Italian Love Cake. It just is. Maybe because of the ricotta and mascarpone? Italian cheeses = Italian cake? 

That reminds me of a funny-ish story. Growing up, my mom used to make these things called Tamale Buns. They were a recipe from her grandmother and they are delicious. They sound really weird and you will think I’m completely off my rocker, but I promise they are really good: It’s dinner rolls carved out into little vessels. The filling is a mix of tomato soup, corn kernels, diced green chiles, chopped hard-boiled egg, and cheese. This is all baked in the oven. I know, I know. Report me to the foodie police, it sounds bizarre, but I promise it’s good. Anyway, the point of me bringing it up is that apparently, my great grandmother, being the small-town Utah woman she was, called them Tamale buns because they had green chiles in them. Chiles = Mexican = Tamales. Insert eye roll here. That’s what I thought of when I read why this cake is called Italian Love cake. 

Italian cheese = Italian cake

Green chiles = Mexican meal 

All settled on how that works? Good. 

This cake is really simple and it looked really yummy. Since I was giving it to friends, I couldn’t have a piece myself, but I did lick the spatula when I made the frosting, and OMG!!!! You guys, it was heavenly. I think it may be my new go-to chocolate frosting for anything. Cookies, cakes, eating off the spoon. Anything.

Sicilian Love Cake by Valerie Bertinelli

As found on FoodNetwork.com 

CAKE:

1 box chocolate cake mix, plus the ingredients called for in the directions 

MASCARPONE-RICOTTA FILLING 

28 oz ricotta cheese

4 oz mascarpone

3 eggs

¾ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt 

COCOA-MASCARPONE FROSTING 

10 oz mascarpone

1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)

1 box instant chocolate pudding mix (3.9 oz)

1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven according the directions on the cake mix. Prep the cake batter according the directions on the box and pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Set aside. (Don’t bake it yet).

Make the filling: Combine the ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, sugar, and salt in a mixer and whisk until smooth. Gently pour the filling onto the top of the chocolate cake batter so the top is completely white. Maybe I didn’t do mine “gently” enough, but the top of my cake batter was not completely white. Not even close. The idea is when you bake the cake, the cheese filling settles to the bottom and make a layer. According to my friends who ate it, it worked, so I guess it was fine how I did it.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the chocolate layer has risen to the top, about 50-60 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.

Make the frosting: Whisk together the mascarpone, milk, chocolate pudding mix, and sugar until smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the cake and serve.

Again, I’m sorry I don’t have a final picture of the cake showing the layers, but I was told this one was delicious too! There is a nice photo on the Food Network site though!

And take my word for it… make a little extra frosting!

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna 

Recently, some friends of mine had a baby, a little boy. This was baby number 2 for them (their oldest daughter and my oldest son are the same age).

As someone who has had a couple of kids herself, I can attest to the fact that after having a baby, the last thing you want to do is worry about making dinner (or breakfast or lunch for that matter). Not only are you exhausted in the first couple weeks while adjusting to this new person now living in your house, but you are also just completely engrossed in the sweet, sweet baby snuggles that your newborn is providing you with. 

That’s why I think one of the best things you can do for someone after having a baby is to bring them food. Preferably something that will create leftovers that will last them a few meals. I’m talking some good comfort food here. It will give them one less thing to worry about taking care of and they will appreciate it more than you could even imagine. Trust me. 

There are many options that would make for a good meal to take to someone, but this is one of my favorites. This lasagna is so good. It’s meaty and cheesy and pasta-y (yeah, I said it…). Paired with some warm, buttery garlic bread and a nice salad (you gotta get a little green in there!) and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort food meal. 

I’d like to point out that this lasagna freezes very well and lasts up to 2 months in the freezer. This makes it a good addition to any freezer meal plan you may have if you do the make-ahead meals, or if you know lots of other people will also be bringing someone food. This way they don’t have to eat it right away. 

Lasagna may have different components to prep, but it is very easy to put together: 

9 Lasagna noodles, boiled per package directions

1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef (you know those packages at the store aren’t exact. You can also use turkey if you want.)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tsp each salt and pepper

15 oz tub of ricotta cheese

2-1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend

2-3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred; it doesn’t matter)

Boil your noodles per the package instructions and set aside. If the noodles are done early, drizzle a little olive oil on them so they don’t stick together.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown your ground beef. When it is almost done, carefully drain as much of the rendered fat as you can, put it back on the stove and add the garlic, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. You don’t need much salt because of all the cheeses you are going to use. Mix together until the meat is cooked through.

Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.

Now assemble:

Spread a little tomato sauce on the bottom of your pan. (PS: I love these disposable aluminum pans for freezer meals and meals to take to friends.)

Add a layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the meat sauce, and a 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend.

Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese blend on top.

Bake covered at 350 for 40-45 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-15 until the cheese is all bubbly and golden brown.

 

Sorry I don’t have an “after” shot of the baked lasagna, but since I was giving it to a friend, I didn’t want to bake it first. I did receive a text message the next day saying they all loved it so much and everyone had seconds. They barely saved room for the chocolate cake I made them for dessert, which I will share in my next post because it was super easy and the frosting was to die for.

What’s your favorite take-along or freezer meal?

Slim Down: Week 4

So there was a bit of a delay in this week’s post. If you noticed, sorry about that. If not, then, you should be fine. :0) I tend to type these posts up in spurts of downtime at work and I was not feeling well Wednesday or Friday so I didn’t have anything I’d already written and I really didn’t want to re-write anything. Better late than never, right?
I’m really starting to notice the weight loss in myself. The way my clothes are fitting, how I feel when I sit or lay down… there’s just less of me and that’s a good thing. I also feel healthier. The working out and the vegetables that were missing before are really making a difference.


I’ve also noticed that when I do cheat, it’s easier to only cheat a little and it doesn’t completely ruin all my hard work. One night, my hubby and I went to celebrate losing 10 pounds each and we split our favorite cheeseburger. Because of the portion control we’ve been experiencing, I was perfectly content with only half of the burger (it is a big burger). I was only up .2 pounds the next morning and it quickly melted off by the day after that.

Also, this past weekend, a friend and I went to see The Little Mermaid concert at The Hollywood Bowl (so, ridiculously amazing, but that’s another post for another time), and we picnicked with a group of people. I didn’t eat terribly, but it was definitely not in the Nutrisystem plan. The next morning I weighed in and I had maintained my weight.

Progress report: 4.6 lbs lost this week* for a total of 12.4 lbs lost since May 1. (*Well, a week plus a few days…)

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal Cranberry Bites: I really liked these! They were really delicious! At first I didn’t think there’d be enough, but I felt like it was a good breakfast.


Dinner:

  • Meatballs in Tomato Sauce: The package calls this “spicy” tomato sauce, but it wasn’t spicy at all. It tasted like regular marinara sauce. That being said, this was very good. I made some spaghetti squash to go with it (since it is part of the unlimited veggies) and it made for a really good meal. Oh! About the spaghetti squash: I’ve always roasted my spaghetti squash. You know, cut it half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, put it the oven. I don’t really like doing it this way because 1. Cutting uncooked hard squash (like spaghetti or butternut, for example) terrifies me. I swear, I’m going to stab myself one of these days; and 2. I never felt that the cooked squash was really a good noodle substitute. The squash remained a bit crunchy.


Well, all that changed when I made this, dear readers. Are you ready for this? I used my slow cooker!! I know, I know… I’m probably really late to the party on this one, but let’s just pretend I’m not and I just blew your mind with this amazing kitchen discovery. Deal? It was perfect. All you have to do is poke some holes all over the squash (no stabbing threat!), put it in the slow cooker with 1-1/2 cups of water, and cook for 5-6 hours on low. You cut it in half after it is cooked (much easier) and the squash inside was so soft! It was life-changing I tell ya.

  • Turkey medallions with mashed potatoes: This was really, really good. I loved it. The turkey was good. The gravy was good. Even the mashed potatoes were good. I made some veggies to go with it and it was a really filling meal. I’m definitely adding more of these for future orders.


Dessert:

  • Cheesecake Bar: Not bad! A lot of these bars I find to be good flavor-wise, but really chewy. Like, my-jaw-hurts-when-I’m-done-with-it chewy. This was soft and creamy in the middle and actually did taste like cheesecake. Two thumbs up!
  • Chocolate cupcake: Really good. It was almost like a Hostess cupcake, but without the cream filling. The only thing I didn’t like about it is that it was frozen and you just have to let it sit out to thaw. Usually when I’m ready for my dessert, I’ve just been grabbing it and eating it. If I had known, I would have taken it out of the freezer sooner, but it didn’t take too long to thaw, so it wasn’t that bad. Just good to know for next time.

  • Apple pie: One my guiltiest of guilty pleasures for food are those little handheld pies you get at the grocery store for, like, 50 cents and they never expire. You know what I’m talking about, right? This was a healthier version of one of those. I would have liked a little more of the apple filling—and maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream—but it was really good.