Tag Archives: chocolate

(Hello Dolly!) Swalty Chocolate Bars

Well hello there, thanks for stopping by!

I spent the last week in Vegas for a company trip, and upon returning home late on Friday night I knew I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much on Saturday except catch up on sleep.  When a friend invited me to her house for a BBQ, I wanted to accept but knew I couldn’t go empty-handed.  I did a quick survey of my fridge and knew I would have to decide between either (a) going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make a dessert, or (b) making do with what I had on hand, even if that meant making something without butter, eggs, or fresh fruit.  I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I darted into my walk-in pantry (aka storage room) and contemplated my options.  Besides, I wanted to have a nap and going to the grocery store would cut into my precious sleeping time.

You should also know that this dilemma was further complicated by the fact that the hostess of said-BBQ was my lovely hairdresser Wendy, which meant that I couldn’t just show up; I had to show up and look half-decent.  In other words, I couldn’t spend long cooking; I had to do my hair!

Hmm…what to make, what to make.  I started grabbing random pantry ingredients, since the contents of my fridge were rather pathetic – a cake mix (embarrassing but true; I’m a hoarder, remember?), some marshmallows, and chocolate chips for good measure.  A can of petite diced tomatoes rounded out the mix, and with my arms full I sauntered into the kitchen ready to create something edible without having to change out of my sweats to go to the grocery store.

Once in the kitchen, I surveyed my goods, and made the executive decision to make a pan of gooey bar cookie/brownies/whatchamacallits.  Everyone loves chocolate, I reasoned, and a pan full of something would be less finicky to make than drop cookies.  I needed all the time I could get for my nap and hair, after all.

I vaguely recalled that Hello Dolly bars are always a hit at parties, and wondered if I could replicate something similar using what I had on hand.  I scrummaged around and found some shredded coconut and a bag of chopped walnuts in the freezer, and unearthed a can of sweetened condensed milk from the pantry. How this stuff gets here, I’ll never know, but on occasions like this one I’m always grateful to not have to leave my house or pick up TimBits.   I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, ditched the marshmallows and tomatoes, armed myself with an apron and spatula, and got to work!

I began by mixing the dry cake mix with 1/2 c of canola oil, until it formed a dough.  As a sidenote, have you ever made cookies using a cake mix?  I would have probably done that, if I had eggs or butter or the desire to get dressed and leave my house.

Next, I ate 1/4 of the dough patted the dough into a 9×13″ pan that had been lined with parchment paper.

If the dough looks glossy greasy, its because it is.  No way around that one, folks.  This was NOT a situation where I was trying to make something healthy; it was a situation where I was trying to make something quickly so I could do my hair.

It’s all about priorities, after all.

Once I made peace with the grease, I then sprinkled 1 c each of coconut, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips on top of the chocolate base…

…and then poured a can of sweetened condensed milk, otherwise known as nectar of the South, evenly on top.

Sweet, sweet, goodness.

It was at this point that I stared at the pan that was before me; the pan that contained enough sugar to put anyone into a diabetic coma, and wanted to add another layer of complexity.  Since I adore anything that is sweet and salty (or swalty), I recalled the chocolate covered caramel pretzel rods that I love so dearly (and therefore never make), and knew instantly that I needed to add a salty element to these bars.  I dashed into my pantry again, and emerged exactly 11.27 seconds later with a bag of these beauties:

Oh happy day!  I smashed up 10 or so, using the bowl from the chocolate batter base and the jar of coconut since I try to avoid doing dishes at all costs.

I put the pretzel pieces over the sweetened condensed milk, and gently pressed them in so they’d stay put. And not end up on my hips by way of my mouth, since we all know that pretzels like to travel.

I popped the whole lot in the oven, jumped in the shower, and in 25 minutes pulled a pan of pure goodness out of the oven.  I left them to cool, and quickly got ready to head out.

A few hours later, after we were all stuffed with grilled chicken and fabulous side dishes, it was time for dessert.

(I’d show you a picture of the pan when it just came out of the oven, but it looks almost identical to the pre-oven shot so just use your imagination, ok?)

I nervously cut into the pan, not sure what to expect.

They cut cleanly; that was a good sign.

With the disclaimer that this was a last-minute throw together type dessert, I quickly summoned the children to do some quality control prior to placing the bars on a plate and bringing them to the adult table.  The children approved – 6 year olds have discerning palates, in case you weren’t aware – and deemed them “safe” for the grown-ups.

You guys.  These.Are. Awesome.  They are sweet, salty, rich, and decadent.  They are serious. Cut them into small pieces, or have insulin on stand-by. They were referred to as “the best dessert I’ve ever had”, and R told me the only time I could make them again was for special occasions, like winning the lottery.  Yes, they’re THAT good.  Make them for your next BBQ with your hairdresser, or your sister, or your neighbour, or The Bachelorette.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make sure your hair looks good!

Chocolate Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

When you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you that TV would rot your brain? I can’t remember if mine did or not – does that mean my brain has already rotted? Either way, I watched more TV than I should have as a child, and (most days) my brain works alright.

A few years ago, I made the decision to go without a TV.  Criticized by many and understood by few, it was the right thing for me at the time.  Truthfully, I haven’t really missed it, with the exception of a few odd times.  Besides, I always told myself that if I really wanted to watch TV, I could just go to the gym.

Let’s just say I haven’t watched much TV since my days of “Who’s The Boss?” and my gym membership has remained mostly unused since 2007.

The other day, I made a grave mistake: I plugged my TV into the wall, and – lo and behold – I have cable. Who knew?!?!

Naturally, I did what any good Martha-wannabe would do and I turned it to the Food Network.  “Recipe for Riches” was on – have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but it is a reality show of sorts.  Contestants were competing for the best cake in Canada, and the winner will have their product reproduced under the Presidents Choice Brand.  They also win $25,00o in prize money, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One of the final 2 contestants made this cake called Banana Chocolate WOW cake, or something to that effect.  It was a banana cake with a chocolate filling, and a white chocolate cream cheese icing.  One of the judges commented that her cake was good because it wasn’t as dense as banana breads usually are (clearly, banana cake shouldn’t be as dense), and I’ll admit that while at the end of the episode neither she or the cake WOW’d me (or the judges; she lost so you can save yourself the hour it would take to watch the episode), it made me decide to share my version of banana bread with you sooner rather than later.

What are your thoughts on banana bread? Mine are that it is usually too dense, too greasy, too light, or not enough banana flavour.  I know, I’m so fickle! Don’t you agree though? Many quick breads suffer from the same ailment, but many have not yet achieved the perfect flavour/texture balance.

Until now that is.  Enter my new love – chocolate swirled peanut butter banana bread.  Because really, isn’t everything better with peanut butter and chocolate? 

Oil (canola or grapeseed), buttermilk, bananas, brown sugar, peanut butter (I like natural), vanilla, AP flour, WW flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, chocolate chips.

In a large bowl, mash 3 large bananas.

Add 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/3 c oil, 1/3 c buttermilk, 1/3 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 1.5 t vanilla, and beat until everything is well acquainted.

In a separate bowl, stir 1 c AP flour, 1 c ww flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 3/4 t baking soda, and 1/2 t salt together.

Stir the dry ingredients in by hand until everything is just barely incorporated.

No one will eat your banana bread if you don’t.

Wondering when the chocolate joins the party? Grab yourself about 1 c of batter in a separate bowl, and sift in 2 -3 T of cocoa powder.

That, my friends, is why we sift. Use a spoon to smoosh the cocoa pebbles (is that a cereal? I was deprived as a child so I’m not sure) through the sieve, then use the spoon to do a little QC on the batter.

But wait! There’s more:

In this instance, “more” refers to about 1/3 c of chocolate chunks.  Did I measure? Ya right.

Stir the batter together, and set it aside.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (I doubled the recipe when I took pictures – this bread is in high demand – so please don’t stretch this 4 ways unless you have a hidden talent for multiplying banana bread), and pour about 2/3 of the regular batter in.

Dallop most of the chocolate batter on top…

Top it off with the rest of the regular batter, and whatever you left in the chocolate bowl.  Unless of course you thought the rest of the chocolate batter was for sampling, in which case you go right ahead.

Gently swirl the two batters together.  Make sure you use a clean skewer for each pan so the swirls are equally distinct.

Bake at 350-degrees for about 40-50 minutes.  These babies took exactly 42 minutes in mine.  Aren’t you proud Mom? I used a timer!

In the pan, they smell delicious.

But once I sliced into them?

To me, this is the quintessential banana bread – not too light, not too dense, hints of peanut butter, and a rich chocolate swirl.

Claimed by some to be the best banana bread they’ve ever had, all I can say is WOW.

(Note: Recipe adapted from the wonderful Julie.)

Strawberry And White Chocolate Stuffed Eggnog French Toast

(I hereby give myself an award for the blog post with the longest title – oy vey!)

I am not a fan of breakfast.

There – I said it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 95% of the time I’d rather be sleeping or if I have a legitimate distaste for the traditional breakfast foods, but the idea of steel-cut oats just doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning.  Or cereal, I’ve never been a fan of cereal.  Soggy grains in milk? No thanks, I’ll pass. In the summer I’ll whip up a quick smoothie, but when I look outside and see snow that is just about as appealing as spending 3 continuous hours on the StairMaster, followed by running a marathon.  Besides, I hate feeling rushed in the morning, and if I actually make myself a “real” breakfast I tend to be more rushed than normal.  Not quite the best way to start my day, if you know what I mean.

Now brunch, on the other hand, is a completely different animal.  I can handle brunch.  In fact, I quite enjoy it!  I think brunch is the new coffee date, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.  I love lingering over brunch with a good friend (or 5), catching up, and not feeling any time pressure to be anywhere or do anything else.  Brunch feels special, since those types of days don’t happen super often.

As you may have picked up on by now, one of my favourite things to do is to open up the pantry and/or fridge and just start combining.  After all, it’s how I first learned how to cook and it is what comes most naturally to me.  On top of this innate desire to play, I also hate to waste food.  What can I say – I’m Scottish!

(It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?!)

Unfortunately (or is it?), I get bored pretty easily and so leftovers are often abandoned in favour of their newer, more exciting cousins.  So…when I looked out the window and saw 2″ of snow (which, by Vancouver standards, is enough to paralyze the entire city…CRAZY I know), opened up my fridge and saw eggnog that was begging for one last chance to shine before being dumped down the drain, and a hunk of french bread on the counter I knew what had to be done.

Brunch on a snow day? Yes please!

Eggnog, egg, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, strawberries, white chocolate, bread.

In a shallow dish, whisk together 3/4 c eggnog, 1 egg, 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 t nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

Bonus points if you can find your nutmeg in the abyss of your pantry and grate it fresh.  If you can’t…while, you’ll just have to make this 3x as penance.

Now, I’d like to provide you with a little MDM-style disclaimer: I am fully aware that it’s January, and that in January most people make resolutions to cut back on their fat and sugar consumptions.  I thought about showing you something healthy and delicious…but when I saw the snow all of my logic went out the window and I started for looking for ways to add more fat and sugar to an already-rich dish.

I’m twisted, I know.  I also know that many of you live vicariously through me, so please don’t send me hate mail.

So I thought to myself, while regular eggnog French Toast is good, why not stuff it with chocolate? So I did.  But I added strawberries too, just for good measure.

Since strawberries that are in the grocery stores taste like cardboard aren’t seasonal, I quickly pureed some frozen ones.

One of the most beautiful aspects of French Toast is that it turns out better when it’s made with stale bread.  Love that!  You could use whatever type of bread you have lying around, but I had the last of a loaf of French bread to play with. I sliced it into thick slices, and then made a pocket in each slice.  Don’t cut all the way or the filling will escape!

Put a spoonful of the strawberry puree into the pocket…

And then stuff some good-quality white chocolate in there too.

And please remember, if you wouldn’t eat the chocolate as-is, DO NOT USE IT FOR COOKING!

I’m sorry for yelling, but I feel very strongly about this.

If you had eaten the same melting wafer that I did, you would understand.

Repeat the bread-stuffing process until you run out of bread, filling, or get bored.

Dip the (stuffed) bread into the eggnog mixture, one side at a time.

And then place each slice into a hot skillet.  Not too hot though – the trick with French Toast is that you want it to brown on the exterior, but also to not taste like raw egg (nog) when you take your first bite.

After a few minutes, gently flip each piece.  Looking good!

When you’re ready to eat, dust each piece with some icing sugar.  This is brunch after all, we might as well get a little bit fancy!

Dip in the leftover strawberry puree, if you feel so inclined.

Or maple syrup.  Up to you.  This is pretty rich, but a nice change of pace from your basic French Toast.  Whatever you do, if only for today, please linger and enjoy.  If there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that snow day brunches are a very good thing.

Love and best dishes!

Jaclyn

P.S. Don’t be surprised to see a mango-coconut French Toast in the future…or a blueberry-cream cheese one…or peanut butter and chocolate filled…

P.P.S.  Have more eggnog than you know what to do with? Try these scones – they’re delicious, I promise!

Chocolate-Covered Caramel Pretzels

Happy New Year my loves! I don’t know about you, but I am SO excited that 2011 is finally here…so excited that I had to make swalty* pretzels to celebrate.

* Swalty = sweet and salty, a term coined by my friend “Jon” (name may or may not have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent)

I know what you’re thinking – shouldn’t we be talking about spinach smoothies, grainy salads, or fish now that it’s January 1? Well, quite frankly, no! I am fully aware that about 99% of us resolve to eat healthier and exercise more come January, but I have to get something off of my chest: I have a comfort zone, and it involves butter and chocolate . And cheese, but that’s another post for another day.  I’m tired of setting myself up for failure following the crowd! The year I resolved to eat more sugar and saturated fat.

I want to give myself resolutions I can stick to, you see.

Besides, we have 364 days left to go to the gym.  Today, just focus on making these pretzels.  Trust me, the Stairmaster isn’t going anywhere.

Just to make some of you feel better, I used multigrain pretzels, thereby making these health food.

I just solved your internal dilemma, so let’s play already!

Here’s what you need:

White sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, sweetened condensed milk, sea salt, vanilla, pretzels, chocolate (I used milk and white).

Allow 1 c each of white and brown sugars and corn syrup, 1/2 c butter, and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk to get acquainted over medium heat.

Mood lighting optional.

Once everything has melted together and the mixture has come to a boil, set your timer for 5 minutes and stir constantly so the caramel doesn’t burn.  I could tell you what temperature you’re looking for, but there really isn’t a need to complicate things today.

And also, I’m at my parents house right now and I’m not sure where my Mom keeps her candy thermometer.

Take the pot off the heat, and add vanilla extract or paste, and a pinch of sea salt.

Ladle up some of the caramel in a mug and begin dipping the pretzels!

Let the excess drip off, then put the pretzels on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.  Repeat until you get bored, or until you run out of pretzels or caramel.

Let the caramel harden for a few hours at room temperature, or speed up the process by putting the pan in the fridge.

Both of my parents fridges are full to the brim, so I had no choice but to wait it out at room temperature.

So I ate some chocolate to console myself.

You can too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I decided to use milk chocolate for these pretzels, but dark chocolate would also be nice.  A word of caution – use good quality chocolate for these pretzels. I sampled a “melting wafer” and gagged, so I was very thankful that I had the foresight to throw a few bars of Belgium milk chocolate in the grocery cart the other day.

Melt the chocolate chunks with a smidge of butter in a bain marie or in a mug in the microwave if the idea of boiling water on the stove sounds like a lot of work to you.

If you choose to melt the chocolate in the microwave, as I did, make sure you don’t try to rush the process by zapping it at the highest heat.  Low and slow is the way to go, and stir every 30 seconds or so.

Dip the caramel-covered pretzels in the chocolate, and place back on the parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  If you had a lot of excess caramel that didn’t stick to the pretzels, you might want to re-line the pan.  Otherwise, the same one you used is probably fine.

Sprinkle the top with some flaky seat salt, if you feel so inclined.

Or what about drizzling the tops with some white chocolate?

You could really top these with anything you’d like – I was tempted to sprinkle the top with some chopped and toasted nuts, or some Craisins, or Skor chips, or even to stir a big spoonful of PB into the chocolate before dipping.

But you know what? I resisted.  And these swalty pretzels are fabulous just as they are.

Don’t you just love healthy food?!?!

P.S. I made 2 cookie-sheets full of these pretzels and got bored, so I poured the leftover caramel into an 8 x 8″ pan that was lined with parchment paper.

I’m planning on cutting it into squares tomorrow for soft caramels, but if you could really do anything with the leftover caramel….dip some apples, some celery, or your arm, for example.

Don’t act like the thought didn’t already cross your mind.

To new New Years Resolutions involving chocolate and caramel instead of celery and Stairmasters – Cheers!

Jaclyn

Uh-oh…

I baked.

It was good.

The end.

Peanut Butter Bars

Of all of the beautiful partnerships in the world, could there be anything more perfect than peanut butter and chocolate?  I think not!  As in any good relationship, both chocolate and peanut butter can stand firmly on their own merits, but when put together, true magic happens.   Whether its freshly ground dark chocolate peanut butter at Whole Foods, a grilled peanut butter and chocolate sandwich, or Moose Tracks ice cream on a hot summer day, I love me some chocolate and peanut butter in just about any form!

Of course, no conversation regarding peanut butter and chocolate is compete without paying homage to good ol’ Reese’s.  If I don’t feel like baking (yes, it happens), I seek out alternative sources to fulfill my cravings. I have never been disappointed when I rip into that tell-tale orange wrapper and sink my teeth into that creamy peanut butter filling that is tenderly enclosed in rich milk chocolate…but I have been too lazy to go to the store to buy one when nothing else will satisfy.  Since I know that a craving as strong as this one just doesn’t disappear on its own, I did what any good sugar addict Modern Day Martha would do: I figured out how to make them myself, only in bar form because its easier and that means less time in between construction and consumption.

Step #1: Measure out 1 c each of graham cracker crumbs and icing sugar – artwork optional.

Step #2: Melt 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c peanut butter, and take the blurriest picture known to blog readers on the wrong camera setting.

Step 3: Mix them together.  I feel like a yenta – I’m making connections between soul mates!

Step #4: Press the mixture into a pan that’s been lined with parchment paper, unless you enjoy making your life more complicated than necessary.

Step #5: Melt some chocolate chips (I used about a cup of semi-sweet, but you could use milk chocolate if you want to) and a few tablespoons of peanut butter in the same pan that you melted the butter and peanut butter in earlier. Once again, only wash/use a new pan if you enjoy delaying the amount of time it will be until you can eat a bar. Or five.

Step #6: Taste a bit of the chocolate for quality control purposes, and then spread it on top of the bars.

Step #7: Stick the whole pan in your fridge, and forget about it for 2 days.

HA! You didn’t believe me on that last step, did you?!?!

Or…once they’ve chilled and the chocolate has hardened, let the bars sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before attempting to cut. I know, it’s weird to tell you to put them in the fridge so the chocolate hardens and then take them out of the fridge so its soft again, but you’re just going to have to trust me.  I know I’m difficult to deal with sometimes, but trust is the foundation for any good relationship.

Step #8: Eat as many as you can handle in a 24-hr period, and then feed the rest to your friends and co-workers once you realize that you shouldn’t be left alone with something this delicious.  Hey, its either their diets being sabotaged or mine!

Step #9: Fall in love all over again.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the studies that prove that chocolate is good for us.  Dr. Oz says that we “need dark chocolate with 70 percent or more pure cocoa to reap the benefits of flavonoids…the really powerful, vitamin-like substances that dilate the arteries of the body”.  As smart as I am, who am I to argue with Dr. Oz?

So, now it has been established that chocolate is a health food, let’s talk about dessert.  Nibbling on a chunk of chocolate never fails, but sometimes, cake is the only thing that will fit the bill.  I don’t know about you, but I appreciate a good piece of chocolate cake.  No, not the pale-brown spongy stuff that if it weren’t for the colour you might not know what you were eating, but the rich, dense, almost black kind.  True, what I’m about to show you is hardly what many of us consider cake – especially without any flour – but it will show that craving who’s boss in no time flat. Are you brave enough to join me?

The cast of characters:

Eggs, chocolate, butter, vanilla, and espresso powder. Sometimes simple really is best.

As with most baking, preheating your oven is the first step – 325 in this case.

Next, we must get the pan prepared. Using a springform pan is easiest; line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the sides. We’re going to cook the cake in a water bath – more on this in a moment – so wrap the outside of the prepared pan in tinfoil while you’re at it, ok?

Alright, time to get the party started!  We need 1 lb of best-quality chocolate for this cake, and you can use semi-sweet, bittersweet, or a combination of the two with equally good results. I used a 100-g bar of 70% cocoa (Dr. Oz approved) to start things off:

And then coarsely chopped up some good-quality semi-sweet chocolate to total 1 lb:

Now, just a word to the wise (aka you): this dessert has a very limited ingredient list, which means that the quality of each individual ingredient matters more than it would if we were making something else.  If you’re going to make this cake, please don’t skimp on the chocolate – use the best you can afford to buy!

Speaking of only using the best, it’s time for the butter to be cubed up:

That would be a total of 1c of butter, for those of you keeping track.

Add the butter to the bowl with the chopped chocolate to keep yourself from doing continous quality control sampling on the chocolate shards.

Remember the instant espresso powder? It will help accentuate the chocolate, so measure 1 TBSP into the cutest espresso cup you own:

Dissolve the espresso powder by adding 1 TBSP of pure vanilla extract to the mug and stirring it for a few seconds.

Add the espresso/vanilla mixture to the same bowl with the chocolate and butter, and set it aside for a minute.

Time to crack those eggs! I used Omega-3 eggs, hence the bright orange yolks, but you can use whatever kind you like as long as they’re cold.  Crack 8 into a bowl.

Beat the eggs on medium-high speed for abour 5 minutes or until they’ve doubled in volume…this will take 5-7 minutes depending on whether you’re using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or your biceps.

While the eggs are doing their thing, we need to melt the chocolate.  My preference is to use a double boiler or bain-marie, but you can use your microwave if you must. But really, must you?!?!

If you’ve never used a bain-marie, all you need to do is place your (heatproof) bowl on top of a pot of simmering water.  So easy!

Now would be a good time to boil a kettle of water for the water bath, too.

Want to see what the chocolate looks like as it melts?

Hmmm not QUITE there yet…let’s give it another minute.

(cue Jeopardy music…)

Ta-da!!!

Please resist the urge to grab a straw and drink this delicious looking and smelling concoction as-is.  Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Better not forget about the eggs – how do you think they’re looking by now?

Gently fold about 1/2 of the beaten eggs into the melted chocolate mixture:

When almost all of the eggs have been incorporated, gently fold in about 1/2 of the remaining eggs and then repeat one more time until all of the eggs have been folded in.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan like so:

Put the springform pan into a large roasting pan and then pour boiling water all around it until it’s about half-way up the sides of the springform pan. This, my friends, is what I meant when I said we were going to bake the cake in a water bath.

I know what you’re thinking – why bother with the water bath? Quite simply, using a water bath will help ensure that the cake reaches a safe temperature to ward off any salmonella without developing hard edges around the exterior of the cake.  Equally important, it will also allow you to receive a steam facial while baking a cake.  Aren’t you glad you asked?

Bake the cake for about 22 – 25 minutes – the edges will just be beginning to set, and the middle will still look undone.  Just have faith, I promise this will work out even though it would appear that you will be serving your guests raw cake batter.

Remove the cake from the water bath and let it cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature.

While the cake is cooling, I suggest we make some raspberry coulis.  Feel like joining me?

Throw 12-oz of fresh or frozen raspberries, 5 TBSP of sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/4 c water in a pot.

Simmer for a few minutes until the berries are thawed (if using frozen), and then mash up with a potato masher.

Let the whole mixture cook down for a few minutes until its thickened up, and then pour it into a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and allow it to drain.

Eventually, all that will be remaining will be the seeds, which you can either discard or feed to the neighbourhood children.

Juice a lemon, and add about 2 tsp of juice to the coulis to brighten everything up.

Check it out – my favourite colour is below:

Are you ready for cake yet? I am.

Since presentation is very important, put the cake on a pedastal and dust the top with a little bit of icing sugar…

Cut into 4 slices (if serving women) or 16 (if serving men).  Place a slice in the middle of some of the raspberry coulis, and then garnish with some whipped cream, raspberries, and mint if you feel so inclined.

And the verdict?

As you can see, everybody hated this cake.  You probably will too, if you hate things that are dense, rich, smooth, and satisfying.  In fact, you probably shouldn’t make this.  BUT if you do, will you save me a slice? Please?

Car Snacks

I’m heading to Kelowna in the morning, and since I have a fear of being trapped in a moving vehicle for 3.5 hours without any snacks I figured I better make something for the road lest I get hungry and have to resort to over-priced gas station snacks.  Besides, I’m practically a soccer mom in training and would never want to disappoint my fellow passengers! Inspired by Angie’s pantry purge and a recipe I found in this cookbook I opened up the cabinets and pulled out the makings of something portable, something chewy, and something chocolatey.

The goods:

Puffed wheat cereal, oatmeal, craisins, dried apricots, mixed nuts, coconut, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla.

In a large bowl, measure out 3 c of cereal, 1 c oatmeal, 1/2 EACH of craisins, apricots (quartered), mixed nuts, coocnut, and sunflower seeds.  Add 1/4 c of flaxseed, too.

Stir it all together and set aside.  I could probably eat this as-is, and I don’t even like cereal.

In your oldest and most beat-up saucepan, mix 1/2 c EACH of peanut butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and honey.

Hypothetically, I could have cooked it over medium heat and it would become smooth. Unfortunately, mine never melted properly…not sure why. Maybe it just needed more time?

I figured that melting it the the microwave would work better, so I zapped it for about 30 seconds and that seemed to help some.

Can’t forget the vanilla – add 1 tsp and all will be right with the world again.

Pour the (semi) liquid ingredients over the cereal mixture.

And attempt to stir until everything is coated and combined.

It’s time for me to confess my (lack of) brilliance.  I was having a hard time stirring the cereal, so I figured I would just use my hands.  Do you think I remembered that the chocolate part had just come off the stove and then had been microwaved?  Oops. And ouch.  However, I’m not one to quit at half-time so I kept going, kneading the mixture with my asbestos hands until it formed one giant ball of goodness.

Dump everything whole bowl into a greased 9 x 13″ pan. Do you wish you were at my house to lick the bowl yet?!?!

Press into an even layer, and let it cool while you ice your hands.

Cut into bars, wrap in plastic, and back in your overflowing bag.

The million-dollar question: how do they taste????

Chewy, light, crunchy, sweet, and salty all in one.  I’m looking forward to the car ride now!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

So a few months ago I casually mentioned to a friend of mine (who also happens to work at Starbucks) that I really liked Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup, and asked what the chances were of me obtaining some since Starbucks doesn’t appear to sell the syrup in the stores.  Well, lo and behold, a few weeks after that conversation he showed up at my front door with almost 2L of the stuff! Since that blissful day, I’ve enjoyed the syrup in coffee and tea, and given some away, but I still have over half the jug in my fridge tempting me begging to let it come out and play…to shine…to fulfill its calling in life…to enrich lives with its sweet spicy goodness.

Fast forward to last week – I made these brownies (slightly adapted from this book) for an event at my office, and while we were devouring them nibbling here and there, a few of us were discussing possible variations and these brownies were born when we collectively started drooling over the mere idea of them.  Due to popular demand (and me figuring out how to embed links to give credit where credit is due) I’ll also start posting the amounts of things of things I make…except when I don’t measure.  Please be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day, people.

Enough chatting – time to get cooking.  Here’s what we’re going to need:

Flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, cream cheese, pumpkin spice syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and espresso powder.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8 x 8″ pan. If you’re feeling really insecure about the state of your baking pans, line it with parchment paper too.  I had a spare disposable aluminum one kicking around so I wasn’t too worried (since I could just cut the pan off of the brownies if push came to shove) but if I was using a regular pan I probably would have gone for the added layer of insurance protection that parchment offers.

While we’re on the topic – do you have a convection setting on your oven? I do and I love it; I use it almost exclusively when baking, and my oven automatically adjusts the temperature to be 25 degrees less than I program it for when its on the convection setting so these brownies were cooked at 325 degrees instead of 350.  Give it a try if you can!

In bowl #1: Sift together the following:

1 c AP flour

1/2 c cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

In bowl #2: Beat a block of cream cheese (8-oz package) until its smooth.

Then to turn it into this…

Add the following:

6 TBSP pumpkin spice syrup

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP flour

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In bowl #3: Dissolve 1 tsp espresso powder in 1 tsp water and 1 tsp vanilla. If you don’t have any espresso powder you can buy some here.  This is going to help enhance the chocolate flavour without adding any additional fat – bonus! Now we can eat more than one guilt free.

In bowl #4: Blend 1/4 c melted butter with 1 1/4 c sugar.  It will look like wet sand, but resist the urge to try to create sculptures out of it.  While undoubtedly delicious as-is, this buttery-sugary mixture has a higher purpose my friends, and we must not interfere with it.

Ok, I know that seems like a lot of steps but it will be way easier to assemble the brownies with all of the prep work done ahead of time.  So, without further ado…

Add 2 eggs & the espresso-vanilla-water to the creamed butter-sugar mixture until its well blended and smooth.

Stir in the flour-cocoa mixture and mix by hand until its all incorporated.  This dough is rather stiff, so keep stirring…

…and stirring until its all combined.  Yum.  Who doesn’t love brownies?!?

Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.

Pour the cheesecake mixture on top…

…and then drop the remaining brownie batter (you didn’t think you were going to get to lick the bowl yet, did you?!?!) on top. I know this doesn’t look like much yet, but we must keep the faith!

Swirl the batters together gently to create a slightly marbled effect. Did you know you can tell a lot about a person by the way they swirl batters together?

Please send all psycho-analysis to me so that I can gain a deeper understanding of myself. Thank you in advance.

Oh yes, and bake the brownies for 30 – 35 minutes. I knew I was forgetting something!

How good do these look?!?!

Hmmm…now that I think about it…I don’t know how to say this delicately, but these brownies look rather…slightly…naked.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  You are? Good. Glad we’re on the same page.

MUCH better, don’t you think? That extra ganache that was in my fridge was also begging to be given a second chance, and I will now be able to sleep better tonight knowing that it too has had its time in the spotlight.

And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:

Delicious.  Pure deliciousness.  I love it when experiments work out, don’t you? These my friends, are definately a good thing.

2-Bite Brownies

I like bite-sized sweets.  Something about them just seems too precious for words, but the downside is that they can often be more finicky than just making one massive cake.  With this in mind, I decided to do something simple but still somewhat elegant.  And involving chocolate, because I follow direction well.

You know those little 2-bite brownies you can get at the grocery store? Pick some of those up and get them ready for duty by arranging them upside down on a wire rack over a cookie sheet. I know what you’re thinking – she’s using store-bought brownies?!?! Yes, my friends, I am.  Any why shouldn’t I? These are pretty darn good, and besides, they will prevent me from having to clean my mini muffin tin. It’s important to have priorities in life you know!

Next, chop some good chocolate.   5 oz should do the trick!

Heat up some heavy cream – 1/2 c is what I’m using today – but be careful not to let it burn!  While its warming up, put the chopped chocolate in a bowl.  When the cream is nice and hot, pour it over the chocolate…

…and whisk it together until the chocolate is melted.  Try to resist eating it all at this point; this ganache has a greater purpose!

Remember the brownies? You can either pour the ganache over top of them, or dip each one individually.  I twirled mine (mainly because I didn’t want to waste any ganache), but you can do whatever strikes your fancy. Could this get any easier?!?!

This is what separates the good from the great.  Truth be told, we could leave these brownies just like this and no one would complain.  BUT if we garnish them with a chocolate-covered espresso bean? Well, I’ll let the picture speak for me:

Wait! I almost forgot! What should we do with the leftover ganache???

Any ideas? Send them my way!