Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry

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You can’t shake a stick on the internet without hitting somebody’s recipe for Tiramisu. There are lots of recipes using different ingredients and techniques. I looked up a few dozen recipes, found the elements I liked from each, and cobbled together my own. It turned out fantastically. In an extremely uncharacteristic turn of events, I actually remember the exact measurements and ingredients I used to make it.

In years long past we had made tiramisu for a family gathering. The recipe we made involved making a batch of whipped cream, and a batch of whipped mascarpone, then gently folding them together to make the filling. My distinct recollection is that recipe tasted good but was a little bit runny. We’ve also seen recipes where the whipped cream was replaced by beaten egg whites. We’ve seen recipes that contain raw egg yolks. For this particular occasion I wanted to avoid any recipe with uncooked eggs or with delicate folding maneuvers.


For the coffee mixture:

  • 1 cup strong black coffee (we used the “Dark Magic” Keurig K-Cup)
  • 1 Tbsp Kahlua
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Rum (Bacardi Select)

Brew the coffee. Add the Kahlua and the rum. Stir. Allow the coffee to cool. You may need more than one batch of this (I think we needed 2 batches of this for all the filling we made).

For the filling:

  • 1lb Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
  • 1.5 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tbsp homemade vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Saviordi cookies (“Ladyfingers”)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Prepared coffee mixture

Add the mascarpone to a mixer and mix at medium speed until soft. Add the cream, slowly to avoid slashing or sloshing. Mix until well combined. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix over medium to medium-high speed until the mixture makes stiff peaks (like whipped cream).

Dip each of the cookies into the coffee quickly. They will absorb more than you think, and will become less crunchy over time. Place the cookies in the bottom of your container in a single layer. Add the filling and spread evenly. Cover with a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Allow the tiramisu to rest, refrigerated, for at least an hour before serving.



We made the tiramisu in little individual serving cups, and topped each one with a broken ladyfinger cookie. I thought they were the best dessert on the menu (and we had quite a large and impressive dessert menu!), and many other people who tried it said it was fantastic. This is definitely a winning recipe, and next time I make Tiramisu I’ll be following it exactly.


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Birthday Party 2013

Since we were both turning 30 this year, Dana and I decided to throw a large joint birthday party. We invited somewhere around 100 people, but due to various conflicts only about 50-60 were able to attend. We ended up making a pretty large amount of food for the occasion, some of which was very popular and some of which was decidedly less so. In this post I’m going to list what we had, what worked, what didn’t, and what we would do different next time.


We had a variety of drinks on hand. We originally planned to have much more selection, we quickly decided to slim down the options (especially with regards to hard liquor) due to price concerns and concerns that we were simply going to have too much. Here’s what we had:

Yuengling is a popular choice in this area, and most of that went.  The Blue Moon, despite being “lighter” and “summerier” as the guy at the distributor said, was not popular.

I’m not a big beer drinker, so we got the cider because it was something I would drink if we had leftovers of. It was popular enough that there really wasn’t much left over. It’s a little too pricey to keep it available for all such occasions, but was a nice touch this time. 

We made about 2 gallons of the sangria (a recipe I may post later, with permission from the originators) and most of that was gone by the end. We had enough ingredients to make another batch, but didn’t need to refill. Among the people who drank it, response was overwhelmingly positive.

The bottled water was, as always, popular. Plus, Dana and I happily drink the unopened bottles of water (unlike the soda and beer, which we drink little to none of on a daily basis). The sangria could not be salvaged and after the party we dumped what little was left.

The soda was popular only among people below drinking age, and the Coke was more popular in this group than the Diet coke or any of the other offerings were. Next time, we won’t plan to have as much soda on hand, and certainly not as many diet offerings.

Some of the very little kids running around requested the Hugs juice barrels, so we pulled a box of those out of storage too.

Main Courses

The main dishes we made were:

  • Meatballs in spaghetti sauce (approx 6lbs ground beef, 1.5 gallons of sauce)
  • Pulled Pork (approx 14lbs pork loin)
  • Chicken Salad (approx 12lbs chicken breasts)
  • Baked Ziti (3lbs noodles)

We ended up getting lucky with some sales, so even though we used a large amount of meat we didn’t go broke buying it. With regards to the pulled pork, we definitely made more than necessary with the knowledge that we could keep it and use it later.

I don’t know how many meatballs we made total, but I know how many we were left with at the end of the day: 6. They were very popular as usual.

About a third of the pulled pork that we made was eaten. The bit left in the crockpot afterwards was tossed, but we had another container of it in the fridge that we kept.The people who tried it said they liked it, but they just didn’t eat a ton of it. I thought I had the recipe here on my blog, but I can’t find it. I may post that soon too. Pulled pork was lunch every day the next week, and I had intended to preserve some with my pressure canner but didn’t end up having the time to do so.

The chicken salad was, as always, popular. Probably two thirds of what we made was eaten and most of the rest was given away.

The baked Ziti actually didn’t seem as popular as the other options. Where it was eaten, I’m sure it was paired with meatballs (we used the same sauce for both dishes), and meatballs were frequently used on rolls to make sandwiches instead. In hindsight, the Ziti may have been unnecessary.

Sides and Appetizers

Among the side dishes and appetizers we had were:

  • Veggie Tray (with dip)
  • Fruit Salad
  • Pasta Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Chips with Onion Dip
  • Buffalo Chicken Dip with Crackers
  • Parmesian and Honey Baguette Slices

We went a little overboard with sides and appetizers, and some of them suffered because we ran out of time to prepare them, because we couldn’t keep them refilled, or because there were simply too many options.

The veggie tray was pretty popular, and needed to be restocked at least once.

The fruit salad suffered the most because of our cramped schedule. In the end, the “salad” was just watermelon, catelope, grapes and blueberries in a hastily constructed watermelon rind basket. I suggested that next time we could ditch the fruit salad all together, but Dana says it was plenty popular and would have been eaten more if there were more of it.

About half of the pasta salad we made was eaten. The rest kept well enough to be served with dinner for the rest of the week. Pasta salad has a habit of absorbing the dressing and becoming dry over time. We should have put out more dressing for people to use.

The macaroni salad, for whatever reason, was almost completely untouched, and eventually trashed. I don’t know if it was just less popular compared to the pasta and potato salads, or if it wasn’t a good batch, or if people just didn’t want macaroni salad. Next time, we’ll think long and hard about offering all three options at the same time.

The potato salad was the special family recipe of Dana’s mother. It has dutch origins and isn’t like the potato salad that most people are used to. Among people who had the courage to try it, response was very positive. Maybe I can post this recipe one day too.

The buffalo chicken dip was very tasty (provided by Dana’s sister). It didn’t go as much as I would have expected, perhaps due to it’s placement at the end of the table and being overshadowed by the sheer number of alternatives.


If there was one area where we went completely overboard, it was the desert course. We have a pretty large pile of leftovers, and there’s absolutely no way we’ll be able to eat them all ourselves.

  • Cupcakes (6 dozen)
  • Individual Tiramisu Cups (4 dozen)
  • Brownies (2 trays)
  • Blondies (1 batch)
  • Individual Cannoli cups (approx 4 dozen)
  • Birthday sheet cake
  • Chocolate “Texas” sheet cake
  • “Candy Kake” sheet cake
  • Cherry Pie

Two of the cakes, the birthday cake (from Dana’s mother) and the Candy Kake sheet cake (from my mother) were surprises. If we had known they were coming, we definitely would have cut out some of the other options.  The brownies and a batch of cupcakes definitely could have been left out, without anybody noticing.

The cupcakes were a store-bought cake mix topped with a cherry-amaretto frosting of Dana’s invention. If I get time later, and if I get permission, I may try to post the recipe.

The individual Tiramisu cups were a big hit, and were possibly my favorite part of the meal. We cobbled together several different recipes from the internet and the result was extremely good. I’ll definitely be posting this recipe soon.

The blondies were my grandmother’s famous recipe and, as always, they were a hit.

The cherry pie, from my cousin Liesa, was so popular that I barely managed to get a spoonful of it before it was all gone.

I’ll try to get my hands on some of the recipes for the various cakes and deserts, and post them here.


Overall, we had a great time at the party. All the food we had too a lot of time and effort beforehand to prepare, but during the party we were able to stay out of the kitchen for the most part and let people feed themselves. We did have plenty of leftovers, and were hastily packing them up in plastic containers and sending them home with anybody who would have them. Next time we decide to hold a party this size, we’ll definitely know better about where to cut and where to splurge, and we’ll be able to keep the popular options front and center where people want them.