Tag Archives: chocolate

Weekly roundup

2 Apr

Last week, I…

*Worked a four-day week. Praise for vacation time!

*Claimed furniture with my siblings that my parents weren’t moving with them. It actually went pretty well.

*Had my weekend plans thrown out of whack. The good side is that I had to have everything done by Saturday night, so Sunday was relaxing.

*Relaxed ALL DAY on Sunday, including a nap!

*Made a batch of salty chocolate chip cookies.

*Hung out with NA and watched movies while eating pizza and drinking wine. Ah relaxation!

*Discovered my cross ring was broken. Not sure how it cracked or when, but the ring I’ve worn since I was 16 cracked.

Luckily it’s fixable. But it’s the first time it’s been off my hand other than for dance performances or surgical procedures. It’s odd.

*Read the first two books in the Hunger Games trilogy and started the third.

*Had two good dance lessons.

*Discovered my cholesterol dropped over 30 points.

*Worked out 3 times!

Wrenches and chocolate chip cookies

1 Apr

This weekend had many wrenches thrown in it.

As you know, my siblings and I met at my parents’ house to sort out furniture and stuff. My mom was planning on serving lunch first, but she forgot to tell any of us that except one of my sisters. So she made this big lunch, which was awesome, but it threw our schedule off.

Going through the stuff took a bit longer than I thought, mainly because there were too many jokes along the way. Lots of Monty Python quotes thrown in. We actually had a really good time, and there weren’t any arguments about it. Actually there weren’t any. We were all pretty good about if more than one of us wanted something, people kinda naturally backed down. I got a few things the TV stand I wanted, as well as some books and stuff that were my grandparents’.

But that all took a lot longer than I thought, so I had to run (not literally, don’t worry) to my dance lesson. My teacher was running late, so that made me late to run an errand and then go watch movies at NA’s house.

Friday night when I got home, I found out that the floor guy was coming to do some touch-up and a second coat on the kitchen floor. He was coming Sunday morning, which meant I had to do all my cooking on Saturday instead of Sunday. So that was another wrench and something to try and squeeze in before lunch on Saturday. Then we realized that the last time the floor guy was here, we weren’t supposed to run the dryer or the oven afterwards. We thought that had to do with the staining and not the polyurethane, but I figured I’d be safe rather than sorry and do my laundry on Saturday instead of Sunday. Yet another wrench.

And because I needed to destress a bit in the middle of all this, I made cookies on Saturday. (Because trying to squeeze in one more activity would be less stressful?) I was planning on making a regular Toll House chocolate chip cookie (well, actually more than one), but I found a recipe on Joy the Baker that sounded yummy. I didn’t want to add the sesame seeds, just because I wanted a basic cookie, but it still turned out great! It’s a little saltier than my traditional chocolate chip cookie, which makes it FANTASTIC in my book. It may be my new go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Courtesy of Joy the Baker

Sesame and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies  from Joy the Baker

2.25 cups flour (I only had 2 cups of regular flour, so I substituted almond flour for the rest)
1 teaspoon baking salt
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon soy sauce (I KNOW!)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (I left these out)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
about 1/4 cup black sesame seeds for rolling (I left these out)
Sea salt for topping (I did NOT leave this out!)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg and the egg yolk and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and soy sauce. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients all at once. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stop the mixer, and fold in the sesame seeds and chocolate chips with a spatula until well combined. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoonfuls into your hand. Roll in a ball, and toss around in the black sesame seeds. The dough balls don’t need to be completely covered in seeds, just coated well. Place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on baking sheets about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in airtight container. Cookies will last for a day or two because the oils in the seeds tend to go rancid. (The other reason I left the seeds out – the cookies should last longer!)

Pear chocolate cake

27 Mar

I made a pear-chocolate cake this weekend.

Image courtesy of Brooklyn Supper

I found this recipe on an awesome blog: Brooklyn Supper. I just discovered this blog, and I really like it. Great writing, great food ideas, lovely photographs…perfect!

This recipe sounded like a nice light cake and slightly different from the usual. So I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a different cake base than I’m used to, but it turned out great. The original recipe calls for a 9″ springform pan. Mine is in storage of course. So I did some converting (thanks, Google!), and I used two 9″ cake pans instead. It made for a slightly thinner cake than I would have like, but the taste was fine. I also overdid the chocolate a bit, but I figured most people would be OK with that. Mine didn’t look good enough to take a picture and it didn’t look as awesome as the one in the picture, but it tasted great.

Find the full recipe for Pear-Chocolate Cake here.

South of the border

21 Feb

This weekend, I did my usual cooking for the week and baking. I didn’t put it together until yesterday, but apparently I was wishing for a trip south of the border to Mexico.

I like that song. Because I like Frank Sinatra. And it’s a good song. So there.

For baking, I found a recipe for a spiced up brownie from Smitten Kitchen. The thought of red pepper, spices, and chocolate has intrigued me for a while. So I thought I’d finally try it. It was a bit scary because keep in mind, I’m an Irish Catholic from Minnesota. Not a lot of heavy spices in my world. But the recipe seemed OK – not too spicy for my poor taste buds – so I thought I’d give it a go.

First, I whisked cocoa powder, flour, salt, and spices together. Then I melted chocolate, butter, and instant espresso in a double boiler. The recipe calls for 11 ounces of dark chocolate 65%-72% cacao. I used 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 3.5 ounces 90% cacao, 3.5 ounces 70% cacao – because that’s all I had at home. Oops. But it worked. I added sugars and let it cool. Then I added eggs and vanilla and mixed well, and then added the flour mixture. Poured it into a 9×13 pan and baked.

I must admit, they were fantastic. The spices just added a touch of heat and subtlety to the chocolate flavor. I’ll make these again, and now I really want to find more recipes for spices and chocolate.

Then last week, my friend Brittany at The Gentle Home posted a recipe for fajitas. I love fajitas, and when I read the post, I suddenly knew that fajitas had to be in my future. Her marinade sounded great, so I thought I’d try it. I changed a few things and used steak instead of chicken – because sometimes you just need steak – and they’re great! I sauteed some onions and peppers to go with the steak, and got some tortillas. I’ve been eating them for lunch all week. I love this recipe!

Yesterday when I was thinking about this blog post, it suddenly hit me that there was a connection between these two things. No idea why it took so long to make that connection. But there ya go. A little bit of Mexico in the middle of a Minnesota winter. Well, a wussy sort of Minnesota winter. But still – makes you think of sun and fun on the beach.

Sorry about the lack of photos. Short attention span this weekend, I guess. Just use your imagination. I’m sure my food looked as awesome in real life as it does in your imagination.

Spiced Brownies from the Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder (I didn’t have this so I used paprika and cumin)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I didn’t have this so I used nutmeg)
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or coffee
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder and spices together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve. Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Garlic Lime Chicken from the Gentle Home

1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
olive oil, about 6 Tbsp
1/4 cup pineapple juice (I used the orange-pineapple juice I had)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Mix well.  Marinate the chicken (or steak!) for several hours before cooking. Grill up the steak (or broil it). Saute some onions and peppers while the steak rests. Add to tortillas with cheese and voila! Fajitas.

(Voila. A French word in my post about Mexican food. Look at me – I’m multi-cultural!)

Weekly roundup

20 Feb

In the last week, I…

*Made an awesome bourbon chocolate cake that was a bit bourbon-y, but that just made it better in my opinion.

*Learned all about the difference between bourbon and whiskey, thanks to the talkative liquor store guy.

*Had dinner with friend DF who I haven’t seen in a long time. It was fun to catch up – and I had a cocktail!

*Met some very fun ladies at a gathering to eat, drink, and knit/crochet. I’m looking forward to seeing them again!

*Watched the season finale of Downton Abbey. I’m sad that it’s over, can’t wait for season three, and am looking forward to what else will be Masterpiece this year.

*Started thinking about how you can believe in yourself when there is no empirical evidence and you just have to believe. (A very difficult thing for me.)

*Two dance lessons: one great one with lots of laughter and one in the thinky place. My poor teacher.

*Did a follow-up session for the Discovery Writing workshop I took last fall. It reinforced to me a few things that I’ve learned about myself – one of which is that writing is important to me.

*Beat myself up about not working out and eating poorly. It took me a while to stop doing that. Or at least stop doing that so much. (I still do it.) Today was a good day though – 30 minute walk at lunch, 40 minutes on the bike at the gym after work, and pretty good eating all day. Hopefully this will start to help me pull myself out of the thinky place where I’ve been for about two weeks.

*Had lunch with the owner of the place that I work part-time to start to figure out how else I can help her in her business with administrative assistant support. I’m excited about that because it’ll be extra money for me (Dance-O-Rama baby!) and I think I can really make a difference for her.

*Had the fabulous Sarah at Sarah on the Go let me repost her blog post on optimism and happiness. Read it. It was great and ties into me not beating myself up.

*Listed a bunch of clothes and necklaces on Ebay as a result to continuing to try to simplify my life and own less crap.

*Found this saying:

I think it might be my new favorite saying. I should have it tattooed on me. Right now, it’s taped to the wall so I see it every morning. When I move, I think I want to make a wall plaque of it. (Hope that’s OK, SR!)

Bourbon vs whiskey…and cake!

13 Feb

I was a baking machine this weekend! One of the things I made was a chocolate bourbon cake.

You know that I like cocktails. And the chocolate Guinness pudding I made a while ago was really good. So when I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

I stopped at the liquor store on Friday night. While I like bourbon, I prefer Irish whiskey. I knew the recipe didn’t call for a whole bottle, so I knew I’d have some leftover to drink. If I’m having something leftover, I’d rather have Irish whiskey. So I asked the guy at the liquor store if he thought you could substitute one for the other in the recipe. Apparently I asked him how to make a clock instead of what time it was, because I got a very long explanation.

According to US regulations, whiskey can be made from any grain, must be produced at less than 190 proof, must be stored in oak containers, and must be bottled at no less than 80 proof. Whiskey can be made anywhere in the world.

Bourbon apparently is a subcategory of whiskey, and it must be made in the US. The grain mixture must contain at least 51% corn, must be produced at less than 160 proof, must be stored at no more than 125 proof, and must be stored in new charred oak containers. It apparently is sweeter than Irish whiskey.

So to use it in a cake, I would need to adjust the sugar amounts to keep the whiskey/chocolate flavor balance, which would in turn mean adjusting the liquid/solid ratios too. Too much work! So I bought the bourbon. Oh the sacrifices I make for baking!

First, I preheated the oven and greased/floured two loaf pans. Then I melted the chocolate in a double boiler.

Then I put instant coffee and cocoa powder in measuring cup and added boiling water. Mixed this until it was all dissolved. Added salt and whiskey and let it cool.

I was too lazy to use my KitchenAid mixer…bad idea. It would have been a lot easier. But it was late in the evening, I was tired, and I didn’t feel like hauling it up from the basement. So with a hand mixer, I beat sugar and butter until fluffy, then added eggs. Then I mixed in vanilla, baking soda and the melted chocolate.

Then I alternated adding flour and the whiskey mixture.

I poured it into the loaf pans and baked it.

Turned out great! I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, so here is what it looks like on the original website:

I would highly recommend this recipe. When you ask the guy at the liquor store a question, just be sure you won’t get a 10-minute answer with no chance to break in.

Chocolate Bourbon Cake (from “Simply Recipes“)

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups flour
5 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso or instant coffee
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a large Bundt pan or two loaf pans. Melt chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler. Let cool.

Put instant espresso and cocoa powder in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Stir in whiskey and salt; let cool.

Beat softened butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, baking soda, and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat in a third of the whiskey/espresso/cocoa mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey/espresso/cocoa mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pans and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean – about 1 hour 10 minutes for the Bundt pan; about 55 minutes for the loaf pans.

Transfer cake to a rack. Remove from pan after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey. Let cool. Sprinkle powdered sugar through a mesh sieve over the cake before serving.

Weekly roundup

6 Feb

Last week, I…

*Wondered if I’d be able to bribe myself into going to the gym more if I had a reward for myself.

*Had my annual check-up at the dermatologist.

*Was nominated for the ABC Award.

*Had three dance lessons: one pretty good, one where I got angry and frustrated with my teacher because I felt like I wasn’t being heard (we got through it – turns out we were just communicating at each other and not on the same wavelength) and one awesome one.

*Completely spaced on an appointment with friend AW. So unlike me. I hate it when I do that. But it shows you my mental state on Thursday. But I was able to go on Friday – whew.

*Got a pedicure on Saturday for my dance performance.

*Tried the sock curls as described by my friend at Riot and Frolic. Hers looked like this:

Photo courtesy of Riot and Frolic

Mine looked like a rats’ nest and not so good:

Oh well. My hair is just too thick to do this.

*Made awesome potato chip cookies.

*Learned about fake eyelashes for the first time. I did a few practice runs but was a bit concerned (read: nervous and a bit stressed) about doing it myself for my dance performance without more practice runs. AM suggested having my hair stylist do it. She couldn’t but I copped out and had another stylist do it. Good thing – I learned some tricks from her.

*Further simplified my life by going through my closet and listing a stack of clothes on Ebay.

*Performed at Super Saturday. I was worried about the last one. And this one? GREAT! I was very happy with my performance. I did the bolero for the first time – went really well. I did my tango open – went great (and I got to wear my dress again!) And I did my rumba open – which was the best we’ve ever done that one. Woo hoo!!!

Potato chip cookies

6 Feb

Once again, Smitten Kitchen intrigued me. Potato chip cookies? Definitely needed to try these.

First up, toasting the pecans.

Not something I do often, but it’s easy enough. I just worry about burning them, which it’s hard to do.. So I don’t know why I worry. Oh wait, I do because I’m me. Then I mixed together butter and sugar in my KitchenAid mixer. I added vanilla and salt. Then I mixed in pecans, crushed potato chips and flour. I realized that there were no eggs or any liquid in the recipe. It’s a recipe similar to pecan sandies, so I searched my cookbooks for a pecan sandie recipe to see if eggs were in those. Not that I don’t trust Smitten Kitchen; it just seemed odd. I couldn’t find a recipe, so I decided to just go with it and see what happens.

I rolled the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and rolled them in sugar.

I then flattened them with a glass.

I sprinkled sea salt on the top and then baked them for 15 minutes. Then I let them cool.

I didn’t quite get everything all mixed together as well as I should have, so some of them are more crumbly than others. Oops. But they still taste good – I made sure I did quality assurance tests to be sure.

They were however a bit salty, so to balance it, I took Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion and dipped them in dark chocolate. Plus, we all know I love the salt/sweet combination. Any excuse, right?

And they taste amazing!

Potato Chip Cookies from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips
2 cups flour
Sea salt
4 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter with 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and the table salt until smooth. Add the pecans, crushed potato chips, and flour and mix until just combined.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Scoop a tablespoon-sized mound of dough and form it into a small ball. Roll the ball in the sugar until coated and place on prepared baking sheet one inch apart. Use a flat-bottomed glass to flatten the cookies. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake until lightly golden at the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler and stir until smooth. Dip half of each fully cooled cookie in the chocolate, and let dry and harden on a wire rack.

Weekly roundup

30 Jan

In the last two weeks, I…

*Have not worked out due to stupid bronchitis.

*Have not eaten entirely according to my eating plan because the stupid bronchitis killed my energy and I didn’t feel like cooking.

*Missed a whole week at the dance studio because my stupid bronchitis was making me cough so much in the evenings, I sounded like Typhoid Mary.

*Have not baked, knitted or written much.

*Had a birthday party, four months after my actual birthday.

*Began to think about simplifying life and what that means.

*Had new people start to follow my blog.

*Got back into the swing of things this weekend by baking Nutella cookies (to die for, almost literally) and sorting all my yarn.

The good news is that Super Saturday is this Saturday, and I’ve been too consumed with my stupid bronchitis to really think about it much.

But I think I’m getting back to 100% now. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Nutella cookies

29 Jan

Back to baking this weekend. I’ve missed it! I needed something simple yet very tasty because my energy is still not 100%. On Pinterest, I saw a pin for Nutella pie and it reminded me that I have a great recipe for Nutella cookies. Perfect!

I dug out the KitchenAid mixer. Sigh. Can’t live without that. Then I creamed together butter, sugar, brown sugar, and Nutella. (Hint: spray the measuring cup with cooking spray before putting Nutella in it. It will greatly reduce the amount of cursing that would otherwise result.)

Mixed in egg and vanilla. Then added flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mixed until just combined.

Dropped by tablespoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheets and flattened with a fork. (Again, use cooking spray on the fork first. You’re welcome.)

Baked at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

So freakin’ delicious. And people will think you’re a genius because they’re so yummy, and who doesn’t love that?

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, Nutella, sugar, and brown sugar. Cream together for about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth, about 1 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Using a tablespoon measure, drop onto ungreased cookie sheet about 4 inches about. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the dough. Bake 10-12 minutes.

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