Redemption Trail Mix + Cooking Mishaps

The very first time I ‘cooked’ for my family was an absolute disaster.

I’m not sure quite how old I was, but I’m guessing around 7 or 8 years old. I remember having watched my mom prepare dinner for us almost every night and my grandparents host impressively large meals for our giant extended family whenever everyone was in town. It was always such a nice feeling, sitting around together eating food. And so I thought to myself, “I wanna make something my family can have fun eating together!”

Ohhhhh, ohohoho, little Molly. I mean you tried, right?

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Let’s think about this situation briefly. I was seven and roughly the height of our kitchen counter. I had no idea how to cook. So I did the obvious thing and mixed together all of my favorite snack foods at the time, creating the most horribly well-intentioned trail mix in history.

It had everything you’ve never wanted in your trail mix, and more:

-Bits of torn up white bread
-Crushed Pringles
-Goldfish crackers
-Pretzel twists
-Rustic pieces of broken pretzel rods

(Yep, two types of pretzel. For that textural difference, am I right?)

Long story short, it was awful, and I was super proud as I distributed my masterpiece among three plastic bowls decorated with cartoon animals to serve to my mom, dad, and sister.

They were so nice about it, the sweethearts. I remember them smiling while taking small bites and mmm-ing and ahh-ing over how yummy it was. And I was just there like, “Ok ya that’s great, fam, but like why is there still so much left in your bowls?”

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Then I tried it, a bite with a fragment of white bread and a Pringle shard, and I understood.

I really love this story because it shows that no one is a hopeless cook. Anyone can learn. Sometimes people compliment my cooking and then say they wish they could cook. And I just think about how I began by making trail mix with ravaged white bread… You can cook!!!

I have so many stories about cooking mishaps like this, most of them embarrassingly dumb. But it’s ok because they’re hilarious, and I learn from them and keep going.

Like, this one time I was making these microwave French fries—I kid you not, they were these frozen, microwaveable French fries by Ore-Ida that I used to eat…USED TO–and listen to how simple it was to prepare them. You adjust the packaging a little bit by pressing in one side of the box so it lies flat against the fries, and stick the whole thing in the microwave for a few minutes, and BAM. Crispy fries. I know there are a lot of things wrong with this, but that’s not the point right now.

The point is that one time I managed to burn every single fry in the box to an absolute crisp. Black as coal, all of ’em. The whole house smelled awful. The smoke detector went off. I was home alone and confused and deeply ashamed. I think this happened early on in high school? I’m telling you, anyone can cook.

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Here’s one more, from the first time I made bread. The directions said “rotate the bread halfway through baking.” So what did I do? I didn’t turn the pan around. No, I left that where it was, and I literally flipped the loaf of bread upside down on the pan.

I’m so serious, friends. That’s how I interpreted the directions, and I deflated my first ever loaf of bread. I remember telling my mom what I’d done and the look in her eyes said, “How do you think to do things like this??!”

So please, if I can rally from things like this, never doubt that you can cook.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for redemption trail mix. It still has snacks I like—chocolate, dried cherries, almonds, cinnamon chex—but it actually tastes good, I promise! I tried some before I gave it to anyone else this time. 😉

Do you have any cooking failures you’d like to share? Or a general memory including food? Tell me about it, anonymously or not, by clicking here!

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix

Ingredients
4 cups cinnamon chex cereal (or any chex cereal of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup roasted, unsalted almonds
½ cup dark chocolate chunks, plus more for the drizzle
½ cup dried cherries

Method
1. Line a large baking tray with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium-low heat until smooth. Gently stir in the chex cereal and almonds and continue cooking until cereal and almonds are coated, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
3. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared tray. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and dried cherries over the cereal mixture.
4. In a microwave safe bowl, heat about 2 tbsp. chocolate chunks in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring the chocolate after each 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Drizzle evenly over the trail mix with a fork. Let cool until the chocolate drizzle hardens completely, then break up the trail mix and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.

Cherry Pies Ought to Be You

Take aways: Frank Sinatra likes cherry pie, I need to plant a cherry tree, and it’s us vs. the birds?

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Ok, so there’s this song that you might not know about but that you really need to know about. It’s a duet sung by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, and when I first heard it I just!!?!? Does it get any better than these two?!?

The duet is called “Cherry Pies Ought to be You,” and it basically consists of each trying to out-do the other with compliments. They get competitive. It’s grand.

Sinatra’s first go is the song’s title, “Cherry pies ought to be you,” and I just adore that. (I love Clooney’s response, too: “Autumn skies ought to be you.”) Although I guess the meaning could be kind of ambiguous. Like is he saying she’s sweet? Flaky? (I’ll stop.)

I’m choosing to see it this way: Sinatra must think cherry pies are outstanding, but not quite as outstanding as Rosemary Clooney.

Don’t we all.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Cherry pie holds a special place in my grandpa’s heart as well. He mentions it in a collection of food memories he wrote a few years back. (Sound familiar? He helped inspire memo2munch’s new format!)

“My mother was a wonderful baker,” he writes. “One of her specialties was cherry pie made from the tart cherries that grew on five cherry trees in our own back yard. When the cherries were ripe, my father picked loads of them which my mother made into pies, cherry slices, and also compotes.”

There’s a common theme among recipes that use tart cherries: “[They] required the use of much sugar, which when combined with the tartness of the cherries resulted in the most tantalizing pastries and compotes.” (common theme #2 —-> I want all of them in my belly.)

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

The cherry tree tradition was continued when my mom was growing up. She told me, “We also had a cherry tree in the corner of the backyard. Every spring, the cherry tree would fill with white blossoms, which turned into red sour cherries in the summer.”

However, my mom also remembers some unexpected cherry competition. “Every year, we would hope for lots of cherries so that my mom could make cherries preserves and a pie or two; and almost every year, the birds would get to the cherries before we did. Have you ever seen a pit attached to the stem, growing on a tree? We had a lot of those.”

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

On rare occasions, my mom said they would beat the birds to the spoils and were actually able to use some of their own cherries! “I remember my mom making cherry preserves. I would stand at the sink and pit the cherries using a paper clip. My fingers would turn red (my favorite color) from all the cherry juice.”

Ok, wait, pitting cherries with a paper clip? Yep, it’s a thing! Here’s a YouTube video to prove it.

I have to ruin the magic of these memories and tell you that I did not pit the cherries for today’s pies with a paperclip. I bought pre-pitted and frozen cherries and stood in the checkout line very pleased with the time and juice-stained fingers I would save. (I also bought the piecrust. Because honestly, I can’t pit cherries, make piecrust, and still pass survive biochem. These are my limitations. Just keeping it real.)

However, I then realized I had to halve all the cherries… So I got frozen fingers instead. It’s fine.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Pleasepleaseplease send me some of your food memories! Preferably fall-themed as we are officially in the season. You can submit them anonymously or not right here. 🙂

Mini Cherry Pies
(makes 6 mini pies or 1 standard double crust pie)

Ingredients

1 pint or 3-4 cups pitted and halved cherries (I used frozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (1 cup if using tart cherries)
Dash lemon juice
Piecrust (premade or homemade—enough for one double crust pie)
Milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling pies before baking (optional, I used coconut milk)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Lightly grease 6 muffin tins.

2. Combine the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
Roll out the pie dough and cut into six 5-inch circles and six 3-inch circles. (I placed bowls on the dough and cut around them.) Prepare the pies one at a time by first pressing one of the larger circles into the tin, leaving the edges hanging around the outside. Fill generously with cherry filling so that it extends a little higher than the top of the tin. Cover the filling with one of the smaller dough circles, and crimp the leftover edges of the first dough circle as desired. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

3. Use a fork to prick holes in the top of each pie. Brush each pie lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes for small pies, 40-50 minutes for a standard 9-inch pie. Let cool completely before cutting.

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins

Do you have a food memory you would like to see appear on memo2munch? Fill out the form here or send me an email at memo2molly@gmail.com and tell me your story! You just might inspire next week’s recipe. 🙂
**Please note that memo2munch caters toward a vegetarian/vegan diet and while food memories of all kinds are welcomed, recipes shared on the site may be adjusted.**

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

I like to call the above photo, “The Evolution of Banana Bread.”

This is a natural progression, right? Once bananas get ripe enough they just morph into banana bread? And the chocolate chips just appear at some point, and we’re just like “Oh, youuuu,” all exasperated but really we don’t mind one bit.

Hey, stranger things have happened. (Like sweet potato cupcakes?!)

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Growing up, my momma would make banana bread for us fairly often. Whenever I saw a few forgotten bananas resting on the counter, speckled with brown, I would internally fist-pump because I knew banana bread was in my near future. (Still happens, honestly. Except now when I’m at school I have to make it.)

The days leading up to the “Momma Cake,” as we called it, bake day seemed to drag on. We like to let the bananas get reallllly ripe and black. That’s when they’re the sweetest and add the most flavor to baked goods. So every day after school I would peer over the counter and check on the ripeness of the bananas to see if they were ready yet, like a very small, very hungry serious scientist tracking the progress of an experiment.

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Then, when the bananas were FINALLY LIKE UGH COME ON ready, my mom would let my sister or me mash them with a fork while she measured out the other ingredients.

Ok quick note: banana mashing is so fun. Can I say cathartic? It’s cathartic. None of that blender or food processor stuff, plz. Use a fork.

There’s another “Evolution of Banana Bread” in this story, and that’s the shape the finished product would take. In my earliest memories of my mom’s banana bread, she always made it in a square pan. And I was the brat that would only eat middle pieces because children hate edges on anything??! Pizza crust—->no. Corner brownies—->not a chance. I would like to say, though, that I never took the edges off my Smucker’s Uncrustables. Never.

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Anyway, the original recipe my mom used called for the bread to be baked in a loaf pan. She switched to the square pan after having issues getting the bread to bake through. But then there was the problem of the sunken middle…

As in, the bread would be a baked all the way, but the middle would sink into a kind of banana bread dome once it cooled. But Mom persevered and found a solution! *clapclapclap*

Now she makes the recipe in a Bundt pan. The sunken middle issue is taken entirely out of the equation, and the cake cooks through fine because the batter is more spread out. Innovation!

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Banana bread will always make me think of “Momma Cake,” but for the recipe today I made a few tweaks. We’ve got cute banana muffins that are vegan and very forgiving. You can’t mess them up. They’re also sprinkled with coconut, which Momma never did because she hates coconut. But I like it, soooo.

The recipe is based on one my friend and I found the other day when it was raining and we wanted dessert and she happened to have three very ripe bananas so what choice did we have? She is also responsible for the coconut topping idea. Thank you, Esther <3

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

We made our version with a mix of chocolate and butterscotch chips, which was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. So if you aren’t vegan, I would highly suggest that.

Hope you enjoy the muffins! Don’t forget to tell me about your food memories!!! memo2molly@gmail.com

Vegan Banana Bread Muffins
(makes about 12 muffins)

Ingredients

3 very ripe, medium bananas
1/3 cup Earth Balance or any margarine, melted (can sub butter if not vegan)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ – 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Coconut flakes for sprinkling (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C and grease a muffin pan or line with muffin papers.

Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork until smooth and no lumps remain. Stir in the melted Earth Balance.

Add the sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt and mix completely. Gently stir in the flour until no large lumps remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin pan, filling each well ¾ full. Sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack briefly before enjoying. Muffins are great days after, especially heated for 12 seconds in the microwave.

Easy No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts

This summer I’ve been living at home with my parents. They both work during the day, so I have a lot of alone time to think (or sleep), cook (or eat), work on my summer class (or be on the internet), and other productive things of the sort.

(Lol.)

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

But seriously, I’ve been doing a little thinking. During one such adventure, I realized that it’s been about two years since I’ve been home for this long!

I know spending less time at home is a symptom of getting older, but it’s still a bit strange. By now my room feels like my room again. I’ve even christened a Chair of Doom where I pile all the clothes that “I’ll fold and put away later.” Not that that’s a habit…

Yup, I’m settled in.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Anyway, being home has got me all nostalgic. Sometimes I’ll talk with my parents about super random memories I have from when I was little. For someone with a terrible memory I have kind of a lot of them!

Such as the superman pajamas I had with a detachable velcro cape. #neverforget

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Many memories are connected to food, of course. Like when I would go grocery shopping with my mom, and she would let me get a donut out of the case in the bakery section to eat while we shopped. (Evidently being in a store full of food without eating any of it was too much for little Molly to handle.)

I’d hold on to the—now empty—plastic bag that had temporarily contained a donut until it was time to pay, and we’d tell the cashier, “Well, there used to be a donut in here.”

Good times.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

I bring this up because from the same bakery section of that grocery store we used to get these fantastic fruit tarts. They were fairly small but always decorated beautifully, colorfully dotted with berries and slices of kiwi and mandarin orange. I was just talking with my mom about them. She remembers how sometimes the woman who made the tarts would spread a layer of chocolate between the shortbread crust and the creamy filling so the crust wouldn’t get soggy. Genius.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Today’s tarts are a little ode to those tarts of days past. They’re revamped to include exciting things I’ve been wanting to experiment with, like TWO INGREDIENT date crusts (no added sugar!) and vegan pastry cream. But I think it’s fun to take foods deeply rooted in our memories and emotions and tweak them to match your life today. They still keep their meaning, but you also get to exercise your imagination!

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

What memories do you have connected to food? Have you tried to recreate anything you’ve eaten in the past? I’m contemplating doing a series of recipes for foods that have strong memories. Like you guys could tell me a food memory you have, and then I’d share it on my blog along with a recipe for the food… I don’t know, thoughts are flying around.

OK LET’S EAT TARTS.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts
(makes approx. 3 five-inch tarts)

Ingredients

Crust:
1.5 c. pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
1.5 c. mix of pecans and almonds, or just one type

Cream Filling:
¼ cup all-purpose flour*
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used coconut)
¼ c. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:
Assorted fruit of your choice!

Method

1. Make the crust: In the body of a food processor, pulse the dates and nuts together until a large ball forms and the nuts are broken up into bits. Some small pieces of nut are normal. If you want a finer texture, process a bit more. Line your tart pans with wax paper and press the date crust into the pans. (Wetting your fingers slightly with water will help the dough not stick to you.) Refrigerate.

2. Make the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and ¼ cup of the milk until no clumps of flour remain. Place flour mixture, the remaining milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continuously until mixture becomes thick, 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract and cook for 1 more minute, still stirring.

Remove from heat and transfer cream to a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Place cream in the refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour.

3. Assembly: Once your cream filling has cooled, take the crusts and filling out of the fridge. Distribute the pastry cream evenly between the tarts. Top with desired fruit and keep the tarts in the fridge until ready to serve.

*If you’re gluten-free, 2 tbsp. corn starch should work fine instead.

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie

I had the best intentions for last week. I really did.

I was going to do a super awesome, all-inclusive post for a 100% vegan Fourth of July cookout. Wouldn’t that have been cool?! I had a plan for a main, a side, I even had your dessert all settled. Plus some chocolate covered fruit kebabs for snacks because duh.

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Turns out I was a little overambitious, though. And I also didn’t start planning early enough. Bad combo. You see, once I was finished making everything for the post (in one day–>poor planning) my good photo light was going, and fast.

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

They turned out horribly. The pictures, I mean. The food was pretty dang good. And I managed to use the grill unsupervised! Those pictures though…

*sigh* At least we had one success that day, right?

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

In theory, I could have retaken the pictures the next day, but a common occurrence when you leave things until the last minute is that you leave very little room for error. So it ended up that I didn’t have time to redo the shoot. Will I ever learn?

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Well, I am happy to inform you that this week I opted for an easy, quick, forgiving, and photogenic recipe that’s perfect for a blogger who has a habit of leaving things until the last minute. Yay!!!

I think you’ll really like it, too. It’s the perfect, refreshing dessert for the height of summer. You probably already have all the ingredients at home, so what are you waiting for??

Unless you also like to wait to do things until the last second… 😉

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Ingredients
10 full rectangular sheets of graham crackers (1 sheet=what you use to make a s’more)
6 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance, melted
1/4 c. brown sugar
5 c. (about 2 lbs) strawberries, some left whole and some halved
2 tbsp. strawberry jam
Whipped coconut cream for serving, optional

Method
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C. Break graham crackers into the body of a food processor and pulse until only fine crumbs remain. (You can also do this by hand by placing the crackers in a tightly sealed plastic bag and hitting them with a rolling pin) Add the melted butter and brown sugar and pulse until combined. Press firmly and evenly into a pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Make the filling: ***The filling can get a bit runny. If you want to make this dessert in advance, I suggest keeping the filling out of the crust until 1 hour before you want to serve it.*** Heat the jam just until it is stirable. Mix together with the strawberries. Scoop filling into cooled crust and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice and serve as is or with whipped cream, if desired.

Crostata alla Marmellata (Italian Jam-Filled Tart)

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Well, friends, my current situation is: STATESIDE & MISSING THE FOOD.

My semester in Bologna has come to a close, and I’m back home for the summer. It was an incredible, exciting, and challenging 5 months, and I learned so much. But however my experience has “changed” me, after one week at home I’ve managed to slip back into old habits… Like staying up way too late reading or scrolling through the internet, or wearing my pajamas until 1pm.

But I’ve also gotten back to baking! So we’ve got a weeeee bit of productivity going on.

One of my favorite sweets I had in Italy was crostata, a jam-filled pastry with a crust somewhere between that of a pie and shortbread. It’s delicious and simple and goes great with espresso. 😉

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Most of the time I opted for a crostata filled with apricot jam—one of the most common fillings. But in Bologna you can also find them filled with something called mostarda bolognese. Don’t worry, it’s not mustard! It’s a type of preserves typical of Bologna, made from a combination of plums, apples, pears, and orange. (Sometimes a few drops of mustard oil will be added as well, but the finished product tastes nothing like the yellow stuff.)

I was hooked as soon as I tried it. Sweet, slightly tangy from the plums, with notes of zesty orange. Long story short, I had to take a jar of the stuff back home with me.

It went straight into a crostata, of course.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere online that sells the stuff, and the recipes I’m finding are all in Italian and seem like a big
pain to make (multiple days involved). An apricot crostata would be just as tasty, though! But if you’re itching for some mostarda, I can post a recipe.

Where I got the recipe for the crust is a separate but interesting story. In one of my classes we talked about an Italian man named Pellegrino Artusi, who pretty much was a food blogger back before computers even existed.

He wasn’t a chef, but he loved food. (Same) In the late 1800s he made it his mission to compile recipes from home-cooks across Italy and document the country’s authentic and diverse cuisine in a book, which in English is called, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

He travelled up and down the length of the country, watching home cooks work and learning the recipes directly from them. Once he had gained a following, he received letters constantly—–people writing with questions about ingredient amounts, others offering suggestions for tweaks or additional recipes, some just letting him know how much they enjoyed the book. And he wrote back to every one of them.
The book was first officially published in 1891, but Artusi kept revising it and adding recipes up until his death in 1911. The version I have has 790 recipes!!!

It’s been translated into several languages—including English—–and I would highly suggest picking up a copy. (It’s a lot easier to find than mostarda bolognese. Here is a link.)

I’m hoping to make a lot more of the recipes in Artusi’s book, and I’ll be sure to share them on memo2munch. In the meantime, enjoy a lil crostata.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Crostata alla Marmellata (Italian Jam-Filled Tart)

Ingredients

200g Jam of your choice or mostarda Bolognese, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
110g white sugar
Zest of one lemon or small orange
125g butter, cold and cubed
2 eggs, beaten (save some to use as egg wash)

Method

1. If you are not making the filling from scratch, begin on the crust. Toss together the dry ingredients, then mix in the zest. With a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture looks like wet sand. Work quickly to avoid warming the butter too much. Add only enough egg so that the mixture comes together into a roll-able dough, reserving the rest for later. Shape into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. Grease an 11 or 9 inch tart pan and set aside.

3. Take the dough from the fridge and divide it in half. Roll out one dough half between two sheets of wax paper until the circle is 1 inch larger than your pan. Peel off the top layer of wax paper and flip the dough over into the pan, then peel off the second sheet. Flatten dough into pan and shape a nice edge with your fingers. Gently spread the jam evenly over the crust. If your jam is not spreading easily, mix it with a bit of warm water.

4. Roll out the remaining dough to the same size, and cut equally into 1 inch wide strips. Lay the strips across the crostata first vertically and then at a horizontal angle to create a diamond lattice shape. Brush with remaining egg, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze

I once saw a Tumblr post that said something like, “I feel like Michael Cera never intended to act but was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was too awkward to tell them he wasn’t an actor so filmed stuff anyway, and now he’s let it go too far and can’t back out,” and I lol’d for a good several minutes. (I don’t really think that, of course…)

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze | memo2munch

Turns out, however, that karma remembered that I laughed about Michael Cera’s supposed acting backstory. And now I find that Tumblr post a lot more relatable. Let me explain.

~story time yaaaaaaay~

Once upon a time (If I begin it like a fairytale then maybe it will all just be a dream?) two days ago, I had an appointment at an elementary school in Bologna to interview a teacher about how school lunches work there.

I got to the school at 8am and walked in with a swarm of 7-year-old Italians, so that was adventure #1. When I got to [teacher]’s classroom, there was a substitute there who told me [teacher] wouldn’t arrive until 8:30. I figured I’d just hang out in the classroom and listen to adorable children speak Italian better than me.

Well. Was I ever wrong. (About the hanging out part, not the kids being better than me at Italian part)

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze | memo2munch

The sub had me introduce myself to the class, which I thought was somewhat weird, but I went along with it anyway. I should tell you that it’s common for college students here in Bologna to volunteer at elementary schools as English teachers.

Can you see where this is going?

After the sub took attendance, she gestured toward me and said to the class, “This is going to be your teacher for the day! She’s going to help you learn the days of the week in English! Michele, start naming them and Molly will correct you.”

Um.
Wait.
Did I just get roped into teaching English?
I just got roped into teaching English.

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze | memo2munch

“I’m not here to teach English!” -is what I should have said right away. But I just couldn’t. I became Tumblr Michael Cera.

Finally, at about the third kid naming the days of the week, I found my voice and explained to the sub that I was just there to interview [teacher]. As soon as I got the words out, the real English teacher showed up. She was from Georgia–—the country. She spoke no Italian, and only kind of spoke English. With a veeery thick accent.

I almost wish I had been supposed to teach them because now that Georgia was there I had to sit through her not realizing that some of the kids were saying that Saturday came after Wednesday. I mean, I know we all wish it did, but I also want those kids to actually learn English.

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze | memo2munch

Anyway, that’s the story of how karma is on Michael Cera’s side. What a morning.

I like to think that I just wasn’t completely awake yet and would have spoken up earlier if I had had time for coffee… But who even knows.

I BLAME YOU, MICHAEL CERA. At least in the end I got some good lunch info. And a good story.

And here’s a recipe for the dangerously delicious scones that I should have been telling you about, but you’re happy you got a story instead, right? (Srsly though, lemon and basil is a winning combo. Please make these scones. And please don’t laugh at Michael Cera.)

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze | memo2munch

Lemon Basil Scones with 2 Ingredient Lemon Glaze

For the scones:
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
¼ c. granulated sugar
½ c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter or earth balance, cut into small cubes
¾ c. nondairy milk mixed with ¾ tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice*
1 large egg
Zest from one lemon
2 tbsp. to ¼ c. chopped fresh basil
1 beaten egg, for brushing scone tops before baking

Lemon Glaze:
1.5 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice (use the lemon you zested for the scones)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter until the mixture feels like sand.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the milk and vinegar mixture. Add to flour mixture ¼ cup at a time and stir until the mixture comes together in a soft dough. You might not need all of the liquid. Fold in the zest and basil.

4. Turn dough onto a floured cutting board and gently flip it over itself about 10 times. Pat into a wide rectangle one inch thick and about 4-5 inches tall. Cut the dough vertically into 4 smaller rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half diagonally to create 8 triangles. Arrange triangles a few inches apart on lined baking sheet. Brush each scone with beaten egg. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Make the glaze: Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. If glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If glaze is too thick, add a little milk or water. Spoon glaze over scones and enjoy!

*If not dairy-free you can substitute buttermilk for the entire mixture, or make the mixture with dairy milk

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt

Ah, I remember what a magical moment it was when I learned you could bring food through airport security! (Two reasons why I remember so vividly: a) it was a momentous discovery, and b) it happened, like, 2 years ago.)

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt | memo2munch

I really had no idea until that point. I didn’t have occasion to fly all that often growing up because I’m from smack-dab in the middle of nowhere the US, so basically everywhere we went was drivable. I do have one memory related to food and airport security, though. It involves 13-year-old me trying to bring a wrapped, unopened jar of apple butter in my carry-on as a gift for some friends I was going to visit. And having to unwrap said jar of apple butter for security to look at. And being told that jars of apple butter on planes are a no-no. And having to say goodbye to an entire, giant jar of delicious, unblemished apple butter.

It was a veritable tragedy.

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt | memo2munch

I guess I just figured after that experience that all food would be taken from me at the airport. Not that I think the TSA was wrong for taking my apple butter—I know they were just doing their job. But smack-dab in the middle of nowhere the US, they make some gooood apple butter. So mourning its loss was necessary.

Anyway, the whole point of this story was to tell you that now that I know I can bring food on airplanes, my travel snack of choice are these chocolate covered almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt from Trader Joe’s. They’re delish. I had them with me when I flew here to Bologna in January, and they kept me company during all 60 bajillion of the flight cancellations and delays. <3 Comfort food <3

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt | memo2munch

The only problem is I’ve since finished that box, and there is no Trader Joe’s in Bologna for me to replenish my supply. Luckily, they’re super easy to make yourself and just as yummy. Only 4 ingredients!

Still love Trader Joe’s, of course, but it’s nice to know that in times of emergency there are some other options out there. 😉

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt | memo2munch

Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt

200g. (about 1.5 cups) roasted almonds
Two 4-oz. bars quality dark chocolate
Sea salt, to taste
Turbinado sugar, to taste

1. Find a tray that will fit in your fridge and line it with wax paper. Set aside.

2. Fill a medium pot half-way with water. Start heating on the stove over medium-high heat. In a glass bowl that you can rest on top of the pot but won’t fall into the pot, place 1.5 of the bars of chocolate. Set the bowl on top of the heating pot. The steam from the boiling water will melt the chocolate. Congrats, you just created a double boiler!*

3. While the chocolate is melting, finely grate the remaining chocolate into a bowl, stopping every now and then to stir the chocolate that is melting so it doesn’t burn. Mix a couple teaspoons of turbinado sugar into the grated chocolate.

4. One the chocolate in the double boiler has completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the almonds. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, then leave for about 10 minutes to cool off.

5. Use a fork to place the almonds one by one or in small groups onto the lined tray. (You don’t want them all stuck together once they harden.) Sprinkle heavily with the grated chocolate/turbinado sugar. Leave in the fridge until completely set, about an hour.

*Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave by heating it in spurts of 30 seconds and stirring until it melts completely.

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache | memo2munch

I am a chronic overthinker. As in, oftentimes situations become much more complicated once they reach wherever in my brain I process stuff.

For example, it takes me literally for-e-v-e-r to write an email. (But like how do I end it? “Best” is so overdone it feels insincere. I can’t use “Thanks” at the end of an email that I wrote specifically to thank someone… And “Sincerely” is all like, “I’m establishing that we don’t have a close relationship, and I probably don’t want one.” So you can see why things get difficult.)

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache | memo2munch

I also apparently overthink desserts. I’m ashamed to tell you how long I spent deciding the future of this cake. How should I decorate it? What flavors should I make it? I looked to Pinterest for inspiration, but there were just so many options that I got overwhelmed and had to take a breather. And have a snack.

I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong making a chocolate cake in any form, but I had convinced myself that any frosting flavor I came up with would be DISASTROUS.

It wasn’t. It sooooooo wasn’t.

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache | memo2munch

New Year’s Resolution 2016: THINK LESS. Well, overthink less. Still use your brain, Molly. Plz n thank u.

This is a wonderful cake to make to ring in the New Year! Plus it looks like it took a ton of effort when really it’s not so bad. Promise. 🙂

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache | memo2munch

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with White Chocolate Ganache
(Adapted from several recipes on Molly Yeh’s killer blog, like this, this, and this)
makes 1 two-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

cake:
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 3/4 . all-purpose flour
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend Hershey’s Special Dark)
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
1 c. whole milk, buttermilk, or nondairy buttermilk* (see notes–it’s easy to make)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. boiling water

orange buttercream frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan butter
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. orange juice
zest of 1 orange
pinch salt

white chocolate ganache:
4 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 c. heavy cream or almond milk creamer (I used the creamer & loved the results: perfect hint of almond. 10/10 would recommend)
orange zest, for decoration

*notes: make vegan buttermilk by combining 1 tbsp. vinegar OR lemon juice with 1 cup vegan milk and letting it stand for a few moments

Directions
1. Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk all wet ingredients except the boiling water. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth, and then stir in the boiling water. Distribute batter equally between the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 28 minutes.
3. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn the cakes onto a lightly greased cooling rack to cool completely. IMPORTANT: your cake must be completely cooled before you frost it.
4. Make the frosting: beat all ingredients together until smooth. Once the cakes are cooled, frost as desired (here are Molly’s tips for decorating cakes–she’s a star) and place cake in the fridge while you make the ganache. This will help the ganache cool quicker when you pour it for a better drip effect.
5. Make the ganache: place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it just begins to boil, stirring regularly. Pour cream over the chocolate and let stand for a few seconds. Then gently whisk the mixture until smooth. Your ganache might be a bit runny for the drip effect to work right now, but don’t worry. Let your ganache cool for 15-20 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until it reaches the desired consistency.
6. Remove cake from fridge and pour ganache on top. Using an offset spatula, gently spread the ganache until it reaches the edges of the cake and begins to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with orange zest. Leave to cool at room temperature, or return to the fridge to cool more quickly.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies

Sometimes I wonder if my priorities are in the wrong place. Let me give you an example.

The other day I purchased an entire package of mini candy canes so I could crush two and sprinkle them on top of these cookies. Yet, I’ve settled for sandwich bags without zip tops—you know, the ones that just fold over the top and do NOTHING to keep things fresh—because I was at the c-store and could use meal points so, “I’ll just deal with it.”

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies | memo2munch

What does that mean, do you think? I’m trying not to look too much into it. It’s too late in the semester to reevaluate my life decisions.

Besides, look how glamorous these cookies are. Clearly it was all worth it.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies | memo2munch

(Side note, can cookies be glamorous? I don’t think I’ve even described a person as glamorous before. I don’t think I’ve even used the word glamorous before. Oh no, I take that back. Definitely belted some Fergie back in 2007.)

One of my favorite places in Bloomington, BluBoy Café and Cakery, has some holiday drinks right now, one being peppermint hot chocolate with peppermint marshmallows. I know, it sounds divine. But when you’re me, and you have a carb problem love, you start to think things like, “This is a great idea for a cookie.”

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies | memo2munch

So, I went with it. Hot cocoa in cookie form, right down to the peppermint marshmallows, which in this case just means marshmallow fluff and peppermint extract. In the middle of each cookie. Because how satisfying is it to break open a cookie and find GOOEY MARSHMALLOW inside??

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies | memo2munch

Pro tip: marshmallow fluff can be obnoxious. It sticks to the spoon and your fingers and somehow finds a way onto your face even though you swear you never touched your face. Avoid frustration; run your spoon under hot water before scooping the fluff. (New motto)

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies | memo2munch

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies
(Adapted from Top with Cinnamon)

Ingredients
½ c. (110g) butter – vegan or dairy
1.5 c. (350g) brown sugar
½ c. (55g) cocoa powder
2 eggs
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking powder
2 c. (260g) all-purpose flour
½ c. (100g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Approx. half of a 7 oz container of marshmallow fluff (99g)
1/8 tsp. peppermint extract
Crushed candy cane, for sprinkling (optional)
Sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Stir in the brown sugar eggs (let the butter cool briefly if it is very hot before adding the eggs), and cocoa powder. Add the salt, baking powder, and flour and stir until no clumps of flour remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, microwave the marshmallow fluff for 10-15 seconds. TIP: dip spoon in hot water before working with fluff to make it easier to deal with. Stir in the peppermint extract and set aside.

Roll 1 heaped tbsp. of dough into 14-15 balls and place on baking sheet, saving the leftover dough to top the cookies later. Using your fingers, make a large indentation in the center of each ball. Fill the indentations with small blobs of the marshmallow fluff. Top with a flattened tablespoon of dough and seal the edges.

Sprinkle with candy cane and/or sea salt if desired and bake for 8-10 minutes.