Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse – Party Sized

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I’m not sure why but once kids head back to school, the parties start – Oh wait, I think I just answered that.  Party season has definitely begun!   Invitations are flying in for birthdays, housewarmings, fundraising events, anniversaries, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, even  a Harvest Party – and we aren’t even to Halloween yet.  My friend, Tracy, and I just co-hosted a bridal shower for our beautiful friend, Karin, who is getting married up in Sonoma this weekend.  My job was coming up with a dessert festive enough to honor the special bride.  I didn’t want to try to rival her spectacular wedding cake (and not being a frequent baker anyway, because I end up eating it all myself) my thoughts immediately turned to chocolate, the ultimate crowd pleaser.  I have made a decadent but super simple bittersweet chocolate mousse in the past for special occasions but never for a crowd.  So I revamped my Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Recipe, which only makes four small servings, to serve a dozen and updated the presentation to adapt for any occasion.

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If you can boil water and you have a food processor, you can make this foolproof, no-cook chocolate mousse. You just have to plan ahead by at least three hours because it needs chilling time to set.  I didn’t have a dozen of any appropriate dessert dish so I ran down to my local hardware store and bought a box of half pint wide mouth glass canning jars, also commonly known as ‘jelly jars’, which are inexpensive and re-usable.  Best of all they are easy to decorate. (Thanks Dawn!).

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This was for a bridal shower so I went with White Tie and Bridal Veil Bow, using white satin cording and wired organdy ribbon, but it’s very easy to adapt for any holiday.  The ribbon you choose really sets the theme. Or you can leave the glass jars plain for a rustic look.

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  •  Candy cane ribbon for Christmas.  Blue snowflakes for Hanukah.

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  •  Be creative and tuck small spoons or candycanes into the ribbon or lay a pirouette cookie across the top for fun.

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  • Celebratet Halloween with Trick or Treat ribbon and a dollop of whipped cream.

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What You Need: 12 half pint wide mouth glass jars, 12 strips of ribbon and sharp scissors.  Do a trial run on one jar, then remove it and measure the length of the ribbon necessary and pre-cut the other 11.  Don’t tie them until after the mousse has been poured to prevent staining from drips.  Better yet, tie the ribbons just before serving if time permits.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs

strawberries, raspberries or whipped cream for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered

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  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits

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  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass dessert cups. or jelly jars  Place on a tray (I used the box the jars came in) Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.

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  • Before serving, tie ribbon around the neck of each jar for decoration.
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 12-14 small
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chocolate Mousse13

 8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs
strawberries or raspberries for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered
  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits
  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass jelly jars.  Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.
  • Before serving, tie a ribbon around the mouth of each jar to decorate
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.
  • To serve, garnish with berries or whipped cream and a pirouette cookie, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Lasagne Pinwheels with Confetti Topping

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When the cat’s away, the mice will play… As soon as my husband left town for a golf trip, I seized the opportunity to invite some girlfriends over and serve pasta that is oozing with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.  (Add wine plus gossip times eight ladies equals fun night). A creamy dish like that would normally make my husband run from the room screaming, so if I want to indulge it has to be when he’s not around. When we first met, his aversion to creamy white foods like mayo, sour cream and yogurt was so strong that it would make him physically ill (or at least he thought it was physical). I discovered this ‘fun fact’ by accident one morning while he was powering through a big stack of pancakes. On pancake number four, I casually mentioned that I put one tablespoon of plain yogurt in the pancake batter. His fork went flying across the room and within minutes he was curled into a ball of misery on the couch. Needless to say, I married him anyway.

The lasagna pinwheels did not disappoint. What could be bad – perfect pretty pinwheels resting in a simple marinara sauce topped with zucchini, tomato and caper confetti. They are simple to make and can be prepared ahead of time (even frozen) and thrown in the oven at the last minute.  Mini lasagna is perfect to serve to a group as they are small, two or three bite morsels and they make a nice, clean presentation and no messy cutting or layers sliding about.

This meal was all about yumminess but there are many substitutions that can be made to make this a healthier option.  I used a whole grain lasagna noodle rather than the regular but there are also wheat and gluten free versions, even one made with artichoke ‘flour’.   Ricotta, made with sheep’s milk is usually the gold standard in pastas and desserts but it can be replaced with a lower fat cottage cheese , clotted cream, fresh goat cheese or queso fresco. Vegans can use silken tofu mixed with a little olive oil, nutmeg and seasoned salt.  Feel free to use any combination of cheeses, just keep the total amount the same.  You can also add a layer of wilted spinach or kale for an extra nutrient and flavor boost.  It’s easy to make your own pasta sauce, but as a time saver you can use any prepared pasta sauce and it will come out just fine.

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We finished our meal with mini Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse cups, each miniature glass dish holding only about one scant tablespoon, perfect when you really just want a taste and don’t want to commit to an entire dessert.  I found the glass dishes at Ikea.  They were very inexpensive and I have since discovered many uses for them.  For the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse recipe click on this link:  https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/02/12/wheatless-wednesday-bittersweet-chocolate-mousse/

Lasagne Pinwheels

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 (16 oz) package curly lasagna noodles (9 but make a few extra since some come apart during cooking)
1 14 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 Tbsn Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 Tbsn chopped or shredded fresh basil
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, small dice
1 zucchini, small dice
1 Tbsn capers, drained
 
  • Prepare marinara sauce (recipe below) or use your favorite.
  • Prepare lasagna noodles as label directs.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Return noodles to saucepot with cold water to cover.
  • Combine all cheese, pepper and 3 tablespoons basil in a large bowl.

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  • Drain lasagna noodles on a clean kitchen towel.  Spread rounded 1/3 cup filling on each noodle and roll up jelly-roll fashion.  Slice each rolled noodle in half, crosswide.

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  • Spread tomato sauce evenly in the bottom of baking dish.  Arrange lasagna rolls, cut-side down, in sauce.  Cover loosely with foil and bake 35 to 40 minutes in 375 degree oven.
  • Heal oil over medium heat in medium skillet.  Saute onion until tender.  Stir in zucchini and cook a few more minutes.
  • Stir in diced tomato, capers and remaining basil and heat through

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  • To serve, place sauce and lasagna rolls on plates and spoon confetti topping over the top.

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(original recipe for Three Cheese Lasagne Rolls from the Step By Step Cookbook by Good Housekeeping)

Marinara Sauce

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsn fresh basil, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp balsamic vinegar <
  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan and saute garlic for a few minutes.  Add basil and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and add salt.  Simmer about 45 minutes.
  • Before serving add balsamic vinegar and stir to combine

 
 

Wheatless Wednesday – Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

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This week it’s all about Valentines Day, which means………………chocolate!

Dark Chocolate is known to make people happy by releasing hormones that create euphoria.  Chocolate can relieve a host of ailments, including depression, fatigue, pain and PMS, as well as rev up your sex drive!  Sounds like something we should be eating every day!  So make this decadent dessert for your sweetie and feel free to indulge knowing its all good…

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse was the first fancy dessert I ever made.  Back in the 80’s  I signed up for a series of cookbooks from Time-Life, Great Meals in Minutes.  I received a different cookbook every month through the mail, each with a theme and wonderful, quick and easy to follow recipes.  I really enjoyed thumbing through each new book and getting great ideas. (This was before we could google everything). As a new cook, I learned how to put together a complete meal and end up with everything ready at the same time, which is really the biggest challenge in cooking. Looking up the recipe again was a bit of a walk down memory lane.  The page is now adorned with a big circle of chocolate, as if a young cook in a hurry put the Cuisinart lid down on top of the open cookbook. Another page with a favorite pasta recipe is splattered with red wine vinegar, remnants from a meal long past.

Many of the recipes I still use came from these books even though over the years I’ve made them my own.  I rarely go back and follow a recipe twice (unless I’m baking and every drop and crumb makes a difference). The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse recipe by Helen Witty came from the Great Meals in Minutes, “Pasta Menus” cookbook.  I was a newlywed at the time and figuring out what to cook for my new husband.  I came from a large family where chili and casseroles were king and he grew up with meat and potatoes.  To make it even more of a challenge, he doesn’t like foods with mayo or any kind of cream, so it was hard to find recipes that worked for him that were still yummy to me.  I remember feeling lucky to find a dessert recipe at all that isn’t loaded with heavy cream or cream cheese.  I have made this bittersweet mousse several times since then when I’m looking for a special dessert.  It has a nice creamy texture and wonderful flavor.  It looks very elegant, yet it’s deceptively simple.
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Although this recipe needs several hours in the refrigerator to chill, you can prepare it in just a few minutes with a food processor or blender. The recipe only makes about 2 1/2 cups (2 large or 4 small servings) so chocolate lovers may want to double the recipe.  When I made this so many years ago, I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, because that was what was available,  and it was delicious.   You can use regular chocolate chips but a dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao will make it even more divine, as will using real vanilla and a good quality coffee or espresso.  There are so many high quality chocolates available now, Green & Black’s, Divine, CocoaVie and one that is perfect for Valentine’s Day, Chocolove xoxox that even comes with a love poem inside (to name only a few of the many).  Ghirardelli now makes a 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chip that is perfect for baking. I made this mousse twice, once with Ghirardelli 60% chips and then with Green & Black’s Dark 85% bar (3.5oz).  Both batches were pretty good but the Green & Black mousse was slightly less sweet and a little more bittersweet.  My taste testers this time (the Zubers) declared the first better with fruit and the second with a bit of whipped cream.  This recipe goes fast so I would recommend having everything pre-measured and ready at room temperature, especially the eggs which are more elastic and create more volume at room temperature.

This mousse would be delicious in a regular dessert dish, but the proper presentation will elevate it to something special.  You can make an exquisite dinner  but slop it on the table and it won’t get the credit it deserves, or conversely, you can beautifully arrange a few random things you have in your kitchen into a pretty nice looking tray for an impromptu gathering and people will think you’re an amazing hostess.  For this romantic and sentimental holiday, I have prepared my husband’s dessert in one of the wedding goblets in which I served the original mousse and mine in one of the beautiful crystal and gold dessert cups that I recently received from my mother in law.  These beautiful crystal dishes belonged to my husband’s grandmother, Nana Rosella and  I thought it perfect, in a time of love to remember  “Big Nana” as she was called among our family, even though she was  4’10” on a good day, because she was very generous and loving and we keep her in our hearts. As we all know, Valentine’s Day is a holiday of hearts.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 4 small
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

 2 Tbsn sugar
1 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
2 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
strawberries or raspberries for garnish
pirouette cookies (optional)
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  • Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a couple of cups of water boiling

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  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered.

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  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits

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  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.

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  • Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass dessert cups.  Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.

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  • To prepare strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.
  • To serve, garnish with berries and a pirouette cookie, if desired.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!