Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Mini Chocolate Desserts for Christmas!

I've been so busy ... working ... and I'm smack dab in the middle of a kitchen remodel, which will be a post for another day.  Thought I should post something because so many folks visit my blog!  This is one of my cooking  columns, which was originally published in the Southern Illinoisan Newspaper ... from 2012 ... featuring mini desserts that will be perfect for holiday entertaining.  Enjoy!

Made at Home – February 1, 2012

My favorite hobby is tablescaping and in order to enjoy that, I also enjoy collecting unique dinnerware patterns!  My collecting started with a stack of pink Depression Glass dessert plates given to me as a wedding present by one of my aunts.  I didn’t really like them, but a couple years later I used them to set a pretty springtime luncheon table.  My friends complimented the table and I fell in love with colored glass.  My quest began!  I promised my husband that I’d never collect anything that I wouldn’t use to set a table.  A few years later he reminded me of that promise and told me that he knew I could set a different table every day for the rest of my life!  That probably wasn’t true then, but it certainly is now.

Recently, my daughter and I were shopping in the antique stores in Murphysboro.  You should probably know that I had just purchased two sets of china from George’s Resale, but on that day it was a stack of chocolate brown and white plates in Sis’s Collectibles that caught my eye.  Actually, it was more than a stack of plates; it was almost twelve place settings of beautiful Franciscan china in the Tonquin pattern.   The set was missing a few cups and saucers.  Until recently,  when I’d find something that I was interested in purchasing, I’d come home and check my reference books and get online to be sure I could purchase replacement pieces.   Now, I just stand in the shop and get out my very intelligent cell phone and get online to find all the information I need.   My favorite online replacement store had the cups and saucers, so I came home with a couple boxes of china!
My friends are always asking me to include ideas about creating tablescapes, menus and dinner party themes in my columns!  

Here’s how it works.  Tonquin is a pattern that was produced by many china manufacturers in a common process, which is the transfer of a copper engraving onto a piece of white stoneware.  The engraving is usually a picture of a special place and gifting a piece of this china was similar to sending a post card from a far-away place, that most people would never be able to visit.   The place in the Tonquin pattern is a beautiful Asian plantation house sitting on the bank of a river.  On the river is a pair of swans.  Swans speak romance to me because they mate for life.  Romance equals Valentine’s Day and because the china is chocolate brown, we’re having a chocolate valentine party and setting the table with my new, old china!   That’s how a tablescaper thinks!

The chocolate dessert recipes that I’m sharing with you today are intended to be made in very small portions.  They are rich in calories and love, and moderation is the key to healthy eating!  So, get out your tiny cordial glasses, custard cups and sauce bowls to set up your servings.   Each of these recipes includes a helpful shortcut!  Let your guests choose the number of tiny portions they want and they’ll love every bite, because these will have been made at home!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

2 cups of ready-made chocolate pudding
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soft butter
2 Tablespoons milk
8 tiny bananas
Whipped cream
Crumbled cookies

Layer this dessert in 8 small glasses. Slice half a tiny banana in the bottom of each glass.  Divide the chocolate pudding between the glasses.  To make the next layer, whip the peanut butter, butter and milk and place a little on top of the pudding.  Slice each of the remaining bananas lengthwise, and stick two slices in each of the glasses.  Garnish with whipped cream and crumbled cookies.

Mini Tiramisu with Coffee Meringues

1 packaged pound cake
½ cup strong coffee
2 Tablespoons coffee liqueur
6 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pint whipping cream
Chocolate syrup
Mini meringues, maraschino cherries, sliced almonds for garnish

To make the mini meringues, whip 2 egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Whip in ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.    Form 12 mini meringues on a silicone baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven off, but leave the meringues in the oven for another hour.

To prepare the dessert filling, whip the mascarpone cheese, confectioner’s sugar and almond extract until smooth.   Add the whipping cream and whip on high speed until the filling gets thick and fluffy.

To compose the desserts, put a teaspoonful of chocolate syrup in the bottom of each of 12 glasses.  Combine the coffee and liqueur and cut the pound cake into 1-inch cubes.  Dip each cube into the coffee mixture.  Place a few cubes in each glass.  Put some of the cheese filling over the pound cake and top with a meringue kiss, a cherry and a sprinkle of almonds.

Chocolate Brownie Bites with Lynn’s Orange Fluff

Prepare your favorite brownie box mix and cut the cooled brownies into small pieces.   Use a pastry bag to pipe fluffy orange icing on top of each brownie.  You can also use an ice cream scoop to place the icing on the brownie.  Lynn, my blogging friend from Philadelphia, recently shared this icing recipe.

Icing Ingredients:
1 3-ounce box of orange gelatin
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water

In a large mixing bowl, place the gelatin mix, sugar, egg white and vanilla.   Turn your mixer on high speed as you pour in the boiling water and continue beating until the icing forms stiff peaks.  This will take a few minutes.  This icing is similar to the old-fashioned 7-minute frosting, but much easier.  Any flavor of gelatin works, but it cannot be the sugar-free variety.    

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