Traditional May Day Baskets

May Day Baskets

Popcorn, pretzels, cheese puffs, suckers, hard candy, bubble gum, licorice … snacks and treats layered into disposable cups outfitted with a pipe cleaner handle and, possibly, some stickers or a ribbon on the outside creates a May basket. Simple and generous, this gift, delivered to the door of friends and neighbors, celebrates the arrival of Spring and rejuvenation. It is as much about the gesture as it is the contents.

Traditional May Day Baskets

My First May Basket

The first May Day basket I remember receiving was not a typical basket. This was not a cup or small container of treats. This particular “basket” was made from a shoe box and it was delivered for me by our sweet neighbor, Muriel. Muriel and her husband, Wilbur, lived on a farm just a quarter-mile from ours and they were the sweetest couple. Having lost their only daughter as a teenager, they loved seeing kids riding bikes past their home. They encouraged me to stop and pet their horses and watch their fancy chickens in the yard. Muriel had a heart full of kindness and took advantage of simple holidays like May Day to spoil us. The shoe box basket was decorated with crepe paper and filled with treats. I don’t really remember exactly how it looked or what the treats inside were but I do remember that it was big, made specifically for me, and it made me feel special.

My brothers remember one year when she gave them each a blue toy truck with treats filling the truck bed. This was no small toy either. It was at least a foot long. My mom recently found those trucks, had them cleaned and repaired and gave them back to my brothers, along with that memory.

May Basket Supplies

May Baskets down memory lane

I called my mom today to ask her what she remembered about May Day. What started off as a discussion about candy and popcorn, soon evolved into story after story. She first reminded me how we would use whatever we had to create our “baskets”: shoe boxes, 2-quart milk boxes, any carton or container that could be cut down, decorated and filled. What I didn’t remember was that we would make baskets for entire families and that it wasn’t as much about one day as it was the whole month! You just never knew when friends and neighbors would make a delivery. It was always simple, never expensive and given in person.

Soon, Mom’s stories turned to those from her childhood. A neighbor who would add a big box of candy, an uncommon treat, to the top of her baskets. Mom laughed as she told me about the people who would try to deliver the basket without being seen. In particular, one man who would yell out after leaving the basket and go hide in a barrel while the kids tried to find him. He would throw his voice out of the barrel in different directions to confuse their search.

May Basket 1

the tradition continues

Fast-forward to 1996. Marty and I bought our first home. Our boys were young (a 5-year-old and a 8-month-old). We could not have asked for a better neighborhood for them: lots of young kids, little traffic, kind people and a hearty love for even the smallest of holidays. We learned quickly that delivering May baskets was a sport. The old tradition of delivering a basket without being “caught” was alive and well in this community. The doorbell would ring … and often some loud knocking too … and everyone would run to the door or the nearest window to try and catch a glimpse of the giver. Whether or not you saw them or chased them or missed them completely, a cup of treats was your reward.

One of our neighbors, Lori, loved this tradition so much, she would make baskets for the kids long after her girls had transitioned to baby-sitting, rather than playing with, the younger kids. Lori started adding sidewalk chalk, bubbles and even kites to the baskets. She had more fun watching the kids run and play and would wave to everyone as they opened their doors to catch the door-ringers.

It never occurred to me until I wrote this down that Lori and Muriel would have been great friends.

more may basket ideas

There are two recipes that I would highly recommend for filling baskets:

Seasoned Pretzels for May Baskets

Stick-A-Rounds

These seasoned pretzels take the traditional popcorn and pretzel element of any May basket to the next level. You might as well include the recipe, because you will be asked for it every time! They are simple to make (no oven needed) and can be made ahead and frozen to maintain freshness and, therefore, are ready to grab whenever needed.

May Day Basket with Almonds

Lori’s Sugar & Spice Pecans

A small bag of these delicious pecans … or in the case of the picture above, almonds, will leave a big, happy impression. Imagine one of these on each place-setting at a May brunch or wedding shower!

The beauty of these recipes is that they can be made ahead and frozen.

When leaving May baskets, it is always a good idea to have the treats contained in some way. It is sad when a basket is ruined by a brief rain shower or a wandering pet; however, even then the spirit of the gift remains.

May Day Basket on Door

it’s time to meet the neighbors

We moved from that home to an acreage this past year and have only met a few of the many neighbors around us. I’m grateful my mom told me about giving May baskets all through the month because it is the perfect way to meet them!

Do you know your neighbors? Maybe a May basket is in order? A loaf of sweet bread or a bag of cookies would do the trick. If you don’t want to give food, consider a small bouquet of flowers or a garden plant.

Remember, keep it simple and fill it with kindness. Happy May Day, every day!

The Tradition of May Day Baskets

 

 

 

 

Layered Lettuce Salad with Deviled Egg

Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad

Do you know how to determine if a recipe is worth trying? Some version of it appears in almost every church cookbook you can find. This is one of those recipes. Why? It is easy to make and uses simple ingredients, it can be made in advance and it hits all the flavor profiles (sweet and savory, crunchy and smooth, rich and healthy). As mason jar salads dominate my Pinterest feed, I just had to share this Layered Lettuce Salad with some ideas for variations to keep it interesting!

Layered Lettuce Salad Jars

the basic layered lettuce salad

It just doesn’t get any easier than pulling a salad out of the refrigerator that you assembled the previous night. Even the ingredients are common and easy to find year-round: iceberg lettuce, carrots, frozen peas, green onions, bacon, shredded cheddar cheese and, if you like, nuts. On many occasions, I will choose romaine over iceberg but for this particular salad, I prefer iceberg.

The single-most important key to success with this salad is making sure the lettuce is dry before assembling. It needs to be washed well and the cold water keeps it crisp; however, if it is not dried well, the water will continue to drain and collect in the bottom of the pan. This will add too much moisture to the salad while it rests overnight and make it very messy to serve. Salad spinners help remove a lot of the excess water but I still drain the lettuce on paper towels while chopping the other ingredients.

serving suggestions

The 9″x13″ glass pan is the standard vessel for this recipe. It is perfect for potlucks, buffets and larger group meals. When I prepare for a smaller family dinner, I like to reduce the number of dishes that have to be passed. I also like to find ways to “decorate” the table with the food itself. That is how I came up with this idea.

Layered Lettuce Salad with Deviled Egg

These are half-pint, wide-mouth canning jars. Instead of putting all the ingredients in one pan, they are divided evenly among 12 jars but assembled in the same way. The lids and rings are used to cover the salad while it is in the refrigerator. For this dinner, I added a few sprouts and nestled a deviled egg on top. It’s inviting and convenient and it never hurts to have a few extras in the refrigerator in case someone wants seconds!

Even if a sit-down dinner doesn’t fit into your schedule, these jars are the perfect solution for lunch boxes, ball games, picnics and dinner served in shifts.

variations on the original

Be creative with this recipe. My mind is full of variations to try …

  • add crumbled or sliced hard boiled eggs
  • slices of fresh radish and/or celery
  • substitute ranch dressing and a little Tabasco for the salad dressing/mayonnaise and add crumbled blue cheese for a hot wing side dish
  • greek yogurt and feta cheese with some cucumber, tomato and red onion

My only advice on substitutions is to think about the consistency of the ingredients. Veggies like cucumber and tomato have a lot of moisture which may result in the “soggy” texture described earlier in this post. I would add these right before serving just to avoid this problem.

Ready to give it a try?

Print Recipe
Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad
This fresh salad is a delicious blend of crisp lettuce, peas, onions, bacon, cheese and a little dressing. It can be made a day in advance and served in one pan or in individual jars or bowls.
Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
10-12 people
Ingredients
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots divided
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced green onion divided
  • 1-1 1/2 cups salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds optional
Prep Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
10-12 people
Ingredients
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots divided
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced green onion divided
  • 1-1 1/2 cups salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds optional
Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad
Instructions
  1. Remove core from the head of iceberg lettuce and discard. Chop the lettuce into small pieces (about 1"). Wash well in cold water and drain very well on paper towels. Excess moisture on the lettuce will result in a very sloppy salad.
  2. When lettuce is well-drained, place it all in a 9"x13" glass pan or distribute evenly in individual serving cups.
  3. Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded carrots evenly over the lettuce.
  4. Sprinkle 1 cup of the onions and 1 cup of the peas evenly over the carrots and lettuce. Note that the peas do not need to be defrosted.
  5. Starting with 1 cup, drop tablespoons of the salad dressing or mayonnaise on top of the salad. Use a knife or spatula to gently spread it out, making an even layer over the salad. Use additional salad dressing or mayonnaise if needed.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar and black pepper over the top.
  7. Evenly distribute the remaining carrots, peas and onions, as well as the cheese and bacon, on top of the sugar/pepper layer.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap (or canning lids if using jars) and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
  9. Before serving, sprinkle the toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds over the top.

Mason Jar Layered Lettuce Salad

Traditional Deviled Eggs

Traditional Deviled Eggs

I have joked about how my grandmothers would shake their heads at me if they could see me fussing over the appearance of my hard boiled eggs. There would be an audible gasp if they could see how much restaurants are charging for a small plate of deviled eggs and how obsessed people have become with this simple side dish. Pinterest is full of recipes to change up the traditional version … avocado-bacon, wasabi, jalapeño-popper, buffalo-blue, etc., etc. It is fun to experiment with the flavors but it all starts with a solid traditional recipe.

Deviled Eggs

the foundation of deviled eggs

A good deviled egg first and foremost requires a good hard boiled egg. Proper cooking time and a smoothly peeled egg are essential and easy if you know the tricks. Check out my blog, Hard Boiled Eggs, for easy-to-follow instructions and even a video of me peeling an egg one-handed!

Yolks and Whites: Once the eggs are cooked and peeled, gently remove the yolks into a bowl and set the whites aside. Mash the yolks with a fork in the bowl until the texture is even and smooth.

Deviled Egg Filling

added ingredients

The secret to achieving the perfect filling consistency is not just the ingredients you add but the amount of the ingredients you add. It is not easy to give exact measurements because there is so much variation in eggs (yolk to white ratio, size of the egg, etc.). The best advice I can give is to start with a smaller amount of each ingredient than you think you will need (or is listed in any recipe). You can always add more! I am going to give my best estimates for amounts based on 14 large, white, store-bought eggs. Start with half of the amounts, mix them in individually and check for taste and consistency with each addition. Add the salad dressing or mayonnaise last. If all the ingredients are added at the same time, there is no way to correct it if the mixture is too thin.

Why 14 eggs instead of 12? Give yourself some room for error. It is almost inevitable that an egg or two will crack or not peel well. An extra egg or two provide insurance for a beautiful tray.

As I mentioned earlier, but just in case you skipped ahead, start with HALF of the following ingredient amounts. You can always add more to achieve the perfect consistency.

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons pickle relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
4 dashes Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup salad dressing/mayonnaise

NOTE: Either dill or sweet pickle relish will work in this recipe. If using dill relish, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to the filing. If using sweet relish, consider adding 1/4 teaspoon dry dill weed to the filling. Don’t have pickle relish? Chop up some of your favorite pickles, very fine, and measure including some of the juice. Olives would be another delicious option.

Scoop about one teaspoon of the filling into each egg white half, gently pushing the filling into place and smoothing or swirling the top into little peaks. A piping bag or icing gun can be used for a more professional look.

Traditional Deviled Eggs

serve ’em up!

For the picture above, I simply sprinkled paprika on each egg before serving (if you put it on too early, it can “melt” into the filling). Small pieces of roasted red pepper or pimento, a thin slice of olive, a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives or a sprig of fresh dill are all good choices for glamming up the appearance.

If you don’t have an egg plate, find a fun platter, serving tray or cheese board and spread out a layer of sprouts to help hold the eggs in place.

Deviled Egg over Layerd Lettuce Salad

For Easter this year, I am presetting our table with these individual layered lettuce salad jars which have been topped with a few sprouts and a deviled egg. I love the idea of one less thing to pass and a beautiful invitation to sit down, relax and give thanks.

May all your picnics, tailgates, potlucks, lunches, brunches and gatherings be shared with good company!

Traditional Deviled Eggs Pin

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard Boiled Eggs

My grandmothers must be scratching their heads in heaven as they see how proud I am that I can make pretty hard-boiled eggs. First of all, for them it was a most mundane and ordinary task. Second, why would anyone care that an egg is “pretty”. As long as it tastes good, who cares? I do! It’s my obsessive-compulsive-analytical side that gets all fired up when things that can turn out a certain way, don’t.

Hard Boiled Eggs

the trick

Hard boiled eggs have been my food nemesis. Cooking them is not the issue. Peeling them is the issue. Until 3 years ago, I would rejoice if I could get one egg, of the dozen I had boiled, to peel cleanly … no cracks, no divots, no bumps. Now, I can count on at least 10 of the 12 to be perfect (and the other two still get a passing grade).

What happened?

My youngest son started working in the kitchen of a super-cool restaurant and he was taught how to boil the eggs. He came home one weekend and asked if he could make some. I was happy he knew how. When they were cooked and cooled, he said “do you want to see a trick?” and proceeded to peel one of the eggs, not only to perfection, but WITH ONE HAND!

I started taking notes.

Hard Boiled Eggs

hard boiled eggs: the process

  1. The FIRST step in the process did not come from the restaurant: take the eggs out of the refrigerator one hour before boiling. What this does is bring the eggs to room temperature and reduce the chance of the shell cracking when the egg is lowered into the boiling water. Cracking is going to happen occasionally, but this helps reduce the odds.
  2. Heat a large pan of water to boiling. There should be enough water in the pan so all the eggs have an inch of water above them when added.
  3. When boiling, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water. This, according to several internet searches, will balance the pH (alkalinity/acidity) levels which … (chemistry inserted here) … to make the shell easier to remove.
  4. Gently lower the eggs into the pot, return water to boiling and cook for 12 minutes.
  5. While the eggs are boiling, get a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Just before the eggs are done, add some ice cubes to the cold water.
  6. When the eggs are done, gently remove them from the boiling water and lower into the ice water. Gently move them around in the ice water and allow to cool at least 10 minutes.
  7. Remove an egg from the ice water and peel it, cracking it once or twice on each “end” and a few times on the side. Place palm over egg and apply light pressure as you roll it forward and backward. Starting at one end, peel back the shell and try to get under the clear membrane between the shell and the egg white as you peel the rest of the egg.
  8. Rinse with cold water and place on a towel to remove excess water.
  9. Continue with the remaining eggs.

NOTE ONE: These instructions are based on 12-14 eggs. If boiling fewer eggs in a smaller pan, use 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. If boiling more in a bigger pan, increase the soda. A good rule of thumb would be 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for every quart of water.

NOTE TWO: I use “Large Grade A” eggs from the grocery store. Eggs of different sizes and those “farm raised” may require adjustments to the cooking times.

look everyone! one-hand!

 

baker’s dozen plus

If I am going to make deviled eggs, I stack the odds by boiling 14 eggs. Two extra eggs give me a little insurance that I will have 24 excellent-looking egg halves to fill.

Here’s the link to my Traditional Deviled Eggs “recipe”.

Deviled Eggs

You’ll notice I restrained from using any of those corny egg jokes in this post. You know the ones … “eggstra” or “eggcelent”.

dozen that feel good?

I’d rather like to think that my enthusiasm for food, taste and appearance, actually makes my grandmothers proud. They may not have cared as much about how the food looked but I know they cared that the people they fed were happy and loved. Hard boiled eggs are a labor of love for me as I don’t personally like eating them. I love serving them and now, I even love making them!

The New Tic Toc Restaurant in Boone, Iowa

Foodventurous: Italian Hospitality in Boone, Iowa

In 2017, I spent a week in Rome. When I say “spent”, I mean “ate my way through”. The food was truly amazing but the thing that resonates with me to this day is the sacredness of the dining experience. Sit back. Relax. Order in courses. Talk. Listen. No pressure to free the table for the next guests. From pastry to pizza to pasta, dining is an experience. Sounds nice, right? I’ve been looking for a place here, in Iowa, that captures that feeling and I found it in my new hometown of Boone: The New Tic Toc Italian Trattoria.

Tic Toc Tortellini

 

history

Fifty-some years ago, the Tic-Toc Lounge was the place for authentic Italian food (especially pizza) in the Boone area. A good friend of mine grew up in Boone and remembers the restaurant well for the spaghetti, steak sandwich, pizza and, most importantly, the hospitality. She tells of a time when the owner knew the people so well, he would run a tab for families and made a practice of passing through the restaurant to make sure everyone was happy and enjoying their meals.

Tic Toc Newspaper Ad

The restaurant changed hands several times over the years and even changed locations, moving a few doors down the street. When up for sale again in 2016, the history and traditions of the place, including the original name, were a big selling point.

The name itself is a bit of a mystery. No one seems to know how The Tic Toc became The Tic Toc.

dedication

Even the new owner/operator isn’t sure where the name originated, but he knew he wanted to revive the legacy and atmosphere of the original. Let me introduce you to Victor Martinez.

Tic Toc with Victor

Martinez and a silent partner worked together in 2016 to bring back the authentic Italian dining venue. Victor strives to emulate the original owner, Rudy Fraulini. Modern times don’t allow a restauranteur to “run a tab” for customers, but Victor has learned how to give his customers a terrific experience.

Immigrating from Mexico when he was 19, Victor found a home in Seattle and in the restaurant business. He didn’t just complete the jobs he was given, he created a well-rounded knowledge base and made some pretty impressive friends along the way.

One of the friends that he mentions with particular affection is World Association of Chefs’ Societies Global Master Chef, Rino Baglio. Martinez had worked for, and trained under, Chef Baglio for many years in Washington and recruited his help in opening the restaurant and building the menu. The other, Joe Vilardi, gets the credit for “polishing” Victor when it comes to hospitality, service and consistency. These names were not familiar to me before meeting Victor but a little time with Google and the results show two very impressive, talented and successful mentors.

respect

Creating an authentic and delicious Italian menu for his restaurant was critical for the success of his restaurant, but Victor also knew the way to build a happy clientele was consistency. He respects his customers, knows they have other options and doesn’t take that for granted.

One of the first things Marty and I noticed on our very visit was how clean everything was: water glasses, silverware, tables, menus, etc. When I complimented Victor on this, he smiled like the proud parent of a newborn. Seriously, he did. This is something he emphasizes to all his employees. The way you perform your job shows that you have respect for yourself and the work you are doing.

Another element of respect for Victor? Hospitality. He wants his customers to feel like family. He greets as many people at the door as possible, will call returning customers by name and checks with each table to be sure they’re happy with their food and their service. If they aren’t? He will do whatever he can to ensure that meal at The New Tic Toc will not be their last.

Toc Toc Tables

 

quality

The meat and vegetables are fresh, not frozen. The bread, sauces, balsamic vinaigrette, soups and desserts are homemade. And you can taste it …

Tic Toc Sampler Appetizer

 

Tic Toc Gnocci

Tic Toc Fillet

an iowa italian restaurant experience

If I have convinced you to find your way to this gem in Boone, and I certainly hope I have, here are a few suggestions to fully enjoy your experience:

  1. Ask questions. If you don’t know what something on the menu is, ask. On our first visit to The New Tic Toc, the waitress told us that one of the soups was Cream of Lettuce. I had never heard of such a thing but after her explanation, I had one of the best cups of soup ever.Tic Toc Soup
  2. Order soup. It doesn’t matter what kind they are serving. Order one or both!
  3. Eat in courses, sharing plates with someone so you can try more. Tic Toc Budino
  4. Don’t skip dessert … especially if the Budino is on the menu: apple and golden raisin bread pudding with a bourbon-caramel sauce and vanilla gelato.
  5. Follow them on Facebook for notices on specials, menu changes and special dinners!

fifty years later

As the photo of the advertisement at the top of this post says,

“THE TIC – TOC IS THE PLACE TO ENJOY AN EVENING OF TOTAL RELAXATION AND PLEASURE.”

True in 1965 and true now. Thanks, Victor, for bringing this place full circle.

Oh, and if you happen to know how The Tic Toc got its name, please share that story with the rest of us. Maybe over a slice of pizza?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Want to read more about our foodventures in Italy? Here are the links:

Foodventurous: Olive Oil in Lazio
Foodventurous: Rome

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Large cookies. Rustic pastry. Flat cake. Pizza pie. Can you picture it? Using these descriptions, can you picture a galette? Well, yes, you did have the advantage of that pretty picture that intrigued you enough to be reading my post but aren’t those some pretty awesome culinary adjectives? One look at that freeform, perfectly-imperfect Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette and it’s easy to be intrigued.

galette 101

Similar to a pastry (like pie crust) or more like a pancake or crepe, the base of a galette is subject to regional adaptations. Some are even made with potatoes. Fillings can be sweet (fruit and/or cream fillings) or savory (vegetables, herbs, cheeses and/or meats). The edge of the crust is often folded up and onto the filling to keep the filling contained and for convenience of eating. The fact that it looks stunning doesn’t hurt either!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

start here

For anyone who has ever hesitated to make a pie from scratch, this is the place to start.

  1. Store-bought crust is fine. Sometimes it is a good idea to simplify certain steps in a process to gain experience which will, in turn, encourage more confidence. It will be delicious! However, making pie crust from scratch is one of my favorite things to do and I credit that to the recipe I use (thank God for church cookbooks). It’s called Never Fail Pie Crust for a reason and this link includes a video of the rolling process and a trick on how to transfer the crust to the plate. One batch will make 3 single crusts which can be made ahead and frozen.
  2. A galette simplifies the pie-making process by using a cookie sheet in place of a pie plate. Once the crust is rolled out, it only needs to be transferred to, and laid flat on, the cookie sheet … no centering the crust over the plate … no crimping edges. It is a perfect way to become comfortable rolling out and handling pie crust.
  3. Make your own filling. This is where the homemade factor is really noticeable. It is not a difficult process and the smell of the fruit simmering is worth every minute! Also, the filling can be made a day or two in advance. If you still need convincing, the galette most likely will not hold all of the filling which means … LEFTOVERS! Just imagine the warm blueberries spread over pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal. Even cold, it can be mixed into yogurt or added to a smoothie!

Blueberry Pie Filling

the folding process

ready … set … blueberry lemon ricotta galette

Print Recipe
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
This rustic pie, or galette, is filled with homemade blueberry-lemon filling and ricotta cheese sweetened with honey. Get the recipe and tips for making this perfectly-imperfect dessert!
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Instructions
  1. Zest and juice the lemon.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until blueberries pop or burst easily with light pressure from the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes).
  3. Combine corn starch with remaining 1/4 cup of water. When most of the blueberries have burst, drizzle the corn starch and water mixture over the syrup, stirring constantly.
    Blueberry Pie Filling
  4. Continue to simmer until filling thickens. The consistency should be thicker than maple syrup but not as thick as a fruit jam. Add half of the lemon zest, half of the salt and the almond extract (if using) to the filling and stir to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator).
  6. Preheat oven to 400°.
  7. Combine ricotta cheese, honey, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  8. Roll out pie crust into a 12" circle on a floured surface. Transfer crust to a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  9. Sprinkle a few of the almonds and the remaining lemon zest around the inner 9" circle of the crust (staying away from the outer edges). Drop the ricotta mixture by spoonfuls around the inner circle and gently spread to cover, leaving the outer 2"-3" of crust bare. See video in text above.
  10. Spread a thick layer of blueberry filling over the top of the ricotta mixture. Any remaining filling can be used as a topping for pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal or yogurt.
  11. Gently lift an outside section of the crust and fold it over onto the blueberry filling. Working around the crust, continue to make folds that slightly overlap the previous fold until filling is enclosed. Gently press on the folds to "seal".
  12. Whisk together the lightly beaten egg and a tablespoon of water and brush a thin layer all around the crust. Sprinkle crust with almonds and sugar.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling begins to bubble.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

Pie Crust: It is perfectly fine to use a store-bought crust. It is absolutely perfect to use one of the crusts from my Never Fail Pie Crust post too!

 

pin it for later!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Reuben Meatballs Feature

Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw

Daffodils, daylight savings time, green beer, Lent, basketball: March has arrived. I typically forget to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, have never filled out a March Madness bracket, and miss that hour of daylight in the morning. However, the extra hour of daylight in the evenings, the sight of the first green blades of grass and an Iowa State trip to the Big Dance are worth celebrating. What better way to celebrate than with a seasonal meal: Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw!

Reuben Meatballs

deconstructed sandwich: reuben meatballs

I love Reuben sandwiches all year-long, but seem to crave them more in March when Corned Beef and Cabbage is so popular. When thinking about creating a meatball from this amazing sandwich, there were the obvious ingredients to consider: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread, and Thousand Island dressing. The difficult part would be recreating that distinct flavor balance throughout each meatball.

corned beef

The biggest challenge for this recipe was the main ingredient. I wanted to use ground beef as it is convenient and accessible. I have had mixed experiences buying corned beef in the deli counter: sometimes it’s great and sometimes it isn’t. Starting with a beef roast and allowing it to cure for 10 days was obviously much too complicated a process for making meatballs. After researching the spices and herbs used to create the brine for corned beef, a rather unusual combination resulted and, more importantly, worked! You can see the list of ingredients for the seasoning in the recipe below. Do not allow the number of ingredients to discourage you from making this recipe. They are likely already in your cupboard and take little time to measure and combine.

cabbage

The cabbage that typically accompanies corned beef is incorporated two ways in this recipe: as sauerkraut inside, and in the coleslaw beside, the meatball. Replacing the milk that is typically added to a meatball mixture with finely chopped sauerkraut and some of the sauerkraut liquid ensures that element of the Reuben will not be lost.

And who can resist that layer of tangy dressing? Using it to create a side of Thousand Island Coleslaw and as a dipping sauce for the meatballs carries the flavor into every bite.

rye bread

A Reuben just wouldn’t be a Reuben without rye bread. Making homemade bread crumbs is super easy and immediately adds more flavor to the meatballs. A blender is the perfect tool for making flaky breadcrumbs. My food processor tends to grind the bread up, making the crumbs dense. If the bread crumbs are dense, the meatballs will be too.

Reuben Meatballs Prep

bonus flavors

The trial run of this recipe turned out well but was definitely lacking something. My family agreed that they tasted good but did not taste like a Reuben. Adjusting the ingredient proportions and adding toasted caraway seeds was all it took to make the difference. Toasting and crushing the seeds is important; it brings out the oils in the seeds which wakes up the flavors.

The final enhancement comes from baking the meatballs alongside some carrots, celery and onions. When a beef roast is curing, these vegetables are added to the brine to give more flavor to the meat. Placing them on the pan with the meatballs will deliver a similar subtle flavor.

I am very happy with the results of this recipe. There were enough meatballs leftover so we now have a bag in the freezer to enjoy another day.

TIP: When reheating leftover Reuben meatballs, place some extra sauerkraut in a pan
with the meatballs and slowly warm them on the stovetop. The moisture from the
sauerkraut will keep the meatballs from drying out.

Blessings of March

Among all the other wonderful things about the month of March, I do love the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, the midweek services and the accompanying soup suppers prior, Holy Week and the celebration of Easter are a traditional transition from winter to spring for my family. So allow me to close this post with a beautiful Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Reuben Meatballs

Print Recipe
Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw
Deconstruct that Reuben sandwich and you've got a bite-sized meatball! Ground beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread crumbs create an awesome replica in this recipe!
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toast caraway seeds in a dry pan over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from pan and into a small bowl. Add black pepper, salt, cinnamon, allspice, clove and ginger. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder and pulse until caraway seeds have been crushed. Mixture could also be placed in a resealable plastic bag, folded into a towel and crushed with light pressure from a rolling pin.
  3. Add 2 cups of sauerkraut, removing as much liquid as possible, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  4. Tear half of the the rye bread slices into smaller pieces and place in a blender. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Measure resulting crumbs and repeat with more bread to make 3 cups.
  5. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of the chopped sauerkraut, spice mixture, eggs, mustard, 2 cups of the bread crumbs and cheese.
  6. Form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. If the mixture is too soggy, add more breadcrumbs (1/2 cup at a time). If the mixture is too dry, add liquid from sauerkraut (1/4 cup at a time). Make adjustments until meatballs will hold together. Place in a roasting pan or two sheet pans that have been coated with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Leave room between the meatballs to allow browning and even baking. Toss carrots, onions and celery in between the meatballs.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Larger meatballs may require more baking time.
  8. Serve hot with Thousand Island Coleslaw.
Thousand Island Coleslaw
  1. Combine all ingredients except cabbage mix in a bowl and stir to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix and half of the dressing. Fold together gently just until cabbage is lightly coated with dressing. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. The salt will draw out the water from the cabbage, adding moisture to the slaw. More dressing can be added according to personal preference.
  3. Serve remaining dressing as a dip for the meatballs.
Recipe Notes

Toasting Caraway Seeds: Pour seeds into a dry, non-stick pan over low heat, stirring frequently. Allow seeds to warm 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and from pan and allow to cool.

Pickle Relish: If using dill relish instead of sweet, add one teaspoon of sugar to the dressing.

Reuben Meatballs

 

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Louisiana. I am not French, Creole, Cajun or even the slightest bit southern. “BAM!” sounds ridiculous coming from my mouth. The only qualification I have for preparing a Cajun recipe is that I like spicy food. That being said, this recipe for “Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta” makes my family happy and therefore I am sharing it with you.

advice from my favorite cajun

If I told you my cousin married a man from Louisiana (born in New Orleans and raised in Lafayette), would that help? It does when he clarifies a few things for this midwest farmer’s daughter. I asked him what he would want people to know about Cajun food:

  1. Cajun and creole are not the same thing. New Orleans is creole – much more Spanish and Haitian influence and more tomatoes.
  2. “Cajun” is a phonetic derivative of the French word “acadian”. Acadiana is the region in south central Louisiana where you find true Cajun food – all of which is based on classical French cuisine and adapted to what could be grown very cheaply as the people were poor.
  3. Food and family are the absolute heart of Acadiana – so we pour all of our love for God and each other into our dishes.

I think my cousin married well … don’t you??

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta

cajun + chicken + Pasta

Pasta is not the first thing I think of when it comes to Cajun/Creole food. Rice might be more authentic and could certainly be adapted into this recipe. As is the case with so many recipes, this one seems to be a melting-pot version: taking elements from a variety of cultures (or what’s available in the pantry) and making something different.

Andouille is a French sausage that was brought to Louisiana, as so many wonderful foods are, by immigrants. It is a spicy sausage but I have quickly learned that heat levels vary greatly among different brands. The one used for this post was disappointingly mild … which might be perfect for you. My best advice is to ask and try. Before adding all the cooked sausage to the dish, try it. If it’s too spicy, don’t add it all. If it’s not spicy enough, consider adding more cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce. Make notes on the brands you like or don’t like on the recipe so it will turn out perfect next time.

There are many Cajun seasoning blends on the store shelf and, like the Andouille, they vary in heat levels too. It is not difficult to make your own blend and it is always a good idea to look for a recipe by someone you trust. In this case, I’d go to Emeril Lagasse. Here is his recipe for Creole Seasoning. Yes, it’s “creole” instead of “cajun”. There is no intent to mislead or misrepresent. It will be delicious.

Just say “BAM!” when you add it and all will be well.

recipe

Print Recipe
Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta
Dice up the Cajun Trinity (onion, celery and peppers), simmer a spicy tomato-based sauce, add chicken and andouille sausage and toss in pasta ... ready, set, GEAUX!
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over diced chicken pieces and place half of the chicken in the pan (do not crowd). Brown chicken on all sides, remove from pan and repeat (adding last tablespoon of olive oil to pan) with the remaining chicken.
  2. After removing all the chicken pieces, sauté sausage pieces 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan.
  3. Sauté onion, peppers and celery in the last tablespoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes; add garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add thyme, cayenne, black pepper, basil, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, celery salt and bay leaf; stir until fragrant (about one minute).
  5. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol from the wine, stirring frequently to release the browned "bits" of chicken and sausage from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add sugar, tomatoes and chicken stock/broth; simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by at least half.
  7. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook as pasta will continue cooking when added to the sauce.
  8. When the sauce has reduced, remove and discard bay leaf (and fresh thyme stems if using), stir in half-n-half and then the chicken and sausage and return to a simmer. Make sure chicken is fully cooked.
  9. Add pasta to the sauce and meat and toss until pasta is coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of the green onions.
  10. Serve with remaining Parmesan cheese and green onions.

Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta Pin

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

The winter of 2018-19 here in the midwest has been beautiful … but long and cold. We are searching for any hints of spring to help us through this virtual hibernation. For me, that hint came in the form of a request to help a friend and colleague with her tablescaping presentation for the DIY Or Don’t Expo in Des Moines. Rebecca, owner of This New Old House, asked me if I’d be interested in making some kind of baked treat for each place setting of her table. She described her vision and these beautiful Lemon Thyme Shortbread cookies came to mind.

shortbread basics

Shortbread might just be the simplest recipe I have ever encountered. Butter, sugar, flour … that’s it. Scottish by origin, these biscuits are simply delicious! This particular recipe varies a little from the traditional 1:2:3 ratio of sugar:butter:flour and calls for slicing the cookies into little rounds, or circles. Other traditional shortbread shapes include the fingers (long and rectangular) or a pointed wedge, which brilliantly, allows the cookie to fit into a wine glass for dunking.

I know, right?!?

I suppose that would also be a good shape for enjoying with tea but I’ll bet you’re stuck on that wine idea.

Getting a little silly with the wine discussion but seriously it brings us to the next beautiful thing about shortbread: it’s versatile. What you stir into the basic dough is up to you.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

shortbread seasons

We choose different wines or teas because of personal preferences … spice, fruit and floral notes. Each season we crave and respond to different flavors: lemon and herbs in the spring and summer, orange and warm spices in the fall and winter.

Herbs, dried fruit, spices and juices/zest are the best options for customizing shortbread cookies. Herbs may seem an unusual addition for cookies but they add a subtle flavor. Use fresh herbs, not dried. Just as you wouldn’t want to bite into dried herbs by themselves, you don’t want to bite into a cookie and be overwhelmed by the herb itself.

If you want to add dried fruit, start with a quarter cup and make sure it is finely chopped. Adding too much will keep the dough from holding together and pieces that are too big will not distribute nicely throughout the dough.

I am already thinking about combinations for the other seasons this year:

SUMMER: Lime Basil
FALL: Cranberry Walnut
WINTER: Grapefruit Rosemary

Where are your taste buds leading you?

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

lemon thyme shortbread recipe

Print Recipe
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
The basic shortbread recipe becomes the perfect cookie for spring with the addition of lemon and thyme. Enjoy with a glass of tea (hot or iced) or wine.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme leaves and mix until combined.
    Fresh Thyme and Lemon Zest
  4. Add flour and salt and continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl, until well combined. Dough will be crumbly.
    Shortbread Crumbs
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press together. Divide into two equal portions and press together again just until dough holds together.
  6. Roll each portion into a long rope with a diameter of a quarter.
    Shortbread Roll
  7. If the dough feels crumbly during the rolling process, simply pinch it together and gently knead the dough two or three times and try rolling again.
    Shortbread Tips
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with the other portion of dough.
  9. Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.
  10. Cut one roll into 1/4-inch slices. Place each slice in a shallow bowl of sugar and press gently. Only one side of each cookie needs to be dusted with sugar. Place cookies, sugar-side up and one inch apart, on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  11. Bake for 8 minutes. If cookies are lightly browned on the bottom edges and firm on top, they are done. If not, continue baking, checking every 2-3 minutes. See note below on the effect of different cookie sheets on baking time and oven temperature.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.
Recipe Notes

The type of cookie sheet, along with the oven temperature, can greatly affect the results of the cookies. A dark, metal cookie sheet will cause the cookies to bake faster and often the bottom of the cookies will be darker. In this case, it is often helpful to decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees. A lighter weight and/or color cookie sheet (e.g. air-bake) will bake the cookies more evenly at the higher temperature.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Valentine Food Gift Feature

10 Tempting Food Gifts for Valentine’s Day

Cesar Chavez said: “The people who give you their food give you their heart.” Valentine’s Day is the celebration of sharing our hearts. It only makes sense then to give food gifts for Valentine’s Day.

The good ol’ days

Where did the days of construction paper, crayons, glue and (if you were very lucky) stickers go? Do I just not see it as much because my children are grown? Do kids still scramble to find the biggest shoe box in the house to cover with crepe paper and imperfect hearts for holding the collection of cards from their friends at school? Candy hearts, gum or even a lollipop found taped to a card was extra reason for joy.

Simple joy. Small favors. Thoughtfulness.

I love getting a card in the mail. It’s such a simple thing, really, just knowing someone was thinking of me and took the time to do that old-fashioned act of putting a stamp on an envelope.

Is there anything sweeter (literally and figuratively) than receiving a small cellophane bag of homemade cookies? Maybe a small cellophane bag of homemade cookies with the recipe attached?

Valentine’s Day is a holiday for small gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness, glammed up with a little effort. So let’s break out our crepe paper and crayons … or color printers and glue guns … and see if we can’t find some ideas that will make your Valentine’s heart and stomach happy.

10 food gifts for Valentine’s Day

❤️ number one

Valentine Food Gift Tea

“You are bu-TEA-ful.”

I wish I could take full credit for this one but the idea came from a free publication I picked up at our local Fresh Thyme grocery store last fall. Their theme was “Perfect TEA-cher” (need to show a teacher a little Valentine joy?), but I had it in mind for a very special friend who loves tea and especially the celebration of holidays.

The tea in this cup (from Little Woods Herbs & Teas) is appropriately called “Heart Tonic” and contains these tiny, pink rose petals that emphasize the sentiment. To complete the gift, I added some fruit and nut cookies, honey sticks, a tea infuser and a sweet silver heart-shaped spoon, all tucked neatly inside a mug. A cute heart tag with the words “You Are bu-TEA-ful!” completes the gift.

Heart Tea Spoons

Seriously, though, how CUTE are these spoons! Six of them for $6.50. Get them here.

 

❤️ number two

Valentine Food Gift Pecans

“Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!”

Sweet and spicy, these pecans are so impressive because they are delicious but also simple to make. The “spice” comes from a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove but you could add a bit of cayenne if you like some actual heat. Almonds, cashews and walnuts are options too.

Including the recipe with this Valentine will remind them all year long that they are special to you. Just like I think about my good friend, Lori, whenever I make them.

There’s only one hitch with this gift … and it’s pretty obvious but bears mentioning: make sure the recipient is not allergic to nuts.

 

❤️ number three

Bacon Hearts Baked Potato

“Don’t go BACON my heart!”

Just the smell of bacon sends a message of love … am I right? Whether you are making pancakes or a cheesy soup (why, yes, I do have a recipe for that), baked potatoes or a BLT sandwich, a heart-shaped piece of bacon provides the perfect, edible adornment to make your family and guests feel special.

Making Bacon Hearts Bacon Hearts

Start with center-cut bacon (it’s not as long as the regular cut) and cut each slice in half lengthwise. Pinch the two ends together and place on a baking sheet (with sides). Take each of the other ends out and around, laying the sides out in a heart-shape, until they meet again in the center. Press these ends together and reshape your hearts. Place baking sheet in a COLD OVEN. Turn oven on and set temperature to 400 degrees. When oven reaches 400 degrees, start checking on the bacon. When bacon is nice and crispy, remove pan from oven. Tip one side of the baking sheet up on some potholders to force the drippings to the other side. Allow bacon hearts to cool (very gently moving them out of the drippings if necessary). Gently remove hearts to paper towels or a plate using a spatula/turner.

Add some maple syrup or black pepper before baking for even more flavor. For more ideas, you can search “bacon hearts” on Pinterest.

 

❤️ Number four

Valentine Food Gift Ice Cream

“My hearts MELTS for you!”

There is not one single thing wrong with a gift card, as long as the gift card is for something the recipient loves. It becomes even more thoughtful when you accent the card with a fun token. Add one of these sweet spoon-straws to a gift card for a favorite ice cream shop and the Valentine goes from nice to a smile-inducing gift.

Yes, I said “spoon-straw”. Brilliant, right? A long-handled spoon with a hole in it so you can slurp up all the melted goodness at the bottom of that root beer float or chocolate shake. I’m pretty sure there are a few frozen beverages that would benefit from a “straw” like this too.

Just sayin’.

You can get them here. Again, six for a little more than a dollar each.

 

❤️ number five

Valentine Food Gift Pizza

“I’m here for you … through THICK and THIN!”

I don’t know about you, but I would have LOVED to get this Valentine when I was in college. An empty pizza box … well, empty except for the gift card to a local pizza place inside … and a supportive message to go with it. This is the gift that says “everything is going to be just fine!”.

DISCLAIMER: For those of you paying attention, when I was in college it would have been a gift CERTIFICATE, not a gift CARD. Ah … memories.

 

❤️ number six

Beer Bread Hostess Gift

“HOPPY Valentine’s Day!”

At first glance, this looks like a “guy” gift. It is, but it is also a gift for CARB LOVERS! This six-pack carrier contains all the fixins for a beautiful loaf of beer bread: simple mix, one bottle of beer, a bottle opener, the recipe and some napkins. If you want to leave out the alcohol, just substitute a bottle of ginger beer.

 

❤️ number seven

Valentine Food Gift Pepper Grinder

“You CRACK me up!”

Who’s the entertainer in your family? Or that friend who bakes the perfect bars for every tailgate and party? These serving pieces are from a local shop called Holly’s. This is a small sampling of the fun selection they have. This apron caught my eye on my way out of the store. I think it’s a compliment for the chef and the non-chef alike!

Food Gift Apron

 

❤️ number eight

Valentine Food Gift Jam

 

“You’re My JAM!”

It doesn’t matter if it’s homemade or a store-bought favorite, jams and jellies are always appreciated. Tie a fun ribbon around the ring, add a silly label and, since you already bought the heart tea spoons, attach one for that little something your Valentine gets to keep after the jam is all gone.

This idea was inspired by the nicest display of kitchen and home products at The Woodsmith Store. We stopped in to get some ideas for floating shelves and I ended up browsing though a collection of Iowa products, tea towels and kitchen gadgets. You never know where inspiration will strike.

Valentine Food Gift Jam

 

❤️ number nine

Valentine Food Gift Cookies“DOG-gone happy you’re my Valentine!”

Your local bakery is an awesome resource for holidays. These adorable heart cookies made into puppy faces charmed me from the minute I ordered my latte at Dutch Oven Bakery. They had other cookie options as well as some very tempting individual cakes. Each bakery has their own personality. A little browsing might help you remember someone who could really use a little something from you.

 

❤️ number ten

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

“LAVA you a lot!”

I think you should be very proud of me. I made it all the way to number ten before I played the chocolate card. This is one of the easiest and most impressive desserts ever made. Serving it warm with a scoop of ice cream melting on top is better than a box of chocolates.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

This is not just playing the card, it’s winning the game … the Valentine Food Gift game.

Be silly

It’s okay to be silly and to use lots of exclamation marks. Being creative and clever and funny in simple ways is good for the soul … yours and your Valentine’s!

If you haven’t found an idea for your Valentine here, take a minute to think of something simple they love (e.g. my husband loves doughnuts). Try to think of a pun or play or words that goes along with that item (e.g. I love you a HOLE bunch!). Make a tag or card and sneak it into their lunchbox, briefcase, purse, mailbox … somewhere it will surprise them and make them smile.

It is possible you are thinking that you aren’t that creative. Here’s the solution to that problem: do what I did for the doughnut quote above and GOOGLE it! By typing “donut valentine” into the search bar, I found multiple options as well as some free printable cards. Technology can be wonderful!

Personally, I have my eye on that pepper grinder, but don’t tell my husband. He needs to figure this stuff out for himself. 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Valentine Food Gifts Pin