dessert · kid-friendly · Recipes

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

So my 35th birthday was this past Sunday, and Mark gave me a relaxing agenda: spa mani-pedi, dinner, and general relaxation including (but not limited to) showering uninterrupted. Georgia, being three, had other plans. She did let me bathe alone for a grand total of 20 minutes, but upon realizing we weren’t having a kid-style party at our house to mark the occasion, she demanded — as only a preschooler can do — that we make a chocolate cake together, and stat. I neither enjoy chocolate cake nor had many staples handy, so we got creative and raided the pantry for whatever we could cobble together. Considering the constraints and the last minute nature of her request, the results were nothing short of amazing!

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Inspired by a recipe I’d filed away from Smitten Kitchen, these mini chocolate cakes were just the thing to satisfy Georgia’s desire to make a birthday treat with little notice and very few ingredients on hand. They are heavy on butter, chopped chocolate and a critically important dash of salt, and I simply love the personal-pan sized dessert that results. These offer the perfect mix of gooey middle and crusty top, collapsing just a bit on themselves right after coming out of the oven. You mix it all by hand in one bowl and then let the batter sit on the counter for half an hour while you relax play Magna-tiles, and when they come out of the oven after just 25 minutes, they have a crisp shell that provides exactly the right amount of resistance to your bite. Don’t resist completely! Give in to this semi-sweet indulgence.

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We enjoyed them outside in the yard as a mini-picnic, because why not?

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate rough-chopped
  • 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine too)

DIRECTIONS

Place the chopped chocolate and chopped butter together into a large microwave-safe bowl. In 15-30 second intervals, heat then stir the two together until fully melted and blended.

Place on a cool surface and whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the salt and each egg, adding them one at a time and mixing fully into the batter before adding the next one. Stir in the flour and mix gently until blended into a smooth batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place on the counter to stand and thicken at room temperature for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 325°F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (or use cupcake papers).

Fill each cup halfway with batter, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the mini cakes to cool on a rack for up to 10 minutes before unmolding from the tin. The puffed-up tops will fall a bit as they cool, and this is normal! The cakes should be very fudge-y on the inside. Don’t leave them in the cupcake tin too long like I did the first time I made this, or it’ll be very hard to get them out. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes and immediately pop them out of the tin, they should come right out.

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As noted in the original recipe, these can also be made with about 2 tablespoons less sugar if desired, to produce a more noticeably bittersweet cake. That is another great option. How else to embellish these? Some fresh whipped cream, maybe, or some raspberries. To craft a more nuanced flavor, I used a mixture of chocolate — some semi-sweet baking chips, as well as some stone-ground Taza Mexican chocolate — and it was really delicious. I like to keep some Taza discs on hand for use in various recipes. I’m not a chocolate freak by any means, but I love their slightly gritty texture and flavor selections like cinnamon, salted almond, coffee, guajillo chili and more.

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

***

Drinks & Smoothies · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Mojito Mocktail

First off: here’s a real Mojito recipe if that’s what you’re about! My friend Terri brought this to Mark’s birthday BBQ this year and they were outstanding. If you just want the refreshing, minty, limey, sugary taste without the booze, though, here’s how I do: 

In a large glass, like this mason jar, muddle (crush) 10 fresh mint leaves,  1 tsp sweetener (regular sugar, or stevia, etc.), and half a lime, cut into wedges. Add a large handful of ice cubes and pour ginger ale, seltzer water (plain or flavored) or club soda into the glass, topping with more lime wedges and sweetener to taste. You can also cut the fizz by using half plain water, half sparkling water. Stir to combine — don’t strain! — and enjoy without the hangover 🙂

Reasons I Love Mint

It grows easily. Ask anyone who’s put it in their garden outside a container!!

It’s a great digestive aid. Caffeine-free peppermint tea is fabulous for soothing an upset stomach, especially around the holidays when heavy food may be dragging you down.

It may relieve nausea. I did not find it helpful while pregnant (and some doctors caution that mint can cause contractions or discomfort, especially during your third trimester)… but at other times, it does seem to do the trick.

Mint can help inflamed, aggravated skin to calm down — especially if you tend to get hormonal breakouts. A few sprigs of mint in your water can soothe you inside and out! And some people swear by masks made of crushed mint. You can DIY, or try Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Clay Mask with Mint and Lemon.

Have a great week everyone!

kid-friendly · Recipes

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in New England! These berries have a very short window of availability each year, and this summer the crop is peaking late — like right now — so it’s time to pick up some fresh berries at the farmer’s market and get baking. My brother’s girlfriend Michelle, who you may remember from this popular Stuffed Mushroom recipe at Christmas, makes one of the best strawberry treats I’ve ever had: strawberries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese. Auntie Shelly, as Georgia calls her, brings these to every summer gathering and they are always the absolute most popular item on the potluck, including last weekend when we had a barbecue for Mark’s birthday at our house. They were gone in a flash and I felt lucky to grab a couple before they disappeared. In addition to being a crowd pleaser, they are very simple to make. Read on to find out how.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages of fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz of regular cream cheese
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Graham crackers (optional)

DIRECTIONS

First, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator. It needs to be at room temperature in order for everything to blend well.

Wash the strawberries, and remove the stems. Cut the bottom off of each strawberry where the leaves are so they can stand up on their own.

Make an “X” cut on the pointed side of each strawberry and set them aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and start mixing on low speed. Start slow to make sure the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t splatter everywhere! Increase the speed to medium/high until the mixture is a light, fluffy texture. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Put the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a small tip. An easy way of doing this is to use a tall, empty drinking glass, which holds the bag so you can have both hands free when pouring the mixture.

Insert the piping tip into the middle of the “X” cut on each berry, and squeeze the filling in until you can see it starting to peek out the sides.

Finally, an optional last step is to put some crushed graham crackers on top of the berries. This can make them look extra fancy!

{{ Serve at room temp and watch guests devour }}


If you really, really love strawberries — as Georgia does — try these Strawberry Mini Muffins, my Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, this Strawberry Yogurt Cake or my Creamy Strawberry Smoothie. We really love strawberries in our house!

Looking for places to pick your own strawberries this month? Here’s a great guide to you-pick spots and local strawberry festivals in and around Boston in June. Or, just follow the Facebook and Instagram posts from your family and friends for of-the-moment tips. Happy picking!


Tiny Prints - Flash Sale

Recipes

Pickled Watermelon

Just in time for the holiday weekend!! Let’s bust out the watermelons and swing into summer at last 🙂 The flesh of the watermelon provides a sweet topper for spicy arugula salad, and the pickled rinds make an unexpected side to grilled burgers, dogs, potato salad and a cold bottle of beer. Just like actual pickles, only cuter and niftier! 

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I suggest trying those miniature melons you see at the supermarket starting this time of year. Buy a couple pounds at least; this recipe doubles easily from there.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

INGREDIENTS

  • 2.5 (about) pounds of watermelons (use small ones to make cutting easier)
  • 2 TBPS red wine vinegar (or whatever kind you have/like)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water

DIRECTIONS

Halve the watermelons then slice into wedges. Cut off and set aside the pulp (the pink part) for use however you choose — particularly large-diced on a salad — leaving just the rind.

Using a knife, cut off the dark green outer layer and then slice the remaining rind into two-inch pieces.

In a small pot, combine the rinds, vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of water. Heat on the stove on high until boiling; once it boils, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 7-10 minutes or until the rinds are translucent and softened (test with a fork). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When they are at room temp, serve them without the extra liquid.

IF YOU ARE making a salad, whip up a nice vinaigrette from the leftover pickling liquid plus equal parts olive oil and mustard. Feta is also a worthy addition to a watermelon-arugula salad  🙂

YUM! Enjoy!!

**  Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everyone **

Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Mini Muffins

It is peak strawberry picking season in New England right now, so I thought it would be a great time to test some new dessert recipes. I could never get bored of my two favorites — strawberry shortcakestrawberry-rhubarb crumble — but it’s always good to experiment with new baking ideas! Inspired by how much Georgia loved some tiny cupcakes a friend made last weekend, I whipped up a simple recipe for Miniature Strawberry Muffins during nap time last Sunday. It was a huge hit with both of us, and we do consider ourselves strawberry (and muffin) experts 🙂IMG_0405

I bought a one-pound container of strawberries and probably used about half, give or take. Georgia and I just sliced up the rest for a refreshing snack!

Strawberry Mini Muffins

Makes 24 muffins in about 45 minutes of hands-on time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted), softened to room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 C (plus 1 TBSP) TigerNut Flour*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, acidified^^
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries, diced very small
  • a pinch of salt

^^ Acidified milk is produced by adding lemon juice to pasteurized milk at room temperature, then letting it sit for a few minutes so that it appears to curdle. The milk isn’t actually souring, you’re just altering its taste and texture to mimic that of buttermilk. The ratio to use is 1 cup of milk to one halved lemon, juiced. In this recipe you can use 1/2 the cup to start and then add in a bit more if the batter seems too thick as you’re mixing.

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a miniature muffin tin with baking spray. Set the butter out to warm to room temperature.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (or hand mixer) until combined, then add the egg.

Sift together one cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the mixer on low.

In a small bowl, toss the chopped strawberries with the TBSP of flour.* Fold the strawberries into the batter.

Drop tablespoons of the batter into each muffin tin, filling them about 2/3 high.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until they are turning golden at the edges and are springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let them cool in the muffin tin for another 15 minutes.

If you used a non-stick pan in particular, your muffins should release very easily when you’re ready to eat them! Ours kept in the fridge for exactly one week.

*RECIPE NOTES

Why add lemon to milk in this recipe? Because I didn’t have buttermilk handy, and acidifying milk with lemon is the best way to achieve the same result. Buttermilk’s role in baking is to lighten your batter, as the acids in buttermilk “get fizzy” when they make contact with baking soda or powder. This reaction makes baked goods airy and tender, and cancels out the sour taste of buttermilk (or ‘soured’ whole milk). You can also add vinegar to milk to achieve the same effect if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you have none handy. Or, you can thin sour cream or plain yogurt with water. All these options will play the same role in your batter, and are only slightly less creamy in texture than buttermilk would be.

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You can use any type of flour, but I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to try TigerNut flour along with a host of other organic & paleo-friendly products from OrganicGemini in Brooklyn recently. They are best known for their TigerNut Horchata, which comes in more than half a dozen flavors such as strawberry, chai and banana. TigerNuts are actually tubers, or small root vegetables. Nut-free and gluten-free, they make an appealing baking substitute for kids and classrooms with allergies! Next time I have to bake for Georgia’s school, this will be my go-to flour.

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Last note: adding flour to the strawberries before putting them into your batter helps keep the chopped fruit from sinking to the bottom as your muffins bake. This is a good tip to follow for any similar recipe.

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I really hope you enjoy this one! It made for a great daycare snack for G, and a “pre-breakfast breakfast” for me. (I wake up hungry but don’t have time to eat an actual meal and get G to school and us to work, so I eat my ‘real’ breakfast at my desk every morning). We finished the last two after dinner yesterday, and I seriously wish there were more right about now!

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Have you tried Blue Apron?

I know I’m late to the trend! But a couple weeks ago I finally got to give Blue Apron a try, thanks to a friend who couldn’t cook her order before leaving for vacation.  And I have to say, it was absolutely delicious, and I felt like it broke me out of my usual recipe rut. I never cook something with this many ingredients these days, and the flavors were so much more complex than what I typically end up making for weeknight dinners. Overall, I’m definitely a fan and am considering signing up.

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What I made

The recipe I got was for Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Dressed Spinach and Candied Cashews. YUM.

The ingredients included two sweet potatoes, brown rice, baby spinach, scallions, sesame oil, sugar, fresh ginger, miso (fermented soybean) paste, cashews, mirin (rice wine) and a spice blend.

Everything comes labeled, packaged for freshness, and with picture-heavy step-by-step directions.

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How it works

Blue Apron delivers original recipes with ingredients pre-portioned alongside step-by-step directions. It is designed so that both experienced and novice cooks can take part, and menus change seasonally. Blue Apron work with hundreds of farms to source quality ingredients, which they say stay fresher longer than what you get at the supermarket. You can pick your recipes, including family-friendly options, and deliveries are booked around your schedule. According to their website, their main value add is offering specialty ingredients you might not otherwise be able to try, at a better value than shopping at your local grocery store. Competitors include HelloFreshPlated and Din (currently just CA and NV but expanding nationally soon).

Pros

  • Everything comes pre-measured and portioned, so there’s minimal prep work involved (I had to slice some scallions and sweet potatoes for my dish; otherwise everything was ready to go) and zero food waste.
  • If you really don’t know how to cook much at all, this can teach you! It’s that easy to follow. They also have tutorials for specific techniques (mince, caramelize, etc.) on their website.
  • You can adjust the portion size for each order. I found that the two-person order I cooked left me with enough for two filling dinners and some leftovers for lunch, too.
  • Expands your child’s palate, if you share with them; gets you out of the usual rotation of recipes we all fall into.
  • Customizable for any dietary preferences. Especially for vegetarians, this will introduce you to some original new recipe ideas.
  • Delivery is free and arrives refrigerated in case you aren’t home.
  • Recipes are seasonal and healthy (between 500 and 700 calories) and are designed to be ready in about half an hour.
  • The quality of the ingredients seems top notch — mine lasted several days after I received them in the fridge, even the greens, and still tasted great.
  • Allows you to cook with specialty ingredients that would otherwise be too pricy or hard to find.

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Cons

  • The convenience of having things pre-measured means lots of packaging, which felt a tad wasteful.
  • I found that the time estimate — 35 minutes — was ambitious. While the timing of the instructions (“preheat the oven, then chop X ingredient, then while that’s cooking, candy the cashews,” etc.) was accurate and helpful if followed literally, the overall start-to-finish time frame was more like an hour because I had to re-read techniques I wasn’t familiar with, double check that I hadn’t missed anything, and just take it slow simply because it was an unfamiliar recipe.
  • While it’s great to learn new skills (I had never candied nuts, for example) I had the benefit of trying Blue Apron on a weekend night after Georgia’s bedtime. This would have been WAY too chaotic for a weeknight dinner with a toddler underfoot. Alone? Forget about it, unless your kiddo is big enough to help or at least watch safely.
  • This is nit-picking, but the cleanup from using every burner on my stovetop, several pots, pans, and the oven was substantial.  I’m sure if you have a dishwasher this won’t bother you too much, but for me and my small kitchen, cooking something with this many ingredients absolutely took over the joint and took ages to clean up by hand.
  • Expensive. Three meals for two people every week is $60, and weekly is the only interval for shipping they offer. You can skip any week or cancel any time, but it would be nice if you could get just one meal a week or two meals a month, etc. For a family of four, the price jumps to $140 for four meals per week ($70 for two meals).

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Bottom Line

My overall take on this is that, if you love cooking but don’t have the time to pick up lots of specialty ingredients or you’re trying to break out of a rut and gain some new ideas or skills, this is fabulous. I felt like I could easily handle the cooking and plating instructions, and got to experience a flavor profile I never would have tackled on my own. It’s not a meal or grocery delivery service, though, and it really shouldn’t be used for dinner every night of the week. You could eat out at a casual sit-down restaurant or order take-out and pay less! Lastly, although we didn’t do it this way because Mark works nights, I’d imagine this would be fun for couples to do together.

How about you — have you tried one of these services? What’s your take?

psst! A couple last-minute Mother’s Day deals for you. My favorite cardigan is on super sale at Nordstrom, and ThredUp is having 15% off sitewide with code MAMASDAY15. Good luck shopping and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Recipes

Belgian Salad

This recipe comes to me from my aunt who lives in Florida and hosts lots of casual cookouts and parties. This is a great dish to bring to a barbecue because it doesn’t spoil, since there’s no mayo or sour cream or any other protein/dairy in it. The marinade adds a nice tang to the crisp veggies!

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Belgian Salad

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Ready In: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
  • Servings: 10

Says my aunt, “this is a refreshingly sweet side dish of baby peas, white corn, green beans and pimentos, all tossed together with a simple sweet n’ sour vinaigrette. Using all canned vegetables, this is a snap to prepare and has wonderful flavor after marinating overnight. It does not taste like canned veggies and you get a variety of crunch in every serving.”

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can green beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can baby peas
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white corn, drained
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar pimentos, drained
  • 1 cup chopped celery, plus the leafy green tops if available
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring oil, vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for one hour.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the drained green beans, peas, corn, pimentos, celery, and onion. (I actually put my canned veggies in my colander and let them drain while I am chopping the fresh onions and celery). Combine them all in a big bowl then pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, drain the marinade. Season with salt and pepper, and serve chilled.

This easily feeds 10-15; double the recipe to feed a crowd of 20 or more. Enjoy!