Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012

This year my daughter and I planned ahead for Valentine's Day.  She was supposed to take some treats to share at her school party, so we pulled out an old favorite and updated it.  A few years ago we made pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate and fancy Valentine sprinkles.

This year my little munchkin decided that the traditional pretzel shape is so much more appropriate because it looks like a heart.

This morning she headed to school with a tray full of treats to share with her friends and teachers.  She probably doesn't know it yet, but I also sent her some of these peanut butter sandwich hearts for her snack.  Cute, right?

But back to the pretzels . . .  If you feel like sharing some chocolate with your honey (big or small), these are super easy to make.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate)
  • About 35-40 pretzels  (I used lightly salted)
  • Sprinkles

Place the oil and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and put the bowl in the microwave.  Microwave on high for forty-five seconds, then stir well.  Repeat several times until the chocolate is completely melted.

Add several pretzels at a time to the bowl, submerging them in the chocolate.  Lift the pretzels out one at a time with a fork.  Place the pretzels on a cooling rack sitting over a tray so that the excess chocolate can drip off.  Sprinkle the pretzels with sprinkles, if using, within a few minutes while the chocolate is still moist.

Once your tray is full, place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set.  After the chocolate has hardened, carefully lift each pretzel off the rack one-by-one by reaching underneath the pretzel with your fingers and gently dislodging it from the rack.  Be careful as you do this last step, as some of the pretzels may break.  (I made extra for this reason.  We kept the broken ones to munch on at home and sent the pretty ones to share at school.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Counting Carbs . . . and Eating Them Too

For reasons I am not yet ready to reveal to the Internet, I recently had to start counting carbs and watching my diet.  In a nutshell, it’s not fun.  I have always been a very healthy eater, but there’s something about being told I have to eat healthy that is just so . . .  well, annoying.  Nevertheless, I have committed to following the rules.  Most of the time, anyway.  When I do feel like cheating, it will most definitely be for chocolate.

At our Superbowl party last weekend I cheated with these brownies.  They have less flour and less sugar than your average brownie.  The chocolate flavor really shines through from the Dutch-processed cocoa, which is supposedly more flavorful than your run-of-the-mill cocoa powder.  

These brownies also have a nice dose of salt, and I have to admit I find the sea salt and chocolate combo to be downright mouth-watering.  Initially I made a version with all of the salt inside the batter, but I think the crunchy topping makes for a nice finish. 

If you happen to be watching your carb (or calorie) intake, give these brownies a try.  I hope to cheat with them again soon!

Lower Carb Chocolate Sea Salt Brownies
Makes 16 brownies
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (preferably Dutch-process for a flavor boost)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ butter
  • 2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.  Grease an 8-inch square metal baking pan.

In a cup, dissolve the coffee in the vanilla extract.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, ¾ teaspoon sea salt, and the baking powder.  Then in a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, vegetable oil spread, eggs, and coffee mixture until well-mixed.  Then blend in the flour mixture.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  (It will be a thick batter.)  Lastly, sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon sea salt over the brownies.

Bake for approximately 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted approximately 2 inches from the edge of the pan comes out almost clean.  Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for approximately 2 hours.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Recently I've spent a lot of time perusing menus as I look for the perfect location for a Valentine's dinner. Sacramento has a number of new restaurants, but unfortunately I'm seeing a lot of the same meat-and-potato-style fare. Of course many restaurants will have ~a single~ vegetarian option on their dinner menu. Sorry chefs - it just doesn't make sense for my hubby and I to shell out big bucks for us both to order the same dish. Isn't it so much more fun when you can order a selection of starters and entrées and munch off each other's plates?

Despite my complaints, some kudos are in order. One of Old Sacramento's longtime restaurants The Firehouse is the clear winner when it comes to accommodating the vegetarian gourmet this year on Valentine's Day. They have a dedicated vegan/vegetarian menu.

We're looking to celebrate on Saturday, so I'm sad to report that my hubby and I won't get to enjoy this lovely menu. Nevertheless, here's what I would order:

First Course

Vegan Asparagus Bundle
pistachio-arugula pesto, baby red oak lettuce and savory celeriac purée

Second Course

Brie en Croustade
mission figs and port red onions baked in puff pastry with pistachios and pepper-honey drizzle

Third Course

Vegan Beet Carpaccio Salad
watercress and crystalized ginger, spiced almonds and pear vinaigrette


White Peach Champagne Sorbet

Fourth Course

Winter Greens Risotto Verde
braised radicchio, endive, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fifth Course

Chocolate Devotion
milk and dark chocolate mousse, devil's food cake, raspberry, coulis and chocolate-caramel crème

Sounds pretty fantastic, doesn't it?

Oh, and by the way, hello Internet. It's so nice to be back!
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