Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests

Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests // Dinners for Winners

Last Monday, I was typing away on my computer at work, nothing different from any other day at the office or from any other day in the world. And then my phone rang. And then I clocked out. And I drove across town and tried to find parking at the hospital. And as I was stepping off the elevator: my nephew had come to meet the world! He was born on April 7th, a wonderful day; full of sunshine, ancitipation in both our families. When I looked at my tiny nephew in his hospital-tight swaddle, I didn’t think my heart could beat so strongly.

The love I have for that sweet face enters my thoughts often. And my little sister transformed into a mother with grace and beauty. She’s incredibly strong, so capable and brave.

So many new starts!
A spring-time baby nephew.
My sister as a parent.
Color returns to our world, blooming trees and growing leaves.
I’m totally blogging outside on my deck right now because the sun has been out.
My mom has a batch of just-hatched chicks chirping under their heat lamp.
Asparagus is here (not as exciting as my nephew, I KNOW, but still so fantastic!).

I have a little riff on rice crispy treats here — these are like the first family-friendly recipe ever on my blog! But actually I have fun making them myself. And eating them. I love rice crispy treats and I think swapping the puffed rice cereal for chow mein noodles is adorable and delicious.

Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests // Dinners for Winners

These crunchy nest treats can be topped with jelly bean eggs, Cadburys, robin’s eggs or whatever your favorite is this time of year. The steps: melting, stirring, and shaping. No-bake treats are always a win in my opinion! Chow mein noodles are crunchy and neutral-flavored, perfect for taking on this chocolate/peanut butter application. Though I think you could swap them for pretzel sticks in a heartbeat.

Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests // Dinners for Winners

I keep thinking about what my nephew will be like as he grows. What will he look like? Is he going to play ball like his dad? Will he like spending time with me? Will he eat kim chi. Will he know how much I love him.

My heart is so full, it’s hard to explain.

I hope Easter brings wonderful new beginnings to you and your family, too! Enjoy!

Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests // Dinners for Winners

 

Chocolate-peanut butter Easter egg nests

yields about 2 dozen small treats
  • 12 oz ( 1 bag) chocolate chips
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 10 oz crispy chow mein noodles
  • candied eggs for topping

Melt chocolate, mallows and PB together in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Mix in chow mein noodles and drop spoonfuls on to wax paper, making an indent in centers. (If the batter gets tacky or seizes up, rewarming it in the microwave will help until all nests have been formed.) Press candy eggs into nests immediately to set. Allow to cool for one hour (fridge speeds it up if you can’t wait) or until firm. Cheers!

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Polenta squares with dates, goat cheese, pickled onions

Polenta squares: dates, goat's cheese, pickled onions from Dinners for Winners

Last Friday, THE SUN CAME OUT! It gave me spring fever so bad, I just wanted to leave work and start the weekend – to get out of the stuffy office air and into Spring. I had burgers to grill for our friends that night! I left for my noon gym class and instead of a shower and returning to the office afterwards, turned my sweaty self towards home. It felt amazing; the sunshine through the windshield, new Foster the People playing super loud, full-on spring-break 65 degrees.

But traffic was terrible; it took me 45 minutes to get home. And I was becoming famished. I stopped for a quick drive-through lunch to bring home for us, and reached for my wallet in my handbag. MY WALLET WASN’T THERE, ya’ll. Ahk!

My mind raced to the last time I had seen it, but I couldn’t remember. I parked, got out and searched under the seats, in the glove compartment, looked through my handbag again, checked my gym bag, looked through my reusable shopping bags: nothing. I called Nathan and had him look around the house. Nothing. I called the office and had them search my desk. Nothing. Where was it?!

I drove the rest of the way home, now exasperated, worried, and blood-sugar levels quickly crashing. I checked my account online to see if anyone was spending our $$$, but all looked well…….

I could only remember using it at Fred Meyer the night before, getting supplies for dinner-party prep. My husband phoned Freddies.

Polenta squares: dates, goat's cheese, pickled onions from Dinners for Winners

They had my wallet! In debating a buy-one-get-one deal with the checker, I’d left it there at the register. Oh, me.

Nathan went to pick it up (and procured lunch for us, thanks babe), and everything was still in my wallet! Even some cash. Major points for Fred Meyer!

I was so relieved and grateful. Just what everyone hopes will happen if one’s wallet goes missing — that it will turn up, in one piece, everything still in it. One hour from discovering it was lost to finding it again…. HURRAY! On with the weekend! (Cash in hand, identification in hand = beer-thirty, amiright?)

A beer was well-deserved after my short-lived wallet panic, and I always want snacks when I drink beer. I just can’t help it; pretzels, peanuts, spicy tots are made for beer buddies. But these little polenta bites are legit happy-hour food, pretty enough for a dinner-party table and simple enough for a sunny Friday afternoon, off early from work. With polenta made ahead of time, kept it wrapped in the fridge, these little bites are just minutes to being ready!

Polenta squares with dates, goat cheese, and pickled onions from Dinners for Winners

The pickled onions themselves are great on everything, as have been explored just recently on the www, I love to keep a jar in the fridge, and pairing them with dates was inspired by one of my all-time favorite things to eat, a spinach salad from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. It’s wonderful that a little of the pungent, briney-paired-with-sweet flavors find their way here. (Seriously, yes, the pickled onions are that neon shade of pink.) Smooth goat’s cheese and a sprinkle of cilantro tingle my nose as I’m about to bite into one of these little noshes. I love ‘em! Happy weekend!

Polenta squares with dates, goat cheese, pickled onions from Dinners for Winners

Crisp polenta squares with dates, goat cheese, pickled onions

You’ll need:

  • cooked, cooled polenta (method below) or a purchased log of polenta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 – 4 pitted Medjool dates, each sliced lengthwise into 4 – 6 spears
  • a few slices of pickled red onion (method below)
  • 3 or so ounces goat’s cheese, room temperature
  • cilantro leaves

Cut the polenta into 2-inch squares, or, if using purchased polenta, slice off rounds 1/2-inch thick. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Let the squares or rounds brown on each side, 8 – 10 minutes per side – don’t be tempted to move them except for one flip, they are delicate. Carefully transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain before topping with a schmear of cheese, two or three spears of date, a twist or two of pickled onion and a cilantro leaf. Cheers!

Pickled onions

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 red onion

Place first three ingredients in a non-reactive container and shake or stir to combine. Add onion slices and enough water to cover onions; shake again. I like to use a small canning jar for these onions, and to keep the lid/ring from rusting, a layer of plastic film before I tighten the lid certainly helps. Chill for 30 minutes or up to several days.

Small-batch polenta

  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground polenta cornmeal
  • coarse salt
  • 2 cups water

Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan, and gradually add polenta, whisking constantly. Lower heat and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, 20 – 30 minutes. You can cook this longer if you like, as the flavor mellows and sweetens with time on the heat, giving the grains a softer bite, which I like. Season with salt to taste. Pour into a 9 x 9 dish and allow to cool, uncovered. Once cool, polenta should release from its pan easily, inverted onto a plate (carefully, to prevent breaking), and can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Alternatively, pour off a bit of your next batch of polenta if you’re making some for dinner and enjoy these date-onion bites later in the week.

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