"The Inspired Plate" Food Photography and Styling Challenge | June 2012 | Fish Raw and Cooked

Welcome to June's edition of The Inspired Plate! 

I loved this month's challenge.. it forced my hand at not just styling a fish photo, but it was the first time I purchased a whole trout to cook without the help of my mom.. and fisherman dad. The hunt for a whole fish came easier than I expected. My first stop was at one of our favorite restaurants, Fish House Vera Cruz in Temecula. They have a fresh fish counter that is stocked daily with fish fare from the Pacific Coast. Our visit that particular evening had my mind set on purchasing oysters to make, style and photograph our favorite appetizer, Oysters Rockafeller. Such a beautiful dish with it's parmesan cream and spinach topped oyster meat in a pearlescent shell. It's a full burst of flavor.. an ambrosia fit for Kings. 

My decision making for TIP challenges though would drive anyone a bit crazy.. It wasn't until last week's challenge count down that I was at a grocery store on the opposite side of town that shocked me with their fresh fish counter and beautiful whole trout for only $4.95 a lb. Originally when I set up these challenges, my mind set was on whole fish. I have seen them captured in food photo's among the best culinary magazines and I knew that was what I wanted to attempt. It took nearly 1 second to order those babies all ready and gutted from the fish monger. I was a happy gal.

The recipe.. well that was another decision I put off till the last minute. I actually shot my raw image before I knew what I was cooking. That doesn't always play well when you have "before and after" images. I used ingredients in my refrigerator for the raw photo's.. and then I realized that my recipe had to utilize those same ingredients. My hunt for baked whole trout proved successful among some of the great recipes at the Food Network web site. It fit perfectly and adjusted well to the ingredients on hand. I did change a few details.. I made lemon shallot oil instead of butter, and used basil instead of thyme. The rest of the recipe was kept as Yolanda Banks had written. I hope you enjoy this post.

Please be sure to visit the rest of "The Inspired Plate" gals.. they work so hard and really apply themselves to learn and perfect the art of food styling and photography. It is such a joy working with them and seeing their monthly challenge interpretations. 

To see what The Inspired Plate Challenges have previously posted, click on the link HERE

Next up in our blog circle is my dear friend Kim Kelly at Liv Life | San Diego, CA | Food and Travel Writer. I LOVE this gal.. she is a talented writer as well as recipe creator, a busy mom and wife, and developer of ducktape wonder costumes for her daughter's dance team. She always amazes me with how much she can get done in the limited hours of her day. Love you Kim!!

Magic Muffins

Magic Muffins.. I'v been seeing this recipe on my Malt-O-Meal boxes for years.. literally since I was a young girl. Never even thought twice about baking them. My mom always had this creamy whole wheat grain in a bowl for us with butter, milk and a sprinkling of sugar.. or as I liked it with a dollop of jam on top. 

Now that school is out, and my kids have time for healthier prepared breakfasts I offered up a bowl of malt-o- meal for my younger girls. My brite daughter decided instead of in a bowl she wanted her 
malt-o-meal in a muffin cup. I am so glad she brought this recipe to my attention! I prepared it just as written on the package with the exception of a dollop of jam stirred into the batter before baking. 

The results where so yummy.. and I was SO surprised! My kids loved them, and even the day after warmed up with a spreading of butter on top they were still delicious. You've got to try these!! 

I wasn't quite sure why the title "magic", except for how many disappeared so quickly! 


  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Original Flavored Malt-O-Meal® hot wheat cereal®, dry
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients
  3. stir together until ingredients are just moistened.
  4. Spoon into a greased or paper-lined 12-cup muffin pan, filling cups ¾ full.
  5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Muffin Variations:

  1. Add and incorporate one 8.5-ounce can cream style corn to Magic Muffins recipe for Magic Corn Bread mix.
  2. Pour muffin mixture into a greased 13x9-inch pan and bake for 19 to 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  3. For Banana Magic Muffins add ¾ cup mashed bananas to basic ingredients and follow the basic muffin baking instructions.

Ciao my friends!! 

Genoise Sponge Strawberry Tiramisu Cups

Buon Giorno Friends!! I am soo excited about these little dessert cups.. I've been seeing jars filled with delectable goodies all over Pinterest since the first day I joined.  Just coming from two weeks of baking and graduation preps, I had a few ingredients leftover in my fridge that I wanted to use up. 

In my pantry I had these canning jars that I bought at the hardware store, intending to can plums.. but the jars unused were just waiting for me to wash the dust off and putt off no longer there use. So voila.. perfect timing and an even more so perfect strawberry and syrup infused dessert choice for these mini's.

"Strawberries from my garden".. 
These are Alpine strawberries. An intense flavored runner less berry that grows large and has much fruit. My healthy strawberries come to you with a little companion planting of marigolds.  I love marigolds for there many uses. They are perfect for warding off pests, but they also keep the flesh healthy. I'm not sure exactly why.. I wish I had studied more botany, but when I first started growing marigolds and calendula it was to make a skin soothing tincture. Marigolds contain natural salicylic acid, and help to heal bruised skin. I use to make the tincture and leave it in the refrigerator.. just for a few days at a time.. for a soothing tonic. Again, not a botanist or chemist here.. but I did work in the skincare industry for quite a few years. Many of our high priced items had salicylic acid in them for toning, healing blemishes and minimizing pore size. There ya go.. you should all be growing Marigolds or French Calendula Flowers! 

Back to my recipe.. :)

After all these years of blogging my family recipes, I realize I don't have an actual recipe for Tiramisu here at Dalla Mia Cucina. As I was perusing my own recipe posts, I noticed that I have a picture of a holiday dinner with all the yummy food items, including a dish of heavenly tiramisu, but no recipe. And even now this isn't a traditional Tiramisu, but many of the layer elements are here and can be used in your own tiramisu cake.. or any party cake where you want to impress your guests and family with a dessert that will leave them coming back for more. 

Here in this recipe I'm giving you what I think is the most important element of this classic Italian dessert.. the Génoise Sponge. Not just any sponge, a genoise sponge originating in the city of Genoa. Some call it a genoese sponge, no matter, it's all good and perfect! 

What makes this sponge unique is that it uses no leavening. The volume and airiness of this cake is derived from whipping air into it with beaters. This all takes place at the beginning stages, first warming your eggs and sugar over a warm water bath, beating it and making it light and frothy, then putting it on an electric beater stand and whipping it till the "ribbon" stage. Alternating with the addition of a soft wheat flour, in this case cake flour,  and melted butter. This crumb is firm and open and holds up wonderfully to sugar syrups and espresso. YUMM!! You can imagine where this is going.. right?? 

After I cut out my little cake shapes to fit inside the glass jars, I douse them with the marsala espresso syrup, then layer with the mascarpone cream, topped with macerated strawberries, adding another sponge layer, another dousing.. topped with chantilly cream and let soak up in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours.  When I took the lids off, I smoothed the cream and sprinkled a generous topping of grated chocolate. Good quality.. of your choice! This isn't traditional.. traditionally in a cake form I would use a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder. 

I hope you try this recipe.. I know you'll love it, especially the Genoise.. And if not this particular recipe.. definitely make dessert in these individual sized glass jars! 

...and the recipe!!

Bon Appetito!
Laurie V..

An "Oh So Yummy" Marinated Broccoli Tomato Salad

This broccoli preparation is simple and tasty!

I don't know when.. or how it happened, but broccoli is the vegetable of choice for all of my kids. To my younger ones they look forward to a meal with the "tree's". My teens actually crave broccoli in it's many different preparations or simply steamed with a splash of lemon. 

Today's broccoli preparation comes by way of my oldest daughter who grocery shopping for me this weekend came home with all the ingredients to make our very favorite Broccoli Tomato Salad.

In this recipe I simply make a fresh mayonnaise dressing adding fresh minced lemon rind and a 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and toss it in with 2-3 largely cut vine ripened tomatoes and enough steamed broccoli to feed all your family and guests.