Dad’s Birthday Dinner: Lasagna and Chocolate Tiramisu

Yesterday Giulia, the eight-year old I watch, and I were having a conversation about wearing a helmet while riding horses. Soon, our conversation turned into something like this:

Me: “…. I wore a riding helmet when I was a kid, but I don’t now that I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, you’re sort of a kid still”

Me: “I’m 24”

Giulia: “Yes…”

Me: “Technically, I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, I think you’re half a kid, half an adult”


That kid kills me.

Although I am OK with never really growing up… Where’s the fun in that??

It is also pretty fitting to share this story when I planned on talking about what I made for my dad’s birthday dinner last week. This year he turned the big 5-8, but if anyone’s still a kid at heart, it’s my pops. This guy rides his bike to work, plays video games, and KILLS at beer pong! My parents recently took a trip to Italy and ever since they returned my dad has been all about Italian food and culture, so naturally I had to make him an Italian feast for his special day!


Giada de Laurentiis' Classic Italian Lasagna

I picked this lasagna recipe because I’ve always had good luck with Giada recipes, and because the idea of making a bechamel sauce for a lasagna intrigued me. Man-oh-man this thing could have fed an army (see in the picture how it’s exploding out of the baking dish… and my dad’s face is in the upper right corner!) and it was goooood. Super rich and very flavorful, although I did cheat and use my favorite bottled marinara sauce (Kirkland brand!) because I didn’t have time to make a sauce. Just make sure to follow the directions and season every step where it calls for it!

We served the lasagna with a simple green salad and a bottle of Chianti my parents brought back from Italy.

The real star of the night though was the chocolate tiramisu I made for dessert. In the past I’ve made some good tiramisu, but if there’s one thing in this world my dad goes crazy for, it’s chocolate. I knew on his birthday I would need to make this classic dessert extra chocolatey to get a five-star approval.


Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Tiramisu

AND ZOMG YOU GUYS, THIS THING WAS SO GOOD. It made me feel kind of like this:


(Sidenote: if you haven’t read The God of Cake you should do that right now, and then make this tiramisu. I found the story waaaay too familiar…)

But seriously, I wish I could put into better words how delicious this dessert was. however, I think the fact that the five of us ate the whole thing that night speaks for itself.

I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe, although I did have to make a few modifications; baking the sponge in a 10×15″ jelly roll pan and reducing the baking time to 8 minutes, using Kahlua rather than Tia Maria and more espresso rather than the Marsala/ dessert wine, and placing the whole thing in a 9″ pie pan rather than a baking dish.

Just thinking about this tiramisu makes my sweet tooth start craving it like crazy! Seriously, make this tiramisu and eat as much as you want, because life’s more fun when you still act like a kid! (And I won’t judge! 😉 )


My Favorite Post-Run Snack


I have found the new best snack, meaning I’ll think it’s the best for about three months and then most likely get tired of it. That’s how I roll.

Anyways, I’ve been drinking the chocolate flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast packets for awhile now, but I never thought to try their idea of making it into a smoothie until today.

In a blender, I mixed 1 packet of milk chocolate flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast with 1 cup fat-free milk, added in a chopped up frozen banana, 1 heaping tablespoon of creamy peanut butter, and a small handful of ice cubes. 

Blended until smooth it was a cold and yummy drink that really hit the spot. I also think it would be good with almond butter or any kind of milk substitute (vanilla flavored almond milk…?) Plus, it has the protein and carbohydrates needed after a long workout, without the expensive price and weird after taste of making a smoothie with protein powder, a win-win!

I didn’t take a picture, because a glass of chocolate smoothie didn’t sound very exciting, so here’s a picture of where I went running today:


28 days until 26.2!

Because It’s Thursday…

…And because I only worked half a day today, and it was a much needed running-free day, and I had a lovely swim workout instead, and it’s supposed to stop raining tomorrow, and tomorrow is also the start of the NCAA baseball postseason…

Anyways, I decided to make cookies.


And then I took a nap.



Adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 1/2 cups flour

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips



Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Mix in the peanut butter, vanilla extract, and eggs.

In a separate bowl combine salt, baking soda, and flour. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ones.

Mix in the oats and chocolate chips (you may need to mix this by hand- the dough gets pretty stiff and my KitchenAid was getting pretty full).

Drop the dough by the heaping tablespoon onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are golden and the center looks just slightly underdone.

Let cool on a wire rack.


This is my favorite time to eat the cookie dough, when it’s just butter, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla extract.

Mexican Mocha Scones

Lately I’ve been reminiscing a lot on my favorite places to eat in my old college town. a Reuben from Cloud and Kelly’s, fruit-filled puff pastries from New Morning Bakery, sweet potato fries from Block 15 brewing, the usual Corvallis fare.

What I’ve been missing the most from my life though is actually a drink, a Mexican mocha from Coffee Culture. Coffee Culture only has good coffee, but there is something special about their Mexican mocha… I think their secret ingredient is unicorn tears or something, because everywhere else I order one, it’s never as good as theirs. Too much spice. Too sweet. Not sweet enough. Heaven forbid they burn the espresso!!

Because of these reasons I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a suitable replacement drink for my craving, so I decided to make a Mexican mocha in pastry form instead.

scone and paper

Fun fact: I read almost the entire paper every day, but I always start with the sports section

Now when you get to the point in the recipe where it calls for coffee grounds, don’t freak out…. It seems weird to eat what you are always throwing away, but I actually prefer the flavor you get from the actual grounds rather than using brewed coffee. Just make sure you’re using a good-quality coffee. My absolute favorite cookie is actually an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with coffee in it, but more on that later.



I also like being able to see the pieces of coffee when I use the grounds in baking. So pretty!

Most of the pastry and dessert recipes I use I’ve adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book. These are the recipes from Grand Central Bakery (duh) which is one of the greatest bakeries in the Northwest. Seriously, if you are ever in the Seattle or Portland area you gotta check them out! (I’m looking at you Rita!!!)

Luckily, incorporating ideas from my favorite places in Corvallis and Portland led to one delicious scone!!


2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/4 c sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground coffee (use a finely ground bean- like what you would use for an automatic drip, not a French press, which would be too coarse)

1/2 c, or 1 stick, cold unsalted butter

3/4 c chocolate chips

2 eggs

1/4 c Greek yogurt + 1/2 c milk (or use 1/2 c buttermilk)

1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the first six ingredients. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Then, using either the paddle attachment of your mixer or your hands, combine the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces of butter are about dime sized. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Whisk together the yogurt and milk until combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla.

Add half of the wet ingredients to the dry, mix, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining half of wet ingredients. Mix the dough until it just comes together, you should still have visible patches of butter and flour. Too much mixing will yield a tough scone and the chunks of butter are needed to give it it’s flaky texture.

Turn the dough out onto a cutting board or counter, gather all the loose pieces up and then break into two chunks. Form the two chunks into 2 disks, 4-5 inches in diameter, and cut each disk into 6 triangles.

Place the 12 scones onto a non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until scones are done and golden brown on top.

choco chips

This is my 10 lb bag of chocolate chips from Costco… I go through it much more quickly than I would like to admit

A wee bit O’ brined meat and a lot O’ Guinness!

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day!!! Seeing as I judge a holiday based off of the food associated with it, St. Paddy’s is one of my favorites. Anytime I can find Guinness on sale is a win in my books as well.

This being the first St. Patrick’s Day in awhile that I haven’t been in a college town, I decided to skip the whole bar scene and make dinner at home for a few of my friends. Plus, the Timbers were playing the Sounders that night and there was no way I wasn’t going to be in charge of the remote…


Eating and drinking and being merry!

Here’s the menu, enjoy folks!

Sauteed cabbage

Salt and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

Irish Soda Bread

Homemade corned beef

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

A lot of beer


Corned Beef:

Corned beef is traditionally made with a brisket, but since I cook beef from cows raised on the ranch I work at, and I didn’t have a brisket in my freezer, I improvised and used a cross rib roast, which worked just fine.


4 lb brisket (or your choice of cut)

8 cups of water

1 c kosher salt

1/4 c brown sugar

3 tablespoons pickling spice

1 small onion, quartered

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped


Create the corned beef brine by bringing the water to a boil and add the salt, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice. Boil until salt and sugar have dissolved, then set aside to cool.

In a gallon zip-loc bag, place meat and pour cooled brine over. Make sure to put the bag in a pan or casserole dish to catch any drips or spills, and refrigerate for five days, making sure the meat is completely submerged and flipping the bag daily.

When you’re ready to cook the beef, rinse meat thoroughly under cold water and place in a dutch oven or large stock pot, and add enough water so that the meat is covered by at least 1 inch of water . For a less salty meat you can add up to another inch of water. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and remaining 1 tablespoon of pickling spice. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook until the meat is fall-apart tender, about three hours.

*Note that I didn’t add anything like pink pickling salt or saltpeter to the brine, so my corned beef wasn’t the traditional bright pink color, but I didn’t see it as a necessary addition…


Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes:

I’ve been making these cupcakes for awhile based off of this recipe, but here is the exact method I use to make them.


1 c plus 2 tablespoons salted butter

1 1/4 c Guinness

3/4 c cocoa powder

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 c flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 c sugar

2 eggs

2/3 c Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

1 tblsp vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, Guinness, cocoa powder, and unsweetened chocolate together, and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and sugar. Pour in chocolate mixture and combine. Stir in eggs, yogurt, and vanilla. The batter should be thick and mousse-like.

Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with batter and cook for 18 minutes. Note that this is meant to be a moist cake though, so if you check for done-ness with a toothpick, a few crumbs should still stick to the toothpick- use your judgement to make sure cupcakes are done but not dried out!!

The original recipe comes with a cream cheese/ whipped cream frosting that I’ve never actually made. In the past I’ve frosted them with Paula Deen’s cream cheese frosting (my fav!), but my favorite way to eat them is actually with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a hearty splash of O’Mara’s.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of the cupcakes, however. My attention seemed to have been diverted to my overly-full stomach and Timber’s last minute rally to tie the game at the 90th minute… Oops.


I hope everyone had a fun and delicious St. Paddy’s day, I can’t wait for next year!!