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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dark Chocolate Coconut Muffins

I just realized I have been posting  a lot of sweets lately, especially sweets that are loaded with chocolate (dark chocolate raspberry truffles and granola chocolate chip cookies). Maybe it's time for me to go on another 5 day sugar withdrawal challenge, because once again I am definitely craving sugar/chocolate. It must be because I am really stressed out over my house being a disaster zone, Greg not having a full-time job, and the arrival of Wendy at the end of next month. I'm so excited to be a mother, but I also feel completely overwhelmed. So, what do I do? I eat chocolate! Isn't that what any other normal woman would do? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I made these chocolate coconut muffins yesterday morning. I came across a delicious looking muffin recipe on Facebook, but it called for cocoa powder - and I'm out. So I went with another recipe I found that used dark baking chocolate. At first when I had a bite I wasn't sold on them - but once they cooled a little more I thoroughly enjoyed them. My parents and Greg loved them and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Coconut Muffins 

INGREDIENTS:
7 ounces of dark baking chocolate (60 - 70% cocoa)
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of pure chocolate extract (or pure vanilla extract)
2 eggs
2/3 cup of 2% milk
1 Tbsp. of heavy cream (optional)
2/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners. Put the butter and chopped chocolate into a small to medium sized saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir frequently until the butter and chocolate are completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Then add in the chocolate (or vanilla) extract, eggs, milk, and cream. Whisk together until well incorporated. Then stir in the melted chocolate and butter mixture and stir until smooth and chocolate is evenly mixed into the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips and coconut. Scoop the batter into the paper liners and fill. Put the muffins into the oven and cook for 16 - 19 minutes. Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Put any muffins that are not eaten into an airtight container and store at room temperature or in the fridge.

Recipe Adapted from: Baking Bites

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Granola Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were inspired after making a batch of homemade granola. I was craving cookies (and baking), and I wanted to make something that was filled with ingredients that are also somewhat healthy. In the granola I had made, I used natural coconut, dried cranberries, raisins, and rolled oats. I thought that those ingredients would taste great in a chocolate chip cookie - and I was right! I enjoyed eating some for lunch a couple days this week, but I left them at home while Greg and my parents were working on the renovations, and they sure went quickly. That's okay though because that just means that I should go ahead and make another couple dozen...right? Enjoy!

Recipe for Granola Chocolate Chip Cookies 

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1/4 tsp. of salt
3/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 Tbsp.), softened at room temperature
2/3 cup of light brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup of rolled oats, such as Quaker old-fashioned Oats
1/3 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
1/3 cup of unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup of better quality milk chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli 

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with an electric hand mixer set on medium high speed for about 45 seconds. Then add in the brown sugar and continue to beat on medium high speed until fully incorporated and smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and egg and mix well. Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until well combined. Fold in the rolled oats, raisins, dried cranberries, coconut, and chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with a lid or saran wrap and put in the refrigerator for a couple hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a cookie dough scoop or spoon to make desired size balls and place onto baking sheets, with about 1-inch space between the dough. Put one baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12 - 13 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies sit for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place other baking sheet in the oven and bake, remove, and cool. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe makes approximately 2 dozen cookies. 

Recipe adapted from: Crunchy Creamy Sweet

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Giveaway!

Chocolate Pretzel Treats 

I have to be honest, I did not do anything special for Valentine's Day today. I had the day off work because of all the snow and I was totally lazy. I didn't have the motivation to run out to the store, so Greg and I are eating leftovers for dinner. I did accomplish writing thank you notes while Greg worked hard on our home renovations, as he is desperately trying to get our house ready before baby Wendy makes her debut. Greg and I are not very romantic people and I think we have gone out only once for Valentine's Day in the last five years - and that was to see the movie Warm Bodies (a zombie love story)!

To thank you for helping me reach 400 likes on my Facebook page, I'm running this Valentine's Day giveaway. It has been some time since I have done a giveaway and I thought it would be fun - so I'm sure glad I made my goal before the end of today!

Giveaway Details: To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this posting to let me know what you did for Valentine's Day this year - whether it was a special date, a fun meal you made, or something you did with your kids. And, if you were lazy just like me and didn't do anything, you can let me know that too! By commenting on this posting, you will have one entry to win a Wilton non-stick pan to make six mini heart shaped desserts AND these adorable pink heart sprinkles. You can have another bonus entry if you share this posting on your Facebook page (just make sure to let me know in the comments that you did so) and/or if you subscribe to my blog through email (again, comment to let me know that you did so). Giveaway begins as of now and will end next Wednesday evening. 

I'll randomly pick the winner of the giveaway at 8 PM EST on Wednesday, February 19th. Good luck! The winner will be notified through email. 

Recipe Ideas for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! My husband and I don't really celebrate this holiday together, as he says it is a holiday made up by Hallmark - but today is a special Valentine's Day for me since I was treated to a day off of work because of the snow! I usually try to make a nice dinner to celebrate, and one year I went all out and made lobster with drawn butter. I'm not feeling as ambitious today, but I still hope to make something kind of special. Do you have any special dinner plans?

I put this post together to share a few dinner ideas for tonight and some treat ideas in case you still want to make something to share with your friends and family. Some are really easy, and some aren't as easy, but they are all delicious! I would also like to run a fun giveaway (I'm thinking something festive and Valentine's Day related) on the blog later today. If I reach 400 likes on my Facebook page by the end of today, I'll be doing a giveaway. I only have 3 likes to go! *If you share this blog post on your Facebook profile page (and make sure to tag my page in the post so I know you posted), then you will get an automatic entry for the giveaway if I do reach the 400 likes! Check back on the blog later tonight to see if I made it and for the giveaway details. 

Recipe Ideas for Valentine's Day


TREATS:
These pretzel, hershey kiss and M & M treats are so easy to make and they are fun to make with kids. They are also very tasty!
Chocolate Pretzel Treats 
Cookie dough truffles are always a big hit! They are a bit time consuming, but fairly easy to make. They are easier to eat - and kids love them.
Cookie Dough Truffles 
Easy truffles made with cocoa powder are also a very nice treat. These are best for lovers of chocolate.
Easy chocolate truffles made with cocoa powder 
For the grownups - dark chocolate red wine truffles with seas salt or sugar. Amazing!
Dark Chocolate Red Wine Truffle 
For the healthy indulgent - dark chocolate raspberry truffles. The filling is simply a raspberry!
Dark chocolate raspberry truffles 
If cupcakes are more your thing, these toasted almond joy cupcakes are quite yummy!
Toasted Almond Joy Cupcake 


DINNERS - I think that soups are a great meal for Valentine's Day. They are warm and comforting and loaded with ingredients that you love. Here are a few of my absolute favorites.

Italian Wedding Soup - how could this soup not be perfect for Valentine's Day? The homemade meatballs are a must!
Italian Wedding Soup 
Zuppa Toscana - I have never met anyone who does not love this soup. It is filled with potatoes, Italian sausage, kale, and the most amazing flavor. I know you will love it too!
Zuppa Toscana
Here is a hearty and comforting soup for the vegetarian in your life. This cheese tortellini soup with sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and chickpeas will knock their socks off!
Cheese Tortellini Soup with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Chickpeas 

And...this meal isn't soup, but it is such a good meal that I thought it needed to be on here. Baked chicken taquitos are always a fave in my home.
Baked Chicken Taquitos 
I hope you enjoy these treat and dinner ideas! And I hope all of your Valentine's Day dreams come true! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

Looking for treat ideas for Valentine's Day? These dark chocolate raspberry truffles are rich, elegant, and truly fantastic. These truffles are not made of a sweet filling, as the filling is the raspberry itself! The raspberry is gently rolled in a small amount of sugar, then covered with a chocolate ganache, and then coated with dark chocolate. Amazing! I made them last week because I didn't want to show up empty handed to my baby shower. Since I liked them so much, I made more this week and gave some out to friends and of course kept a few (or more) for myself. If you make these, make sure to eat within a couple days because the raspberries are perishable. I don't think you'll have any problem with that, though. Enjoy & happy Valentine's Day!

*As far as truffles go, these are very low in calories because the filling is just the raspberry. Each truffle is only about 35 calories! So eat up - dark chocolate and raspberries are GOOD FOR YOU. You will  also probably have some leftover ganache. I put it in a container and stored in the fridge - it will make a nice addition to hot chocolate - which I'll be drinking a lot of during this crazy winter storm that is coming my way.

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles 
INGREDIENTS:
For the filling
40 - 45 fresh and firm raspberries
3 - 4 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
For the ganache
4 1/2 ounces of heavy whipping cream
6 ounces of bittersweet baking chocolate (70% cocoa), very finely chopped
For the coating and topping
4 1/2 ounces of bittersweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
Cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS:
Gently rinse the raspberries and set on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the moisture. Pat dry if needed. Put the sugar into a shallow bowl. Roll each berry in the sugar and place onto another plate.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Put the cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat until it just comes to a simmer. Then remove the cream from heat and immediately pour in the very finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. Cover the saucepan and let it sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, use a spoon to very gently stir the mixture until it is completely smooth. Use a spoon to dip a berry into the ganache and coat completely. Use the spoon to place the ganache covered berry onto the prepared baking sheet. Once all berries are coated, place baking sheet in fridge for a few hours or overnight. If after a few hours they do not seem hard enough, place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Prepare another baking sheet with foil. Prepare a double boiler with water and put the finely chopped bittersweet chocolate into the top pan of a double boiler. Put the bottom pan with the water onto the stovetop over medium-high heat and when it comes to a simmer and steam is rising, place the pan with the chocolate on top. Stir the chocolate constantly until it is completely melted. Turn off stovetop heat. Carefully drop a ganache covered raspberry into the melted chocolate and use a spoon to coat completely. Use the spoon to place it onto the other foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle on some cacao nibs. Continue this process until all are coated. Put the dark chocolate raspberry truffles in the fridge and allow the chocolate coating to harden.

Store truffles in an airtight container in the fridge, but serve truffles at room temperature. Consume within a couple days of making.

Recipe Adapted from: Truffles, by Dede Wilson

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lentil and Potato Tacos

I've missed you, tacos! For so long I have been wanting to make my sweet potato tacos or chorizo tacos, but something kept getting in the way. I'm not sure what it was...but I was prevented from making those tacos! Maybe it was because I was supposed to make these lentil and potato tacos instead. I was going through recipes for inspiration the other day because I have kind of found myself in a cooking block and I came across some good looking recipes. I found these lentil tacos with homemade taco seasoning and wanted to give them a try. I added the potatoes for some extra filling, and because I just love potatoes in tacos. I had never had lentils in tacos before, and they worked well. They are kind of crunchy and the seasoning on them was perfect. I topped my tacos with sour cream, salsa, and avocado - but you can do your fave toppings! Leave out the sour cream to make them vegan. Enjoy!

Recipe for Lentil and Potato Tacos

INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds of red potatoes, cut in 1/4 - 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup of finely diced red onion
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 cup of dried lentils
2 cups water (for cooking the lentils)
1 Tbsp. of chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin
1/2 tsp. of paprika
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1/4 tsp. of dried onion flakes
1/4 tsp. of dried oregano
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 Tbsp. of ketchup (I used a black pepper ketchup - if you can find this, it has a great flavor)
10 six-inch soft flour tortillas
Sour cream (leave out to make this meal vegan)
Your favorite salsa (I used Costco's Kirkland organic medium salsa)
Chopped avocados

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the cubed potatoes, red onion, and garlic into a bowl and toss to coat well with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture in a single layer onto a baking pan and place in the oven. Cook for 30 - 35 minutes or until potatoes are crisped but not burnt, tossing every 5 minutes or so with a spatula so the mixture doesn't stick to the pan and cooks evenly.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the water into a pot and add in some salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the lentils, stir, and then lower the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and cook for about 25 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Then take lentils off heat and stir in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dried onion flakes, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and ketchup. Mix well.

Zap the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds so they are warmed and easy to fold. Assemble the tacos. Scoop the potato mixture down the middle, top with the lentils, and then add on the sour cream, salsa, and avocado. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

*Recipe makes about 10 tacos. 

Recipe adapted from: A Couple Cooks