Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Crema

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Many years ago I was gifted a little book authored by American cheese maven Paula Lambert, who owns the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas.

The book is called “Cheese, Glorious Cheese.” I couldn’t think of a better title for a cheese book myself!

I remember I was almost scared to open the book. I don’t need any help eating and enjoying cheese.

But then, I did. And the recipes are really fun.

Being that I’m dreaming of fall and, my butternut squashes have successfully matured in my garden, I thought what better recipe to make from this book but a butternut squash soup with a dollop of Gorgonzola crema.

It just takes soup to a new level, right? Oh, and there’s also some peppered bacon bits on top as well. Perfect for an almost-fall, wishing-for-fall lunch.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Crema
Extremely Adapted from, “Cheese, Glorious Cheese”

1 large butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Chicken broth, about 4 cups
8 ounces peppered bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
8 ounces marscapone
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup crema, or Mexican sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

Begin the soup by peeling the butternut squash, and removing the seeds. Cut up the squash into fairly uniform-sized pieces and place them in a large pot.

Pour the broth over the top – just enough to cover – and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let the squash cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove the lid and let the squash cool.

In a skillet, place the bacon and butter. Cook the bacon until to your taste. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet with the butter and bacon fat.

Over medium heat, cook the onion and shallots for about 5-6 minutes, or until soft.

When the squash has cooled, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large blender jar. I only begin adding the broth when blending begins, so that I can control the consistency.

Add the onion-shallots, the marscapone, and salt. Blend, adding a little broth as necessary, to make the soup to your desired thickness. I prefer my cream-based soups quite thick.

Stir together the crema and gorgonzola, and have the bacon dice on hand.

Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls.

Place a dollop of the gorgonzola cream in the center, and then sprinkle on the bacon.

The flavor combination is incredible. I could actually do without the bacon.

Personally, I forced myself to follow through on the gorgonzola; I much prefer feta. But it’s wonderful.

It’s good to stir the gorgonzola cream into the soup, but not too much. You want to taste those different flavors.

If you didn’t notice, I like thick, rich, creamy soups. If you didn’t want to make a rich soup, you can use evaporated milk instead of marscapone. But don’t omit the butter! Butter belongs in soups!

Or, you could simply use chicken broth. But that’s no fun. Happy Fall!

Mille Crêpe Cake

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Mille. What is that – a million? Well, a thousand, but still, a lot. A Mille crêpe cake is one created from stacked crêpes that form layers. In between the crêpes can be just about anything from jam, curd, mousse, marscapone, whipped cream, pastry cream, and much more. The flavor possibilities are endless, with fruits or chocolate or nuts included.

Here are photos I discovered on Pinterest of Mille Crêpe cakes; photo credits below.

Aren’t they just stunning?

Just recently, my blogger friend Suzanne, from A Pug in the Kitchen, wrote a post that really spoke to me. She wrote about challenging herself in the kitchen, so as to present posts of her creations that were much more than “everyday” food.

All of us who follow Suzanne love her blog just as it is, plus admire her tireless work as a passionate animal advocate as well, but I completely understood what she was saying.

I actually went through this quite a few years ago, before I began my blog. It stemmed from the fact that my daughters had moved away, I had retired from catering, and I was only cooking for my husband. His meal requirements are simple, which is fine, but I missed the creativity from the years I cooked for others. And you can only have so many parties!

So I began making dishes that were “out of my comfort zone,” so to speak. One Christmas I made a yule log, for example, and it came out pretty darn well! And all of that led to me starting this blog almost four years ago, where I’m able to make dishes I consider fun, and use ingredients I personally love.

The only negative with food blogging, when there’s no one around to eat what you make, is that you must eat it all yourself, or feed friends who have similar tastes. That is challenging when my favorite foods are snails, steak tartare, pigs feet, pork belly, stinky cheese, and everything liver.

In any case, what also seemed poignant in Suzanne’s blog post was that she planned on taking a whole day off of work in order to make a Mocha Daquoise for her upcoming birthday!

I also had an April birthday, and I’d pondered making a Mille Crêpe cake for so long, that I decided it was finally time! In all honestly, Suzanne has a much bigger challenge on her hands.

To make this cake one must first make crêpes. Then I had to figure out a filling.


The very top middle photo is by Honestly Yum, and the filling is a mixture of marscapone and dulce de leche. I happened to have chestnut cream in my pantry. Mixed and lightened with marscapone will make a perfect filling.

For the top? So many options, but I thought of simply melted dark chocolate. Done.

Just to see if she had a Mille Crêpe in her book, I looked at Dorie Greenspan’s book “Around my French Table.”

She doesn’t have an actual cake recipe, but she had this to say.

To me, that sealed the deal. No recipe is really needed. Turns out this may not be as challenging as I previously thought, but still a little more attention to detail than what I typically put into a dish.

To make the crêpes, I followed my own recipe, adding a little vanilla extract. You might have your own tried-and-true recipe; just make sure you get 18 – 20 crêpes for the cake.


For the filling, I mixed together 32 ounces of marscapone and 12 ounces of chestnut cream, both at room temperature.

After refrigerating the crêpes overnight, I began the ordeal of stacking and filing them. It didn’t start well.

My filling was a bit on the thick side, even though it was at room temperature. At that point I probably should have added some whipped cream, but I didn’t. I pursued. I discovered that pressing with the top crêpe with my fingers was the best way to get the filling spread evenly, all the way to the edges.

This is important otherwise the cake would be domed in the middle. This was definitely tedious, but I persisted.

I covered the cake with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Then I proceeded to melt 12 ounces of dark, bittersweet chocolate. One bit of advice I read in a cookbook is that when you are tempering chocolate, you are melting it. You are not cooking it. I always have remembered that, and even if it takes a bit longer, I melt chocolate over very low heat.

Now comes the challenging part for me, as I am no pastry chef. If you haven’t figured that out already, you will definitely come to that conclusion on your own.

I gently poured the chocolate over the cake, and let some dribble down the sides. Then I refrigerated the cake for 30 minutes.

The cake sliced easily enough, although the hard chocolate shell wanted to crack.

That was when I realized I should have made a chocolate ganache instead of using melted chocolate. Oh well.

The cake itself was delicious, although a ganache would have made the “icing” more pleasant.

Will I make a mille crepe cake again? Probably not. But I’m glad I made it and survived my challenge. It was truly delicious. And, I ended up with a birthday cake that was just as enjoyable the next morning with coffee!

The green matcha cake is from http://matchatearecipes.co.uk/post/122421717800/matcha-mille-cake
The black and white cake is from https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyhorng/awaken-your-dessert-love-sensors-with-this-black-white-mille?sub=4201473_8372322&utm_term=.nnJJKl0pQ#.vbZNyXZOz
The red velvet cake is from https://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/
The Boston cream cake is from http://www.willcookforsmiles.com/2013/08/boston-cream-crepe-cake.html

Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.


In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.
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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!
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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.
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Strawberry Tiramisu

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Many years ago, my girlfriend Gabriella made a strawberry tiramisu, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was made in the same manner as a traditional tiramisu, but without the coffee element. Instead, it had layers of beautiful spring strawberries.

So I wanted to finally make this twist of the popular Italian dessert using traditional ingredients like Savoirdi biscuits and marscapone, plus strawberries. However, I pondered upon what liquid to use in which to dip the biscuits.

A million years ago, approximately, my husband and I went to a Food and Wine Tasting in Aspen, Colorado. It was the same week that O. J. Simpson “allegedly” killed two people. I remember the actual day that he was followed along highway 101 in the white Bronco because it was my younger daughter’s birthday – June 12th.

In any case, the festival itself was a bit crazy. I think they sold too many tickets! Being short, I was always being elbowed by tall men who’d obviously never tasted wine or food before. Even if I was in front of a vendor table, people were reaching past me, around me, and over me. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not much of a crowd lover, so it was a bit stressful and painful for me. The good parts were having Stephen Pyles sign my cookbook, even though I was accused of stealing it (I had already purchased the cookbook in Denver before heading to Aspen), seeing a demonstration with Patricia Wells, and then attending a demonstration with Julia Child. Even my husband really appreciated that.

So why am I bringing this all up? There was a new winery at the festival – Quady Winery. The representatives were serving small scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Essencia, made from orange muscat grapes. It was fabulous. I personally think there’s a proper place for sweet and dessert wines, and these have since become award-winning wines.


There’s Electra as well, which is made from a black muscat grape. If you ever see them, give one a try. I actually have used both in making sangria, to replace the brandy element that’s too strong for me.

So back to the tiramisu. I thought an orange element, from the Essencia and from oranges themselves, along with the strawberries would create a perfectly delicious spring dessert! Here’s what I did.


Strawberry Tiramisu

16 ounces Marscapone, at room temperature
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 oranges, juice and zest used
Strawberries, picked over, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Essencia
1 – 7 ounce box Savoirdi biscuits (I only used half)
Pearl sugar, optional

Begin by placing the marcapone and yogurt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar.


Add the zest of three oranges, and beat again until well distributed.

Set aside the marscapone mixture, and begin with the berries. I had hoped to use my own garden strawberries in this dessert, but they’ve been attacked by some kind of creepy crawly.

Slice the strawberries into even slices; mine were approximately 1/4″ thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and the juice of 1/2 an orange.


Toss well and set aside.

Using a square baking dish 8″ in diameter, begin by placing a layer of half of the marscapone mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Using a spatula, spread smooth.
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Pour approximately 1 1/2 cups of Essencia into a flat baking dish. Add the juice of one orange and stir well. Taste the mixture. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey or agave syrup.

Place the biscuits in the wine mixture, then turn over. You don’t want them to fall apart, but you do want them softened. Work with only a few at a time.

Place them over the marscapone in the baking dish. Make them fit however you have to!
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Add half the strawberries, then cover with the remaining marscapone, and top it with the remaining strawberries. There is only one layer of the softened biscuits.
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Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Slice and serve. I had mine still chilled with an espresso for breakfast!

But of course it’s perfect for dessert, warmed to room temperature, and served with Essencia or another dessert wine.


I put a few sprinkles of pearl sugar on the top for fun! It adds a sweet crunch.


This recipe doesn’t touch the traditional version of tiramisu, see note below, but it’s still really fun and highlights the sweet spring strawberries!


note: Traditional Italian tiramisu is typically made with a sabayon. My version is simpler, but not better. The sabayon makes the marscapone layer much lighter. Also, lady fingers and savoirdi biscuits have a similar shape, but that’s all they have in common. Lady fingers are light and soft, while savoirdi biscuits are hard and crisp. They should not be confused.

Coeur à la Crème

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First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you who celebrate it! May you all be with your loved ones today and share a special meal and bottle of wine or two!

I usually don’t go in for cheesiness in the kitchen, pardon the pun. It’s probably because I’m not creative enough to think of cheesy things to do. (Although I have been known to put on quite a children’s Halloween party in the old days!) But it’s just not like me to make everything heart-shaped just because it’s February.

This is my one exception, however, because it’s already heart-shaped! So I can make and serve this, blaming it all on the white porcelain ramekin in the shape of a heart. After all, Coeur à la Crème means heart of cream – this is roughly translated. So it’s really meant to be heart-shaped.

And, it’s really good. There are many different ways to make this dessert, using marscapone or cream cheese, farmers’ cheese, ricotta, or cottage cheese, and even yogurt. Here is my delicious version:

Coeur à la Crème

1 – 17.6 ounce carton Fage 2% Greek yogurt*
8 ounces cream cheese
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Empty the carton of yogurt into a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Let it sit for 4 – 6 hours. You will notice that a significant amount of liquid has strained from the yogurt. That’s why this step is important before you begin with the recipe.

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When the yogurt has strained, place it in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.

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Slowly at first, using an electric mixer, mix up the cheese until smooth. Scrape down the bowl once and keep mixing. It should take about 5 minutes. Taste the cheese and make sure you like the flavor. I like it a bit off-sweet. If you prefer it sweeter, add a little more powdered sugar.

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Wet about a 20″ square piece of muslin or cheesecloth and wring it out very well. Then lay it over the ramekin and form it into the heart shape. Gently place the cheese into the ramekin.

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Smooth it out on top, and tap it a few times to make it settle.

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Wrap up the ramekin with the overflowing cheesecloth, then set the ramekin on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover the ramekin with a paper towel, and then put everything in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

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When you are close to being ready to serve, unfold the cheesecloth from the ramekin, then turn the Coeur upside down on a serving plate, and finish removing the cheesecloth.

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If you like, smooth out the cheese with a knife. Personally, I like the texture the cheesecloth makes on the cheese. Let the cheese warm a little before serving with your sauce of choice, whether it be fruit-based, or chocolate.

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If you’re interested, my sauce is made from strawberries and apricots. I made it last year to layer in individual breakfast yogurt parfaits I made for my friend, for people staying at her house. It was made simply by cooking strawberries and apricots together with a little sugar and lemon juice. It was not sweet like a jam, but sweetened nonetheless. I had a frozen jar left over, so I thawed it, pureed and strained the sauce, and served it with the Coeur à la crème. It was perfect, and I love the color!

* If you wanted to be really decadent, use goat’s milk yogurt – but it will require more time straining.

note: Besides vanilla extract, there are many choices for flavoring. Citrus zest can be used, different extracts, as well as liqueurs such as Chambord or Grand Marnier. It’s all a matter of taste, and what you’re serving your Coeur à la Crème with, sauce-wise!