Tag Archives: chocolate

Something sweet

13 Jun

My sweet tooth has acted up in unexpected ways so far during my pregnancy. I expected to want nothing but ice cream and candy bars, but instead it’s green apples, smoothies, cherries and all the seasonal fruits. That isn’t to say I haven’t been indulging a little, but (so far unfounded) fears of gestational diabetes have kept me from going overboard. Still, here are a few fun indulgences of late.

A coworker spent two weeks in Okinawa and brought us goodies. Mine was this incredibly fun Matcha Kit Kat:

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And the candy inside:

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I really enjoyed this treat! The aftertaste was like buttercream frosting — that’s the best comparison I can make. I didn’t notice a green tea flavor at all, thanks to all the sugar, but I would definitely sample one again.

She brought a beautiful tin box of these little guys to my boss, who has been generous enough to share with all of us:

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I forgot to take a picture out of the package, but they are little butter cookies filled with white chocolate. They are so rich and pack the perfect pick-me-up amount of sugar for the afternoon slump.

And last night, I had a rare burst of energy (thanks in part to Mr. X making dinner — details to come!) so I decided to make cookies. I had a pretty specific craving for chocolate and peanut butter cookies. I found this recipe and knew I had to adapt them immediately. Avocado as a secret ingredient was too much fun to pass up! Didn’t they turn out cute?

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I actually de-veganized them to work with what I had on hand. I also cut the recipe in half. Here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies with Avocado
Adapted from Veggie and the Beast

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup salted peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Preheat your oven to 350, and grease or line a cookie sheet. Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cut your avocado in half, remove the pit, and scrape it into a small bowl. Mash until it isn’t lumpy. In the base of your mixer or another bowl, beat the butter until it gets creamy. Add the avocado and beat together until they become uniform. Beat in the sugar and peanut butter, and then the egg and vanilla, until combined. Now slowly add your dry ingredients until all mixed together. Roll down into walnut-sized balls, flattening slightly into fat discs. Bake for 10 minutes on prepared cookie sheet. Let cool, as they will be very soft fresh from the oven.

    Makes about 20 little cookies.

    These are lightly sweet with great chocolate/peanut butter flavor. The avocado adds creaminess without a distinct taste, which is perfect for these little cookies. I will definitely experiment with avocado as a butter substitute again!

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    Chocolate Orange Sables

    29 Jan

    Ever since I abandoned my Google Reader and its hundreds of bloggy contents, there are a few of my past daily reads that have fallen by the wayside. One of them was Smitten Kitchen for some reason, even though I adore her content and writing style. This weekend, I reignited my regular reading of the site and made not just the pumpernickel bread but — gasp — cookies!

    CookiesDeb posted her recipe for Intensely Chocolate Sables on Friday, and as soon as I saw the post on Saturday, I knew I had to make them. Looking through my kitchen stuff drawer, I found only two cookie cutters: the heart above (which is really large) and a plastic novelty cutter of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The latter did not work at all for this dough, hence you will not see any in that absurd shape. Instead, I used a tiny tea/sake cup I rarely pull out of the cupboard.

    Little cookieAnyway, to make these cookies vegan, I made the following alterations:

    • Used regular cocoa instead of Dutch processed, since that’s what I had
    • Used unsweetened baking chocolate instead of bittersweet and went with the full 2/3 cup of sugar to compensate
    • Subbed Earth Balance for regular butter
    • Instead of the egg yolk and vanilla, I used 1.5 tablespoons of fresh cara cara orange juice

    I followed all of the original directions and was very, very pleased with the result. The orange flavor isn’t terribly pronounced, but it adds a little subtlety. I think adding a teaspoon of zest would be good if you want to intensify it. In all, I made out 32 cookies — four large hearts and 28 little rounds — and baked each pan for 10 minutes. I also found it necessary to re-roll and re-refrigerate twice, since the presence of baking chocolate quickly softens at room temperature/exposure to your hands.

    HeartThese cookies are delicate and rich at the same time. They are very easy to prepare if you have an electric mixer, and even though I typically shy away from any baked good that needs to be rolled out, the flavor and light crispness were well worth the effort.

    What’s your favorite cookie flavor combination? I love chocolate and orange, but cinnamon and pumpkin is pretty great, too.

    Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

    12 Nov

    I’m starting your week off right with an easy, delicious dessert recipe. I’m talking about the insanity that is Butternut Squash Bread Pudding. With caramel sauce. And pecans. And chocolate chunks. Oh, and it’s vegan.

    It’s a combination of a bunch of things I had on hand and was inspired by half a loaf of stale wheat bread. We basically never buy bread any more, since I’ve become a sourdough-baking fiend, but I didn’t have time to make any before I left town recently. So I picked up a loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread for Mr. X to have while I was gone. It was calling my name last Monday, begging to be transformed into something much greater than itself. Thus, this recipe was born.

    Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

    • 1/2 loaf of bread, torn or cut into pieces
    • 1 cup coconut/almond/soy/whatever milk
    • 1 cup of roasted butternut squash flesh (or canned pumpkin or sweet potato)
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar, divided
    • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)
    • 1 square of Baker’s chocolate, chopped (optional — can sub chocolate chips, of course)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)
    • 1/3 recipe of Easy Caramel Sauce (or another sauce you prefer — butter rum sauce is popular)

    Preheat your oven to 350° F. Lightly grease an 8×8″ baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, add the bread pieces, milk, most of the sugar, butternut squash, coconut oil, vanilla, and spice(s), stirring to combine. Now fold in your chocolate chunks and pecans, if using. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and use a rubber spatula to press everything down lightly. Top with the rest of the sugar. It’ll look like this:

    Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the bread starts to brown. Meanwhile, if using the Caramel Sauce, make it now or in advance. I already had some from the blondies, so I reheated it on the stove just until it was warm and any sugar solids dissolved. When the pudding is cooked, pour the sauce on top and return to the oven for five minutes.

    Let cool as long as your will power will hold out and enjoy. Makes 9 to 16 squares, depending on how you cut it.

    It’s delicious enjoyed alongside some fall tea (Celestial Seasoning’s Apple Spice, to be exact):

    The pudding tastes like heaven warm from the oven, but it is a mess to remove. If you let it cool, slicing will be much easier. As you can see above, I enjoyed my first piece with approximately zero patience.

    If you have everything on hand, the recipe comes together in a jiffy. The pudding is a warming, comforting treat that is familiar but still a little unexpected. It may make an appearance at our little Thanksgiving celebration this year.

    Tea with the queen

    19 Jun

    Good morning! I started my day with a booty-kicking courtesy of the Fitnessista. I did Workout 1 and will do the HIIT component this evening after work. I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed any earlier than 6:45 to get my sweat on, so the fun will continue.

    I showed you breakfast yesterday (and had the same thing today, except that I tucked the tofu scramble into corn tortillas this morning for a little extra oomph). I was going to show you lunch, too, but it became cheese pizza . . . times four. Yikes. I can just never say no to a free lunch.

    Dinner, however, was perfectly healthy and delicious:

    As I mentioned, on the menu was a variation on this soup. Here are the changes I made:

    • Used spray olive oil instead of the 1 1/2 tablespoons
    • Swapped in one yellow squash and one round zucchini for the medium zucchini
    • Bean cooking liquid and water instead of vegetable broth
    • Freshly cooked chickpeas instead of white beans, plus I almost doubled the amount (and I have to note that my husband cooked the garbanzos successfully without murdering either them or one of our pots)
    • Rainbow chard instead of baby spinach (I don’t like how wilty spinach gets in soup)

    I followed the same directions, though, and kept the most important parts: lemon juice, zest, and the mint leaves. Seriously, this soup can’t live without ’em. They take what is a fairly hearty soup and transform it into something bright and enjoyable, even on the hottest summer night. It also put my husband into a coma:

    (Here’s hoping he doesn’t read this post!)

    After a run to the grocery store, I decided to snuggle up on the couch with a book and a bedtime snack. You know what’s better than tea in a mug? Tea in a cup — with the queen:

    As a belated wedding present, my boss gave me a set of two teacups from 1953 that were released to celebrate Elizabeth II’s coronation. Pretty sweet, huh? I made a full pot of tea from fresh mint leaves and chamomile blossoms, both purchased from the farmers market. It was delicious and soothing, especially paired with this chocolate — times two pieces.

    How do you relax after a long day? Tea and a book are my perfect combination.

    This one’s for the girls.

    14 Jul

    No, but seriously, gents, if you’re the type to be squeamish about lady talk, you’ll want to high-tail it on outta here. Of course, if you’re one of those guys, I seriously recommend getting over it if you plan to live with, love, marry, or befriend any of us with the longer life spans.

    Caveats aside, I want to talk about menstrual cycles – ‘cause really, who doesn’t?! I spent many years suffering through the cramps and bloating and crankiness and general ickiness associated with that most special time of the month. Over the years, I have found some tricks that really, really help, so I wanted to share them all with you. I’m sure you all know this, but of course, I’m not a doctor, so do not use my advice in lieu of a medical professional’s.

    Anyway, here is my lady-time kit of choice:

    Let’s go through it starting with the purple tea bag at far left.

    Allegro Organic Queen Bee Balance Tea: Also known as Cranky B*tch Tea, as my co-worker and I affectionately call it. If you’re into teas or herbals at all, you’ve probably read about raspberry leaf and its role in helping with menstrual cramps. I couldn’t find any good studies on it (other than its controversial use during pregnancies), but hundreds of years of anecdotal evidence support its use. Add mine to the list. I feel a lot better when I drink this stuff around my period. In addition to raspberry leaf, it also contains alfalfa (a mild diuretic to help with bloating), spearmint (which helps to regular menstrual cycles), chaste tree berry (which helps with a whole host of menstrual ailments), and dandelion leaf (another diuretic).

    Calcium: Did you know that calcium helps to alleviate menstrual cramps? Yep, the science says so, and I can attest to it first-hand. I generally try to get vitamins and minerals through a varied diet, but during my cycle, I pop a few extra calcium citrate supplements (never carbonate, because it upsets my stomach). I take one every morning with my magnesium and then one or two more during the day if cramps strike. It’s like magic!

    Magnesium: I take a powdered supplement for migraine prevention (and someday I’ll actually do a post about this, too), but I find that its muscle-relaxant quality helps with cramps, too. Did you know that women are more prone to blood-sugar crashes during their periods, too? Magnesium helps to alleviate spikes and drops in glucose levels. Again, I like to eat magnesium-rich foods, but as a migraine sufferer, I need a higher dose than the average person. I’ve read that it’s beneficial to take 350-360 mg in supplement form for three days at the beginning of your period. Just be warned: it can have a laxative effect, so if you aren’t used to the stuff, proceed with caution!

    Water: Water, water, water. Seriously. It’s the cure-all for everything, right? When you’re dealing with bloating, the answer is a resounding YES. Drink it constantly. Embrace the constant bathroom trips as breaks from the work day.

    Alter Eco Fair Trade Dark Chocolate Quinoa Midnight Crunch Bar: Awwwww yeeeeeeah. This chocolate is amazing, seriously. It’s fair trade, organic, vegan, and tastes like HEAVEN. Not only that, but it’s full of fiber, protein, and iron. Clearly, chocolate bars are not a health food, but when the craving strikes, this is the bar to grab. As I mention above, your blood sugar is less stable during your period, which means, in part, that I become a ravenous beast. The protein (2 g per serving) and fiber (4 g per serving) help to regulate the roller coaster. Also, women are prone to anemia due to blood loss, and this bar boasts a whopping – get this – 30% of your iron needs per serving. Wow! Did I mention it’s also delicious? The bar has 2.5 servings, just the right amount to get me through the worst two or three days of each period.

    Sensible Foods Organic Soy Nuts: This product, once again, helps with the glucose drop/ravenous beast thing. It does so with only 110 calories and 7 mg of sodium per serving, plus it has a whipping 8 g of protein and 5 of fiber. Plus, they’re crunchy and satisfy your craving for saltiness without all the sodium. The bag has two servings.

    Things that are noticeably absent from my list:

    Sodium: Speaking of the soy nuts, sodium is no bueno during your menstrual cycle. It causes the bloaties, and I have noticed a link between eating too much salt and more painful cramps. I try to eat out less during my period because I have no idea how much sodium is lurking in my food.

    Caffeine: Well, other than the chocolate bar. Caffeine exacerbates a whole slew of PMS symptoms, including cramping, headaches, breast tenderness, irritability, and pretty much everything else you can think of. Skip it and opt for herbal teas for a few days.

    So that’s my list. Who has things to add?

    Snow day and mug-cake perfection

    20 Jan

    It’s snowing here in T-Town today, and all over the area, too, I’m sure. We have gotten enough snow that my workplace is actually closed. I guess that’s the benefit of working for a nonprofit that offers early childhood education. Here’s a snow shot:

    That’s the front of my car. Yes, the photo was taken through a window in my apartment. Did I mention it’s really flippin’ cold outside? I love you people, but I’m not freezing off any body parts to take snow pictures for you.

    Anyway, I was already up and showered when the robot voice called to tell me not to drive in, so I did a slightly different spin on my typical breakfast. Voila:

    Pumpkin Boatmeal sprinkled with pecans. YUM! I may have to do this from now on. With it, I brewed up some Nutcracker Sweet tea and added a spoonful of homemade almond milk and a pinch of sugar. I don’t normally put such things in my tea, but I was feeling British. I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor combination.

    I must also confess to something brilliant that came out of my microwave last night. The play plus work plus various other life stuff has turned me into a ball of stress lately. When that happens, chocolate comes to the rescue. I decided to throw together another quick vegan mug cake last night as my pre-dinner snack (healthy), but I made a couple of variations. Here’s the original recipe I love, and below is what I did.

    Brigid’s Vegan, Gluten-Free Mug Cake of Perfection

    • 2 1/2 tablespoons nut milk
    • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons vegan sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour
    • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • Scant 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • Pinch of salt
    • Sprinkle of cinnamon (maybe 1/8 teaspoon)
    • 1 tablespoon vegan chocolate chips

    Follow the original instructions, adding the cinnamon in with the salt. Also, I just make one jumbo mug cake to enjoy solo. I have no shame. Make sure to sprinkle the chocolate chips on top after pouring the batter into the mug(s). I usually ignore that, but it’s much better if you don’t.

    I’ve made many a mug cake tweaking the original recipe, but this one was by far the best. In fact, it was amazing and perfect and moan-inducing. I intended to slather some peanut butter on top, but after the first bite, I knew it would be a mistake. The flavor was spot on and in no need of assistance. I can’t believe the gluten-free version is my favorite variation, but taste buds don’t lie!

    I hope it’s less disgustingly cold where you are today.

    Spin on a classic

    4 Jan

    I have two go-to cookie recipes when I want to please a crowd or just my belly and am not feeling creative. One is the Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodle recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar that I know you’ve seen here before. The other is the Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies from the Joy of Vegan Baking. Both are simple but spectacular.

    When I woke up on Christmas Eve, I dove right into wrapping gifts because, well, I’d done none so far. When all was done, it was 12:15, and I needed to shower and get ready for my first family gathering across town at 2:00. Except that I realized I hadn’t made a single food item for the celebration. Not only that, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until that second. I was desperate for a moment, and after being reassured by my mother and my taller half that I didn’t need to bring anything, I ignored them both — and the clock — and decided to make cookies, the Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies, to be exact.

    Of course, I couldn’t just make cookies. I needed to make everything more complicated. Since the recipe makes about a dozen cookies, I realized I could take half to my dad’s house in the evening if only they were gluten-free. And didn’t I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour in the freezer? I know you know where this is going. Yes, I had my first baking experience with gluten-free flour at that moment. The result…

    I came home empty-handed. Woo hoo!

    Because I was scrambling, I didn’t get a good photo, but you can see them sitting comfortably with the Brussels sprouts and the steamed squash here:

    The recipe is a copy of the original except that I subbed in the gluten-free flour for the all-purpose white flour. The texture and flavor were both slightly different — a little heartier, maybe — but the biggest chance was that these actually spread. Vegan cookies often do not.

    The next yen I get, you may see my beloved snickerdoodles shackin’ up with Bob.