strawberry basil tiramisu | cooks in the kitchen challenge

When I bake for myself, I made chocolate.  Or use chocolate, rather.  Someday I would love to go to chocolate-making school.  But that’s later.  Much later.  Anyway, chocolate is usually my dessert of choice: chocolate chip cookies, triple chocolate torte, white chocolate cheesecake, chocolate chip cookie pie….you get the idea.



But every so often, I like to try something new and different – mostly for the sake of company and impressing people.  I’d be lying if I said that making impressive things didn’t bring me joy.  Plus, I just really, really like baking.  Either that or I just really, really like wearing aprons and I’d feel silly if I were wearing an apron and not standing in front of a KitchenAid.  I haven’t decided which yet.  This is definitely one of those new and different things.  And it definitely makes an impression!  I’m so glad it worked out because it could have been a terrible failure and put me off of strawberries and tiramisu forever and probably ruined any chance we had of making friends.  Well, probably not tiramisu since it’s one of my favorites but definitely strawberries since I don’t really like them to begin with and definitely basil.  And most likely no one would ever come to dinner at our house ever again.  Yeesh.  There was a lot riding on this poor dessert but it definitely stood up to the challenge and then some!


Strawberry-basil just seems like the weirdest combination of flavors.  Throw in a little cinnamon and some mascarpone and you’ve got yourself and heck of a mixture.  Ya – I’m just as baffled as you are about how that makes tastebud heaven.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous about a dessert, either.  Whew.


I can’t say that this is something that will become part of our regular repertoire (there is no chocolate….) but if you’re wanting to get fancy and impress some company with an amazingly glorious summer dessert, then this is without a doubt the recipe for you!  Husband was blown away and said it was the absolute perfect thing to have after a cookout.  Which sounds to me like a perfect July 4th dessert…So, then again, maybe it will become part of our usual line-up.  Good thing there’s a strawberry patch down the road!


strawberry basil tiramisu

baker’s note: the basil flavor is stronger than you’d think so feel free to cut down on the basil if you want. This is just how we like it and this recipe is worth all of the steps. I promise. Need something to do with the leftover egg whites? Make macarons!

1 pkg ladyfingers, split lengthwise

1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C grand marnier

basil custard:
1 C chopped fresh basil
2/3 C whole milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 C pure-cane white sugar

mascarpone cream:
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1. In medium bowl, toss together strawberries, 1/4 C sugar, cinnamon, and grand marnier. Set aside
2. In medium saucepan, whisk together milk and chopped basil and heat over medium-low until just before boiling. Strain the basil from the milk and discard the leaves. Set the milk aside.
3. In the saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth. Stir in the milk from step two and heat on medium-low until the mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly.
4. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes and keep stirring! Remove from heat and let cool.
5. Beat cream on high until soft peaks form. Gently stir in vanilla and mascarpone until combined. Set aside.
6. Now that you have all of the mixtures ready, you can start assembly:
a. Arrange ladyfingers across the bottom of a 9×13 pan, cut side up.
b. Top with half of the strawberry mixture, making sure to allow the ladyfingers to soak up the grand marnier.
c. Spread half of the basil custard on top.
d. Evenly spread half of the mascarpone cream on top of that.
e. repeat steps a-d until you’re out of stuff.
7. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
8. Enjoy!


If you’re looking for more strawberry yumminess, check out these recipes:

strawberries & cream cupcakes  |  strawberry galette with champagne cream

Here are the previous months’ challenges:

semi-sweet chocolate | lime | spinach


And don’t forget to check out the other amazing desserts on the challenge!


hi, mom | secrets of a southern lady, part one


Welcome to the very first post of a new series: Secrets of a Southern Lady.

 Over the next few months I, and and hopefully you, too, will be writing about our mothers and a sharing a few of the tidbits we’ve learned from them over the years.  My mama is a southern one, thus the name of this adventure, but all mamas are definitely invited!  Find out more about the project here.  I’d really, really love to hear from y’all, too!   At the bottom of this post, you’ll find info to add a link to your blog post or just send me an e-mail at with what you’ve written and I’ll post it here in the upcoming days.


In honor of it being Mother’s Day, I’d like to introduce my mama to you (henceforth known as Mama) and explain a little about just what makes her so incredible.


As an adult and now a mother myself, I’ve come to appreciate her so much more than I did during my younger years.  (Story of every mother-daughter relationship, I’m sure.  Sorry, moms.)  I now consider her one of my very best friends and she is always the first person I call when I’ve burned the roast or tracked tar through the house or need to run a party idea by someone or just have no idea what I’m doing with my life.  Mama and I are so very similar in many ways but also very different in others which sometimes either results in amazing collaboration or frustration (or both – but most often collaboration).  She is the person who will drive 2000 miles to bring me decorations for a wedding and stay up all night cleaning my house when I have a lot going on.  True story. That’s a really special person, right there.


Mama loves parties and is one of the most creative people I know.  She can throw a party on a moment’s notice for 100 people without breaking a sweat.  Everything with her is a party, so it’s nothing out of the norm.  She and I together are a deadly combination for ridiculous ideas and up-all-nighters when we get started with a project.  Well, she’s an up-all-nighter….I’m a go-to-beder.


One of my favorite things about Mama is that everything with her is an adventure.  Everything.  When we were little, instead of going on walks together, we went on “adventures” and found all sorts of “treasures”.  I hope I’m that engaging with my children.


Mama also says “no” to nothing.  I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard the word come out of her mouth, to be honest.  Want to build a rocket at 2am? Let’s do it!  Need to transform the house into a giant rainforest?  Why not?!  She has always gone out of her way to make sure everyone is having complete sensory overload at all times.  She recently retired from many, many years in education (but not too many…she’s not a day over 29…) and during her time as a private school superintendent, she was always picking up things for the school: she filled the preschool with giant stuffed animals because she thought it would be fun for the kids, she used all of her dishes for fundraising banquets, etc.  She’s just that kind of person.  It also helps that her basement is a party warehouse on steroids.  I go “shopping” there all of the time…


And she is always full of tidbits.  She knows something about everything.  Except computers, but that’s okay.  Most of these things she learned from her mama, a true white glove-wearing, tea-drinking southern belle, and is now passing on to me.  I love it.  Over the next few months I’ll be passing on the little life tips that I’m constantly picking up (I am seriously tempted to follow her around with a notebook).  No detail is too small to be overlooked; she irons her pillowcases.  Seriously.  And once taught a class solely on ironing.  Seriously.


And even though she made me rock a bowl cut for, like, 12 years, I still love my mama and I think you will, too, and I’m so proud to be her daughter and to honor her in this small way on this Mother’s Day weekend.  I could say some more really sappy stuff about how awesome it is that she hasn’t disowned me yet but neither of us are overly sappy people – I leave that to Hallmark.


Love you, Mama!

And Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere!

Add links to your mother stories below! Just click on the little button below and you’ll be taken to the Inlinkz website which will walk you through the process – I’d love to “meet” your mama!  You have until June 9th to post here.  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to send me an e-mail at and I’ll share your mother intro here on C&W. Or don’t and just read about my mama.  I’m flexible like that.

Next month’s topic is:

 june :: housekeeping My mom can get a stain out of anything and is teaching me how (I’m a slow learner and an excellent stainer of everything).  How did your mom teach you to keep house?

We’ll be posting on June 9th so get ready!

Copy the html code below and paste it onto your blog to let others know you’re in on the fun and invite them to participate, too!

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it’s a fine line

M-day is coming.  Dun, dun, dun.  A day which brings tears to the eyes of mamas young and old, terror to the hearts of fathers in search of gifts, and hand-print artwork from children everywhere.  I love it.  I’m so excited for the Saurus to get big enough to make me all sorts of handprint butterflies and what-not to hang on the fridge.  But for now he’s still a wee one and all of his artwork involves regurgitated goldfish in my work boots and applesauce hair gel.  Ahh, motherhood.

If you’re a panicking father, here are some picks of my favorite things to show your wife how awesome she is.  Because let’s face it, birthing a human is pretty much the worst ever and nothing made me feel less beautiful.  I always tell Husband that I don’t necessarily need fancy things, and you don’t have to spend money, but it is always nice to feel extra-loved every so often.  Chances are your baby mama feels the same way, so relax.  But not too much-you don’t want to forget about it.  It’s a fine line.  But you know, no pressure or anything.

mother's day

1. bath melts I love baths.  Sometimes, when the Saurus goes to bed, I go to the bath.  Adding one of these makes it feel like a spa day.

2. monogrammed necklace  Because this is beautiful.  And if you’re a first-time mom, you can never have enough things that remind you of your awesome bundle of cuddle.

3. breakfast in bed.  Do the dishes, too.  That’s an important step.

4. apron Maybe it’s just me, but any occasion is a good occasion for an apron.

5. photos Make her a photobook.  A little time-consuming, yes, but something she’ll cherish forever.  Or, if she’s a super-photo-control-freak (like me), then just print out a handful to use in frames.

6. wallet  I never carry a purse.  And I rarely carry a wallet – I just end up throwing my ID, debit card, and phone into the depths of the diaper bag.  It’s a bad system, so something like this would be incredibly helpful for transporting just the essentials between work bag, diaper bag, pocket, etc.

7. a spa in a jar  Just a few little things to show Mom how much she is appreciated and to help her feel beautiful.

8. coffee mug Moms have bad days. It’s nice to be reminded that you’re not a failure.

9. urban halo head band.  Looks great on those unwashed-hair days. (Hint – if she’s wearing this, tell her she looks extra pretty.  And mean it)

10. a cup of coffee/starbucks gift card PS – you can send a starbucks one online!  If you really want to step up your game, get her a Nespresso…because one cup of coffe is nice, but unlimited cups of coffee are better…

11. frame your baby’s handprint/footprint.  The Saurus’ nanny did this for me for my birthday – she just put ink on his hand, embossed it, and laminated it.  I totally cried – it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever received and I’ll treasure it forever.