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! 😉 )


Toasted Cornbread and Black Bean Salad

The month of May seems to be passing by realllly quickly. And I don’t like it. Which is why I can’t seem to get past wanting Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired food ALL THE TIME. I’m in denial that we’re this far past Cinco de Mayo.

Not to mention that I think margaritas are always a good idea. Especially after deciding to finally start drinking the bottle of Patron I’d been “saving for a special occasion” a few weeks ago (when it actually was Cinco de Mayo). This is obviously a ridiculous thought because I never do anything exciting enough to warrant being called a “special occasion”. Whatever, I digress.

Back to this salad! I had strangely been craving cornbread for the past few days and had been sitting on this recipe and this recipe waiting to make something along the same lines, so I sort of combined ideas from the two to make a more filling meal, rather than a side dish.

Toasted cornbread and black bean salad

Looking at that picture makes me think of My Drunk Kitchen…. The key to good Mexican food is a shit ton of limes! If you have no idea what I’m talking about go watch this right now. You’re welcome in advance.

Jargaritas anyone???


1 batch of your favorite cornbread recipe (I like to mix 1 c medium ground cornmeal, 1 c whole wheat flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 c milk, 1 egg, and 1/4 c melted butter, then bake in a 9×9 greased pan for 25 minutes at 425 degrees…. but that’s just me)

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of a small onion, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 c frozen corn, thawed

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1/3 c crumbled queso fresco

juice of 3 limes

salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and dice the cornbread into 1 inch cubes.

Bake cornbread until dry and crispy, about 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, taste and adjust seasonings.

Mix in toasted cornbread right out of the oven and serve immediately with a large margarita that has a salted rim (mandatory detail).

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!!