Friday, February 27, 2015

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: National Strawberry Day!

Today is National Strawberry Day! Here's an easy recipe for making the best Chocolate Covered Strawberries. These are simple to make, and they always look fabulous. You can stuff them or drizzle them--or roll them in crumbled toffee, but fresh strawberries dunked in good quality chocolate is the key. 


CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES TO DIE FOR!

Ingredients
1 quart fresh large fresh strawberries, with tops
1 cup Dark Chocolate 60-65% cacao, chopped
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate 72-85% cacao, chopped
3 Tbsp heavy cream
White chocolate, melted for Drizzle (make sure this is 'real' white chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:
Rinse strawberries and dry thoroughly, keeping tops on.
In top of double boiler or stainless steel bowl atop pot of simmering water, combine chocolate and heavy cream. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Dip strawberries 1/2 - 3/4 way up in chocolate mixture and place on wax paper or parchment lined cookie sheet to allow chocolate to harden.
Optional: When hardened, drizzle with melted white chocolate.

Hints:
Wash strawberries and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Make sure the strawberries are completely dry. A drop of water in melted chocolate can cause it to "seize" and turn the entire mixture into a mess. How to smooth out chocolate: add a tiny bit of honey and stir.

How to dip:
Grasp stem of strawberry and dip into chocolate, swirling to partially cover with chocolate. Give strawberry a small shake as you pull it out of the chocolate. When strawberry is completely out of chocolate, swirl it in quick, clockwise motion to let excess chocolate drip off. Place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment. Repeat with rest of the strawberries.

Want to get a bit fancier? Here are links to Chocolate Covered Stuffed Strawberries.

Chocolate Covered  Stuffed Strawberries: Cookie Dough, Cheesecake, Marscapone

Strawberrries Stuffed with Chocolate Cream

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chocolatey Chewy Pistachio Brownies

Today is National Pistachio Day! Although I've posted many chocolate and pistachio recipes over the years, I went to the 'source' for this new  (to me) recipe for Pistachio Brownies. The source being the American Pistachio Growers website. Read about the history of pistachios HERE.

You'll love this recipe to celebrate the day! I would leave off the frosting. The brownies are great without it! However, I posted the frosting recipe, just in case.

Chocolatey Chewy Pistachio Brownies

Ingredients
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup shelled natural American pistachios, chopped
6 Tbsp sweet butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk

Directions
In mixing bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, flour, baking powder, chocolate and 1/2 cup chopped pistachios. Add melted butter, egg and milk; mix just until ingredients are blended.
Scrape batter into oiled 9-inch square baking pan.
Bake in preheated 350° F. oven, 23 to 25 minutes or until center is baked. Do not overbake.
Cool slightly; spread with Chocolate Glaze. Sprinkle with remaining pistachios.

Milk Chocolate Glaze
Combine 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons butter in glass measuring cup.
Microwave on high for 1 minute.
Stir to blend, adding 1 Tbsp powdered sugar.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Today is National Chocolate Covered Peanut Day. Celebrate by making Chocolate Peanut Clusters. No time to make anything (but these are so easy!) grab a container of Planters new Cocoa Peanuts. 

Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Ingredients
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
10 ounces peanut butter chips
2 1/2 cups Spanish peanuts (or other salted peanuts)

Directions
Melt chocolate in double boiler. Stir in peanuts. Drop by teaspoons into 1 inch clusters onto wax paper lined cookie sheet or tray.
Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Store tightly covered in refrigerator.


Monday, February 23, 2015

CHOCOLATE CHUNK BANANA BREAD: Chiquita Banana, Carmen Miranda & More

Today is National Banana Bread Day! I've always loved Chiquita Bananas, especially the logo with Chiquita and her Fruit Hat that was popularized by Carmen Miranda. There was something so foreign and exotic about Chiquita--and Carmen Miranda. I was so taken by all the Carmen Miranda Hollywood productions that when I was in Rio, I made a pilgrimage to Carmen Miranda's home on Avendida Rui Barbosa. Very fun!

So in honor of the day, here are two recipes for Banana Bread adapted from Chiquita Bananas. Just add them to the other recipes I've posted in the past and let me know which one you like best. I added chocolate chunks to both of the following recipes because I love chocolate and bananas. You can also add nuts.  The second recipe is Gluten-free!

Be sure to skim down to Carmen Miranda in the "Tutti Frutti Hat." Here's the 1950s "Chiquita Banana" song!

 

1. Chiquita Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread  
adapted from Chiquita Bananas

Ingredients
4 whole Chiquita Bananas
1 cup All-purpose flour
1 cup Unprocessed wheat bran
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown sugar
3/4 cup Dark Chocolate, chopped
1 cup sweet butter, room temp
2 whole Eggs
1 tsp Madegascar Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Walnuts
1 Tbsp Local Honey

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease large 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whip 2 Chiquita Bananas and sugars until mix is creamy (about 3 minutes).
Add butter, eggs and vanilla and whip until smooth.
Mix in all dry ingredients until blended.
Fold in walnuts and Chopped Chocolate.
Slice two Chiquita Bananas and toss with honey until Chiquita Bananas are well coated.
Pour mix in loaf pan and place honey coated bananas on top.
Bake in oven for 60 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes then place plate on top of pan and flip pan upside down so loaf falls onto plate.

2. Gluten Free Banana Bread with Chocolate Chunks
adapted from Chiquita Banana Bread recipe idea by Alisa Bennett

Ingredients
3 large Chiquita bananas
3 large Eggs
1/4 cup Coconut oil (melted)
1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract
2 cups Almond meal
2 Tbsp Coconut flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup chopped Walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Directions
Puree egg, oil, vanilla, and bananas in blender.
In separate bowl, blend dry ingredients.
Add banana and egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix well.
Fold in chopped walnuts and chopped chocolate.
Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes.

"THE LADY IN THE TUTTI-FRUTTI HAT" from Busby Berkeley's Welcome to Banana Island

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Night at the Oscars: Chocolate Covered Popcorn

The Academy Awards are Sunday night. For "A Night at the Movies" or a Night About the Movies, one must have Popcorn -- dressed appropriately for the occasion. Here's a simple recipe worthy of Oscar viewing!

You can use dark or white chocolate -- or both. Just drizzle some great melted chocolate over your air-popped Popcorn. Drizzle sparingly. Less is more!

CHOCOLATE COVERED POPCORN

1. Make a bag of popcorn (buttered or plain) and pop it according to the directions. (airpopping!)
2. Put popped popcorn into large bowl or flat baking pan (for more even distribution).
3. Melt dark or white chocolate or both (in separate bowls) in top of double boiler (or in microwave).
4. Drizzle chocolate on popcorn. You can always add more chocolate, but you can't remove it, so use sparingly.

Friday, February 20, 2015

MARGARITA TRUFFLES

Sunday is National Margarita Day! What a great way to celebrate the Oscars! Eat your Margarita! As with all recipes, use the very best ingredients -- the best white chocolate, the best Tequila, the best cream. 


MARGARITA TRUFFLES

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped  (I use Guittard white chocolate)
3 Tbsp Lime juice
1-1/2 Tbsp Tequila
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Coating
13 ounces White Chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp Vegetable Shortening
Sea salt

Directions
In saucepan over medium heat, warm cream until small bubbles appear along edges.
Put white chocolate in food processor. Pour hot cream over white chocolate and allow to sit for 15 seconds. Process until smooth. Add Tequila and lime juice and mix briefly.
Pour mixture into shallow pan lined with plastic wrap, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until very firm, about 3 hours.
Put powdered sugar in shallow bowl.
Using plastic wrap, lift ganache mixture from pan.
With small melon baller or spoon take about an inch and roll into ball. Then roll ball in powdered sugar and place on wax paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile melt white chocolate and shortening in top of double boiler (or sauce an over second saucepan over simmering water).
Remove truffles from freezer.
Dip each truffle in white chocolate and place on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
Chill about 15 minutes.
Dip each truffle a second time in the white chocolate.
Sprinkle top of each with a tiny bit of sea salt. 
Chill until firm.
Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

EASY GOAT CHEESE TRUFFLES: THE YEAR OF THE GOAT

恭賀發財 Gung Hay Fat Choy! This is the Year of the Ram (Year of the Goat, Year of the Sheep). Chinese New Year begins today.

O.K. why the confusion of the symbol for this year, as opposed to last year--the Year of the Snake..or prior years: the Year of the Rat, the Year of the Horse, etc.? An article in NBC News explains this creature confusion in 2015. 

It all stems from the fact that the Chinese use one character for horned animals — translated as "yang" in Mandarin, according to Chinese and linguistics professor Wei Hong. Yang, when used to mean goat, is seen as something strong with a "quiet spirit," Hong said. A sheep is considered softer. 

The NBA's Golden State Warriors unveiled Chinese New Year-themed uniforms that they will wear Friday to celebrate what the team calls the Year of the Goat. Meanwhile, the New York City Council is hosting a Lunar New Year event next week touting a Year of the Ram revelry. Geography can also make a difference. Sheep are raised in northern China, while goats are more common in southern China, which plays into what the year is called depending on one's location.
Generally, people in mainland China seem to be keen on calling it the Year of the Goat — a nod to the country's culinary past, Hong said after reading news reports on the confusion. But she suggests English-speakers don't need to lock horns over the debate, and might want to go authentic: Year of the Yang.

So to celebrate Chinese New Year on this blog, I'm going with Year of the Goat--and goat cheese.  I live in the foodie San Francisco Bay Area. There's always great fresh goat cheese at the market and the Farmers Markets. I especially love goat cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery and Redwood Hill Farm. You should be able to find fresh goat cheese at Whole Foods and other local farmers markets.  As always, use the very best freshest cheese and fresh high quality chocolate.

I've posted different recipes for Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles, but this is a really easy one that I found on Epicurious. This recipe originally appeared in Gourmet Magazine, October 1993.

I love the tangy, yet sweet taste of these truffles, and the little bit of lemon gives these truffles a very unique flavor.  For your first time making these, choose a mild goat cheese. A really tangy goat cheese can overpower the sweetness in the chocolate, and it won't be to everyone's taste.


GOAT CHEESE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Ingredients
6 ounces dark chocolate (60-75% cacao organic fair trade chocolate), chopped
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) room temperature fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
1/8 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, sifted, for coating truffles

Directions
In metal bowl set over pan of barely simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from pan, and let chocolate cool slightly.
In different bowl whisk together goat cheese, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice until mixture is light and fluffy. Whisk in chocolate until mixture is combined well. Chill mixture, covered, for 1 hour, or until firm.
Form heaping teaspoons of mixture into balls and roll balls in cocoa powder.
Chill truffles on baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Truffles keep in airtight container, chilled, for 3 days.

恭賀發財 Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chocolate Mint Truffles

Today is Chocolate Mint Day! I grow a lot of mint in my garden, so this holiday is right up my alley (or garden path!). I've posted many chocolate mint recipes, but this year I thought I'd post a recipe for Chocolate Mint Truffles made from real mint! The trick here --and it's an extra step (but worth it)--is to make mint infused cream first!  This fabulous recipe for Herb Infused Mint Chocolate Truffles is adapted from The Herb Farm Cookbook. This recipe may look complicated, but it's really quite easy! And, you know I'm all about easy.

Herb Infused Mint Chocolate Truffles 
Adapted from The Herb Farm Cookbook 

Ingredients 
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
6 sprigs of fresh peppermint or chocolate mint (sprigs should be about 3 inches long)
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder

Directions

1. Infuse cream 
Pour cream into small saucepan and warm over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
Add herbs and submerge in cream, pushing them below the surface with a spoon.
Remove pan from the heat immediately and cover with plate or lid. Leave to steep for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain cream through fine sieve to remove herbs.
Check to see if the cream measures 1 1/4 cups. If not, add more cream until it reaches 1 1/4 cups. Pour cream back into  saucepan.

2. Make Ganache 
Add chopped chocolate to food processor. Warm cream again to full boil. Once it boils, immediately pour cream over chopped chocolate in food processor. Put lid on food processor. Let sit for one minute. Turn on processor and blend until smooth.
Use rubber spatula to transfer ganache to small container. Cool to room temperature then put in refrigerator for a few hours.
Take ganache out of refrigerator and use melon baller or teaspoon to scoop the ganache into balls. Roll between hands to form into ball.
Put cocoa powder in bowl and gently coat truffles.
Put truffles in fridge to harden.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

The other day was National Almond Day, and I totally forgot to post this fab recipe! If you like almonds, be sure and check out all the Almond Grower websites for lots of chocolate and almond recipes. I just love this recipe for Double Chocolate Almond Cookies from Food Network's Ina Gartner (recipe courtesy of Kathleen King).

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ALMOND COOKIES

Ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup almonds, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In medium bowl, combine  flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix together. Add flour mixture and continue mixing until just combined. Add chocolates and almonds and mix until combined.
Using two tablespoons or small ice cream scoop, drop dough two inches apart on sheet pans lined with parchment.
Bake for 15 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheets.
The cookies should be very soft when they are removed from the oven. They will firm up as they cool.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day! Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent, traditionally a period of abstinence, associated with clearing your cupboards of goods such as sugar, fats and eggs. It's commonly known as Pancake Day because it represents a good opportunity to use such ingredients ahead of the fasting period. Pancake Day takes place 47 days before Easter Sunday. Because the date of Easter Sunday is tied to the cycle of the moon, Pancake Day can occur anytime between February 3 and March 9. Today it falls on February 17! In many countries, Shove Tuesday is celebrated with pancake throwing contests and races. Not so much in the U.S.

From Wikipedia: 
Like many other European holidays, the pancake day was originally a pagan holiday. Before the Christian era, the Slavs believed that the change of seasons was a struggle between Jarilo, the god of vegetation, fertility and springtime, and the evil spirits of cold and darkness. People believed that they had to help Jarilo fight against winter and bring in the spring. The most important part of Shrovetide week (the whole celebration of the arrival of spring lasted one week) was making and eating pancakes. The hot, round pancakes symbolized the sun.   

So to celebrate Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day,  you'll want to make pancakes, and I suggest these Chocolate Chip Pancakes. I've listed two easy recipes for Chocolate Chip Pancakes, but you can also make Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes and add chocolate syrup or a dollop of chocolate ice cream...if you're in a chocolate mood. And, if you're giving up Chocolate for Lent, this will be your last chocolate treat until Easter!

1. Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Pancake batter
Chocolate chips

Make a batch of your favorite pancake batter. For every cup of dry pancake mix, add 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Mix batter. Stir in chips. Lightly grease and heat griddle or skillet. Pour a little less than 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. When bubbles appear all over uncooked side of the pancake, it's time to turn over. Cook the second side until light brown.

or, if you don't have your own pancake recipe:

2. Chocolate Chip Pancakes


Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions
Put dry ingredients in bowl. Combine well-beaten egg yolks with buttermilk and stir lightly into dry ingredients. Add chips. Stir in melted butter. Beat in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Cook on griddle or in skillet.
Makes 10-12 pancakes.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Martha Washington's Devil's Food Cake: Presidents Day

Presidents Day: Martha Washington was known for entertaining, and who better than to put forth a recipe for Devil's Food Cake than the First First Lady. Her Devil's Food Cake is a classic chocolate-buttermilk cake that has been handed down through the generations, republished (with variations) by baking chocolate companies and appearing on thousands of websites. Presidents Day is a celebration of Presidential Birthdays, and this is the perfect Birthday Cake.

This recipe is from Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress and All of the Past Presidents by Linda Bauer (Taylor). The collection of appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, from two centuries worth of politicos, is a benefit for Homes for Our Troops, which helps injured veterans build or adapt their homes for handicapped accessibility.

Martha Washington's Devil's Food Cake

Ingredients
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs, well beaten
1 tspvanilla

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-15-inch pan or two 9-inch cake pans.
2. Melt chocolate in double boiler. Add 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup buttermilk, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool.
3. Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift together three times.
4. Cream butter thoroughly. Add 3/4 cup sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add about quarter of the flour mixture, mix thoroughly. Add chocolate mixture and blend. Add remaining flour, alternately with buttermilk, a small amount at time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla.
5. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until done. Let cool. When completely cooled, trim edges and cut rectangular cake in half crosswise to make a two-layer cake. Fill and frost with icing of your choice.


Illustration: San Jose Mercury News Staff

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Life in Chocolate by Eagranie Yuh

Today I welcome Chocolate Expert Eagranie Yuh. Eagranie is the author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit (Chronicle Books, 2014). She’s been interviewed on America’s Test Kitchen Radio and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Best Food Writing 2012 and Best Food Writing 2014. She is the senior editor of Edible Vancouver & Wine Country, and lives in Vancouver, Canada.

EAGRANIE YUH: A Life in Chocolate

I have the best job in the world. I taste chocolate professionally, meet with chocolate makers and chocolatiers, and teach people how to appreciate chocolate. Inevitably, people ask me two questions. One: How did you choose chocolate? Two: How do I get your job?

The first one is easy. The truth is, chocolate chose me. The second one…well, that needs a bit more explanation.

I have a master’s degree in chemistry, but my heart was never in it. I loved and still love science, but in grad school, instead of making liquid crystals (yes, the goo inside your high-definition TV), I pored over food science textbooks and conducted highly meticulous experiments in my kitchen. Afterward, instead of enrolling in a Ph.D. program, I applied to culinary school.

I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, in their pastry arts program. I dreamed of sugar and butter, perfect éclairs and multi-tiered cakes. I started working as pastry chef but inevitably found myself working with chocolate: delicate bonbons for fine dining restaurants, elaborate showpieces for hotels, chocolate decorations for bakeries. Finally, I ended up working for some of Canada’s top chocolatiers before hanging up my toque. Kitchen life is best suited for a certain personality, and I don’t have it.

But all was not lost. Since 2008, I’ve been writing and teaching people where chocolate comes from, and how to appreciate it. And it turns out that the combination of science, chocolate, and writing really makes sense—especially as the world of chocolate has exploded. Small-scale chocolate makers (often called bean-to-bar, or craft chocolate makers) are popping up all over the globe. Grocery store shelves are heaving with chocolate bars. You can order drinking chocolate in chic cafes. People are tasting chocolate like they’re tasting wine, beer, and cheese.

I’d go so far as to say there has never been a better time to love chocolate. And that sounds pretty good to me.  

Read on for tips on how to host a chocolate tasting party in this excerpt from The Chocolate Tasting Kit

How to Host a Chocolate Tasting Party 
Picture this: you, your best friends, and a table strewn with chocolate. Throw in a few choice beverages, the flash cards in this kit, and your trusty chocolate tasting notepad, and you have the makings of a kick-ass chocolate tasting party.

Keys to Success 
The ideal chocolate tasting takes about 45 minutes to an hour, with four to six chocolates to sample.

Aim for four to ten people, with 1/5 oz/5 g of chocolate per person, per sample. For reference, that’s a piece slightly bigger than an almond. A 3- to 4-oz/80- to 100-g bar should accommodate eight to ten people with enough left over for second (or third) tastes.

If you shop at a fine chocolate shop, ask the staff to help you put your purchases in a logical order. Otherwise, sample each bar before your guests arrive. Consider it research.

A good rule of thumb is to taste dark chocolates before milk chocolates, and milk before white. Start with the sweetest (lowest-percentage) dark chocolate and work your way to the least sweet (highest-percentage). Then take the same approach with plain milk and plain white bars, followed by any flavored bars. When tasting flavored bars, taste more delicate flavors, such as fruits or flowers, before stronger ones, such as spices, coffee, or, ahem, bacon.

Have ready your palate cleansers and room-temperature water. Or, pair your chocolate samples with carefully selected coffee, tea, wine, beer, or whiskey. Check out The Chocolate Tasting Kit for more on palate cleansers and pairings.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

PEEPS® FOR VALENTINE'S DAY

I know you can buy all kinds of fabulous chocolates for Valentine's Day. My niece gave me a heart shaped box of Seattle Truffles, and Frank gave me some beautiful truffles from Recchiuti. I have a whole lot of other favorites, but just thought I'd lighten it up with Valentine's Day 'chocolate' offerings from PEEPS®. 

I've blogged about PEEPS before, and I love that they've expanded their line to include lots of holidays besides Easter. The Valentine's Day PEEPS are great. Eat them the way they are --or put them in your cocoa or coffee. Decorate your Valentine's Day presents with them. Skewer a few Raspberry Hearts and tie it to a gift of Cocoa in a Jar! Create a diorama using PEEPS! Stuff a Chocolate Raspberry heart between two graham crackers, and you have Valentine's Day PEEPS S'mores. They're so versatile.

This season there are Valentine's Day fluffy, cherry flavored marshmallow hearts dipped in and drizzled with chocolate, Strawberry Creme flavored Chicks sitting on a bed of chocolate, and there's even a Chocolate-covered Raspberry Heart. Of course there are other non-chocolate PEEPS' hearts that you can dip yourself in some great dark or milk chocolate.

The PEEPS® pictured here:

Milk Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Crème Flavored Chicks
Milk Chocolate Covered Raspberry Heart
Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Cherries Drizzled in Chocolate. .



Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Heart Shaped Red Velvet Bundt Cake for Valentine's Day

I blogged about Red Velvet Pancakes the other day. They would be perfect for Valentine's Day brunch. Just the name Red Velvet screams Valentine's Day! I'm making my Red Velvet Bundt Cake in a hard shaped bundt pan. If you don't have a heart bundt cake pan, you can use any bundt pan. Following are two great Red Velvet Bundt Cake recipes. One is even heart healthy because it's made with beets. Both are delicious.

Most red velvet cakes use red dye. If you're not making the Beet Red Velvet Bundt Cake, you'll need to use red food dye, the kind in the little bottles, if you want to get that really red color (even the Wilton's red paste doesn't quite do it). The first cake uses lots of real beet juice and the color comes very close to a true red. The cake is yummy. Most red velvet cakes I've made call for buttermilk and/or vinegar in them, so the second is perfect in taste. As always, the quality of the chocolate or cocoa will really make the difference!

This Beet Red Velvet Cake is more like a vegetable cake --i.e. a carrot cake or zucchini cake. 
(Adapted from Diana Rattray --Southern Food at About.com)

1. RED VELVET BEET CAKE

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 - 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1- 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (use regular not Dutch Process)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, Canola or corn oil
1-1/2 cups grated cooked beets
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
powdered sugar, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine flour, soda, salt, sugar and cocoa in bowl; set aside.
In mixing bowl, combine eggs and oil. Beat in vanilla and continue beating until well blended. Slowly beat in dry ingredients until well mixed; stir in beets.
Pour into greased and floured bundt cake pan. Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until cake bounces back when touched lightly with finger.
Cool in pan on a rack. Frost cooled cake or dust with powdered sugar.

2. RED VELVET BUNDT CAKE

Ingredients
1/2 cup shortening
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp vinegar
red food color ("2 whiskey glasses full")
1 tsp vanilla

Directions
Mix cocoa with red food coloring to make a paste.
Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Add cocoa paste and beat well. Add flour and baking powder and stir in buttermilk a little at a time. Add salt and vanilla. Add baking soda and vinegar by hand; do not mix too much.
Pour into greased and floured Bundt Pan (or mini-bundt cake pan) Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Chocolate and Wine: a Perfect Indulgence: Natalie Berkowitz

Today, just in time for Valentine's Day, I welcome Natalie Berkowitz. Natalie Berkowitz is a wine, food, and lifestyle writer and the author of The Winemaker’s Hand (Columbia University Press). Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and many other publications. She is also the author of the wine blog Winealicious.wordpress.com. This article is reprinted from her blog with permission. For more information, see: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/the-winemakers-hand/9780231167567

NATALIE BERKOWITZ:
CHOCOLATE AND WINE: A PERFECT INDULGENCE

Chocoholics, those sweet-toothed confection addicts, would likely vote Valentine’s Day the year’s best holiday. Arguably the most popular square on the Hallmark calendar, February 14th is traditionally celebrated with fancy greeting cards, long-stemmed red roses and extravagant jewelry. But when lovers, either those in a new or a long-standing relationship, find diamonds and pearls surpass the realm of possibility, bonbons are a more practical and yummy alternative. Of course, real chocoholics don’t wait for a special holiday to indulge.

If the wrong chocolates can be an uninspired gift, it only takes a modicum of imagination to go beyond the ubiquitous heart-shaped box covered with red cellophane. It’s worth the extra effort to say “I love you” with luxurious artisanal chocolates.

Artisanal is the new, hot buzzword that covers a wide variety of products from cheese to chocolate. Artisanal chocolates are separated from the commercial by their producers’ dedication to freshness, high-quality ingredients and attention to detail. Those of us familiar with the flavor of ordinary commercial chocolates will be surprised by the experience of sensual, hand-crafted, preservative-free bonbons. Hand-made chocolates cast in imaginative shapes and decorated artistically seduce the eye as well as the tongue. Artisanal producers choose dark cacao beans from various geographic regions around the world, each with its own special flavor profile. Then luscious fruit and crunchy nut fillings take our taste buds to another level. Fine chocolates have consistent color and a satiny sheen, both of which are destroyed if refrigerated or kept longer than a month. Dark chocolate is nudging milk chocolate out of first place, making it the current flavor choice of consumers who look for a high butterfat content ranging between 61 to 72 percent and, happily, a lower caloric content since it contains less sugar and milk.

Chocoholics are aware of cocoa’s biochemical reaction that releases endorphins. The sense of bliss it imparts is infinitely easier and more delicious than getting the same result at a gym.

Chocolate-making is an art form. Hand-painted designs, hand-cast, painted, and filled. Imagery adds a wow factor, too beautiful at first glance to eat. They bring a sexy note to a day of love. Visually appealing chocolates with singular, identifiable ingredients are made with the finest raw products.

These treasures are guaranteed to warm a beloved’s heart, but to double the pleasure of Sweetheart’s Day pair the sweetest gift of all with a special wine. Some opine a glass of milk is the best complement to chocolate confections, but more adventuresome spirits will spring for a bottle of champagne, sparkling, or still wine that satisfies both his and her palates. There are many heaven-sent partners guaranteed to transform an ordinary experience into an indulgent happening.

A good wine shop can help customers explore the adventuresome possibilities of serving chocolate with sparking wine and champagne, still or rare dessert wine, brandy, liqueur, Prosecco, port, sherry, and whisky. Carry out the day’s pink and red theme with a Rosé bubbly: Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine or Perrier Jouët non-vintage Rosé from France. Try the Italian sparkler, Mionetto Prosecco or a full-flavored, intense reds still wine. Try an aristocratic Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella for lush, port-like richness. Warre’s light tawny Port, served slightly chilled, is an excellent companion to chocolate. Graham’s Ports, ranging in price, fit the bill with their excellent finesse and character. One chocolatier votes for Sandeman Founder’s Reserve port as a luxurious partner with dark chocolate, but he considers Eiswein as its truest mate.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Truffles for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is all about Chocolate and for me anything red, and that includes cherries. Remember your first Valentine's Day card? I bet it had a red heart on it. I used to love Chocolate Covered Cherries on Valentine's Day.

Here are two recipes for Chocolate Cherry Truffles. One has alcohol (Kirsch - cherry liqueur) and one is non-alcoholic. They're both easy to make which is what this blog is all about. These are my go-to Valentine's Day gifts!

Chocolate Kirsch Truffles
adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
1 pound DARK chocolate (65-75% cacao),  chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sweet butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
4 Tbsp KIRSCH (cherry liqueur)
3 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Directions
Melt chocolate with cream in heatproof bowl or saucepan set over another saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Add butter and Kirsch; stir until smooth.
Transfer to 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm but still maleable (about 2 hours)
Using melon baller, drop balls of chocolate mixture onto rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
Put cocoa powder into large bowl. Using cocoa-dusted hands and working one at a time, roll balls between your palms until smooth.
Roll in cocoa to coat. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Easy Chocolate Cherry Truffles

Ingredients
13 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped  (Trader Joe's has different kinds)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt
1/2 cup DARK cocoa powder

Directions
In saucepan over another saucepan with simmering water, combine chocolate and cream. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Stir in chopped dried cherries, balsamic vinegar and salt.
Pour into small baking pan (8 x 8) and refrigerate until set (about 2 hours).
Put cocoa in a bowl.
Using melon baller, scoop out about a small ball of chocolate mixture.
Place each ganache ball on parchment lined cookie sheet until all chocolate is used up. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Take out of refrigerator and roll into balls with your hands.
Roll balls in cocoa powder until coated.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Red Velvet Pancakes for Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet Pancakes are perfect for Valentine's Day brunch. You can make Red Velvet Pancakes from scratch or use a mix. Add a little extra love by using a heart-shaped pancake mold! Hint: If you use a mold, use several and spray the molds, so the pancakes don't stick.

There are many Red Velvet Pancake Mixes. My favorite Red Velvet Pancake Mix is from The Griddle Cafe, but they're sold out right now. My second choice which is still fab would be the Red Velvet Pancake Mix from Cost Plus World Market which is on sale today 2/11).

Want to make Red Velvet Pancakes from Scratch? Here are two awesome recipes. The first recipe is my favorite, but the second is great, too. Let me know which you like best!

1. RED VELVET PANCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE GLAZE 
(Adapted from About.com)

Pancakes:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp Dark cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
8 ounces buttermilk
4 Tbsp sweet butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp red liquid food coloring
3/4 cup chocolate chips or dark chocolate chopped into chunks

Extra butter or nonstick cooking spray

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk

Directions
Preheat griddle to medium-high heat. In bowl, whisk to combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
In separate bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, buttermilk, butter, vanilla extract, white vinegar and food coloring, whisking to combine completely. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix.
Brush some butter or spray nonstick cooking spray on hot griddle, and spoon batter into desired sized pancakes. Cook until bubbles form in batter, the edges are dry and underside is lightly brown, about 5 minutes, then flip over and cook other side 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat as needed until all batter is used.

As pancakes cook, make cream cheese glaze: 
In small bowl, use fork to stir together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add a little milk if needed to make glaze that has thin enough consistency to drizzle.

To serve, stack three pancakes on a plate and drizzle cream cheese glaze over them.

2. BISQUICK RED VELVET PANCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE GLAZE
(recipe from Betty Crocker)


Cream Cheese Topping
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sweet butter, softened
3 Tbsp milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Pancakes 
2 cups Original Bisquick™ mix
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 cup milk
1 to 1 1/2 tsp red paste food color**
2 eggs
Powdered sugar, if desired

Directions 
1 In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and 3 Tbsp milk with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until topping is smooth. Cover; set aside.
2 In large bowl, stir all pancake ingredients except powdered sugar with wire whisk until well blended. Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat (375°F). (To test griddle, sprinkle with a few drops of water. If bubbles jump around, heat is just right.) Brush with vegetable oil if necessary or spray with cooking spray before heating.
3 For each pancake, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbles form on top and edges are dry. Turn; cook other side until golden brown.
4 Spoon cream cheese topping into resealable food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut off tiny corner of bag; squeeze bag to drizzle topping over pancakes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

** Do not use liquid red food coloring in this recipe**

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bourbon Cream Cheese Brownies

February 10 is National Cream Cheese Brownies Day. I've posted several different recipes for Cream Cheese Brownies including ones from scratch, ones using box box brownie mixes, and a one-bowl recipe.

This recipe, adapted from Southern Living December 2011, is for Bourbon Cream Cheese Brownies. Delicious and easy! I've changed some of the measurements, and I've added pecans, but feel free to adapt what you'd like!

Bourbon Cream Cheese Brownies

Ingredients
5 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher)
3/4 cup sweet butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 - 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, divided
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350.° Line bottom and sides of 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler or saucepan on top of saucepan with simmering water. Whisk in brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add 3 eggs, 1 at time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in vanilla, salt, and 1 cup flour. Fold in pecans. Spread half of batter in prepared pan.
3. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; add 2 Tbsp. flour and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, beating until blended. Add bourbon and remaining 1 egg, beating until blended.
4. Pour cream cheese mixture over brownie batter in pan; top with remaining brownie batter, and swirl together. Once through-- don't overswirl.
5. Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in pan on wire rack (about 1 hour). Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles. Remove foil; cut into squares.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mickey & Minnie's Valentine's Day Chocolate Cookies!

There's nothing quite like a good Chocolate Cookie for Valentine's Day. I make a lot of Heart shaped Chocolate Cookies for Valentine's Day. I always think it's fun to use different Heart Cookie Cutters, so you have different sizes and different shaped hearts. A few years ago at the Flea Market I came across these two cuties. What says Valentine's Day more than the perfect couple -- Mickey and Minnie Mouse!

So here's a great easy Chocolate Cookie Recipe. Use whatever cookie cutters you have.. I'm using Minnie and Mickey!

This great Chocolate Cut Out Cookie Recipe is slightly adapted from Bake @ 350. These cookies hold their shape and are delicious!

CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Ingredients
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dark cocoa powder (Dutch Process)
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 cup sweet butter
1/2 tsp salt (I use course seasalt)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream together butter and sugar until light & fluffy (1-2 full minutes). Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso and salt and slowly add to butter mixture with mixer on low. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick on surface lightly dusted with cocoa powder. Hint: roll soft dough in between sheets of parchment and put in refrigerator for 15 minutes until firm.
Cut out shapes and put on baking sheets.
Freeze for 5 minutes (optional) 
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set.
Let cookies cool for 2-3 minutes and using spatula put on cooling rack.

I don't frost my chocolate cookies, but these cutters would guide the way. I know you'll love the great chocolate taste in these cookies!

What cookie cutters are you planning to use for Valentine's Day?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar: Guest post by Emily Stashower

Today I welcome back blogger, gardener, photographer and chocoholic Emily Stashower with a guest post on Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar!

Emily Stashower: 
Chocolate Bar

If there is such a thing a “Chocolate Heaven” I have been there. Twice . . . in one week. And I’m here to tell you it’s a magnificent place with infinite varieties of chocolate offerings, all done with a dash of humor and extra doses of extra chocolate just in case your sweet tooth craves more. It’s almost unimaginable.

Although I’ve always thought chocolate’s good for me (particularly in difficult times), it takes an assured business to use that saying as their motto. Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar (www.maxbrenner.com) has no problem stating it from the get go:


When you enter the doors to chocolate heaven

you’re seduced by just a few of their many offerings (they encourage customers to “get addicted, be happy”):

The store in my hometown (Bethesda, Maryland) has been so crowded it’s impossible for those of us too impatient for a fix to wait for a seat. Thankfully, most items are available to go.

Think of it as a combination of Starbucks (drinks include Mexican Spicy, Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Tea and other Tea Infused Hot Chocolate, all available with “suckao”; an extra shot of concentrated chocolate), iHop (Pearl Sugar Waffles with flasks of liquid chocolate ganache), Hershey Town (Choctails and Milkshakes, retail chocolates bars and cleverly packaged treats, sundaes and an “I Scream Bar” – a vanilla ice cream bar dipped into chocolate bits and choco-pops), Willy Wonka (chocolate in beakers, chocolate pizza slices, melting heart cakes and many varieties of shakes) all with a distinct dash of “noveau chocolate” (unique granitas, hazelnut crèpe brulee, green tea infused with ganache and other au current specialties). Heavenly.


The chocolate offerings might be enough in and of itself – there is something there to appeal to every palette – yet Max Brenner’s manages to package their outstanding products in an aesthetic, practical and often humorous, container. This, dear reader, is not your mother’s fondue pot: 

If I had to pick one favorite item (and this is not an unbiased choice as my cherished dog’s name is Alice) it would be a Choctail or Milkshake served in their “Alice Cup”):


I was NOT the same size when I left Max Brenner’s.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nutella Truffles: World Nutella Day

Today is World Nutella Day, and here's an easy recipe for Nutella Truffles to celebrate. Nutella is a hazelnut-chocolate spread with the consistency of smooth peanut butter. FYI: Nutella has no artificial colors or preservatives. I think of nutella as goodness in a jar! Nutella is more than just a “chocolaty hazelnut spread,” it is a way of life.

Want to know more about Nutella and today's celebration? Check out these links!

NUTELLA TRUFFLES

Ingredients
1 jar of Nutella
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions
Combine Nutella, chocolate, and butter in saucepan over saucepan of simmering water (or top of double boiler) Whisk until smooth.
Transfer to shallow bowl and put in refrigerator until firm.
When ready to make truffles, remove bowl from refrigerator and let soften a little.
Using a small scoop or spoons, scoop out small balls and.  put on tray and refrigerate another 10-15 minutes.
Put cocoa powder in shallow bowl.
Remove ganache from  refrigerator and with your hands, smooth into balls.
Roll balls in cocoa to coat.
Store in refrigerator. Be sure and take them out for a few minutes before serving.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Double Chocolate Carrot Cake: National Carrot Cake Day

Today is National Carrot Cake Day, and I love carrots, especially when a major ingredient in  cake!  I used to bake carrot cakes in coffee cans. Remember coffee cans? Now my coffee beans come in recyclable paper bags, so no baking in those. I make my carrot cake in a bundt pan, but you can use a square 8" pan or 2 small loaf pans (1 large) for this recipe. You'll love this Double Chocolate Carrot Cake. This recipe is adapted from Southern Food. My adaptation makes it a bit more chocolatey.. no big surprise!

At my farmers markets we have quite a variety of carrots, however, I usually use plain old carrots in this cake..

Double Chocolate Carrot Cake

Ingredients
1-1/2 cup finely grated carrots
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality, of course)
1-1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 handfuls of dark chocolate, chopped: 65-75% cacao

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 350F.
In large bowl, combine carrots, sugar & oil. Pour water over mixture.
In separate bowl, combine rest of ingredients. Add to carrot mixture & mix well.
Pour 1/2 of batter into non-stick or lightly oiled 8" square pan or bundt pan or loaf pan.
Throw in chopped chocolate pieces.
Pour rest of batter over this.
Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes... if you can wait.

The original recipe called for frosting, but it doesn't need it. Plus, this is a great cake to toast for breakfast! 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chocolate Guinness Truffles for Super Bowl Sunday!

Here's an easy recipe for Super Bowl Sunday. Beer, Chocolate & Pretzels! I love Truffles, and they're so easy to make. Chocolate Guinness Truffles are terrific for a Super Bowl party! For my Super Bowl, I'm going to roll them in Crushed Pretzels, but you can use crushed peanuts or beer nuts. If you're a purist, you can always roll them in cocoa!

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS TRUFFLES

Ingredients
3/4 cup Guinness
1 pound dark chocolate -- chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional coatings: Salted pretzels, crushed; Nuts, or Cocoa

Directions
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water.
Gradually stir in cream.
Gradually add Guinness, stirring gently to blend.
Cover and chill overnight.
Shape mixture into 3/4 inch balls, using about a tablespoon of ganache.
Roll in crushed salted pretzels or nuts or cocoa.