the great do[ugh]nut debate

mint chocolate paleo doughnuts​I recently got into a spirited debate (at the gym, of all places) about the proper spelling of everyone’s favorite circular, fried treat with a hole in the middle. I steadfastly stood in the “doughnut” corner versus two “donut” supporters. Listen, people: It’s doughnut. “Donut” is part of a brand name; it should follow “Dunkin” or any other company/product that has legally filed its name to include the misspelling, but that’s it. Are you one of those people who calls tissues Kleenex? Stop giving these companies free marketing! (And if you’re spelling it that way because you’re too lazy to type it the correct way… just… go. Please.)

The great doughnut debate of 2014 reminded me that I had not made doughnuts in a really long time, so I took to Pinterest to find myself a healthy[ish] alternative to Dunkin’ Donuts (note the proper spelling in this instance), and found these paleo mint chocolate doughnuts from the Healthy Maven. (Sorry if you’re sick of paleo. I’ll make the next post something bad for you.) Continue reading the great do[ugh]nut debate


skinny shamrockin’

skinny shamrock shakeLast week, my friends — a few of which are in a weight-loss competition — were discussing Shamrock Shakes and their inability to resist the minty seasonal treat. We played the nutrition fact guessing game, and I wasn’t surprised: In just the small, 12-ounce Shamrock Shake, there are 530 total calories. (You can lop off 80 calories alone by cutting out the whipped cream and Maraschino cherry. Who the hell gets a cherry on their Shamrock Shake anyway?) Continue reading skinny shamrockin’

Thin Mints for breakfast

I am drowning in Girl Scout Cookies. (#firstworldproblem, I know.) As a result, I am forcing Girl Scout Cookies onto and into every meal in every possible way. First up? Thin Mint oatmeal.

looks sloppy, tastes Thin Mint-y

I’m not a huge fan of super sweet things, but if you are, you might want to double the syrup and cookies, and maybe throw in some chocolate syrup or something. I wanted to keep this as healthy as a bowl of oatmeal with cookies in it could possible be. Continue reading Thin Mints for breakfast

sham shake

I’m a little sad it’s been about two years since I last had McDonald’s famed Shamrock Shake — the frothy, minty treat sold throughout March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The leprechaun libation helps brighten up this transitional month both literally — it’s so stunningly green you need shamrock-shaped shades — and figuratively, as the arrival of the shake means spring is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard the allure of the Shamrock Shake has dwindled a bit in recent years with the advent of the fast-food chain’s McCafe; the seasonal drink now comes in a fancy, café-like cup, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. That’s just… wrong. And not surprisingly, they’ve upped the price.

As is usually the case with my culinary replicas, price and caloric intake motivated my sham Shamrock Shake. I used lighter ice cream, 1-percent milk and no additional sugar. I did, however, get a little away from the traditional SS by adding a few crushed up Thin Mints for textural and taste variation.

Makes one serving:
♦1 c. milk (1% — whole for a thicker shake)
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 to 1-1/2 tbs. crème de menthe syrup (depending on mint preference)
♦2 drops green food coloring

Optional: Thin Mint cookie crumbs

Dump all ingredients into a blender. Pulverize into minty perfection.

Total time? 5 minutes.
Cost? $2 ice cream, $2 milk, $2.50 crème de menthe syrup (– enough to make multiple shakes)
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. I like my milkshakes pretty thin (unlike the need-a-spoon consistency of McDonald’s), but this could have used a tiny bit more thickening. A certain “milkshake expert” I asked recommended Carnation Instant Breakfast powder to shape it up a bit (and to add a little bit of nutritional value to any shake). Either way, this shake was so good, I drank the entire glass in less than three minutes…and seven minutes later, I was doubled over with a stomach ache. Totally worth it.

cane and able

Every Christmas Eve, I have dinner with my immediate family, and spend the latter portion of the night BSing and watching approximately three showings of “A Christmas Story” with my 2.5 Jewish friends and assorted others at my friend Jackie’s house. It’s been a tradition of ours since middle school. A few years ago, we started a new tradition: the retelling of one of my most shining moments of brilliance.

See, Jackie has this snowman statue outside her front door (at left). And if you’ve ever read any of my posts, you know I’m a proponent of word play — especially the corny kind. So upon seeing this snowman five or so years ago, I thought I was clever commenting on his accessories in what I thought was the ‘punniest’ way possible…

Me: Nice snowman, Jac.
Steve: I like his top hat.
Me: I like his candy CANE — get it?! He’s using it like a cane?
[full minute of silence]

Yup. It wasn’t until age 20 that I realized the parallel between the candy cane moniker and its shape is no coincidence. (I promise I’m not as brain dead as this story suggests.) With Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, though, I don’t have to worry about that whole walking stick shape thing because the sharp minty flavor is packed into chewable little drops of awesome, and these cookies successfully put those little dollops on display.

Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses

♦1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-1/4 c. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. finely chopped Candy Cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses (about 15)
granulated sugar for rolling
about 30 Candy Cane Kisses

Make sure there’s room enough in your freezer for a cookie sheet. Combine powdered sugar, butter, extracts and egg.Beat at medium speed for about three minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to wet mixture and beat for about two minutes. The mixture will be very crumbly. Stir in chopped Kisses. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll in granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press a Candy Cane Kiss in the center of each cookie. Hold the outsides of the cookie together as they will crack a little with the pressure. Place cookies immediately into the freezer to allow Kisses to set; otherwise, they will melt into a sloppy mess. When set, store in a covered container at room temperature.

Total time? 20 prep, 12 minutes bake, 30 minutes set. 
$2.50 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses (one package), $3 mint extract
Overall success relative to expectations? 6 out of 10. These cookies are pretty dense; I’m going to guess it’s due to the bevy of butter and the use of powdered sugar in the mix instead of granulated. I wanted a little more mint out of the cookie itself (would consider using 2 tsp. of extract next time), and while the whole Kiss on top has nice to look at it, it makes consumption of the cookie a little less convenient. Maybe it would have been better to leave them out of the freezer and take my chances with those sloppy Kiss puddles.

barking up the right tree

The time I spend trolling the Internet for “food porn” is tantamount to that which a 20-year-old frat guy spends looking at, well, different types of images, but ever since a devastating virus took over my computer last week, everyone’s been accusing me of having an addiction to some not-so-G-rated things. Regardless, somewhere in my innocent Internet surfing, I infected my laptop and had to pay the Best Buy Geek Squad $200+ to get the “this virus will break your life” message off my desktop. (Not a joke.)

Until I was computer-less for four straight days, I didn’t realize just how incapable I am of functioning without one. It’s quite sad, really. Fortunately, I was hosting (and catering) my friends’ annual Thieving Elves party this past weekend, and no computer was necessary for my eight straight hours in the kitchen.

I’m going to try to get up as many recipes as possible over the next few days so you can impress your friends and spread simple holiday cheer this weekend. And if I get up no recipe other than this peppermint popcorn bark, you’ll still be a hit at your parties; it’s easy to make, great for groups and super tasty. Just make sure you “warn” people what’s in the bowl; I had an unsuspecting taster get a minty — but not unwelcome — surprise when he picked up what he thought was a rice krispie treat.

totally crushin'

A few notes: Unwrapping the candy canes is frustrating. The stupid cellophane wrappers latched onto my hands, and after some violent shaking, they flew onto the wall above my trash can… and there they stayed. Beating the bejeezus out of the candy canes is the best part of this process. I had a good time taking a rolling pin and letting my assorted frustrations loose on the little suckers. They got their revenge, though; the mint vapors the beating released burned my nostrils and a small shard shot into my eye. Yup. Candy cane in the eye.

♦Two bags of cooked microwave popcorn (butter, or non-)
1 lb. almond bark
1 6-oz. box of candy canes, crushed
2 tsp. peppermint extract
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Place popped popcorn in giant bowl. Unwrap candy canes, place in a plastic bag and beat with a rolling pin. Dump in popcorn. Melt almond bark according to instructions on package. When melted, add peppermint extract; the mixture will seize (and make a crackling noise), but don’t panic. Pour over popcorn/candy mixture, and stir well. Pour mixture onto waxed paper, spread out evenly and leave it be. Melt chocolate chips in microwave, and drizzle on cooling bark with a fork. When completely cooled, break into chunks.

Total time? 25 minutes, plus cooling time.
$2.57 for pound of almond bark, 89¢ box of candy canes, $1 microwavable popcorn, $3 mint extract, $1.69 chocolate chips.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. Of all the things I made for my Christmas party, I did not expect this to be one of my favorites, but the end result blew me away. The peppermint was crisp, the bark was sweet — but not overly so — and it made my house smell amazing. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but trust me — it’s a must-make.