Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whole Wheat Strawberry Donuts

These donuts are baked, not fried (this does mean that you'll need one of those Donut Pans.
If you don't have one, you can easily make these into muffins (which, surprise, is what they really are--only in donutty shapes and with a glaze). Incidentally, we also made several that were mini muffins which turned out cute little donut-hole looking things that were super fun.

My only caveat is that they don't come out all nice and pink, like I was hoping they would. If you want pinky pink strawberry donuts you're going to have to use some food coloring in either the donut or glaze. We skipped it and even my three young girls lived to tell the tale.

Whole What Strawberry Doughnuts
adapted from Mary Quite Contrary Bakes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes or until you stick a fork in and no batter comes out (this will be longer for muffins since they are not as flat)
Cost: $1.65 or about $.16/donut
whole wheat flour: .10, flour: .05, sugar: .05, milk: .05, egg: .10, butter: .05, strawberries: .75, powdered sugar: .40, other stuff: .10

1/2 C whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat flour)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2-3/4 C strawberries
2 tsp strawberry jam
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

3 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C cold milk

Preheat oven to 425. Grease donut pan.

Combine strawberries and strawberry jam. Puree it in small blender.

Combine dry ingredients. Add milk, egg, butter, and maple syrup. Stir until combined. Stir in strawberry mixture, starting with 1/2 and only adding more if needed. Batter should be wet, but not crazy runny.

Plop it into donut molds. This makes about 10, so if you've just got a 6-donut mold, you'll need to do it twice or do muffins or mini-muffins (donutty holes) like we did.

To make glaze: Stir all ingredients until smooth. If you had a little extra strawberry stuff, you can add that too (we had a little extra and added it).

When donuts are cooled, dip them into glaze, set on wax paper and let glaze set.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Waldorf Red Velvet Cake

(And in it's cupcake version):

Okay, so I kind of missed posting this before Valentine's Day because I made it the day of Valentine's Day. I thought about waiting a year and then posting, but then I realized that this could easily be dyed green for St. Patrick's Day and red, white, and blue for Independence Day (oh, my).

Now let's talk about cake.

The Part Where I Justify Its Color:

This one gets a lot of flack for being red (or green, o ye Irish lads and lasses). And it's true, you're going to dump a whole ounce of food coloring into this so be prepared for that. You could skip the food coloring. You'd get an almost vanilla cake that isn't as pretty, but that is still quite good. However, it will also be missing some type of flavor and moistness that the food coloring gives it. I'm sorry; that is just the way it is. In my opinion, there is something that food coloring gives it besides just color. Whatever this is, it's probably a bad thing health-wise. But we're not talking about health; we're talking about cake. If you're going to eat cake (and you certainly should) I don't think you should expect it to be healthy. Also, I don't think it should be something you expect to do every day. If those two expectations are met, you can probably come to peace with this most amazing of cakes and trust that a little food coloring once a year isn't going to kill you--at least not before something else will. So you can see that I am clearly justifying my actions, but I'm not going to apologize. This is not quite the same without the color.

The Part Where I Justify Its Frosting:

I grew up loving Waldorf Red Velvet Cake. That's what my mother called it and what it said on the little card in her recipe box. I mention this because I believe that there is a difference between Waldorf red velvet cake and the traditional southern red velvet cakes. The southern cakes tend to have cream cheese frosting and sometimes toasted pecans in the frosting. They're very good and I believe a cream cheese frosting is becoming our country's standard for red velvet cake. However, I believe there is something better. The Waldorf (from, I believe a hotel in NY) is my favorite. It uses a flour based frosting that is heavenly. (Note: It is also traditionally made from two 8x8 inch squares that are then cut in half into thin layers, so you wind up with 4 thin layers of cake. I didn't do this because I was short on time and short on one square pan, and I had three heart shaped pans and it was Valentine's Day so that fit. But but it always makes me happy when I do make those thin-layered square cakes. Next year, people, next year.) It is also often dusted with shredded coconut--at least the ones my mom made. I love this. But Kip doesn't like coconut and I am not--I repeat not--going to eat an entire cake by myself no matter how good it is. So I usually leave the coconut off and then sometimes sprinkle a bit of my own slice (but if you and yourn like coconut, it's really great). Let me note here, too, that I don't claim to have the original Waldorf recipe, just one that is somewhat different from the southern-style red velvets.

The Part Where I Justify Its Defiance of Being Considered Chocolate or Vanilla:

Red Velvet Cake also always has a little bit of cocoa in it. It usually ranges from 1 teaspoon to a couple tablespoons. I don't know why it contains cocoa, but I believe it is because the cocoa (NOT Dutch process) and the food coloring can work together to make things very red (you know how devil's food cake has a red hint too it--yeah, so the chocolate would give it a little something something like that). However, lately, there is a trend to include more chocolate in a red velvet cake. I'm sure that this makes a perfectly delightful chocolate-ish, reddish, devil's-food-esque cake. Maybe there's even a tradition in it somewhere (probably those southerners again). But to me, it does not make a Waldorf red velvet cake. This type of red velvet cake isn't chocolate and it isn't vanilla. It's red, darn it. And it will not apologize for that. It will not try to be chocolate. It will not try to be vanilla. It will be what it is. Which is one of the moistest, most delightful cakes you will ever eat. Yes, it will. Especially this one. Trust me, I've tried a bunch in search for the perfect one.

Red Velvets remind me of my mother who died last year and whose birthday was in February. She wouldn't have apologized for this being all red and crazy like it is either. And she would have helped herself to a second slice thank you very much. 

Why You Should Eat It:

It's moist. It's dense without being anything like a brick. It has a lovely crumb. It tastes different somehow than any other cake you'll ever eat. Try it. Love it. And don't even think about preaching to me about that once a year red food coloring if you've got a diet Coke in your hand.

Waldorf Red Velvet Cake
adapted from Johnie Gabriel
makes 3 layers or 2 chunky square layers
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.15
flour: .40, sugar: .25, oil: .25, food coloring: 2.00, milk: .15 (buttermilk is more, but I cheat), other stuff: .10


2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 C canola oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring (or whatever other color you like)
1 tsp vanilla
1 C buttermilk (or 1 scant cup regular milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar mixed in)

Prep time: 10 minutes, but there is a cooling period, so it'll need an hour or two.
Cost: $2.80
milk: .30, flour: .15, sugar: .35, butter: 2.00

2 C milk
dash salt
1 C flour
2 C sugar
2 C butter (or 1/2 C butter and 1/2 C shortening for a whiter frosting, but the flavor isn't as good)
2 tsp vanilla

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pans by spraying with oil and then lining with wax paper.

Sift flour, baking soda, and cocoa.

Beat sugar and eggs together in a large bowl.

In small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla. Add this to the egg/sugar mixture.

Then add part flour mixture, part buttermilk, part flour, the rest of the buttermilk, the rest of the flour.

Pour batter into pans. Bake (for 3 layers) 15-16 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Don't overbake it.

Let cool for ten minutes, then turn out on cake rack (or whatever) to cool completely.

For Frosting:

Cook milk, flour, and salt over medium heat, whisking constantly. It will thicken. Don't be afraid to get it quite thick. COOL completely. (If you don't let it cool, this frosting will still taste good, but it will sort of separate and look weird.)

Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add cooled flour mixture. Beat it until it's nice and smooth (although if it's a little lumpy, it won't kill anybody). Frost cake.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Strawberry Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips

This seems so weird since it is hailing/slushing as I write, but strawberry season is on its way. I'm getting a head start by working through my last few bags of frozen strawberries from last summer.

Normally I dismiss recipes that bake strawberries. They are clearly popular because I see a whole bunch of them racing around cyberspace, but they're just not my thing. Generally when you bake strawberries into a bread, muffin, cookie, or whatever, they turn into a squishy (booger-esque) blob that at some point you are forced to bite into (say it isn't so). Which is why I didn't re-pin this recipe when I saw it on my sister's board. But then she had to go and rave about it, so then I had to go and try it. I did, however, cut my strawberries into tiny bits--a move I did not regret. Next time I might even go and puree the derned things. But even with my un-love of baked strawberries, these really were butt-kickingly good. (I did add chocolate chips to half of them; we have that issue around here). Kip ate one just because they were there and he was hungry. He ate it not expecting to like it due to the fact that it was not brown and chocolatey looking like most things he likes. Then he proceeded to eat a whole bunch. I'm not gonna lie: it surprised me. My picky husband snarfing down on the banana, strawberry, yogurt muffins. Will wonders never cease?

And while I'm discussing Kip and, tangentially, chocolate (they always go together, don't they), I should say that the chocolate chips really added a bit of a wow factor to these as well as provide a little bite to an otherwise smooth muffin (oh, I just love the bite of a chocolate chip in a smooth muffin, yes I do).

You know what else? These are even better the second day.

There's still quite a bit of experimenting I wish to do. I want to try them with whole wheat (or part whole wheat). I want to add some oats to experiment with texture. I want to puree the strawberries. But for now, I give you this: a very solid, surprisingly delicious recipe that will let you love some of the bounty the coming spring promises.

Strawberry Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips 
adapted from Closet Cooking
Makes 12 large muffins (or 12 regular muffins and 8 random mini muffins, which is what I ended up with)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 12-15 minutes
Cost: $3.20 or about $.25 per muffin
flour: .20, sugar: .20, bananas: .40, eggs: .10, yogurt: .40, strawberries: 1.00, chocolate chips: .90)

1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C brown sugar
3 large, rip bananas (mashed)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C plain yogurt (recipe called for Greek; I used regular, but it was full-fat)
1 C strawberries, sliced
1 C chocolate chips, optional but nice

Mix flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. (Note: I should confess that I ALWAYS skip this step and just toss the dry ingredients in after my wet ones are ready.)

Mash your bananas. You can leave the strawberries sliced, but if you--like me--don't like the squishies, I recommend chopping them into tiny bits or even pureeing them.

Mix brown sugar, bananas, strawberries, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt in a large bowl.

Add dry to wet. Mix until combined. Add 1 C chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Drop into muffin tins and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (You can also make a large 9x5 inch loaf if you'd prefer--cook 50-60 minutes.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Five Meals You Can Make with Leftovers

When it gets to be more than 5 days since I've posted, I start to get twitchy. Yet I haven't been making many new foods lately. Why? Because I've been working my way through my fridge and freezer and trying to get things spring cleaned. I love having plenty of food stocked and on hand, but at a certain point it gets a little overwhelming. By overwhelming I mean that a) I open the freezer and hundreds of bagged or Tupperwared foods stare at me in a taunting way saying, "Did you remember to label me? Do you think you'll ever find a way to use me?" Or b) you open your freezer and things fall out onto your head, constantly threatening to concuss you and those nearest and dearest to you. At this point, it's time to put your leftover hat on. Today I thought I would help you out

Five Meals You Can Make With Leftovers:

1. Soup. Grandma did it, so can you. Here's how. Heat 2 Tbsp butter or oil in a pot on the stove. After it's melted, whisk in 2 Tbsp flour. Let it cook for 1 minute. To this add 2 C milk, cream, or chicken/veggie broth (or a combination of the three). (You can even get all crazy and add things like coconut milk here.)Add salt and pepper. Whisk the liquid in and stir until everything thickens just a bit. Then throw in whatever vegetables or meats you've got sitting in leftover land. If they are cooked, just heat them through. If they are raw, let them cook until they're tender (or you may want to saute them in butter before beginning the soup). If you've got raw meat you want to use, I recommend cooking it alone before adding to the soup. Even cooked meat with a bit of sauce can be added to a soup as long is its not a crazy weird flavored sauce. You can also throw in some plain cooked pasta or rice right just before your soup is done if you've got a bit hanging around that you want to use. When your soup is just about ready, taste it and add any seasonings that seem good. Be sure it has enough salt and pepper. 

Leftovers most easily used:
-random amounts of broth, milk, or cream that you have leftover from other recipes
-fresh herbs
-a bit of pasta or rice 

2. Casserole. This is a sort of counterpoint to soup--it uses more grains and (potentially less of the other stuff). It works best if you've got a bunch of noodles, rice, or other grain like that and then you have a few veggies or a bit of meat as well. And of course some cheese. Yes, I think most casseroles need a bit of cheese. Here's what you do. Mix your cooked noodles, rice, barley, or whatever with any vegetables or meat you've got. Add 1 C cheese--whatever kind. Add something saucy. This can be a sauce you already have from a dish or it can be a simple white sauce or it can be mayonnaise or cream cheese or it can even be a can of cream of something soup (although generally I'm opposed to those on principle--but that's just snobbery so feel free to ignore it if you wish). Add this creamy stuff, mix it all up. Put it in a casserole dish or 8x8, 9x13--whatever fits it. Top it with cheese and maybe some crumbled crackers, potato chips, or bread crumbs if you've got that hanging around. Bake at 350 until it's warmed through and the cheese is melted. 

Don't want to/have time to bake this? You don't have to. You can just mix everything on the stovetop or in a skillet and warm it that way, then add cheese to the top, let that melt and serve. I prefer it baked (just because), but this is a nice time saver. 

Leftovers most easily used:
-Grains: Pasta, rice, barley, farro, etc. 
-Cheese--this is perfect if you get a collection of tiny nubs of different kinds of cheese that you don't know what to do with. 
-Old crackers, corn flakes, potato chips, or bread crumbs. 

3. Wrap it. What you do: Throw everything you've got in a skillet: veggies, meat, cheese, herbs, even toothsome grains like rice or barley. Add a bit of cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, or even BBQ sauce (or a combo). Heat it. Put it in a tortilla. 

Leftovers most easily used
-toothsome grains--rice, barley, farro, etc. 
-fresh herbs
-random bits of sauces
-random kinds of cheese

4. Wrap it and bake it. This requires some bread dough--it can be homemade, but it's easiest with some of those tubed biscuits or croissants from the store (though even as I say that, I have to admit that homemade biscuit dough isn't that hard to whip up). What you do: Take meat, veggies, cream cheese, and regular cheese. Wrap it up in your bread dough. You can actually wrap it and make a sort of stuffed biscuit or croissant. Or you can put the biscuit/croissant dough in a muffin tin and then plop the fillings onto that. Either way, when it's ready you'll bake it until the bread dough is cooked--about 10-15 minutes at 375 or 400 degrees. 

Leftovers most easily used

5. Salad. We tend to get really boring with our salads so that they end up always looking (and tasting) like a McDonald's side salad--iceberg lettuce and a slice of out-of-season tomato if you please. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can have cold salads with veggies needing to be used in the fridge and then topped with cold meats and a dressing. Or we can make warm salads with things like butternut squash, potatoes, eggs, warm meats and then topped with a dressing. Nuts are also good in salads so this is good for that bit of whatever nut you didn't need. Salads are also more conducive to vegetables like avocados, artichoke hearts, or hearts of palm. I often use part of these in recipes and have an odd little amount left. For it to be a salad, I think the ingredients can be as crazy as you wish, but I think that the fact that it has a dressing is key. What you do: Toss your veggies (and meats/eggs) together. If you'd like a warm salad, heat this up and add a warm dressing. You can use a prepared dressing of course, but it's probably more fun and tastier to keep with our leftover theme by using a little oil, a little acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or even orange juice for a sweeter dressing), maybe a dash or two of sugar, salt and pepper, and then herbs. Shake this like you mean it and you'll have a delicious salad. (Here's a very basic dressing that you could use different herbs in. Here's another that is a honey mustard. I've only used cold, but am betting both would be good warm as well.)

Leftovers most easily used:
-Other vegetables
-cooked eggs
-fresh herbs

And a weird bonus idea if you're brave...

6. Patties. Our mothers and grandmothers would not even blink about this, but our modern food culture tends to balk at the idea of throwing all your old veggies, meats, grains together, adding an egg, then squishing them into a patty and frying (or cheat-frying by cooking in a skillet with just a bit of butter) them up. However, if you consider what a meat ball is you will realize that it is really just a leftovers patty with an egg thrown in and then maybe this won't see so crazy to you. My mom used to make tuna patties or salmon patties. What you do: Take your leftovers, chop them as small as possible. Mix them together. Crack an egg into them. Add some bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs, potato chip crumbs, whatever crumbs) if you have them. Flatten into a patty. Cook on a skillet with some butter or oil. To make this seem like something special instead of mashed leftover patty, have a sauce for dipping. Here's one I love with all my heart, but you can use whatever you like. 

Leftovers most easily used:
-bread crumbs (or other crumbs)
-Meat (fish is especially conducive to this kind of treatment)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies--An Experiment in Fats (Coconut, Shortening, Lard)

(these are the shortening/butter combo)

Last year I came to grips with the fact that my chocolate chip cookie soul mate contains shortening (half shortening and half butter to be precise). Even though shortening and I are not usually BFF, I'm at peace with that. However, I realize that there are people in this world who would really rather not use a trans fat in any of their foods, even if it is an already unwholesome cookie. Of course, they could use all butter (which is tasty, but tends to produce a flatter, less dense cookie), but I did wonder how other solid fats would hold up in a cookie--namely lard and coconut oil. These are considered more natural, whole foods than shortening and though lard might never gets its wings back after the '80s/'90s, coconut oil is soaring about with a halo right now. Then this weekend I had a gaggle of boys (is that what you have when it's boys or is it just geese and girls that get to gaggle?). Anyway, we had some boys here and I was making cookies and I had some lard hanging about that needed to get used. I decided to make up a batch with half lard, half butter. I thought it might appeal to that whole bacon with sweet things craze. And then I tasted the batter. Worst chocolate chip cookie batter ever. It had a smoky, almost bitter aftertaste. Convinced I had ruined my cookies, I figured 'what the heck' and made up half batches of coconut oil/butter and my now favorite shortening/butter combinations. (Do you think my high school chemistry teacher would be disappointed that my chemistry experiments are limited to only cookies and cake these days? Hmmm.) I should note here, too, that the coconut oil was not virgin extra nice coconut oil. If it had been, it would have had an undertone of coconutiness that my cheap oil didn't. That can be good or bad depending on whether you like coconut flavor or not.

From left to right: Coconut, lard, shortening. The coconut weren't as pale as the light made them out to be.

Of the batters, the coconut oil one tasted the best. Hands down. Almost as good as an all butter batter, which is really truly the best if batter is what you're after. The shortening was a bit blander. And the lard was (imho) blech.

Cooked, however, the playing field leveled a little bit more. I felt like the shortening/butter cookies were still the best in both flavor and texture--soft middle, edge with a bit of crisp. It also held its shape best (i.e. didn't go flat). Perfect.

But the coconut oil/butter combo also tasted pretty good. Most of the children at my house (of course I made them all do a taste test; what else would I do with a bunch of kids) preferred the shortening/butter and coconut/butter equally. The lard pretty consistently came in last. BUT. It didn't flop on its face. Everybody was still perfectly happy to eat it and the abrasive, smoky aftertaste that had bothered me so much in the batter was mostly gone in the cooked cookie. Oh, it was there just a bit, but not in an unpleasantly overpowering way. The coconut oil and lard cookies were both a bit flatter than the shortening ones, but not ridiculously so. And the coconut oil cookies had a little more chewiness to them than the lard.

So there you go? Want to do some kitchen chemistry of your own. Here is my soul mate (Happy Valentine's Day, Katie's cookies) recipe. Try subbing the shortening with an equal amount of coconut oil or lard if you wish for a cookie without trans fat.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Okay, just wow.

You know when you try a lot of different recipes from the internet, you get used to a certain kind of disappointment when something is labeled with a lot of words you love--you know the ones--"Nutella pumpkin snickerdoodle ice cream strudels" or "Fudgy creme brulee nut butterfinger cream sauce." These recipes are either trying too hard to be something they just aren't. Or combining way too many things into something that is distinctly subpar. Or maybe they're trying to hit search engine gold. Or maybe they're just pregnant and trying to cover all their cravings in one manic dessert (yup, it's usually a dessert).

I admit that I almost kind of expected that with these. I mean I love love love red velvet cake. And I love love love brownies. Not only that, but red velvet cake reminds me of Valentine's Day with my mother. And brownies were the first thing Kip ever gave me. And cheesecake, well, that's just something I love for myself. So not only am I bringing food expectation to this proverbial table, but I am also demanding some emotional fulfillment here. Let me just say yes, yes, and YES. This recipe was the most perfect red velvet brownie I can imagine. There was sufficient chocolate to make for a dense, delicious brownie. But there was still that distinct flavor and moist texture that make for perfect red velvet cake. Add some pretty swirls of cheesecake and we are on.

So, Ellie, from The Bitchin' Kitchen, let me just say that you have a new number one fan. I got Ellie this month for Secret Recipe Club and these brownies were such a hit that I cannot wait to try everything else I pinned from her site. Also, I really really enjoyed reading her blog. Her writing is fun and funny and not (like some people I might happen to know or maybe even be) too long.

Make these. Love these. And Happy Valentine's Day.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
from The Bitchin' Kitchen
Makes 8x8 inch pan of brownies (16 brownies)
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Cost: $3.10 or about $.20/brownie
butter: .60, chocolate.50, sugar: .16, eggs: .10, food coloring: .50. flour .10, cream cheese: 1.00, sugar: .04, egg: .10

1/2 C butter
2 oz dark chocolate (I used 60% Ghiradelli chips)
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp red food coloring
2/3 C flour
1/4 tsp salt

For cheesecake top:
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/3 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. (Note: I did this, though I don't usually line my brownie pans because I am intensely lazy, but it really was nice when they were done and cool and I could just pull those brownies right out of the pan. However, if you just want to grease your pan, I think that would work too.)

Combine butter and dark chocolate in microwavable dish and microwave in 20 second intervals, mixing in between until all is melted and smooth. Let it sit while you prepare the rest.

In large bowl, beat together sugar, eggs, vanilla, and food coloring. Still beating, add chocolate/butter mixture. Add flour and salt. Don't overbeat the flour, okay. Just mix it until it's mixed in.

Spread this onto your pan. Then make the cheesecake part.

Beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add egg. Add vanilla. Beat until well combined. (Note: I did not use all my cheese cake batter--only about 2/3 of it. However, I could have for a thicker cheesecake part and would not have regretted it. If, however, you want less cheesecake than brownie, halve this part of the recipe or use whatever leftovers you've got as mini-cheesecakes in ramekins or muffin tins. I swirled a drop of food coloring in and got 2 pink swirly mini-cheesecakes. Bake these until 160 degrees in the middle.)

Once your cheesecake is ready, plop it onto your brownie batter (mine was a little runny since I softened my cream cheese too much, but it worked anyway). Then take a knife and use it to swirl the cheesecake into the brownie. Stick the knife deep into the brownie batter so that you get a good swirl.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until you can stick a knife into it and have it come out without brownie batter.

Cool before serving (warm cheesecake just isn't my thing).


Friday, February 8, 2013

Cilantro Spinach Pesto

I really love classic pesto. I don't often mess around with it. But last night when we had this delicious pork, I had shredded some cilantro onto it, but felt like it really needed something a little saucier to go with. And then the neurons connected in my brain and I made this. Only I didn't have enough cilantro for it to actually blend even in my mini blender. I needed more greens. Blending that cup of spinach into it with more olive oil, I was sure I'd messed it up, but it came out delicious, cilantro-y, and with a bit of nutritional punch. I did not complain.

Cilantro Spinach Pesto
Makes, um, a half cup or so
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $1.10
cilantro: .25, spinach: .30, olive oil: .30, pine nuts: .25

1 C cilantro leaves
1 C spinach leaves
1/3 C olive oil
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic

Blend in small blender or some type of mini food processor. Serve with pork, chicken, rice, or beans.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Favorite Valentine's Day Treats

One great thing my mother did for me as a kid/teenager was to make Valentine's Day a holiday that could be enjoyed whether there was someone romantic in your life or not. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized that Valentine's Day is a holiday hated by many (and by 'many,' I mean a bunch of single girls). Friends, this needn't be. Surely there are more people in our lives to love than those with whom we are romantically involved. So whether "Buy lingerie" is on your list of to-do's or not, you can still enjoy this day with those you love. Especially if you make them one of these desserts.

(Note: As a wee disclaimer, some of my pictures when you go to the links, well, they're not my best. Evenso, these desserts are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Do not fear the ugly photos. Do not fear, I say.)

1. Red Velvet Zebra Cake. It's pretty. It's delicious. It's easier to make than it looks (pictured above).

2. No Bake Mousse Pie (or just mousse if you skip the crust). This takes 20 minutes (at the most) to whip up. It's elegant, decadent, you know all that V-Day kind of stuff without several hours of fuss.

3.  Chocolate Orange Mascarpone Cheesecake Pie. That title makes this sound hard, but it's really really easy. You don't even cook it. You can make it with the graham cracker crust, or not.

4. Cookies and Cream. And while we're speaking of easy desserts... This is my favorite dessert of all time. Also, it only 20 minutes to put together. Also, a few drops of red food coloring and your cream will turn pink. Wheeee! However, it must be done the night before. And it requires an ingredient you can't find in every city.

5. Chocolate Cookies with Orange Sugar Edges. I don't know what it is about chocolate and fruit, but the combo seems romantic, doesn't it. Even if you're not into the whole fruit and chocolate thing, you can roll your cookies in anything--sea salt, Valentine's sprinkles, nuts.

6. Creme Chocolate (or Baked Chocolate Custard). I love this. It's creamy. It's indulgent. It could handle me messing up several steps.  (pictured below)


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