Tag Archives: chocolate

A Few Of My Favorite Things – Holiday Goodies!

A couple of months ago, I teamed up with two of my cousins and we had ourselves a bake-a-thon.  The thought was to finish all of our holiday baking in one fell swoop!  We each came armed with recipes and ingredients for 4-5 things, and we made double batches of everything, which we divided into freezer bags, took home and piled in the freezer to be brought out as needed for holiday parties and such.

Well, as you can imagine, most of it didn’t make it to Christmas.  But it sure was nice to have on hand for company, last minute things to take to a potluck, and family dinners.  And of course, some just called to us in the evenings and had to be eaten.  I was very happy to discover that EVERY SINGLE THING froze beautifully and tasted fresh when thawed out.

Although I have a few things left up in freezer town, I am going to do a little more baking this weekend for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together a few of the recipes I will be pulling from for the holidays, in hopes of helping those of you in need of ideas.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there!

Simply click on each recipe to go to the post.  Any of these will make a wonderful gift or a welcome addition to any holiday party.  Happy baking!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Rich and indulgent, I love these!

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Incredibly easy and only a few ingredients!

Classic Chocolate Brownies

My go-to foolproof brownies.  I make these all year long.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Always a holiday favorite.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Decadent, chewy, and gluten and dairy free (and you won’t miss either one)!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I know it sounds weird, but these were delicious!  They also come down on the healthier side of holiday treats at a fraction of the calories of regular brownies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My bumped-up version of banana bread.  So good!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a Twist

My favorite cookies, soft, rich, with a twist of orange and cinnamon.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A delicious twist on an old favorite!

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Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

I got a speeding ticket this morning.  And broke a nail.  One might suppose that this was the start to a rough day.  But I’m sitting here munching on a fabulous granola bar, one that transcends most granola bars as we know them.  And drinking a perfect mocha.  And watching a few rays of sun breaking through the clouds as I get ready to head to yoga class.  And I’m thinking life is pretty darn good.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs and thought, “oh those look good, and healthy too!”  And then when I was making them I thought, “hey, what if I add a cup of mini chocolate chips to them?” So…maybe mine are a little less healthy.  But you could still do worse.  I made some changes in the original recipe, based mostly on what was in my cupboard and a few flights of fancy.  And was also reminded that you should always read the recipe all the way through before starting.  My mini chocolate chips seemed like an inspired idea until I realized I would be pouring hot liquid on the mixture.  Um. I didn’t really think that through.  My chips melted.  Which really turned out to be wonderful, since the chocolate permeated the bars rather than staying in chip form.  It was unanticipated but quite delicious, and a contributing factor in the “gooey” description to be sure.  The end result is a chewy, gooey, indulgent (and still somewhat healthy) treat.  So take a moment, slow down, and eat one.

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars
(adapted from Chewy Cherry Granola Bars by Canyoustayfordinner.com)

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup puffed rice (or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, which I happened to have)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spread oats out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, puffed grain or rice, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Lower oven temp to 300˚.

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir one minute.  Remove from heat and pour over grain and fruit mixture.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Line a 13 x 9 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Put mixture in the pan.  Wet fingers and press evenly and firmly into the pan.  Bake at 300˚ for 20-25 minutes.  Cool at least 2-3 hours (I know!  But seriously, you need to wait) before cutting into bars.  Cut into bars and store in airtight containers, using wax paper to separate the bars so they don’t stick together.  Makes 24 bars.  187 calories per bar.

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

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April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t have any cookies in my house at the moment.  If I had them, I would eat them.  I have no self-control when it comes to cookies.  So I don’t make them often.  When I do, they do a very quick disappearing act, because they are (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

These are one of my favorite cookies to make.  My little spin on your basic chocolate chip cookie.  I used to use half butter and half margarine or butter flavored crisco to make them a little fluffier.  But these days, I’m using less and less “fake” food, which margarine is in my book (did you know it’s chemically very similar to plastic?) so now I use all butter.  I think they taste better, but they do tend to come out a bit more flat.  I don’t really have a problem with that, although they are not quite as pretty.  But they still taste wonderful and I would happily sit down and eat a whole plate of them, were they here.  It might be time to bake another batch.

Right now, I’m craving a cookie.

A stack of cookie love.

A stack of cookie love.

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks, slightly softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
6 squares Bakers bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon) in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat or stir butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and orange rind.  Beat until combined.  Gradually beat or stir in flour mixture about 1/3 at a time.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate.  You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method.  Some big chunks, some tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to flavor the dough.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate. You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method. Big chunks, tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to permeate the dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  If you prefer you can line your baking sheets with parchment for easier cleanup.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wax paper or cooling racks to cool.  Try not to eat them all at once.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

 

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Fantabulous Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This is not a traditional birthday cake, but it’s the cake any chocolate lover would want for their birthday.  Or any other day.  Especially if that chocolate lover is also a raspberry lover, like me! This is the first time I’ve made this recipe but I know it will definitely not be the last!  This cake almost qualifies as a chocolate torte with its dense, fudgy texture and rich, dark flavor.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I hid away the last piece so my kids wouldn’t eat it after school since I wanted it all for myself.  Mine!  A selfish mom moment to be sure.  But I’ll make it up to them.  It will be a good excuse to make it again soon.

Fantabulous Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Chocolate Raspberry Cake
(adapted from Cooking Pleasures magazine)

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
10 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut up
5 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. raspberry flavoring syrup
1-2 cups fresh raspberries for garnish

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spray bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Line with parchment.  Spray paper.  Puree 2 cups raspberries in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a fine strainer and discard seeds, leaving about 1 cup of puree.  Combine puree with 2/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low, simmer 20 minutes or so until thickened and reduced to about 2/3 cup, stirring frequently.

Melt chocolate and butter.  You can do this in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, or do it in a glass bowl in the microwave for a couple of minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in raspberry puree.  Whisk remaining 1 cup sugar into the chocolate mixture.  Whisk in eggs one at a time.  Whisk flour and salt in a small bowl.  Fold into chocolate mixture in two additions until well-blended.  Pour into pan.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack 29 minutes.  Remove sides of pan.  Cool completely.  Cake may sink a bit in the middle during cooling.

Hot out of the oven.

Meanwhile, beat whipped cream, 1 tsp. sugar, and syrup in a bowl at medium high speed until soft peaks form.  Spread whipped cream over the top of the cake and garnish with fresh raspberries.  Or you can serve the cream on the side if you prefer.  This is a good option if you’re serving the cake warm.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake. Best if you let the cake cool completely before putting the whipped cream on it, otherwise it will melt a little bit, like mine. I’m so impatient, but it was still delicious!

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Inside Out Peppermint Patties

When I think of Peppermint Patty, I think of the Peanuts Gang.  She is one of my favorite characters, even though she doesn’t show up very often.  She’s got attitude, and I love that.  And she is one of the only characters who is nice to Charlie Brown (at least sometimes) and that’s pretty cool in my book.

Speaking of Peppermint Patty…peppermint and chocolate together make one of the happiest combos in chocolate land.  I never really thought about making them myself until I came across a recipe one day.  And even then I may not have made them right away but I was fortunate enough to be asked to mentor a lovely girl in her candy making project for school.  Funny how events coincide.  You find a great recipe, and then somebody asks you to do something that involves making that very thing.  Wonderful.

I liked these so much that I have made them twice this week.  These are more of an inside out peppermint patty.  It makes for a pretty presentation.  Could you dip them in chocolate instead of putting the chocolate in the peppermint?  Well, sure.  If you want to, go right ahead.  Me?  I’ll go for the option that’s easier to execute.  I love the way they look, and I also like to eat the white part around in a circle and get the little chocolate center at the end.  Life’s little pleasures.

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Peppermint Patties
(from She Wears Many Hats)

1 pound powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 package)
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
6 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In a mixer, blend the powdered sugar and cream cheese on low to medium speed.  Once the mixture is started you can toss in the peppermint extract and continue blending until you have a cohesive ball of stuff.  If you don’t have a blender, you can do this with a spoon or your hands.  You want a mixture that is about the consistency of play dough.  Not crumbly but not sticky either.  If you need to add a little extra sugar or cream cheese to get the right consistency, do so.  Roll into 1 tsp. size balls.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.  Make a depression in the ball so it looks like a little bowl.  Work quickly so the mixture doesn’t dry out (it helps to have more than one pair of hands). Put in the fridge to cool off and set up (at least 30 minutes).

Making the peppermint molds. A little cooking spray on your hands helps if the mixture is sticking to you.

In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Put in a ziplock bag and push down into one corner.  Snip off the corner and pipe into the peppermint molds.

Filling the peppermints. Start out with a very small snip because it comes out pretty fast!  You can always make the opening bigger if you need to.

Put back into the fridge to set up for at least an hour.  Remove from trays and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

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Don’t Mess With My Brownies!

Fiddling with recipes is one of my favorite pastimes.  And brownies are one of my favorite foods.  So I have spent plenty of time playing with brownie recipes and looking for new ones, in search of the perfect brownie.  I’ve gone way beyond basic.  I’ve tried adding peanut butter, peppermint, coconut, frosting, nuts…even marshmallows.  And I’ve made an important discovery.  As yummy as those variations might be, I like the plain ones best.  So you can keep your sprinkles, and your walnuts, and your orange peel.  Don’t be messing with my brownies.

This is the most simple and wonderful brownie recipe I’ve found.  Absolutely foolproof, yielding a rich, fudgy brownie that is just about as perfect as you can get.  Every time I make these, the results are delightful.  But this time I didn’t make them.  My 12 year old daughter, Claire, has become chief brownie maker in our house.  In a blind taste test, I would not have been able to tell the difference between hers and mine.  I couldn’t be more proud. *sniff*

Perfect Brownies Every Time

One-Bowl Brownies
(from the inside of the Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate box)

4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks, cut into pieces)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour

Heat oven to 350˚ (325˚ if using a glass dish). In a large microwavable bowl, combine chocolate squares and butter.  Microwave on high 2 minutes.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and all the lumps disappear.  Stir in sugar until well blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour.  Spread in greased baking pan.  Bake 32 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool in pan.  Cut into squares and try not to eat them all at once.

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Banana Cake Supreme

This weekend marked the last in an exhausting, but tasty, stream of birthday parties during the month of April.  Also noteworthy, this was my favorite one because it was mine!  I think I tasted what seems like a dozen kinds of cake this month.  My mouth says “yum”, but my waistline is saying, “what the hell?” And while I won’t say I am totally sick of cake, for this party I was in the mood for something a little different.  I’ve been having an odd craving for banana cake (odd because usually I’m a chocolate girl).

Playing with the idea of bananas, and chocolate, and ditching the usual frosting for something a little lighter, I came up with this concoction, which I have to say, turned out spectacular!  Once again, I did not find any recipes that even closely resembled what I was thinking of, so I just made one up.  It starts with a box mix, easy peasy.  The three different textures in this cake worked great together and were really different than a regular cake.  I’ll be honest and say I think I undercooked my cake a bit.  Or maybe it was just the addition of the bananas.  It came out of the oven light and fluffy and beautiful and as it cooled it sort of shrunk until it was about half the original height.  I was a little worried about it.  But, sometimes mistakes in cooking are happy accidents.  This made for a slightly denser, brownie-like texture that I actually really liked!

Plan to make this a little early, or the day before, to allow the chocolate layer to harden.  It would be good either way, but that added texture was a nice surprise!  And the fresh whipped cream, slightly sweetened with brown sugar was, well…just icing on the cake!

Banana Cake Supreme. I would have taken a prettier picture, but people ate my photo shoot before I got the chance!

Banana Cake Supreme

1 box of white cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 bars bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. butter
1 pint whipping cream
2-3 tbsp. brown sugar

Make the cake mix according to the package directions.  The one I used called for 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, and a cup of water.  Add mashed bananas.  Beat on low speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into a casserole dish or large cake pan.  Bake at 350˚ (or whatever the box says) for 35-38 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan and put on a cookie sheet or cake plate.  In a glass bowl break up the chocolate into small pieces.  Eat one or two.  Add 1/4 cup whipping cream and butter and microwave for 1 minute.  Stir with a whisk until smooth.  If you still have chunks of unmelted chocolate, nuke it a few seconds more.  Pour chocolate over cake and spread to cover surface.  Cover with plastic and put in the fridge to harden.  I left it in there overnight but a couple of hours should do the trick if you’re short on time.  Just before serving, beat whipping cream with brown sugar until thickened and fluffy.  Pile on top of cake and spread to cover surface.  Eat!

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