My secret baking last week was a special treat for J.’s grandma’s birthday. I wanted to make her a decadent, not-for-everyday dessert that she could stash in her fridge and enjoy over the course of a week or so. Since she is a chocolate lover, I immediately thought to make Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies — hands down, the best special occasion brownie around! They were well received, so I’m glad I spent the time making them. They are a little fussy to make but totally worth it. Since the recipe makes a half sheet pan worth of brownies, I divied up some of the rest into packets for friends and put away a small amount in our freezer for the boys.
This week I’m baking a chocolate chip cookie cake for G.’s Valentine’s Day celebration at school. He has instructed me that we need to decorate the cake with “white frosting all around, and Valentine’s M&Ms, and a big heart in the middle.” OK, can do. He’ll help me with the decorating.
Otherwise, I’m heavy on soup again this week (Black Bean and also Curried Split Pea). It seems to be all I want to eat in this cold, cold weather.
J. and I enjoyed this salad last night, alongside Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Soup and grilled asparagus. It’s a nice, grain-based salad with more protein than you might expect to get in a vegetarian dish, thanks to the chickpeas and quinoa.
A. saw the quinoa cooling on the stove before I mixed it into the rest of the ingredients, and was eager to taste it. He loved it, and wound up with those cute little quinoa tails all over his lips. He had a full bowl of it, plain, exclaiming the whole time how delicious it was. G. felt compelled to ask for a taste too, but he did not care for the flavor.
I’ve always been lukewarm about liking quinoa, but I find that lemon is the key ingredient in a quinoa dish for me: it breaks up some of the grassy flavor and allows me to think of it more as a grain than as something a sheep would like to graze.
1 c. quinoa, rinsed
2 c. water
4 green onions, minced
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 c. parsley, chopped
1 c. carrots, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Combine quinoa and water in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered, until all the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside, uncovered, to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine green onions, chickpeas, parsley, and carrots. Toss with olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon. Then, toss in the cooled quinoa (still warm is OK, just not HOT), and season with salt and pepper. Serve room temperature or cold.
On Saturday, we assembled the birthday cake. J. made a batch of mocha chip ice cream with a new KitchenAid attachment the boys got me for my birthday, and we layered it with the brownies. Once it was frozen, we slathered the whole thing with whipped cream. Whoa, I know. The recipe came from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, and although it tasted out of this world, our construction didn’t quite work. The brownies froze too hard; the ice cream didn’t freeze quite enough; and the whipped cream slid off the cake and onto the tablecloth while we wrestled with trying to slice the whole thing. None of our family cared, though, because it was still delicious. In fact, people started putting in orders for what flavors of cake and ice cream they’d like us to make for their upcoming birthdays!
On Saturday night, J. got antsy about the milk and cream we had leftover in the fridge, and decided to make up a batch of David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream Recipe so it could chill overnight and we could churn it the next day. I acted as sous chef. The recipe involves making caramel not once, but twice, and yes we did start the recipe about around 10:45 PM. At least we are crazy together. The ice cream is divine, but so incredibly rich that you can really only eat a spoonful at a time. We gave away a small sample to our dear neighbors, and I do have more to share if anyone wants it! Without any stabilizers, though, it melts quickly, so you have to live close.
After that batch of ice cream I informed J. that we could no longer keep the ice cream maker in the freezer — it was just too easy to whip something up. So now the ice cream maker is washed and put away, and it will come out in a month or so. Did I mentioned I got a pasta-making attachment for my KitchenAid, too? J. made pasta with the boys while I was in Hawaii, and he made another batch of fettucine on Sunday. I only had a tiny bit, but it was amazing. Are you seeing a theme here? Homemade food, made well, pretty much always tastes better than what you can buy in a store. Still, even homemade ice cream is ice cream, and needs to be a once in a while treat.
With all that cooking done this weekend and in the recent past, our freezer is close to packed with frozen overages, so I’m using up a bunch of dinners I’ve already cooked this week. After this weekend’s excess, I could use the break from doing dishes, anyway.
I'm Dara, the Chick in the Kitchen. Living in the suburbs of Manhattan with my two school-aged boys and husband. Feeding my family something more diverse than a different shape of pasta each night. Read more about me and CITK, and keep in touch: