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This post was sponsored by my friends at Driscoll’s. They were nice enough to provide product coupons and reimbursement for ingredients, and all opinions (as always!) are mine, all mine!

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you today, not only because it involves strawberries (umm, WHAT blog are you reading again?) but because it involves the biggest, most perfect-for-dipping strawberries EVER from Driscoll’s and also chocolate and then some MINT chocolate (whoa! a twist!) and then some fun drizzling/lettering action that’ll make everyone think you’re a regular ol’ chocolatier.

Minty Chocolate Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

When Driscoll’s asked me to create a twist on the traditional chocolate covered strawberry for Valentine’s Day, my first thought was “Yes! This blog is MADE for strawberries!” But I actually had a hard time coming up with the whole “twist on a classic” part. I think my problem is that I just love strawberries SO much I’m reluctant to do anything to them at all. Sure, I’ll make this amazing jam from time to time, and sure, I’ll dip them in chocolate. (Or in tequila). But 9 times out of 10 (okayyyyyyy, more like 9.99999 times out of 10) I just eat them. All of them. Plain. Right out of the container. Ahhh, bliss.

Minty Chocolate Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

I toyed for a bit with putting something crazy in the chocolate (chili peppers? eh?), or rolling the berries in something (crushed up pretzels? rainbow explosion sprinkles?) after the chocolate-dipping had happened. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how much I love plain ol’ strawberries. And I didn’t want to mess with that. I wanted to highlight it. Especially since Driscoll’s was nice enough to provide these SUPER JUMBO long stem strawberries that were just begging to be scarfed down immediately.

Minty Chocolate Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

Seriously. How perfect are these?

Minty Chocolate Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

I decided to stick with the classic combo of chocolate and strawberries, but I added some mint chocolate (I’m OBSESSED with these mint chocolate chips) to the mix for a flavorful twist without messing with the classic chocolate-covered strawberry look. Chocolate script letters (which are SO easy to make! I’ll show you) add a festive Valentine’s Day look without the whole pink-and-glitter-and-unicorn-dust hoopla that generally surrounds Valentine’s Day recipes. I like to keep holiday recipes a bit understated, but add a subtle festive element to make it stand out. A touch of whimsy, if you will.

Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

Kyle and I have never really been Valentine’s day people (in fact, we have an agreement to never ever celebrate Valentine’s day) but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy all the candy and chocolate-covered goodness that takes over the grocery stores every February! I even make the occasional Valentine’s Day-themed dessert (like these chocolate covered strawberries!) but I never understood why Valentine’s Day food always looks like Cupid puked a sparkly pink rainbow all over it. What happened to the understated, simple, “I-love-you-and-I-don’t-need-pink-glitter-to-say-it” kind of romance? (Too cynical? Like I said, I’m all about the understatement).

Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

There’s something about the different textures of the chocolate here that I just find so lovely. The chocolate – even though we’re using two different flavors – is all the same color, but the layering makes sure that every piece still stands out. Aside from the letters, these berries look pretty ordinary – but once you bite into them, you get just a hint of mint (POETRY) that really takes these “ordinary” chocolate covered strawberries over the top.

Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

But I promised I’d show you how to make these script letters! Ok, here’s the DL: print out this printable (or print your own word/font combo). Cover it with wax paper. Put whatever melted chocolate remains after you’ve dipped all your berries into a plastic bag and snip a tiny bit of the bag’s corner off to make a piping bag. Trace the letters with the piping bag, then let the letters cool on the wax paper until the chocolate is solid.

Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

Gently peel the letters off of the wax paper and place them on the still-wet chocolate drizzle (it’s just like glue!) Let the rest of the chocolate set and pat yourself on the back for being so artsy. Pro tip: try not to touch the front of the chocolate letters, because you might leave a fingerprint that messes up the smooth face of the letter. Try to use one finger to pick up each letter by the back and gently place it on the strawberry. You can do it! I believe in you.

Minty Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chocolate Lettering

And ta-da! You’ve just choco-tized love and put it on a strawberry. Proceed to join me in a victory dance and then stuff yourself silly with these jumbo minty chocolate Valentine’s Day berry delights. [read more…]

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Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

I realized today that the only recipes I’ve shared this year have pretttttty much been pasta, pizza, or things with hollandaise. Have I ruined your New Year’s diet resolution? I’m sorry. But not THAT sorry, because when you eat this roasted red pepper baked ziti you’ll totally forgive me and we’ll all be friends again. (Also, there’s no cream in this recipe! See? HEALTH CONSCIOUS, BAM).

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

This is a great make-ahead dish: I divided a whole batch into a few individual baking dishes and stored them all in the fridge so I could have baked ziti on demand this week. Grad school classes started again on Wednesday (umm, yuck) and I’ve been in something of an Amazon.com black shopping hole this week picking out new things to help me organize my kitchen and get my cooking life back on track. I can’t wait to show you guys all the fun things I’ve found to help spruce up our teeny tiny apartment kitchen on a broke-grad-student budget! (If you’re interested, you can follow along with #StrawberryKitchenReno on Instagram). Maybe next I’ll “renovate” my closet, since right now my closet is basically a pile of clothes on the floor. BUT BACK TO THE POINT: having ready-made, easy-to-heat up meals has been great this week with all the chaos.

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

It’s so easy to slip into the habit of ordering food or hitting a drive-through when you’re tight on time or tired after a long day, but I find that I feel sooooo much better if I make time- even just once a week! – to cook big batches of food that will last me through a few days of crazy-busy-tired-grad-school-working-ness. This ziti is DEFINITELY a new staple in that make-ahead-meal rotation, along with meals like Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna, that One Pot Spicy Pasta from awhile back, and this Black Bean Corn and Turkey Chili.

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

This ziti has a few more ingredients than I generally put in a pasta recipe, and it takes a little time, but it’s TOTALLY worth it. You end up with a rich, creamy, smoky red pepper sauce that tastes OH-so-good with a handful of melty mozzarella.

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

The challenge with this sauce was figuring out how to make it thick enough without compromising the red pepper flavor. I settled for using a LOT of roasted red peppers and a béchamel with vegetable stock and skim milk, so we have a sauce with plenty of red pepper flavor and a rich, creamy taste that’s actually pretty healthy (as far as pasta sauces go, anyway).

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

There’s a little bit of light cream cheese in the sauce for flavor and creaminess, and other than that the only cheese here is the mozzarella on top. If you wanted to make this dish vegan, you could use almond or coconut milk in place of cow’s milk, nix the cream cheese altogether, and eat it as is or add some vegan cheese on top and bake it. Want to make it a little heartier? Add some shredded chicken or Italian sausage to the mix. This baked ziti is a nice, simple blank canvas – add your favorite toppings to make it your own!  [read more…]

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Mushroom & Goat Cheese Grilled Flatbread

Once upon a time, we had a grill.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Grilled Flatbread

It wasn’t even OUR grill, really. It belonged to my friend Kelly who is awesome (HI KELLY) who moved to go to vet school (because she’s awesome) and didn’t have a patio or a backyard or anything in which to store her beauuutiful red charcoal grill. So (because I’m a good samaritan) I offered to store it for her (because I DID have a backyard, for one brief, shining year) slash use it to grill pizza and burgers and have all-around super-duper backyard grill times. [read more…]

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Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

I’m going through a phase, you guys. A phase where I have an uncontrollable need to poach things.

Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

Actually, it’s more of a phase where I have to put an egg on top of EV.ER.Y.THING., but lately I’ve been really truly desperate for those egg-toppers to be of the poached variety. There’s something so satisfying about cutting into a perfect little white pillow and seeing all that gooey egg goodness come pouring out. GAH. I love it.

Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

Side note: this is my second breakfast recipe in two weeks. I think that’s some kind of record, seeing as I’m not all that big on breakfast. I guess something about a rich, creamy hollandaise on top of crabcakes on top of BREAD just speaks to me.

Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

I keep seeing crabcake eggs benedict on the menu at different restaurants, but they all use a crabcake INSTEAD of an English muffin, which I kind of hate. If you take away the warm, toasted English muffin, all you have is soft hollandaise on top of a soft egg on top of soft crab. Not a lot of texture there, which, um, is super boring. I find a toasty English muffin 100% necessary, so I decided to whip up my own version and jazz it up a bit. I added a toasted English muffin (of course) and some fresh, crisp arugula on top to add a little more texture to break up the softness of the other components. Pro tip: toast the English muffins RIGHT before you assemble and serve, so that they don’t have a chance to dry out and get tough. No one likes a tough muffin.

Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about homemade hollandaise when I tried this the first time. But I found this great tutorial, made a few recipe tweaks to suit my own taste, spent a quality thirty seconds with my immersion blender, and BAM! It’s deceptively easy and the results are totally worth it. The only real “cooking” you have to do to make this eggs benny is whip the hollandaise together and poach the eggs – super simple, right?

Easy Crabcake Eggs Benedict

 

I always hear people laud eggs benedict as this super-schmancy, only-at-restaurants, only-for-fabulous-people-who-brunch kinda deal. But I call SHENANIGANS on those people, because this homemade version is quick and easy and delicious – and it’s ready in 20 minutes. Also, I am basically never a fabulous brunch-er (shower and put pants on and leave my house early in the morning on a weekend? That’s a funny joke), so I love that this homemade version is sweatpants-friendly. Pair it with a mimosa (or five) for the true brunch experience, then eat it while you sit on the couch and high-five yourself for being awesome.  [read more…]

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Healthier 30 Minute Chicken Spinach Alfredo

ALFREDOOOOOOO. Is there anything better than pasta that’s drowning in butter and cream and cheese and more cheese? I think not. Is there anything worse for that New Year’s Diet Resolution you’re pretending to keep? Probably also not. But hey, I’ve got you (and our TOTALLY REAL, no-I-have-NOT-been-binge-eating-this-pizza 2015 diet) covered.

Healthy 30 Minute Chicken Spinach Alfredo

I lightened up this creamy, cheese-y sauce by nixing the cream altogether and instead using a roux with skim milk. Chicken and spinach add some protein (and other probably-important nutrients, blah, blah) and some color to the mix, and finally we thin the sauce out a bit by recycling some of our nice, starchy pasta water. Creamy? Check. Something green? Check. Hearty and filling? Check. Ready in less time than it takes to accidentally-on-purpose watch JUST ONE MORE EPISODE of Revenge? YOU BETCHA. Lightened-up, still-creamy, even-has-spinach-so-it’s-basically-health-food, 30 minute pasta Alfredo. [read more…]

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