Tiramisu Cake

How many law students and how many boxes of cake mix does it take to make a tiramisu layer cake like the one pictured below?

Trick question!  Apparently, it can’t be done.  At least not with just two law students.  We had to make it from scratch after the first two boxes of cake mix failed us.  Or maybe I should say that we failed them…

How can two seemingly competent bakers fail so miserably at making a cake from a cake mix? I’m still not quite sure, but it turned into quite the baking adventure.

It started with what seemed like an easy cake recipe…all that we needed to do was make a simple layer cake out of cake mix before adding lots of delicious other ingredients to make it into a tiramisu cake.  And then the first batch of cake came out like this:

Somehow, the cake batter decided not to spread throughout the pan to make a nice layer of cake. I’m not really sure what happened. Go ahead and click on the picture if you need to see it enlarged.

No problem, right?  I went to the store and bought another box of cake mix. This time, I was very careful to make sure that the batter spread throughout the entire pan.  But that turned out not to be the only problem, I learned.  Here’s what we got during round two:

I wish I could blame this on the oven, or the pans, or the cake mix, or…something…but I honestly have no idea what was going on.  Clearly, we should have lined the pans this time.

So then we contemplated making tiramisu trifle…

But this was for a dinner party, so my roommate decided to go the extra mile and make a third cake from scratch.  We made sure to spread the batter throughout the whole pan and to line the pans with parchment paper this time.

Success at last! Apparently, the third time’s a charm. Thankfully, the rest of the cake making process went much more smoothly.

We poured a coffee mixture into each layer, like this:

Notice how you get action shots when there are two cooks in the kitchen!  Then, we spread a mascarpone cheese filling in between the layers.

Looking good!  Then, we covered the cake with a whipped cream frosting, dusted it with cocoa, and topped it with chocolate curls.  Yum!  Here’s a slice of the finished product.  Please forgive me for being a terrible cake cutter.

And another one in case you want a close up of all the delicious layers!

The good thing is that the cake was really delicious!  I’m glad that it was worth it after all of that baking!

Here’s the recipe (adapted from AllRecipes.com):

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Shepherd’s Pie

I recently made a delicious low-carb shepherd’s pie.  How does one make a low-carb version of shepherd’s pie you might ask?  Well, I adapted this recipe from a South Beach diet cookbook, which has you replace the usual mashed potato topping with a mashed cauliflower topping.  Never would have come up with that idea on my own!

The recipe turned out really well, although I think that my vegetable-to-meat ratio was too high and the cauliflower-to-filling recipe was too low.  That being said, it still tasted really good!  I would definitely make this one again!

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-oz) package of frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic pepper
  • ketchup
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • assorted frozen vegetables (I used three 10-oz packages of veggies — one package of corn, one of peas, and one of mixed veggies)
  • 1 package of brown gravy mix
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other cheese…I used Gruyere, since that’s what was left in the fridge)
  • paprika (optional)

Directions:

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray.  Boil the cauliflower until tender (about 10 minutes) and then drain.  While the cauliflower is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the chopped onions and garlic and simmer for several minutes.  Then, add the ground beef and cook until the beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, garlic pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and several squirts of ketchup.

Next, add the frozen vegetables to the skillet and continue to simmer.  Add the brown gravy mix and a little bit of water.  Then, you can conduct a taste test to see if you need more seasoning.  Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes and then pour the skillet mixture into the casserole dish.

That’s a lot of vegetables!  I would probably recommend using only two packages of frozen veggies instead of three like I did.

To make the cauliflower topping, beat the cooked cauliflower, sour cream, egg yolk, ricotta, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixture.  I actually didn’t have any eggs on hand when I made this, so I just left out the egg yolk.  I thought it turned out fine without it, but maybe it would have been even more delicious with the egg yolk!  Looks kind of like mashed potatoes, doesn’t it?

Next, spread the cauliflower mixture over the beef and vegetable mixture and sprinkle the grated cheese and some paprika on top, so that it looks like this:

Now all that you have to do is bake it for 20-25 minutes.  The recipe I used said to bake until “golden on top,” but mine didn’t look very golden in the end…maybe that’s what the egg yolk was for?  Anyway, here it is!

I thought that this was a really good recipe, and as an added bonus, it’s pretty healthy overall!  The cauliflower topping tastes remarkably similar to mashed potatoes, which gives it a nice casserole feel.

Lebanese Salad

So, I have a confession to make.  I almost never make vegetarian food.  Like, ever. Especially lately, since I’ve been trying not to eat too many carbs and all of my vegetarian food ideas tend to involve cheesy pasta.  But, I saw some frozen falafel at Trader Joe’s recently and thought that it looked really good.  To be fair, I was looking for the frozen chicken when I found it, but that’s beside the point…

I ended up making a nice Mediterranean meal of falafel, lebanese salad, hummus, and tzatziki and it was really delicious!

The lebanese salad (which was inspired by a couple cooks) was really easy to make.  I chopped up two cucumbers, two tomatoes, 1/4 of a red onion, and a couple of green onions.  I put it all in a mixing bowl, added some crumbled feta cheese, and seasoned it with generous amounts of lemon pepper, garlic, garlic pepper, salt, and pepper.  I tossed it all together with about a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a generous amount of lemon juice (maybe about 1/4 cup).  And that’s it!

The rest of the meal came straight from the fridge or the freezer (via the microwave, of course!).

Here’s another picture of the lebanese salad:

And here’s the falafel (which I must say, is possibly the best falafel I’ve ever had.  Pretty impressive, Trader Joe’s.):