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Monday, January 25, 2016

Baked Hot Chocolate

What do you do when there is close to 3-feet of snow on the ground and you really do not feel like doing much at all? If you are anything at all like me, you do things like catch up on reading, dance and color with your toddler, think about getting dressed in something other than sweats (but never do), bake, and eat lots of food. I finished up the container of hot chocolate that I made on Friday, and instead of making some more (especially since we are a bit low on milk), I made this amazing baked hot chocolate instead. It is made with rich semisweet chocolate, butter, eggs, and sugar - that's it. Since Greg is not feeling too well he decided not to have one of the two mugs of this deliciousness that I made, so I got to eat both over the past 24 hours. I did share a little with Wendy, and she was pretty crazy about it, as she yelled "more, more" after every bite I gave her. I am pretty sure you will also love baked hot chocolate. It has a thin layer of crunchy, a middle layer of smooth, and you will not stop eating it until you reach the bottom. It is kind of like a cross between a chocolate lava cake, chocolate pudding, and hot chocolate! I found out that tomorrow is another snow day for me, so more baked hot chocolate making and eating is at the top of my to do list! I might even put on some jeans, too. Enjoy!


Recipe for Baked Hot Chocolate

INGREDIENTS: 
5 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, finely chopped (I used SCHARRFEN BERGER 62% baking bar)
3 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
SNOW DAY + BAKED HOT CHOCOLATE = HAPPINESS
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. of pure cane sugar (or granulated)
A pinch of cinnamon (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Position the oven rack to the middle and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put two 8-ounce oven-proof mugs or ramekins into a baking pan or roasting pan.

Put an inch of water in the bottom pan of a double boiler and set over medium high heat. Bring to a gentle simmer. Put the chopped chocolate and butter in the top pan of the double boiler and set over the simmering water, stirring until fully melted and smooth. Set aside. Leave the bottom pan with the water on the stovetop and continue to let it simmer.

Put the eggs, sugar, and cinnamon in a small saucepan and whisk together with a fork. Then use the handle of the saucepan to hold it over the simmering water for a few minutes or until warm, almost hot to the touch(I just literally held it over the steam from the water - it's a good workout...). Then use a hand mixer set on medium-high speed to beat the egg and sugar mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, making sure that there is no water from condensation on the bottom of the pan that drips in (I used a towel to wipe the bottom of the pan before I added to chocolate mixture). Use a spoon to gently fold the eggs and chocolate together until smooth and you don't see any streaks. Pour or ladle into the mugs or ramekins. Pour very hot water into the baking dish, being careful not to let water splash into the mugs, until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the mugs. VERY carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny. Remove from oven, use a hot pad holder to remove the mugs out of the water, and place mugs on a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving. I topped mine with plain cream and some chocolate chips. I am sure it would be amazing with some fresh whipped cream too!

Baked hot chocolate is best enjoyed hot (in my professional opinion), but it can be also eaten at room temperature. You can cover well with foil and store in the fridge for up to one day. To reheat, first let it come to room temperature and then bake at 350 for 5 - 8 minutes.

Recipe Adapted from: The Essence of Chocolate Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
Recipe serves 2. 
A shot of our home in the snow!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Creamy Sweet Potato and Bean Taquitos (Vegetarian)

Outside my house right now the East coast blizzard of 2016 is underway. This storm has had a lot of hype building up to it, and usually when a storm is hyped up, it fizzles out and it never amounts to what we have been told. The forecast has not been downgraded at all, and I am a bit terrified of this snowstorm! My biggest fear is that our power will go out. If our power goes out, we will have no heat and no running water. To prepare for the possibility of the power going out, my main thing has been making sure that we have lots of food to eat over the weekend. One of my friends told me the other night that her biggest nightmare would be sitting in the dark eating beans out of can with a spoon, and I had to giggle. But then I thought about it some more, and I realized that I really don't want to be eating beans out of a can either this weekend, so I started cooking up a storm! Last night I made these creamy sweet potato and black bean taquitos. I made them for the first time earlier this week and we loved them. If you leave out the chicken broth for the beans and substitute vegetable broth, it is a vegetarian meal. These creamy sweet potato and bean taquitos are made with roasted chopped sweet potato, a spicy bean mixture, and lots of cheese. You can serve them with sour cream and avocado for dipping, or you can just eat them plain. I think they would be a great snack at gatherings (Superbowl party, maybe), and they also make a great lunch or dinner.

Today I made a huge amount of Mexican slow cooker chicken, corn pudding, and hot chocolate. I am excited to have this time this weekend to spend with Greg and Wendy, to catch up on some reading, and to eat delicious food. East coasters, stay warm, stay safe, eat well, and enjoy the beautiful snow!

Recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato and Bean Taquitos

INGREDIENTS:
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the tortillas
Salt and pepper
1 cup of beans from spicy bean burritos (omit the Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and salsa from the recipe)
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup of grated cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
2 Tbsp. of your favorite salsa (I used Kirkland organic salsa)
10 Taco size soft flour tortillas
Coarse sea salt


DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the chopped potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper into a bowl and toss well. Pour the sweet potatoes onto a baking pan and place in heated oven. Cook for about 25 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Leave the oven on.

While the potatoes are cooking, start the bean mixture. You will have beans leftover to use for burritos, because you will only need 1 cup for the taquitos. Remember to omit the following ingredients from the recipe: Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, salsa. Use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth if you are choosing to make this a vegetarian meal. Make sure to cook the beans until moisture has absorbed and then stir and mash to desired consistency.

Use your hands or use a fork to mash the potatoes up into a mound. Put the potato mash, 1 cup of the beans, cream cheese, salsa, and cheese into the bowl and use a fork to mix well.

Zap the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make them easier to roll. Then scoop the sweet potato and bean mixture down the middle of each tortilla and roll tightly. Arrange each one next to the other on a baking sheet. Lightly brush olive oil over the top of each tortilla and sprinkle each with a pinch of sea salt. Place in the oven and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, watching carefully so they do not burn around the edges. Remove from oven and serve with your favorite taquito dipping sides!

Original Recipe

Monday, January 18, 2016

Spinach Balls

Don't let the name of this appetizer turn you off! If they were to be named correctly, they would really be called butter, cheese,  and stuffing balls with a little spinach. My mother would often make spinach balls during the holidays when I was growing up. I would always eat them by the handful, and I actually thought that I was eating something healthy because they were green. I wondered how something so healthy could taste so good, but then when I made them for the first time several years back, I realized that the spinach balls tasted so good to me because they are made with herbed stuffing, melted butter, and Parmesan cheese. I used to make spinach balls a lot when I entertained more, but since we have been doing so many home renovations, we have had less time to have people over these days. At this very moment, our house is put together, and we decided to have guests over for dinner Saturday night. I thought it would be fun to serve spinach balls as a side to our meal. Our main course was the famous chicken risotto with caramelized onions, and I pretended that the spinach balls was our green vegetable with the meal. They were very yummy, and I am happy I have some leftovers to snack on this week. It might be awhile before I get a chance to entertain again, because our next project is the kitchen.

If you would like a tasty appetizer or side to serve at a party or a dinner, try these spinach balls. They are easy to make and delicious. Yes, they are not a very healthy option, but since they are so small you don't have to feel too guilty about eating a couple. Enjoy!


Recipe for Spinach Balls


INGREDIENTS:
2 10-ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach
2 cups of dry herbed stuffing mix
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. of finely chopped yellow onion (or 1/4 tsp. of dried minced onion flakes)
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. of thyme
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 12 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter, melted
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Cook the spinach according to package directions. Then place in a colander to cool and drain very well, squeezing as much as you need to so you can get all the excess moisture out.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Use a fork to mix well. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a couple hours.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to shape the spinach mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on the lined baking sheet and then place in the oven for about 30 minutes, watching carefully so they do not burn. Remove from oven and serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. You can eat them cold or zap in the microwave for about 15 - 20 seconds first.

Recipe adapted from: Vineyard Seasons: More from the Heart of the Home, by Susan Branch 
Recipe makes approximately 3 - 4 dozen. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Warm and Gooey Chocolate Cake

I believe that our New Year's resolutions for eating healthy should begin at the start of a Monday, so this is your official permission to go ahead and eat whatever you want through the end of this weekend. I am recommending that this chocolate cake be a part of your weekend festivities.

This recipe comes from the Fearless Baker cookbook, which was a Christmas present from my older sister this year. I had quickly scanned the cookbook to find recipes that looked good to me, and the warm and gooey chocolate cake definitely stood out as something that I needed to try. I celebrated my 25th birthday (again, can you believe it) on the 29th of December, and I knew that if I wanted to eat birthday cake on my birthday that I would have to make my own cake. I looked over the recipes I  had marked in the cookbook and the only one that I could make with the ingredients that I had on hand in my kitchen was the warm and gooey chocolate cake. While Wendy napped,  I made the cake. Luckily it was really easy to make and it did not take long to bake, because she did not grant me with the birthday present that I wanted from her (a super long nap). I was able to finish the cake, and then Wendy and I headed up to my parents' place in Columbia with the cake in tow. Greg met me up there after finishing his work day so he could treat me to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, the Tomato Palace. Although we could have gotten a tiramisu on the house, we decided to pass it up and we headed back to my parents' place to dig into the chocolate cake. Everyone in the family had a piece of the cake, and it was a major hit all around. I do not want to downplay this cake, so I will tell you that it was absolutely heavenly. Although it was totally amazing on its own, it was brought to a ridiculous level when topped with fresh whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberries.

The nice thing about this cake (besides it being the best thing on this planet) is that it is super easy to make, and it can be made in under 45 minutes. Chocolate is the shining star in this cake, as it should always be. If you are a chocoholic like I am, you will definitely fall head over heels in love with this warm and gooey chocolate cake. Enjoy!

*I have made this 2 times and still haven't taken the time to take a really good picture. I will surely be making it again soon, so if it isn't devoured before I get a fresh picture, I will probably be replacing the one that is in this posting. I just was really eager to share the recipe with YOU!

Recipe for Warm and Gooey Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces of dark chocolate, 58% - 62% cacao (I used Scharrfen Berger semisweet 62% cacao baking chocolate), chopped into 1-inch pieces
8 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of pure cane sugar (or granulated sugar), divided
3 eggs
Large pinch of kosher salt
2 Tbsp. of unbleached all-purpose flour

For topping
Fresh whipped cream
Chocolate Sauce
Strawberries or raspberries

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare an 8 x 8 round metal cake pan. Use 1/2 Tbsp. of the unsalted butter to generously butter the bottom and sides of the pan (you may not use all of the butter). Then add 1 Tbsp. of the sugar to the pan and coat the bottom and sides by shaking and tapping the pan over the kitchen sink. Add another tablespoon of sugar to the pan and repeat until the pan is coated with sugar. Find a larger baking dish that will allow the round 8 x 8 pan to fit inside of it (you will use it during the baking process). Set aside.
Put an inch of water in the bottom pan of a double boiler and bring it to a simmer over medium high heat. Put the chocolate and the remaining 7 1/2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in the top pan of the double boiler and set it over the pan with the simmering water. Stir, almost constantly, until the butter is melted and the chocolate is smooth. Remove the pan with the chocolate from the heat and set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together the eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, and kosher salt until well blended. Pour the chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and mix well. Add in the flour and stir until just blended.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan into the larger baking dish. Fill a 2-cup liquid measuring cup with hot water from tap. Pour the water into the larger baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the pan with the chocolate batter in it, being sure to be careful so water does not splash into the batter. Then very carefully transfer to the oven. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick or tins of a fork are inserted into the cake and it comes out a bit fudgey. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then lift the cake pan out of the pan with the water.
Cut into 8 slices and serve immediately, or cover with foil and keep at room temperature for up to 24 hours. If you don't serve right away, reheat in oven at 325 degrees for five to ten minutes, being careful not to heat for too long.
Serve each slice with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and berries (or if you have to choose just one, do the fresh whipped cream)!

Recipe makes 8 servings
Recipe Adapted from: Fearless Baker Cookbook