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updates & foodie guest post!

8 Jul

Hey guyyyys

I’m back! Well, actually, I landed on Monday evening so I’ve been a bit delinquent. But to be fair, I got home on Monday at 10, had two days to hang out with my best friend/sleep, and then yesterday came back to school for summer research & classes. 

Here is one of the fab guest posts I’d hoped to get up while I was gone… unfortunately I had no internet access except my mom’s phone so I was only able to bring it to you now! I’ve spent a lot of today working through the ~2000 pictures I took at Disney (um, seriously) soooo be prepared (ha, Lion King reference!) for some recaps in the near future. 

Let’s give it up for one of my favorite blends (blog-friends, get it?!), XC Foodie! She’s bringing us a little bit of Cookie and a little bit of Carrot (um I NEED to make that dip, stat!)… what a cutie :) And speedy to boot… check her blog out! ;)

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Hello Everyone! I’m Tara from XCFoodie.

I’m a track and cross country runner with a huge appetite for food. I love to bake and cook to offset the energy expenditure of running. I eat a mostly healthy, vegetarian diet, but I think balance is important. Today I want to do a tribute to two of Nicole’s favorite things. What are they? Cookies and Carrots of course! This is the perfect example of balance between nutritious and delicious (not that carrots aren’t delicious!).

COOKIES:

Well, technically these are blondies. But blondies are cookie bars. Therefore they count as cookies. I put together this delicious recipe for my track team. Since we’re runners we eat… we eat a lot. You should see our psyche parties. Dessert is a mad house. I made these for practice though, and we enjoyed them after a long, strenuous speed workout. Not a crumb was left, and people were attacking me for seconds and thirds!

Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Toffee Blondies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup toffee bits

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 inch pan.

Cook the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns brown (see browning butter tips here if you are unfamiliar with the process), and then remove it from the heat. While it cools, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Combine the brown butter, agave, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir with a wooden spoon until they are combined. Add the eggs to the bowl and attach the bowl to the mixer. Beat the mixture at a medium setting for 3 minutes using the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla and continue beating it until the vanilla is incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Remove the bowl from the electric mixer. Fold in the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and toffee bits. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center. Take out the blondies and let them cool before cutting.

CARROTS:

I’m a dried-bean-phobic. I had a bag of red lentils in my pantry for about a year before I decided to use them. One night, I got this intense craving for hummus, but all I had was lentils. My fridge was also overflowing with carrots that I needed to use up. I decided to combine the lentils with carrots, and they complimented each other nicely in this spicy, satisfying dip. It may not have been hummus, but it was just as delicious!

Moroccan Carrot Lentil Dip

1/2 cup dry red lentils

1 1/2 cups water or veggie broth

9 oz. carrots

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/4 heaping teaspoon of each of the following: cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, and allspice

1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne

salt to taste

Add the lentils and water in a saucepan. Heat on high until the water boils. Reduce to a simmer and cover, leaving the top slightly ajar. Simmer for 30 minutes, checking every so often (I checked every 5 minutes) to stir and add additional water if necessary. After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and cover completely. Allow it to absorb any leftover liquid for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in a small frying pan on medium heat, approximately 3 – 5 minutes or until translucent. Steam the carrots (I used the microwave method, 1/4 cup water and microwaved 2.5 minutes or until soft).

Combine the lentils, carrots, and onions in the food processor. Process until smooth. Add spices and salt. Process for about 30 seconds or until they are thoroughly distributed.

What is your favorite cookie?

What is your favorite way to use carrots?

Nicole’s Question: How much do you want to hear about Disney? Be honest, I kind of understand if you don’t want to hear me babbling about how much I love Disney Princesses because I’m about 4 years old. I have a zillion pictures and don’t want to bore anyone to tears. In fact I may do it in installations. I’m not sure if I should put it chronologically or by park… Any ideas/suggestions/etc welcomed :)

cocoa for coconut [cookies & coupon code!]

20 Jun

Spoiler: My mom says these are the best cookies I’ve ever made.

And considering the sheer number of cookie recipes on my recipe page (which I haven’t updated in like two months, oops), that has to be saying a lot.

But let’s backtrack, shall we?

A few weeks ago I was approached by the very-sweet Jen from Kelapo Coconut, asking if I’d like to do a review of their virgin coconut oil. Having experimented with coconut oil once before, I was more than happy to oblige. However, I was in the thick of finals so I had them send it to my home address and upon arriving was ecstatic to find this waiting in my dining room for me:

Ideas for different cookies and desserts bounced around in my head for weeks. While there are certainly plenty of savory ways to use it, I was obviously inclined to use in baking for that slight coconutty taste I found it lent to baked goods.

There are a bunch of reasons to love coconut oil that I’m not particularly keen on getting into now; suffice it to say it’s a delicious and more wholesome source of fat! Not to mention that it’s delicious. The Kelapo coconut oil was a little harder than I expected but blended beautifully into these delightful morsels of goodness.

These are chocolatey, dense, and just slightly coconutty. Aka perfectly delicious in every way. I am SO happy to have had the chance to try this product and experiment with something I might not have picked up off the shelf myself!

But should YOU want to try your hand at these cookies or any of the many recipes on Kelapo’s recipe blog, I am happy to announce that I was given a coupon code just for my lovely readers to use on Kelapo products. Just type in Nicole20 (case sensitive) into the code box when ordering to get a whopping 20% off your order!! The code is valid for a month, through July 20th.

These cookies, however, did not last even a day.

Cocoa for Coconut Cookies
By me :)
Makes 12-16 cookies; easily doubled!

1/2 tablespoon flax + 3 tablespoons water, microwaved for about a minute & stirred until eggy
1/4 cup Kelapo coconut oil
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder (depending how dark yours is)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (completely optional, see below!)

The main offenders…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put flax & water in a small bowl or mug and let sit until thickened.

In a small bowl, beat together coconut oil and sugar until well mixed.  Beat in cocoa powder and flax egg until well combined. Add in dry ingredients up until coconut flakes; mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, and cocoa nibs (if using).
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set.

ENJOY!

Notice the use of cocoa nibs?

Well, I got to visit a chocolate factory last week and my friends bought these as a thank-you gift for my mother for hosting them… And of course I couldn’t resist tossing them into cookies. And pretty much everything else. The deep dark 100% chocolate taste is just irresistible. They don’t particularly SHINE in these cookies (too much other stuff going on) but they do add a pleasant crunch here and there. Totally optional though!

Ever tried coconut oil? What’s your favorite thing to do with coconut oil/any coconut product??

if you can cream it, you can do it.

18 Jun

Today was one of those days.

You know, those days when a lot of little things seem to go wrong and you have an overwhelming urge to assume the fetal position? One of those days. To be sure, nothing particularly earth-shatteringly horrible happened… I woke up at my best friend’s house (aka my second home) after a fabulous sleepover, but it was rainy & dreary & I had to skip out on a hike because my shins have been bugging me. Oh, and I tried on a swimsuit. Now that is a recipe for disaster.

A recipe to make me feel better though? A good old-fashioned cookie.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with healthy baking. Gluten-free baking. Vegan baking. Lower-sugar baking. These are none of the above.

You see, I find there’s something inherently calming about creaming real butter and real sugar & watching them get fluffy & creamy & delicious.

There’s something about breaking out my good old garage-sale Kitchen Aid hand-mixer & whipping up a batch of completely nutrition-less, chocolatey cookies. Something about the texture of real eggs as they swirl around in the batter.

This is what got me addicted to baking. The simplicity of the ingredients, the perfection of the chemistry, the call to simpler days when calories & fat grams never mattered.

 

Maybe it’s counter-intuitive to be upset about swimsuit-shopping and turn to baking cookies, but hey, it works for me.

Colorful M&Ms definitely don’t hurt.

I adapted this recipe slightly mostly because I was lazy and didn’t want to make precise measurements (aka 2 tablespoons to divide 1/4 cup in half). While most of the work & the credit should definitely still go to the original author, rather than rattle off my minute changes I’m just going to type up the recipe myself. But really, any old recipe will do.

Just make sure it has real butter (or Earth Balance, at least) & sugar.

Chocolate-M&M Cookies
Makes ~20 cookies
Adapted slightly from love and butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 whole egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Most of a 5.6 ounce package of M&Ms (or whatever mix-in you choose)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, beat together butter & sugars until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla, then egg; mix well. Add in dry ingredients and beat until well combined.

Fold in desired amount of mix-ins.

Scoop with a standard cookie scoop (or your own spoons, I won’t judge) onto a cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each. Bake for about 11 minutes or until edges are set and tops are crackled. Let cool for about 5 minutes then carefully remove; the M&Ms may try to stick to your cookie sheet, so this is best done when they’re still a little warm.

Share with your family & friends and enjoy the smiles you’ve created.

Other things that help on a so-so day?

Fluffy puppies. Clinically proven to increase happiness. You can borrow mine if you come over :) And, of course, I’ll bring cookies.

What cheers you up on a bad day?

bunny-eats.

24 Apr

Or: Resurrecting an old favorite (ha, pun, for Easter, resurrecting, get it?! I’m so clever).

Happy Easter/Sunday/Excuse-to-eat-lots-of-chocolate-day everybody! :) I hope you’re getting to enjoy this lovely day with family, friends, or fuzzy bunnies & massive chocolate eggs.

Yep, I totally broke out the massive egg today.

I didn’t eat it all… the bunny helped, I swear (as did a few of my friends). I traded him for some of his carrots. ;)

The interior was lined with a kind of hardened cashew-nougat-type thing, just like the bon-bons the whole egg is based on (Sonho de Valsa).

They’re a typical Brazilian candy and they’re kind of delicious, you should try them if you should ever stumble upon any! :)


In honor of this lovely Sunday, I’m bringing you retouched photos of an old, bunny-friendly recipe: my Carrot Cake Pancakes.

Funny how learning to mess with really simple stuff in iPhoto vastly improves the quality of the pictures…

And I also greatly prefer having the bigger pictures in the post. Kind of amusing to read reaaaally old blog posts from last summer before I *really* got started blogging.

Click here for my embarrassing early post, and the recipe. :)
What have you been doing with your day? I’ve just been doing homework, sadly… And coveting carrot-cake pancakes. ;) I may go buy some carrots instead… you know how I do. :)

polka dot dreams [more chocolate chip cookies]

23 Apr

**Firstly**: I am a MORON and forgot to link to Jenn’s amazing site, so if you enjoyed the cake she posted for me please check it out! :)

I’m not going to beat around the bush: Yesterday sucked. I can’t really pinpoint what it was, but I was in a funk all day, despite the fact that I had no school (Jesuit education, what whaaat). Today has been a little low-key but better. But when I went to choose a recipe to share today, I decided to pick something that always makes me happy: polka dots.

And cookies. Polka dots in cookies?

My psych research group had to have a meeting and chose to center it around pizza… in typical fashion, I brought some cookies. I had requests for “M&M cookies” and “underbaked” cookies so I went with a nice, chewy chocolate-chip cookie and underbaked them a little bit extra.

It’s actually a recipe I’ve made before, but this time I’m going to actually type out the recipe. It’s a nice, simple recipe with a boatload of vanilla that I think really enhances the flavor. It’s also fabulously easy to make without a hand mixer since the butter is melted and there’s no creaming involved (though that is a nice workout…). This means I can whip it up in my dorm room in no time flat.

I’d imagine that this would lend itself well to holiday-themed M&Ms, like Easter M&Ms, perhaps? Or you can make it with plain old chocolate chips and it will still be delicious.

This recipe has actually made its way around the blogosphere many times. I mean, it’s basically famous: “BEST Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.” While I’m not 100% sure it’s my absolute favorite (I rather liked some of the dark-chocolate+ sea-salt variations I’ve tried) it’s definitely one I’ll make again as an easy, reliable recipe.

And there’s nothing that can put a smile on my face quite like ridiculously colorful cookies….

Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate-Chip POLKA DOT Cookies
From Allrecipes
Makes 3 dozen if you’re me and you make smallish cookies, 1.5 dozen if you’re Allrecipes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 5?-oz bag M&Ms, + 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 2 cups chocolate chips)
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in 10-15 second increments, mixing well between each until fully melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Add egg and egg yolk and mix until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients, then add them to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in M&M’s and chocolate chips, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (not strictly necessary, but I like to do it).
Preheat oven to ***325*** degrees (not 350!) and lightly grease a cookie sheet. Place tablespoon-sized balls of dough 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are just slightly brown (time will depend a lot on the size of your cookies!) Let cool for a minute or two before removing to cooling rack/plate.
Share with your favorite partners in crime and bask in the colorful sugariness when the world feels a little dreary.
What cheers you up when you’re in a funk?

guest post: Knock Your Socks Off Cake!

21 Apr

**To anyone who hasn’t seen Tangled… PLEASE WATCH IT. It’s actually one of my favorite Disney movies ever, and that’s saying something coming from me ;) SO CUTE. My friends loved it. I have seen it 3 times and may or may not have preordered the DVD like a month before it actually came out… But I digress.**

Today I have for you a fabulous guest post from the lovely Jenn over at The Kitchen Dish. Her blog is filled with amazing recipes and she is such a sweetheart! I’m so excited to give you this awesome cake recipe she chose to share with me. :) If anybody else is interested in doing guest posts, I’m looking at doing 1-2 per week as my life is rather hectic… Just shoot me an e-mail! :)

Please, go pre-heat your oven and get your mixer ready. It is time to make some cake!

You all may be surprised to find out that I have never had or made “Better than (You know what) Cake” (hey, I’m trying to keep this G Rated), but as I have looked up recipes for it, it seems like there are many versions of it. This may be a version of it, but since it came from our church cookbook, it is “Knock Your Socks Off Cake.” I don’t know that you need to be concerned about your socks, but perhaps your jeans. I have ZERO willpower around this stuff, and well, let’s just say I wear sweatpants as a result. I hope you enjoy it!
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The Starters:

  • German Chocolate Cake Mix (including ingredients to prepare cake mix as directed on box)
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Instant vanilla pudding
  • Milk
  • Cool Whip

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Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.

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I could lick those beaters! Nicole’s addendum: I probably would ;)

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Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. You can also use two 8×8″ pans, as I did; set aside.

Now…for the CREAM CHEESE layer!

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Add softened cream cheese to a mixing bowl.

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Add eggs, sugar and vanilla.

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Mix with hand mixer until smooth.

Mix with hand mixer until smooth.

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Pour evenly over German Chocolate Cake batter.

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I like to start around the edges and work my way in…

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….and then back out again. I think this is an easy way to get an even coating of the cream cheese mixture.

The final step before we pop this pan of deliciousness in the oven? Chocolate chips! Flour the chocolate chips with either regular flour, or you can reserve some of the dry cake batter to use for this.

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Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of the cream cheese layer; yes, there will be a lot of chocolate chips, but trust me, you’ll be glad there is!

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Bake for 40-50 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool. You can see the chocolate chips and cream cheese have sunk to the bottom of the cake. So delicious!

Now, for the Frosting!

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Combine pudding mix and milk and beat slowly for a minute.

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Fold in vanilla…

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And Cool Whip.

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Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate.
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YUM!!
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Knock Your Socks Off Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ C. sugar
  • 2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 sm. Pkg. instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 C. cold milk
  • 1 (8 oz.) carton Cool Whip
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

  1. Assemble cake mix according to directions on box.
  2. Pour into a 9×13-inch pan and set aside.
  3. Mix cream cheese, eggs, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Spread on top of cake.
  4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of cream cheese mixture.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Cool

ICING:

  1. Combine the pudding mix and milk in a small bowl. Beat slowly for about 1 minute.
  2. Fold in Cool whip and vanilla.

Spread on cake and refrigerate.


the way the cookie crumbles.

15 Apr

One thing I’m working on in my life is accepting when things don’t go quite as I’d like them to. Of course, I like to translate this into something relating to food. Specifically cookies. So my new phrase? “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”

For instance:

Lately, I’ve been too busy to post daily, so I post every-other-day (and still feel kind of bad about it).

But lately, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. (PS I’m looking for guest posts :) see bottom of post)

This does not include any of the millions of extraneous meetings I end up having to go to… or the massive amount of reading I’m behind on. 

Sometimes, I end up falling asleep at 11:00 at night instead of hanging out with my friends.

Sometimes, you spend hours meeting to organize protocol for running a laboratory experiment (for psychology) only to realize the program itself isn’t running when you’ve already sat 5 participants down.

Sometimes, I miss 10 easy points on a chemistry test because the teacher poorly explained different types of error… resulting in me leaving chem with tears in my eyes (fortunately I had neuropsych right after and nothing puts me in a better mood than learning millions of neurotransmitters. I’m not even being sarcastic).

Sometimes, I dispense with the drama and just make cookies. And they’re delicious, but crumbly.

That, my friends, is really just the way the cookie crumbles.

I made these somewhat on a whim, and to use up the Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter I have in my room so I don’t eat it all with a spoon (difficult task, let me tell you). Since the peanut butter itself is fairly sweet, I didn’t want to add sugar… But ended up adding a bit in at the end anyways to help with chewiness and flavor. Still, these have less sugar than most recipe, and they’re vegan if you pick the right chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter & Co = LOVE

They are, as I said, crumbly. But really that means that the peanut butter kind of melts in your mouth. And they’re bursting with cinnamony goodness. So what they lack in binding, they make up for in flavor. However, these were originally intended for a package, and there’s virtually no way they would have escaped the harsh handling of the postman unscathed.

So I ate them. (Well, I had help, but…) And sometimes, cookie crumbles are even better than the real thing. Now that’s a lesson in positivity. :)

Cinnamon-Raisin Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 18 small-ish cookies 

1/2 cup Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter
2-3 tablespoons of oil
3-4 tablespoons nondairy milk, milk, or water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup raisins, chocolate chips, or whatever mix-in you prefer (I used half raisins, half chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mix together wet ingredients until well-mixed and caramelly (may take a few minutes). In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

Roll into balls for dough-ball-like cookies (even more crumbly) or flatten into disks for “traditional” cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are just set. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from sheet; they will crumble.

But like I said, sometimes crumbles are even better.

What are your “cookie crumbles”?

If anyone is interested in doing guest posts, I’m thinking I’ll be interspersing them throughout the quarter to at least ease up a bit on my personal load… It can be about anything health, food, life related. :) shoot me an e-mail at cookiesncarrots at gmail.com :)