Tag Archives: dessert

Ten Recipes So Easy That You Could Make Them with One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

The sun is finally out, spring is in the air, and here in Richmond, most of us are enjoying the opportunity to be outside before the thermostat goes from reading “warm” to “do-we-live-in-a-brick-oven?” We’re spending more time out reading on the patio, meeting friends for happy hour, or squeezing in a trail run or bike ride after work and before dinner. We’re not spending much time in the kitchen preparing meals. Sound familiar? If so, you may be looking for some quick and easy recipes this spring.

Ever since I flew off a bike five months ago and fractured both hands, I have had limited or no use of my left hand, which had the more severe injury. After my first surgery, I had no use of either arm for several weeks, so cooking meals, no matter how quick or easy, was out of the question. After some rehabilitation, I was able to use both hands but my left wrist fatigued easily so I had to keep things simple in the kitchen. I also had to stop writing outside of my day job because typing all day at work was all I could handle. That is why things have been pretty quiet around here lately.

Three weeks ago, I had my second surgery and a second medical leave, which left me with some time for reflection. I decided that I wanted to start writing and cooking sooner this time. I committed to the struggle, knowing that a lot of utensils would be dropped and a lot of joints would get swollen in the process. In the kitchen, I focused on dishes I could make with one hand. I still had a lot of help from my husband Kyle, but I was surprised to find how much I could do myself one handed.

Of course these recipes go even quicker with both hands, but if you’re in a cast like I was, you can pull them off pretty easily with just one. If you are fortunate enough to have the use of both hands, but you’re just in a rush and want something quick and easy, you’ll love these recipes too!

Tips for One Handed Cooking

  1. Get an electric can opener, or a friend who will open several cans at once and dump contents into easy-open reusable containers for you to pull from the refrigerator throughout the week.
  2. Buy pre-chopped vegetables. These are a lifesaver.
  3. Choose meals with few ingredients and uncomplicated preparations so that you will not have to juggle too much at once.
  4. Cook in large batches so that you can have leftovers for other meals and save yourself cooking time.
  5. Replace your salt and pepper mills with plain old pre-ground sea salt and black pepper.
  6. On the stovetop, use heavy bottomed pans that will stay in place while you stir, without someone holding on to the handles.
  7. Be patient! Focus on what you CAN do and don’t dwell on what you CANNOT do (I’m still working on that one myself.)

Easy Recipe Roundup

Eating Bird Food Green Elvis Smoothie – smoothies are a great way to boost nutrition in a quick and easy way

onehand smoothie

 

Lazy Egg and Cheese Sandwich from Smitten Kitchen via A Cup of Jo. Confession: I have had so many egg sandwiches in the last few months. Try adding some Everything Bagel Sprinkles.

Vegology Arugula Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Feta – substitute whole grape tomatoes if you can’t/won’t slice the Roma tomatoes

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NoBull Veggie Burgers – or substitute patty of your choice, serve on store-bought buns with baby carrots and hummus, or baked-from-frozen sweet potato or zucchini fries

Vegology Vegetarian Gumbo with Brown Rice – all ingredients can be purchased pre-chopped, frozen, or canned

Real Simple Stuffed Poblano Peppers – instead of stuffing, I chopped the roasted poblanos in a food processor and added them to the rice mixture

onehand peppers

AllRecipes.com Unsloppy Joes – all ingredients can be purchased pre-chopped, frozen, or canned

Budget Bytes Quick Fix Salad Bar Pizza – the salad bar is definitely your friend for finding pre-chopped ingredients. Substitute a store-bought pizza crust for tortilla if you want a thicker, breadier crust.

Sweets too! Baked doughnuts are a really easy dessert and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could make these with just one hand.

onehand doughnut

Joy the Baker’s Double Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Vegology Supercharged Coffee Doughnuts

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Thank you to those readers who have patiently forgiven my three month hibernation and are still around for this revival of Vegology! I am thrilled to have found a way to keep writing and I am excited to rejoin the amazing blogging community after some time off. I hope you are excited too!

Blueberry Lemon Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Guys, these are good. Really good. And too easy. It makes me nervous that these are so easy to make, because I am afraid that homemade ice cream sandwiches are about to become a staple in my freezer.

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At just a few bites each, it’s hard to stop at just one. But if you have enough willpower around treats to have just one (I don’t), then they’re the perfect size for a quick dessert (or, you know, breakfast), with enough sinfulness to satisfy your sweet tooth but not so much to make you feel guilty.

It starts with four ingredients and ends in five steps.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

2. 1 lemon

3. 1cup fresh blueberries

4. 30 ginger thin cookies (better make it 35 in case some break)

We used Soy Dream non-dairy ice cream to make it vegan. You could use real ice cream or frozen yogurt instead.

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1. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and let it sit on the counter until softened.

2. Grate the zest of one lemon. Set the lemon aside and use it for lemonade (cliché) or a salad dressing or something.

3. In a food processor, combine blueberries, lemon, and ice cream. Pulse until the berries and lemon are thoroughly combined.

4. Use a small spoon to put about 2 tablespoons of ice cream mixture on a cookie, then top with another cookie to make a sandwich. Place sandwiches in a single layer on a plate or baking sheet.

5. Freeze sandwiches for 30 minutes or more, then serve!

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Makes about 15 sandwiches, depending on how many cookies you break or eat during the process. Way too easy, right? These ingredients taste so good together that it’s tempting to just throw them all in a bowl and eat them with a spoon. Which would be totally fine, but not as dainty.

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Feeling French in Brooklyn

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Last month I made a last-minute trip to Brooklyn to visit my friend Melissa for the weekend. I arrived on Saturday and left on Sunday, and I think the whole visit clocked in at around 27 hours. We made the most of our time together and had a lot of fun wandering around Brooklyn, eating and drinking everything in sight. On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Sweet Melissa Patisserie for some tiny desserts.

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We first discovered Sweet Melissa in the summer of 2009 and immediately fell in love with the adorable décor and delicious pastries. Plus Melissa obviously loved the name. She took the quaint bakery in Park Slope as a sign that she needed to move from Richmond to New York, and that when she did, she needed to live in Brooklyn. Later that year, Melissa moved to Brooklyn. I visit a couple of times a year, and I don’t think we’ve ever skipped a trip to Sweet Melissa. It’s not the best bakery in Brooklyn, but it’s pretty good, and it holds sentimental for me. This was the first time I had gotten the mini desserts and I am so glad that I did. We split them while sitting on a park bench outside the bakery. I’ve never been to France, but it all felt very French to me.

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The next morning we continued to indulge our Francophile tendencies by traveling to Williamsburg for brunch at Le Barricou. I was a little nervous that I was not hipster-cool enough to fit in at this restaurant (or in this neighborhood), but I managed to blend in just fine. We slipped into the restaurant around 10:00 AM with no wait, which was a nice surprise. We had expected a long wait, but it seems that we were just early enough to get a table before the rest of the neighborhood shook off their hangovers and ventured out in search of greasy food, coffee, and mimosas.

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A new development during this New York trip is that Melissa is on an espresso macchiato kick. I had forgotten how much I liked them, so I followed suit and had a few macchiatos during my trip. The one at Le Barricou was not the best, but it did give me a jolt of energy. Kyle has poetically described mornings in Paris spent people-watching while sipping dark, rich espresso and idly chewing on pieces of baguette. Kyle didn’t really care for Paris but he fell in love with its espresso. I wonder if the experience at Le Barricou would have reminded him of his time in France or if it would have just reminded him of his last trip to Brooklyn.

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The French country style décor and the brunch menu certainly felt French to me. The vegetarian egg white omelette that I ordered might not have been very authentic, but it was tasty. The egg whites were fluffy and stuffed with delicious seasonal vegetables. The potatoes were perfect, which is a word that I don’t use often, because I’m always trying to think of ways to improve upon the dishes that I eat, but I wouldn’t change a thing about these herbed fried potatoes. The side salad had a light citrus vinaigrette that provided a bright contrast to the heavy potatoes.

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We cleaned our plates, which was not an easy task. The food was rich but it was so mouth-wateringly delicious that we couldn’t stop going back for more. I had not eaten to the point of pain in a long time, but this meal left us both completely stuffed.

One nice surprise about the meal at Le Barricou was the great service. I expected a little better-than-you attitude from the wait staff, with their tight pants, ironic facial hair, messy hair buns, and bright red lipstick. However everyone we came in contact with was very friendly and helpful, no attitude or snark at all. Maybe it was my messy bun and my skinny jeans.

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As we finished our meal, we reflected on how slightly French our short weekend had been. Walking back to the train, Melissa talked about her business trips to Europe over the last year. She said that Denmark felt really weird for her (but kind of awesome) because, being fair-skinned with long, straight, brown-blonde hair and grey-green eyes, in Denmark she was surrounded by people who looked exactly like her. I can’t imagine what that would be like, since I have always lived in pretty racially diverse areas, and have never really felt like I blended in to a crowd of people who looked exactly like me. I then wondered aloud where I would go for a similar experience. Having a mix of European ancestors in my family tree, including Irish, German, and Swedish, I don’t think I look anything other than American. Without skipping a beat, Melissa said,

“I always thought you looked French.”

Maybe it was the tiny pastries, the double shot of espresso, or the oeufs that made Melissa think that. Or maybe there’s something to it? Upon further consideration, I’m pretty sure the only thing that makes me look French is my default facial expression: bored.

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But when I want to feel French and can’t afford the transatlantic plane ticket, I know where to go.

Sweet Melissa Patisserie, 175 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Le Barricou, 533 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY

Kyle and I are packing our passports and taking a little getaway this week (not to France). However, sometimes we like to feel like we’ve been transported to another country without shelling out for the expensive flight and hotel room. Food can do that for you; so can ambiance. I recall an innovative low-budget at home date night while we were in college, that involved stir-fry, chopsticks, pillows on the floor, and a kung fu movie marathon.

What do you do to feel like you’ve traveled to another country while staying in your own town?

Super Bowl Blackout Supercharged Doughnuts

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Sometimes you need a little extra help recharging. When I need a quick boost, I often turn to coffee. Maybe I should get more sleep. Maybe I should plan more, eat better, or practice more self control when it comes to making time for rest. But sometimes I just don’t, and on those days, I crave a steady stream of caffeine. I know you know the feeling.

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Stayed up too late on Sunday night?

Is your Monday morning brain having a hard time waking up?

Feel like the Super Dome during a power outage, in desperate need of a big jolt of energy?

For times when a coffee and a doughnut aren’t quite enough, get a double dose of coffee with these supercharged doughnuts that I recently dreamt up in my kitchen. . . Leave it to me to put doughnuts in coffee, and coffee in doughnuts.

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Yes, you read that right. Coffee. In. Doughnuts. Chocolate and coffee are perfectly complementary and they team up to pack a punch in these delightful baked doughnuts. Some people achieve balance through protein shakes, juices, and probiotics. Sometimes I am one of those people. Sometimes I am one of those other people whose idea of balance is tempering bitter with sweet, coffee with chocolate.

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When it feels like the lights are flickering, power up with these.

Supercharged Coffee Doughnuts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a doughnut pan.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, espresso powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In another bowl, combine egg, yogurt, oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until incorporated. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop batter into the wells of the doughnut pan. Wipe off any excess batter that gets on the pan surface in the center of the doughnut to preserve the ring shape.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Makes 6 doughnuts.
  8. Optional: dip in your favorite frosting or glaze.

Go Ravens!

Farmers’ Market 04.21.12 and Strawberry Snacks

Last week I saw local asparagus in the grocery store for the first time this year. When strawberries followed a few days later, I knew what I had to do. The farmers’ market was calling my name. On our first free Saturday in Richmond in a very long time, Kyle and I made it out to the South of the James Winter Market. Here’s the haul!

  • Romaine lettuce (Broadfork Farm)
  • Green onions (Broadfork Farm)
  • Radishes (Walnut Hill)
  • Strawberries (Walnut Hill)
  • Asparagus (Walnut Hill)
  • Kale (Walnut Hill) – for juicing!
  • Olive and Herb Bread  (Norwood Cottage Bakery)

It was a beautiful warm morning and we enjoyed walking the short distance to the farmers’ market for the first time since moving into our new home. Unfortunately I was battling a migraine for most of the day so I didn’t do much else on Saturday until about 4:00 PM. I couldn’t figure out if it was exhaustion, stress, or my pollen allergies that had sidelined me until the late afternoon. Then when the torrential downpour hit late Saturday evening and the temperature dropped thirty degrees overnight, I figured it out. Usually when the weather takes a dramatic turn like this, I get terrible headaches. I am so glad that I was able to make it out into the sunshine for a few hours to grab a coffee with Kyle and peruse the market tables. We had such a wonderful, relaxing morning before I had to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my eyes!

I rallied and went out for dinner and drinks with friends on Saturday night, and woke up to cold, pouring rain on Sunday morning. It was such a stark contrast to the nice warm weather of the day before. To remind me of the bright sun-warmed stalls filled with fresh local produce, I pulled out the strawberries and made this easy spring dessert.

These tasty little morsels contain just three ingredients and they are really easy to make. I brought them to brunch with some friends this afternoon and they went over really well, so I decided to share them here. When the main ingredient is dark chocolate peanut butter, what could go wrong?

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Strawberries

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  1. Slice the top off of each strawberry.
  2. Using a paring knife, strawberry huller, or serrated grapefruit spoon (it works!), hollow out the center of each strawberry, being careful not to poke a hole through the bottom or sides of the berry. You are making a little strawberry cup. Adorable.
  3. Optional: slice off the very tip of each strawberry so that the treats will stand upright.
  4. Using a pastry bag, pipe the chocolate peanut butter into the center of each strawberry. Alternatively, use  a small spoon or spatula to the fill berries with the peanut butter.
  5. Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt over the top of each one.
  6. Freeze in a covered plastic tub for 20 minutes to set, then store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

As promised, I have a sweet new cupcake recipe for you. This winter citrus is insanely fresh and delicious right now. After enjoying fresh oranges for a few weeks, I decided to feature that nice zesty seasonal flavor in a sweet treat. I could pretend and say I was saving this recipe for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person so my close friends wouldn’t let that fly. The truth is I have been super busy and just haven’t gotten around to writing the post.

I went on a citrus kick a few weeks ago and made lemon cream cupcakes (from allrecipes) and these chocolate orange cupcakes ( my original recipe to follow) one weekend. It is amazing what a difference fresh ingredients can make! The subtle sweet orange flavor that is baked into these chocolate cupcakes is so fresh tasting, with this slight tang from the orange zest. The orange plays really well with the rich cocoa flavor.

I have mentioned before that I am not a natural baker, so when a confection turns out for me, I am genuinely surprised and delighted. Lately I have been experimenting a bit more with baking, and I am starting to get comfortable enough to make up my own recipes. Those work out for me even less frequently so it’s really nice when I come up with something tasty.

I am not even going to lie – this recipe is the second attempt. The first attempt did not work out so well. I am still learning about the delicate chemistry of baked goods. I did not realize that putting finely diced fresh orange in a cupcake would result in the batter soaking up all the orange juice, leaving chunks of stringy pulp behind. Because I believe that cupcake eating should not require post-dessert toothpicks and floss, I tried again. This time with juice.

The first batch never made it to the office. I choked down one or two cupcakes then threw them away. They just weren’t right. I brought the final batch into work and my coworkers approved. Success! I think they were pretty surprised to find out that the cake is vegan. The frosting, however, is not. I couldn’t resist topping these with dark chocolate ganache. I had never made ganache before and I was really surprised at how easy it is! If you want to go the vegan route though, you could use any vegan icing that your little heart desires and I am sure they would still be delightful.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (makes about a dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour and combine with other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir. Mix with a stand/hand mixer until well combined.
  4. Coat a muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with baking cups. Pour batter into cups until each cup is two-thirds full.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to continue cooling.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • Patience

Preparation:

  1. Pour the chocolate chips into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and stir to combine. Continuing stirring until chocolate is melted, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Let cool completely. Pop the bowl in the fridge for an hour or overnight if you have a lot of patience.
  5. Bring the frosting back to around room temperature then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.
  6. If you’re fancy, use a pastry bag or a cake decorating gadget to top your cupcakes. If you’re like me and have a ton of gadgets that you always forget to use, don’t bother dusting off the cookie press / cake decorator gadget, and just use an old fashioned knife to spread the frosting on to the cupcakes.

Hope you dig them as much as I do!

How to Save a Crumbled Cake

Mistakes happen. Especially for me when I am baking, because I’m really not much of a baker. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, most people who bake have had a cake crumble before their disappointed eyes. If you are making this cake for a special occasion, it can be extra devastating when your creation starts to fall apart. As for me, I’ve had crumbled cakes, the leaning tower of pastry cakes, cakes that have split right down the middle, and everything in between. I told you, I’m not much of a baker.

I was making a coworker’s birthday cake this week and I had a similar disaster. I’m sharing this with you because there is a light at the end of the convection oven tunnel. I fixed my crumbled cake and you can too.

It all started with this fantastic recipe from the Lee Brothers, a moist and chocolatey red velvet cake with just a hint of orange zest. Oh honey, simple fresh Southern. Are my roots showing?

I decided to add a fresh raspberry filling, which I created by simmering raspberries, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch on the stove, then straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I worked on the filling while the cake baked, enveloping my tiny kitchen with the aroma of cocoa, vanilla and orange peel.

When the cakes were done in the oven, I followed the instructions for letting them cool in their pans for 10 minutes and then flipping them out of the pans onto wire racks. And then this happened.

It was 11:00 PM and this red velvet cake was due to my office in 9 hours. What’s an amateur baker to do? First, I ate some of the crumbles. Yes, emotional eating. But let’s face it, no one was going to miss those crumbles. I wasn’t going to be able to put my humpty dumpty cake back together again. Then I decided to make a trifle. If this happens to you, I suggest you make a trifle too.

What is a trifle, you ask? A trifle is a dessert made with alternating layers of cake pieces, pudding, whipped topping and fresh fruit. My one problem was I had no pudding, whipped topping or fresh fruit on hand. And I had this gorgeous homemade raspberry filling that was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So I did what any amateur baker would do. I set my alarm to wake up early and crashed into bed. This disaster could wait until tomorrow. Of course I ignored the alarm and overslept by an hour, causing me to dash in and out of the shower, put on the first thing that matched in my closet and run out the door, cake pieces and kitchen utensils in hand. Ideally you would assemble this in your kitchen. I did not. This was the scene in the back of my car at 7:30 AM in the grocery store parking lot.

Wherever you decide to assemble your trifle, do it this way:

  • Cake pieces (1-inch chunks)
  • Pudding
  • Whipped Topping
  • Repeat
  • Optional: fresh fruit between the pudding and whipped topping layers

You may notice that I used pudding snacks. I know, that’s terrible. But I couldn’t make pudding in my car while driving to work, so I improvised. I ended up mixing my raspberry filling into the whipped topping for the bottom layer of whipped topping and it was delicious. I left the top layer of whipped topping plain and decorated the top of the trifle with fresh raspberries.I think it turned out okay. People seemed to like it. And the birthday girl would never have known that this was Plan B if one of my not-so-tight-lipped coworkers had not told her. Although the story of the “Parking Lot Cake” was fairly entertaining once everyone had been served their piece of trifle.

I guess that’s just the way the cake crumbles.

Guinness Caramel Sauce

It’s been a week since St. Patrick’s day. Is it too soon to have another Guinness?

St. Patrick's Day 2008

Kyle and I have a tradition of drinking a Guinness every year on St. Patrick’s Day. Of course we drink it more frequently than on our annual celebration of everything Irish, but this is one day a year during which Guinness is an absolute must. I punched things up this year with an extra special dessert that was the perfect treat for the occasion. And this seriously was a treat: beer, sugar, butter, and ice cream. It’s about as diet-friendly as a pitcher of green beer, but so much more delicious. Sometimes you just need something decadent.

This was my first time making any sort of caramel from scratch. Being a stout lover, I thought this was a beautiful introduction to the art of stove top caramel. The recipe yields a dark, bitter, sweet sauce. I’m not kidding about the bitter by the way, so this might not be your cup of tea if you’re not into that kind of thing. Although if you love a nice dark stout, you won’t be disappointed. While the process is time-consuming, it is surprisingly easy. This dish would be really impressive for guests too. Give it a try next time you’re feeling adventurous!

Guinness Caramel Sauce (from Food Network, original here)

Ingredients:

  • One 15 oz. can Guinness draught
  • 1/2 cup pure cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

Preparation:

Carefully pour the can of Guinness into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low-medium heat.

Add the sugar and stir to combine. Cook over low heat until syrupy, about 45 minutes. If the heat is a little too low, it will take a little longer.
Whisk in the butter and remove from heat.

This sauce is awesome drizzled over two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream!

Keep this in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days and reheat as needed. With a bowl of this sitting in the fridge, there is no doubt that you will be asking yourself every night “is it too soon to have another Guinness caramel sundae?”

Sláinte!

Non-Valentine’s Day Picnic and Hike

I don’t usually do anything special for Valentine’s Day. When I think back to the three Valentine’s Days that Kyle and I have spent as a couple, I recall quiet dinners at home, nice bottles of wine, and my choice of romantic movies from Blockbuster (OK, that is a rare thing indeed). I think in the past we may have exchanged chocolates or cards, and I’m sure I’ve received a bouquet of tulips, but no major celebration comes to mind. We just don’t ever plan anything big for February 14th.

This year, we wanted to do something. We have had a rough start to the year and both wanted to take some time out of our busy schedules to recognize how much we appreciate each other’s support and companionship through it all. Isn’t that nice? Kyle suggested a fancy restaurant, I suggested we go somewhere for the weekend, and we both considered getting into a DIY dinner project like homemade sushi or fondue. But what really made the decision for us was the weather forecast.

For a weekend, things thawed out a bit and we were blessed with clear blue skies and bright sunshine that pierced the cold February air. This time last year, we were recovering from a massive snow storm. This weekend, we ventured out to Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield County, Virginia to do an easy morning hike followed by a half-healthy, half-indulgent picnic. It was two days before Valentine’s Day, which was perfect. I’ve always been ambivalent about V-Day. Why would you need a holiday to show people you love them? I’ll take romance any day of the year, so this weekend I celebrated it on February 12th. at our Non-Valentine’s Day Picnic.

We began our hike with a beautiful view of Beaver Lake. The dark blue lake was gently moving as the bright sun cracked the thin layer of ice that slowly melted away as the day went on. We could see geese in the distance, perched on the last few sheets of thick ice that remained in a large, shady corner of the lake.

That's my valentine!

We did about two miles of the 2.5 mile loop before setting up our picnic at another point on the trail with lake access. As we meandered through the woods, the trail led us to wildlife observation areas, over a few creeks, and past some interesting landmarks that others had left before us.

We finally settled down to a picnic on the edge of the lake, and while we had to contend with strong winds throughout the meal, we enjoyed taking in the scenery with very few fellow hikers for company. I would imagine that a picnic here in the summer would be more desirable from a climate standpoint, but there is no chance we would have the lake and the trail to ourselves. It was so nice to experience the stillness and silence between the laughs and conversation that we enjoyed here.

The wine definitely helped to warm us up as we faced the chill of the breeze coming off the water. In addition to an ingeniously portable bottle/box of Bandit Merlot, we packed Azar’s roasted garlic hummus, baby carrots, a fresh baguette, Babybel cheese (more portable than a knife and a block of cheddar), green apples, and a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Azar’s is one of my favorite brands of hummus. I’ve probably been eating it for about six years and I just realized it is made in Virginia. I don’t know how I ever missed it before. What a special treat!

Everything was tasty and fresh. We saved the chocolates for the car ride home, and let me just say that it was a good thing we only had eight in that box. We had no intention of finishing the whole thing, but they were almost all gone before we even exited the park. It is about a five minute drive from the trailhead to the park exit. If we had been trapped in that car for the 30 minute drive with more than three Ferrero Garden coconut chocolates, Kyle would have had to roll me out of the car and up to our second floor apartment. They were the best candy I have had in a very very long time. If you love coconut, find this candy!

And then find yourself a longer hike to work it off. Yum!

POM Party: The Aftermath

Did you know that November is National Pomegranate Month?

Last night I hosted my POM Wonderful dinner party, and I am happy to report it was a big success. I and ten of my friends enjoyed pomegranate-infused food, delicious POM mojitos, and great conversation. I even met one of my favorite food bloggers, Brittany from Eating Bird Food. She posted a great recap of the event over on EBF.

The celebration will continue throughout this week as I post daily recipes of all the food featured in my four course menu, along with event photos and fun facts about POM. I, for one, am very excited to share all that I have learned this week!

sweet apron, right?

Before I sort through the photos and the juice-splattered recipes, I still have to deal with the party aftermath.

A few pounds of arils…

A neat row of clean dishes. . .

A giant stack of dirty dishes. . .

And a beautiful fall day to distract me!

Stay tuned for a whole week of pomegranate fun!

To kick things off, a simple recipe. Sometimes it’s fun to have dessert first.

Pomegranate Whipped Cream

For a crowd. . . serves 16!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons POM 100% pomegranate juice

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whip the cream and sugar with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Mix in vanilla extract. While mixing, add pomegranate juice slowly. Be sure not to add too much juice or the cream will become too thin. I have found that 2 tablespoons works well with this amount of cream.

Enjoy on top of cake, pie, and hot chocolate!