Sunday, February 16, 2014

A "Love"ly Day

Happy Belated Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope you all had a really special day that included at least one sweet gesture from that special someone in your life. Personally, I enjoyed several sweet gestures from my loved ones.

First, my husband came through on Valentine's Day morning (with the not-so-secret help of our youngest daughters) by giving me a card.

But this was not just any card, mind you. It was a card from Papyrus (a division of American Greetings, where I now work part-time as a Marketing Editor). And it was a card that might have just as well been designed just for us.

You see, my husband has always had a dream of taking a cross-country trip out West on a BMW motorcycle (which he does not own, yet). I said I'd go with him, but I also kidded that since I don't rough it so well, I would definitely need a side cart with a shield (to avoid getting bugs in my teeth), a cup rest (for my beverage), a reading stand (for my favorite magazine), and headphones so I could communicate with him. He said ok to everything except he couldn't guarantee that his headphones would work. (Very funny, I tell him.) So you see, this card was absolutely perfect. (I especially love the heart-shaped mirrors, don't you?!)

Second, my  husband took me to see a movie at the theater.

Granted, it wasn't a romantic comedy (which would have been my first choice, had he only asked). But hey, beggars can't be choosy. You see, going to the theater is a rare treat for us. Not because we don't enjoy going to the movies. But because they've become so friggin' expensive! We figure we could see about 7 times as many movies by just renting them from Redbox. (Boy, do we sound cheap. But factor in the cost of popcorn and maybe even a couple pops, and suddenly that number rises even more dramatically!)

However, every once in a while, for a special occasion, going to see the big screen is a treat for us. And coincidentally, the cinema we went to just got remodeled. So we got to sit in large, cushy, uber-comfortable recliner seats. We're now spoiled for life.

When we finally got back home, there were a dozen beautiful red roses waiting for me. (Again, another not-so-subtle helping hand from our daughters.)

Frankly, I think there are few things that shout "I love you" more than red roses. 'Nuf said.

Then last, but certainly not least, our daughters made us dinner. It was a meal that was totally impressive. Purely decadent. And believe it or not, entirely healthy and low-cal. (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true!) In fact, it was only 7 total Weight Watchers points (for anyone who's counting). But there's no way, no how, that anyone would've guessed...because it was simply that delicious!

The main course was Asparagus-Goat Cheese Risotto (6 points/serving).

And dessert was Cupcake Brownies (only 1 point/serving thanks to a secret ingredient; but I cheated and added some whipped cream on bad).

I had the most wonderful Valentine's Day. Hope you did, too.

Now if you'd like to duplicate this fabulous dinner--whether you're watching your weight or not--here are the recipes. Enjoy to your heart's content!

Serves 4

Creamy, rich, decadent, and divinely satisfying, this is one low-calorie risotto recipe that will be certain to impress. A hint of tangy goat cheese and asparagus puree combines to create a heavenly risotto that is surprisingly low in points.



  • 1 lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place rice in a medium sized bowl and add just enough water to cover it. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Drain, reserving the water it soaked in, and set both aside.

All photos by Adrianna Adarme

2. Cut the tips off of the asparagus, and place both the tips and remaining spears into a pot of simmering water. Let cook for 5 minutes, then drain and place the tips in a separate bowl, and set aside. Place the spears into a food processor. Process the spears until smooth.

3. Set a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Melt butter, then add in onions and garlic. Sauté for just 1-2 minutes, then add in the rice and toast it a bit, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the reserved rice water and the wine, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes.

5. Turn heat to a medium simmer and add in broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes. Continue this step until all broth is used and rice is tender and of a creamy consistency.

6. Stir in the asparagus puree and the goat cheese until well combined. Season as desired with salt and pepper.

7. Mix in the asparagus tips, and cook for just another minute until the asparagus tips are heated through.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Diet type: Vegetarian
Diet tags: Low calorie, Reduced fat
Number of servings (yield): 4
Culinary tradition: Italian
Calories: 242
Fat: 7.5g
Protein: 8g
Entire recipe makes 4 servings
Serving size is about 1 cup
Each serving = 6 Points +
PER SERVING: 242 calories; 7.5g fat; 35.5g carbohydrates; 8g protein; 3g fiber

Serves 12 (but only if you can stop at 1 per person!)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus
1 tablespoon brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
3. In a second bowl stir together remaining ingredients.
4. Pour water mixture over flour mixture and stir until batter is smooth.

5. Pour into a nonstick 12 hole muffin tin coated with cooking spray, filling until half full.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
6. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sweet Recipe Straight from Paris--Just for You!

If you're a dedicated reader of this blog, you already know that I took the trip-of-a-lifetime to Paris recently. (Read about it here.)

But what you might not know is that I had every intention of taking a cooking class while I was there. On making flaky, buttery croissants, to be more specific.

I did my research. I picked the perfect school in the very heart of the city (La Cuisine Paris)...with the perfect instructors (who teach in English)...and the perfect class (revealing the secrets of making croissants). Except the class was sold out.

La Cuisine Paris Cooking School at 80 Quai de l'Hotel de Ville in the center of Paris 

An instructor demonstrating the art of croissant making

Student results are magnifique!

So I wrote to the owner, Claire, and asked if she'd let me know of any cancellations. She did better than that. She added on another class just for me. Problem is, she e-mailed me on the same day we left for Europe...and I never got it in time.

Can you even begin to imagine my horror--and epic disappointment--when I got back home and saw that e-mail?!?

Anyway, I wrote back to Claire and apologized. Profusely. She was so sweet and said she understood. But I still felt absolutely horrible. (Hey, wouldn't you?!)

We went back and forth a few times with e-mails, and before I knew it, Claire agreed to share one of her favorite dessert recipes with you, my readers. It's for a decadent mini French chocolate cake that she calls Fondant au Chocolat. (Don't you just love the sound of it?) It's actually a little similar to a molten lava cake. Only better.

Fondant au Chocolat served alongside cherry compote

So here you go, folks! Straight from Paris. Just for you.

(Note: All ingredients are in grams, which is very European. In fact, it is a much more accurate means of baking. Use a scale, switch over to the metric measurements, and you'll be hooked forever!)


Courtesy of La Cuisine Paris
Serves 4

200 grams dark chocolate, 64%
220 grams butter
4 eggs
160 grams sugar
120 grams flour
8 squares of the same chocolate as above


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line your molds (either glass custard cups or ceramic ramekins) with butter and cocoa or flour.
  3. Melt all the chocolate in a double boiler, then add in the butter. When all has melted, remove from double boiler and allow to cool.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy, then incorporate the flour, mixing with a spatula.
  5. Mix the egg/sugar mixture into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Fill your molds half way. Top with one or two pieces of chocolate, then cover with the rest of the batter.
  7. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.