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Archive for February 1, 2014

VALENTINE GIFT: Heart Shaped Donuts


We [heart] Valentine donuts. Photo courtesy
Dunkin’ Donuts.


Have a heart…or a dozen hearts. Dunkin Donuts is helping to make Valentine’s Day more festive with the return of its heart-shaped donuts.

This year there are two varieties of heart-shaped donuts,:

  • The new Cookie Dough Donut, a heart-shaped donut with cookie dough buttercream-flavored filling, topped with chocolate icing and chocolate chips.
  • The popular Brownie Batter Donut, a heart-shaped donut filled with chocolaty brownie batter flavored buttercream filling, topped with chocolate icing and heart sprinkles.
    More good news: You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day. The seasonal specialties are available now at participating Dunkin’ Donuts shops, through the end of February.


    If you can’t personally deliver the box of donuts to that special someone, Dunkin’ Donuts Cards gift are available from $2 to $100. In participating shops, they’re available in a variety of seasonally-themed designs.

    Or head to the DD website, where you can personalize a gift card with a favorite photo and a message.


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    VALENTINE GIFT: The Best Toffee

    We taste a lot of good toffee. But if you like very buttery, buttercrunch-style (dusted with crushed almonds) with more almonds inside, our favorite is Enstrom’s.

    The company sells toffee in different sizes and shapes. For Valentine’s Day there’s a special assortment of milk- and dark chocolate-covered “Petites,” bite size toffee enrobed in chocolate, in a hearts and kisses box.

    The 25-piece assortment, 12.5 ounces, is $16.95. Get yours here.

    There’s a sugar-free box of toffee in the classic “break-up” format, $20.95 for a one-pound box (in a standard gift box).

    You won’t believe how delicious it is: You can’t tell the difference from the conventional toffee. More information.

    The difference between toffee and buttercrunch.



    Your Valentine will hug and kiss you. Photo courtesy Enstrom.



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    VALENTINE FOOD: Spaghetti & Meat Balls

    Now, loving pasta has a double meaning.
    Photo courtesy Bean Sprouts.


    This fun idea comes from Shannon Payette Seip, author of “Bean Appetit: Hip And Healthy Ways To Have Fun With Food.” She is co-founder of Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School in Seattle, where families learn to make dishes that are both great tasting and good for you.

    It’s easy to make this heart-shaped pasta dish. For each portion, plan on two cups of cooked pasta, one meatball, 1/2 cup marinara sauce and an optional two strips of red bell pepper.

  • Use aluminum foil to create a heart shape, a little smaller than the size of a salad plate (or dinner plate, for a larger portion).
  • Place the outline on a greased cookie sheet. Fill with cooked spaghetti and bake at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.
  • While the spaghetti is baking, cut the cooked meatball and red pepper into arrow shape. You can use the marinara sauce to make the arrow shafts, instead of the bell pepper, if you wish.
  • Use spatula to transfer the spaghetti heart on plate. Outline with marinara sauce.

    Shannon suggests that, as you dig in with family or friends, you share three things you love about each other.


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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Make Heart-Shaped Whoopie Pies

    The biggest challenge to New Year’s diet resolutions is Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, we’ve lost a pound or two in January so we can proceed with “the sweetest holiday.”

    We’re starting with heart-shaped whoopie pies. They require an investment in a heart-shaped cookie pan, which can be used year-around: for Mother’s Day, engagement and anniversary parties, to say “I love you” to someone special, and so forth.

    The same pan makes jumbo cookies. Add a stick to make cookie pops.

    It will be love at first bite when you turn out goodies with this dishwasher safe, nonstick pan. The 12-space pan makes 12 cookies or 6 whoopie pies. Recipes are included.

    The pan is $12.95 at Sur La Table stores or online.

    BYO whoopie pie recipe.


    Heart-shaped whoopie/cookie pop pan from



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    TIP: Uses For An Olive Oil Mister


    The Misto is one of the most popular misters. Photo courtesy Lifetime Brands.


    Olive oil misters have been around for several years. They control the portions of olive oil you use, delivering a much lighter—but equally effective—coating than brushing with oil. You save calories as well as the cost of the oil.

    Some enthusiasts have more than one mister, to hold different types of oil.

    Yes, there are aerosol sprays, which do provide a finer, more even coating. But they come with a cost: chemical propellants and a can that goes into the landfill, both of which are needed to create that fine spray. Not to mention, the slightly chemical flavor and aroma, and the ongoing cost per can as opposed to the small investment in a mister.

    Originally, we used one as a diet tool, to cut down on the oil calories on salads. We abandoned that approach in favor of tossing lightly with homemade vinaigrette. So we looked at other ways to use the mister.



  • Balsamic vinegar: cuts down on waste on balsamic and other expensive vinegars
  • Bread: on bruschetta and focaccia, to keep dough moist when rising
  • Frying
  • Garnish: as an annointing oil on fish, meat, and poultry
  • Greasing pans and muffin tins
  • Low fat cooking: basting, grilling, roasting, sautéing
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables, grilled or roasted

    And of course, there’s always salad!



    Read the directions! The biggest complaint about the misters is that the spray clogs.

  • Don’t overpump. You’ll end up with oil “in the air.”
  • Don’t fill to the top unless you’re a heavy user. Over months, the oil can become rancid.
  • Clean the mister frequently per the manufacturer’s directions.

    Oils vary in viscosity. Vegetable oil, for example, can be thicker than olive oil, and contribute to clogging. Frequent cleaning with hot water and soap is recommended. But clogging is common. Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Fill the mister just half way with oil.
  • Twist the top after each use to release the pressure.


    A great pan spray. Photo courtesy Aliexpress.


    Even if your mister clogs and you can’t unclog it, it costs the equivalent of about three cans of aerosol spray. You’ll be ahead of the game.


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