Depends How Good You Live 'Em

How Many, How Much
By Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give 'em.

You didn't think I'd leave you without chocolate on Valentine's Day, did you?


Chocolate Heart Sandwich Cookies with Whipped Espresso Ganache


For the cookies:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I like Droste brand)
For the ganache:
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • pinch salt

Preheat oven at 350ºF.

To make the cookies, first whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and espresso powder in bowl and set aside. Using the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture, then mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least a half hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter or between sheets of parchment paper until it's about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out large heart shapes from the dough. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffy.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache by mixing the cream and espresso powder together in a saucepan until smooth. Heat the cream mixture until it just starts to bubble and simmer at the edges of the pan, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a medium bowl. Let the mixture sit for a minute, and then gently use a whisk to emulsify the ganache - it will look smooth and shiny. Let the ganache cool in the refrigerator for about an hour. Once cooled, but still a bit runny, transfer the ganache to the bowl of a mixer set with the whisk attachment. Whip the ganache until it has thickened and lightened in color (it will take about a minute or two) - it will look a bit like buttercream when it's finished.

Spread the ganache thickly on the flat side of half the cooled cookies, and top with the remaining cookies to form sandwiches.

Serve with tall glasses of milk, and maybe a kiss for your Valentine.

Makes approximately 25 sandwich cookies (depending on the size of your cookie cutter).


I'll Think It's Pretty Cute

I can't decide how I feel about Valentine's Day.

On the one hand, it's the most annoying day on the planet. I mean, what's fun about a tidal wave of cringe-inducing jewelry commercials and a slew of fussy and overpriced prix fixe "lovers" menus at every restaurant in town?

If you're single, Valentine's Day is an exercise in eye rolling - through endless public displays of affection and a general onslaught of cheesiness, usually in the form of some sort of romantic movie marathon on TV. If you're coupled, Valentine's Day is an exercise in obligatory romantic creativity -- intense pressure to find the perfect, adorable-yet-not-at-all-cliché expression of affection for your Valentine. Flowers? Chocolates? Please.

On the other hand, I like flowers. And chocolate, and John Hughes/Rob Reiner movie marathons. And if you ask me to be your Valentine, I'll think it's pretty cute. Just make sure you're ready for this jelly.

Blood Orange Jelly Hearts

These jellies are made with agar (instead of gelatin), so, in addition to being awesome and adorable, they are both vegan and gluten-free.

Agar is a natural vegetable gelatin counterpart, made from algae or seaweed. It's sold as a powder, and you can usually find it at health-conscious or vegan food stores (I believe it's sold at Whole Foods) and most Asian markets.

Fruit purées, such as the blood orange purée called for here, are sold frozen in many specialty stores, as well as online (Amazon carries it, as well as a site called perfectpuree.com). If blood orange isn't your thing, flavors like pomegranate, strawberry or cassis are delicious and would yield nice red colors for your Valentine.

We make these little guys at Liddabit Sweets, the Brooklyn-based candy company where I work. So if you don't feel like making your own batch, by all means, let us make them for you.

  • 50 grams agar
  • 1020 grams sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 820 grams water
  • 880 grams light corn syrup
  • 820 grams frozen blood orange purée, thawed

Make sure you have a deep-fry or candy thermometer at the ready. (One like this works perfectly here.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the agar and the sugar. Put the water in a saucepan with tall sides, and begin to heat it on the stove top. Once the water has warmed, whisk the sugar/agar mixture into the water, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the corn syrup and stir gently. Latch the thermometer to the inside of the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the jelly mixture until it reaches 106º CELSIUS. Once it reaches 106ºC, turn off the burner and let the mixture cool to 90ºC.

Remove the mixture from the stove and add the fruit purée, stirring to combine. Pour the warm jelly mixture into a greased (Pam works well) half sheet pan (half sheet pans are essentially cookie sheets with dimensions 18"x13"x1").

Let the mixture cool in the half sheet pan for at least an hour, during which time the jelly will firm up. Test the firmness by pressing the jelly gently with a finger - it should feel just firm and slightly jiggly in the center. Once set, use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from the jelly, and place them on a cooling rack. Let the jelly shapes dry out for an hour on the cooling rack before rolling them in sugar to finish.


Go Packers?

My littlest sister, a Wisconsin resident and Packer fan, wanted me to name this post "GO SIX PACK GO." She then thought better of the idea, deciding that "few people will get it. But I will, and Dad will. And then Dad will explain it to Mom and she still won't get it."

All true.

So, um, Go Packers? Cheese head pride?

To be perfectly honest, I don't much care about the football being played at this year's Super Bowl (sorry, Pops). I'm mostly in it for the food. And maybe the occasional E-Trade commercial. Oh, and the prospect of a new (!) episode (!) of GLEE following the game (don't judge. You know you're a closet Gleek).

Super Bowl food is just good. It's salty and tangy and creamy and cheesy and... salty. And it doesn't apologize for being so. The Super Bowl says, give me some wings. And some blue cheese. And guacamole. And some beer and a pizza and some chips. Chips, dammit! With dip.

Well, fine.

Homemade Wheat Pita Chips with Creamy Garlic Edamame Dip

I know it's easy to find good pita chips at the grocery store, so if you go with store-bought I'll understand, but I feel obligated to tell you that making your own is just so much more fun. And your game day friends will really appreciate you going the extra yard. You know, for the first down.


*Note: Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix made up of dried herbs, sesame seeds, salt and sumac. You can find it in specialty shops or else you can mix up your own.


For pita chips:
  • 8 small whole wheat pita breads
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons za'atar*
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • big pinch of sea salt
  • big pinch of ground black pepper
For edamame dip:
  • 2 cups cooked edamame, removed from the pod (I like the frozen bags of shelled edamame, plus extra for garnish, if you like)
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for finishing
  • big pinch of salt
  • big pinch of ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil and spices and mix to combine. Cut the pita breads into wedges (1 small pita bread should yield 8 wedges), and dip each wedge into the oil & spice mixture until fully coated. Place pita wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet or two. Bake the pita wedges in a hot oven for about 7 minutes (or until lightly browned), and then use tongs to flip each wedge, and cook for another 7 minutes, until chips are brown and crispy. Remove the chips from the oven and let cool.

To make the edamame dip, toss the edamame beans, mascarpone, garlic, salt and pepper, and a splash or two of olive oil into a food processor or blender. Blitz on high until chunky but starting to combine. Drizzle in more olive oil, a little at a time, as you continue to blend, stopping when the mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste the dip and adjust the seasonings - feel free to add more garlic, salt or pepper as necessary. Serve with homemade pita chips.

Makes about 3 cups of edamame dip and roughly 64 pita chips.