- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The fun of entertaining comes when you have time to visit with your guests, not in the kitchen slaving away while your company relaxes alone.

Thus, the popularity of kitchens with counters and stools, so the entertaining happens right there and so the guests join in the cooking process.

In reality, not everyone’s kitchen is configured this way.

If your kitchen is not designed for a crowd, do the next best thing and plan an easy, stress-free do-ahead menu.

For winter, that can mean a cut of pork, beef or lamb roasting in the oven with cut up onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini — whatever vegetables you have roasting alongside.

Try one of the easy pre-seasoned pork tenderloins with the cooking instructions right on the bag.

Mash potatoes and let them stay warm on top of the stove, or turn them into a baking dish, cover with foil and let them warm in the oven.

If they thicken too much on sitting, stir in a little warmed milk to smooth them out.

For something light and green, turn a salad bag with toppings out into a serving bowl, top the greens with a damp paper towel, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the salad until serving.

For dessert? This easy do-ahead trifle can be prepared days in advance.

It starts with brownies you bake ahead, a super-easy chocolate mousse, and whipped topping layered in a fancy trifle dish or punch bowl or even individual goblets. Enlist a friend to make coffee while you retrieve the dessert from the refrigerator and your little dinner party is complete.

Five time-shaving ways to create brownie desserts:

• Crumble brownies over scoops of coffee-flavored ice cream. Top with a drizzle of Kahlua and one of chocolate sauce.

• Crumble brownies into goblets, and top with sliced, lightly sweetened strawberries in season, then a scoop of whipped cream.

• Brush warm baked brownies with orange marmalade. Cut into cubes, spoon over vanilla ice cream and top with mandarin oranges and a drizzle of orange liqueur.

• Layer fresh raspberries and sweetened whipped cream in a parfait dish or goblet. Top with crumbled brownies.

• Fold 1 cup of crumbled brownies into your favorite cheesecake batter. Bake, slice and serve with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Brownie chocolate mousse trifle

The preparation time is 25 minutes, the baking time is 25 to 30 minutes, the chilling time is 1 hour, and the assembly time is 10 minutes. The trifle can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator three to five days.

MOUSSE:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy whipping cream

BROWNIES:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 19.8-ounce package brownie mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk or milk

2 large eggs

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup chopped pecans

TOPPING:

1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 cup toffee chips or almond brickle chips

For the chocolate mousse, place chocolate chips in a medium-size mixing bowl and set aside. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

Pour hot cream over the chocolate chips and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until the chocolate melts. Place the bowl, uncovered, in the refrigerator to chill completely, 1 hour.

Lightly mist bottom of a 13-by-9-inch pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Set pan aside. Set aside a glass trifle dish or a large glass salad bowl.

Place brownie mix, melted butter, buttermilk or milk, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.

Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are incorporated, about 50 strokes. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula.

Scatter chocolate chips and pecans evenly over top of batter. Place pan on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake cake until outside 2 inches have formed a crust and it feels firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill.

Remove chilled chocolate mixture and chilled beaters from refrigerator. Beat chocolate mixture on medium-high speed until it forms stiff peaks, 1 to 2 minutes, and is quite thick and mousse-like.

Cut pan of brownies into two portions. Crumble half of the brownies into ½-inch pieces and scatter them evenly over bottom of the reserved serving dish.

Spoon large blobs of chocolate mousse over brownie layer, and then use a rubber spatula to spread the mousse out evenly.

Spread half of the thawed frozen topping over the mousse, and scatter half of the toffee chips on top.

Crumble remaining brownies and repeat layers, finishing by scattering the rest of the toffee chips evenly over the top.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

To serve, spoon brownie trifle into serving bowls. Makes 16 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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