Valentine’s Day

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

When I was deciding what to bake up for Valentine’s Day I immediately thought of these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies I made over Christmas. I initially made these more for Matt since he loves cherry, but they ended up being one of my favorite cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

These soft and chewy cookies are loaded with cherry preserves, dried cherries, and chocolate chips. The flavor of the cherry preserves is subtle because the dried cherries and the chocolate chips take center stage. The combination of the two, especially baked into a chewy cookie, is habit-forming.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

One of my favorite things about these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies though was that they stayed fresh in an airtight container for so long! Not that they will last that long in your house, unless you’re a crazy normal person like me and made 10 bazillion different kinds of cookies by the hundreds for Christmas. Then you’ll be happy to know that the dried cherries keep them tasting like you just made them the other day.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

You will need red food coloring to get that perfect color for Valentine’s Day. Between these and the Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies I have a whole bunch of boxes of food coloring lying around with the red missing so I either need to invest in just red food coloring or come up with something for my green, yellow, and blue!

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and enjoy these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies!

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies
 
Yield: about 30 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup cherry jam or preserves
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red sanding sugar
Directions
  1. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl beat the butter, ½ cup of the granulated sugar, and the brown sugar with a mixer on medium high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beat to combine, then add the jam, both extracts, and the food coloring. Beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate and dried cherries. Tightly cover the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough needs to be firm; I left my dough overnight both times.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set side.
  4. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar and sanding sugar. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and roll in the confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough and space about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden and the cookies are cracked on top, making sure not to overcook. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Recipe from December 2017 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Chocolate-Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

Valentine’s Day gives me all those sappy love feels, not just because of all the hearts and pink covered chocolates in the stores, but because that was the day Matt and I had our first official date ten years ago. The two weeks after we met we had our little dinner dates in the dining hall and lunches on the quad, but this was our first real date.

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

When Matt asked me to go out to dinner on “Thursday” I didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s Day at first. As we walked through Boston we held hands in the pocket of Matt’s coat since neither of us brought gloves on the cold night. Matt wanted to surprise me and show me this hidden sneaker store. It is fronted by a convenience store and you have to walk through the Snapple machine in the back so he said he needed deodorant to get me to go over there (not sure why he picked something so unromantic and didn’t go with shampoo or something 😂 but sappy and goofy sums us up pretty well). Then we went and had burgers, fries, and milkshakes; I can still feel the energy of that night like it was just last week.

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since I was especially feeling like celebrating love this year I wanted to make something that looked cute while tasting next-level delicious. Enter these Chocolate-Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats.

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

I find normal krispie treats bland so I started brainstorming on how to make them into a treat I would want a second and a third of. My first thought was to cover it in semisweet chocolate since chocolate makes everything better and it would also let me use the adorable heart sprinkles I bought.

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

Then I looked at the recipe on the back of the Rice Krispies box and thought that if we were bothering to melt the butter we might as well keep melting to brown it to create a richer, toasted flavor, similar to my Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

Lastly, adding some extra mini marshmallows at the end gives you little pockets of gooey marshmallow. These amped up krispie treats are so quick to make, but when you’re done they look (and taste!) like they just came out of a bakery. Time to express your sappy love feels this Valentine’s Day with these Chocolate-Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats!

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats  |  Lemon & Mocha

Chocolate Dipped Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats
 
Yield: 12 regular or 9 jumbo krispie treats
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4¾ cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • Sprinkles
Directions
  1. Line a 13x9 pan or a 9x9 pan (see note) with nonstick aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. In a large pot big enough to fit all the cereal, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, making sure to continuously swirl the pan, until the butter is golden brown in color, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat then add 4 cups of the marshmallows, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
  3. Add the cereal to the pot and gently stir until coated. Gently stir in the remaining ¾ cup of mini marshmallows. Pour the contents of the pot into the prepared pan and spread evenly. I used a small piece of wax paper to lightly press on the krispie treats in the pan to create an even-ish surface without pressing too hard (you don’t want the krispie treats to be dense). Let cool completely.
  4. Once cooled, remove the foil from the pan and cut the krispie treats with a sharp knife. Line a small baking pan or sturdy cutting board that will fit in your fridge with wax paper and set aside.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and the vegetable oil to a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. I used a 2 cup measuring cup since it is deep and narrow - ideal for chocolate dipping. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then continue microwaving and stirring at 15-second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted. Dip half the krispie treat into the melted chocolate and let the excess drip off. Coat with sprinkles and set on the wax paper to cool. Continue with the remaining krispie treats, melted more chocolate as needed, then place in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden. Remove from the fridge as soon as the chocolate has hardened then store at room temperature in an airtight container.
Notes
For 12 normal-sized krispie treats use a 13x9 pan. For 9 jumbo-sized krispie treats use a 9x9 pan.
The krispie treats stay for a few days, but they taste best the same day.

 

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Remember way back when I promised the fifth, final and most outrageous installment of the Lemon & Mocha brownie series just in time for Valentine’s Day? Ta-da! Here it is:  Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies. I am very sorry for keeping these from you for so long,  but aren’t they perfect for Valentine’s Day?

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

These brownies are the king of all brownies and they are utterly amazing. Lets go layer by layer to give you time to process the amazingness.

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Layer one:  homemade red velvet brownies. Fudgey, moist and with just a hint of chocolate flavoring that red velvet is known for, this is the perfect base.

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Next up, layer two:  Oreo truffle. If these layers were children the Oreo truffle layer would be that favorite child. Have you ever made Oreo truffle balls? This layer is the inside of those truffles. Crushed Oreos and cream cheese are whipped together to create the most perfect balance of sweet, creamy and chocolatey.

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Finally, layer three:  chocolate crunch. Chocolate is melted over the top of the Oreo truffle layer to create a hardened chocolate topping, but oh no, even that is not enough. Before the chocolate has time to harden, mini chocolate chips are sprinkled allover to create chocolate chunks in the hunk of chocolate.

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Yes, I promise you that this is real life and you can actually go make these brownies right now. They are an ultimate texture overload. Fudgey base, creamy Oreo middle and hard crunchy topping come together to make you eat a second, or a third, or a fourth, or a….

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies
 
Yield: 32 brownies
Ingredients
for the red velvet brownie layer
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-2 ounces red food coloring
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoons salt
for the Oreo truffle layer
  • 1 package Oreos
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
for the chocolate crunch layer
  • 1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Directions
for the red velvet brownie layer
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer for 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg is added. Add the food coloring and vanilla extract until the color is completely incorporating and is the desired color.
  3. In a separate medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Carefully add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients being sure to incorporate completely while trying not to over-mix the batter. The batter will be very thick, but make sure the batter is a uniform color.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, or until crunchy on top and gooey underneath. Let cool completely. Once cool you can either leave in the pan or very carefully flip the brownies out onto a large clean surface. I flipped my over onto a clean cutting board that easily fits in my fridge so it would be easier for later refrigerating and cutting.
for the Oreo truffle layer
  1. Turn the entire package of Oreos into crumbs using a food processor or crushing in a large plastic bag. Combine with the cream cheese until blended.
  2. Dollop the Oreo mixture onto the cooled brownies then carefully use your hands and a rubber spatula to create a smooth even layer covering the brownies all the way to the edges. If you try to simply spread you might tear the brownies.
for the chocolate crunch layer
  1. Melt the chocolate chips with the vegetable oil in the microwave. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then continue to microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Carefully pour over the Oreo truffle layer and smooth with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with the mini chocolate chips then refrigerate until the chocolate crunch layer has hardened.

Red velvet brownies from Newlyweds.
Bar recipe from Pizzazzerie.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

I often get inspired by dishes I have out at restaurants. Sometimes it is because the dish was so fantastic that I dream about it day and night. I develop an obsessive nonstop craving for it and must recreate it myself to satisfy this craving. Sometimes the dish wasn’t all that great, but in theory it sounded amazing. That is when I know I must recreate it to help the dish live up to its potential. The later was the case with this salad. A spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts. The minute I saw it written on the menu my mouth started watering.

I have an affinity for goat cheese with its creamy texture and tangy taste so the thought of adding a crispy exterior had me over the moon with delight. Then adding pears for sweetness balanced by the toasted walnuts for crunch and an earthiness? Genius workings of a perfect salad in my eyes. But then it came to the table and the first bite was a serious letdown. The dressing was bland and the fried goat cheese was overpowered by breading. I knew the salad was meant to be amazing so a week later I set out to help it reach its full potential.

This spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette exceeds expectations beyond what my wildest dreams had imagined. The fried goat cheese has a very light yet crunchy exterior which pairs perfectly with the refreshing spinach, pears and toasted walnuts, but what really makes this salad sing is the pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Sweet and tangy this dressing packs a punch and is anything but bland. You only need a small amount so make sure you don’t overdress the spinach.

Typically, a salad is the last meal choice on my list, but that week I ate this salad every day, oftentimes for lunch and dinner. Now if that testament isn’t enough to get you to make this salad right this minute, then I’m not sure what is.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the fried goat cheese
  • 8 ounces goat cheese or goat cheese with honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
for the dressing
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the salad
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 pears
Directions
for the fried goat cheese
  1. Place a small cooling rack over a baking sheet small enough to fit in your fridge then set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the goat cheese into ½” thick slices. The best way to cleanly cut goat cheese is with a small piece of dental floss.
  4. Carefully dip each slice of goat cheese into the egg white mixture then the breadcrumbs before placing on the cooling rack. After all the pieces have been dipped let them chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the goat cheese rounds have chilled, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Cook 2-3 minutes per side then remove from the heat.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Thinly slice the pears.
  3. Toss the spinach with some of the salad dressing. Divide dressed spinach onto 4 plates then top each plate with the ¼ of the toasted walnuts, ½ of the sliced pears and 2 pieces of warm fried goat cheese.

Vinaigrette from Bobby Flay.
Fried goat cheese from Ina Garten.

Raspberries and Cream Sponge Cake Jelly Roll

The item on the top of my 50 recipes I want to conquer in the kitchen list was a jellyroll. I have no idea why, but I could not wait to try one out myself. Maybe it’s because they always look so beautiful. Maybe it’s because the possibilities are seemingly infinite. As soon as I got my hands on a half sheet pan, courtesy of Matt, I knew I was going to christen it with a homemade jelly roll. I quickly sat down and scribbled out two pages of cake-filling combination ideas.

My mind was on overdrive! Classics like pumpkin with cream cheese filling and sponge cake filled with jam. Chocolate dipped strawberry, banana split and chocolate chip cookie dough. Peaches and cream, Oreos and cream and lemon cream pie. I was busy wiping the drool from my lips while I contemplated exactly which one to create first. Raspberries and cream sponge cake jelly roll. Classic, yet updated. Moist and airy with the perfect amount of sweetness. And of course, visually beautiful with an ideal Valentine’s Day treat coloring. Also there was already a container of raspberries in my fridge, but that tidbit spoils the poetic description of it all.

My favorite part of making this raspberries and cream jelly roll sponge cake, more so than eating it, which is saying a lot since it’s divine, was discovering just how simple it is to make a jelly roll cake. You really can do it! All of you! The key is to pay attention to the small details in the recipe, such as cooling time, being gentle with the cake and coating the proper tea towel. You will surprise yourself at how easy it all really is. The whole time I kept looking over at Matt and saying, “Look! I’m doing it! The jelly roll cake is working!” So put aside your baking bashfulness and impress everyone with this gorgeous raspberries and cream jelly roll sponge cake.

Raspberries and Cream Sponge Cake Jelly Roll
 
Yield: about 10 servings
Ingredients
for the cake
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
for the filling
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup mashed raspberries
  • Raspberries and powdered sugar for serving
Directions
for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a half sheet pan (18" x 13") then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper then sprinkle flour on the greased sheet and shake to coat.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer whip the eggs with the whisk attachment at medium high speed while slowly adding the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip until the mixture is thick, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture and combine with a spatula until just incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and carefully spread it into an even layer.
  7. Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the cake feels firm, but springs back when you touch it. Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.
  8. While the cake is cooking, lay a clean tea towel on a flat surface and lightly dust with powdered sugar.
for the filling
  1. Place a metal bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.
  2. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and lemon extract in stand mixer until combined. Set aside.
  3. Using the chilled metal bowl and whisk attachment beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over mix or the cream will collapse. Gently fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream. Then gently fold the mashed raspberries into the frosting until just combined.
for assembly
  1. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan then flip the cake onto the towel. Discard the parchment paper that the cake baked on. Beginning at 1 short end of the cake, carefully roll the cake and towel along with it into a tight log. It is important to do this step while the cake is still hot. Leave the cake seam side down and let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Carefully unroll the cake. Add the filling making sure to leave a ½" border at the edges. There may be some filling leftover, you don't want to over-stuff the cake.
  3. Gently roll the cake bake up into a snug log, this time leaving the towel behind. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. When ready to serve cut off the ends, transfer to a serving plater and top with an additional dusting of powdered sugar and fresh raspberries.

Cake from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.
Frosting adapted from allrecipes.com
.