Category: Chocolate


So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!

Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!

One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…

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The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…

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Then mix your wet ingredients well…

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Then all you have to do is mix them together…

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Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…

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It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day 🙂 And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.

Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine 🙂

The Recipe: 

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C Sugar

2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1 Egg

1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.

*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.

*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.

*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.

*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.

*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.

 

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤

I have come to the realization this year that I really can’t complain about this summer too much. I started the Summer Sucks Series as a way to get through what was promising to be an incredibly hot and miserable summer. It was a way to continue blogging like I wanted to but also to help myself and all of you out there in internet-land to enjoy a season that can be miserable. This summer, however, really hasn’t been all that unbearable. Yes, we’ve had some super hot days but they were mostly at the beginning of the summer. Up until last week, the weather has been cooler and we’ve had MUCH more rain than we had last summer. It’s been downright tolerable- nigh enjoyable. But I won’t go too far; we are back up into the 90’s after all.

As I said in my last post, summer is very close to being over and that means it’s nearly time for me to start planning for Christmas. I do this so incredibly early for a variety of reasons- one of them being that the really good sales on baking supplies will start soon, as they keep moving these things earlier & earlier in the year. Pretty soon the holiday baking sales will start sometime in May! But the deals really are too good to pass up simply because it’s too warm to start thinking about Christmas. So today’s recipe is a way to get into the holiday planning spirit as well as lift my morale and help me make it through the last leg of summer. Frozen Hot Chocolate is an incredibly tasty way to while away some time during the summer; whether it’s sitting at the desk making out the menu for Christmas dinner or sitting in a chair in the shade, dreaming of the cold weather to come!

You only need a few ingredients…

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(I do apologize if the pictures aren’t up to even my fairly low par. I’m having to get used to Windows 8 now and there’s definitely a learning curve when jumping from Vista to 8!) 

There are a few hot chocolate-type things you can use for this.  I happen to have some hot chocolate mix from last year hanging around in my pantry. It was part of a gift someone (who had no idea I would much prefer to make my own rather than use a mix- and I’m not ill-mannered enough to say anything; it was a GIFT after all) gave me and I hate wasting things, so I figured I’d use it for something. Turns out it works perfectly well for this. But you could also use Ovaltine, chocolate milk powder (such as Nesquick), or a homemade hot chocolate mix (there are dozens of versions out there. I urge you to find one that strikes your fancy and forgo the mixes). This recipe is done in two parts: making the chocolate mixture and blending everything together. You can make the chocolate mixture and then go work on your to-do list- like weeding the garden- while it cools, then come back and put the whole thing together and enjoy your frosty reward 🙂

You’re going to use a bain-marie, or double boiler, for this recipe. A lot of people find this intimidating because they’ve heard horror stories of scorched chocolate and steam burns from people who weren’t paying attention while they worked. Naturally these people made it sound as though they were minding their own business, being careful like the needed too, and the double boiler just burned their chocolate for no reason or steam just maliciously flooded out from the lower pan and gave them a nasty burn for no reason at all. In reality they weren’t paying attention and let the water boil dry in the lower pan and they ended up scorching the chocolate because the heat was too high. Or they decided they could just pick up the upper bowl without being careful; either not remembering or not caring that there is, in fact, steam in the lower pan and that it will burn you if you’re not paying attention. Anyway, it’s incredibly easy to make your own double boiler. No one needs those ridiculous double poiler pan inserts they sell at the store. Here’s my rig:

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A pan with about an inch of water in the bottom (or 2 if you’re using a pan as big as mine) and a bowl that will fit inside snugly without touching the water at all.  Bring the water to a simmer and keep it there- all you’re doing is creating enough heat to gently melt the chocolate in the bowl.  If your water starts to get low, add more and keep the simmer going. But as you’re only melting a few ounces of chocolate you should be fine with just the initial water.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, add the sugar and chocolate powder of choice. You’ll get something that looks grainy and no longer beautifully smooth…

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That’s how it should look- don’t worry. Now add 1/2 a cup of the milk, slowly. You may want to switch to a whisk for this. I found it made things easier. Keep the heat under the double boiler while adding the milk so that the chocolate doesn’t cool too quickly and make things harder to mix. You’ll end up with a nice, smooth mixture:

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Very nice! Now let this sit for a little while and come to room temperature. Once it’s cooled you’ll need the rest of the milk and some ice- about 3 cups. Add the chocolate mixture to the blender as well and hit the “icy drinks” button until everything is as smooth as your blender can get it. You end up with…

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Something frosty and intensely chocolatey! I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for this batch and it’s almost too chocolatey for me, not being a huge chocolate fan.  Normally I make this with milk chocolate chips or bars but I was out. This is also fantastic with a little mint extract or candy canes crushed and added before blending. A drizzle of caramel wouldn’t go amiss either 🙂 I should also warn you that this WILL NOT taste like a milkshake- just like hot chocolate tastes a bit different than regular chocolate milk. This tastes like hot chocolate, just cold!

I know, I know; I skipped a week. I was a fool to think that I could get a blog post done while getting ready to send my girls off to their first day of school (Zachariah is in preschool and they didn’t start until this week). So I missed a week. I am sorry about that. But the up side is that this week I get to write that there’s only TWO MORE WEEKS OF SUMMER LEFT!!! YAY! I am so done with the heat that has made it’s way back to our little part of the world and I am beyond ready for Autumn!

The Recipe: 

3 Oz Chocolate of Choice (I prefer milk but you can use anything you like/have on hand)

5 t Sugar

2 t Hot Chocolate Mix (Homemade, NesQuick, Ovaltine, or any kind of hot chocolate mix works)

1 1/2 C Milk, divided

3 C Ice

The Method:

*In a double boiler (as described above), melt the 3 ounces chocolate until smooth.

*Add the sugar and chocolate powder and stir to combine.

*Add 1/2 C of the milk and whisk until smooth, still over the heat in the double boiler.

*Remove mixture from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (This will only take about 15 minutes)

*Put ice, remaining milk, and chocolate mixture into the blender and blend until smooth (as smooth as you can get it. It seems every blender leave a little ice un-crushed.)

*Pour, garnish as desired, and enjoy!

It’s almost scary to think about, but we are heading into the “dog days” of summer; the stretch of summer that is almost unbearable. It’s also the stretch of summer that if you don’t have air conditioning, the microwave seems like the only viable method of cooking anything indoors. We kind of have air conditioning. The in-laws have a window unit in the living room and use a fan to pull the cool air- almost successfully- into the kitchen. This is a sad commentary, actually, since the living room is connected to the kitchen by an open doorway. It’s not like we have to pull the cool air from one end of the house to the other. This being the case, I am approaching the time that I will be using the stove less than I have been so far this summer. The hitch is the fact that I don’t use the microwave to cook. That particular piece of machinery is solely for things like boiling water and… well, that’s pretty much all I do with it. In fact, I don’t use it for that all too often either. When this microwave dies we will not be replacing it. That leaves me with the question “What do I make for dinner now?!” I do have options, a few of them being: salads (been there done that), grilling over our fire pit (a blog post about that is forthcoming), and “tea”- not the drink, but the meal.

I would imagine all of you have some kind of picture that springs to mind when you hear the words “tea party”. You see women in beautiful dresses sipping tea from china cups with saucers and eating cute little tea sandwiches and cakes. And that is a proper tea party. And I do love throwing a proper tea party! But that’s not what I’m talking about. In England, Ireland (my home one day!), and Scotland “tea” is a meal. Just small servings of easy foods alongside a cup of… well, anything anymore. Hot tea, iced tea, coffee- anything goes. Whatever is refreshing to you. The point is that you are having a small meal so that you don’t go to bed with a heavy stomach. In this case it’s just too hot to have a heavy stomach- at any time of day!

One of my favorite “tea” menus is so simple my kids can do it! Lunchmeat, cheese, crackers, fruit and/or veggies with dip(s), and something ice cold to drink. This isn’t just something to do for dinner in hot weather either. This can be lunch at the office, a picnic in the park, or something to nosh on while chatting with friends.

Here is what we had for dinner last night…

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Good quality sliced ham (sliced into sections for easier eating) and Tillamook Cheddar (my favorite widely accessible American Cheddar) on Ritz crackers, apples, carrots, and some homemade dips. I’ll include the recipe for the Nutella fruit dip below (I was just playing around one day and hit the jackpot!) but I’m going to wait on giving the recipe for the French onion dip. I’m still playing with the recipe to get it just right. This was so easy to put together that I had dinner on the table in under 10 minutes. Usually I just put the ingredients onto separate plates or trays and everyone helps themselves. That way everyone can have as much as they like and the kids are still at the age that it’s novel to fill their own plates 🙂

This could easily be spreadable herbed cheese on baguette rounds with some sliced chicken or turkey, grapes, and olives. Or maybe some Swiss, spiral sliced ham, and mustard on slices of cocktail rye (or even regular rye cut into triangles), Granny Smith apples, and some red pepper strips with ranch. Or you could go all out and make crustless finger sandwiches, tarts, and cakes, serve it all on your best tableware, and dress in your summer finery. That would be a fun and whimsical way to end a summer’s day! 🙂

Only 9 more weeks of summer! We’ve hit single digits! The kids are pining to go back to school (yes- our kids adore school), I’m thinking of all the fall and autumn get togethers to be had, and my husband & I are looking ahead to harvest and the canning & preserving to be done. I can’t wait!!

So for this Nutella dip I was in the mood for a fruit dip but didn’t want my regular dip (cream cheese, maple syrup, sour cream, and brown sugar. I’ll post it this fall). I started looking in my pantry and spotted the Nutella. “That could work!” I said as I grabbed it & headed to the fridge. I got the cream cheese out and started it softening. The same method I use for butter works for cream cheese too. Once softened, I started beating the cream cheese and adding Nutella. I ended up with about the same amount as I had of cream cheese- I wanted it to be really chocolatey. Then I realized it wasn’t going to be very dip-like once it chilled, so I added milk until it was a tiny bit runnier than I wanted (as it will firm up a bit in the fridge). I tried it after it had time to chill and it was AMAZING! It’s a little like a super rich chocolate pudding. I really could eat it with a spoon!

The Recipe:

8 Oz. Cream Cheese, softened

8 Oz. Nutella

~ 3-4 T of milk (depending on how thick you want the finished product to be. The full 4 tablespoons will get you the consistency of pudding. I wish I could tell you exactly but I didn’t really measure. I just add until it’s right.)

The Method:

*With an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the Nutella until completely smooth.

*Add the milk and beat until combined.

*Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

*Serve with apples, grapes, strawberries, pound cake, vanilla wafers,… seriously, ANYTHING is awesome with this dip!!

I’m sure that it will surprise no one that The Humble Food Snob dislikes cheap chocolate. And when it comes to cheap chocolate you can’t get much cheaper than Hershey’s. My main complaints are the fact that it’s grainy (to me, anyway) and sickeningly sweet with a slight chalkiness. Now, I never noticed these qualities until I got my hands on some high quality European chocolate. I had a taste of a Lindt milk chocolate bar (from Switzerland) and it was an epiphany for me. I know; that sounds a little melodramatic, but it’s true. I put the thin square in my mouth and it was silky, mellow, creamy, milk-chocolatey bliss. In that instant I knew I would never look at chocolate- or confectionery in general, for that matter-  the same way again. The next time I ate a Hershey’s Kiss I actually spat it out into the trash. True story. So now I spend the money on good chocolate and consume it judiciously. It works pretty well- except for things like chocolate milk. Expensive chocolate melts fine for hot chocolate but when you want an ice cold glass of chocolate milk… well, it doesn’t work at all. So I had no choice but to use Hershey’s syrup. At least until I made my own syrup, that is. Now I can play with the recipe and up the vanilla a little bit to make the flavor a little smoother and give it that special something that you don’t recognize until it’s not there 🙂

Yes- that is Hershey’s cocoa powder in the picture. Yes- I can be a great big hypocrite. I’ll be the first to admit that. But Hershey’s puts out a good cocoa powder so that’s what I use. If they could just stick with cocoa powder things would be fine.  But they insist on butchering other chocolate products and therein lies the problem. Thankfully I’ve figured out a way around that 🙂

These really are all the ingredients you need to make chocolate syrup. It’s astonishingly simple and SO much cheaper than the store bought stuff. The fact that they charge so much for chocolate syrup in the store should be a crime. (Of course, so should adding all of those other nasty ingredients but that’s another post.)

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I could say “all you have to do is put these ingredients in a pan, stir, boil, and you have chocolate syrup”. But I just can’t do it. I have to be honest with you because I don’t want you to feel like I betrayed you. While this recipe is really, REALLY easy, there is a hitch: cocoa powder is quite possibly the most hydrophobic substance in the world. When you add the water to the sugar and cocoa powder it will disappear beneath the surface and you will wonder if you ever actually put the water in at all. You will have to get your whisk out and stir- a lot. This recipe takes about 10 minutes to make and 4 of those 10 minutes is whisking the ingredients to combine them. Just when you’ve given up all hope of combining water with cocoa powder it will magically come together and you can stop whisking and let it boil. Make sure you’ve put the ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan because the mixture will expand as it boils! I made the mistake once of making this in a small sauce pan and had to change pans after it started boiling because it wanted to boil over the top of my little pan. After boiling for 5 minutes and adding your vanilla you should have something like this…

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Oh, that’s pretty 🙂 Don’t worry about the bubbles- those will go away once the syrup is cooled completely. And if your syrup is a little thinner than you expected when it’s done it’s ok. It will thicken up after it’s chilled thoroughly. Zachariah asked for some chocolate milk when this batch was done and he’s such a good boy I couldn’t turn him down 🙂

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My sweet little boy! He was thanking me while smiling for the camera while trying to take a drink. Who says males can’t multi-task? 😉

The Recipe:

1 1/4 C Sugar

1 C Cocoa Powder

1 C Water

1/4 t Salt

2 t Vanilla

The Method:

*Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium or large saucepan until COMPLETELY combined.

* Bring to a boil over medium low heat.

*Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*Remove from heat and add vanilla.

*Let cool and transfer to a storage container (I use a canning jar with a clean, used lid that I can’t use for actual canning anymore). Store in the refrigerator and use as you would store bought chocolate syrup.

I have a confession to make… I am not a chocoholic. There. I said it. I feel better now. What’s the big deal you ask? Well it’s precisely this: Evidently the world believes that you cannot be a real woman if you are not hopelessly addicted to chocolate. I have gathered from people’s responses to my confession that if you don’t constantly need chocolate like a heroin addict needs a fix then you have committed treason against woman kind and cannot count yourself as one of them. Personally I think that’s stupid. That’s like saying a man isn’t a man unless he absolutely can’t live without beer. My husband hates beer- and believe me he is all man! So when it comes to people talking about how they just can’t go a day without chocolate I just smile and try to not comment. That being said, I think a world without chocolate would be a sad place indeed. While not my absolute favorite thing in the world, I do enjoy it quite a lot from time to time. Every now and then I just want something rich and chocolatey. This pie is perfect for that. Actually this pie is perfect for a few things now that I think on it. Not only is it perfect for a little something chocolatey, it’s also good for those who don’t keep baking chocolate and whipping cream on hand. It’s also perfect for those who are still intimidated by the process of tempering eggs. (For those not yet in the know: combining small amounts of boiling mixture into eggs while stirring like crazy so the eggs don’t curdle in the finished product is “tempering the eggs”.) And for those who are with me in committing treason against women this might just get you back in good graces! :.)

Start with a blind baked pie crust. Blind baking is, of course, baking the pie crust while it is empty. To do this you really do need some pie weights so that it doesn’t bubble in places and ruin the crust for the filling. These are my pie weights…

That’s right- they are just beans. Plain old, ordinary, cheap beans. Sure, you can buy pie weights. They are sold as either clay balls (similar in size to beans) or as a steel chain of beads (also similar in size to beans) for anywhere from about $6 up to about $20. But why in the world would you do that if you can use beans for a fraction of the cost?! For my pie weights I used a bag of beans I had kicking around the back of my pantry for the last 2 years and they work a treat! Just line your pie pan with your crust, line your crust with parchment paper, and pour in your beans. Here’s a tip for a faster baking crust: preheat your beans in another pie pan in the oven. If you don’t, the crust that should take 10-20 minutes to bake will take 40-50 minutes because the beans have to heat up first. You can reuse the beans just like the purchased pie weights- you just can’t ever use them in anything else. After they’ve been baked like that they will never be edible again. But you can use them for years as pie weights so it’s ok :.)

Once you’ve baked your crust you should have something that looks like this…

“It’s broken!” you say. Yes, it is. But that’s ok. They are small cracks and once the filling goes in it won’t matter. Small cracks are not a big deal. Big bubbles because you didn’t use pie weights are the deal breaker.

Next, make your pudding. As I mentioned, this recipe does not call for cream or baking chocolate. This is all it takes for a chocolate cream pie…

I bet you already have all of this in your pantry (and fridge), don’t you? Good! Now on to making the pudding. Once you start this it is going to look like it will never work. When you beat the eggs and the sugar together the result will be very grainy. I couldn’t get a picture that wasn’t blurry so I don’t have one to include. And when you add the rest of the ingredients to the egg & sugar mixture it will look like this…

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the same thing I did the first time I made this pie. “How on Earth will that ever turn into smooth chocolate pudding?!” And the next step really isn’t any more comforting. Now is when you whisk in the milk. This is what you end up with…

It’s foamy and grainy and not much of a confidence booster. But all will be well! Put this over medium-low heat and start whisking- constantly. Don’t go anywhere. Stay at that stove whisking because the amount of cornstarch in this recipe means that once it heats up the mixture will thicken incredibly quickly. As in all of a sudden you’ve magically gone from liquid to pudding. It’s that quick cooking! Here’s what you’ll end up with…

VERY thick, wonderfully rich chocolate cream pie filling. Or you can chill it at this point and have an excellent pudding. It’s not quite as smooth as pudding made with baking chocolate but it’s still very tasty. Add some whipped cream to smooth it out a bit and it would be perfect with just a bowl and spoon. But today we’re making pie so transfer this to a bowl and put some plastic wrap on it, making sure that the wrap actually touches the surface of the pudding so it doesn’t get a skin.

Once the pudding has cooled for about 15 minutes you can put it in the pie shell. You will have just enough to fill a 9 inch pie. Once you put the filling in the crust put plastic wrap on it again to prevent a skin and put the pie in the fridge to chill completely. This is what you will end up with…

It’s a thing of beauty! Now you have a few options for topping the pie. You can use a meringue, you can use Cool Whip if you must, or you can go the classic route and use homemade whipped cream. As it happened I had just enough whipping cream left over from another recipe to make a batch of freshly whipped cream for the top of my pie. I LOVE fresh whipped cream! It really does make Cool Whip look and taste absolutely pitiful in comparison. Here’s how my finished pie looked…

It tasted better than it looked, I assure you. Had I let the filling chill completely before trying to cut the pie it would have been alot cleaner. As it was, I needed it for after dinner and had gotten a late start on making it. I tried to get a good photo of a slice of the pie but it just wouldn’t cooperate. Nevertheless, it was an excellent pie that I didn’t need any special ingredients for. Easy, tasty, and way better than what you can get out of a box in the freezer section!

The Recipe:

Adapted from Chocolate Cream Pie II on Allrecipes.com

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked

4 Egg Yolks, beaten

1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar

4 T Cornstarch

1/2 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 t Salt

3 C Milk

1 T Butter

1 1/2 t Vanilla Extract

The Method:

*In a large mixing bowl, cream together egg yolks and sugar. This will not cream completely- it will be grainy but that’s fine.

*Mix in cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Add milk and stir gently.

*Pour mixture into a large saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until boiling.

*Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract.

*Cool 15 minutes, then pour mixture into pie shell.

*Chill completely before serving.

*Garnish with desired topping.