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Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

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Can I set the record straight on something please? Just because I’m from Canada does not mean that I am used to cold weather. Vancouver is, on most occasions, a very mild city. It rarely snows and when it does the snow doesn’t stay around for more than a few days. Celsius temperatures dropping past zero? That’s also fairly uncommon. Think Seattle. Think even Portland. But please don’t think igloos, the North Pole or sled dogs.

All of this to say that I’m freezing my butt off in Chicago these days. Snow constantly on the ground coupled with wind from the lake and temperatures around -15C are not my idea of fun.

How am I coping with this ridiculous weather?

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– drinking copious amounts of Bailey’s and hot chocolate

– Christmas movie marathons consisting of Elf, Home Alone 1 and 2, and Love Actually

– never leaving the house (this might be an exaggeration)

– reading “City of Thieves” by David Benioff

– Baking. A lot.

– Eating. A lot. (see above)

So it should come as no surprise that when a half batch of these peanut butter pretzel bites were made and disappeared on Saturday that a full batch was made on Sunday. Embarrassing. But seriously these are knock your socks off delicious and only eating one at a time is the funniest joke/most difficult challenge I’ve ever heard of.

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Christmas baking at its finest.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Recipe from Two Tiny Kitchens

1 cup creamy peanut butter     2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup icing sugar                  3/4 cup brown sugar

Pretzels                                   Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a stand mixer.

Add the icing sugar and brown sugar. Mix to combine.

If the filling will not roll easily into balls without sticking to your hands add more icing sugar until the right consistency is reached.

Use a teaspoon to scoop the filling.  Roll each portion into a small ball, then sandwich between two whole pretzels and place on an aluminum foil lined pan.  Place the completed pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted.  Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate.

When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely.  Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.

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Christmas cookies are serious business and a little bit overwhelming. There’s so much to choose from, so many new and amazing recipes to try while at the same time there’s always the old faithfuls that get made yearly. But why do those annual treats get made? And are they really as good as I think? Or is it the nostalgia that keeps us baking them year after year?

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I love the fact that come Christmastime my father makes his yearly appearance in the kitchen and proceeds to go on a baking spree. Traditional Christmas puddings, brown fruit cake, white fruit cake, and crepes make up his repertoire, all recipes handed down to him by his parents. But let’s be honest for a minute. No one really likes the traditional Christmas pudding that gets doused in scotch and set ablaze. And the fruit cakes? It’s my favorite when they get pulled out of the freezer in June because we still haven’t finished eating them, because who even wanted to eat them in the first place?

Call me crazy, but I would be perfectly content with a refillable glass of egg nog and an endless tray of Nanaimo Bars for the entire holiday season. No other cookies or treats are necessary or required for me. That being said, I’m glad that there are always so many other options.

Like these for instance. I made these yesterday for a pot luck and they were a hit. Peanut butter cookies that are stuffed with mini Reese’s. And not only are they cookies, but they are baked in mini muffin tins, so it feels way more satisfying to bite into compared to a thin cookie.

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My dad tried to convince me to put some of the dough into the jumbo muffin tins and then put a regular Reese’s into the center of each “cookie.” Jumbo size. I think he might be onto something. I think I might know where my sweet tooth comes from.

I like these and am mentally adding them to my Christmas baking list for future years. Now pass me the egg nog.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

1 3/4 cup flour           1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda       1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar   1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup brown sugar  1 egg

1 tsp vanilla               2 tbsp milk

Mini Reese’s peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy.

Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk.

Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix well.

Shape into 35-40 balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball.

Cool and carefully remove from the pan.

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I realize that this post might be a bit out of season but here it is. My favorite month of the year? Easy, September. Hello sunny warm days and cool sweatshirt evenings, the start of football season (go Seahawks), a new school year, fall leaves and everything else good. Yes my favorite season is fall. Close runner up? Summer. Duh. Holidays, the lake, water skiing, camp fires, traveling, there is nothing wrong with this situation.

Foods associated with my favorite seasons: pumpkin, apples, cranberries, and pumpkin (it’s that important that it needs to be repeated) for fall, and berries, fresh fruits and produce, s’mores and bbqs for summer.

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Where I’m going with this is that it was fate for me to make these cupcakes. Pumpkin s’more cupcakes? Hello best of both worlds/seasons.

I have to be honest here, I’m not a cupcake fan. They just don’t make any sense to me. I’m probably the ugliest eater ever so that works out perfectly when I’m handed a cupcake. Can’t I just have a full piece of cake all to myself that I can top with ice cream and eat with a fork like a lady? What a joke. But whenever I’m with the Minnesotan we bake cupcakes. Turns out they are growing on me. Especially thanks to these.

These cupcakes were pretty up there. The pumpkin was delicious, the graham cracker crust was a bit over the top, the hidden chocolate was my favorite, and the marshmallow topping was definitely all right. Again some honesty, next time I’d switch things up a bit, keeping the pumpkin and chocolate combo and topping it all of with a cream cheese icing.

Yes there will be a next time.

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After all, now that we’re entering into winter I’m going to need something to do to keep myself from getting depressed about all of this rain and darkness. 7 more months until summer. But who’s counting.

Pumpkin S’more Cupcakes

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Graham Crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with lines.

Combine the melted butter and graham crumbs together, mixing well until combined.

Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon into each cupcake liner, pressing with the back of a spoon to form a crust.

Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups brown sugar      1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla                       1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup pumpkin                1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda                1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt                         1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup milk

Whisk egg and sugar together in a large bowl until combined and no lumps remain.

Add in vanilla extract and butter, then whisk in pumpkin puree.

Add in flour, baking soda, powder, salt and pumpkin spice, then add in milk and stir until combined and smooth.

Drop about 1/4 cup of batter on top of each graham cracker crust, filling the liners 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until cupcakes are set and spring back at the touch. Let cool completely.

Fudge Ganache filling
4 ounces mini chocolate chips
2 tbsp heavy cream

Combine and heat the heavy cream and chocolate chips in a pot over the stovetop stirring frequently until melted and combined.

Let sit until cupcakes are cool, then fill a pastry bag with the chocolate and insert the top straight down into the cupcake, squeezing the ganache inside.

Marshmallow Frosting

2 large egg whites            1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar     1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heat-proof bowl. Place over top of a double-boiler that contains simmering water and whisk constantly 3-4 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are slightly warm.

Remove the bowl and using a beater, initially beat on slow, gradually increasing the speed to high.

Beat 6-7 minutes until glossy and thick, then beat in vanilla until combined.

Frost the cupcakes.

Torch the frosting or place in the oven on grill to create the toasted effect.

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What to bake when the weather decides that it is no longer summer and suddenly dives into fall and does a complete 180? Pumpkin things? It should happen. Warm soups? I’m still not on the band wagon. Apple treats? Definitely fall like.

What do I opt for? Strawberries. Just trying to bring back the warm weather and the excitement that last June brought. You’re all welcome/could I be any more backwards?

Quite a while ago, a friend on my soccer team brought homemade banana bread to one of our games to share post-victory (best teammate ever award goes to Carla).

Side-note, banana bread pairs much better with soccer than the typical half time oranges that I never was a fan of. Good thing my mother was my childhood team’s “orange lady” and decided that hot chocolate was a good idea for half time too. Thanks mom for encouraging my fat years.

Back to the banana bread. It was amazing, I wanted the recipe, I got the recipe, I altered the recipe, I devoured the entire loaf to myself. What else is a girl to do when she’s home alone for a month!? This loaf would be delicious no matter what you throw in, I decided to get creative (a rarity) and opted for strawberries AND chocolate chips alongside the banana, but do what works for you.

Would these be good as muffins? Obviously. Breakfast? When else do you eat muffins? Post-work out? Tested and approved. Lunch? Snack? Dessert? Yes, yes and yes. Just not for dinner. Come on, we need at least a little bit of balanced eating in there somewhere.

 

Vegan Banana Bread

3-4 very ripe bananas    1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla                   2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder       1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon              1/4 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar

1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a small loaf pan (8 X 4).

In a medium bowl mash bananas with sugar and vanilla until combined and creamy.  Add in the milk and applesauce.

In a large bowl combine the flour, soda, powder and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (At this point feel free to add chocolate chips or any other desired ingredients).

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and for 55-65 minutes.

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It’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Travels around Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and the Philippines have ended, another school year has begun, Thanksgiving has already passed and before I know it, it will be Christmas.

I feel like time isn’t my friend. I feel like I’m constantly looking ahead to the next exciting thing, or looking back to some other time that was more exciting than now. Maybe this is because a number of my favourite people don’t live where I live. Is it really too much to ask that all of my favourite people become my neighbours so that I can see them whenever I want? And maybe we could all live in Vancouver? Because you know, it’s kind of beautiful here.

 

Maybe this is why I love reunions so much. What’s even better than a reunion with some of my favourite people is a potluck reunion. Yes I call dibs on bringing dessert, why do people even bother asking?

 

So I made these for our mini education reunion. And they were delicious. And everyone loved them. Some people definitely had seconds, while others mentally ate at least 5 I’m sure. Soft and chewy brownie cookies that had the most amazing peanut butter icing sandwiched in-between them.

Make these. Because amazing people deserve amazing dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brownie Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from Bakers Royale

Brownie Cookies

5 oz. cocoa powder

3 oz. chocolate, chopped

3 tbsp butter      2 eggs

⅔ cup sugar       1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup flour        ¼ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place 5 oz. cocoa powder, 1 oz. chocolate and the butter in a saucepan over low heat and gently stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and creamy.

Add in flour, baking powder, melted chocolate mixture, remaining 2 oz. of chocolate and mix to combine.

Set aside for 10 minutes.

Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto parchment lined bake sheet.

Bake for about 8–10 minutes or until puffed and cracked.

Allow to cool completely on trays.

Make the Peanut Butter Frosting

Once cookies are cooled, spread the icing onto the cookies and assemble.

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Vegan Brownies

What do you do when in a foreign country with 13 teenagers who don’t speak very much English? You bake with them. This couldn’t be any more of a win-win situation: the kids get to have fun in the kitchen doing something different, and I get to, along with them of course, eat something hopefully baked correctly and delicious that I miss from back home.

In steps the best friend who likes to be healthy and suggests that we make vegan brownies using weird ingredients that I’ve never heard of before but decide to give a try. I mean really, what the heck is okara and who in their right mind makes peanut butter from scratch in a blender (only peanuts, nothing else added), I don’t get it. But she had all of the ingredients and I was willing to be adventurous. After all, I am in Thailand.

The baking process itself went well, no lost limbs, no fires, no language mistranslations, we even got to play hangman post clean-up while waiting for the brownies to bake. However, if you ask the students the end result was less than satisfactory. Apparently Thai people don’t get the chocolate/peanut butter combination that the rest of the world obsesses about. Too much peanut butter they complained about, too gooey, too rich. Are these real teenagers? I don’t understand. (However they are super precious and do love frozen yogurt, proof provided in these pictures, so we get along just great!)

Further proof that the brownies weren’t the biggest hit? While playing speak only English Uno (very educational!) after lunch, the students decided to raise the stakes and make the loser of each game eat a brownie. Everyone was in fits of laughter and on the edge of their seats hoping to not be the unfortunate loser who had to eat a brownie. Because there isn’t anything worse in life than eating a brownie…

I thought the brownies were great. Obviously. They are different than normal but so they should be considering that they are vegan and super healthy. And as if I was going to complain about getting to eat all of the left overs that my students didn’t want!

 

 

 

Vegan Brownies

1 1/2 cups sugar         2/3 cups cocoa powder

1 cup peanut butter     1 cup soy milk

2 tsp vanilla                 1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder     1/4 tsp salt

1 cup okara

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with wax paper.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar, cocoa powder and peanut butter.

Stir in the milk and vanilla.

Add the okara and mix until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool before cutting since the brownies will be quite moist/mushy otherwise.

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Amongst other things, the men in my life have been blessed/cursed with a sweet tooth. Fortunately this works out very well for me, who enjoys baking things, and them, who enjoy consuming copious amounts of sugar.

What to do for Father’s Day and the boyfriend’s birthday? Easy. Chocolate. And peanut butter. Aka the way to any (especially my) man’s heart.

So remember the Sex in a Pan? Believe it or not this is even better. I know, who would have thought that something could be better than Sex in a Pan…but it is.

Rather than a plain crust, brownies were used as the base. Then a peanut butter cream cheese layer, followed by chocolate pudding and whipping cream. Did I mention that this is two layers so now repeat all of those layers? Yes this is big, yes this is delicious, yes this is going to take us a week to eat through, no I am not complaining.

Happy belated Father’s Day to all of the father’s out there. Sorry to inform you that I have the best one ever and I love him a lot. Be jealous. Seriously.

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Trifle

Adapted from The Enchanted Mommy

Brownies layer. . . I used this

Bake your brownies the day before and let them cool completely.

Cut the brownies into cubes and put half of them along the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl.

Chocolate Pudding Layer

1 large package chocolate pudding    2 cups milk

Combine the ingredients and beat for 2 minutes. Allow the pudding to thicken in the fridge.

Whipping Cream Layer

2 cups Heavy Cream
3-4 tbsp sugar     1 tbsp vanilla

Beat cream on high speed until soft peaks form.

Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Stick the bowl in the fridge until needed.

Peanut Butter Layer

1 cup creamy peanut butter       1 cup cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar                        2 tbsp milk

Beat peanut butter and cream cheese together until creamy.

Add icing sugar and mix well.  Add 2 tbsp milk and combine.

Take 1 cup of the whipping cream mixture from the fridge and fold it into the peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Layering

Once everything has been prepared you are ready for layering. This can be done in any order. I went with brownies, peanut butter cream cheese, chocolate pudding, whipping cream and repeat. Then top with sliced Mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

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