Valentine’s Day

Strawberry Dutch Baby

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Yes, this recipe has a funny name, but I will get to that in a minute. For now, let’s focus on how absolutely delicious and stunning it looks. Beautiful! The enormous pancake is light and bursting with vanilla and cinnamon-sugar flavors. Crispy puffed pockets and softened doughy pillows cradle the syrupy strawberries and the whipped cream. Are you dreaming in your bed or did you actually just make this in no time at all with a blender and cast iron skillet? Since I just posted it you probably are dreaming, but you could be the later and be the hero of brunch this weekend.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I had seen these Dutch babies on Instagram and cooking shows for a while now, but I never actually read through a recipe. I assumed to look so impressive that they must be complicated. I apologize to the last five years of my life for never reading a recipe because it is the opposite of complicated. Complicated doesn’t even exist on the same continent! The eggs are beaten until frothy then the rest of the ingredients are dumped in for some more mixing. I used a blender to do this to make it even easier. The mixture is poured into a cast iron skillet that’s been getting hot on the stove-top with melted butter. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet any oven safe skillet will work. Into the oven it goes! When it is done in the oven it gets sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, loaded with syrupy strawberries, and dolloped with whipped cream. In come the brunch eaters with their forks to savor the puffiness until the puff deflates, but the Dutch baby stays just as delicious.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I came across this recipe when I was brainstorming for Christmas morning. I wanted something that would be minimally hands-on while also looking impressive. That’s hard to come by in the realm of brunch food. Thank the breakfast heavens for these oddly-named Dutch baby things. I did a bit of research, aka read Wikipedia, about the name and it turns out that this cross between a pancake and a popover isn’t Dutch at all. It is an American food and name said to be coined by a family cafe in Seattle, Washington in 1942. It seems to be their version of the German-style pancakes known as pfannkuchen, which look like slightly thicker crepes and are topped with fruit and sweet toppings. They speculate the Dutch part of the name came from the German word deutsch, which means German, but no word on where the baby part came in. My guess is that it is so delicious when you eat it that your speech becomes incoherent like a baby’s.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Part of the Strawberry Dutch Baby’s deliciousness is that it has the perfect amount of sweetness. Even though the actual Dutch baby has no sugar in it, all the sweetness is coming from the cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top and the syrupy strawberries. So stop dreaming and start planning when you’re going to make this impressively easy popover pancake!

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Dutch Baby
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, tops removed and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Blend the eggs until frothy and pale in a high-speed blender, about 1 minute. Add the milk, flour, cinnamon, and salt then continue to blend until combined.
  3. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or an oven safe skillet. Once melted, remove from the heat and quickly pour in the prepared batter. Place right into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the pancake has puffed, about 18-22 minutes.
  4. While the Dutch baby is baking, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the cinnamon-sugar (reserving some for the Dutch baby) over the sliced strawberries then stir to coat and let sit until the Dutch Baby is ready.
  5. When the Dutch Baby is done, remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar. Don’t be shy about it! Add the strawberries and whipped cream. Serve sliced with the extra strawberries and whipped cream.
Notes
If you do not have a blender, you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker.

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.